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Entries from May 2013

How to say lawn chair in French

almost summertime (c) Kristin Espinasse 
Has a friend forwarded you this French word journal? Sign yourself up for the free newsletter and never miss a word or photo. Photo of front porch, where Mom and I will soon have coffee. The wind blew off the makeshift curtain (an attempt to shade the area at lunchtime...)

Rent an apartment in Monaco
Villa Royale apartment in Monaco. Large studio with beautiful sea views in the residential district of Bea


la chaise-longue (shez- lowng)

    : lawn chair 

Elle est dans le jardin, en train de lire sur sa chaise-longue. She's in the garden, reading on her lawn chair. 


Mas de la Perdrix - visit this charming rental in the south of FranceProvence Villa Rental Luberon luxury home; 4 bedrooms, 5 baths; gourmet kitchen, covered terrace & pool. Views of Roussillon. Click here


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

"I could hear you girls giggling all night long!"  Mom called out.

I looked up from the flower bed, where I had been experimenting with an ice plant (could one really stick a griffe de sorcière in the ground.. and it would grow?). "Good morning Mom!" I chirped, waving the experimental cutting.

A second-story window framed my mom and the morning sun dazzled her eyes, which sparkled with life. She had her silver hair tied back and her olive complexion was as fresh as the morning dew that covered the plants beneath me. I could tell Mom was full of energy today. Perhaps we could do something special to mark this, her second-to-last day in France before returning home to Mexico?

"Come have your tea with me?" I stood up, shook the dirt from my hands and pointed to the picnic table. 

Mom was down in a flash and we were reliving the previous evening, in which I had the pleasure of spending time with Ann and Katia, a writer and a beloved podcaster. I rarely have the occasion to speak in person with people who do similar work to my own, and it was interesting to talk about the highs and lows of creative work.

Mom loved my friends and I assured her that they found her just as endearing. "I'm sorry I talked too much..." Mom apologized, as we took our cups of tea and walked from the front porch to the meadow, below, to have a look at all the plants among the olive trees. 

"Don't worry about it!" I said, feeling a little ashamed for having elbowed Mom the night before. Having realized she was three-quarters of the way through her life story, I wondered: had Mom gotten to the part where she was rescued? Strapped onto a lawn chair and lowered onto a Mexican panga boat to be transferred from the remote fishing village to a city hospital? Ironically, that would be the beginning of her nightmare.).

I was sorry to have been disrespectful to my Mom and regretted my words from the night before (along with a few other things I'd said during her four week visit to France). And now Mom would be leaving soon. Had we said and done all we had wished to say and do?

"I just want to lie here in the garden," Mom said, "here under this olive tree. I'll go get the other lawn chair."

"Stay there! I'll get it for you!" I dashed off, past the wild fennel and the bright red poppies, to the terrain de pétanque--where those "witches fingernails" I'd been transplanting grew--and snatched up the chaise longue.

We arranged the lawn chairs along the slope, until we were looking up at one of the ancient olive trees. "I'd like this one to be mine," Mom suggested. "Could you put my name on it?"

It was a lovely idea. I could then sit by the tree and think of Mom while she was an ocean away....

"Look over there," I said, pointing to a figuier I'd discovered the day before. The little fig tree (really a series of shoots from an ancient trunk) had been completely overrun by an invasive bush. The night before, I'd gotten the long-handled shears and freed it of its leafy invador and could now admire it from where Mom and I were sitting. "OK, I said, this one is Jules! And do you know what I've named the little fig tree?"

Mom's eyes were bright with curiosity. 

"Newton!"

We sat there laughing beneath the olive tree, remembering yesteryear--before one of us moved to Mexico and the other to France. Back when we shared tall glasses of milk and those favorite fig-filled cookies.

"Fig Newtons..." Mom said, reminiscent.

"I'll call him "Newey" for short." I winked at my mom, who smiled as we gazed at our trees, affectionately. 

As the wind blew through the trees' branches, causing the leaves to rustle, our conversation carried on, lackadaisically. I no longer hoped we were making the most of our time, but knew that this cozy moment was the yesteryear of tomorrow--as comforting and sweet as those fig-filled cookies.

*    *    *
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   Calanque (c) Kristin Espinasse

Making memories with Mom. After Mom befriended this guy, she handed me the ball to play.

A Jules by the sea (c) Kristin Espinasse


The game of retrieval (c) Kristin Espinasse

Don't tell Smokey and Braise... We'll bring them the next time!

How to clean a French window (c) Jules
Tidying up the house before tidying up ourselves... and heading out to explore another seaside town...

Mama Jules
Mom, "la capitaine", at the port in La Ciotat. I think it's time to name Mom's fish purse à la Mr Sacks. Suggestions welcome in the comments box!

Kristin Espinasse - la Ciotat
At the seaside market in La Ciotat, I bought a jujube tree and a few other natives to plant in our garden, beside the Mediterranean strawberry tree, or arbusier. What are some other local trees and fruit-bearing shrubs that you would suggest? Meantime, Mom and I are busy trying to identify more than trees... but all of the edible weeds and medicinal plants here in the olive field or meadow: plantain, fumeterre, fennel, lucerne, chardon de marie, pissenlit... and heaps of thyme and rosemary.

Jules in Provence (c) Kristin Espinasse
I'm going to miss you so much, Mom. Come back soon! And thank you for being my sweet maman. While her adoring husband is waiting for her back in Mexico, help me wish Mom bon voyage, here in the comments box.

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving this journal. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
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"Kristin, Your tips and experiences on French and life in France are the best resources I can think of to keep my French alive."
--Amy


bavarder

How to learn a new language with a used brainHello faithful readers--and a warm bonjour to those who have recently signed up to this free word journal. This blog usually goes out three times a week, but we are on a new schedule since the arrival of my mom. For the past three weeks Mom and I have been digging in the garden, enjoying walks by the seaside... braiding wild rosemary through our hair... and making plans for the future--while reminding each other to "be here now" in the present moment, or l'ici et maintenant. (Photos at the end of this post.)




Mas de la Perdrix - visit this charming rental in the south of FranceProvence Villa Rental Luberon luxury home; 4 bedrooms, 5 baths; gourmet kitchen, covered terrace & pool. Views of Roussillon. Click here. 

Keeping, now, to the theme of this blog--language learning--today's update is to tell you about a wonderful new educational tool brought to you by my friend Lynn, who has written today's column, below. Lynn McBride of the Southern Fried French blog has a new eBook out this week:  How to Learn a New Language with a Used Brain  (at Amazon.com, and available at other Amazon sites). It’s a short eBook for students of any language who want an update on the best techniques for learning, plus reviews of the latest online or traditional resources, and tips from and teachers and other students.  Lynn would like to invite all French-Word-A-Day readers to join the virtual book release party over at Southern Fried French - just after you read her How to Chit-Chat in French tips, below....

Paris Monaco Rentals

France and Monaco Rentals: short-term holiday rental properties throughout France and Monaco. Photos here.

 
bavarder, (bah var day)
 
    :to chat, chatter, blab

Lynn-mcBrideLearning to Chit-Chat in French... by Lynn McBride

Here’s a common dilemma for French learners, maybe it’s happened to you. You brush up on your grammar and vocabulary  and you’re feeling pretty good about your spoken French. Then you encounter a real live French person. Oops! They talk BACK! And expect you to understand them!
Typically the hardest part of language study is to find enough opportunities to bavarder with a native. And to do what all students of French at any level need to do over and over in order to learn: get out there and make mistakes!
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We expats know a lot about that. Take, for example, my British friend Pete who meant to ask at the hardware store for 10 meters of chêne (oak), but instead asked for 10 meters of chien (dog). Then there was the time I needed 3 kilos of salmon for a big party (6.6 pounds) and instead asked Monsieur le poissonierfor 3 kilometres of salmon (1.6  MILES). “Madame,” he said, “just what sort of party are you having?”
Learning to actually converse is the main reason most of us study a language. So what’s an armchair Anglo to do? In researching my book, How to Learn a New Language with a Used Brain, I found lots of new options for talking with NATIVE speakers, which is the very best way to learn.
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My favorite solution is one you may know about: Join the Alliance Française. They have chapters in cities all over the world, and they offer language lessons, conversation groups, and social events with native speakers. Americans can also go to to Meetup.com, where you can look for a French conversation group in your area, or easily start one. The French department at your local university is a great place to find native speaking tutors or conversation groups.
.
Remember when you were a kid and had a pen pal? You can now have a French pen pal, in a whole new way.  Same concept, but you use Skype, Facetime, email, live chat, or the phone to bavarder. You will be both teacher and student; the French speakers want to learn English, so you alternate languages. My Language Exchange is an example of a site where you can find partners. View their photos, read their stories, and pick a partner who interests you. I’ve got many more such sites listed in my book, plus reviews of packaged programs that feature all kids of interactive learning on the internet.
.
The coolest idea for live talking practice is one that’s taking France and England by a storm, and I hope it will come to the states. It’s called Franglish, and it uses the “speed dating” model for language learning. Franglish events are held regularly at cafés or bars.  You sit down with a French person and chat in French 7 minutes, then in English for 7 minutes, then you rotate to a new partner.  What fun! If you’re traveling to Europe and want to try it, be sure to book in advance.  And I hope you’ll check out my new book, which has MANY more ideas for you on learning French as an adult, from beginners on up to advanced students.  Bon courage, and I hope to see you at the book release party!
. 
PS  If you have any famous language bloopers, please add them to the COMMENTS today, to make us all feel a little better about our own! Click here to comment.

***

Thanks, Lynn, for this fun and helpful post on chatting in French. Reading your book How to Learn a New Language with a Used Brain was a wonderful refreshment for me. After writing about French words for ten years, I sometimes experience the "shoemaker's children syndrome" wherein my own French is lacking while I'm teaching others vocabulary! I would highly recommend your book to anyone wanting to recapture the fun and excitement of language learning. Best wishes to you on this, your book launch day! --Kristin

Thanks for visiting our sponsor!

Provence Dreamin'? Maison des Pelerins, Sablet. A Vacation Rental Dream in the heart of the Côte du Rhone.

Hotels in France. Visit EasyToBook.com to find the cheapest hotels in almost all France cities.

  Mom cape
A favorite photo of my Mom, who I'll have the chance to spend French Mother's Day with, on Sunday!

DSC_0475
Are you noticing a "cape" theme? That's because my Mom yearns to fly....

Jacques and Mom
 Uncle Jacques came over to help clear the olive orchard of its felled branches. It was a massive two-day job. After, Jacques relaxed with Mom, enjoying photos of her home and her animals in Mexico.

friends on the beach (c) Kristin Espinasse

Mom, making friends on the beach. To leave a comment, click here.

 

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving this journal. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Kristin, Your tips and experiences on French and life in France are the best resources I can think of to keep my French alive."
--Amy


Peuchère or What Not to Say to a Disabled Person

Mom (c) Kristin Espinasse
I'm having the time of my life with my wonderful mom! I love this innocent, serendipitous photo with Mom and her little fish purse. The sign says: "You are at the right place. Look no further." Vous êtes au bon endroit. Ne cherchez plus


peuchère (peuh-sher)

    : poor dear, poor thing

Peuchère is a Provençal expression of sympathy, used to indicate compassion for someone: Peuchère elle doit avoir mal au dos! Poor thing. Her back must ache!

Peuchère may also rank among the top Ten Things Not to Say to A Disabled Person. Can you list some others? Comment... or read on in the following story.


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

I was standing in the supermarket checkout line with my daughter when I saw a man approach in a motorized cart. A familiar dilemma returned: did I offer him my place in line--or risk making the man feel pitied?

Over the years I have struggled with the subject--ever since watching a man in a wheelchair open the door of his car (driver's side). A friend and I were across the street when we noticed the wheelchair-to-car transition--only each of us had a completely different reaction.

My instinct was to wait and see how the transition unfolded. If the man needed help, we could then offer it. But my friend fumed. "WHY ISN'T ANYONE HELPING HIM?" She shook her head angrily as she stood watching.

Her outrage made me feel ashamed. Had I not reacted fast enough? Would I have reacted in time? But I hadn't wanted the man to feel pitied. I hadn't been sure how to respond, I only knew I would be there if the man needed help. Meantime, the man managed to hike himself up into his car, taking with him the folded wheelchair. No assistance had been needed after all. But could the man's experience have been smoother had my friend and I intervened? Or might we have slowed or even put a snag in his familiar routine?

Fast forward ten years. Youtube. I happened upon a rant wherein a middle-aged man in a wheelchair complained about how people over-respond to his condition. "Can I get the door for you?" said the man (paralyzed from a bike accident), and the cynicism in his voice as he mimicked the modern-day good Samaritans made me even more uncertain of how to assist--or how NOT to assist--a disabled person. It seemed you were damned if you did, damned if you didn't.  But how to get past the poor them/poor me (all I wanted to do was help) syndrome in time to help out when needed?

Standing there in the checkout line I tried to be discreet while figuring out whether the man-on-wheels needed help. The answer came swiftly and easily when I looked up and noticed the sign depicting a pregnant lady. Aha! This was the caisse prioritaire line. It would be perfectly normal for me to offer my place in line without making the man feel pitied.  But the woman in front of me was about to fall into the same trap I had hoped to avoid.

"Peuchère!" she declared. "Il me fait de la peine!" she said, explaining why she had just given up her place in line, too. I wanted to shush her up so that the man wouldn't hear her "I feel so sorry for him!" remark... but who was I to shush another's expression of compassion? Her sympathy was sincere and mimicked my own sentiments as we watched the hard-of-hearing senior hand over his thread-bare change purse to the cashier so that the latter could fish out the somme due.

That's when we watched the cashier turn the purse upside down and shake it. Oh no! The man was 4 euros 36 cents short! Suddenly the "peuchère" woman went silent, opting to arrange and rearrange her pile of groceries along the tapis roulant. It didn't mean she was indifferent to the man's dilemma; she was probably doing what many do, French or otherwise: allowing the man privacy as he settled his finances.

But, given the purse's upturned state, it didn't seem likely that finances would settle on their own accord! I looked around nervously, and finally whispered to the woman ahead of me. "We ought to be able to rustle up the rest?"

The French weren't stingy, they just didn't seem to have the "pay it forward" reflex. "On doit pouvoir trouver ça," We've got to be able to come up with that," I hinted to the other customers in line. Next, I watched as wallets flew open and French fingers went to work riffling through the contents of their money purses. The collective reaction was so touching that I didn't notice, right off, how the contents of my own purse were as spare as those of the man we were trying to assist....

"Jackie!" I whispered, "do you have any change? I can't believe it," I said, searching through my wallet, "I don't have enough!" And there I'd gone suggesting that "we" pay the difference! Only, as things were, I'd given the job of debt-paying to the others in line! No matter how many times I rooted through the change purse, all I could come up with were pennies. The ten euros I'd been searching for was in my jeans pocket... back at home!

"No worries," the woman in front of me said. "I think I've got it!" I watched as she handed over enough coins to pay off the man's modest debt. I noticed the relief and happiness on her face. Whereas she had initially frozen up allowing the man to deal with his dilemma in privacy, she now had unwittingly experienced the "Pay it Forward" principle--and the good feelings it brings to all involved! The movement was gaining ground in other countries, but I'd yet to see strangers paying for strangers in France.

I watched as the senior-on-wheels gazed up at his lovely benefactor. "You are an angel," he said to the woman. And by the way his face beamed with light you'd think he was the very same.

***

 

 

Stamp tote French envelope
When you shop for any item at Amazon, using the following links, you help to support this free French journal. Merci beaucoup!

  1. "French envelope" tote bag (pictured above) 
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Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving this journal. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
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"Kristin, Your tips and experiences on French and life in France are the best resources I can think of to keep my French alive."
--Amy


bivouaquer

 

Camping out in Sanary sur Mer (c) Kristin Espinasse
a couple of perruches, or parakeets, camped out in Sanary sur Mer

 

Today's word is yet another example of how I learn English from the French... 

bivouaquer (bee-vwack-ay)

    : to bivouac

un bivouac = an improvised camp site. An individual sleeping shelter under the stars (or more often rain clouds) made out of natural materials or very rudimentary supplies. (from Wiki Answers)

Question ...but just what does "to bivouac" mean?
Answer: to make a temporary encampment somewhere.

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wav file
Bivouaquer, c'est s'installer sommairement dans un lieu naturel pour y manger ou dormir.
Bivouaquer... it means to settle oneself simply (in minimalist conditions) into a natural environment and then to eat (picnic) or to sleep there.

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

I thought today's word had nothing to do with the goings on around here at the moment. My plan was to feature the word--overheard yesterday at a picnic--and then post a few unrelated photos from Mom's visit. (I've promised to take some time away from posting and email, in order to spend as much time with Mom as possible).

Only, when I went to look up the word "bivouac", I learned it is the same in English. Zut! That means I have to find another word to share... On the other hand, maybe I am not the only one unfamiliar with this funny word bivouaquer, a verb that is alive and well in France (I must have heard it half a dozen times, yesterday, as the French are already talking about vacation plans, which, for some, will include roughing it, ie, bivouaquer.)

Meantime, life's not so rough for Mom at the moment. She is temporarily encamped--or en train de bivouaquer--in the room that was to be my office... (I've grown fond of this cozy corner of my bedroom and continue to write from here). Off to see what she is up to now....

Thank you for reading and for the encouraging and poignant comments you sent in, following last Friday's post. If there are slumps, doubts, victories, embarrassments, yearnings, and hi-falutin' aspirations in a writer's journey--your supportive comments even out the bumpy road, helping me to see the horizon in time to renew my commitment to simply settle down and write my heart out.

Amicalement,

Kristin 

To comment, click here. I leave you now with a few snapshots from Week One with Mom...

Welcome party fan club (c) Kristin Espinasse
She made it--all the way from Mexico! Here is Mom's welcome party fan club. From left to right: 17-year-old Max, 4-year-old Smokey, Mom, Smokey's mom, Braise, and 15-year-old Jackie. I told Mom to get up off the paw-stained floor, but she was so happy to be surrounded by ALL her loved ones that she could have cared less about the dirt.

DSC_0397
Some bivouac!  Mom loves her room, where she can see and hear all of the activity in the courtyard. At night she loves to watch the stars that twinkle over the Mediterranean Sea.

Mother Daughter chat
Mom's bags arrived 24 hours after she did. We shared my make-up and a chat before heading to Sanary sur Mer for lunch. That's Mama Braise, on the left. (A funny aside: Mom is wearing my red pajama pants. I wouldn't notice this until AFTER we finished lunch at the cafe and a stroll around Sanary. Her baggage arrived later that afternoon :-)

Thanks for visiting our sponsor!

Provence Dreamin'? Maison des Pelerins, Sablet. A Vacation Rental Dream in the heart of the Côte du Rhone.

Hotels in France. Visit EasyToBook.com to find the cheapest hotels in almost all France cities.

les pointus (c) Kristin Espinasse
It's fun to walk along the port in Sanary sur Mer, where all the historic fishing boats "les pointus" are lined up. Many of the wooden boats have signs displaying the historic characteristics of the modest vessels, some nearly 100 years old.

DSC_0410
Mom's purse. It looks like Jean-Marc's humble side kick, Mr Sacks, has competition!

DSC_0417
Time for a siesta. But first, enjoy the fancy ironwork on this campanile.

L'artiste in Sanary (c) Kristin Espinasse
Me and Mom. "Just pretend it's my stand." Mom said, after a local artist offered Mom her seat for the photo. 

More photos coming soon. Meantime, I'm making the most of my time with Mom. This newsletter/blog may be a little sporadic in the coming weeks--as we slow down our day and celebrate.



  Capture plein écran 10052013 090729

When you shop for any item at Amazon, using the following links, you help to support this free French journal. Merci beaucoup!

  1. French-themed tote bag "Royale Louis No IV". Click here.
  2. Listen to Carla Bruni's Little French Songs.  
  3. Blossoming in Provence - a book of stories from this ten-year-old blog.

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving this journal. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Kristin, Your tips and experiences on French and life in France are the best resources I can think of to keep my French alive."
--Amy


How to say "a small matter" or "something trifle" in French

Snoopy's philosophy
Earlier this week, on Facebook, I posted Snoopy's message (even if I didn't believe a word of it): Chaque fois que tu trouves de l'humour dans une situation difficile, tu gagnes.


une broutille (broo-tee)

    a trifle, a small matter, a little thing, nothing

Audio File: Listen to Max Download MP3 or Wav file
 

Ils se sont disputés pour une broutille. They got in a fight over a little matter.

perdre son temps à des broutilles = to waste one's time on unimportant matters
se préoccuper de broutilles = to focus on insignificant details
s'inquiéter pour des broutilles = to worry about nothing
se disputer pour des (ou une) broutilles = to fight over nothing

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

On Monday morning I quietly packed an overnight bag and left it on the edge of my bed. Next, I drew a few deep breaths, clicked open my blog, and began searching the archives for a post to rerun. Though I have gone to work and written stories under more nerve-racking circumstances, this time the energy-fueling crisis could not be put to constructive use--not even for sentence construction (emotional turmoil can be an adept wordsmith).

As I searched for a story to repost, I stopped, now and again, to contemplate the packed bag. If it eventually disappeared from the edge of the bed, it would be the first time in 19-years of marriage that I dared employ Plan B (a night spent alone at a cheap hotel...to think things over). But what would a little room cost? I wondered. I'd spend 60, at least... Surely I could get an off-season room in Bandol for 60/65...? Maybe they'll offer a discount if I stay a week. Will I stay a week?

Don't think about that right now
, I told myself. Wait for that "still small voice" inside to guide you. Meantime, one step in front of the other... Get your work done and then you can decide what to do. 

The argument had been over such a trivial matter. And to think, the day had begun in a deceptively peaceful way! I had passed my husband in the hall, where we exchanged smiles:

"Oh by the way, do we have a smaller one of these?" he said holding up the narrow arm or vaccume cleaner attachment.

"No, I don't think so," I answered, continuing on my way to my room, to dress.

"Never mind." Jean-Marc was chipper. "I think this one will fit down the drain...." 

I walked on in ignorant bliss until, suddenly, my smile fell and I froze in my tracks. The drain? He is not going to put that vacuum attachment down the drain!

The alarms sounded inside of me and that old fear of WATER + ELECTRICITY was paralizing. I thought of the neighbor we lost. The young father, who, along with his wife, worked night and day to fix up their modest village home. And then he was electrocuted (at work. He was putting up the municipal Christmas lights).

Electricity is a big bone of contention in our household. Over the two decades that I have lived with Jean-Marc, I have watched him dabble in DIY work. He is no good at it, he admits, but that doesn't take away his enthusiasm--nor do the trips to ER when he slips! Lately, after long discussions with my mom, I have learned to see Jean-Marc's DIY adventures in a new light: not only is he extremely curious, but such projects are his way of expressing himself--unleashing his inner-artist! Thus, we have the velcro-taped GPS in our car and the duct-taped mop-spear. The perfectionist in me winces at each of my husband's latest "solution creations" which lack for visual esthetique. But, lately, thanks to Mom's help, I can smile at them and even begin to appreciate the quirky man-made fix-its. And I can almost overlook my husband's obsession with refitting all the electric cords (on the microwave, the TV, the lamps...he seems fascinated by the anatomy of the cord. He itches to reveal the wires within the black rubber conduit).

But I draw the line at electricity and water.

"There is a plastic bottle cap stuck in the drain and I am going to vacuum it out!" This, Jean-Marc states with intention, for he knows that I will go hoarse trying to talk him out of it. "The drain is dry," he adds. "There is no worry about water!" 

I pause, knowing that if this conversation continues it will continue at a great expense. Listen, I want to say to my husband, I get it that you need to do your thing. I get it that I am to leave you alone with your projects and schemes. I get it. I get it. But I will never "get" electricity and I am asking you to wait for the plumber to arrive. He's scheduled to be here, anyway, and he can get the bottle cap out of the drain!

Realizing that I was not going to let up, Jean-Marc let go, losing his battle with self-control. This happened somewhere between his urging to, "Trust me that I know what I am doing," and his final desperate plea: "LET ME LIVE MY LIFE!"

I did trust him to know what he was doing and I did want him to live his life (obviously!). Only, as I so often tell our son, "It isn't you I worry about. It's the other drivers!" (Here, it isn't Jean-Marc I worry about. It is the water and the electricity!)

***
Back in my bedroom, having closed the door on the verbal gunfire that raged on, solo, back in the living room, I tell my daughter: "Get your bag, we are leaving for school now." Only, when I open the door, there stands my husband, goggle-eyed, arms rising up and down.

I see he is waiving the plastic bottle cap in one hand, in the other, the vacuum. Victory is written all over his beet red face.

"I GOT IT! I GOT IT!" he thundered. "AND. I'M. STILL. ALIVE!" 

I stood completely silent and still before the stunning bottle cap-and-vacuum spectacle, not a single of my limbs in motion, yet inside my arms were flapping wildly and my mouth thundered just like his. I was just as riled as he was, only I managed to keep it all tucked neatly inside as I walked right on past the live wire and out the door.

***
Returning from school, I discreetly packed my bag and waited for intuition to tell me what to do next. Meantime, I finished my post, hit the publish button, then relaxed by surfing the net (that "still small voice" hadn't gotten back to me yet, and I needed distraction from the emotional turmoil).

I don't know how I happened onto the site of a photographer based in Memphis, but I stayed to study every single photo in her touching self-portrait exposition, in which she photographs people sneering or mocking her (seemingly unbeknownst to her) because of her weight. Artist Haley Morris-Cafiero writes:

For my series, Wait Watchers, I set up a camera in a heavy-traffic, public area and take hundreds of photographs as I perform mundane, everyday tasks as people pass by me. I then examine the images to see if any of the passersby had a critical or questioning element in their face or in their body language. I consider my photographs a social experiment and I travel the world in an attempt to photograph the reactions of a diverse pool of passersby.

But it was the photographer's final words that gave me goosebumps: 

I have always had a hard time controlling my weight. My uncontrollable exterior has determined my place in society and I have often felt left out and awkward.

The artist's words hit hard and for the first time I realized that, though we all have struggles and vices, some of us have the added humility of having to wear their uncontrollable sides on the outside--weight and temper being two examples. With this thought came a wave of compassion for all who suffer from outward expressions of their inner conflicts.

Jean-Marc calmed down in time to bring me wildflowers in an attempt to reconcile. Accepting them, I was unable to curb my impulse to point out HIS faults. (I didn't see it as humiliation at the time but--like using a blow torch to put out a lighted candle wick--such words were crushing and unnecessary... and only served to fuel the flame!

 By the third bouquet of wildflowers (it took days--and many bouquets--to reconcile...) I began to see some of my own vices, trickier for myself, or others, to identify as they are hidden on the inside: stubborness, self-righteousness, intolerance, perfectionism, the need to control, over-anxiousness--to name several. Unlike the overweight photographer or the short-tempered husband, I have the luxury of keeping my vices and sins to myself, though I endeavor to share most of them in the stories I write. Afterwards, I can't help but see the humor and the beauty and the value in the struggle of life.

Wedding Jitters
Marseilles, 1994. Would you like to add a caption? See the comments box :-)


Disclaimer: Lately I have received a few emails and comments regarding my writing: 

"I'm uncomfortable when you talk about your struggles with alcoholism," one readers comments. Another writes, "Aren't you afraid you'll lose Jean-Marc--aren't you doing him a disservice by writing these very personal accounts). I worry some other woman will steal him away from you!

Such notes make me cower back inside myself, and I think my writing days are over. If I cannot tell my story--through the lens of humor or whichever lens I'm using for a particular episode--then I might spend my time sorting socks (and some of you will agree yes, Kristin, this would be best!).

"But writing is your gift! Don't let intimidation silence your creativity!" my mom urges me (sure, she's my mom, Moms say that kind of thing... but I feel that kind of thing--not the gift but the words and sentences that will not stop filing across my mind, or chattering in my ears, until they are set down in story form. It is torture, but, three times each week, it is delivery).
 
Post note: Jean-Marc has always encouraged me to share my story. "If it is the truth," he says, "then tell it."
Taking the week off to be with Mom (she arrives Sunday), so I won't be checking email--but Mom and I will be reading messages here in the comments box. Thanks! (P.S. I never did check in to the hotel :-)

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Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving this journal. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
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"Kristin, Your tips and experiences on French and life in France are the best resources I can think of to keep my French alive."
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What does "retour du bonheur" mean and what does this have to do with the word "muguet"?

Field of purple flowers in Orange (c) Kristin Espinasse
Larkspur? These are not lavender... and they're not the lily of the valley (a big subject today in France). Read on... 

retour du bonheur (reuh-toor-doo-buh-neur)

    : return of happiness

Audio File: listen to the following words: Download MP3 or Wav file

D'après le langage des fleurs, le muguet signifie "retour du bonheur".
According to the language of flowers, lily of the valley signifies "return of happiness".

Great book on how to pronounce French words: 
Exercises in French Phonics


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

by Kristin Espinasse

My daughter tells me that today is the fête du travail, wink, wink, and doesn't that mean we get the day off? 

Wink, wink, I'd say it does.

Click here to see what the rest of France is doing today, a day that symbolizes the return of happiness: le premier mai

Larkspur, or delphinium, and a humble old cabanon in Orange (c) Kristin Espinasse
How to keep your roof tiles from blowing off (or how to beat Mr Mistral at his windy game!) To comment on this edition, click here.

  • Love to read and cook? Win a cooking class in Paris and celebrate Ann Mah's new food memoir! What better excuse to plan a trip to France? http://woobox.com/o47ymy


Stamp tote French envelope
When you shop for any item at Amazon, using the following links, you help to support this free French journal. Merci beaucoup!

  1. "French envelope" tote bag (pictured above)
  2. Check out Carla Bruni's Little French Songs

Thank you for the time you've just spent reading this post. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that a one-time contribution helps me continue doing what I love most: improving this journal. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Kristin, Your tips and experiences on French and life in France are the best resources I can think of to keep my French alive."
--Amy