Recipe for Disaster & "To return the kindness" in French
Grrr! Grumpy and grouchy and broody in French! (Plus a fiery recipe...)

My story: Political elections + friendship: The stakes are high (L'enjeu est de taille)

Smokey lettuces
Random photo of Smokey and some lettuce as I don't have a politically-themed image for you!

On November 6, 250 million Americans are called to the polls. A portion of the senators, the totality of the representatives, a group of governors and local elected representatives will be renewed: the stakes are high. (translated from the French, below)

Today's phrase: être appelé aux urnes

     = to be called to vote, called to the polls

Click here to listen to the following sentence:
Le 6 novembre, 250 millions d'Américains sont appelés aux urnes. Une partie des sénateurs, la totalité des représentants, une palanquée de gouverneurs et d'élus locaux seront renouvelés : l'enjeu est de taille. --Grazia

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

The day before yesterday, while Jean-Marc and the neighbor were felling a few fire-hazardous pines near our new house, I began to think about some longtime friends and to puzzle, once again, over our unexpected estrangement.

It happened over politics, though I suspect the break-up began with the tree we cut down in our backyard. I never wanted that tree to be felled, but when it was declared a hazard ("If a branch broke off of that tree," another neighbor warned, "it could kill a kid!"), that is all it took for me to agree to have the tree taken down.

My dear friends, a married couple, were physically ill over the tree-felling episode, which they witnessed from their back porch. A tree is a sacred entity, and it must have been heart-wrenching for them to see that one come crashing down. But it would have been even more traumatic to me to see one of its heavy branches come down on my children who played beneath it each day.

Around this time the French elections were underway and my dear friends, who are a married couple, were busy rallying for Ségolène Royal. These expats had even drafted a letter to the politician in which they proposed a detailed strategy that, should Mme. Royal heed the instructions, would help her win the upcoming election. When my friends forwarded me the letter via email, I read it, surprised by their moxie to go telling a French president-elect what to do! Next I thought, good on them! for exercising their freedom of expression and for believing that they had the ability to effect a change in this world. I should exercise such precious freedoms too!

Newly inspired, I tried to respond to their forwarded letter, only it was hard for me to put my thoughts to words. The truth was, I knew so little about politics, in spite of getting an earful each day from my husband (anti-Ségolène) and again from my friends (super-pro-Ségolène!).

I thought to keep my reply simple, hoping both to encourage my neighbor to exercise his rights (and his wife's)... while not drawing too much attention to my own ignorance vis-à-vis the political debate). Here's the entire word-for-word response that I wrote:

Dear A,

I think your letter was helpful to Madame Royal and you have given some very good ideas. (Next I quickly changed the subject...):

It was nice bumping into you the other day while out on a walk. I will miss walking along that scenic path and the scent of the garrigue here in the Var!

My best to Z.


A few days later I received a surprising and disturbing response:

Dear Kristi,

I have received your email in which you try to give the impression that you support Ségolène.

Whom you support is your business. It is not my concern.
But when your daughter told us yesterday, when she and [name withheld] visited us, that both you and Jean-Marc support Sarkozy, it showed a certain double-faced nature, which didn’t come as a surprise.

What really disappointed me greatly is when the two girls started arguing the case for waging wars. “Having wars is good, so long as it does not take place in France.” That is what my ears heard. When I heard that my heart fell. That someone so young can make such a statement shows that they have been badly brought up, lacking any ethical and moral sense, showing no lack of respect for life.

With kind regards,


Reading the letter I was amazed. So many strange accusations and untruths. No! My 9-year-old daughter was not out touting war! (She happened to be out looking for candy, which these neighbors and good friends took delight in giving her.) No, she would not have said both my husband and I were for Sarkozy (an impossibility!).

No, no! no! Rereading the letter I was struck by the sentence "that is what my ears heard..." Could it be that my neighbor was so caught up in current politics that when a couple of 9-year-olds stopped by... they sounded to him like a team of warmongers?

I had to respond to the accusations, but I could hardly type the first word, and the second word is completely missing as you'll see...

Dear A,

I disheartened by your email.

As for the other harsh words, I am speechless.

I am not a Sarkozy supporter, for the record.

Reading your email and the accusations, my heart has fallen as you say yours has.



But the final words from my dear friend took my breath away:

Dear Kristi,

Please understand that I’m not angry with you.

The reason why I’m writing again is out of concern for your mental health and welfare generally.

Honestly, I don’t see one Kristi. There are two Kristis in one physical body, one Kristi who is totally unaware of what the other Kristi is thinking, feeling and doing. In medical jargon this condition is called schizophrenia. It affects thousands of people in varying degrees. If you don’t put the matter right now, it might get aggravated in the years to come. So I suggest you consulting with a reliable English-speaking psychoanalyst, I say English-speaking because that’s your parental language, not French, and all your earliest impressions are tied up with your first language. I realise that such psychoanalysts would be difficult to find in France, so you can try elsewhere.

Kind regards



No matter how many times I tried to find the words, I could not respond to my friend's letter. Sadly, I never spoke to the couple ever again. 

The letter left me deeply thoughtful and somewhat agitated. Were there several Kristis? A tree-felling Lumberjack Kristi? A two-faced Sarkozy-Segolène Kristi? Or a multiple-mugged People-Pleaser Kristi? 

I don't know that I know who I am any more than the next person does. Just who am I to know? I am both a very open and expressive public persona... and I am a fiercely private likes-to-live-in-her-own-room person, too.  I leave off, ironically, with a well-known aphorism: Know thyself. Some say it means "to pay no attention to the multitude". This brings me a certain peace when it comes to hurtful name-calling. 

          *    *    * 
(End photo: a sea urchin from our magnificent Mediterranean coastline. The interior of this "oursin" is protected by a delicate-yet-protective shell...a sea creatures version of "thick skin"! 

Oursin Sea Urchin (c) Kristin Espinasse

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