The Serenity Prayer in French + La Prière de la Sérénité en anglais

Your best wishes needed at this time.

Very sorry for today's hasty letter. I'm in a hurry as I need to be in Paris by 9 a.m. for three days of community service. The authorities contacted us after the herdsman I wrote about filed a complaint. Turns out we are being prosecuted--not for misrepresentation but for empoisonnement! That punk rock shepherd I profiled in January is now claiming his herd suffered gastro-entérite--or le gastro--after grazing in our mustard pasture. (Jean-Marc had sown la moutarde as a cover crop or soil amendment before planting his vineyard.) 

The fact that sheep waltzed onto OUR property to enjoy a free meal doesn't seem to faze the French police, who informed us that when we made the verbal agreement, allowing the berger's flock to feed on our land, we were unwittingly taking responsibility for the said grazers' santé.

I am trying to see the good in this even if I am reluctant head out, now, for some punitive community service. The 8-hour chore I have been assigned is absolutely surreal:  le nettoyage des ossements des Catacombes ( the cleaning of the catacombs ), i.e. Paris's underground cemetery of bones.

It took a moment to understand the punishment, owing to the confusing French legalease, and misleading words such as le nettoyage de l'ossuaire municipal. ("Ossuaire" threw me, but I recognized the terms municipale and nettoyage and so assumed I was to clean the floor of Town Hall--and not a wall of skulls and femurs!

Good news is the State is paying for my train ticket. All I am to do is to provide a personal scrub brush. (The municipal order that I received via registered mail contained a small packing list.)

  • votre brosse à dents (your toothbrush)
  • un flacon d'huile d'olive (a small flask of olive oil)
  • le plan des Catacombes de Paris (map of Paris catacombs, see attached).

A further note--an instruction, actually--states "une goutte par tête" or "one drop per head"). I guess they'll fill me in on the rest (is the olive oil some sort of skull emollient?).

We are scheduled to meet in the underground cavern, in one of the bony tunnels . I've printed out the map of the former stone mine-come-cemetery. So much for claustrophobia! Off now to catch my train. 


P.S. If they think I'm bringing my own toothbrush--get out! I'm taking Jean-Marc's. He's the one that got us into this mess! ...And if you believe that you will believe today's entirely fishy story:-) Click here to learn what the French do on April 1st.

Were you fooled by today's story? At what point in the letter did you know this was a blague, or joke? I'd love to know! Click here to comment.


 I have never been to the Paris catacombs. Have you? Would you like to see the historic underground cemetery? Join the discussion here in the comments section.

 Crypt of the Sepulchral Lamp in the Catacombs of Paris. Photograph taken by Michael Reeve, 30 January 2004
Paris catacombs. (Photo: Michael Reeve)

FRENCH CLASSIC NET SHOPPING BAG - made and knit in France!

PARIS METRO CUFF - bracelet and handy map!

TISANES - FRENCH HERBAL TEAS - My family drinks them every night, to help drift off to sleep.


LAGUIOLE STEAK KNIVES are for sale in many of the local French market stands.

FRENCH KITCHEN TOWELS by Garnier-Thiebaut.

PARIS PEACE T-SHIRT - "so many people have stopped to ask me where I got it" -Betty.

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


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You had me to the end!! Good one!

John B. Dale

Kristin -- I am a lawyer in the USA and immediately started analyzing this and preparing your defense!! Fortunately I did not write the legal brief yet! You really got me because I can see this really happening!!! April Fools to You!

Carol Folino

Good one!had me until the toothbrush!!!


Poisson sur moi! I had just posted my own so I wasn't fooled for an instant. Especially since you fooled me completely last year!! Hugs to you and your family.


Very good!!!

When I read "the State is paying for my train ticket" I started thinking "hmmmmm" :-)

Jens from Copenhagen

When I came to the sheep, I knew this was one of the many stories today!
Nice try, Kristi!


Ok. You had me too. I have already played pranks on my son and wife. But the absurdity of your French crime and punishment actually led me to believe it. Mainly because it doesn't actuality seem that far fetched!

Louise Lubke Cuss

You had me until the toothbrush! I was well and truly hoodwinked! Great story.


I have been to the Catacombes in Paris, and the bones have a certain sheen to them, so I was buying into it all the way to the end. Good one!

Mark Hanson

You. Got. Me.

Mon Dieu, les détails!

Bonne journée!


Had me fooled to the end too - I can believe anything of the French even though I love 'em!

Anne Woodyard

Well if the part about being in Paris is true, join us for dinner!

Jane M. Blair

You had me! Tres bien!


Like Vayia, you had me until you mentioned that the state was paying for your train ticket. From your home to Paris? No way. Mind you, if your story HAD been true what a great source it would have been for a future article!


You got me!

Jackie Durham

Until about the 3rd paragraph. Good one. Jackie


Brilliant! But not fooled for an instant!! Community service - toi?!! Lots of fish flying about here, too. At school, the teacher gave my daughter's class an extra 'evaluation' test because they'd been so noisy this week. When they all started writing, nobody's pen would work - he'd covered every sheet of paper in wax!!
Bon Avril

Therese Cuthbert

Nice try I agree - but the words "community service " rang last years bells!


Believed it!!!
Happy April 1st!!!

Léa Forslund

Poisson d'Avril!

Delia Bourne

Well you fooled me too! Great story! I was believing it all until right near the end I thought what date is it today?? xx


The best April fool ever!!
Kristine, you had me until the Comments section!

Bruce in Northwest Connecticut

Hey, Kristin —

I figured it out at "three days of community service," and enjoyed reading through to the end. Each detail is funnier than the last. Brava!

We went into the catacombs a couple of years ago. I was blown away, my wife was freaked out, and our daughter (9 at the time) loved it! Somber, weird, insight-giving, creepy, and fascinating all at once.

Marie LaSalle

Ok. I swallowied it hook, line and sinker. I was irate and a little puzzled that you had to go to Paris... But I bought it up up until Jean-Marc's toothbrush. Bien joué. Poisson d'avril!


Kristi, you got me GOOD! Bon poison d'avril...and if anybody should be on the alert for these, it would be me, since 1er avril is my birthday and today is the 60th one I am celebrating! Let me wish you a happy Easter since it is right around the corner, and tell you how much I enjoy your posts. Thanks!


Grrrr.... Of course I meant POISSON D'AVRIL, but the durn spell corrector doesn't speak French :)

j: wong

vous avez inculpè de empoisonnement! je ne crois pas, et vous nous racontez de poisson avril!
nèanmoins, c'est une bonne histoire.
joyeuse pâques

Deborah Berlin

I refuse to say when on the grounds that it may incriminate me..... extremely good one!!


You had me, too! It just also sounded so... French.

bj tuininga

You certainly had me hook line and sinker! i have never been to the catacombs, but they certainly were a subject of study when I was an art histiory major not too many years ago. A fascinating subject for study but not as a punishment!

Quite frankly I was sitting her wondering why YOU, were packing off to Paris with the toothbrush, and not JM?

Great Prank! xxbj


OMG... you totally had me!


Hilarious!! But after the crazy April fools joke on Riviera Radio this morning I'm on the lookout for such shenanigans. Although, a trip to Paris on the government's centime would have been interesting...even if you had to clean the bones with JM's toothbrush. 😄

Geraldine Ventura

Looks like I join many who forgot it was April Fool's Day! I thought it a bit strange until the very end. Have a great day! I'll bet Your hubby is glad he doesn't have to give up his toothbrush!

Catherine Welgoss

Love it! HAHAHA! I fell for it! and I have been to the catacombs and thought, hmmmm, olive oil! now wonder they were so shiny! For a college graduation I took my son and daughter to Paris. The most wonderful trip for many many reasons. Of course the kids HAD to see the catacombs! I had not been to them before so it was a first for all of us. Very fascinating display. Only the French would take all those bones and so artistically and reverently place them in such an amazing display. It's a must see for anyone who wants to see the real Paris way of solving a problem!

Tom B, Atlanta GA

Like almost everyone else, and being such an excellent and sincere writer, you got me too!

Happy Spring, Kristin!

Joceline Mawdsley

I fell for it hook, line and sinker! But then I do live in France and can entirely imagine such a community service task being a punishment for something here. Just glad too that those beautiful sheep are still 'en pleine forme' - I still remember the gorgeous photos of them. Happy April Fools Day :-)


All very believable, because the French, rightly, take their agriculture and animal husbandry very seriously! I could not understand why you would have been sent all the way to Paris, though. So at that point, the doubts began. And because you seem such a warm-hearted, friendly woman- well of course we fell for it!


Ron D.

When I got to the "one drop per head" I started to wonder, but what a fun read! I could easily visualize you patiently polishing heads while quietly cursing the sheep under your breath....


Haa haaa haaa ! Tu m'as eu!! ( That´s how you say it, right?!!). J'ai complètement oublié que c'est le premier avril (je n'ai pas encore bu mon premier café. Merci ! Excellent!

William F. Swiggart

Hilarious and brilliant!!!

Bobbi Hagen

I fell for it until the end! Lol.


I had no idea. I was thinking...what a creative idea for community service...and I wondered what good olive oil would do for all those tetes after all these years of hunkering down underground.
Good one!!!


you got me! I totally believed it and was in a major dither!

Fay Plauche' Butler

HAHA! I know it is April Fool's Day.

Besides that, my husband and son are both lawyers and, by osmosis, I have learned something about law myself. I knew the animal owner had no case (frivolous law suit) and seriously doubted action by any court. A claim by owner of "invading animals" of a mustard field, diarrhea notwithstanding, would probably have been met with laughter. You, on the other hand...

Nice try. ;o)

fay butler

Christine Dashper

Excellent!! You had me going for a while!Haha love the French as I do, I did think this was a very 'French' style punishment. Such a a good laugh Kristin, Thank you!!!!


hook line and sinker until the italics where you admitted the ruse...I was put off by the request for good wishes in the subject space because I had suspected you might be in trouble from the last posting (prayer)

Vicky from Athens

You had me right up to the end even though I kept thinking to myself "how ridiculous can these French authorities be?" Happy April Fools Day to you!!!

Adeline Richarson Reunion Island

Very very good! Still laughing out loud while writing!!
You got me until... the Catacombes!! While reading your story I started to tell your amazing story to my husband who is a local magistrate "you know what happened to Kristin?". We were ready to take the 1st flight to France to support you all! Vraiment excellent, le meilleur poisson d'avril de la journée! Tsss, tsss, tsss, ;-) "Tu t'es fait avoir comme une bleue" said my husband! Well done Kristin!

mh madera

haha. I didn't even realize it was an April's Fools joke. until I read the comments here. You got me big time.

Angela Bell

Poisson d'avril, j'espère!

joie in carmel-by-the-sea

good one.....I think about them paying for the train ticket had me questioning the whole thing....but since it is 4am here I had not realized it was the first yet.


You got me too! I've been to the catacombs, now I wonder who does clean down there?????

Tish Tyler

Kristi - you got me, too, all the way to the toothbrush!! Leaving tomorrow for Paris! Can't wait to be back in France, my favorite place to be.


Brilliant! Now if you can tape a poisson to Jean-Marc's back, the day will be perfect!


Loved it ...all the way to the end!!


I didn't guess until you told me. I will believe anything about the randomness of French administrative punishments. The bruises of experience... I'll tell you about it sometime.


Merci mille for a great laugh!


Kristi - I believed it hook, line, and sinker!


I am so gullible I read along to the end... incredulous but forgetting about
Un poisson d'Avril. Very entertaining and at least I was in good company judging by the many comments preceeding me.


Kristin, you wascally wabbit! My doubts arose immediately at the requirement to rush off to Paris.

Sue jean

I thought it was unbelievable, but it never occurred to me to doubt it! Well done.


Oh, Kristi, you had me hook, line and sinker all the way to the end!!! What a tall tale teller you are,



Barbara Jenkins

Good one! You had me until the very end! And I'm making a poisson- or two!


Got me too. A smile to begin the day.

Cindy Mc

Best 'gotcha' ever Kristin!!

Nina Tasi

Very good! You got me "hook, line & sinker"!!!

David Sheegog

LOL. Didn't fool me, at "Paris" I knew you were making a joke. As absurd as some of French bureaucracy is, no way you're going to Paris for community service for an alleged local offence.

Judith Moore Cheney

Ha Ha! & Tee Hee! You had me, Kristin--all the way to "one drop of oil per head"! I thought it was a gruesome public service, but very French in my mind. Now you must take us all down in the Catacombs the next time you go up to Paris (on your Own ticket). Our NPR radio got me this morning too with a story about an auto-drive car in L.A. with a computerized system that exhibits road rage & honks at & curses other drivers. I need to drink some more tea & get with it before someone else gives me a poisson! Merci for the fun! Judith


I'm sooo gullable, I believed it until you said ... "if you believe..." I was April Fooled! In Australia we do the same thing and also "a pinch and a punch for the first of the month" (but only until 12:00 midday, probably invented to get back at the person who caught you out).


Omg! Lol! I was completely taken in..... and aghast! Lol!

Mary Ann Boysen

You truly spin a great yarn! I believed it until you admitted the foolery!

Marybeth Smith

I was totally fooled. It sounded just like my life.


I knew it was a joke as soon as I read the herdsman filed a complaint. I have a friend who lives in Australia, and she got me last night, so I was prepared.


I bought your story hook, line and sinker, even knowing what day it is and having supplied mes petits infants avec les poissons papier.

Very clever! Merci et le bon poisson d'avril.



Ha, ha, ha! I am very naïve. You fooled me completely!

Jana P

Ha ha loved the story you had me until the toothbrush.


Debby Montague

Wonderful Kristin! Thank you for the laugh. I suspected you of April Tomfoolery in paragraph one and the mention of the Catacombs clinched it!

Bonne journee


Caught me too.

It's still almost daft enough to be true for France.

joyeuse paques



I too was a believer. One can believe anything of bureaucracies in any country.

Linda V

You got me!! Great story...LIKE


Kristen, what a great Poisson D'Avril! I fell for it hook line and sinker!
Couldn't believe the French legal system was so unfair..and why send you to the catacombs and not your chivalrous Jean Marc!!

Karen O'Connor

Well done! I fell for it ... Hook, line and sinker!

Julie Farrar

You know why you had me until the end -- because I've spent enough time in France to know how much the laws and the officials like to complicate life. What a creative post today! And I do hope to get to the catacombs some day. So much France, not enough time.

Michele jupont

Congratulations !
I was reading your story, and I was thinking about forwarding it to my brother who still lives in France....I was actually angry for you at the stupidity of that punishment.
I enjoy my "French word a day".... Keep up the good work ! And thank you.


It was kind of déjà vu, until I realized I had been fooled by it last year!
Fun story!


Had me too :) ... with the catacombs being one of my favorite placets in Paris (weird, maybe? ...but I find them a peaceful, artful and respectful monument to the deceased)I was pleased to hear that they would be well taken care of !!


Bien pensé,Kristine,bien écrit mais vous ne m'avez pas eue... votre urgence a ne pouvoir écrire beaucoup a cause du train a 9:00h m est apparue suspecte vue la longueur des détails et
Aussi la mention d'avoir a faire des "community service hours" pour amende m a fait froncer le sourcil! Merci d' avoir suscité ma réflexion et de m avoir rappelé comme c'est bon de s amuser !

Andy Grogan

Got me! Had me wondering about skull bone and olive oil.

edie schmidt


I was ready to believe your story until you mentioned that you were going to take your husband's toothbrush! Mais non, ce ne pais possible! Also the bit about the olive oil seemed suspect. I didn't know about the French fish tradition. Maybe you can research that history for a future blog!
Happy April Fool's jour a vous!

Edie from Savannah


Oh my goodness, I am still laughing! Thank you Kristen. You had me until I thought about the need to have incredibly clean skulls underground... I was getting ready to protest for you, you're good! :-}

Nancy Jane

Ah Kristin, you had me till the end! You had to actually tell me it was an April Fools joke. You made me laugh out loud and snort over my tea!
Thank you,
Nancy Jane

James Dupre

Thanks for a good laugh- I needed one. Probably one of the most creative punishments I've heard of! Bravo...

Julia ~ Falling Off Bicycles

Haha, got me! I even shared it with Karen at Sight Seeker's Delight to share as an amusing tidbit of Paris trivia on her tours - "France assigns community service of cleaning Catacomb bones with olive oil." Good one!

Priscilla Fleming Vayda

You had me but I did wonder about the toothbrush! Happy April to you and your family from Priscilla in La Nouvelle Orleans.

Jacqueline Satterlee

That would be a "poison" d'avril!! Haha. You had me up to the Catacombs:-)

Valerie Meluskey

You had me totally fooled all the way through. I can believe that any and every government's bureaucracy can be that surprisingly crazy. I was visualizing you dunking the toothbrush in olive oil and adding to the gloss of those ancient skulls--that this kind of punishment keeps those bones "healthy" and shining. And, pauvre Kristin and Marc! So relieved!

Janet Bailey

Kristi, you got me all the way to the end. Well done, it seemed plausible given some of your previous escapades!

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