Les Étrennes: This French new year's custom will have you digging in your pockets
Video Interview: Jean-Marc with Kristi at the vineyard in 2009

S’épancher: to pour out one's heart + Another grocery store encounter

fleuriste flower shop in Sospel France hearts on window niche
A flower shop in Sospel, France. The hearts in the fleuriste's window hint at today's word. The story below reveals the full meaning. Enjoy two sound files in today's post and thank you for sharing this journal with a friend.

Today's Word: s'épancher

    : to pour out one's heart

Example Sentence and Sound File
Retenir ses larmes, voilà bien, selon moi, le comble du " charnel " ; car lorsqu'on refuse à son coeur de s'épancher, le chagrin ne s'ancre-t-il pas en nous, pesant comme un fardeau? To hold back one's tears is, in my opinion, the height of the "carnal"; for when one refuses to let one's heart out, does not grief become anchored in us, weighing us down like a burden? -Jostein Gaarder, author of Sophie's World

Click to hear the quote in French

A DAY in a FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
"Life Unraveling as it Should"

I was blowdrying my hair when Mom knocked on the bathroom door.

"I'm not feeling well. I'm going to stay home," Jules said. I noticed she was hunched over.

Our plans were now changing and this rattled me--especially as I had waited an extra hour to wake up Mom (had I known she wasn't coming with me, I'd have left for the grocery store earlier). In my frustration, I couldn't help but wonder whether Mom was really sick or did she just want to ditch the shopping errand and get back in bed?

"Mom, stand up straight!" I said, assessing the situation. I had never seen her hunched like that and wanted it to stop. (My own kids have a similar reaction when I am not brimming with health. They don't ever want to see their parents weak.)

"I'm not going to the store," Mom put her foot down.
"Well, I don't want to go to the store either!" I announced.

"Then don't go," Mom challenged.  

"But I have to!"

In the 30-second standoff that followed, huffs and puffs could be heard...followed by a move on the more mature one's part:

"Here," Mom said, waving some cash.

"No. You keep it!" I thought Mom was giving me pocket money again. If she had 50 dollars to her name, she'd still give us l'argent de poche--no matter our age, for the joy it brings.  

"Just get me some grape juice and bread please."

"Don't worry. I'll get a bunch of goodies," I said, thanking Mom for le flouze.

When I got into my car I saw Mom walking toward me from her studio, reminding me to bring her the pommes de terre I'd cooked earlier. She needed them to make the fried potatoes we were having for lunch. I got out of the car, walked back to the house (pausing to pet our old dog) then back around the house, to Mom's place, patates en main.

Smokey golden retriever 12 years old
                                 Mom's hand resting on Smokey

"Oh, and the bacon..." Mom reminded. Right, les lardons! I hurried back around the house (pausing to pet Smokey) unlocked the front door, ran to the kitchen...then back to Mom's.

(Old Smokey needed more pats on the way back. And because his time is limited, I had to slow down.)

Finally, in my car, seatbelt on.... and zut! I forgot my phone! Oh, leave it. No, you need it or you'll forget what's on your list... One more dash back to the house, and up the stairs to my room.... I sensed at that moment that all the va-et-vient, though annoying, amounted to Life unraveling as it should.


At Monoprix supermarket I took a deep breath. You're here now. Take your time. Get what you need. You can catch up with everything else later....

In the frozen food aisle, a petite woman with soft platinum curls approached me. "Pardonnez-moi. Je cherche les épinards."

"Oh, spinach... there it is," I said, walking with Madame over to the display: "il y a des épinards en branches, épinards hachées, épinards à la crème fraîche...."

"Merci beaucoup," she said, "You are so kind. You are so kind."

"Oh. I only showed you where the spinach was," I smiled.

"I'm so lost." Madame said suddenly. "My husband just passed away. I don't know why I am telling you this."    

I stood there holding her gaze and reached for her arm. The widow now held on to mine. 

"And I lost my daughter. She was 45...."

"Oh, I am so sorry! I am...holding you in my heart," was all I could think to say. We stood there in our flimsy paper masks, clinging to each other. I gently squeezed la veuve's arm, hoping the tender gesture would make up for a lack of words.

"Merci, merci, vous êtes gentille," the widow repeated. 

"I will be here shopping for a while,” I assured her. “If you need me, je suis dans les parages."

I continued shopping, glancing here and there for the lost soul, but the widow had vanished. 


Back at home Mom was much better (hmmm....) and after lunch we sat together in the sunshine, Mom popping up from time to time to show me her ideas for our garden: “And I'm going to have Max dig a trench here and one there for flowers! Lots of flowers!

Mom sat back down in her favorite papillon chair, looked over at me at snickered. "Stand up straight! I used to tell you girls that when you were little."

Obviously, somebody was still irritated by the comment I made earlier. "Mom, I'm sorry if I was harsh with you," I apologized. “That was just Fear talking. I didn't want you to be sick. And also, I get frustrated when plans change. And then I had a hard time getting out the door. Back and forth, back and forth."

"To and fro, to and fro
, like the Holy Spirit," Mom smiled, in reference to our celestial helper.

It dawned on me then that every little change, every empêchement in my schedule, added up to the chance encounter with a stranger in need. It is a lesson the universe continues to teach: Everything is unfolding as it should, setbacks and all. Just trust that you are in the right place at the right time, right now. (And always be respectful and loving to your Mom!)

Mom  in jeans
Jules. My beautiful Mom.


Click here to listen to the French terms below

s'épancher = to pour out one'sheart
la pomme de terre = potato
les patates en main = potatoes in hand
le lardon = bacon strip
l'argent de poche = pocket money, spending money
le flouze = cash
zut = shoot!
va-et-vient = back-and-forth
épinards en branches, hachées, à la crème fraîche =
je suis dans les parages = I’m in the area
Vous êtes gentille = you are kind
Merci beaucoup = thank you
un empêchement = a delay

Words missing from the sound file:
le/la fleuriste = florist, flower shop
le papillon = butterfly (read about Mom's butterfly chair)

shopfront artisan fabrication sur mesure
I leave you with a photo from the archives, from the story «Faire Bisquer » (to rile someone) 

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


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Suzanne Dunaway

Your maman looks wonderful for spring. And one gets a bit more tired than usual after….er….50……….

Robert ("Robaire") Wildau

Wonderful combination of feelings and story éléments. Kristi you are the complète package.

Jens Hork

'Dans les parages' ...that's a new expression for me. Merci!

Caro Feely

Beautiful story, told so gracefully and honestly. Thank you Kristi. Bravo. You are amazing.

Susan Grekian

Your mom is gorgeous!

Lisa Culver

The Holy Spirit …AKA…the great comforter…thanks for reminding me!

Martha V

You are an inspiration! You present kindness and you are beautiful.I am not surprised that the widow felt comfortable sharing with you. I too learned a new word. Le flouze. Merci.


‘No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.’ Desiderata. Important to know and remember.

Michael Goodman

Kristi's response to the widow, who has lost the people in her life who buoyed her up is reminiscent of the e.e. cummings poem I cite below. There is a great difference, of course, between compassion for someone who has lost loved ones, and love for our partner or spouse, but the concept is not dissimilar: in each case, we hold and carry another's heart.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)


Kristi, this is a beautiful post. Your lovely, caring heart shines through it!

Merle P Minda

e.e.cummings wrote this beautiful poem.


Hi Kristi,

Beautiful story today! How do you say "I'm holding you in my heart" in French?

Jules looks so joyful in the last photo! Love her red tennis shoes!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Eileen. You could say it either way:
Je vous tiens dans mon coeur.
Je vous serre dans mon coeur.

Gwyneth Perrier

A thoughtful and honest post reminding us all that we're only human. You're both beautiful (and not just on the outside) and I adore your mom's style! Seriously cool outfit there.

K.J. Laramie

You are a spinner of beautiful tales; a language of the heart so pure, I’m constantly in awe. 🙏


I wasn’t going to respond today, but then my husband just said “stand up straight d… it” to himself. I told him that I was just reading that in your blog. I often tell him to stand up straight. It is because of pain and a bad back that he is often bent over. Your Mom may have been feeling her back hurting when you saw her. We get concerned when someone is bent over and worry about them. Sometimes we snap at those with whom we are closest and then open up to strangers.
I can understand the women in Monoprix asking you for help and then telling you her story. She could feel your sensitivity and understanding radiating from you.
Peace, stay safe and healthy, KATHLEEN


This brought tears to my eyes. We just never know what the stranger next to us is going through. To always wear our “sensitivity to and for others” is the challenge.

Bettye Dew

I call it the "Ancient Mariner" syndrome. That's when you've had such a jolt to your being--as in the death of a beloved family member--that you have the impulse to blurt your story to anyone around, even in the grocery store. Perhaps it's an effort to right a world that's suddenly upside down. How do you find your way again after such a loss? When you feel as bruised by life as that recent widow, the kindness of strangers means a lot. Even the simple act of helping her find the spinach was a tiny balm to her suffering. How lucky she was in the sympathetic stranger she chose to ask for help.


Just today, my long-time French teacher sent me Desiderata in French--so I got goosebumps when I read "Everything is unfolding as it should!" That's a lesson I absolutely need to remember, and I guess the universe is making sure I hear it today!

Kristi, thanks so much for your wonderful blog and attitude. I can imagine you at the Monoprix, and know how grateful the widow was for your attention and care.

Patricia Sands

Hey Jules! So lovely to see you! Thank you for this sweet post, comme toujours, Kristi! <3

Mary in Denver

I absolutely LOVE your new profile picture here! And your wonderful story, as usual!


If your mother hadn’t delayed you, you would have missed the opportunity to give consolation to that dear woman in the shop. “All things work together unto good…”


… sorry, you indeed noted that at the end. Helps me to be less frustrated with the obstacles and hiccups in life!

Kristin Espinasse



Bonjour, Kristi,
Ma mère m’a dit “Stand up straight” aussi. Cette phrase
est une de mes souvenirs préférés de ses mots sages. J’adore que tu as eu le même expérience. Peut-être c’était une expression d’amour universelle parmi les gens gentils et soigneux. C’est un peu comme l’expression, “Courage”, n’est-ce pas?

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,
Today’s post reminds me of the beautiful thought by George Whitman inscribed inside Shakespeare and Company Bookstore… “Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise.”

Your messages are always thought provoking and touch the heart ♥️


Our dear Kristi,
Your talent is only surpassed by your kindness,which just radiates from inside out.
Today, again as always, I am inspired by both your words and deeds -- with hopes in my life to try to do the same.
I also felt like being reunited again with my favorite poet, e.e.cummings , as well as George Whitman's inscribed thoughts( perhaps his interpretation of Hebrews 13:2?)
You filled this day with sunshine.
Thank you, dear Kristi.

Vance Anderson-Inks

Dear Kristi,
Your Mother looks great, and her temperment seems to have come back as the Woman I knew so well in P.V. I miss her but when I was there at your home she seemed to be in a different place. She has finally settled in. Bless you all, give your mom a secret hug for me. Lots of love to you all.

Sheryl Westenberger Wells

Your mom is so beautiful with fantastic fashion sense. Just look at those
red hi-top sneakers, her hat, her blouse, her beads and her earrings. And her daughter is so beautiful too! You Kristi! And of course, your old Smokey!

Sheryl in AZ

Sarah LaBelle

Spinach every way
spinach leaves, chopped, with fresh cream

The poem by e. e. cummings is touching. Wish I had known it long ago.

The to and fro totally wipes me out for years now; I go slowly, trying to remember all, but leave behind what is 2 flights of stairs up, and down again.

Leslie NYC

This is lovely.

Stacy Lund

A beautiful message!

Margie R.

So lovely. You bring us beauty when we most need it! Thank you, Kristi!


Another heartwarming story. Kristi, I learn so much from reading your dialogues and casual everyday exchanges with Jules. They feel familiar and put so much of my own relationship with my mom into clearer perspective.

I also always find it fascinating how at times we feel comfortable about being vulnerable with people who are complete strangers. We are so used to putting up our guard when out in public, and often a kind gesture from a stranger is exactly what we need to remind us to soften and trust.

laurie greer

Hi Kristi!! What a great mom and daughter story! I loved it! But the best part is your mom never ages😍 she looks as beautiful and young as ever!❤️ Xoxo love you girls! And love your precious Smokey 🐶


Love this one.... Good way to start the day. Merci.

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