La Belle Dormant: Jules Returns Home & A Reason to Be Proud of France!

Mom and Sofiane Ambulance driver
Mom had a few rides in the ambulance these past few weeks. She loved every one of the drivers! Here she is with Sofiane, who stopped for a magnificent view of the Mediterranean. Merci!

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TODAY'S WORD: LA BELLE AU BOIS DORMANT

    : Sleeping Beauty

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

I had a dream last night that Mom was driving us in our jeep. We were going up a dirt road, and when we reached le sommet and came over the other side, the path dropped unexpectedly into a swamp, along with our bagnole!

I remembered, with relief, that our vehicle had 4-wheel drive, that is, until our tires lost contact with the ground and we began to sink.

Just when all hope seemed lost, Mom looked over at me with confidence, revved the engine, and the Jeep swam forward enough for the wheels to catch on the rocks below. Alléluia! We climbed right out of the mire! On the other side of the water, there was a farm, and the couple living there had a family of hedgehogs. They kindly gifted us the baby hérisson. Not only had we survived, but we surfaced from the mire with a gift--a newborn!

If dreams were premonitions, what a hopeful sign this would be! As it is, we are still bogged down in this mire of medical testing and administrative imbroglio. Meanwhile, we had a momentary reprieve from the situation when, on Thursday, Mom’s internist released her from the hospital for the weekend.

During her three days at home in her cozy studio, Jules read each and every comment readers have left on my blog following her hospitalization. Mom was filled with energy from your thoughts and prayers and amazed by my extended family of readers, whose affection and care were palpable. I assured Mom I appreciate all of you so much and hope you feel this gratitude in these weekly updates.

Tucked into her own bed, Ricci cuddled beside her, Mom told me all about the care and attention she’s receiving at the hospital. Les infirmières have even given Mom un nom d’affection: Jules is called “Sleeping Beauty” or “La Belle Dormante” for the way she sleeps around the clock. This is one reason she went into the hospital—to find out why she is so tired.

For her first PET scan, La Belle Dormante was transported via stretcher to a tiny room, where she received a catheter in her arm. To take her mind off the needle, I promised Mom that when this was all over, we’d go off on an adventure somewhere.

“Oh, Kristi,” Mom began.

I turned to focus on what she was saying, quieting the chatter in my mind that droned on: I need to pick up Mom’s medication…It’s close to 2pm! I’ve got to get the car back to Jackie who’ll need it for work!

“Kristi, this is an adventure!” Mom smiled. “Aren’t you proud of France?!”

Me? Proud of France? But I’m not even French. Can you be proud of something that is not your own? Mom’s expectant look had me reflecting. Just what did she mean?

“I cannot believe how dedicated and professional everyone working here is. They all know they have an important job. They are saving lives!

I took my mom’s precious hand into my own. “To this adventure,” I said, kissing Mom before they wheeled her into the next room. When the door shut behind her, I saw the number 7. Mais bien sûr, of course she would have room number 7. It’s her favorite number—le numéro sacré. Not only is Mom lucky, but she is truly blessed!

Just before Mom disappeared into the PET scan, she tried to calm my doubts and fears. “How else would we witness God’s miracles if it wasn’t for these uncertainties?”

For her daughters and those who know her, Jules is proof that faith, like our trusty Jeep, can move us out of the deepest mire. And in this medical care adventure, the gift we surface with is the unwavering love and support from those around us, a reminder that even in challenging times, we are never alone. Not even as a stranger in a foreign land. Oui, Maman! Je suis fière de la France!

 

IMG_2890_Original
With Mom and Ricci in Mom’s studio

COMMENTS
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Jean-Marc Ricci triathalon
Congratulations to Jean-Marc for completing the "Triathlon des Lumières" here in La Ciotat last weekend!


REMERCIEMENTS

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FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to the French read aloud by Jean-Marc


le sommet = the summit
la bagnole = car 

Alléluia! = Hallelujah!
le hérisson = hedgehog
l’imbroglio = mess
au fait = by the way
les infirmières = the nurses
le nom d’affection = a term of endearment
La Belle au Bois Dormante = Sleeping Beauty
le numéro sacré = the holy number
jamais tout seul = (we are) never alone
Oui, Maman = Yes, Mom
Je suis fière de la France! = I am proud of France
Jean-Marc Jules hospital
June 5th. Last day for Jules in the hospital. We picked up Mom and brought her home last night, to her delight! The next few visits to Hôpital Europeen will be day visits only. In a few weeks, we'll meet with Mom's internist for a summary of all the exams--and hopefully a course of treatment for what the doctors think is sarcoidose (sarcoidosis)

Mom has been a trooper throughout this experience, including two weeks in the hospital and over 11 tests! Tuesday she went  under anesthesia for a lung biopsy. She also had a lip biopsy which left a mark below her lip. She also came home with a black eye! I'm wondering if it is from the breathing mask she wore during the intervention?

Jules collage

I did not get a picture of the other ambulance drivers, who Mom adored. When her shoe fell off on the way into the hospital, they called her "Cendrillon" (Cinderella). What with two storybook names given to her by the medical team, you might say Mom's life in France is a fairytale. I think La Belle Dormante would agree!

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
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Bonne Fête: Celebrating Moms Twice!

Bonne fete maman
Read about two inspiring women in today's story. One of them is my Mom, who sends sincere thanks for all the loving messages and prayers you sent her, following the previous post. Merci beaucoup!  Read to the end for a full update and picture of Jules.

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TODAY’S WORD: Bonne Fête Maman

        : Happy Mother's Day, Mom

TODAY’S WORD: LE TRAVERSIN

        : bolster (a long, log-shaped pillow)

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Sunday morning, with ten minutes to spare before church, a rack of summer pants caught my eye. A little boutique on Rue des Poilus was going out of business, and everything was on sale. It was Mother's Day in France, and though we already celebrated American Mother's Day two weeks ago, I decided to observe it twice this year by offering Mom a nice pair of summer pants. We certainly had something to celebrate: Mom was getting a second lease on life after checking into the hospital last Monday.

Though she asked me not to visit this weekend, I missed Mom terribly. Besides, she needed shampoo, Kleenex, and a fresh towel after a week in the hospital (hospitals in France do not provide these essentials). I decided to surprise her with a brief visit—just 30 minutes. "Pas plus!" No more! After all, she had kicked me out a few times and gently told me not to come back over the weekend. I finally understood how exhausting it is to receive visitors, even your own daughter, when you're in a hospital.

Running late now for church, I grabbed a pair of black linen pants from the outdoor rack and hurried inside to pay when a woman of a certain age appeared at the entrance. "Coucou!" she said to the owner, wishing her the best with a wide smile. For as reserved and shy as the boutique owner and I were, Madame was exuberant. Impeccably styled with her hair teased and lacquered, she held a colorful bouquet of peonies and a bright yellow bag labeled "fine Belgian chocolates."

"Elles sont magnifiques!" the owner smiled.

"I bought them for myself—for Mother's Day!" the woman boasted, stepping into the boutique. "Et oui, les chocolats aussi!" she grinned.

As I watched her, she reminded me of Mom, just a few years ago. How I longed for her to return to her vibrant, adventurous self. But I knew Jules' fatigue wasn't from a lack of zest for life—it was from an undiagnosed health issue the doctors were only now beginning to understand.

Shaking myself out of my reverie, I turned to the lady with the flowers. "Quelle bonne idée!" I said, admitting, "My kids haven't called me yet!" It wasn't fair to imply they had forgotten La Fête des Meres. I knew that, after church, I'd be returning home to a nice lunch on the terrace with Max and Ana, though Jackie would be at work. The idea I wouldn't see my daughter on Mother's Day saddened me.

The woman with the flowers turned to me, her smile radiating right through me. She shook the bouquet and smiled, "On n'est jamais mieux servi que par soi-même!"

Admiring her style with her leopard purse, her slacks/jacket ensemble, and T-shirt avec des paillettes, I just had to tell her how cool she was—in an indirect way (à la française!). "I love your attitude. And that’s such a great phrase. Could you please repeat it?"

"Bien sûr! On n'est jamais mieux servi que par soi-même."

As I struggled to remember it, Madame encouraged me to write it down, waiting patiently for me to open my phone and find my notes. I mouthed the translation as I typed: "If you want to get something done, you have to do it yourself." It was a wonderful lesson from a dynamic woman, who shared she was eighty-five and always looking on the bright side. I couldn't wait to get to the hospital and share the encounter with Mom while she opened her presents (du coup, I also got her a box of chocolates and flowers, compliments of  my sister Heidi and me).

At the Hôpital Européen in Marseille, I knocked quietly on door number 3404. Mom sat up in bed, surprised to see me and Jean-Marc. She looked more beautiful than ever, without makeup and her trademark Panama. Une beauté naturelle! "I'm so glad you are here," she admitted, revealing her loneliness. When she reached out to hug us, I saw the bruises up and down her arms. "They're bloodthirsty here," Mom laughed, making light of the many prises de sang she had given the nurses.

I noticed Mom no longer had her new favorite pillow—the "traversin" she had discovered in her room that first day. She had shared that room with two different patients before being transferred to her own room, in which the traversin was forgotten.

"Mom, you’ve got to speak up. Ask for what you need! By the way, did they ever bring you that bottle of water? And are they giving you your eye drops—three different kinds a day? I hope they are remembering to take your blood pressure from below your knee!" (We learned that, in France, for those who have had breast cancer, protocol is not to take blood pressure from the arm. Something about lymph nodes and swelling.)

Not wanting to wear Mom out with reminders, I delivered the bottom line. "Mom! You know what Grandma Audrey used to say: 'The squeaky wheel gets the oil.' Do you know what that means?"

"It means bitch, bitch, bitch if you need something!"

Now that we were laughing again, I broke the news to her. "You will be here a few more days. I'll be back on Tuesday. In the meantime, you've got to advocate for yourself!"

"If only I could advocate for better food," Mom laughed. "Today's was the first good meal all week. So when I was done eating, I took that little menu included with each meal and flipped it over. On the back, I wrote 'BEST MEAL YET'."

I hope the chef will understand Mom’s English. But if Jules gets desperate enough, she might take Madame Flower’s advice and head down to the cafeteria to serve herself. Remember, dear reader, on n’est jamais mieux servi que par soi-même!

***
Post Note: Hurrying out of the boutique on my way to church, I rounded the corner and was surprised by a lovely young woman sitting on one of the steps. It was Jackie, waiting in the wings to surprise me with a “Happy Mother's Day, Mom!”

Madame Fleurs
"Madame Fleurs" and the shop owner, two lovely women I met on Sunday.


COMMENTS
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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!

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“I have been a fan of your French Word-A-Day BUT I haven’t supported your work, financially. Today is the day…. Me and Zelle are doing it!! Best wishes to your mom. I live in Phoenix AZ TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF !”  Michèle C.


FRENCH VOCABULARY 

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

Bonne Fête, Maman! = Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!
l'église
= the church
Rue des Poilus = Poilus Street
les pantalons = pants
elle me manquait = I missed her
Pas plus! = No more!
Coucou! = Hi there!
d'un certain âge = of a certain age
Elles sont magnifiques! = They are magnificent!
pour la fête des mères = for Mother's Day
Et oui, les chocolats aussi! = And yes, the chocolates too!
la joie de vivre = zest for life
Quelle bonne idée! = What a good idea!
ensemble avec des paillettes = outfit with sequins
à la française! = in the French way!
Bien sûr! = Of course!
On n'est jamais mieux servi que par soi-même = If you want to get something done, you have to do it yourself
du coup = as a result / so
L'Hôpital Européen = The European Hospital
la prise de sang = blood sample
une beauté naturelle = a natural beauty
le traversin = the bolster pillow

”LES POILUS” (a historic note from Odile GOUGET)

Kristi, You mentioned la Rue des Poilus in your post. I thought your readers might be interested in knowing that "les Poilus" is the nickname that was given to the soldiers of the First World War (La Grande Guerre). 
One reason may be that in the trenches they grew their beards and moustaches and therefore all looked hairy.
Another reason may be that "avoir du poil" means to be brave. Les poilus were the brave men fighting on the front contrary to "les embusqués". In France during the First World War, an "embusqué" was an able-bodied man of mobilisation age who was away from combat positions. "Embusqués" included a wide range of categories: those exempted and deferred on health grounds, except for the obviously incapacitated, soldiers in the rear, men in the auxiliary services and the territorial army, workers assigned to the armaments industry, and civil servants with surplus pay. Protected from danger, the ambushers were generally despised and, at the same time, often envied. 
Best wishes from
Odile
 

Jules and breezy
A favorite picture of Mom, with Breezy, taken before she moved to France in 2018. As of today, Thursday, Mom has been in the hospital for 11 days—all for testing. Yesterday she was transported via ambulance from Marseille to Aubagne for a special TEP, or PET scan. We hope this is the last test and that she’ll be released soon. She is desperate to return home to her cozy studio, for a good snuggle with Ricci. Please keep Mama Jules in your thoughts and prayers for healing and for her insurance to kick in. The hour of reckoning is upon us! We can’t thank you enough for your caring notes 💗

Below is a beautiful painting Mom did years ago, representing our family here in France. The deer from left to right are Jean-Marc, Max, me, Jackie, and Grandma Jules. I brought the painting to the hospital to brighten Mom’s room and to leave her in good company when we are away from the hospital and she is on her own.  

IMG_2839_Original

COMMENTS
To leave a comment or a correction, click here

 

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


Convoquer: Leap of Faith & Mom goes into the Hospital

IMG_2727_Original
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.

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