poix (pitch) + Night blindness while driving


Picket fence Italy Love Well (c) Kristin Espinasse
A favorite saying... painted on a modest fence; it reads...

"Pour bien vivre, bien aimer et laisser dire."
To live well, love well and let others say what they will.

aimer (ay-may) verb

    : to love

 j'aime, tu aimes, il aime... nous aimons, vous aimez, ils aiment...


A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Examples of Amour

It began in the black of the night. Lying there in bed, I was not thinking about my birthday and for this I was grateful. Please, God, let me think of other things besides myself and my well-being.

I must have been thinking about China in the late 30's and the heroine of the book that I am reading. Before I fell to sleep last night, she was still stirring... freeing so many tiny feet from foot-binding.

I wriggle my toes beneath the sheets... freedom all around me! What more could I want for my anniversary? And yet...

(The alarm rings...)

"Eh ben," Well, whaddya know! Jean-Marc teases.
"Ce n'est pas possible!" It can't be.
"Qu'est-ce qui n'est pas possible?" What can't be?
"43 ans!" Forty-three years old!
"Et si et c'est bien!" Yes it can and it is good! 

And with that, my husband began to shower me with cadeaux...

There was the cup of coffee he brought me... in a mug featuring a photo of Braise and Smokey....

Cadeau no. 2 was my daughter, whom he awoke... in time for her to offer me une petite boîte of dark chocolates.

Up next... a book... by a rebel nun (I have written about her here).

The gifts continued every quarter of an hour! Cadeau no. 4: a little olive tree: the one I had feared buried beneath so many weeds. How much guilt have I felt, believing I had "choked" it in neglect (leaving it there, alone, in an abandoned garden patch). And now, a second chance! I sat there with little olive tree in my lap. I sipped my coffee, stared at my chocolates, the book, and listened to the water fill my bath.

Reste là! Jean-Marc said, disappearing into the salle de bain. "Ne regarde pas!"

When all was clear and I could come in I could hardly conceal an ear-to-ear grin. On the wall I saw the metal letters that had tumbled off a year or so ago:

"A N G E"

Whereas Jean-Marc had once used duct tape to hang the letters... this time he glued them!

I stared at the French word for "angel". I do hope to act like one this year. (As my mom always says "act as if!" (by the way, she is the one who gave me the metallic "A N G E" letters).

As for the angel in China whom I spoke of earlier (busy unbinding so many tortured feet) -- I'm not sure what she has to do with my story, except to serve as a reminder of how much there is to be grateful for... and that the key to happiness is in the giving of oneself, as Jean-Marc did so beautifully with, among other things, the little olive tree.

French Vocabulary

le cadeau = present

une petite boîte = a box

reste là! = stay there!

la salle de bain = bathroom

ne regarde pas! = don't look

un ange = angel

jackie max kids
A previous birthday party (my 36th) in 2003. Jackie and Max.


A favorite picture of my mom, Jules (photo taken in 2003). Looking forward to calling her today! 

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Hi Kristi,

What a beautiful birthday surprise.. or series of surprises, really. :)

Thank you for the quote; sometimes the "let people say what they will" part takes a little getting used to. Those are truly words to live by.

Again, joyeux anniv' - I wish you so much happiness and beauty on this day and always.

gail bingenheimer

Bonne Anniversaire!

Karen W  (Towson, Maryland)

Bonne anniversaire, Kristin!

What a wonderful way to be woken up - surrounded by the ones you love and who love you - all under one roof and even in one room, right by your side. Yes, aimer is the best word today.


Cynthia Bertelsen

Bonne anniversaire! Very interesting about the nun, I will have to try to find some of Soeur Emmanuelle's books.

Linda R.

Joyeux Anniversaire, Kristin! Karen is exactly right - what a wonderful way to begin your special day. Best wishes to you.


Happy Birthday, Kristen !

You have brought such delight in your words. Ange is fitting indeed ! Just wait to see what life brings next .

Jeanne of Maumee, OH

Happy Birthday to a very young and energetic 43 yr old. Ah, to be 21 years younger!!! Enjoy every minute. What a wonderful way to start your day. Jean-Marc is a loving husband!


Bon anniversaire et bonne journee, Kristin! What a lovely story, full of love et tendresse. I love the quote, too, and will take a look at the book. You bring such joy to all of us.

Hope you guys are surviving the snow we are reading about en France.


Happy birthday, Kristin! Enjoy your day!

Joy O'Neill

Thank you for sharing your wonderful birthday experiences. So happy to hear that you enjoyed such a special day. Thank you for helping me pull away from my own self-absorption. I will now definitely read the Gladys Aylward book (another one on that page, If I Perish, also looks worthwhile).

Suzanne, Monroe Township, NJ

Bonne Anniversaire,Kristi! The wonderful surprises your family greeted you with on your birthday morning reminds me of a book I read as a child. It is by a Swedish writer and the little girl in the story awoke on her birthday to find her bedroom filled with flowers and good things to sip and eat.

Every time you look at the olive tree, through the years, you will remember this day.

Bill in St. Paul

Bonne Anniversaire, aussi, Kristin! As Karen said, what a wonderful way to be woken up. It'd never work for me, though, because my wife is always up at least an hour before me, so my surprises tend to be towards the end of the day.

I agree with Donna that of the quote, the "let people say what they will" part takes a little getting used to - we're always concerned about what other people think.

Boy, have Max and Jackie grown up since their picture was taken 7 years ago. (BTW, 43 is not old.)

Jan in Colorado

Bonne anniversaire and thank you for gracing us for another year with your presence, your thoughts, your uncertainties, your beautiful pictures and for sharing such thought-provoking slices of your life with us. Let yourself be spoiled by those who love you without an ounce of guilt. That's what birthdays are for! It's your day!

Leslie in Massachusetts

Bonne anniversaire, chère Kristin ! Que tous tes souhaits se réalisent.



Don't miss this one:



Katharine Brown

Joyeux anniversaire, Kristin! J'aime bien votre "blog." Merci!

Judy Bell

Happy Birthday, Kristin Ange!

Julie F

Joyeux anniversaire, Kristin. Merci beaucoup for sending us a present, too, with this wonderful little episode filled with love and good reading suggestions. Eat a chocolate for me.

Suzanne Codi, Washington, DC

Bon anniversaire Kristen, you are a fortunate woman!!!
Thank you for sharing such a nice birthday with us!
Wish I were 43 again!!!!

Myra  (New Orleans, LA)

Happy Birthday, Kristin! It's off to a good start, thanks to your wonderful family! Hope every minute of YOUR day is as good as the opening minutes!

Thank you for bringing so much joy to my life by sharing yours.

Marianne Rankin

As one gets older, the best part of birthdays is being remembered. This past Saturday I drove an hour-and some others drove longer-to attend the 65th birthday party of a friend. She was totally surprised, and kept saying that what she appreciated most was not just gifts folks brought, but the effort made to come and being with her on her milestone day. Kristin, you have a ways to go before 65. The main thing to remember is that age is to a considerable degree a state of mind. One can't turn back the clock, and as I get older, I do get tired faster, but if one thinks youthful thoughts, which I believe you do, birthdays will come and go without making you "old." And remember the French saying, "On a toujours vingt ans dans quelque coin du coeur." Have a great year!


Hi Kristin. Enjoyed the story, as usual. You might like to 'tweak' the following.

Qu'est-ce qui n'est pas possible?" Change qui to que.
Cadeaux no. 2 Change to cadeau.
Cadeux no. 4 Change to cadeau.
Reste là! Change to restes.
"Ne regarde pas!" Change to regardes.

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Salut Kristin

Joyeux anniversaire! Wow, you’ve had quite a week. First you had to get past the winter solstice and now a birthday. You’re lucky you missed being a Sagittarius by one day; Capricorns have such interesting traits. Check at:


À bientôt


Happy Birthday! Thank you for the article reminding me what are the real gifts of another year of life. You have a wonderful family! They gave the gifts of the heart.

John Backman


This hasn't been the best holiday season for me--insane work schedule and ailing father-in-law--so it's been a bit tough to sort through my email in the morning. Seeing your email there--and your wonderful story--was a breath of fresh air. Merci, merci, merci beaucoup.

Wendy Patterson

Si precieuxe! Bonne anniversaire. Vous êtes bien heureux!

Treasure each moment of being 43! My favorite year!


Kristin--you've got to convert yourself to thinking that birthdays are a state-of-mind kind of thing. Your life's activities, coupled with three obviously vibrant family members, aren't going to let you get 'old' in any real sense. Enjoy the maturation!


P.S. I don't go along with all of Nick's corrections!


Happy Birthday Kristin!!

Your blog is beautifully written and beautifully presented. It's the only blog I read.


♥ in the middle of a sort of 'crowd' in a very cold place
♥ borrowed a laptop from.... 'an angel'!
♥♥♥Bless him! ♥♥♥
♥He also showed me how to make these little hearts! I'm so grateful!

Re: singing Chorus at the end of previous FWAD

♥ Ooooh", Kristin, the olive tree!!!
♥ must have been telepathy
♥ check your inbox. Can you see?

♥ sorry Nick, but...
--> "Qu'est-ce qui n'est pas possible?" is 100% perfect (yes, it's "qui", not "que") - no time to explain. Got plenty to do and must return this borrowed laptop!

♥ sorry again, but...
--> "Reste là"! 100% perfect
--> "Ne regarde pas!" 100% perfect
1st group verb ("rester", "regarder") -> No "s" at end of the "tu" form of a 1st group verb in the Imperative mode

Plenty to do, people around,
Must return the laptop immediately
Byyye everybody
Kristin, have a wonderful day!

L. M. Davies

Happy Birthday, kiddo!

May the day and the year be filled with the continuing blessings of love, laughter, health, prosperity and connection!

Eileen deCamp

Bon Anniversaire Kristin! What a lovely way to wake up on your birthday!
I love the painted saying on the fence! I have a painted wooden sign in my kitchen that reads: "Live Well, Love Much, Laugh Often".
Jackie and Max look like little angels in the photo!

Gina Liuzza

Happy Birthday Kristin!
Wishing you all the best... Have a wonderful day.

Jeri Famighetti

Comme tous vos lecteurs, je vous souhaite un tres joyeux anniversaire. This is a lovely essay; thank you for letting us all into your special day. I hope you--and all of us--have a healthy and happy 2011.

Tom from Detroit

Happy Birthday, Kristin. We share our nativity day (but mine was 60 years ago) :-( Well, anyway it's nice to have a nativity day so close to THE nativity day, n'est ce pas!! Were you reading the bio. of Gladys Alyward by any chance? What an inspiration she has been in my life...refusing to be discouraged by those who told her she was incapable of doing what God told her to do! You are blessed by having a wonderful family. Have a wonderful conclusion to your special day.

Cheryl in STL

What a lovely start to what I hope has been a wonderful day! Joyeux anniversaire, Kristin!

Suzanne in Nebraska USA

Happy Birthday. Thank goodness you are only 43!! Lots more to come from such a wonderful writer and photographer. Thank you for sharing your life with us.


by the time I awoke in rain drenched Los Angeles, others have said it all. I hope your wonderful day continues. Bon anniversaire!

francie flynn

Have a wonderful day and year as well. You have a very loving family and you are blessed to have a mother like Jules!!!Stay warm, Francie in Kansas

Candy in SW KS

Bon Anniversaire a toi, mon amie! You are so much better at living the quote than I. I must learn (am I too old?!) to let others have their say. Perhaps I need to work on the "love well" part and the rest will follow. JULES always knows best, doesn't she? She, being the one who gave you the ANGE letters to display! Amuse-toi bien a Mexico!


Happy Birthday!!

Kit Wilson

Joyeux Anniversaire, Kristin -- and now that you've nudged your toes into the start of your 44th year, please KNOW that the most soul-rewarding years are yet to come. I was nearly 23 when you were born, & continue to be delighted at how freshly tasty life insists on being! So true that certain lessons persist ... such as 'laisser dire', while new challenges pop up like Alice's white rabbit to draw us into new adventures. Like your little olive tree, may your joie de vivre and pulse of gratitude survive and prosper. And may you always share with us in your wondrous way, enriching our lives and spirits as only you can do.


Bonne anniversaire, Kristin !

Claudette Kunsay

Joyeux Anniversaire Kristin ! Je vs souhaite une année remplie de santé d'abord,
plein de petits plaisirs et mille et une douceurs tout au long de l'année....
Rêve, rêvons, rêvez. Que tes rêves se réalisent.
Une grosse bise de mon petit coin de paradis,
Clo, Sutton, Qc


Bon Anniversaire, Kristin,

You remind us ALL that we have much to be thankful for, tous les jours!


Happy, happy birthday Kristin!



Hi Kristin:

An excellent article today, I read couple of times.
Happy birthday, and happy holidays as well.


Stacy, Applegate, Oregon

Blessed birthday to a beautiful friend! I look out my window and see the quiet beauty and grace of nature celebrating you today. It warms my heart to hear of the love and care your family gives you. We’ve come so far from those two college girls, heads filled with dreams and stars… Here we are living our dreams! I cherish you, a star still shining bright in my life!

Oh, the quote is wonderful, might add it to one of my fences! Enjoy your birthday!

Anne Maroon

Bon anniversaire, Kristin!
Thank you for all the warmth and smiles you bring to us through this blog - love it!



Thanks for correcting my corrections. I didn't know that rule about the Imperative mode. Always happy to learn something new!

Gwyn Ganjeau

I'm a bit gobsmacked at how you were able to take delicate and seemingly unrelated threads and weave them all together into a sort of lifeline for for a well-lived life. Service, freedom, gratitude, kindness, faith, observation, tenderness, generosity, family. How did you do that in a few brief paragraphs? Amazing. Thank you for the gift you gave us today.

I'm glad you were born.

Sandra Vann

Joyeux anniversaire indeed Kristin,
What a lovely story to share with us all.
How sweet and full of goodness, the true spirit of giving, of love...Ah, Jean Marc and your children are angels as well!

Enjoy, savor, celebrate 43! I just know it is going to be a very good year for you. May your heart be full with gratitude, your eyes open as always to new adventures and discoveries of every kind and your life blessed with deep joy, health and fulfillment. Thank you for sharing and giving so much of yourself to us through your writing and beautiful art work.

Hoping to meet you, perhaps in the new year ahead...avec un peu de chance en France! :) Amicalement,


Joyeux anniversaire, je profiter de votre blog beaucoup. Pamela Smith Mme

Amy Kortuem

Happy birthday! My birthday was December 19th - don't you love having a December birthday? Especially with the gifts and surprises and blessings are beautiful, as you've noted.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!! I will joining 43 with you in a couple months. I love what marianne said about growing older. I haven't been able to read the rest, but will when I settle down for the evening. SO many people who follow you have great wisdom and I love reading it! It is hard to remember we are still young as things change, the things only we can see about ourselves. There are so many wonderful years ahead, and great things to experience. I wish the best for you!

Bill Facker

Happy Birthday Kristin .. Hope it is perfect!

Linda Larivee

Happy Birthday Kristen! May God continue to richly bless you all the days of your life. And thank you sincerely for the gift of yourself to those of us who so enjoy your photos and daily experiences.

Jill in Sydney

Happy Birthday from Australia, Kristin. Hope you have a wonderful day.


Bon Anniversaire Kristin and may you have a great year. You are still young. Jackie and Max have grown up and are beautiful children (young adults).


Happiest of birthdays Kristin!!!
<3 <3 <3


Bonne anniversaire Kristin.
I only know you through your generous offering of "French WOrd a Day", but already feel much admiration and liking for you. Thank you for sharing some of your beautiful life and family with an Indian born Australian Francophile.

Diane Heinecke -  Brunswick, Georgia

Bon anniversaire, Kristin! Adults are difficult to surprise. It is soooo nice that Jean-Marc and your children made it extra special. Thank you for the gift of your blog and Cinéma Vérité. Love both and don't miss a one.


Bon anniversaire mon amie Kristin!
bises, Melo


Happy Birthday and best wishes..."Act as if..."- how cute is your mom?
Sounds like you had the best birthday...I hope you keep celebrating everyday as if it was your birthday...love from all of us here in Pasadena!


Jules Greer

Kristi Darling - I am speachless with the joy you have brought into my life.




Karen from Phoenix, AZ

Happy, Happy Birthday from Phoenix. What a joy to read your stories. xoxo

Pat Cargill

Joyeux anniversaire, chere Kristin. Tu es une belle lumiere dans cette monde. Merci beaucoups pour ta blog, c'est une bonne thing. I love your story today, the sweetness is palpable, lovable. It is good to have these generous outward flows of affection. I remmeber you in my thoughts and prayers today that you will have another wonderful year of living. hugs, Patty


Happy Birthday-----what a wonderful morning. (And a wonderful husband--to have remembered the little olive tree). Wishing you a blessed Christmas surrounded by love.


bon anniversaire...plus en plus!!! Love how you share your personal moments and the philosophy arising from it. you inspire the writer in me to be more conscious, attentive and expressive.

Mardell Ryan

Happy Birthday and Happy Holidays! Your birthday surprises sounds wonderful!

Elissa Patrick

Life begins at 43!!!
Love every minute of it, love the wonderful life you have and we happily share with you through your uplifting words, you share the "positive" more than you'll ever know!
Thank you for being you!

alicia brown

lovely thoughts -

Lynn at Southern Fried French

Aren't you the lucky girl! A very Happy Birthday from Lynn and Ron


Happy happy day to you! Thank you for your clever gift of teaching French by sneaking in a few new words (and phrases) co-mingled with English. This method works for my brain. I am very glad that i found your blog and look forward to "knowing" you and more francaise.
Oh, and yes we Western women can walk on our "large" unbound feet - how great is that? Merci!


where will you plant your olive tree?


Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for every single word!

Tom, yes, that is the book, by Gladys Aylward: http://www.amazon.com/o/asin/0802429866/mdj-20 ...I've just finished it today (anyone could read it in a day... took me almost three, savoringly).

Gwyn, I was so nervous about writing a story on my birthday... never sure if any words will come. I waited until the "11th hour" and then decided that I'd better begin writing about the actual day... else risk forgetting it, as I forget many of the past days! I was very lucky to be reading "The Little Woman" by Gladys Aylward which inspired the first few sentences. After I typed those, I had to ask myself how they would possibly relate to my story? And then, as my grandmother always said "It'll all work out". Somehow it did and I thank you and everyone here for reading. I hope it will continue to "all work out" in the coming year.

Sue, I'm still not sure where the little olive tree will go -- somewhere within "eye reach", I hope. Jean-Marc thinks that the earth was too rich... that the little olive tree needs to struggle some more! The idea that a struggle will lead to growth... quelle idée! Quelle vérité....

Diane W. Young

Dear Kristin,
Happy birthday, a day late. Didn't get to the email yesterday. You are so blessed to have your husband and children around you and filled with love for you. You have a lovely soul and it attracts others. Enjoy your birthday as you approach the birthday of our savior Jesus Christ.
Diane Young
Jacksonville, Florida

elizabeth Taza

Bonne Anniversaire & thank you for bringing me back down to earth, I have been in such a grumpy mood very selfish of me to be like this on christmas eve, have a wonderful day and enjoy your loving loyal family xxxxx elizabeth

Voie de Vie

Happy somewhat belated birthday!

Age (the number), per se, is unimportant; how we inhabit our age and life - all important. May you find joy in every day, no matter which year you are counting!


Happy Birthday Kristi! I wanted to tell you that a friend of mine recently loaned me the beautiful movie about Gladys Aylward starring Ingrid Bergman! It was wonderful and I recommend it.

Vivienne Murray

Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family Kristin. I look forward to my word a day email, it is always so interesting. I like your book too. We try to visit France every year and have had some wonderful holidays there with our children and grandchildren. Best Wishes from Vancouver, Canada.

Jan Acorn

Bonne anniversaire - what a perfect birthday!

I always enjoy your quick reads.

Jennifer in OR

Bonne Anniversaire!! A bit late, but it sounds like it was magnifique!

I second Dhiana on the movie--it's called "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness" starring Ingrid Bergman. I've watched it at least a dozen times...such an inspiring woman.


Pardonnez-moi, je suis en retard de dire bonne anniversaire! What a wonderful story today, brought tears to my eyes! How lucky you are!

Geoff Morgans

I live in the Dordogne. I now live alone but do not feel alone because I help a lot of other people which gives me happiness. I have wondered whether I was being self indulgent, but feel better after your lovely quote "the key to happiness is the giving of oneself".
Definitely my target for the year!
Thank you,

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