malgré les circonstances
beurre de cacahuètes


Trompe-l'oeil (c) Kristin Espinasse

Picture of a "fools the eye" or "trompe-l'oeil" taken in the medieval village of Les Arcs-sur-Argens (Var, France).  

revivre (reuh veevreuh)

    : to live again

Listen to 13-year-old Jackie pronounce these French words (Download MP3 file

Aimer, c'est mourir en soi pour revivre en autrui. 
Love is to die to self so as to live again in others. --Honoré d'Urfé

Newforest (whom many of you know from the comments section) notes: I think "mourir en soi" means the same as "mourir à soi-même", which implies -> not to live for oneself any more, and to become free to give one's life to others, to put other people's happiness first. 


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

Guts & Gratitude

When Mom viewed Saturday's edition of Cinéma Vérité, she was transported back to France, to 2003, when, after breaking her hanche, she came to our village to recuperate. But once she arrived here to heal her hip, she began to notice a pain in her breast.... 

In the letter below, Mom recounts how she spent the hours leading up to her mastectomy. The idea of the surgery greatly troubled her and when the fear of the unknown became paralyzing she shot up... and proceeded to move every limb in her body in order to shake off the numbing unknown. Next, she flew out the door for a last-minute périple around the medieval village. What "unknowns" that troubled her heart were replaced by the "knowns" that had gotten her this far: namely, a community of caring villagers who had been there for her and her broken hip and who would be there for her even after this. 

Reviewing the snapshots of her former stomping grounds, Jules was overcome with gratitude: 

Darling Kristi,

You have flooded my entire being with memories of Les Arcs this morning. I used to run up those very stairs several times a day and night. I first started my voyage ascending in my trusty 'walker', then my cane, and finally achieved my freedom to practically fly up the cobblestone pathway to the castle above the night before my cancer surgery.

I remember that cool brisk evening. I was running all over the village, down to the train station, back up around the mountain to your neighborhood, back down through the village, across the bridge and up to the castle.

I was in another body that night, running from my fear, it was like I had a new body full of strength I didn't know I possessed... it was the longest night of my life. As I have said before of Les Arcs "It takes a village", they were my village and my family and without Les Arcs I would never be the person I am today.




Reading Mom's words, I can picture her in her straw fedora and borrowed hiking boots. I see her racing around in the dark night, stopping, par ici et par là, to look into the brightly lit households as the villagers, who poured another cup of mint tea (how many Moroccan families had taken her in and filled her with sweets?) or glasses of wine. I know she swept past her dear friend E's "home", no more than a cubbyhole at the back of a garage, where a mattress and empty beer bottles were evidence of her only comforts. Those, and her raggedy, gentle-natured dog.

Mom was a spirit that night, passing imperceptibly through the village, mentally tucking in all her friends before she tucked her own self in high up in a one-room loft, on loan from a friend. There, she slept peacefully... on no other than "Peace Street".

In Marseilles the next day nurses rolled Jules away on a stretcher. I stood outside the elevator, staring down at my Mom, who propped her head up and smiled back at me. The doors were closing and the nurses had asked me to step back please.

Mom winked at me. "I'm ready!" Mom chirped, to the French nurses, who looked at her bemusedly. "Roll me in! Praise God. I'm ready!"

That night the villagers drank their tea and their wine, depending on which household you peered into. And I like to think that they raised their glasses and toasted the free-spirited woman. Mom was no longer outside their windows looking in, but that doesn't mean that she wasn't busy blessing them.


Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections are welcome and to post a comment, click here.


Mom's departure 8.14.03 008
My beautiful mom, Jules, after the surgery in 2003.

Mom's departure 8.14.03 003
She didn't know it then, but another mastectomy awaited her in Mexico (the bad news). As for the good news: her husband was waiting for her. I cannot wait to see John and to thank him for all he has done to take care of my mom. I am only sorry it took this many years to express my gratitude.

Note: Mom celebrated her 5-year "all's clear" mark and is doing great! 

French Vocabulary

la hanche = hip

le périple = tour, journey

par ici et par là = here and there


Claras war
I could not put this book down!  I have packed it in my carry-on, to take to my mom. It has nothing to do with cancer, but everything to do with courage and today's verb, revivre! Order a copy here.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1. Paypal or credit card
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Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Dear Kristi
What a beatiful post,which made my eyes well up with tears - isnt that what a woman is all about - looking after everyone first then herself. I wish you a good trip to visit your mom. May God bless her and her family during this trying time.
All the best

Jan Leishman

Dear Kristin,
My heart goes out to Jules - and yourself. The trompe d'oeil was painted by the brother of my neighbour in Les Arcs, it is diagonally opposite our house! Jules' wandering around the medieval village back in 2003 brings to mind my own wandering through the same village on warm summer nights (and a crisp, cold Christmas in 2009). Our little house is there for us still, but living in Australia, we can only visit once a year (this year for the medieval festival). I know you will be bringing the love of all your readers with you to Mexico and for Jules, every good wish.

Kristin Espinasse

Noreen and Jan, Thank you for your wishes. Mom had her second operation several years ago. In fact, she celebrated her 5-year "all's clear" mark and was able to exhale in relief!

Interesting to learn, Jan, that you neighbors brother painted the trompe-loeil. If you have the chance one day, please send along his name and I will update the photo with credit to the artist of the painting.

Bill in St. Paul

A moving post, Kristin, about your dear mother facing her fears. I love to see the trompe-l'oeils which can be found all over France. Some are so realistic that you have to look twice, others are so tongue-in-cheek that they make you laugh. Have a safe trip to Mexico and greet your mother from one person of a certain age to another.

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Salut Kristin,

I love that doorway and how neat it is to get the link to the painter from the other side of the planet. It’s a small world!

You did good with your camera selection. I bought the same camera for my wife’s Christmas present and she loves it. It’s an excellent camera.

Having had surgery myself several times, I can certainly relate to Jules’ apprehension. Thankfully everything turned out well!

Bon Voyage et À bientôt

Ophelia in Nashville

What a beautiful and poignant post, Kristin. Found myself running through Les Arcs with her. I was reading another friend's post just yesterday about the critical importance of sharing our stories. You never know whom you might support, inspire, lend hope to someone else. That's nothing you don't already know, however!

Have a great trip and enjoy your time with your extraordinary mom. Reading her story and seeing her photos makes me want to dress in something fun and go forth with joy today.


Sophie Day

So glad to hear in your post that your Mom has been clear of cancer for 5 years! Congratulations to Jules! What part of Mexico are you visiting and for how long?

Sue J.

A strong and beautiful woman, your Mom. You have much in common.


Kristin, this post about your mother triggered so many many memories - back to my own mother who over 8 years went from breast to brain cancer (this is what finally killed her at the age of 45 on 29th Jan 1959) - and back to myself with my several 'encounters' with various cancers, the latest one being the worst...
... a flood of memories ...

very pleased to hear what you said about John's support.

By the way,
- "en autrui" = in others
- "pour autrui" = for others
- I think "mourir en soi" means the same as "mourir à soi-même", which implies
-> not to live for oneself any more, and to become free to give one's life to others, to put other people's happiness first.

- I like the verb "revivre" because it's full of hope and joy. You were very low, physically and/or psychologically, and now, for whatever good reasons, you're bouncing back - you've regained strength, will power and you're enjoying life, once again...

going to Cambs to visit a few people (one of them is my husband's sister-in-law who's had MS for years and is now fighting against myeloma. We are leaving in 2 minutes and will be back on Monday...

I wish you "un très bon voyage et une visite pleine de moments merveilleux"! Do take the time to sleep and relax too...
No doubt you and all the people you meet 'overthere' will have the most fantastic time!


What a beautiful sweet mother daughter post! You remind me of my daughter, who is now 21. So happy your Mother is well now! I would love to know how you like the camera. I have looked at it online and pondered purchasing it.

Oscar Alvarado

Hello, thank you for each and every single day making my breakfast meaningful.

I'm from Mexico, the name's Oscar. I've studied french for several years, but as you know for a Foreign Language, you have to practice every day to keep it working, and you're helping me a lot with that.

Well hope you have a wonderful, safe and fun trip to Mexico. If I could be of some use, I'd be more than glad to help with anything.

I'll leave my e-mail right here in case you want to drop some lines.

Merci beaucoup, au revoir.


Jules, your letter was beautiful. So encouraging and empowering. Thanks, Kristin, for sharing it!


Thank you for posting this empowering and personal journey about your Mom! Very insighful. Enjoy your time together in Mexico.

Robin Katsaros

The two silent salty tears that have just been wiped off my cheek with my pajama sleeves say it all.....moving, as only your posts are Kristi,from the very heart and soul deep within you. Jules, you must be so very proud of the daughter you have raised! I wish I could be a little birdie on our shoulder to see you two reunited, giggling, talking into the night, what fun you will have together! xoxoxox Robin

Marianne Rankin

I love happy endings. I'm so glad Jules has passed the five-year mark. Kristin, I hope you enjoy your trip to Mexico, and have lots of fun with your mom and John.

Ellen Aragon

I think we can see from Jules' letter that a love of expression and life runs in the family. How wonderful that you celebrate and appreciate your mom so much. Jules' nighttime run through the streets reminds me of a story I adore: "Invisible Cities" by Italo Calvino. Perhaps you and Jules would enjoy reading it sometime. Have a great trip.

Gwyn Ganjeau

My keyboard is a puddle of tears. (Ha! Maybe "Tears On My Keyboard" is the 21st century equivalent of "Tears On My Pillow!)

What an inspirational story this was. And I think 'trompe-l'oeil' was a potent connection. It seems an apt description for fear. Certainly fear is excrutiatingly realistic and can take our breath away. but when we walk up to it and really study it, we can glimpse it for what it is. And not walk headlong into that stone wall.

I have such lovely images of the two of you! drink each other up!!!


When I first read your post, I thought, "Wait, did Jules die?" But as I read, you were paying homage to her living spirit. I wish you safe travels and much love as you reunite with your mom. Peace.


Hi Kristin, like all of the others before me, your posting today made me cry - you write so vividly all of the time! And reading your mom's letter, I can see where that comes from! I wish you and your Mom the best!

Susan Carter

Hooray for Jules and her 5 years of victory! Enjoy your visit with her Kristen.


Love the trompe-l'oeil.
What a touching story, as everyone before has said. Jules is a strong women and so are you. You both are caring and compassionate.
Enjoy your time with with your mother.

Simonette from Michigan, USA

Eckhart Tolle, best-selling author of several books including The Power of Now; Stillness Speaks; A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose; and Oneness With All Life has much to say about the subject of "mourir en soi" or "dying to self". I love his books and have discovered that in order to love (and live) deeply and truly, we all must die to self, in other words, lose our "self", meaning our EGO. The more ego-less we become, the more that our "true self", our very essence, (which is like that of God) shines through. All of us have our own personal journey in losing our ego, thus we are at different levels. Unfortunately, some people carry it (their ego) with them till their actual physical demise. The more ego-less you are, the more transparent or radiant you become. I would suspect that Jules knows what this is all about. Since I am not an expert, I have only touched on the subject and recommend Tolle's books to anyone interested. ...Make peace, be grateful, serve others. These are the success formulas for most universal religions. May God Bless.

Eileen deCamp

Lovely post Kristin and I'm so glad your mom is Ok and you are going to have a great visit with her! I can tell by reading her posts that she has a love of life and a great attitude and I'm sure that is what got her through the tough times, plus a loving family like you!

Candy in SW KS

How appropriate to begin with a gate. It takes us from one side of a wall to another. Sometimes we know what awaits us on the other side and sometimes we don't. We open it on faith believing that what lies on the other side will be good, a new adventure. JULES' letter seems to take us on that journey as well. To see life through her eyes (and yours) brings us to the other side of that gate. Thank you, Kristin, for opening that gate for us all. Hugs to you and your mom! Someday I'll give them in person!

ann ceraldi

Your mom is adorable! Wearing a little blank tank top after a mastectomy? Spunky mama--I love her spirit! Have a wonderful trip.

Jeanne of Maumee, OH

Loved the photos of your Mom, Jules. I have a friend who just had a mastectomy and has the same spunk as your Mother. And I agree with Simonette, Ekhart Tolle has wonderful books to help us all though good time and bad.
Enjoy your Mexican visit and can't wait to see the photos with the new camera. Looks like a good one - do a review of it when you return!


I will be most interested to see how your new camera works. I have two great ones, but alas they are not discreet when taking photos. As of yet I won't give up the quality I get with an old SLR and the other a 4yr. DSLR...both using the sames different set of lenses. Mexico should offers some great stories and photos...and hopefully some of your mom....

Bill Facker

Kristin, Wonderful wishes for you and Jules on the upcoming trip. My Mother is also a double masectomy survivor and, like Jules, she has a wonderful man in her life .. my Stepfather. Fond Aloha to both your Mother and her husband .. I'm so very glad Jules is with us and her husband is there for her. Love is truly the great healer. Have a Super Vacation!


Dear Kristin, Your entry and your mother's note were so lovely they made me cry. Thank you for sharing. Have a lovely vacation with Jules.

Stacy, Applegate, Oregon

Thank you for sharing such an intimate and poignant story. It so beautifully flows from its beginning at “reviver” to the gracious comments at the end, and all the incredible real life love and uncertainty in-between. Grateful for the reminder of how preciously we touch each others lives.

gail bingenheimer

Ce is regularly used with a predicate noun, pronoun, infinitive, or clause to repeat the subject when the latter contains a relative clause or a superlative or has the form of an infinitive or a noun clause.

Ce dont elle a besoin, c'est d'un mois de repos.
What whe needs is a month's rest.

Kristin Espinasse

Salut les ami(s)! My flight has been cancelled (too much snow in Philly, which was my connecting city) and so I am rereading the comments, and learning about what a good time I am going to have with my mom... just as soon as I make it to Mexique! I will be sure to give her the bonjours hugs and kisses that you have entrusted me with.

Ophelia, glad you brought up your friends post about the importance of sharing our stories. I hope readers will continue to share theirs here, in the comments box. As you say, such sharing lends to support, inspiration, and hope!

Sophie and Oscar: Ill be in Puerta Vallarta. Oscar, thank you for your offer. If you dont live too far from PV, let me know, Id love to meet up. If anyone else lives in the area, you are welcome to join us!

Newforest: Mom and I were chatting on the phone last night and wondering just when was this latest encounter? You may have been keeping an even lower profile than usual! In fact, I think you let this one slip past us entirely!

Ellen, thanks for the book recommendation ( Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino)!

Gwyn and Candy, loved the connection you found between the trompe loeil (Gwyn) the gate (Candy) and the story. Thanks!

Simonette, I have listened to friends rave about these books. I would love to have Juless impression. I dont think shes read them.

Ann: glad you picked up on that. And I could hardly keep Mom covered up (the operation did not stop her from wearing her bikini at the next chance... and she hates those surgical bras which always end up around her neck!)

For those who kindly suggested a camera review... I look forward to writing one. I cant wait to get my hands on this camera. Just last night I even dreamed about it! What a lovely dream... to glide through the villages of France, with all of the most charming scenes popping out to the forefront as you travel by! It was actually a nightmare because my cameras battery went out!

Herm in Phoenix, AZ

Quelle poisse! According to the TV weather, they had 17 inches of snow in Philly.

Bonne chance.


Dear Kristi,
First thank you so much for your wonderful stories, insights and for sharing so much of yourself. I was diagnosed with leukemia in June and went to France for 6 weeks to digest the info and rediscover my passion. I can visualize your beautiful mother running par ici et par la in the comfort of your town! I did the same thing! I am so happy for her 5 years of remaining cancer free!Now, I am studying French (at age 61) and plan to surround myself with all that I love in France for 8 weeks starting in August.Thank you for sharing your beautiful story (and your mother) and safe travels to you, amie, cathy

Angela Fowler

To Jules & Kristin ~ what lovely brave, free-spirited women you both are. I hope my children think of me with as much love as the two of you share. Looking forward to pictures from your trip.

Angela in sunny California

Linda R.

Kristin, your mom has such spunk and sparkle and spirit. Thank you for sharing her story; enjoy your time with her when you finally arrive in Mexico. I just returned from Maui - a mother-daughter trip with my two daughters. I could look out my window to the island of Moloka'i and reflect on a novel I had just read. Moloka'i by Alan Brennert is a story of the resiliency of the human spirit in adversity. Mr. Brennert's main character Rachel is fictional, but in telling her story, the author draws on historical accounts of the leper colony of Kalaupapa and weaves in traditional Hawaiian stories and customs. Deeply moving, sometimes heartbreaking, absolutely beautiful. I didn't mean for this to be a book review - it's just that the warmth and courage that your mom displayed was present in a young woman in Moloka'i as well.

Carole Buschmann

Cher Kristin,

I just returned from Nueva Vallarta and nearby Bucerias. It is beautiful but a little bit cooler than usual. Have a lovely time reuniting with your mother and enjoying another lovely countryside.

Kristin Espinasse

Herm: loved seeing the term quelle poisse or what a bummer!

Cathy: sending positive thoughts your way. So happy to know you will be back in France, surrounded by all that you love. If you happen to be in the south, email us!

Angela: I dont doubt your children feel the same about you!

Linda R.: we love getting book reviews. This one (Molokai by Alan Brennert) sounds like a must read! Sounds like you had a wonderful trip with your girls.

Carole: Mom tells me the same: its a little chilly in Puerta Vallarta - especially near sundown.

Alicia Snyder

Because of your post about the camera, I just placed an order with Amazon. Thanksfor the suggestion.


Kristin, what a beautiful post, and those photographs of your ma in her fedora are awesome. So brave, so cool! Congratulations to you all on the five years all clear - I shall drink a glass of something lovely to you both :)
And I shall look out for that book x

Audrey Wilson

What an inspiration your Mom is ! No self pity ,just wonderful positive thinking.So glad that she is free of cancer. Enjoy Mexico !

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