S'Enfuir: To Flee in French: Startled or spooked, our new dog ran away in a panic
Congé: A word for when you take a break from work/business

Bien Joué! Why Jackie is leaving Lyon

Coiffure hair salon french village
Today, find out why my daughter was at the hairdresser's when she should've been on her way to FINAL EXAMS! 

Note: After today's post this journal will go on break thru February 8th.


    : well done!, good job!, way to go!
    : well played

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

I really want to learn a new thing, I do not know what I am interested in, though. UI/UX design? Being a certified therapist? Fashion? So much that I can or could be. Should I pretend to be someone until I am this person?

The above is an excerpt from a letter our daughter wrote one year ago. I am happy to announce we are all rejoicing now that she has passed her examen oral in Lyon—la dernière étape in a race to earn her BAC + 3, or bachelor's degree in one year. Bien joué, Jackie! You did it! You hunkered down, put your doubts and fears behind you, and traded your bartender apron for a student’s cap. Then you proceeded to wow us all! Tu nous as bluffés.

I admit when you shared you were going to study UX/UI design, I was doubtful: did you say computer coding was part of the curriculum? I had similar misgivings when you dropped out of fashion in Toulon to go to bartending school in Miami. But if there’s one thing about you it’s this: once you know what you want, your determination follows. I watched you line up everything, lightening speed: you located un logement in Lyon, turned in all your papers at le pôle emploi (to the stellar counselor who found you this intensive program and knew could do it), packed your belongings, sold some things and once again headed off into the unknown in search of who you might become.

Then, the first setback. After quitting your job, you got a call informing you you were rejected from the program! Was this a sign? Some of us here at home whispered we didn’t think computer design was right for you, but you remained calm. You called the director to ask, Why? You told him you were very interested in this program and to please reconsider your candidature. Meantime you looked for a last-minute employment and tried to stay out from underneath that cloud that forms above you during transition time, dark as the inside of a cocoon before the butterfly struggles out and takes flight.

Friends talked you into a weekend getaway. You had just landed in London when your phone rang at the airport. You almost ignored the call, but finally answered. It was the school director. Having had a second look at your dossier, he decided to give you a chance. Class started in less than a week!

You hung up the phone and quickly called back the rental company. The room was still available! You flew home and boarded the train to Lyon.

You were the first to arrive at the renovated house-turned-apartments in Villeurbanne, never suspecting the strangers now filing into the common space (it was their first night in these new digs too) would become friends for life: a young doctor from Saudi Arabia, a computer programmer, a student musician, 2 nurses, a nuclear engineer, a biochemist, a dental hygienist, a logistics specialist, a shop manager/wedding photographer, and an agronomist (ahem, a weed producer).

You had me laughing when your biggest concern the first day of school was switching out your rickety chair for the one across the classroom you’d already set your sights on. I now see it as a metaphor….

At 25, you always considered yourself un mauvais élève: a dreamer with severe test anxiety. But you set your mind on overcoming these obstacles and soon you had that chair, and more. You wasted no time choosing your project (your mock business was a cruise company for seniors, and you threw your heart, soul, and sweat into designing your logo, your app, your webpage, and interviewing seniors (your grandparents included).

The calendar ahead was challenging, 3 years of work crammed into one--including an internship (it was up to you to find the company, dar dar!). Six months into the program and the pressure was unbearable: you wondered how you were going to turn in your preliminary report, finish your internship at the PR company, print out all your work in a series of booklets, and create your PowerPoint presentation. C’était la mer à boire! A bitter and impossible feat!

When in the 11th hour you had a panic attack at the PR office and an ambulance took you to ER you might have had a good reason to call it quits….after all, was this accelerated program worth the toll it was taking on your nervous system?

Back home we held our collective breath. “Jackie is tough! She's a Marcus!” Grandma Jules reminded us. Meantime, there in Lyon, your roommates rallied around you, gathering in your shared living room to hear you practice your 50-minute speech for your final exams before un jury. They took notes and shared “improvements”. 

You made it home for a needed rest at Christmas. After 4 days you wasted no time returning to Lyon. You had to find un imprimerie to print out your project, including 4 bound reports, or the 200 pages you had carefully written, and present it before the real jury. You buckled down to business and we did not hear from you again. Le silence radio…

On January 10th you called me unexpectedly. I braced myself as it was your exam day.  "Hi Mom, I'm on my way to the hairdresser’s."

“The hairdresser’s? But shouldn’t you be cramming for your exam?”

Your voice on the other end of the line was so peaceful. Now that you had finished your internship and turned in your work, the intense pressure had subsided. As for your presentation for your oral exam, you knew your subject like the back of your hand. Speaking of which…

“I also got my nails done,” said you. Je vais mettre toute les chances de mon côté. I’m putting all chance on my side and presentation is important!

Well, I couldn’t argue with that, and I hung up the phone with a big smile on my face. I knew right then you would be OK.

Still, I held my breath until you called back that afternoon.... Ça y est. C’était bien passé!”

“Well, what did they say?”

”They said I'm ready to do a master’s!”


Voilà, dear reader. I hope you enjoyed this happy update. Jackie is still waiting for the official news, the confirmation that she will receive her certificat (incredibly it is the equivalent of à BAC +3 diplôme) from the vocational school in Lyon. Meantime she finished the challenging UX/UI design program, having met all of the requirements. Bien joué, ma fille! You got that chair and now you’ll get the graduation cap!

Jackie at the hair salon
Jackie at the salon in Lyon, finally feeling ready for her examen oral.

I love reading your comments and learning more about you with each note. Also, you can join me in congratulating Jackie! To leave a comment, click here.

Jackie, left, during her internship at a PR firm in Lyon. After this, she had a few weeks to turn in her final project. And in January, stand before the jury for her oral presentation.

Jackie (right) and her roommates. They shared many meals together and Jackie insists she would never have made it without their care and attention. 

Don't miss the soundfile.

Click here to listen to the French terms below

bien joué! =
good job!
la derniere étape
= the last step
BAC + 3 = bachelor degree
tu nous as bluffés = you blew us away
un logement = accomodation, housing
le pôle emploi = the employment center
un mauvais élève
= a bad student
dar dar = right away
C’est la mer à boire = it’s like drinking the entire sea, no small feat
un jury = examinations board
une imprimerie = printer's
le silence radio = radio silence
mettre toutes les chances de son côté = to put all chance on one’s side

Sincere thanks to these readers who recently sent in a website donation. I appreciate your help in publishing this journal! --Kristi

Joan S.
Walt S.
Mike P.
Patricia S.
Suzanne R.

Bonne année, Kristi! —Mike 

Your journal is a lovely combination of everyday family happenings with many useful phrases and new words to learn. It is well written and I look forward to reading it on Thursdays.  I also enjoy your instagram postings. —Joan

Ricci, receives some scratchies while Jackie rests and enjoys the Australian Open tennis match. 
Reading via email? For the link to the comments box, click here.

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


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Leslie NYC

Congratulations, Jackie!
I am much older than you, but always struggled as a student. I didn't have confidence or some essential skills. I didn't know where to focus and didn't know how to ask for help. All this is slowly changing. Now I know that I can do things and that I can cheer myself on. There is no one else, for instance, who can tell my story.
I love the moment you tell your mom you are going to the salon! That's a sign of really having things well-prepared!
I wish you much happiness.

John Hawke. PJ, Papa John

What? Jackie passes, congratulations. so You take a break!

Lisa Smith

Bravo dearest Jackie (and Kristi!)!!
What an amazing accomplishment, but I am not surprised, you are smart, tenacious and you gave yourself the gift of patience and self belief. Now rest for a spell - cannot wait to see what you do next. x


Le silence radio = "radio silence" is the correct terminology (correct the word order in your definition section). It's when the Apollo space capsule goes on the far side of the moon and communications are lost. It is also a military term when soldiers are not allowed to use their military radios to communicate with each other for fear of the enemy picking up their positions by triangulating their radio signals.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Chris, for the correction and explanation. I never quite understood the expression before.


Congrats to Jackie! What a great accomplishment!
As I was looking at the photo of Jackie at the salon, she reminded men of the actress who plays Dana Scully on X-Files.

Lisa Tasi

Kudos congrats celebrating Jackie on her awesome academic achievement! Warm wishes for the next endeavors!


Well done Jackie! Onward!!

Ally Davis

Bravo Jackie 👏🏻!!!

Sue lennox

Congrats, Jackie! Your hard work paid off. Bonne chance for the future!

Suzanne in Monroe, NJ

What a wonderful achievement! And now Jackie is a redhead. I've known you long enough to remember her as a young kid riding around the pool area at your vineyard Le Rouge Bleu. She must be relieved, and I hope she gets some downtime before plunging into work. She is fortunate to have the support of her family on her journey.

Valerie from Pittsburgh

Felicitations Jackie! How exciting and what a wonderful group of roommates. After reading the syllabus, I was interested in the word Ferie...which I thought translated to fairy in English, like Tinker Bell. And i noticed it was sometimes listed in a week when school was closed. Is it a word for holiday? Thanks!


Congratulations! All you’ve done has brought you to this time and place, right where you need to be. Brava! You did it. And the tale of your journey brought tears to my eyes. Well done!

Karen in Northport, NY

Congrats, Jackie. Quite an accomplishment. I wish you a career that lets you be part of something important to you. Enjoy your vayK, Kristi. I believe I will find Thursday mornings a bit disappointing for a while.....😖

Janine Cortell

Congratulations Jackie:
You did it! I know your future will be bright.


What a lovely heartwarming story! Kudos to Jackie for such tenacity. And how wonderful to have found such a supportive group of friends. Congratulations!


Félicitations Jackie!
Kristi, any parent launching a child can relate to all you experienced, feeling Jackie’s
angst while completing her rigorous program.
You captured it all- the love, the frustration, the appreciation of your amazing daughter.
Thanks for sharing.
And best of luck Jackie!

Kathy Lynne “Kanika” Marshall

Super! Exciting use of second person POV. Congrats to Jackie!


Our dear Kristi ,
Calins et gros bisous to sweet Jackie!!
This is such a huge achievement and we share in both your pride and your joy!!
What could be more wonderful than seeing your wishes(and dreams) being fulfilled, and knowing that your loving family will forever have your back !!
And!Oh dear Kristi, how incredible you all are!!!
Thank you !!!You made our day!!!
Arms tight around you!!
Natalia. Xo

Elizabeth L

As we have always told our own kids, not everyone takes a linear path! Well done, Jackie, as you continue on your quest. Sounds like you are well on your way! So glad you have the support of loving family and friends.


Bien joué, Jackie! Kristi, you must be so very proud. Wishing Jackie all the very best as she continues on this journey.


For you to persevere through all that stress is quite an accomplishment. So happy for you, Jackie. Soldier on!

Ellen A

Fantastic news for Jackie, and for all of your family - so proud of her resilience and accomplishment! Now I will have to go look up what in the world UX/UI is all about. Congratulations, Jackie!

Marianne S. Rankin

Felicitations, Jackie! Il y a tant de possibilites devant vous!

Marianne S. Rankin


J'ai regarde le syllabus que vous avez prepare. Formidable! Et c'est seulement une description du travail. Vous avez organize et fait tout ce travail, et dans une periode tres chargee. Magnifique!

Carolyn R Chase

As a mom of three, I totally tune into the various feelings you must have experienced during Jackie's explorations. And I admire Jackie so much for her willingness to try on various interesting "hats" and throwing her full effort into this last extremely challenging bout of training. Also, her perception about "presentation" being important at the oral exam - particularly how the beautification process would bolster her mindset about herself. It is exactly the way I took exams in college and graduate school - having my whole self in top form. it fortifies one's confidence, and helps to remain calm. What a wonderful email to read today.


Congratulations to Jackie! What a great achievement - I hope my youngest will find such dedication and determination soon - if only I can be as good at motherly support as Kristi. And as an Aussie, it was lovely to see the tennis in the photo :)

Frances, Napa, CA USA

Congratulations! What an achievement! You did it! Thank you for this beautiful and heartfelt telling of all that Jackie has done. Yeah!

Cerelle Bolon

Jackie! I am impressed! Good grief, that syllubus looks overwhelming! I am glad you had the support of good friends as that always can help. However, it was YOUR determination that sealed the success of the venture. Congratulations and I wish you an excellent new career.
Kristi, I KNOW you are beaming and well you should be!
Hugs to you all.

Karen Cafarella

Congratulations, best wishes for your next adventure.


As I read this, I was reminded of how we never stop worrying about our kids. How very proud you must be of dear Jackie. She has grown up before our eyes, and it is so wonderful to see her accomplish this difficult program of study. So lovely to read this today.

Carole Fitzgerald

Congratulations Jackie , what an awesome effort ! You deserve all that is good ahead for you . Well done , Carole xxx

Kristin Espinasse

Deb, don’t doubt your motherly support.💕 I left Jackie to her own devices and only checked in at the end! 

Mary Liz

Congratulations Jackie!
You’re an example of never give up!

The only guarantee for failure is to stop trying.
Kudos to you Jackie



Debbie Lesser

Félicitations à Jackie! She's a Marcus and an Espinasse and, indeed, a force to be reckoned with! You and Jean-Marc, and Jules, should be so proud!

Jeanine Woods

Félicitations Jackie ! Bien joué ! Votre travail acharné a porté ses fruits. Et félicitations à mama et papa!


Congratulations Jackie!! Brava!!

Patricia Sands

Félicitations, Jackie! Et toute la famille! Enjoy the well-deserved break!

Mary-Jo Johnston

Congratulations Jackie! You obviously have the intelligence, work ethic and drive to accomplish anything you set your sights on. You have much to be proud of! The world awaits…enjoy your journey!

Sue J.

Brava! Ever onward :)

Kerry Shannon

This post reads like a Marvel Super-Heroes script! What an intrepid and fierce young woman Jackie has become. Bien joué indeed!


well, Mother, you can be very proud of your daughter, Jackie, she has done well, and deserves our congratulations (felicitations).
but you can be proud also with the fact that you raised her well and she took notice of your teachings.
For me, every one is a teacher and you have done a good job teaching her how to deal with the challenges of life.
thank you for sharing this with us, your fans and readers.



Congratulations 🍾🎉🎊! You are so talented. All the best to you and your bright future.

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