LA PIQURE: A Mystery That is Really Bugging Me

Shutters bougainvillea jasmine
C'est bientôt l'été. It's almost summertime! To stay cool we'll keep these volets closed and the ceiling fans spinning. Now to find a solution for summer pests, following a recent slew of piqûres... Read on, in today's word fest.

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TODAY'S WORD: LA PIQÛRE

    : sting, bite

EPHEMERA WINE TASTING in Marseilles 
Jean-Marc will be pouring his 2023 Ephèmera wine at Le Vin Sobre Mazargues at 5 pm.
Adresse: 2 Av. du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny, 13009 Marseille
If you are in the area, don't miss this chance to taste his wine! 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"Ça gratte!" It itches! I say to Jean-Marc, waking up with fresh bites on my arm. I can't believe it! They've struck again! But just who are they is the question. What, exactly, is biting me every night? My skin is swollen and I see red bumps, ici et par là, across my arms, stomach, and legs. It's an exercise in willpower not to scratch them, so I claw at the skin on either side and wake up my husband. La misère aime la compagnie!

"Are you sure you haven't been bitten?" I look over at Jean-Marc, who is groggy from sleep.
"Je n'ai pas de piqûres," he mumbles. Well, it can't be bed bugs then, can it? Besides, I would have noticed the intruders, having studied the situation since the famous breakout in Paris last year. Les punaises are visible.

Perplexed, I go down the culprit list, once again...

Could it be un moustique qui me pique? Mosquito season began a few weeks ago but it is unlikely a winged want-not has crawled beneath my covers to bite me on the bottom!

What about les puces? Could fleas be eating me? I look around my bed, scrutinizing the sheets, but les puces are nowhere to be seen. I'd recognize them having dealt with the little critters when we brought our dog home from the farm eight months ago. Our adoptee, Ricci, was covered in the bloodsucking parasites. During the 5-hour ride home from Aveyron I squashed as many as I could--proof that fleas are big enough to see. 

Et si c'était les araignées? Spiders are common around here, given we don't spray pesticides. Could these be spider bites I'm getting each night?

How about les mites? Mites don't bite Jean-Marc informs me. Maybe dust mites don't bite but other kinds of mites might! Bird mites? Could it be our family of tourterelles is sharing more than their good company?

IMG_5514_Original

What if it's un mechant taon? I saw one flying around my bed just this morning! Could a horrible horsefly be behind these itchy lumps and bumps?

Jean-Marc suggested it might be hives, which have, coincidentally, come up since my mom went into the hospital. According to Google, "Stress hives can resemble insect bites..." Is it all the nerve-racking driving to Marseille and beyond that’s gotten under my skin? Or the agonizing wait for Mom’s health insurance to kick in?

Until I know just what's biting me, physically or emotionally, I've sprinkled baking soda across my mattress (Mom says it will dry the suckers out!), changed my sheets, my pajamas, and sprayed lavender mist all over the bedroom after Jean-Marc vacuumed. This relieved things for a few days, but the itchy boutons returned!

As I sit here scratching beneath my chin (the most recent morsure), I think about another possibility: no-see-ums. The funny term refers to tiny winged creatures that bite. These gnats are called moucherons in French. But Jean-Marc says it can't be them because they can't fly under the covers. 

Could it be that all these bites, then, are happening during the day? Are "no-see-ums", finally, to blame? Even if this mystery is close to being solved, the solution to no-see-ums is nowhere in sight. And, frankly, apart from lavender and baking soda, I'm not going to put too much more energy into cette situation gênante. No, you won't see me running around swatting at some invisible enemy. Honestly, I've got other cats to whip at the moment. (Leave it to the French to save the day with an amusing idiom: avoir d'autres chats à fouetter) In the meantime I have a fine phrasal verb for the pests: BUG OFF! Va t’en!

 

Ricci in the leaves
Ricci, in her favorite hangout beneath the hedges.

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Bob Mariebeth and Nixie
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FRENCH VOCABULARY

Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French words below. Click here

la piqûre
= bite, sting
ça gratte
= it itches
ici et par là = here and there
la misère aime la compagnie = misery loves company
je n'ai pas de piqûres = I don't have any bites
la punaise de lit = bed bug
un moustique qui me pique = a mosquito biting me
les puces = fleas
Et si c'était les araignées? = And what if it's spiders?
les mites
= mites
la tourterelle = collared dove
un méchant taon = a mean horsefly
le bouton = bite
une morsure = a bite
les moucherons = no-see-ums (biting midges)
une situation gênante = annoying situation
avoir d'autres chats à fouetter
= to have bigger fish to fry
va t'en!
= bug off!

For more useful vocabulary and stories from France, check out Blossoming in Provence.

Mom at the lavoir 2007
An update on Mom: Jules is enjoying being home. She will see her internist on Tuesday for un compte-rendu or report of all the tests she took, and hopefully a specific treatment. (In this photo, from 2007, Mom stopped by the local lavoir in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes to cheer the women taking care of their family's laundry. Read the story "piquer" from the archives.

Dad in France
Last but not least, Happy Father's Day to all who celebrate. Bonne Fête, Papa! To my loving dad whose kindness, wisdom, and care touch my heart time and again! I especially love Dad's childlike delight in the simplest things. Here he is, below, in La Ciotat, having tossed his favorite borrowed beach towel over the table. "I reserved it for us," he smiled. I love this memory.. Thank you, Dad, for being a terrific father.

Dad in La Ciotat

Dad in his favorite calanque
Above: Dad in his favorite cove near Mugel beach.

Kristi with Dad
I leave you with a favorite story about my Dad called "Joie de Vivre". 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.

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2.Paypal or credit card
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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!

EASY EXPAT TAX FILING
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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

A big thank you to our readers for their donations. Your support helps so much in the creation of this French journal and keeps me going. I am sincerely grateful!

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Elizabeth J.

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
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


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.

EASY EXPAT TAX FILING
Here in France, I completed and filed my US Tax Return electronically. I highly recommend Expatfile. Give it a try and be done, finally, with your 2023 tax return. (Income will not be taxed twice due to the tax treaty between France and the United States.) Click here for more info. 

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 
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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