To humble oneself + what to give someone you've unintentionally hurt
French? No, Jane Goodall speaks Chimpanzee!

faire amende honorable

1-grapevine trellis

Another leafy front porch, not far from the lieu du crime... read on in today's French-vocabulary infused story column. Thanks to French reader, Brigitte, who offered today's vocabulary word.

faire amende honorable (fer-ah-mahnd-oh-no-rahbl)

    : to apologize, to make amends

AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc Download MP3 or wav file

...le coupable doit donc faire amende honorable et dédommager les intéressés.
...the guilty party ought to make due apology and compensation to the victim. (

Easy French Step-by-Step: excellent reference book for building grammar, comprehension and speaking skills.  Order here.

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

(Continued from Part 2. of Our Dogs Stole Neighbor's Chickens story)

As I stood on the unfamiliar doorstep, clutching a forgiveness plant--trying desperately to read my neighbor's lips--another woman sat beaming in a garden chair. Occasionally, I would look over at the platinum-haired angel, each time gaining the courage to deliver my apology or, as the French say, faire amende honorable.

Moments before, I had found the sprawling stone mas, which was visibly divided into two or three units, each in varying stages of renovation. As I walked hesitantly down the dirt path, sensing my way to the correct address, I was greeted by a friendly bulldog. Reaching down, ankle level, I petted him as I scanned the mysterious property. No worries, I breathed, I need only to continue in my furry greeter's tracks, to reach my destination.

As I and Mr Greet rounded the batisse, I saw a porch engulfed by bright green leaves, the screen gate open to the turquoise blue sea en face. No matter how nerve-racked I was, the scene tickled my senses. Approaching the entrance of the humble abode with the regal view, I glimpsed, beneath the green leafy rideau, warm terracotta tiles that beckoned, "approche, approche!" But it was the woman with the platinum hair and honey-kissed skin that drew me in.... 

(And this is where you found me, previous chapter, babbling my mea culpa to la maîtresse de la maison--who stood beside the woman in the chair.)

'The woman of the house' was just as my son described her: blond, younger than I. This is how I knew to direct my apology to her, and not the smiling woman in the chair, with the platinum hair (who I soon learned was the foreign aunt--who maybe didn't speak French? I wondered...).

If only circumstances were different! For a moment I imagined what it would be like to be on a completely different mission. I might be here to report on the tumbledown farmhouse overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. I might have stumbled onto this bucolic spot to interview the charming characters who graced the sea-breezy terrace.... but no, hélas, there was nothing breezy about the reality of the situation. My dogs had stolen three of the neighbor's hens. The time had come to make amends!

The potted flowers (now limp in my hands) were never intended as payment for the chickens. A beloved animal is priceless! The blossoming comfrey was only a break-the-ice gesture; if all went according to plan, I would gain my neighbor's trust in time to convince her to come with me on an all-expenses-paid chicken spree. It was a delicate matter, I knew, and I could only imagine how hard it would be for my neighbor to consider new and different chickens. But what else could be done? I'd tied up my dogs (this, after building a dog pen last year) and I was now looking into an electric fence.  

Somewhere during my apology, the platinum-haired lady cheering me silently, I handed over the potted plant, taking care to pull out the note I'd written detailing my plan. 

That's when the young woman took a step, and then another, until she stood beside me. She looked over my shoulder, peacefully, as I read my apology:

I am sorry for the pain I have caused you... I know new chickens won't truly replace the ones taken from you... but I would like to drive you to the store of your choice, to pick out some more hens....

My written note was as fumbling as the voiced version, and no sooner had I finished reading than my neighbor looked at me squarely...

"Thank you. But I cannot have any more chickens..."

"Oh, I'm so sorry..." The thought that I may have snatched, along with the chickens, the will to continue raising chickens was too much to bear!

Seeing the color drain from my face, my neighbor explained. "I am not mad at you. I appreciate and am touched by your apology. I can see you are upset and I understand this was a terrible accident." Motioning to her yard, she offered, "I have no fences either--for my chickens or my dog. An accident was bound to happen."

I looked around the free-range yard as a few cars zoomed past, along the road above us. But maybe we could build a chicken hutch for their safety? Surely there were supplies, at the chicken store....

Before I could voice my thoughts, my neighbor said, "I can't take any more chickens as I am moving. I had promised the chickens to another neighbor...."

I noticed the hesitancy in her voice as she paused, studying me. Was she remembering my remark about wanting chickens of my own? Could it be that she was considering giving the last hen... to me?

The sea breeze circled us like a question mark. I still had no answers, only a feeling: that the one who'd incurred loss.... wanted to give!

How this memory continues to soothe me! By sharing my personal story of the chicken-heist, I'd invited in a host of critics who shared their outrage in the comments box. It all made me think... Were I a little more clever, I'd stick to happy-go-lucky stories! As it is, I'm tied to a leash, just like my dogs, as I follow my heart's lead. Ce coeur battant, this beating heart--it's the guide that tugs me forward as I drip ink across these pages, emptying a soul's well into a universal puit. Surely, deep down, our stories run together?

To respond to this story, click here

French Vocabulary
la bâtisse = building
en face = opposite (across the way)
le rideau = curtain
la maîtresse de maison = woman of the house
le puits = well

We are so proud of our daughter, Jackie, who is progressing in sewing class (she's at a vocational school, studying la mode, or fashion. This is her second project, "The Blue Jumpsuit". You should see the zippers and pockets--and the cuffs! Also, give Jackie a shout-out, today, wishing her luck on her first day interning! She'll be in Marseilles for the next two weeks, working beside seamstresses in a popular men's clothing manufacturer's! Go, Girl! Go!!!!!

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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


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Eileen deCamp

Bonjour Kristin!
I love your last two sentences! I feel the emotion and meaning deep down in my soul! Keep following your heart's lead! Good luck Jackie! The jumpsuit looks beautiful!

Angela Bell

Wonderful story. We could all learn from your kind heart and your humility. Bless you! Don't worry a bit about those who only want "happy" stories. Life is a giant mixed bag, and when you share your challenges and solutions, your readers learn from them, too. God bless, and congratulations to Jackie!


Go Jackie!!

First love fashion design and illustration, but we had to do what you do so fabulously well and which I cannot. Construct the design. That's why I'm a psychologist :-)

So you follow your talent and I'll be standing and applauding from across the Atlantic or Brittany or Paris.

Hope your summer is incredibly fun and that you learn much. I will expect to see your name inside the back of my clothes.




Bravo, Kristin! Beautiful, unexpected and comforting conclusion...

Bravo, Jackie! You go girl! (very complicated, so cute jumpsuit!)

Like mother, like daughter... both displaying beaucoup de courage!

Nancy S.

Wow, Jackie! You did a great job on the sewing, and it looks perfect on you!


Bonjour Kristin! Very sweet story! Thank you for sharing it! We cannot control the people or pets in our lives, as nice as that thought sounds. You are in a new neighborhood and still trying to get a handle on your environs. Hang in there and thank you for sharing your life with us!

Excited about Jackie and look forward to seeing more of her creations! Yay!


Cynthia Gillespie-Smith

Yes, a sweet ending to a delicate story. Brava Jackie -- you're going to go far -- Marseille is just a start! Can hardly wait to read all about Jane Goodall, Kristi!

Adeline Richarson Reunion Island

You did what you had to do, and... you did it very well!
Sincere apologies most often do the trick.
Thank you for sharing this unfortunate incident with us all. That is life, isn't it, with happy and less happy times!

I wish bonne chance et bon courage to Jackie. Her blue jumpsuit is very lovely. She'll be a great designer one day! What a family!!!


Beautiful ! Oh to know neighbors with affection and kindness!


Hi Kristin,
Your good action found the best conclusion ever !
Rather moving story (sorry for that bad joke...!).
Just a stuff : since "puits" comes from the latin word "puteus" that means "hole" or "pit", it does need an S in french.
And : I read your Mum was having a trip in Puerto-Vallarta where I spent 5 days in 2008 (I was staying at my friends's living there and SBA is PV sister-city). Lovely town, very touristic actually.
Have a very nice day !

Karen from Towson, Md

Such a compassionate story, this is, Kristin. So many things are never as they appear. And, judgement (of ourselves and by others) on the common occurrences played out in our "vie quotidienne" should be curtailed in reverence to our "oh-so-fallible" human-ness.

Will we see hens and chicks living in perfect harmony with the golden furry ones soon?

Thanks for sharing an update on Jackie. It's wonderful to see her following her passion. She is a beautiful girl.

Jeanne in Oregon

My husband and I have raised chickens (and turkeys, peacocks, and now guinea hens and ducks) in our fenced yard for the last three years. I was appalled last year when our boxer dog killed one of the young chicks. I'd always heard that once a dog kills a chicken, it's all over -- they will continue to kill chickens. Well, that is, apparently, nonsense. Our dog loves spending time with the backyard birds, helps my hubby herd them into their house each evening, and loves eating with them when we toss out table scraps or stale bread. We let our dog out, unaccompanied, whenever she needs out, and she and her feathered friends coexist without incident.

Loved this story, and so sorry some of your readers were less than kind in their comments. Your sincere regret over the incident and willingness to make amends were just exactly the correct thing to do.

God bless, my dear friend,


We once had a Siberian Huskey, with one green eye and one blue eye, a sweet and beautiful dog, but when he got loose (he liked to eat through chain link fences :-( , he ran and ran until he stopped and realized he didn't know where he was. His favorite spot was a neighbor's farm up the road, who also had free range chickens. This neighbor also was very sick with cancer. My son told me one day he saw the man out driving around in his truck with a shotgun out the window looking for our dog. We all felt so bad that we had caused him such trouble. He passed away not long after that and the chickens soon disappeared.

Karen from Phoenix

Loved today's story. When we are sincere in our apologies as well as our words, people know.

Congrats Jackie and have fun interning!


Kristin, the reason we all love to return to your blog and read your stories is because they do come from your heart, without a sweet-dusted facade. Thank you for your honesty, and for continuing to empty your soul to inspire us and remind us that yes, of course our stories are intertwined.

Jackie looks beautiful in her blue jumpsuit. Best of luck to her in Marseilles, and I hope she will enjoy her apprenticeship.


So glad to read the rest of the story about the chicken debaucle. Your neighbor was very simpatico. I am wondering more about the lovely, smiling older woman. Was she French? Did you find out more about her? Also kudos to your daughter. There is nothing better than feeling pride for your children. I wish her the best of success in her fashion studies.


Yay! Way to go, Jackie! Best wishes on a very successful internship! What a marvelous job on that jumpsuit! And only your second project! Congratulations!

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

Ah, good I can reach the site now. The blue jump suit looks great, well made and well designed.

That is a good ending to your story. The effort of apology led to a good interaction between you and your neighbor. I hope she has a place for the comfrey in her next home.

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm`

You do know how to build suspense! Whew, your sweet ending did not disappoint. Yes, our stories, whether of joy or pain, do run together; one of the treasures of this life. Your writing is tender, heartfelt and deeply humble no matter the topic you courageously cover. Such a beautiful way to be in the world, thank you dear friend, for you are a constant source of inspiration. May your gracious heart continue to guide you.

So happy to hear Jackie is out in the world following her dreams. I do wish her a rewarding internship.


A lovely ending to your story, Kristin. Shame on all the critics who rushed to judgment! Thank you for sharing your tender heart with all of us. And congratulations to your beautiful daughter on her wonderful internship!

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

The blue jump suit looks great, well designed and well assembled.

The effort to apologize well led to a good ending. Something to remember for each difficult apology, for myself.

It was a while before the site was available to me today (still Monday where I live). Glad it is back again.


Wonderful news about your daughter, Jackie , a happy day for your family, and glad that the bird-dog-neighbor was simply resolved.

joie in carmel-by-the-sea

You tell the stories as they are. The fun and beautiful and other moments in life. To do just one would not be true to yourself. And this one had a good ending as I assumed it would. When you are truthful and sincere I think it would be a person unhappy with life that couldn't accept an apology.

Chris Allin

Your words can be so poignant, english and in french. So glad to know that your neighbor was understanding and responded in kind. Just think, the two of you might even have become friends were she not moving.

Wishing Jackie a wonderful internship experience. It can lead to expression of individuality and creativity. Looks like she has already started!

Linda R.

As Robert Frost said, "The best way out is always through." And you did so beautifully.
Since stinging nettles were a feature in the first part of your story and because I know you are acquainted with Ann Mah and probably read her blog on a regular basis, I imagine you caught today's posting - I smiled when I saw the photo of the stinging nettle.
Good internship to Jackie. My daughter Erin received her degree in visual arts with an emphasis in fashion design - she had some lovely creations. Jackie will do likewise.

Sevahn Merian from Michigan

Good luck to you Jackie! You are very pretty, and the blue jumpsuit looks so cute on you! Best wishes on your internship.

Judy Bell

Awesome, Jackie! Keep up the great work!

Julie Farrar

I'm just now catching up with your runaways story. I'm sorry you had such a traumatic time of it. You can never go wrong with a plant as an apology. I don't know what "stinging" comments happened. Probably about dogs running lose, etc., although I understand people in the country have different perspectives than people in suburbs. Let me just relate a short story about my two dogs after reading about your laborious walk. When we got our dogs from the Humane Society, Millie was a true escape artist. Even though she wasn't small, she could push through 6 inches of an open door before you knew she was there. She found the craziest tiny breaks in the fence to get out. That hot summer I chased her every other day, and she was much faster than I was. I finally figured out that she was smart and curious. She wanted to know what was going on out there in the world. That's when I increased our walks. She and I would head out for at least an hour a day to walk (mostly at her) pace so she could explore everything. Because our other dog walked at a different pace I took her out separately for a shorter time (she preferred chasing balls). I took Millie in the car whenever the temperatures allowed. For the next twelve years, therefore, Millie went AWOL only a couple of times, but because she had a name/address tag and was chipped, neighbors drove her home. These walks took a chunk out of my days, but now that both dogs are gone I very much miss all the places we explored together. I walk there, but it's just not the same without them.


Our dear Kristi,
This story is absolutely beautiful and full of meaning: we never know what is going on in another person's life(or tete,either!)
Had you not used courage and healing to speak to your neighbor,to do the right thing,there's no way we'd ever know what she was feeling,suffering,and living!
THANK YOU for another post of inspiration and hope!
SO proud of gorgeous Jackie! Our prayers are with her,and with you.
Natalia XO


Ah, but not all stories have happy endings -- this is how we know they are honest and true, n'est-ce pas? I, for one, am grateful to you for sharing your tales -- mistakes, rough edges and all. Also, delighted to discover we share an enthusiasm for stinging nettles! :)

And to Linda R -- thanks for reading!

catharine ewart-touzot

as you can clearly see you are correct in choosing to tell the good with the bad the smart moves with the questionable ones...good for you, your readers love you just as you are. So you will soon have yet another new neighbor how exciting.

june furey

Kristin, I wish to reiterate Natalie's comments, you tell your story with such sincerity and compassion, YOU MAKE MY DAY.
merci June, Gold Coast

june furey

Wishing Jackie success in following her passion, I will look foward to reading reports of her success in the future Good luck
June, Gold Coast,Qld
PS I belive its your humility which appeals to your many readers Kristin
merci, ami artiste June.

Karla Ober

Love the jumpsuit!
Loved your honest encounter with your neighbor about the chickens!

Bevan Newton

Merci Kristin for sharing your stories. They do brighten up the end of a day.
Best wishes for the future. Wellington NZ.

Jan  Hersh

Things work out. I enjoyed the suspense of this drawn out story.
I am looking out over the Bay of Banderas and wishing that I could invite your mother over for dinner while we are here on holiday. The internet makes for virtual friends through the years of reading endearing stories


Kristi, I should have known that you'd make amends with an offer to replace the chickens as well as the gift of the plant, even though that wasn't clear from Part I (which perhaps contributed to some of what are being labelled "negative comments" though most were probably made in the spirit of concerned constructive suggestions).

Both you AND your neighbor behaved very graciously. And she's right: it would have been responsible of her to keep her hens cooped for their own protection. After all, it's not just the occasional escaped dog that could harm them, but also -- and much more likely -- foxes, feral cats, and other predators.

A peaceful outcome to a stressful interlude. I am glad for you.


Kristi - This story brings to mind a book that I think you would like, too: Le Poil et La Plume, by Anny Duperey. It was a puzzling gift from a dear friend - cats and poultry, written by an actress????? An actress/philosopher as it turns out..... Mary

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