These ladies light up my life. Mom and I had an inspiring visit with the Dirt Divas. I wish I had had a tape recorder with me to capture some of the chippy bantering! From left to right: Malou, Jules, Doreen, Kristin. Click to enlarge the photo.

avouer (ah voo ay)

    : to admit

avoue-le! = admit it!

Example sentence: J'avoue que je suis un peu sauvage. I admit that I am a bit unsociable.

The Greater Journey : Americans in Paris

The Greater Journey is the enthralling, inspiring—and until now, untold—story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work. Order The Greater Journey here.


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


I decided not to tell Mom until she got here. Why ruin her trip? Why get her thinking on something, ticking about it, when, instead, she could experience another day or two of peace? Besides, she had 24 hours of travel ahead of her and I wanted that trip to go as smoothly as possible.

And so I waited until she arrived to admit to her that I had broken a promise (that is, I think I had promised? It seemed I had. If my guilty feelings were any indication, then I had surely given Mom ma parole).

When I finally told Mom about the broken promesse, prefacing the avowal with enough of a lead-up that Mom was poised to receive une bombe... I let it drop, my little firecracker: Mom, I am so sorry....

... but I did not get around to having your latest painting framed! It is still rolled up, as you had left it, and I am afraid that it might be damaged, having been stored in that position for this long....

Closely, I studied Jules's face, not being able to stand another instant of guessing what her reaction might be. Suddenly, all the worry lines that had built up during my long lead-in to THE AVOWAL... disappeared.

"Is that it?" Mom questioned. I assured her it was. Only, instead of being disappointed, Mom seemed utterly pleased! Oh, that's nothing!, Jules assured me, falling back onto her pillow in relief.

On the subject of pillows... I notice Mom's head has been resting a lot on her oreiller in the last week... (This brings us to Secret No. 2.... : Mom's Avowal)

By day four or five of Mom's visit, my suspicion is growing.... and by lunch on the 7th day, I have lost my appetite. A lump in my throat, hopelessness rising inside, I look across the picnic table to Mom. Something is just not right. That contagious charisma that shines out from within has been replaced by a dull regard.  

I begin to string together the clues:
She's not brushing her hair...
She's sleeping till noon... 

I suspect Mom's reclusive behavior has to do with her medications... the ones she promised she would bring with her to France this time! My eyes begin to smart. There's that pinching sensation that warns that tears are on the way. When I resist (holding my eyes tight), I feel my very own anxiety ignite... 

That evening I fight the urge to retreat, to lick my own wounds up in the privacy of my room. Instead, I stop by Mom's window in the courtyard. The shutters are open and Mom is seated on the other side, framed by the room's light. She is wearing her brightly colored dressing gown with the glittery sequins. If only the colors in her sunken soul matched her vibrant robe.

I carry a garden chair over to the window and its ledge becomes a table between Mom and me. My question breaks the silence. "How are you feeling?" Having asked THE QUESTION, I brace myself for Mom's avowal.

She admits: "I've been halving my medication..."

The information sinks in. My chippy of a Mom has done it again! Though I feel like screaming, I decide, instead, to try for once to learn from past lessons. I calmly ask Mom to tell me exactly how many pills remain. Mom produces two packets, two different medications. She pulls out the sheets of tablets and begins counting. "Well... if I cut them in half, then..."

"No half doses!" I remind Mom. "Now, tell me, how many days do you have left?" I hear the macabre irony as the question rings in my ear, for, without medication, Mom is not truly living: she is suspended, in time, like a deer frozen before headlights.

Mom explains that she was not able to get four weeks' worth of her medication, and I am reminded of the shoddy situation of health care elsewhere. Not everyone has the privilege of walking into their pharmacy and leaving with enough medications to meet their needs. 

My heart goes out to my mother and to her husband, who tries hard to meet all of her needs. Only, this time, it was an impossibility.

I learn about how he has saved coupons in order to be able to stock up on the supply of medications that Mom would need for this trip. Only, they were a week short of being able to benefit from the 2-for-1 offer... and so Mom left with "almost enough medication". Because the idea of traveling all the way back to Mexico, having just gone off her meds, frightened her, she began dividing for the future!

Mom tells me that the secret she's been keeping has only aggravated her symptoms.  "But, Mom!, you should have told me, immediately! Transparency!," I remind her, "is the key to peaceful living."

As soon as I've preached my latest sermon, I am struck by the absurdity of my cloudy philosophy (I remember my own secret...). From now on, I might do well to practice transparency before illuminating others on the virtues that lead one to peace. 


Post note: so I made Mom a deal: why not make it our goal to accomplish two monumental-to-us tasks: to get the painting framed and to get to the doctor! 

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections and comments are welcome. Merci d'avance! Click here to leave a message.


Related story: This isn't the first time our mother-daughter relationship was put to the test. Once, I locked Mom out of the house (I don't think I've written about that one...!!!) and another time, two years ago, Mom came to France without her anxiety medication. We had to live through a trying power outage, which only added to the moodiness (click here)!

French Vocabulary

chippy = (adj = rascally; noun = rascal)

ma parole = my word

la promesse = promise

une bombe = bomb

un oreiller = pillow

la robe = dress 



"The Courage to Face Another Day". A trompe-l'oeil in the village of St Roman de Malegarde.

Shop like the French!

Capture plein écran 12052011 095657Shopping trolleys--seen everywhere in France--are practical, attractive, and a good way to spare a tree or to avoid using yet another disposable plastic sack! Check out the range of colors, here, click Shopping trolleys (or click on one of the trolleys here)

Capture plein écran 12052011 095757 Stripped trolley

  Doreen mom

"Missing Malou". Kristin with Doreen and Mom. (Photo by Malou)

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Madelyn E

Dear Kristin,
Hello from NY ! I was really getting concerned while reading today's post . until the end. I was a pharmaceutical sales representative for many years. One of the problems we hear about is lack of compliance due to many reasons.. cost, not thinking one needs the meds etc.
In the US we are fortunate to have access to "samples" echantillons .. Jule's doctors could call the respective c ompanies and ask for samples. ( there is no shame).
I hope Jules and you will be feeling better .

John Viescas

Oh, my. Unless your mom is taking something banned in France, it's SO easy to go to your local médecin, describe the problem, and get an ordnance for as much as you need! And it'll probably be 1/3 the price she pays in the US, so she should stock up before she goes back.

Bill Facker

Aloha Kristin ... your post is, as always, beautifully conveyed. You truly touched me with this one. My Mother began chemo and radiation treatments last Monday for colon cancer. Though the physicians tell us they are very optimistic, and I know my Mother's constitution, it is still a sinking feeling of dispair when one considers the possible consequences and the suffering of that one responsible for our very existence. She is already a twenty year survivor of breast cancer, and I marvel at her resilience. Your Mother, as well as my own, will be in my thoughts and prayers. And you, Kristin Espinasse, are a good Daughter. Mahalo Nui for keeping the thoughts coming. I forget the exact wording, or which author quoted it .. but I've never forgotten .. "Writing is easy .. you simply cut a vein and let the blood flow onto your paper." I appreciate you, and all others, who willingly bare themselves for art! Mahalo, Kistin, and keep it coming! Bill Facker

Bill Facker

Correction - Kristin

Betty Gleason

Good morning Kristin & Jules,
"Avouer" an excellent word choice. We must be able to admit we have a problem before we can ask for help. And so often what is a problem for us is so easy for someone else.
Transparency alone is not enough because I would not see your challenge as a problem since it would not be one to me. We also need the humility to ask for help.
Easing each others burdens is one definition of love. We know you love each other. Here's hoping you have a truly loving visit. Hugs to you all.


Hi Kristin,
The top and bottom photo are full of happy smiles and seem to belong to a delightful world, miles and miles away from your Mum's mood when she halves her medications.

"Secrets" have been unveiled, not just between mother and daughter, but in front of John (he's bound to read this) and of FWAD readers. Better now? It is comforting to know you'll be able to reach peaceful and positive/sensible solutions. Unrolling the old canvas might trigger a lot of giggles... and "le docteur de famille" will write the needed prescription...
Sure, transparency is a key point, but I know from experience it doesn't always come spontaneously. Somehow, it's got to fit with mood, time, understanding, willingness to "avouer ce qui ne va pas", wanting to be positive when outside circumstances are not ... and all this may be covered with layers of other psychological factors - all of which explains a certain delay to "avouer".

Happy ending(s)!

PS In Cinéma Vérité, you mentioned the wine tasting on Monday and Tuesday this week. All the very best!


Oh, the relationship between mothers and daughters can be a complicated one. But your love definitely heals your Mom. Blessings. Mary


Hi Jules,
Did you leave any painting 'equipment' at Kristin's?

-> whispering a few hints now:
let's say you suddenly feel like seeing 'The Broken Bridge' in Avignon where once upon a time people danced and danced all around (yes, that's what the old French song says anyway!)... Well, you might be driven to Avignon, and, somewhere in the town centre, you might spot an art shop. You might discover something you need for your painting and drop a hint or two! Ok, there are art shops in other towns too... that was just an example! The point is that, in France, on the 29th, it is "la Fête des Mères"... and mothers and grandmothers receive presents from their loved ones!

The beautiful countryside, as well as the little towns and villages will give you plenty of fun and inspiration. Get a few snaps! See what Kristin want to do for 'saturation' and cropping (Ahaah!) as mentioned in her last Cinéma Vérité"...

Have a great time and start a canvas (at least, in your mind)...

Artistic and therapeutic activities work wonder for mind, body and soul.

Love and best wishes


of course, the art shop in Avignon (or in any other town) would be a good place to look for a frame.

Ophelia in Nashville

Kristin -- What courage it must have taken to write this post. The quote that writing is like "opening a vein" seems very apt. We are all feeling for you both and hoping that a local doctor can supply your mom with the medicine she needs. Our system is so crazy!

I agree with Newforest's thoughts on transparency, too. Wish it were easier. Perhaps the framing job was meant to be saved as a creative outing after seeing the doctor?

Take care and will be thinking of you both.


Oh I can relate. Only now I have been without my medicines for 8 months. Even with Medicare & disability prescriptions from my employer, it is no longer possible to afford both medicine co-pays & food. It is infuriating. I am so glad that you will be able to help Jules.


Kristin, Over 25 years ago, my youngest son spent a semester abroad in Rennes, at l'Universite d'haute Bretagne. The first postcard he sent me indicated to me how much he had become immersed in the French language when he wrote "We stopped at Chartre to regard the cathedral." Today, I see the same effect in your writing "power outting." First, it would be spelled "outing"; second, the American word would be "outage." To quote Wikipedia:
"Outing is the act of disclosing a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) person's true sexual orientation or gender identity without that person's consent."

Just sayin'.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin and Jules,
Wow, that took alot of courage to write this post. I think you were meant to frame the painting together with your mom Kristin. I hope you are feeling better Jules and back to your "chippy" self. Maybe try some meditation or praying to help you along till you can refill your medications. Praying the rosary helps me alot. I have battled with anxiety for quite some time.

L. M. Davies

So many feelings come up for me as I read and re-read your post, Kristin. At the very top of the pile, above concern and compassion, is a faith that with the bond you two share, nothing is beyond you. I know that between the two of you creative and beautiful women, you will figure it all out...and we'll all be here, cheering you on.

Happy Mother's Day to you both!


Everything today is talking about mothers when I am so worried about my own who's lost everything in the tornado that hit Joplin, MO. No communication since a 10-second call as she was walking shell-shocked to a nearby street. No one is allowed to enter the city. Jules, take care of yourself!

Jan in Colorado

I was really worried about Jules until you revealed that the problem is one that can be fairly easily solved. She needs to get her mojo back so she can truly enjoy family, friends, and the beauty that is southern France. That's why she's there and that's what we all want for her and you. I'm eagerly anticipating your next blog where you report that all is well and Jules is back to her sparkling self! Getting the picture framed would be a great metaphor for restoring Jules to "wholeness".

Kristin Espinasse

Dear Leslie, I cant find the words... but will try to send this comforting message - and I know that everyone reading joins me in sending these wishes. May your dear mom send another message very, very soon. Meantime, if anyone has any information on how to locate missing persons in Joplin, MO - please help out. Courage to you.


Wathing Today show right now showing Joplin, MO. Leslie, I hope you hear from your mother soon and all is well.


exacerbated is what I think you mean.

Lovely post. The kind that could burst into flames.

Marianne Rankin

Leslie, could you contact the police (or even maybe the National Guard?) in Joplin and ask about your mother? I'll be praying for her and you.

I hope Jules will be able to get the meds she needs. Is she eligible to do so in France if not part of the French health-care system? The samples mentioned above would be a good idea if she can't get her own prescription.

I'm going through my own messed-up medical situation right now in the USA. I'm not sure Obamacare is the answer, but we can certainly use some changes in health care in this country - including making it possible (re a post above) to buy both prescriptions and food.

A. in St. Paul

Kristin - What a lovely, tender, and moving post. It spoke to me as I watch my own mother wage a so-far-sucessful battle with cancer. Mothers are some of the bravest people around, dealing with what life gives them with great dignity, doing what must be done, still managing to find great joy. Prayers and all the best to you and your mom.


Thank you for sharing your health concerns for your mother with us. It is through sharing our stories that we learn we are not alone. Our personal problems may be the same or even different, but sometimes a solution is found by just reading about another family. We somehow see our problem and ourselves clearly.

Jacqueline Gill

A prayer for Leslie right now.... and for you and Jules, Kristin. Get all the meds you can while she is with you. My sisters and I take care of our mom's meds and put them into daily little containers so that she has them at the ready. I know you will figure this out and move on to peace. Love and prayers.. so glad we still have our moms.


We analyse our problems under the microscope; magnified pains and disturbance become clearer and more obvious, which helps to find the best possible solutions.

Real tragedies push us to put our problems into perspective!

Love and prayers to all those affected by the devastating tornado that hit Joplin.

Dear Leslie, I hope you will soon hear from your mother, or from anyone who knows her.

Sending you strong wishes of hope!


Thank you for sharing another moving glimpse into your life. The health care crisis in the US touches us all in so many ways, and you have shown that it reaches its nasty, slimy tentacles all over the world.

While we all await a full and satisfactory solution to the problem, my prayers are with your mom and all the others who have added their own stories to the litany of anger and sorrow.

May I please add that you look so much like your mother, and both of you are beautiful.


I just spoke to my mother. She is staying with a friend for now. She's lost everything and doesn't know where one goes to register as a "refugee." All they tell us midwesterners about going into the bathroom is true. She was beneath the bathroom walls, her car (that had been forced in through the front of the building), and the second floor of the 2-story apt building. She came out with scratches and bruises.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank goodness your mom is OK, Leslie, and thank you for the update. Sending prayers for all victims and for your mom as she recovers fro the shock.


24-hour flight from Mexico to France? That would make anybody tired, surtout pour les gens du troisième âge. Pauvre Jules avec ses soucis de medicaments! Perhaps she does not want to be a financial trouble for you, Kristin, for doctors in France could also give her another prescription. Despite her concern and malaise, she still looks ravishing in all the photos. Jules, you are such a beautiful lady, inside out.
As usual, I love your writing, Kristin. You're so down to earth and very kind. I wish my mother were still alive so I could have had a chance to "avouer" the few lies I had told her when I was a teenager. Growing up in a too strict household, girls were not allowed to go out. If a classmate asked me to go to cinéma ou bien simplement faire le lèche-vitrine, I had to lie we were going to the library. I felt so guilty each time I gave that white lie, no matter how unfair it was for me to be tied down at home while classmates could hang out. Et pourtant, je n'étais pas fâchée, car j'ai compris que ma mère était dans la même situation quand elle était jeune. Et c'était pire pour elle, car elle ne pouvait aller à l'école. Girls had to stay home to prepare themselves for being good wives. My mother was kind enough to allow my sisters and me to get an education. However, there was always a gap between my mother and us, girls. There were secrets and l'avouement était impossible :0(

Herm in Phoenix, Az

Salut Kristin,

I noticed the horseshoe on the shutter in your window photo from the village of St Roman de Malegarde. The practice of putting a horseshoe over the door to bring good luck and keep the devil away has long been a tradition.

Out here in the west, it’s common to place a horseshoe above the door. Normally the shoe should have the heels up and the ground surface of the shoe facing out. It is said that a horseshoe placed in this position over the door is good luck for all who are in this home.

However, there are also horseshoes displayed with the heels down. The reasoning here is that from this shoe (with the heels down) good luck will flow down upon all who come and go through this doorway.

À bientôt


Thanks to Heaven for the safety of Leslie's mother!
And love to both you and Jules!I have never had any problems getting appropriate medecine in France,so I hope, Jules, that you are able to get whay you need. I know how difficult my life can be without my medication, and I am so thankfull that in Ontario, seniors get free prescriptions for most medications.

Kristin Espinasse

Millie, thanks for sharing your story! I can picture you sneaking over to lick the windows or window shop with your girlfriends. Your dear Mom is smiling in heaven, happy you had fun with your friends.

Herm, thanks for solving a longtime mystery: Why? Mom always wants to know when she sees the upside down horseshoes, would the French let the luck run out? I am sure she will be delighted with your answer.

Just said goodnight to my dear mom after we spent the last minutes before sundown gazing at the sky: the colors were surreal and like a painting according to Jules. I watched mom disappear into her room and I framed in my mind the image of her, in front of the house, beneath the surreal sky. I dont want this visit to end.

Mom and I watched a chilling video at youtube of the Joplin, Mo tornado (my friend Patsy--in Phx--had posted it at Facebook):

A lot of bravery and faith going on in that footage!

Pat Cargill

Thanks for sharing this story about your Mom. I have been exactly where she is regarding not-enough-meds and away from home. Your guardian angels were on high alert to get you to take a chair by your Mom's window and ask the question. Loving hugs to all, and to Leslie, my thoughts are with you and your Mom and I wish you fast remedies. So glad she was safe.

Stacy, Applegate, Oregon

I love the happy photo of the four beautiful ladies and what a lovely setting for tea! This was a light-hearted lead-in to your courageous story. One woven together carefully with the golden treads of love and concern. Timely, as yesterday lack of proper dosage of medication (which lead to horrendous results) was the focus of the day with my partner’s elderly mother. Also, how fitting is the addition of your photo of the trompe-l'oeil to this story.

Sending good thoughts and loving care out to Leslie's mom, your mom and all those in need today.

gail bingenheimer

I've been without health insurance for 6 years now.

J'ai été sans l'assurance depuis six ans.

At least in France everyone is covered, but not everyone in the US .


I, too, suffer from severe anxiety and have taken Lexapro (VERY ineffective) for years.

I agree that a flight that long would make nayone exhausted and agitated.

I empathize with her and she should not cut back on her pills.

Kristin, in my part of Texas Hill Country and northern Durango, Mexico, we always put our horseshoes over the door in a position
to hold rain! And boy do we ever need it here
in Texas. When I lived in France 9 years ago,
I found doctors
to be very accommodating in medical needs and prescriptions. Just go to a hospital or your own primary care doctor. They will be more than happy to help Jules out. Jules and my late mother wore the same style hat. What classy ladies, eh? I always wear her hats now, as I adore hats of all kinds.
Hola to Julia, y a Ud. tambien.

Eileen deCamp

I'm so glad Leslie's mom is OK. We have seen the footage on TV and it is total devastation. I am surprised some people actually made it out of their homes alive.
I ordered the Greater Journey for my Kindle and can't wait to receive it in a few days!
Hope everyone is doing well and feeling better!

Claudette Kunsay

Bonjour Kristin ! J'espère que tout est rentré dans l'ordre et que Jules a obtenu son ordonnance et qu'elle se sent mieux.
J'ai beaucoup aimé les photos. Vous êtes tellement belles toutes les deux !
Bonne FÊTE des mères !

Suzanne, Monroe Twp., NJ

The image of Jules inside her room and you outside is very powerful. It's as if the physical barrier allowed the two of you to "come clean." I hope she gets her meds! There are some things in life we can skimp on.

Gretel glad your Mom is OK....what a terribly, frightening situation to be in.

Jules....I can imagine you in colourful,sparkly sequins! What a joy you must bring to the Provencial countryside! Beautiful!

Lisa A., CA

I just received my book: "The Greater Journey", but mine was a be-lated birthday gift from my mom. She already ordered it back in February, so the next book will be ordered through your site. Promise! I can't wait to read it! But, first I lent my copy to my mom's 96 year old friend to read. I think she was more excited about the book than I. LOL! Martha and her husband used to go to France all the time. Her husband was a travel agent, so they went all over the world.

I'm in the middle of reading your book, which is very good! I could totally relate to the washing of the clothes section: I wondered why it took 2 hours to clean as well...hahaha. I'm in the last two weeks of my French class: a lot of homework, tests and writing compositions...And, seeing your photos makes me wish I was on vacation already!!

I'm glad your mom is OK.

Have a wonderful weekend!


29th May 2011

Hi Kristin,
will send you an e-mail about chippy/chipie

to you and Jules:
"Joyeuse Fête des Mères"!

To Chief Grape, back from Belgium:
"Bonne journée de repos!"
Congratulations for the excellent scoring!


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Could be I can be considered a bad guy or maybe even any ninja throughout Superman (laughters) or maybe even another without anyone's knowledge, so I was able to declare I got at this time there.


However, don't wait for Usda to successfully bring up to date any iconography involved with endorsed consuming.

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