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July 2018

Entries from August 2018

A near disaster & Ouf! Phew!

Tiles and bamboo and golden retriever
Sometime during her second week in France, Mom moved out of grandson Max's room and into her own independent "space." Here's a view looking down from my bedroom, to Mom's "front patio" (really just the edge of our driveway that meets the house). In order to block the view of our cars--and the slew of tourists who pass by on their way to the beach--we've set up this privacy wall for Mom. As Jules slowly builds her nest out of what she has been given (a former "a wine cellar" I mentioned previously; in reality it is a badly converted garage.... We plan on renovating it for mom this spring. Meantime, Mom is a trooper even on difficult days when she can't get the old green curtain to slide across the ugly blue rod, or when a big rock (holding up a sink skirt) tumbles off the tiny kitchen counter--hitting her big toe! Then there's the European (only for peein'?) compost toilet. Excuse the bad joke but it helps to laugh at a time like this. (Easy for me to say!) Please wish Jules bon courage as she settles into her new life in France--not as glamorous as it may seem! More in a future post. For now, I have another story for you...

Today's word: OUF!

    : phew! (that was a close one!) 


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

  by Kristi Espinasse


I was all set to tell you about the miraculous relationship between our golden retriever and our chickens...when the former walked in with feathers all over him!

Des plumes partout....

Feathers on his cheeks. Feathers on his nose. Feathers on his lashes and...feathers in his throat? I ran over to my dog as little white puffs drifted to the ground like snowflakes landing on his paws--the gentle descent of plumes in contrast to the chilling scene going on in my mind.

"Smokey! What have you done? Qu'est-ce que t'as fait?!" I pried open my golden retriever's mouth and found feathers stuck on his tongue!

Hurrying outside I searched for our chickens, especially the Sussex hen, "Sweetie." Ouf! There she was--along with her sidekick, "Little Edie," eating her way through our veggie patch. Never was I so happy to see our feathered foragers ransacking the potager!  
Sweetie between the peppers and the lemon verbena


Sweetie's rump--with all its soft white feathers intact--faced the sky as she pecked at a pumpkin vine, right beside a tomato plant that had literally risen from the ashes and compost beneath her.

I shook my head and smiled but my relief was short lived when I noticed the state of the henhouse: a pile of feathers in the center. The plumes were much longer than chicken feathers... I wondered, C'était la tourterelle? Did one of the doves meet its demise inside?

The turtledoves sometimes wander into the poulailler to glean what seeds remain. I remembered, too, how Smokey sometimes enters the tiny poulailler (the door slightly larger than himself) to do the very same: eat birdseed!

Piecing together the evidence, it seemed Smokey had wittingly or not trapped a dove inside...and the temptation was apparently too much! My heart sank.

My mom searched the yard before delivering some good news: no dove to be found. The little tourterelle surely made it out of the henhouse and back up to the telephone line or its nest nearby.

Of course, there is that possibility that Smokey swallowed the little creature whole....  Quelle horreur! Perhaps we'd do better to focus on life's beautiful mysteries--such as how a bird dog continues to live in harmony with a couple of hens. Indeed, after losing his mama, a lonely Smokey has found a couple of sure companions.

Little Edie and Sweetie

FRENCH VOCABULARY
une plume = feather
partout = everywhere
ouf! = phew!
le potager = kitchen garden
le poulailler = hen house
c'était = was it
la tourterelle = turtle dove
quelle horreur! = how awful!

To Glean (Glâner) -- Don't miss this post from the archives, the story about Agnès Varda's must-see documentary The Gleaners and I. 

Hen house and turtle dove
Turle dove and chicken coup--and a collection of green bombonnes or "dame-jeanne's" for wine 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
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"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


Gérer, débrouiller: How to Let Go...and Grow.

La Ciotat
Midsummer night in La Ciotat. Families at their pop-up picnic tables, people swimming into the night, and the historic shipyard in the background, beneath a mauve sky. I'm going to bottle up this peaceful scene and shake it out in bits--in the kitchen, in the bedroom--wherever there's conflict....

Two words today: gérer and débrouiller


   
: to manage and to sort things out

Audio File: Click here to listen to the following sentence

Il faut arrêter d'éssayer de gérer les gens et plûtot les laisser se débrouiller.
One must stop trying to manage people and, rather, let them sort things out.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse

Andale! Andale! Ariba ariba!
Along with the morning dew, a vapor of Spanish commands are rising from the studio below our bedroom. It's 6 a.m. From our open windows I recognize my Mom's voice and determine she is trying to get our golden retriever, Smokey (wanting attention after guarding by the foot of Mom's bed all night), to se casser (or, in kinder words, skedaddle!). 

I jump up and hurry over to the stairs...when something stops me in my tracks: The realization that I cannot, I must not, continue to micromanage every family member (this being a message from ALL my family members--except our sweet golden...).  No matter how tempting it is to assist, to sort out, to unravel their sticky situations, I have got to let my family--all three generations living under this roof--solve their own problems!

VAMOOSE! (Oooh, Mom is now desperate for slobbery Smokey to exit her room, pronto! I can just picture our 9-year-old golden, his head resting on the side of Mom's bed, drool coming out of his mouth. A near-death experience as a puppy means Smokey's tongue hangs permanently from the side of his mouth, causing him to drool excessively. Mais la bave n'a jamais fait du mal à personne! (A little spit never hurt anyone!)

Smokey beside Moms bed
Smokey's tongue looking normal. Usually, even closed-mouth, his tongue hangs out

Nope, not gonna help this time. Je ne me mèle plus! Je vais m'occuper de mes propres oignons! I'm going to mind my own business. Mom can handle a slobbery dog, my daughter can deal with her US passport renewal, my husband, brushing his teeth in the bathroom, will eventually discover his pillow is missing from his side of the bed. I need not call to him, "ton oreiller, tu l'as laissé en bas, devant la télé! You left your pillow downstairs, in front of the T.V." He'll figure it out himself tôt ou tard. What difference does it make whether I save my family a bit of time in the finding out and solving of things? 

Besides, every time I step in to their situations, my intentions are seen as either nagging or bossy or--and here's the latest--"verging on bullying!")

Who me? A bully? That's almost as bad as the time my husband called me a pitbull! I admit, that one was hard to swallow! But, over the past 6 months, I've come to see (acknowledge? accept?) this tendency to badger my family until they understand my point. But perhaps there is another way?....

The way of letting go and letting others do as they will....

Leaving the stairwell this morning, I got right back into bed. As the floor fan whirled beside me (week two of the heatwave), I could feel a smile forming across my face as I listened to birdsong outside my window...punctuated by the screeching of a magpie and a new, cantankerous melody:

"Andele! Andele! Arriba! Ariba! VAMOOOSE!!!"  

Haha! If it were me I'd tell Mom to try French or English (the languages my dog responds most to...). But that's the old me. The new me says nothing--and laughs more! Oui! La nouvelle moi elle dit rien. Elle rit souvent! And she takes the lessons, even those that are hard to swallow, in stride.

We may or may not be as others say we are (butterflies or pit bulls--or, more likely, somewhere in between). But in considering it all, in stopping to reflect on our own behavior, surely we grow.


SELECTED FRENCH VOCABULARY
gérer = to manage
se débrouiller = to sort something out for oneself
se casser = to get out of here
faire du mal = to hurt
la bave = spit, drool
se mêler = to meddle in, interfere in
s'occuper = to take care of
un oreiller = a pillow
tôt ou tard = sooner or later
le poulailler = henhouse, chicken coop

I leave you with a peaceful scene from our garden. Notice the top of the wooden stake. That's "Rusty", a turtledove that lives here. He loves our new chickens, follows them around, wanders into their pouilailler, and helps himself to dinner. "Help yourself"--a lesson we can all take to heart.

Turtledove tourterelle
Announcing a new way to support this French word journal: via check! If you are interested, email me at kristin.espinasse@gmail.com 

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California


Faire bon ménage? Golden retriever and chickens & CONTROL JUICE (is it fueling you, too?)

Sussex hen and coucou hen
If you take one thing away from today's post (about letting go...), let it be this: Control Juice is for wet chickens, or scaredy-cats. (Le jus de contrôle c'est pour les poules mouillés). Let go of your fear--and your controlling nature will disappear. 

Faire bon ménage

    : to get along

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence

Faire bon ménage signifie bien s'entendre. Cette locution peut qualifier une bonne entente, une relation équilibrée entre deux personnes ou animaux qui vivent en harmonie ensemble. "To make good housekeeping" means to get along well. This phrase can include a good, a balanced relationship between two people or animals that live in harmony together.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

"Control Juice": something to give up after wine?
(or is it time to go back to wine??)


    by Kristi Espinasse

I really mean for this to be as smooth and entire as possible--this post and, come to think of it, this life. Cette vie. I struck gold this morning by finding, relatively quickly, a phrase to sum up today's story: faire bon ménage (to get along). And then the extended meaning: more than how my chickens and my golden retriever are getting along, this is an update on how my whole family--all three generations currently living under one roof--are getting along. (Quick answer: pas mal!)

Let's start with the latter: after one meltdown, one short-lived separation, and a monumental ménace: (moi) to go back to America (this one directed at the whole group of bandits) "and you can all (Jean-Marc, Jules, Max, Jackie, Smokey and the chickens) fend for yourselves--ALL OF YOU!!! I have glued myself back together thanks to my chickens almost becoming glue (more about that in a minute)....

L'ESPOIR
This morning I woke up feeling hopeful. I was seeing my entire family of banditos through rose-colored glasses... Yes, I was, until everything turned on a dime (c'est toujours le cas!). My son could not find his wallet (for the third time this week) and I instantly took on his agitation and then some.

"When you find that porte-monnaie," I barked, "put it BACK in the same place. Find a home for it!!"

Find a home for it! Find a home for it. I keep saying this to everyone. Can't find the mosquito spray? Find a home for it! Looking for your car keys? Find a home for them! Lost your swim trunks? Putain de merde. TROUVE-LE UNE MAISON!!!

My son was now running late for work and would not be able to pay the freeway toll without some fric! With my hand in my purse, rooting for money to loan him, I did not see the giant window, une baie vitrée, in front of me and so walked right into it, jarring my ego more than my nerve-endings. 

CONTROL JUICE IS FOR CHICKENS
My son, unaware of my collision, continued his own tirade. "But I can't find a home for my wallet when my room has been taken!" How could I argue with that? So when Max pulled out of the driveway, late for work, I shouted, "Don't forget to close the gate so Smokey and the chickens don't get loose." This set him right off, my 23-year-old, who swore if there was one thing he did right it was to close that gate each and every time! 

Just as we were arguing, I heard squawking...

Mon Dieu! Turning, I saw Smokey had gotten out of the house and was chasing the hens! Having put every ounce of my control juice into keeping my family and my flock in order, everything fell apart in that instant.

And that was it. I mean, that did it! Having reached the End of the Rope, this post-apocalyptic scene was the burial to my nerves as I once knew them--possibly beneath a bed of feathers!!

And here is where Grace stepped in. As my son backed his company car out of the driveway, shouting the injustice (he is a gate-shutterer if there ever was one!!) to our entire neighborhood, I let go of the embarrassment of yet another public family scene... and focused on a miracle going on in the opposite direction.

Smokey was indeed chasing the chickens... but nobody was getting killed! 

Every ounce of agitation and every bit of pent-up frustration melted away--along with all of that control juice--as I beheld the beauty of the scene in front of me: creatures getting along relatively well.  

It all reminds me of the popular saying, something we nervous people and highly sensitive types are often reminded of (by our loved ones or therapists): "Did anybody die?" 

No? Then everything is going to be OK!


***
Postnote: Mom just strolled by on her way out to the beach. Where are my blue sunglasses? she wanted to know. (!!!)  Normally, I would suggest she find a home for them...but she stole those sunglasses from Max.... Oh, les bandits!

FRENCH VOCABULARY
la vie = life
faire bon ménage = to get along well
l'espoir = hope
pas mal = not bad
c'est toujours le cas = it's always that way
le porte-monnaie = wallet
putain de merde! = dammit! (can be more or less strong depending on the situation)
trouve-le une maison = find it a home
le fric = money
une baie vitrée = large, sliding glass windows
Berina and Jules
Mom's first friend in France and a beautiful scene from last night: Berina, from Taïwan (living in Hong Kong and Cassis) and my Mom. Two funny, strong, and beautiful women who hit it right off! 

Roasted red peppers
Jean-Marc made bar (sea bass from the Altlantic, vs Loup, or sea bass from the Mediterranean. I made these roasted peppers and other cool dishes to go along with the fish.
Jean-Pierre Berina Kristi Jean-marc
Jean-Pierre and Jean-Marc go way back--they met in business school in Marseille. I only met Berina last year, and I can't wait for her to move full time to Cassis from Hong Kong. One day! P.S. look at those fans. It's sweltering in France... 
Eggs and roasted peppers
Roasted pepper recipe near the end of this post.

Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi 
♥ Send $10    
  ♥ Send $25    
    ♥ Send the amount of your choice


"Your blog has added much richness to my days for many years. High time to acknowledge your generosity toward your readers, by offering some small support."
--Candy T., California