un petit mot

Flowers and un petit mot for you today.

Note: SUMMER BREAK! The next edition goes out the week of August 22nd.

un petit mot (uhn peuh tee moh)

    : a little note

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Je t'ai laissé un petit mot sur ton bureau. I left you a little note on your desk.

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

I just deleted a story I'd written about racism. It began something like this:
They say that racism is at a new high...

In the essay there was a thought I was developing that went like this:
That anyone could feel superior to another seems to me the lowest form of barbarism

(I admit, I had to pause to look up "barbarian", and, just to be sure:
barbar = savage, Neanderthal, rude, uncivil, lacking learning, insensitive, a boor... "a crude uncouth ill-bred person lacking culture or refinement")

Then I had another look at the idea I'd been developing:
That anyone could feel superior to another seems to me the lowest form of barbarism.  

Only... it occurred to me that such a thought (a judgement, wasn't it?) might itself be barbaric! (is "judgmental" a synonym for "barbarian"?)....

And so I threw it out: the thought, and those that followed. Perhaps when it comes to ideas, it is better to receive than to give? Anyways, I know so little.

What is sure is that along with most people I am heartbroken about the state of the world. The London Riots, racism, hunger, illness. So many people in need. What are we to do? 

Meantime, our own families cry out for our attention--reminding us of the idea that charity begins at home.

I awoke yesterday morning to a message on my keyboard. The handwritten note made me pause before firing up my computer. Le petit mot was written in sky blue, sunshine yellow, and rose red. In the center, there was a beautiful rosette, colored in with the same rainbow in which the words were written.

I recognized my daughter's calligraphie and, on reading her words, her message deeply touched me:

    Mon Plus Beau Cadeau

        Je t'aime

        tu me donne espoir


        à avancer

        à réussir


        Je peux réussir

        cette annee grâce à toi

        j'ai confiance en toi

        je t'aime tellement

        Car sans l'amour que serait le monde?


I sat staring at the paper and its colorful illustrations. I imagined my daughter voicing these words. I heard each phrase clearly: aide-moi... pousse-moi... je peux reussir...

I listened as her voice drifted off... as other voices superimposed themselves over her own. I heard the misguided youths in London, their victims, the hungry children, the forgotten, the outcast, the elderly as they echoed my daughter's message: aide moi... car sans amour que serait le monde?

Rereading my daughter's letter, I realized that she speaks for all humanity, young and old, and that what the world needs more than ever is "espoir", "aide", "amour"  for "without love what would the world be?"


Note: To put my daughter's message into context, her petit mot comes just before the beginning of the school year (several weeks from now, but she is already motivating herself...).

P.S.: I have left Jackie's spelling as is (proof that she needs help in school :-). corrected Jackie's spelling in the passage above.

Le Coin Commentaires

Comments, corrections, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box.



French Vocabulary

le petit mot = the little note
calligraphie = handwriting

Translation for Jackie's letter:

Mon Plus Beau Cadeau = my most beautiful gift
Je t'aime = I love you
tu me donnes de l'espoir = you give me hope
aide-moi = help me
à avancer = to advance
à réussir = to succeed
pousse-moi = give me a little push forward
Je peux réussir = I can succeed
cette année grâce à toi = this year, thanks to you
j'ai confiance en toi = I trust in you
je t'aime tellement = I love you so much
Car sans l'amour que serait le monde? = For without love what would the world be?


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Reminder: SUMMER BREAK! The next edition of French Word-A-Day goes out the week of August 22nd.

Meantime, I highly recommend the book that I have just, sadly, finished. Read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks!!! You learn so much, laugh and cry so much... It'll leave you thinking. Félicitations to the writer, whose prose touched me deeply. Order Rebecca Skloot's book here

Random Stories: Click on the links to read these anecdotes

Enfance: An Arizona Childhood

"Harvest Widow": on following my husband's dream

Tel Quel: My Rock-n-Roll sister-in-law 

My Mother-in-Law, Aging, and Elvis 


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You always tell such a true petit mot! And when I think I don't have time to read the piece in its entirety, you draw me in and I'm happier for having stopped by! Thanks and bonnes vacances!

Bill in St. Paul

I think you should frame le petit mot and hang it in your office.
I, too, just finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and it is definitely a book everyone should read. This morning I go to have blood taken for my lab work before my annual physical and the book makes me wonder how much of my blood they need for testing and how much do they use for...well, read the book.

Ma from Brasil

Trully LOVE makes us better human beings!There's hope!
Merci beaucoup pour merveilleux petit mot!
Bonnes vacances! =)


What we all love about you, Kristin.....what comes across in all your wonderful tales and confessions and your authenticity! Together with your compassion and huge heart and unique writing skills, it makes for a very special person and we - I am pretty sure I speak for all your readers - feel privileged to be privy to your world! Blessings and hugs!!

Jacqueline Gill

I just loved reading this! You have a gift for le petit mot and, it seems, so does your daughter. And I feel blessed to share that gift. Thank you again.

Amber...Peoria, IL

Quel beau petit mot!


D'accord--racism is difficult to write about without appearing judgmental. Few of us are free of racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, and -isms, et al. They are the human condition: our brains compartmentalize differences. How we act upon those differences, though, determines our social fabric. J'aime beaucoup le petit mot de votre fille.

Ophelia in Nashville

What a beautiful and moving petit mot from your daughter! And artistic, too. A true treasure to save.

Un grand merci comme toujours pour tes beaux petits mots et pensées profondes.


Your contribution of today is beautiful - thank you Kristin, for being such a caring, thoughtful and kind human being.


Thank you Kristin; and thank you Jackie. That was a truly touching, lovely post. Our children often lead us in the right direction....

Bruce T. Paddock

Wow. Just … wow.

I hope you and your most wonderful family enjoy your vacation.

Sue J.

Petit? Mon pied!
A beautful post, Kristin. With special thanks to Jackie for reminding us: For without love what would the world be?

ellen cassilly

That post was just lovely. Your daughters words have such universality. Let's hold the world lovingly in our hands - and hope that the various governments can listen to the people and find working compromises.

Eileen deCamp



Brava, Kristin, so glad you chose to delete "barbarism" and instead shared your DD's beautiful words. Once again we're reminded "out of the mouths of babes." Wish I could give that sweet girl of yours a big (((hug))) for putting things in perspective.

Bonne vacances a toi and a toute ta belle famille. Luci

Matilda at Superstition

Beautiful tribute to you Kristin,with lovely caligraphy. A daughter with a good compostion of a mandala and a message to honor her mother.


Ah, our children and our grandchildren keep us grounded! I find myself praying for you and your family throughout the day as though I know you personally. Thank you and your family for being willing to share your lives with us. Thank you for sharing Jackie's note and for showing it to us in all its vibrancy. All of you are planting seeds of joy and encouragement. Merci!

terry fardon

i love this, as well. how mature she is! and a question i keep meaning to ask when i see your beautiful photos of provence, do you photoshop or are these true photos with true colors?

Jan Roese

BEAUTIFL--in every way! jr, San Diego



About the text you deleted, it's true that the choice of words defining your judgement didn't feel right. Frustrating, yes, but it's not always easy to express ideas - and judgements - with right and precise words!

Like you, I also feel the state of the world is getting worse. I would say that in many points it is getting more and more 'unstable'. You mentioned the spread of 'racism'... I can think of a whole array of topics affecting people in the world:

lack of freedom, poverty, unemployment, frustration, discrimination, injustice,

and also mistrust, anger, greed, fear, drugs, self-destruction, crimes...

collapse of values, lack of purpose in life,
gang culture, hooliganism, anarchy.

Very difficult to understand properly if you have never suffered from social injustice, abuse, malnutrition, persecution, ... in other words, if you have never been 'a victim'.
Easy to use a few beautiful words to save the world in peril, but, to be efficient, they need to be transcribed into appropriate 'actions', 'new attitudes' and willingness to change and make the world a better place for everyone!

Indeed, without love -and respect for others-, what would the world be?...
-> I think the world would be mainly ... "triste and insupportable" ('sad and unbearable')

I am not a politician and I agree that it's more "à ma portée" (within my abilities) to deal with 'home' problems and give help to the family circle first. For you here, your daughter's "petit mot" is pretty obvious... She dearly loves you and trusts you. She has become aware of "quelques lacunes à l'école", so, from her own accord, she turns to her dear Mum to "avancer et réussir". She is in the right frame of mind - very willing to do something positive, with your support! She wants to be pushed, because she says she CAN do well and succeed... Quite a positive attitude!

PS Doesn't she mind to see her very private "petit mot" distributed on thousands of laptops?


Should your daughter still be wondering about a career, may I suggest fabric design? She is clearly extremely creative & that field would combine with her love of fashion...

Julie Turnbull

thank you - you have made me feel so much better after having read today's papers and watched today's news on the television. Hope and love are what makes the world survive and grow. Thank you Jackie, you obviously have your grandmother's artistic talent. Bon chance a toi. from Julie in a very dreich(cold wet and grey) Edinburgh

Jeanne of Maumee, OH

What a lovely way to start the day!
And the Henrietta Lacks book gets a thumbs up too! Enjoy

judith dunn

Kristin.. I think Newforest said it very well, although we all make 'judgements' each day.... at home, work and with our friends. I cannot see that 'racism' has abated at all here in the USA, in fact in my 'judgement' ( and others) it has increased to include illegal immigrants of all ethnicities. We can only hope to change any attitudes in this world by being kind and polite to all we encounter each day. Your daughter loves you so very much and I believe that apple did not fall far from the tree..... bonne journee.... Judi

Amy Kortuem

What a beautiful note to start your day. If it were me, I'd frame it and hang it up where I could see it every day!

I feel your pain when trying to rail against "barbarism" and judgment - impossible to do without becoming the judge yourself. But still, certain things do need to be railed against. I get your "drift" without you having to write that post at all.


Wasn't there a Mother Teresa quote that went something like, "There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than
for bread."?

gwen gibson

Jackie, you made me cry and I don't cry easily. Thank you.



Jacquie really does have a design sense! Maybe she will have a career in fashion, as she mentioned she wanted in a past post, or in graphic design.

In the meantime, I'm sure you will continue to give her the love and support she needs to concentrate on her studies and succeed. It's very significant that she acknowledges her need for this at her age. She must feel she really really really needs help to succeed academically. Maybe a tutor would help too.

Yes, education is extremely important.But no how she does in school, the love and support she gets from you will be life-altering forever, and for better.


Juste un petit mot pour dire que c'est un ange, ta fille Jackie, d'avoir de telles pensées pour sa belle maman. D'après la dernière photo, je vois qu'elle a beaucoup grandi et ébloui. Telle mère, telle fille!

Karen from Phoenix, AZ

What a beautiful post. WOW, Jackie your gift of words.

I too read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, makes you think!! I just finished The Book Thief, amazing too.

Kristin, you compassion comes through in your words. You bring joy and love through your writing to us all.


Betty Gleason

Thank you Kristen. Love the juxtaposition. You and Jackie are at the same point, for without love aren't we all barbarians. Love is the great equalizer. If you truly love, no one is your inferior. Just how do we reach all those suffering the lack of love?
Have a wonderful vacation!

Sandra Vann

Another truly lovely entry...merci beaucoup.
What a gift from your sweet daughter Jackie.
Such treasures...inspire and heal us.

Bonnes vacances! Enjoy your time away with your family.

Oh my gosh, what a lovely post! I am an merican living in Burgundy and have been so upset about the world condition... With the carzy stuff in the US as well as all the wars (civil and otherwise) and now the craziness in England..... I so appreciated Jackie's words - you've got a winner there! Keep up the feelings and emotion and continue raising those aware kids! Many thanks, Ali

Christine Dashper

Merci Kristin, merci Jackie. Beautiful words,so needed at this time.

Enjoy your break.


gail bingenheimer

Il est indiscutable que la campagne mondiale contre la faim n'a pas réussi.
It is undeniable that the worldwide campaign against hunger has not been successful.

Thomas, Tuolumne County, CA, USA

"They say that racism is at a new high..."


As always, your words are wise. As a semi-professional anti-racist of the 1960s, I now see things with a bit more skepticism. Racism has been said to be at a "new high" so many times over the years, it should now be approximately somewhere between the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn. While it is wrong and silly to hate an entire race of people, if "racism" means anything, it should apply equally to all--not just to we of European heritage.


Je suis d'accord avec Millie who said telle mère, telle, fille - Jackie can write straight from the heart, just like Kristin.



I am continually impressed by what thoughtful, loving children you have. You are truly blessed!

And I think that much of that loving spirit surely comes from you and Jean Marc.


That is on an "un-petit-mot" but "un-petit-tresor"!
What a lovely daughter Jackie is!

Marianne Rankin

Jackie's message, almost a poem, is beautiful, and she has accompanied it by a lovely design. It's something you can treasure, to lift you up on down days.

Cathy Perry

As Robert Aitken says in "the Dragon That Never Sleeps", "When tempted to complain about others, I vow with all beings to remember that karma is endless and that it's loving that leads to love."


As you mentioned the London riots, here is what I'd like to say:

The London riots! At first, I was shocked when I heard on the news about the death of 29 yr old Mark Duggan, a member of the London's Afro-Caribbean community, a father of 3... Was he also a gang member? (the so-called 'Star Gang'), a drug dealer? For the police investigating gun crime, he was under investigation. He was a suspect. He became a victim!
The police could have arrested him on the 4th August, but had no right to shoot him - still nothing confirms Mark Duggan was armed at the time and that the police had to 'defend' themselves. His death was followed by peaceful protests that turned violent when the protesters realised the police didn't try to communicate with them. The lack of communication with the police excited anger.

In the evening, a large number of youngsters, anarchists and organised gangs looking for the opportunity to steal, to set fire to buildings and create a sense of mayhem, started to attack the police, throwing bricks and bottles, raided family-owned shops as well as big chain stores and set alight cars and buildings. The events, in the hands of hundreds of young 'hooded' rioters, looters and thugs developed very quickly through some parts of London, and spread through big cities outside the capital.
Yesterday, three Pakistani men, including two brothers, and another youth died in Birmingham, while trying to protect their community from looters... Last night in London, no repeat of the wave of violence. Today...? so far, it is calmer...
BTW, there is still no evidence that Mark Duggan -- the man whose shooting last week was the catalyst for the riots -- had fired a gun at police officers.


Hello again! (a big 'PS' to follow my previous post.

THE BROOM... symbol of the resistance to the riots?
---a spontaneous clean-up movement---

Something positive I watched on TV is worth mentioning: the 'fightback' operation by 'law-abiding citizens' who respect and love their town and are outraged at the scenes of devastation. Clean-up operations got quickly organised in local communities and well coordinated by the organisers.

Imagine the scenes, with people of all ages, creeds, professions and backgrounds, all working together, wearing wellies and washing up gloves. They come to the looted areas with their own brooms, brushes, dust pans and bin bags - some shovels and brooms offered by hardware shops! As soon as the police removes the cordon around a riot affected area, hundreds of volunteers start sweeping the streets, picking up broken glass, the remains of burnt-out cars and all rubbish, with shovels and brooms.... reclaiming their streets and their shopping area.
... all united by a shared purpose of clearing up the damages,
showing their care about their community,
in a wonderful spirit of togetherness.


BONNES VACANCES à la famille Espinasse!

Kristin, I'll be going to London at the time you're back from your holiday.
-- back home early Sept --

Have a great time!


Kristin, it is so good that you cherish these little notes, sweet insecurities, and bits of confidence you have with your darling children. So soon they fly off, and into a world of their own where you may visit, but where they must grow strong on their own.
We are living in a dangerous time, but so did others. I am reading "The Hiding Place", by Corrie Ten Boom, again. Many will know the story of brave conspirators in Holland who risked their lives to protect so many during the German occupation. Jackie is right. "Car sans l'amour que serait le monde?" Thank you both.

Fred Caswell

Your loving, thoughtful words brought to mind a brief saying from a Quaker or Friends writing ... "No one should have more than he needs until everyone has what he needs." Perhaps tops in what we frail humans need are love, hope, sustenance, and respect.

I cringe, cry, and/or ache when contemplating the direction our world seems to be going! My response is to struggle to live more simply so that others may simply live.

Your and Jackie's words are beautiful and inspiring.

My heart longs to spend some time walking once again with you; my mind and our stages in life remind me of the slim probability that we may get that chance. I continue to read your FWD. Thank you for the riches you have added to my life.

Ton ami toujours, Fred


Beautiful story, Kristin. Your daughter writes from the heart, as do you. This world is in such turmoil; we need to find the bright flowers hidden in the craziness. Yours is one such flower.



Your children are sensitive young adults. It is because of their parents that they have this inner sense of being and fairness for all. You are to be commended.
Thanks for the lovely and thoughtful post.

Julie F in St. Louis, MO

Beautiful, just beautiful. That's mon petit mot for your post. Perhaps Jackie is another writer-in-waiting. Bon vacance!

Kay Cotner

Thank you for sharing such a sweet soulful petit's actually huge isn't it? Makes my day complete as I'm sure it did yours. Magnifique.



What lovely words you have shared with us. We must have hope for our world. Our children are our future. It is so lovely to know that there are amazing parents in the world raising special children.

As Gandhi once said "Be the change you wish to see in the world"
So lets begin.....




Very insightful and clever of you dancing through the linguistic minefield. I have no issues with throwing the judgmental thing out of the window though.
You will never get rid of racism. We like to think of that perfect world of sunbeams and buttercups, but it`s not coming. We are doing what we can to change and we are always speaking out against racism and that's great. We silently let fanatics continue to abuse women though.
Before anything I will make my views clear. No I do not think all Muslims are bad and I certainly don't think that all terrorists are Muslims. I don't like fanatics of any sort. That being said, why do we continue to turn a blind eye towards the female circumcisions and the oppressive burqa? I think the fact that our governments all over the world turn a blind eye towards these barbaric acts helps to incite racism. It seems to have been a catalyst in France.
There are moderate Muslims everywhere calling for a ban to these terrible acts and like with everything else they get ignored. Why? Because they are quiet, kind people. No matter what race or religion you are, if you are quiet, kind and respectful of others your voice is rarely heard. Unless of course you can be a Gandhi.

Jennifer in OR

Oh my stars, Kristin, that is the most beautiful note ever!!! What words to treasure for an entire lifetime, no, that would not be enough.


Jackie has a beautiful way with words; I think it runs in the family. :)

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