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Entries from March 2020

Tout ira bien. All will be well. + Confused about cleaning practices during the pandemic?

Cleaning coronavirus disenfecting mop
Are you confused about cleaning/disinfecting during the coronavirus pandemic? Me too. (Photo taken in the sweet town of Villedieu.)

Today's word(s): Tout ira bien

 : All will be well*

*Famous words of Julian of Norwich


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

One week into confinement and I'm waving a white flag of surrender: this time over the obsession to control germs. As you will soon learn, I am not a germaphobe. But like you, I've stepped up my routine: when washing up at the sink, I now rub down handles with my soapy hands, wash the dishtowels daily, and go over buttons, handles, and knobs with a soapy cloth. OK, I did that twice before realizing my family of 4 would continue to use the microwave, the doorknobs, the sink...and they would carry on sneezing, coughing, and breathing on things. Should I keep passing behind them with my soapy sponge? No! It is impossible to keep surfaces germ free all of the time, what with everyone touching everything, all of the time.

During my daily nap/Youtube session (reprieve from it all) a few video recommendations caught my eye. The first program asked, Do You Know the Difference between Cleaning, Sanitising, and Disinfecting? 

When the gracious host/professional cleaner admitted that on a daily basis a simple soap and water solution in a spray bottle is sufficient, I breathed a sigh of relief (dish soap and a clean cloth or sponge are my methods for both cleaning and, I suppose, sanitization). But when our Youtube expert turned her attention to the third possibility, I had to admit I had never used a disinfectant. In fact, it's been on my shopping list--to buy as soon as the lines outside of the stores go away. Will they?

Meantime, another suggestion popped up on YouTube. Clicking open the video, I listened to a woman explain how she washes all of her groceries and the sacks in which they were delivered. Next, she admitted that she changes out of her clothes and into fresh vêtements before entering her bedroom--her own sanctuary from germs--to rest.

Snuggled in under my own bedcovers a realization came over me: I had worked all morning in the garden, and then cleaned the chicken run before heading in for my sieste. Lying there in my jeans and my dusty fleece jacket I could now imagine the sheer number of contaminants I had carried into my own sanctuaire. For a moment I felt filthy in the world's eyes.... until images of childhood flooded my mind in a most soothing way.

Nothing's changed since mon enfance. I still take naps after playing in the dirt. And everything has always been and is still OK, and....

"All shall be well,
And all shall be well,
And all manner of things shall be well"

Tout ira bien, et tout ira bien, et tout ne peut qu'aller bien. Julienne de Norvich's words are greatly calming--as is a call to my sister, Heidi, who gives me a crash course in le nettoyage: "Bleach is a good disinfectant."  OK, I think I've got that somewhere. Tout ira bien.

Amicalement,

Kristi

EDIT ME: If you see une faute de frappe (typo) in French or in English, I would greatly appreciate it if you would point it out in the comments or via email. Merci beaucoup!


*    *    *

P.S.: Do you ever take a nap in your work clothes?

P.P.S. About most germs: Mom adds that sunshine and fresh air are cleansing, and that we should never quit playing in the dirt. I leave you with bon courage wishes, and a screenshot from my sister (I have two soeurs) and me on Facetime. I'm wearing the computer-generated heart-glasses and my trusty dusty fleece jacket. Heidi's got computerized bunny ears. It's Heidi's birthday on March 27th. Joyeuse anniversaire en avance. Thanks for being such a great sister and best friend. XOXOXOXO

Heidi and kristi

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
 
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Célibataire, Confinement, and Divorce after the coronavirus?

Lettuce poppies permaculture victory garden
COVID-19, or Coronavirus disease 2019, is no laughing matter. The French (for the most part) are respecting les gestes barrières (wash hands, cough/sneeze into your coude, stand a meter apart, stay home #jerestechezmoi). Today, a light-hearted story from our family's confinement here in La Ciotat.

Today's Word célibataire

    : single person; bachelor, spinster

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Yesterday, Wednesday, I was in our garden watering the radishes, the lettuce, the fava bean plants, the patates, the blueberries, and citrus trees. There's nothing like la guerre* and the threat of rationing to get a lazy gardener to plant seeds and arroser

Our postwoman, Marie, rang the bell at the front gate and three of us hurried to greet her. Max opened the portail and I held out my arm to prevent Mom from coming any closer to Marie.

With the gate wide open Marie glanced around the yard as Smokey bounded toward our postlady to say bonjour. "You are lucky to have a garden," Marie noted while waving hello. "A lot of families are cooped up in tiny apartments." After a moment passed in which we counted our blessings all over again, and turned our thoughts to those suffering, Mom broke the silence. It was her turn to greet our postlady:

"Marie! There's our Marie!" Jules sang, sending kisses toward la factrice with the wave of her hands. Marie seemed happy to see us too. That giant smile. That joie-de-vivre blue hair of hers. She had a scarf wrapped high around her neck, just missing her mouth and nose. It was tricky keeping the do-it-yourself mask in place while delivering mail all day.

"Don't they have a mask for you?" I asked, imagining the hundreds of people our post lady comes into contact with each day.

"There are no masks," Marie confirmed, not even for government or public workers. No masks for the police, no masks for the check-out lady at the supermarket, no masks for the pharmacist. And no masques de protection for the citoyens, not when hospitals need them.

Marie handed a letter to Max, instructing him to wash his hands after opening it. I noticed our postlady's own hands were gloved. "Are people respecting the one-meter rule?" I asked. Marie said some were not, citing one guy who tried to put his arm around her as a gesture of solidarity. 

Speaking of guys....

"Hey Marie!" Mom said, "after this coronavirus is over, I need you to help me find a boyfriend!" Surely our postwoman knew where all the célibataires lived.

"Ah! That should be easy," Marie laughed. "After this confinement, there are going to be A LOT of divorces! That means even more célibataires on the market!"

We laughed and said goodbye to Postlady Marie, wishing her bon courage. On my way inside the house, I passed Jean-Marc who was watering his geraniums. Things had gotten frosty between us a moment early--during a disagreement over re-potting plants.... Rather than pick-up where we left off in our disagreement, we both smiled. Tight smiles. But smiles all the same.  When this confinement is over, I know JM will be happy to get back to his wine shop, I'll be happy to have the garden (and all decisions therein...) back to myself...and Jules will hopefully find "son Jules." 

     *    *    * 
Meantime, soyons patients with those around us. Water the seeds of love and forgiveness. Back to my garden now, where I will, as the French say, s'occuper des mes onions (or mind my own onions! Minding my own business has been the biggest challenge so far....when I have the urge to remind family members how to live during the confinement! If you, too, have this urge, you may need to surrender...just a little...in order to get along.).

Amicalement,

Kristi

EDIT ME: If you see une faute de frappe (typo) in French or in English, I would greatly appreciate it if you would point it out in the comments or via email. Merci beaucoup!

Surrender clothesline france
"Surrender" - a subliminal message from my clothesline? I dunno. But I'll take it! 

* la guerre. French President Macron, in his Monday night address about the pandemic, used the word guerre 6 times: "Nous sommes en guerre....contre un ennemi (…) invisible, insaisissable." We are at war with an invisible, evasive enemy

FRENCH VOCABULARY
les gestes barrières = "barrier gestures"
le coude = elbow
le potager = veggie patch, kitchen garden
la patate = potato, spud
la guerre = war
arroser = to water
le portail = front gate
la factrice = postlady, postwoman, postal worker
le citoyen = citizen
le/la célibataire = single person
bon courage = good luck
son Jules = her boyfriend
amicalement = (see list of ways to say goodbye in French)
Postlady marie
Another story, here, about our postlady Marie, who is as caring as she is funny. From our garden I can hear her talking to the rare person walking down the street: Bon courage! she'll say to one, and Oh! Une vivante! she'll shout to another ("there's a live one!"). Bravo for your sense of humor, your heart, and your courage to deliver mail to all the people who are confined.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
 
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


Let's Talk About the Coronavirus: COVID-19 in France and Chez Vous

Screenshot_20200313-133715
"THE END" - That's my 73-year-old Mom wearing a hand-me-down T-shirt. The ripped neck is her signature. I snapped the picture of Jules this morning, moments after she'd rescued our 5th hen (trapped in our absent neighbor's yard.). While I was pacing up and down the street, a piece of fish (bait) in my hand, and in distress, Mom had already jumped the barbed wire fence, trespassed into unknown territory and, faster than a SWAT team, released the hen from captivity.

MÊME PAS PEUR
With that, Jules announced she was off to the café. "Be careful out there," I cautioned her. That's when Mom flashed me THAT LOOK. I noticed the T-Shirt she was wearing, it (ironically) said THE END. The all-caps message across her caved chest may have been a coincidence. But if you knew Jules, you'd know she is a rebel in addition to being a survivor. She is fearless--the bravest woman I have ever met.
 
Mom reminds me of a saying (borrowed from the schoolyard): même pas peur! (Not even afraid!) The French use the you don't scare me phrase in all kinds of situations, both funny and not-so-funny. Whether raising a finger to terrorism or to a pandemic, the même pas peur! battle cry puts the courage back into our hearts.  

METTRE TOUTES LES CHANCES DE SON CÔTE
Each of us here has his/her own thoughts and feelings about the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. One thing we might all agree upon is putting all chance on our side (washing hands, staying at arm's length) so that we may put all chance on the side of those who truly need it, including the elderly.

Just don't call my Mom elderly! But you could call her a Ninja Warrior. Good to have her here at a time like this, when a lost chicken represents a sky that is falling.

Thanks, Mom, for rescuing "Crackers," our 5th hen! This story is dedicated to you.

XOXO,

Kristi

Screenshot_20200313-134700
One of the things I learned from Mom is to keep the Christmas Tree up all year. And to keep calm at times like this (does Jules look calm?). Remember the mantra: Même pas peur!

The comments box is open for anyone who would like to express their thoughts or share their wisdom concerning the corona virus. My thoughts go out to a dear, elderly friend who just lost her sister (her only sibling and best friend) and who cannot get on the airplane and attend the funeral because of current restrictions. She wanted to be there to support her nephew who is all alone.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
 
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


La flemme! La grasse matinée... + Lackadaisy is not a flower

Writing deskJean-Marc and I begin Part Two of our memoir, The Lost Gardens. This project would not be possible without the support of readers. Mille mercis to those who have purchased the online edition and are reading our story and cheering us on. Without you we would be at Chapter Zero! The blog post below, written in 2013, takes us back to Saint Cyr-sur-Mer, where we thought we would live forever. To buy our memoir and begin reading right away, click here.

Today's Word: flemme? buanderie? semence? pieds d'alouette?
(have your pick from the colorful vocabulary section following today's column...)

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

Lackadaisy is not a flower

March 2013 - I woke up Sunday morning in an empty bed. Jean-Marc had left in the night to make it to the Nice airport by 5 a.m. and so begin his USA wine tour.

Beyond the bedroom window, the skies were gray and the forest was capped in black nuages. On closer look there was a steady stream of rain, just as my husband had predicted. The cold, wet weather led to a guilty inclination to linger in bed. But if Jean-Marc were here, I thought, he wouldn't be indulging in la grasse matinée or so-called "fat morning"—no! he'd be kicking around in the buanderie or the cellar or in his maritime shipping container which doubles as our extra-storage room (I think it is his French equivalent of The Sunday Garage, where husbands tinker and putter on weekends).

Wherever... he'd be getting stuff done! And so would I... with him by my side. But without him would I turn into a couch potato? I found myself seriously considering this fate on Sunday morning while languishing in a half-empty bed. I reached for my IPad, thinking to share my potato-metamorphosis on Facebook... but then—quelle horreur!—if I went over to FB I might lie in bed all morning until I began to sprout little green shoots!

I sprang out of bed and ended up in the covered carport, that mythic hangout of weekend industrialists. Looking around at the piles of wood and the piles of stuff that needed a home, I heard myself nagging my invisible family, "Ceci ce n'est pas un débarras! This is not a junk room!" How many times had I said it in the months since moving to our new old home? 

I noticed an old shop table belonging to Jean-Marc's grandfather.... I could use it to set out rows of plastic garden pots and begin filling them with compost and vegetable seeds—lettuce, tomato, cucumber, peas!

Only, returning inside to get the seed packets, another inspiration hit when I remembered Mom's suggestion that I not hoard les graines de fleurs. "Use them!" She recently urged me. Mom is right: why not gather all the soon-to-expire seeds and toss them around the perimeter of the house? A rainy day was a perfect day to sow wildflowers!

There began an exhilarating back-n-forth sprint beneath the gentle rain. As my rubber-soled slippers collected mud and my pajamas grew soaked, I perfected a system whereby I would fill a pouch (whatever could be found in my flower seed box—an envelope, a coffee filter, the rest of a seed packet) with a mix of semences... next, I dashed through the kitchen, out the carport and beneath the wet sky, scattering seeds all the way!

I haven't a clue what many of the flowers were called or what they looked like (some seeds were taken from mixed wildflower packets) but I had fun imagining which ones I was haphazardly tossing....

And so I scattered "pennycress" and "love in a mist" (I guessed) along the path beneath the front porch...

Then up the stone stairs leading to the back yard, I tossed the orange Mexican poppies (in honor of the lovely stranger on crutches) and purple "Granny's bonnet".

I lined the pétanque court with "starflowers" and "physalis" (aka amour en cage) careful that not one seed should hit the special yard (real French men do not like "love in a cage" encroaching on their playing field).

I scattered Cosmos and Bachelor's Button in the fenced dog run... until it occurred to me that all the tall flowers might attract ticks. Zut, trop tard...

I knelt beside the sweet stone cabanon and covered the floor before it with "pinkfairies" and "roses of heaven", as well as baby's breath and pieds d'alouette, or larkspur. I tucked in several mammoth sunflowers that would tower over the little hut, come late summer. I also planted some artichoke seeds for the vibrant purple contrast beneath the sunny yellow flowers.

As I rested on the ground I could smell the freshly turned earth which woke up all of my hibernating senses. I felt my heart beating and my skin was tingling from the fresh air and the rain. I thought about my bed, the place I secretly wanted to spend my morning. How dead it seemed compared to this!

I don't ever want to be a lazybones, I admitted to the little flowers, still in seed form scattered all around me. And I'm not sure if it was the "baby's breath" or the "love in a mist" or which flowers whispered back first, but I took the hint: Keep coming back... they suggested, one after the other. With water! 

I smiled down on the cheering chorus of seeds. Yes, that ought to keep these lazybones out of bed! That plus I can't wait to see what the little cheerleaders will grow up to be, whether Poppies or Soapworts or Busy Lizzies.

***

EDIT ME: If you see une faute de frappe (typo) in French or in English, I would greatly appreciate it if you would point it out in the comments or via email. Merci beaucoup!

Orange mexican poppies smokey golden retriever
FRENCH VOCABULARY
la flemme
= slackness
avoir la flemme = to feel lazy
le nuage
= cloud
faire la grasse matinée
= to sleep in, lie in
la buanderie
= utility room
quelle horreur! = Awful thought!
Ceci ce n'est pas un débarras!
= this is not a dumping ground!
une semence
= seed
les graines de fleurs = flower seeds
la pétanque = game of petanque or boules
zut, trop tard = shoot, too late
pieds d'alouette = larkspur
le cabanon = stone hut (shed)
Sunflowers at mas des brun
Once again, I encourage you to discover our book-in-progress. Part One (chapters 1-12 are now finished) and plant the seeds for the inevitable dénouement. Thank you for helping us to tell our story: Click here to purchase The Lost Gardens.

Feedback from Chapter 11:
J-M, this chapter is quite moving, and I find myself touched by the revelation of the near-accident on the tractor after a long day harvesting. Your description puts the reader right there with you. And, too, we who have been on this journey with you from afar, better understand why you left a successful and seemingly 'perfect' situation. (There isn't a perfect anything anywhere, but Sainte Cecile-les-Vignes seemed close!) How wonderful your dream to move to Bandol happened and you found Mas des Bruns. Successful storytelling brings the reader into the story and you & Kristi are certainly accomplishing that. --Patty

Artichokes at mas des brun sea view
The artichokes that eventually...and a tiny glimpse of the sea view Jean-Marc wrote about in Chapter 12 of The Lost Gardens.

IMG_20150513_154826
Smokey, helping to make sure we leave you with a smile. Enjoy your week ahead!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
 
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.