Convoquer: Leap of Faith & Mom goes into the Hospital

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Missing Grandma Jules at this celebration for Max's 29th birthday in beautiful Cassis. An update on my mom in today's story. From left to right: Jean-Marc, Ana, Jackie (reflected in the mirror) Max, and me. (If this, or any photo in this post is not showing, click on the link or somewhere in the empty square to bring it up. My blog site is experiencing issues!)

TODAY'S WORD: CONVOQUER

    : to summon, to call in, to convoke
    : to be asked to attend

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A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"Leap of Faith"

Friday was set to be a joyous celebration of our son’s 29th birthday. Instead, it turned into a poignant reminder of the delicate balance between joy and worry that our family is experiencing lately.

Before we left for dinner in Cassis, Max went around the yard to his grandmother's studio in a last-ditch effort to get Jules to join us for the festivities. "What a beautiful dress," Max said, pointing to the panther robe my sister and I had gifted Mom. It was hung on the rack above the kitchen island, beside her bed, where I had begun packing her bag for the hospital.

"Would you try it on for me?" Max persisted. Beyond, two of Mom's doves, Mama and Papa, perched on the bars of her kitchen window, as if waiting for her reply. Talk about lucky ducks:  six years ago, when Mom moved in with us and found them in our back yard, it was like winning the bird lottery for those hungry tourterelles! The three of them were fast friends and would sit in the garden all day long, the birds landing on Mom's head, her arms, her legs, while Mom fed them sunflower seeds. But, for the past two years, Mom has not spent much time outside, as she has been drawn to her bed, fatigued. So the birds watch over her now from afar, and hurry round the yard to my place when they need food. 

Back in the studio, Mom stood beside Max, hesitant to answer his question. I could tell she was too tired for an impromptu fashion show, yet her eyes lit up. Anything for her darling grandson.

After helping Jules put the robe on over her nightgown, Max stood back in awe. "You look beautiful, Grandma! Won't you come with us tonight? We are going to the hotel in Cassis where Jackie is bartending tonight. Ana will be there, too! And we’ll have a beautiful table overlooking the sea!"

"Oh, that sounds wonderful, Max. Another time," Mom smiled, pinching his arm affectionately. She needed to rest, and the stress of waiting to know whether she would be able to go to the hospital, to undergo several exams, was beginning to take a toll.

Last month, after the doctor scheduled Mom’s four-day hospital stay for May 20th, I waited anxiously for a message from insurance alerting me that Mom’s expired medical coverage had been renewed. Each day, I checked our mailbox twice, sometimes three times. Meanwhile, I waited for the hospital to call to confirm the date. 

When May rolled around and still no news from insurance, it dawned on me that, here in France, it was the month of jours fériers. With all the national holidays, would Mom’s file ever be processed? Finally, on Tuesday, a letter arrived informing me that her dossier was incomplete. But how could that be? I had carefully included each item on their checklist! What's more, they were now asking for four additional documents, all of which would be impossible for me to furnish on time (or any time for that matter!). 

C’était la panique! But there was no time to clam up. Better to reach out. Ask for help! 

Jean-Marc got on the phone, explaining the situation, and, miracle of miracles, le fonctionnaire on the other end admitted the setback was their fault and that our dossier was indeed complete. Only, he would now have to send it to another office for validation.

"But this could take weeks!" I cried to Jean-Marc.

"There’s nothing we can do but wait," my husband shrugged.

But we didn’t have time to wait. May 20th was only six days away!

I tried contacting the hospital to inform them of the situation, that, malheureusement, we would need to cancel (if indeed they were still expecting Mom. It seemed more likely she had fallen through the cracks, completely forgotten). I began to wonder if it was worth it to keep calling when, even if I did get through (instead of being rerouted each time and automatically disconnected), it meant losing our appointment and therefore losing contact with the hospital’s internist—in which case Mom would really be set back. 

Then, on Friday, I was surprised by a brief message on my answering machine: "Vous êtes convoquée à l’hôpital lundi à 15 heures."

Wait. What? In the eleventh hour, the hospital calls to confirm? This posed yet another souci: I needed to warn them we wouldn’t be showing up! Not without insurance! As I struggled to know just what to do next, I kept hearing the nurse’s authoritative voice replay in my head:

"Vous êtes convoquée à l’hôpital lundi à 15 heures."

We were being convoked. Well, in that case, why not simply follow orders? Why complicate things? Just follow the plan and trust everything will work out. These thoughts were immediately freeing, and my anxieties began to fall away, finally.

These past three weeks have been especially nerve-racking, with Mom getting worse by the day. Apart from making her as comfortable as possible, I feel so helpless. I burst into tears at the most unexpected times and in inappropriate places—much like a friend of ours who lost her son, only the loved one I’m grieving is still with me. But for how long? How serious is Mom’s condition? It began with a sharp pain behind her eye, which eventually was diagnosed as inflammation…uveitis. But there was something beneath even this, the doctor explained, suspecting some sort of autoimmune issue.

Watching Mom grow more and more tired by the day, and after the disheartening news from insurance, I could not wait one more minute for word from insurance confirming her coverage. I called my sister Heidi and it was easily decided: Mom would go into the hospital on Monday! We would stick to the plan. She would undergo testing, with or without l’assurance française! From here on out we would depend on the holy assurance from above and from within: the conviction that if Mom needed to go to the hospital, she would go!

Now that our decision has been made, I feel relief mixed with fear. But more relief than fear. This is a leap of faith and, come what may, we will continue to trust that everything will work out. Sometimes, all we can do is trust in the process and hold on to hope. Tout va bien se passer. And, with all hope, Mom will be feeling better soon. Given her positive, grateful, and faithful attitude, she is halfway there! Now, let’s get her all of the way through this with a collective prayer: if each person reading this would pause and take a moment to think of Jules, to wish her all good health and healing, I am certain this unified prière will begin to work inside every cell in her precious body. And before long, we’ll have a second chance to dine in Cassis, with Mom in that smashing panther robe. I can already feel the sea breeze! 

 

Mom panther robe Max

Jules and Kristi at the hospital in Marseille

Update: We checked Mom in to the hospital on May 20th. She is undergoing testing through Monday or Tuesday of next week. Thanks for keeping Jules in your prayers. If you like, leave her a message below. Merci!

COMMENTS
To leave a comment or an encouraging note to Mom, click here. I will read her your messages.

REMERCIEMENTS
A big thank you to our readers for their donations. Your support is invaluable and truly helps in the creation of this French word journal. I am sincerely grateful!

Judy F.
Cate S.
Conrad N.

Paige H.
Trish A.
Linda H.
C-Marie P.
Judith C.

So enjoy FWAD and your insightful writings. Thank you! (Glad Chief Grape is home.) --Paige H.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French and English vocabulary


convoquer
= to summon

l’anniversaire
(m) = birthday

la tourterelle = dove

la panique = panic

le souci = worry, concern

Vous êtes convoquée à l’hôpital lundi à 15 heures = You are summoned to the hospital on Monday at 3 PM

malheureusement = unfortunately

le/la fonctionnaire = the bureaucrat

l’assurance française = French insurance

Tout va bien se passer = Everything will be alright

la prière = prayer

Jm poster boat
An exciting surprise awaited Jean-Marc on his return from New Zealand to La Ciotat: A municipal poster, currently showing in town, features his wooden boat!

PROVENCE WINE TOURS
Jean-Marc is back and ready to begin his Provence Wine Tours. Contact him for more information at [email protected]

Ricard sign in Marseilles
I've added some color to this snapshot (taken on the way home from the hospital in Marseille. Good to see these old signs are still up).

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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2.Paypal or credit card
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Banderole & A Warm Welcome Home to Jean-Marc

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Look who's back! Jean-Marc has returned from New Zealand. Today, read about the sweet reunion while learning several new French words and phrases. Photo taken on Tongariro.

TODAY’S WORD: " LA BANDEROLE"

    : banner 

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A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

On the eve of American Mother’s Day (which differs from La Fêtes des Mères here in France if only by the date) our matriarch Jules was up all night, busy contemplating the sky. Lying in her cozy bed, gazing out la baie vitrée beyond the pine trees to a patch of sky blanketing our sleepy seaside town, Mom was guessing the exact celestial location of her beau-fils, who, after 3 months away, was en route from New Zealand to France.

“I didn’t sleep all night!” Mom said, excited to see her “Number 1 Son” as she calls him. It was rare for Mom to appear on my doorstep before noon, but this was not a normal day. “What time will he be here?!” Jules pressed.
“Mom! I’ve told you many times. Jean-Marc touches down in Marseille at 10:15 a.m. By the time he goes through immigration, collects his bags, clears customs, and meets Max for the drive home, it will be noon.”

“Grandma, I need your help with the Welcome Home banner,” Jackie said, diverting her grand-mère’s attention. It was my daughter’s idea to create une banderole, but we didn’t have many craft supplies and we were running out of time. Shouldn’t we put our energy into something more reasonable—like making dessert for our reunion lunch?

“Oh, Mom. Come on! We’ll figure it out. Where are the felt tip pens?” 
“They’re upstairs,” I relented. “I’ll get them….”

Motion has a way of stirring creative thought and by the time I reached the top of the stairs, boom! It hit me. A roll of wax paper. Ça fera l’affaire! Returning with the pens, I grabbed some papier de cuisson from the drawer beneath the microwave and unrolled 4 feet of wax paper.

“Will you write the sign?” Jackie asked.  
“But you are the one with the pretty handwriting!” Realizing this was no time to dawdle, I accepted the honor and sketched the words “Welcome Home” in all caps before grandmother and granddaughter went to work decorating l’affiche. Jackie drew the mountains Jean-Marc had climbed (Taranaki and Tongariro) on one side and, in the center, she doodled a partial world map joining France and New Zealand via a dotted line with an airplane flying midway along les points.

Jules, who normally paints scenes using her palette knife, paused for several moments holding a foreign object in her hand: a Sharpie. To Mom, a pen was something you wrote with; nevertheless, she painted, this time, with words:

“Jean-Marc is the Greatest Son in the World!” she exclaimed, in one stroke, and “I love my beautiful son!! XOXO Mom” in another. A final flourish read, simply “I love you” (enclosed in a pink heart). 

A bright yellow orb shone from the right side of la banderole. Beside le soleil the words SO PROUD OF YOU! summed up our collective message. Finally, to the lower right, I carved out an old-fashioned heart with our initials JM + K. Voilà our heartfelt banner–and there I’d thought it would be a complicated project. Sometimes you’ve got to trust in la spontanéité. Speaking of which…the queen of spontaneity had an idea:

“Here, take my credit card and go buy some of those little patisseries at the baker!” Just like that, Jules had graciously solved our dessert dilemma. Meantime, Jackie could not find any balloons but located some sparklers and attached them to a bottle of rosé to be carried out as the family sang Bienvenue, Papa! 

We had just pulled everything together, including the cake run, when we heard voices in the garden--and those weren't the neighborhood cats. Max came in first, in time to hurry over to la banderole and add a final message for his dad: it read “Vigneron du monde!” (Worldwide Wine Maker!) En effet, if Jean-Marc had left for New Zealand in the first place, it was for more than climbing mountains, he was there to help a team of winemakers as well as to reach new summits in his own wine path: he even managed to make 50 liters of rosé on the side. (Unfortunately, there was too much sugar in the grapes or this would have been his 5th batch of Ephemera: a series of ephemeral wines he makes now and then, from various locations: Willamette Valley, OR,  USA, Etna, Sicily, Italy, and Provence, France).

His own ephemeral journey over, here he was now, in the flesh, our Chief Grape! He had dropped 4 kilos but that mischievous grin was bigger than ever as he stood there on the threshold of our home. Ricci ran up, and we all held our collective breath. Would she recognize the disheveled voyager? After all, we had recently adopted her before Jean-Marc left for New Zealand. 

Our little shepherd approached cautiously until a warm recognition came over her. Ça y est. Son maitre était de retour! With that, the room erupted in cheers:

“Bienvenue, Papa!”
“Papouche!!”
“Welcome home, Chérito!”
“There’s my son!”
“Woof! woof!”

Jean-Marc’s eyes glassed over as he hugged each of us, deeply touched by the warm welcome. “Merci pour ce chaleureux accueil. Merci, merci, c’est gentil,” he repeated, his voice full of emotion. In the distance, the colorful banner added extra cheer, reminding me of the spontaneous joy that comes from following a loving hunch. Bravo, Jackie, for the symbolic banderole. It will be a tradition from here on out, wax paper and all!

***

Post Note: After the heartfelt reunion everyone ran to the beach to jump into the sea—everyone, except Grandma, Ricci, and me. As my husband often reminds me, "Just do what you want to do!" Chacun fait ce qu’il a envie de faire! I leave you with that little bit of Chief Grape wisdom, along with a touch of my own (learned from a French grammar teacher in college): “There are exceptions to every rule.” Do what you want to do—go to the party or don’t if you don’t want to, but know when you must go.

This is how my husband and I were able to give each other the freedom to pursue our personal interests these past three months. He climbed mountains, and I dove deep into my own challenging and rewarding pursuits, including writing and caring for my Mom. This together-apart fusion reminds me of the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

“Aimer, ce n'est pas se regarder l'un l'autre, c'est regarder ensemble dans la même direction.”

Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction. 

IMG_2634_OriginalJackie and Jules, our resident artists working on the Welcome Home banderole. All that was missing was a paw print from Ricci! What could we have used for that? Half a beet? Spontaneity says It's not too late to add it now.

COMMENTS
To leave a comment or to read the comments, click here
Corrections are welcome and appreciated.

REMERCIEMENTS

Sincere thanks to readers for sending in a donation towards creating this French word journal. Your support makes such a difference and I appreciate it!

Chuck V.
Carol L.
Mazzie W.
Debra M.

 

Jean-Marc and Ricci swim
Jean-Marc and Ricci's reunion, followed by our dog's first swim!  

FRENCH VOCABULARY 

Click here to listen to the French words and expressions banderole

La Fête des Mères = Mother's Day

la baie vitrée = bay window

le beau-fils = son-in-law

la grand-mère = grandmother

une banderole = a banner

la spontanéité = spontaneity

le soleil = the sun

le papier de cuisson = wax paper

l’affiche = the poster

les points = the points (the dots)

Vigneron du monde = Worldwide Wine Maker

Ça fera l’affaire = That will do the trick

Ça y est = There it is

Son maître était de retour = Her master was back

Chérito = (a term of endearment, similar to "dear" or "darling")

le chaleureux accueil = warm welcome

Chacun fait ce qu’il a envie de faire = Everyone does what they want to do

Aimer, ce n'est pas se regarder l'un l'autre, c'est regarder ensemble dans la même direction = Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction

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Félicitations, Chief Grape, for following your dreams to New Zealand and making wine.

PROVENCE WINE TOURS
Jean-Marc is back and ready to begin his Provence Wine Tours. Contact him to reserve a date at [email protected]

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Jean-Marc on the top of Taranaki. Where will he go next?

Kristi and Jules cruise
Wait! Maybe it's time for me and mom to travel next! (I'm only dreaming. We are still waiting for Mom's health insurance to renew so she can get to the bottom of her current health issues. So I have made this hopeful poster/dream board of the two of us, to look at until this dream comes true!)

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Trouvaille: Surprise in the garden & a funny adage for not worrying what others think about you

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The garden of wonderments. Apart from the red valerian behind my dog, learn about the latest trouvaille or finding in our garden, and don't miss the colorful expression at the end (the funny French equivalent to "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me").

TODAY'S WORD: la trouvaille

    : find, discovery, treasure

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A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

There was a time, years ago, when I might have sold my soul for my garden. I remember that exact moment, kneeling beside a rock bed overflowing with parsley and strawberries and buzzing with life in December. The sweet-scented earth, the vivid colors, the warm sun on my back, a ladybug alighting in the midst of it all. This was heaven on earth. Suddenly, I had the thought that I never want to die and so be separated from this terrestrial paradise. I wrote about the experience in our story, The Lost Gardens (there, you know how that ended).

By now you may be picturing a magnificent floral kingdom, but a beautiful garden is subjective, isn’t it? One person pictures a stately Jardin de Versailles, while another envisions a charming potager. My own digs were a messy affair: wild, expansive, out of control. A marriage of weeds and peas and bees and sore knees. Artichokes spread from the garden beds up through the thyme-scented hillside where my husband had begun to carve out his “vineyard in the sky.” There, midway up the hill to heaven, I had strawberries galore and exotic berries–tangy “argousiers.” It was a permaculture playground just as I had imagined it could be. What pride and joy I felt collecting the first (and what would be the last…) creamy, perfectly ripe avocado. Soon after, the avocatier was taken over by an army of bugs–and that, in a nutshell, is the story of my garden: a tale of victories and defeats. 

Among all the love and war in the garden were the unending trouvailles–the discoveries! When I stop to think about it, what gave me the most joy wasn’t the way my garden looked or what it produced, no—all the pleasure and excitement came from the surprises it offered up, les petites merveilles meted out according to its mysterious whims. At Mas des Brun, where we lived for 5 years, those surprises were the fruits, vegetables, and flowers popping up all over the field. While here in La Ciotat, in a crowded neighborhood where we moved after selling our vineyard, there are other hidden treasures to keep me tied to the garden even if this particular yard, made of sand and clay, has been nothing but a struggle.

I’ll never forget the first thrilling discovery this urban lot offered up. Soon after we arrived in 2017, relaxing back into une chaise longue beside the fountain/pond, I looked look up to a branch laden with green plums. Mon Dieu! A second prune tree mixed in among les haies! And, speaking of hedges, soon after Mom moved here, to a converted garage on the northwest corner of the house, she discovered a family of hedgehogs—les hérissons. Wildlife in the city!

Following on the heels of those hogs, three arbres de Judée revealed themselves by springtime (hard to continue hiding among the green hedges with so many fuchsia flowers popping up on your branches). Below, dozens of coquelicots appeared across the yard, and the surprises only continued. There was little room to mourn the loss of my permaculture garden, what with so many nouveautés springing up across this stubborn plot. After wrestling with this garden for 7 years, this springtime has seen the most blossoms. I like to think the return of a dog to the property has influenced its fertility somehow, some way. (All those joyous four-pawed romps around the garden may have stirred the seeds below. Thanks, Ricci, and rest in peace, dear Smokey. You will forever be a part of our garden, your ashes resting beneath the Lilas d’Espagne which have spread in abundance, like a dog’s love.)

Recently, while playing with Ricci, I spied an Acanthus about to bloom! I hurried over to Mom’s to report it, before dragging her out to see it for herself. “Wait, Mom! While you're here, I have another surprise for you…”

Each night this past month, while taking Ricci out for her last run around the garden, my ears were delighted by frog calls. But when I approached the fountain/pond,
la grenouille was nowhere to be found. Turning to go back into the house, it would croak again, sending me running back to the fountain, searching for the green giant (from the sound of its voice it must’ve been huge—un crapaud!). We played Cache-Cache for weeks until, one day I heard a warble from the tree trunk beside the fountain/pond. Hmmm. A frog in a tree? I studied the would-be refuge, a felled palm tree we’d made into an outdoor table. Currently, the table was speaking to me:

Ribbit...ribbit...ribbit…

I fumbled for my phone’s flashlight. Shining it under the tabletop, I could not believe my eyes: all those thundering ribbits echoing through our neighborhood were coming not from a bullfrog, but from une rainette—a tree frog no bigger than a macaron.

As I marvel at how such a tiny creature could add such a powerful blast of character to our garden I am reminded, once again, that it isn’t the size or shape or appearance of a garden that brings joy. It is the little findings within it that offer eternal bliss. No need to sell one’s soul for this. It is already a gift.


***

Post Note: If you ever find yourself fretting about the untidiness of your garden—or your living space, for that matter—remember this amusing French saying. 'La bave du crapaud n'atteint pas la blanche colombe' translates to 'The toad's spit doesn't reach the white dove,' meaning that criticism or negativity can't harm those who remain unaffected by it. So, embrace your garden just as it is, and live life on your own terms.

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The fountain-pond and the palm tree table where the tree frog lives. We eventually lost both palm trees to an invasive “charançon rouge” (a red weevil). 

COMMENTS
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See a mistake? Thanks for letting me know so I may fix it illico (right away)!

Ricci apple of my eye
Apples near the front door. Shoes tidied in the tiles, just behind. 


FRENCH VOCABULARY

Jean-Marc recorded the sound file during his layover at the Melbourne International Airport. After 3 months in New Zealand he is on his way home, arriving Friday!

Click here to listen to the French vocabulary

le jardin = garden
le potager = vegetable garder
l'argousier = sea buckthorn berry
le crapaud = giant toad
l'avocatier (m) = avocado tree
la trouvaille = find, discovery
la petite merveille = little marvel
une chaise longue = lawn chair
la haie = hedge
l'hérisson = hedge hog
l'arbre de judée = Judas tree
le coquelicot = poppy
la nouveauté = novelty
le lilas d'Espagne = red valerian
la grenouille = frog
le cache-cache = hide-and-seek
le crapaud = toad
une rainette = tree frog

La bave du crapaud n'atteint pas la blanche colombe = The toad's spit doesn't reach the white dove (or "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me")

Mas des Brun garden
This is the back of our farmhouse at Mas des Brun, where we lived from 2012-2017. Those are the rock bed potagers, or vegetable gardens. And that is Smokey, my garden buddy extraordinaire! 

REMERCIEMENTS
Special thanks to these readers for their helpful donations in support of this French word journal:

Lisa E.
John M.
Julie C.

Dana B.
Carol A.

Edred F.
Suzanne D.

Hi Kristi I so enjoyed your books as well as the word-a-days. Merci. -- John M., San Francisco

Kristi, knowing you all these years has meant so much to me. "Giving you a little dough to blow," as my dad used to do for me, is a pleasure. You keep my mind and heart reflecting. —Julie C., Tempe, AZ

I really like getting your blog. It is always of interest to me. I have CDs that I used to listen to in order to learn French. I have a different vehicle now, and it has no CD player. --Carol A., Willmar, MN

MVIMG_20190519_075219_Original

Mom, holding the hedgehog

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Smokey, looking through the kitchen window at Mas des Brun, where this one-off avocado was devoured.

00E32CBD-7197-4406-A21E-4E6CC597BBC5
Ricci looking conspicuous in front of the massive wine bottles or "dames-jeannes" that decorate a corner of the garden.

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Me and Ricci. Soon after this picture was taken, Ricci ate all the fruit on this wild berry plant. I guess she taxed us for her part of the crop! Speaking of taxes, if you are an American abroad don't forget to visit Expat Taxes for a fast and easy filing process

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety