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Entries from February 2023

Coqueluche: My teen heartthrob & 70s fashion through a French girl's eyes

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An ancient hair-salon-turned-fashion boutique in Paris where you can buy a glittery 70s ensemble and more. Don't miss the sound file, near the end, with all the French vocabulary from this edition.

Follow me on Instagram or here on Facebook to ensure you are receiving the weekly posts (which don't always end up in your emails--owing to filters, a full inbox, and other issues beyond our control). Thanks for reading and on with the French word for the day... 

TODAY'S WORD: la coqueluche

    : heart-throb, pin-up, idol
    : whooping cough

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"Mom, do you know the BeeGees?" My daughter called out as I was emptying le lave-vaisselle.

Jackie's statement was more of a memory jog than a question, for who doesn't know the BeeGees? Au fait, how did my youngest know of the Anglo-Australian trio?

"There's a song I can't stop playing. It's actually une reprise, but it led me to the original artists and I love them!" With that, Jackie launched YouTube on our living room's big screen. When next I glimpsed Barry Gibb glowing like Jesus, my conscience spent 30 seconds trying to disassociate the doppelgängers.

Finally, I abandoned the half-emptied dishwasher and landed on the couch--to settle into an evening screening of 70s glam rock. 

Even more than our BeeGees video spree, I enjoyed the fresh commentary of a 25-year-old French girl, ma fille, viewing clips from the culture in which I grew up. After How Deep is Your Love (my daughter's favorite) and Staying Alive I asked Jackie to find an Andy Gibb clip. "He was the youngest brother--a teenage heartthrob and my first star crush!

La Coqueluche--The Heartthrob
A moment later I Just Want to be Your Everything came on the screen, sending me back to the days when I would buy TeenSomething magazine for the foldout wall poster of Andy. I also had his first album, on vinyl bien sûr, and a satin jacket/shorts combo my stepmother offered me before escorting 11-year-old me and my similarly-clad stepsister to an Andy Gibb concert! To this day that satin ensemble = my favorite outfit of all time (funnily, I can't remember the concert. Maybe it was all a dream?). 

While watching a repertoire of 70s glam rock music videos, including ABBA, Jackie sighed, "They dressed so elegantly back then." Funny. To me 70s fashion was kind of ugly. Now, on a closer look, I can see my daughter's point of view: for one, clothes were tailored, which got me thinking....

"1997...You were born on the tail-end of 90s grunge,” I informed my youngest.

"What was that?"

"The sloppy look."

"Oh...." Jackie's voice trailed off until... "I don't think I was born in the right decade. I'd like to have been born in the 50s--and then I would have been of age in the 70s," Jackie mused, visions of 70's chic dancing in her head. I remembered my mom, dressed in long-sleeved silk blouses, tight velvet slacks, and a fitted blazer. Her pants tucked into her boots, Jules could have walked right out of the picture frame image from yesteryear, and onto the streets of Paris this winter. Certain styles are intemporel

If only my memory was timeless. I think in the previous paragraph I confused the end of the 70s with the early 80s. (Mom, just when were you wearing those velvet pants?) Peu importe! Last night's trip down memory lane was the chance to share my girlhood with my daughter's. Even if she is now over a decade older than I was back then, born in another time and place. And to think this modern-day French girl shares the same passions as I did then... including Andy Gibb. "Il n'est pas mal du tout! He is not bad at all!" Jackie agrees.

***

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That satin jacket many of Andy’s fans sported

Post note: Funnily, the only thing Jackie didn’t like is Andy’s hirsute chest. Young guys these days (only young men and only in France?) wax their torsos. But in researching for today’s post, I learned the trend is changing: body hair is back in style. 

In the comments, it would be fun to learn who your heartthrob/idol/pin-up or coqueluche was back in the day. Also, do you have a favorite outfit of all time? Take a jog down memory lane and share your thoughts in the comments. Merci!


FRENCH VOCABULARY

Audio File: To listen to the list below, click here:

Click here for the bilingual sound file

le lave-vaisselle = dishwasher
au fait = incidentally, by the way
une reprise = remake
la fille = daughter
la coqueluche = idol, heartthrob 
bien sûr = of course
intemporel = timeless, eternal 
peu importe = no matter

Jackie in Paris 2022
My daughter Jackie in Paris. She was wearing her running pants that day but would have swapped them in an instant for her grandmother Jules's velvet ones. Have time for another story? Don't miss "La Frousse" (Fright) --a mother-daughter story from 12 years ago.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Disco Fever: A Funny Way to View The Flu

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Missed you, dear reader, for Valentines Day. Our family has been under the weather. A brief update, today, and the regular edition will be back next week.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

“Saturday Night Fever”

It is Day 9 of the flu and Jean-Marc (who is on Day 12) has returned to our matrimonial bed after sleeping downstairs. It is early morning and we are having “coffee and complaints”—astounded at how we can still be coughing up “liquid” after a fortnight.

“Liquid”...I’m trying to put it in nice terms but my husband has a vocabulary of his own. 

Putain! C’est une merde ce truc!” he says, blowing his nose like a trumpet. He is a very noisy patient but then I’m no purring kitten either, when ill.

As Jean-Marc settles into the news I decide to research “ce truc” we’re coughing up. Soon, I am learning all about the benefits of what the French call “la glaire.” 

“If your body is a nightclub, mucus is a bouncer!” I share the nerdy article I’m reading with JM. Suddenly my husband begins to jiggle. His hand flies up in a John Travolta air jab, up to the right, down to the left. I follow suit and the two of us are sitting up in bed dancing.

“Do you understand the words?” I ask, to be sure. “If your body is a nightclub, mucus is the bouncer...”

“Oui, oui!” JM insists, jabbing the air. “Si ton corps est une boîte de nuit, la glaire c’est le DJ....”

”No! A bouncer not a DJ! Are you listening to me? The mucus kicks the bad guys out of the club!”

“Have you ever been kicked out of a nightclub?” Jean-Marc smiles at me.

“No! And you?”

“Not that I remember...” my husband says, coughing once again. Only this time we’re not complaining. Our former negativity has turned to jubilee as, side by side in bed, we jab the air a few more times à la John Travolta, pointing up to the right, down to the left. We have made peace with our “productive” coughs and learned a little about our bodies in the process. I have a new respect for that old flemmy foe, from now on known as “Bouncer M.” And it’s put a new spin on the flu or how I think about.

Why not think of it as disco fever? Off to let my body rock. See you next week with more photos and stories from France. Take care and, whatever your circumstances, keep looking on the bright side!

Amicalement,

Kristi
P.S. JM recommends a nose gargle. He has returned from the seashore with a liter of salt water. I think I’ll pull the covers over my head instead!

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A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Something to Celebrate!

Cat in La Ciotat
If I were a 20-year sober cat, this is what my life would look like. I love this imperfect, slightly crooked picture and hope you do too for a future postcard. Meantime, many thanks for your postcard orders!


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
“In The Clouds”

I don’t know what it is about my mind but sometimes the most obvious things escape me. I am a dreamer. Blame it on that. But when I quit floating through the moment, and stop to focus, I do see the picture! 

This week, and today specifically, I am pausing to visualize two decades of sobriety. Twenty years ago today I woke up to a new and blessed beginning. I remember it vividly: the decision to stop drinking. It came with tears. These weren’t larmes of regret, they were and remain tears of surrender.

This new beginning happened around the time this blog began, and it--this promise to myself--would become an anchor. No matter how many times we moved homes, or the ups and downs of life, this gift of sobriety would hold me steady through many trials and changes. 

If sobriety is an anchor, faith is the solid ground beneath it. What would I do without my faith? I don’t know, but one thing I would not do is give it up. Because looking over 55 years of life, Faith is the one constant--faith and grace (can the two words be interchanged?)

I was walking home from church yesterday when I overheard a young woman walking toward me. The woman with the Australian accent was saying to her companion: “When I look back over my life...I realize God has always been there....

I thought to myself, Amen. My next thought was, Maybe that was an angel...an angel with an Australian accent!

No matter how far along my faith walk, or my sobriety walk, I still need these reminders that I am not alone. God has my back.

Back to the woman’s message...about finding God in retrospect...This is exactly what I say to my grown children or to anyone who struggles with faith: Just look back over your life... then you will see God in action. It is grace that carries us through. Are you ever amazed at how you have survived? But for the grace of God go I.

Last week our son joined us here for lunch. I left the chili to simmer and joined my husband and Max in the garden, where they were enjoying apéritifs. Two bottles of wine were opened for the tasting, and on the table, a bucket of sea urchins the two men had just caught. I picked up a spoon and began savoring les oursins, while carefully tuning into the conversation.

Max was telling his dad about how he had emptied our cellar of more wines, transferring them to his own storage unit at his new condo
”That’s great, Max!” I said, relieved to have more space freed up in our home (I’m hoping the guys will move my washing machine to the cellar, and free up space in our bathroom—which we will hopefully one day renovate.)

Jean-Marc chuckled, "Good thing you took it before Mom drank it!" 

"You two should thank me!" I said, ignoring my husband’s joke. “Think of all the wine and money I have saved you over the years. Just imagine...

...At one-half bottle a day (sounds like a lot but it's = to a glass at lunch and two glasses at dinner...)

...times 4 weeks (let’s say 15 bottles a month...)

...times one year ( 180 bottles)

...times 19 years...

That is almost 3500 bottles!

While Max and I were  busy being very impressed by this calculation, Jean-Marc accidentally redeemed himself from the bad joke he told earlier:

"It has been 20 years, Chérie."

Oh my goodness. He is right! And today, February 6th, marks the day! I may be a little in the clouds...but I am still floating around, amongst family and life, enjoying every precious moment. Had I not made that decision 20 years ago, I don’t know where I would be today. And that is a sobering thought.

 

IN CELEBRATION: The Lost Gardens Memoir, now $20
In celebration of this milestone, our story "The Lost Gardens" is now a symbolic $20 instead of $29 when you purchase with this link. If you have been meaning to read about our life at two vineyards--following my sobriety--this is the time! Our husband/wife memoir is online, readable in blog format. Upon checkout, you will be given two passwords to enter the website, where you can begin reading right away. Click here to order The Lost Gardens Memoir

Bike in Provence France
Bye for now, and back to dreaming up future postcards. How do you like the two images in today's post? Let me know and thank you for your postcard orders. and for the various ways you help out this journal. I truly appreciate your support.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Advice for Each Decade of Life & Surrender: A Mother Daughter update

Cafe de l'horloge la ciotat france
Would this picture be good for the La Ciotat postcard series? Thanks for your helpful feedback and for your postcard orders this week! I am enjoying the quiet, mindful activity of addressing envelopes and my handwriting is slowly improving :-)

TODAY’S WORD: s'abandonner

: to surrender yourself to, to unburden yourself 


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

As I walked into Le Café de L’Horloge two customers seated near le comptoir offered a warm bonjour.

"Boh-wher!" I replied, or tried to. For once it wasn't my faulty accent to blame. The freezing Mistral had numbed my face during the 30-minute walk to Port Vieux, where I was meeting my daughter for lunch. I waved goodbye to the diners after Jackie arrived, and the two of us headed upstairs to share a quiet booth with a view. "Isn't it cozy here? I love this place. It is open all day," Jackie said rubbing her hands together to warm them.

Hungry, I searched for la carte. "It's tucked inside that book..." my daughter pointed out.
"Oh, nice!" This artsy café had a charming literary twist (there are more books next door at the Emmaus bookshop). I reached for the menu inside a  paperback by Sylvain Tesson: "S'Abandonner à Vivre." Surrender to Live...

For now, we were surrendering to our appetites. Jackie suggested the bagel with salmon and la soupe de poireaux. A young woman from Paris took our order and disappeared down the stairs. "One more week of classes!" I said to my 25-year-old, who was completing a 4-week computer course offered by Pôle Emploi, the French national employment agency.

"Yes, but then what?" my daughter began to worry again. After some thought, I reminded her of a bit of wisdom I'd overheard recently:

In your twenties, try everything.
In your thirties, figure out what you do best.
In your forties, make money from what you do best.
Try not to do much in your fifties.

If I could say that in French it might go something like this:

Dans la vingtaine, essayez tout.
Dans la trentaine, découvrez ce que vous faites de mieux.
Dans la quarantaine, gagnez de l'argent avec ce que vous faites de mieux.
Essayez de ne pas faire grand-chose à la cinquantaine.

At 25 and 55 my daughter and I are at opposite ends of the career spectrum--between "essayez tout" et "ne pas faire grand-chose"--with Jackie trying everything between bartending and computer coding and me slowing down. Yikes. If Jackie has her doubts so do I (dois-je ralentir?).  And yet here we are, holding each other up with cheers and bouts of laughter.

"I'm going to embarrass you," I smile, giving my daughter an extra big bear hug back outside the café.
"No, you're not embarrassing me!" Jackie hugs back. We laugh and say our goodbyes before my daughter returns to computer class. She is anxious to see the 3D objet de déco she's designed which has just been cut out by a laser printer. It boggles my mind. Who knows what they'll print next. ..Baguettes? 

What would I do without my daughter? I think, on the cold walk home alone. Have I been present during lunch? Am I paying attention? Have I missed anything? I remember her smile. How she spoke to me in French and, catching herself, reverted to English. I think about the way Jackie ordered our lunch, poured the water, and spread chocolate over our shared gauffre before reaching into her purse for two euros, "I'll leave the pourboire." She is so calm. You’d never know she struggles with doubts and fears and anxieties.

Yet, she is showing me how to laugh at life. On the drive to pick up my daughter from class in the centre ville, I see her waiting on the side of the road. Suddenly, I catch a glimpse of a patrol car in my rear-view mirror...et c'est la panique! As I drive by my daughter my eyes widen and I begin wagging my finger back and forth, signaling I CAN'T STOP NOW! (Not in the middle of the road as usual.)

Finally, I pull over and my daughter, catching up to the car, opens the door. Neither of us can speak, we are laughing so hard. Eyes glistening with tears, we look at each other with comic relief. On rigole, et on rigole encore!

"Mom! You should have seen your face. I just knew you were going to freak! You and the cops! Toi et les flics--C'est toute une histoire! The fits of laughter continue until I have to wipe my eyes in order to drive. Fear and uncertainty have gone for the moment. These old foes will be back, but for now, we can laugh!

Well, dear reader, it is time to sum up today's story and bid you au revoir. So, no matter your age, be sure to slow down, try everything, and remember laughter is a form of surrender. Abandonnons-nous tous à vivre!

Amicalement
Kristi
P.S. The next time you see cops and panic, do what the French do: whisper Vingt-Deux les Flics! ("Twenty-two the cops!") It doesn't mean anything. It's just funny and kind of freeing!  

ADVICE FOR EACH DECADE OF LIFE
I thought it would be interesting to continue the "Advice for Each Decade" info cited above. Will you add your experience and wisdom to the comments section and whether or not you agree with the 20s, 30s, 40s, an 50s advice? To rephrase:

In your twenties, try everything.
In your thirties, figure out what you do best.
In your forties, make money from what you do best.
Try not to do much in your fifties.
In your sixties (fill in blank)
In your seventies (fill in blank)
In your eighties (fill in blank)
In your nineties (fill in blank)
At 100 (fill in blank, and merci to our readers who are nearing la centaine!)

Cafe de l horloge street view
View looking down to the cobbled streets of La Ciotat.

Jules in la ciotat at cafe l horloge
Can you spy my mom in the background? Photo of Jules taken a few years ago in front of Café l'Horloge, at 7 Rue Albert et Georges Arnoux, 13600 La Ciotat. A nice place for coffee, lunch, or apéros!

AUDIO FILE: Listen to the French vocabulary list

Click here to begin listening


FRENCH VOCABULARY
s'abondonner = to surrender oneself
le Café de L'Horloge = The Clock Café
le comptoir
= bar, counter
Le Port Vieux = The Old Port in La Ciotat
la carte = the menu
la soupe de poireaux = leek soup
le pôle emploi = job center, unemployment office
dois-je ralentir? = should I slow down?
objet de déco = decorative object
la gaufre = waffle
le pourboire = tip, gratuity
rigoler = to laugh
toi et les flics = you and the cops
c'est toute une histoire = it's quite a story
amicalement = yours, kind regards
un apéro = pre-dinner drink

Cartes postales post cards
Would you like to order a set of my postcards from La Ciotat? Click this link for more info

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety