Semence: Sowing seeds for a French flower garden
Sacoche - how to say satchel or briefcase (or "man purse") in French

c'est déjà pas mal

Block party in French (c) Kristin Espinasse
"A path of one's own." Our daughter Jackie in 2005, in Queyras. Keep marching toward your dream, My Girl, and don't forget to enjoy the sights along the way! More about our recent pep talk in today's story column. Forward it to a struggling student. (Note: the sign reads "block party".)

A few seats are still available at the Washington DC wine dinner with Jean-Marc on March 20th -- click here for more information.

A word and an expression for you today, as I couldn't choose between the two:

c'est déjà pas mal

    : not bad at all, nothing to sneeze at; it's a good start

The second entry, the term pep talk, goes with today's story. Only I couldn't find a good French equivalent so I'm including these examples found on line (I ran out of time to translate them. If you'd like to help, you can share your translation in the comments box, for all to enjoy).

Mon quart de travail a débuté par un pep talk, discours de motivation du superviseur à son équipe. --L'Actualité, Volume 25

La crise est trop profonde pour qu'un pep talk, un discours « motivateur » ou un cri de ralliement puisse agir efficacement. --Renaitre a la Spiritualite: Essai  By Richard Bergeron

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

"You were laughing in your sleep last night!" I said to my daughter, who is sharing my room while her father is away.

"I love it," I assured her. "Always laugh! Laugh and be positive as much as you can in life."

My suggestion wasn't fazing Jackie, who stared out the window wishing to skip school. "Can't I have just one day off?"

The kids always try to work me when their dad is out of town. Usually they succeed in getting one ditch day each, but as school gets more and more demanding I can't in good conscience give in. Besides, I promised Jean-Marc to keep both slackers on track.

As we drove the country road to school, passing the newly pruned olive trees, I noticed how the ground was covered here and there with pink blossoms. The almond trees were dropping their dainty coats. A new stage was unfolding.

I looked over at my daughter, "Just think. Your career is about to begin! This fall you will be enrolled in fashion studies. You are on your way!" I reached over and patted Jackie's leg.

"Ouai," her deadbeat response was one interminable sigh. I knew what was bothering my girl. She's told me many times before: "Et si je ne réussis pas?"

"Of course you will succeed!" I smiled at my passenger.

There she sat, in her army combat pants and bad girl sweatshirt (no words on the black shirt, just three hand gestures. I couldn't make out their meaning, but the symbols--including a fist--seemed to say Don't mess with me!). On the outside she looked tough but inside she was sucking her thumb. The insecure future loomed ahead of her.

Entering the school parking lot I recognized one of the pions whose job it is to welcome students.

"Je peux me baisser? Can I duck down?" Jackie pleaded to return home to bed.

I knew my daughter was tired, but I did not realize the extent of her spring fever. Now was a good time for a pep talk!

"Look, you need to get to class today. Listen to the lecture and that's half the work! Be kind to your future self--don't make her have to struggle tonight by trying to learn the material all on her own.

Jackie seemed to awaken to the suggestion. Maybe she was finally able to make the listen in class  less work at home connection.

"I could go to permanances and get my homework done..." she considered.

"Study hall... Great idea! You're future self will love you when she is relaxing in front of her favorite program tonight instead of falling to sleep on her math book!"

"But I'm too tired to go to school today!" Jackie said, falling back into her rut.

"Look, Choucou. It may not be obvious to you what all these classes are adding up to. But they are all paving the way to your future freedom! One day soon you will be exercising your dream job--if you will just keep showing up and opening your mind to the... possibilities." (I betted "possibilities" sounded better than "lessons", so I used it trusting Jackie's subconscious to make the switch!)

"Look at me," I chimed on, "I may not feel like working today, but I will go home now and write my column--never mind my lack of energy. This is how I practice my dream of writing for a living. Once I sit down to type the first few lines of my story, I'll get in the groove--and so will you. What's important is to begin!"

I continued with my pep talk, tossing in several points on the power of positive thinking, something, I admit to my daughter, that I still struggle with. "But we have to continually keep our thoughts up!" I cheered.

Kissing Jackie goodbye I quizzed her. "Do you understand what I am saying?" I smiled.

"I'm getting half of it," she admitted." Je retiens la moitié de ce que tu dis."

"Oh..." I said, feeling my spirits sink... until I remembered to take my own advice.

"Mais c'est déjà pas mal!" Yes, that's not bad at all!

To comment on this story, click here. To share your own stories of pep talks and school struggles and positive thinking or pulling yourself up by your bootstraps click here.  

French Vocabulary:
= yah
le pion
(la pionne) = monitor
la permanence = study hall
chouchou = sweetie 


 Yay! Just received an update from Valencia Siff (pictured left) who tells me that Chief Grape's winetasting in Virginia was a success. I'm teary-eyed seeing Valencia's touching message (thank you, V.! P.S. You are beautiful!). A few seats remain for the D.C. tasting. Please check this page with a link to reserve your seat. 

Colorado Provencal (c) Kristin Espinasse
From the photo archives: Colorado in Provence! This site in Rustrel, France, is known as Le Colorado Provençal. Posting it for all our Colorado friends. Naner naner!

Colorado Provencal (c) Kristin Espinasse
Around Rustrel, another lazy French village with crawling roses and sleepy benches. 

Thanks for forwarding this edition to a friend. 

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Eileen - Charlottesville, VA

Hi Kristin,
I love your post today and love your pep talk to Jackie! My daughter Tara often needs a pep talk. She is always wondering if she is on the right path.
The wine dinner was so much fun last night! We didn't get a chance to talk to Jean-Marc very much. He was very popular and the crowd was large! This was our first wine dinner and I'm glad it was with Jean-Marc's wines. We ordered a case of Lunatique 2010.

Kristin Espinasse

Eileen, Im so sorry you and Schuy didnt get to spend time with Jean-Marc. If only he knew that one of our most-faithful community members (thanks so much for all your encouraging notes!) was in the room! This, unfortunately, is the downside of large meet-ups--hard to talk to everyone. Are you coming to France to see Tara? Maybe we can see each other then.

jeananne Libbert

I love this post (like most). Not only did you give your daughter beautiful words to help her along & start to look toward the future but it helped me as well! Even at 47 it is never too late to learn and be encouraged. Thank you!

Ed Klinenberg

Bonjour Kristin,
Being a parent is a continuous responsibility and your pep-talk was quite appropriate and accurate in helping your daughter to understand the way life works. I see success as taking one step at a time until the goal is reached. I went to Paris long ago after graduating from the U. of Michigan, and I spent one year studying the French language in 2 intensive courses. I learned it one word at a time and today (many years later) I am completely fluent. Yet, I continue expanding my knowledge of the language....with assistance from your newsletter and by belonging to French-language groups in Californie. Yesterday was a huge French day for me because my two grandchildren, ages 4 and 6, arrived in Paris for their first visit. (My children have both lived in Paris and both speak good French.) So the cycle I began with my own small steps in learning French now continues to the third generation. Vive la belle France et vive la langue Francaise! Merci, Kirsten, pour vos bons mots chaque semaine. Merci aussi de nous inviter a voir quelques details de votre vie quotidien.

Jane Thomson

English vocabulary lesson!
It's not "phase" but "faze" that you meant!
A "phase" is a passing part of a process - as in phase of the moon. You meant "faze"
[feyz] Show IPA
verb (used with object), fazed, faz·ing.
to cause to be disturbed or disconcerted; daunt: The worst insults cannot faze

Sue J.

I'm liking the "be kind to your future self." Thanks for the great pep talk.


What a beautiful message of hope to your gorgeous daughter. Yes, just showing up is many times good enough. And to think that Jackie heard half of what you were talking about and admitted it.
C'est pas mal.

Linda R.

I have a theme this year - "Opening doors, Imagining the possibilities" ... just tell Jackie she is opening the door to her future ... and education is one of the keys : ) ... or words to that effect.

Christine Allin

Hi Kristin,
Your story today touches a mother's heart. Daughters never outgrow a pep talk. At a time when we had one daughter in high school and one in college, I was at the airport waiting to pick up my husband. A woman walked by, holding the hand of a little girl. The child was dragging, pulling on her mother's hand, pleading.."Mommy, I'm tired, pick me up!". The mother stopped, swooped her daughter up into her arms, gave her a hug and continued on her way. I realized at that moment, I can't do that anymore....
Fortunately hugs still work, as does the pep matter the age. And since we cannot carry our children all we can do is help them stand on their own strong legs. That is universal in any language.

Chris in Kansas

Julie Farrar

Thanks for the pep talk, Kristin. Even those of us not at the beginning of our future could use it. So I'm off to walk my dog and then hit the French books for awhile and then sit down at the computer to write WITHOUT clicking on celebrity gossip or e-mail or anything else.

Herm in Phoenix, Az

Kristin, vous avez fait un super boulot!

Setting goals is so important. When goals are set, the sub-conscience mind can work.

The fact that “this is not a rehearsal; this is it” brings reality into living. Smell the roses!

I’ve heard said that one should never use “when” or “if” in setting goals. For example; when I finish (if I can only get)……then I’ll be able to………. (goal). The mind completes the thought with…..but I probably never will.

À la prochaine


I love today's mot and will try to remember it for an appropriate time. You used it perfectly today, just right for your message to Jackie. It reminds me of another - c'est déja ça, which means something like, well at least there's that. I wasn't familiar with pion, but looked it up and I think the English translation would be monitor, a teacher on duty to watch over students at times like arrival, recess, etc. As a former teacher, I did that role at times. Don't miss that much, now that I'm retired.


Good morning -
Thanks for the post today - just wanted to comment on the use of the word "phasing." This should be "fazing."


First let me say "thank you" for reinstating multiple posts we can view.

Today is one of those days for me too. I am feeling lazy and wanting to play hooky, I am taking the luxury of reading your post in the morning instead of two days from now. Next, I am going to check my list for the birthday party preparations I am doing for my grandson who turned three yesterday. I volunteered to do this because my daughter is recovering from a C-section and is not able to get around like usual. Now, if I play hooky there is going to be about ten little pre-schoolers/toddlers who will be disappointed and whining at this party. That alone is enough to get me going.

Your advice to Jackie was very good. It is difficult to motivate teenagers. Some of us just don't like school, but we do like learning and we need to be able to recognize the difference. Then we can find the road to true learning. People have different learning styles and if you know your learning style you can find the best way to make learning easier. You could ask Jackie what she thinks is easiest for her, listening and remembering what is said in class, reading the textbooks, doing worksheets, or giving verbal feedback to someone else. If I can find my information on learning styles I will forward it to you. It has made all the difference in our household.

And, as many of your readers have indicated, we all want to play hooky in one way or another.

Gayle Markow

Wonderful pep talk. I could have really used it at 17. I could have used it with my daughter when she was 17 (and failed US history by skipping class 27 times - unbeknownst to me until the report card arrived). and I can still use it now for myself.

Thanks Kristin for your "spot on" post!


Our dear Kristi,
A wonderful post (and pictures!) and exactly the right things to tell sweet Jackie! Maybe it seemed as if some (most) of it wasn't immediately absorbed,but the time is coming in the not too distant future when she will recall your words in her head and treasure them in her heart for all the love her dear mother imparted to her when she really needed to hear it.Sort of like your wonderful time planting seeds (last post);the rain and fresh earth filled your spirit with renewal. This is what she will find (maybe I should say it will find her!)when she is supposed to remember all your support and confidence in her.
Thank you for sharing these words with us,too!
Love, Natalia XO

Ronald Holden

Two-phase or three-phase electric current. You go through a phase. A noun, with a connotation of temporary, something you go through; same word in French.

Sci-fi talk: Set phasers to "stun."

Set faze to annoying. Verb meaning embêter.

Lise Roussin

Dear Kristi, I have a 25 year old daughter who went through what your daughter is going through, not very long ago! My daughter was born in Québec. Lived there 8 years, then we moved to Colorado where she lived until she was 18. After high school, she thought she wanted to study fashion design. So she took a year off to go to Italy where she worked for 6 months as an aupair and during that time she met a fashion designer and business man with whom she was able to volunteer for a year. She learned a lot and decided fashion design was going to be her career. She stayed in Milan where she studied at the Marangoni Institute. She graduated in 2010. She now works for Fred Perry where she designs part of their women collection and she also touches everything related to their collections. In February 2013, she launched her own career as a fashion designer with a Fashion Show in Florence. It was a great success! She is now working on a second one which will be presented during Fashion Week in Milan in September 2013. This collection she wants to sell in store.. It is still a story that is unfolding but hopefully it will inspire Jackie to go for her dream. Good luck sweet girl!
Here is my daughter's website:
Go see her 1st show.

Kitty Wilson

Lovely wisdom-sharing for encouragement, Kristin! I recall from past posts that, like me with my daughter, you've already also enjoyed the reverse scenario -- the moments when the pep-talk comes from child to parent So lovely, that flow of caring!

The first such joy for me was two-fold, with my mid-teen girl advising me sweetly and sensibly on how to coddle myself into walking for fitness, and then making me a reminder poster to stay cheerful, too: "Mum! SMILE!!"

Isn't it a marvel how we are ALL netted together with these interweavings of bright support shared?! MERCI millefois for your strong threads given to us from your heart.

Rosalind Mustafa

I remember when I was thinking about returning to school after so many years raising children, working...all of that. I might not make it, et si je ne reussi pas...I moaned to my sister, but of course in English! "You haven't even started, and you're worrying about finishing". I know that would be too harsh for a younger person, but starting is the hardest part for anyone. And, what if we falter? We start again. Trying is the important first step and we look back to know that we gave our dream all we could. In making the effort, we have already succeeded. Your daughter will do well. She has your example.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for your stories and for the corrections, too! I am updating and editing the post now.
Julie, LOL, I am tempted to surf the net for those same things before writing a post. At times I set strict rules: no checking email, no surfing, until a post is written!

Herm, so glad you mentioned when or if. Now to catch those words when they creep into self-talk!
Leslie, thanks for the definition for pion; monitor is exactly what I was racking my brain trying to find!
Sharon, Thank YOU for the suggestion to put back the multiple posts.

Gayle, that reminds me of those bad dreams we have about forgetting to show up to class all semester and finding ourselves before the final exam!
Lise, what a success story your daughter is. I enjoyed her site. 
Kitty, just yesterday Max was trying to teach me a novel concept he knew about: the *ici et maintenant* or the present moment. Mom, you ought to try it, he suggested...

Thanks, Rosalind. That reminds me of a comment a reader posted: do not count the failures. Count the times you got back up and tried again.

suzanne dunaway

Kristin, I adored my mere, but if I had to choose another one at your daughter's age, it would CERTAINEMENT be TOI!!!! She is so, so lucky. And you are great to push. I thank my lucky stars (and mother) every day for the fact that she pushed education and there were no days off. Unthinkable...but times have changed. Still, education equals riches beyond anything sold in stores.

Erin Edwards

My daughter and I enjoyed reading your post today and it seemed very familiar as Dad is also away right now and I also have a visitor at night.

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm ~ Applegate, Oregon

Charming story and how I love the “be kind to your future self”!

Watching my siblings and friends raise their children, I am in awe of the delicate, and at times shaky, balance between nurturing individuality and instilling positive behaviors.

One correction (though perhaps the pun was intended!?): “sights” to replace sites in the line "and don't forget to enjoy the sites along the way!".

I see my future self residing beyond those blue shutters in the charming “lazy French village with crawling roses and sleepy benches”.

Bill Facker

I can almost hear the infamous call of the frustrated teenager .... "But Mom! ... "

Wells Edmundson

Kristin: well done to be such a presence in your daughter's will be an anchor for her when life's wind buffets her as she holds fast to what matters.
Wells Edmundson

Pompadour in the Wasatch

Hi: Love today's post. I'm 68 years old and had to give myself a heartlessly serious pep talk this morning in the voice of my strongest self. I didn't want to deal with taking the rest of the messages off of my telephone and putting them onto a tape recorder. I said to myself, "Have you ever had to do something that you really did not want to do?" "Yes," I replied. "Have you ever done it anyway?" "Yes," I squeaked. "Have you felt better after you had it out of the way?" I wanted to run away. "y-e-s," I struggled out. "Okay. You have to do something today that you don't want to do but you've done it before and likely you will feel better after you have done it." "Moan," I replied. All of us need a pep talk for time to time. I've spent so much of my life doing what needed to be done, I wanted to use that as an excuse. But. I did it. Rewarded with coffee with cinnamon and honey in it. Sips now and then. AND I finally finished the project! Hurray. Being able to give yourself a definitive pep talk is an excellent skill to develop and a spot on topic for today. Thank you, Kristin.

Pompadour in the Wasatch

P.S. I also like the idea of "being kind to your future self." What a wonderful way to put that! You have such a great way with words and you are so honest to/in the moment. A joy to read you.

Christine Allin

To Wells Edmundson...beautifully said!


I always love your photos! I copied the Rustrel photo from today's post for my desktop background where it will continue to give me a little jolt of joy every time I sit down in front of my computer :)

Mara in Wisconsin

Recently I read that instead of an enormous, daunting to-do list, one should make a short list: 5 things to get done by 11 am was suggested. I was reading your post at 10:45, and I thought "What should have been on my list today? Did I do it?" And I could tick off three things, so I emptied the dishwasher for number four, and watered plants to make five. Note these are not meant to be huge things like "clean up the kitchen," but the small sub-tasks. Alternating sit-down tasks with active ones helps, too.

Derin Gemignani

So many comments today. Hope you get a chance to read this one. I just read an article about how the French school system is based on strong discipline and negative as opposed to positive reinforcement. That along with humiliation of poorly performing students.This might be depressing Jackie. You might want to see if you can observe classes. Also, my son hated highschool until I was able to convince him that this opportunity of knowledge and learning will never come again. You can't go back to ninth grade when you're 30. Take advantage of the people (teachers and instructors) who are bestowing their expertise . It is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Thanks and thanks so much for your expertise!

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Derin, and to all who have recently commented. Yes, it is true what you say about humiliation and negative reinforcement. I had thought it was an isolated incident.

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