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
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REMERCIEMENTS

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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.

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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). 

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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.
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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

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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.

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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


Voir La Vie en Rose: Mom’s Secret to Facing Challenges

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Mom always said to take a new road each day, which is how I discovered this secret square in La Ciotat. Growing up, Jules also taught me to see things that are not as though they are. More in today’s missive “La Vie en Rose”.

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Jean-Marc returns home soon, in time to begin his Provence Wine Tours. Contact him to reserve a date at [email protected]


TODAY'S WORD: VOIR LA VIE EN ROSE

: to see the positive side of things

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

The weather report was wrong. Fortunately, it wasn't pouring down rain, but there were other traveling ennuis when we drove Mom to the hospital for her eye condition. Coming out of Marseille's Prado Carénage tunnel, my daughter blared her horn. “Mais ils conduisent comme des fous!" she gasped, as the car to our right cut over, causing us to swerve.  “You would have never been able to drive here, Mom!”

“Don’t say that, Jackie! It’s discouraging. I'm sure I could’ve driven. I memorized the map all week," I remarked, from the copilot seat. Currently, we were arriving at "that building with the arched windows" and it was just as Google depicted it.  "Turn left at the BMW dealership Jackie!" There it was, exactly as the online photo in Google Maps indicated. 

“You’re a great driver, Jackie!” Jules cheered from the back. You'd never know from her words that Mom was uneasy. By focusing on the positive, she was now a voyager on an exciting ride, instead of petrified. Listening to our passenger, I’m reminded of a title Mom kept on the bookshelf when my sister and I were growing up. Florence Scovel Schinn’s Your Word is Your Wand was eventually replaced by The Holy Bible which we call "The Living Word." I find the French translation fascinating: The Word, which is considered alive and active appears as "Le Verbe" in certain editions. "In the beginning was The Word...Au commencement était le Verbe..." (Jean 1:1)

Words and vision have always been important to Mom. One of the first lessons Mom taught my sister and me was to see things that are not as though they are. Though it was hard for me to see all the D’s on my report card as A’s, or to view my crooked teeth as straight, Mom’s scripture-based wisdom proved itself in the end--with the help of long hours of study and braces. (Aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera!)

But back to our narrative in which Mom’s faith-filled eyes are, ironically, suffering from inflammation…

The doctor's assistant had already warned me that the European Hospital was in a bad part of Marseille (I guess BMW thinks as positively as Mom...). Outside our car windows, I saw boarded-up businesses and an automobile repair shop covered in graffiti, a lone pair of jeans dangling on a clothesline above. But from Mom's perspective, you’d think we were in a charming French village and not the gritty city. "I love it here. I've always loved Marseille!

"Mom, hold on to my arm!" I urged after Jackie pulled in front of L'Hôpital Européen to drop us off. “What a beautiful hospital!” Jules enthused. Looking around, I saw patients walking with mobile IV drip bags, others in wheelchairs, and some with canes. All looked pale, but to Mom, they were nearly sunkissed.

Mom winked at the giant security guard at the entrance. Meanwhile, I saw the agent de protection differently and began to envision a band of thugs hurrying past us on their way to ER following another règlement de compte.

“Did you see those handsome men pushing the wheelchairs?” Mom said, pointing to the aides-soignants. “When I check in next month I’ll have them race me down the halls and across the street for a glass of wine at that darling café!" To Mom, even the nearby commerces (including les pompes funèbres, or funeral parlor) appeared otherly. 

Having cleared security, now on our way to the first appointment in section C1 of the hospital, Mom’s enthusiasm ramped up, perhaps along with her anxiety. “This place looks like a resort!” This sunny outlook was beginning to affect me and I could now begin to see the clean, modern lines of the great hall which reminded me of a shopping mall. In fact, we were very close to the popular Les Terrasses du Port shopping center, where Jackie had gone after dropping us off. Why not see this place as a little extension of that? Therefore, Mom and I were only in one of the “department stores.” 

In the hospital’s ophthalmology unit, I pulled a number from the ticket dispenser, ushered Mom to a seat, and began rifling through my bag for administrative forms, for Mom's American passport, her prescriptions, all the while translating any instructions to Mom, in English or to the healthcare workers, in French. While Mom found each étape amusing, I sweated them all. The receptionist called our number and fell instantly under Mom’s charm, and I sighed a breath of relief (Ouf! Mom’s insurance card, set to expire in 4 days, had passed inspection). 

We were in the second waiting room when Mom’s doctor appeared with a bottle of eye drops to dilate her eyes. “Enlevez votre chapeau, s'il vous plaît," the doctor said, to which Mom removed her well-worn Panama hat—but not without a little reluctance. Her trademark chapeau is a little like her shield. I held my breath, wondering, would all of her positivity disappear now?

When next I looked over, Mom was smiling demurely. I could see she was smitten by the doctor! It was at this point that I knew Mom would get through this current trial. If there’s one thing in the world that trumps positive thinking, it’s love! 

And I knew, by the grace from above, I’d get through it too, no matter how many times I stumble as a caregiver.

Standing outside on the gritty curb, waiting for Jackie to pick us up, Mom was filled with gratitude, even as the Mistral threatened to carry off her hat. As she held on tight to her Panama and to me, she beamed. "I'm so proud of you," she said. "I'll bet these doctors are impressed with how organized you were!"

Well, I wouldn’t go that far! But then... Il faut voir les choses qui ne sont pas comme si elles l'étaient

 

COMMENTS
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La Vie en Rose t-shirt Sainte Ceciile les Vignes
In theme with today's word "voir la vie en rose", here's a picture from the archives. Jean-Marc, resting at Mas des Brun. His t-shirt is a play on words: "La Vie en Rosé" from Sainte Cécile-Les-Vignes.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Today’s sound file may be difficult to hear, but you’ll enjoy the birds in the background. Jean-Marc recorded it for me in New Zealand, and sent it along with this note:

Found some internet to send you this 
It's beautiful and very wild here 
Will be with you in a week now ❤️

Click here to listen to the French vocabulary


voir la vie en rose = to see life through rose-tinted glasses
l'ennui = problem, aggravating factor
Mais ils conduisent comme des fous! = But they drive like crazy people!
le Verbe (Parole de Dieu) = The Word (Word of God)
L'Hôpital Européen = The European Hospital
Aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera! = God helps those who help themselves
le règlement de compte = settling of scores
l'agent de protection = security guard
l'aide-soignant, aide-soignante = orderly, porter, nurse's aide
le commerce = business
les pompes funèbres = funeral parlor
une étape = one step (or part) of a process or journey
ouf! = phew!
Enlevez votre chapeau, s'il vous plaît = take off your hat, please
Voir les choses qui ne sont pas comme si elles l'étaient = See things that are not as though they are


REMERCIEMENTS
Sincere thanks to readers for sending in a donation in support of my French word journal. Your support makes a difference!

Bob O.
Anne J.
Julie F.
Dawn D.
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Linda A.
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Augusta E.
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Kristi, your posts are a joy! Merci! --Linda A.

Hi Kristi, I thoroughly enjoy reading your columns. All the very best to you and your family. --Debra H

Salut Kristi, Thank you for sharing your adventurous life with us. It is a blessing to read your stories and to learn very practical French that I can share with my students from time to time. May you be blessed with more than enough! --Dawn D.

Your posts add joy to my day, especially when they concern serepdipitous encounters like the one with Jean-Pierre in Ceyreste. They're all part of a bigger plan. Bisous bcp. --Augusta 

Kristi Jules Jackie car ride

My daughter Jackie, right, is driving (the photo is flipped around) Our expressions tell a story: The nerve-racking ride home from the hospital and a treat at the end: Jackie stopped at McDonald’s drive-thru to get her grandmother a sundae.  

8b1d6464-c29c-4e3c-b13d-194ce9db5abc
Happy birthday to Ana. As Grandma Jules says, We're so lucky to have you! (Pictured with Max and Loca.)

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