Canular: How To Say Practical Joke in French? + Jackie & I have fun at Max's expense...
Une Friandise: Chocolate Sundaes following Jules's visit to the Ophtalmo

Avoir du Cran (To be brave in French) + Mom and I get in a little fight & end up at the circus

Circus curtains billetterie
The curtain is now opening on today's pièce: a feisty (and sentimental) mother-daughter story. My mom loved these circus curtains, seen on a recent walk together. Jules sewed our dresses when my sister and I were little, and these rideaux remind me of our visits to the fabric store.  

TODAY’S WORD: "Avoir du cran"

    :  to have guts, grit, to be brave

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Do you believe that our behavior can provoke the universe? I can't help but wonder when, hours before her eye exam, Mom appears in my room and declares, "I do not want any more doctor's appointments!"...only to be issued, hours later, a slew of new rendez-vous.

Whether or not our conduct stirs the Powers That Be, it moves mere mortals. Not sure how to respond to my mom (or how to deal with the let-down), I choose to reason with her: “But Mom, how many doctor visits have you had in the last year?” I challenge, knowing well we’ve not suffered more than a handful--one or two times to the family toubib, to renew a prescription, and two aller-retours to the ophtalmo after severe pain revealed too much pressure in Mom's eye. But never mind the facts, Jules's mind was made up.

"I'm not going!"

"Mom!  We can't cancel. We're going!"

Sensing some sort of diatribe on my part, Jules quietly exits, shutting the door behind her, against which I unleash a string of gros mots: @#%!! @#%!! @#%!! 

Well, that got her attention. Mom returns. We exchange stubborn looks. I offer an I'm sorry but...!

I'm sorry but do you realise I've arranged my day around this eye exam?
I'm sorry but do you know how hard it is to get a doctor's appointment anymore?
I'm sorry but I am the one handling your healthcare as you don't speak French or drive!

Suddenly, Mom approaches the bed to sit beside me. After a few deep breaths, we are on a walk down memory lane as visions of our life back at the trailer park come flooding forth--including the time Jules tossed our toys out the window after my sister's and my roughhousing damaged our family’s new bean bag, spilling les haricots all over the living room. Mom had her gros mot moments @#%!! but who could blame her as she struggled to raise two girls on her own while working full-time? And yet somehow this single mother managed. Even more, Mom signed us up for Brownies, Girl Scouts, gymnastics, and band, and somehow managed to buy everything from my clarinet to my sister's first car. When my sister had a car accident Mom nursed her back to life and made Heidi return to school to finish the year, despite the scars from several broken bones, in time to go on to college. Heidi became the first one in Jules’s family to graduate from college, and with a degree in journalism! Meantime Jules's worries weren't over: her youngest (moi-même) dropped out of community college and returned home. (I eventually followed in my sister’s footsteps, graduating from college with a degree in French, and began writing after moving to France.)

First car and trailer
My sister's 1970 Camaro in front of our home. That's Shaw Butte Mountain in the background.

"All I want now is peace and quiet," Mom admits, as we sit in bed holding hands, hours before her doctor's appointment. "I am so grateful to live here with you and not to have to worry any longer."

Turning to Mom, I would like to say I understand the struggle and that, at 56, I'm tired too! But one must press on! Only, unlike Mom, I have not been worn down from the stress of trying to pay for ice skates, braces, or clothes at the beginning of each school year. Through it all, we never received the admonition, “Money doesn’t grow on trees!” Instead, Jules instilled a work ethic that had my sister and me earning first an allowance, then cash from babysitting and a paper route, and finally our first paycheck jobs by the age of 15.

"And now here we are in France!" Mom whispers, squeezing my hand. It never ceases to amaze Mom that she is living on the Riviera after surviving in the desert. (Our neighborhood was a senior citizen mobile home park, but Mom convinced the landlord to let us in as she was first to rent a space when it opened. We stayed 11 years. Before it was demolished, we moved on, and Mom eventually settled into a beautiful cabin near Saguaro Lake. Then to Mexico for 22 years before coming to live with us in France.)

“I am so proud of my daughters,” Mom says, turning to me. Jules has kindly forgotten my earlier slur of cuss words and a peaceful truce is once again underway. This wasn’t the first and won’t be our last mother-daughter fender-bender, but we have acquired some tools to hammer out the dents along the way--our shared vulnerability being one of them. Another is forgiveness. Finally, there's grit--the French call it "le cran". Indeed it takes courage and endurance to love and to keep on loving. I love you, Mom. This one's for you. xoxo

Update: we made it to the doctor's appointment in time for Mom’s follow-up eye exam. The good news is her eye pressure has stabilized. But she now has to undergo a series of shots to treat the edema, or swelling, inside her right oeil. For that, Jackie will drive her grandma to Marseilles. Wish Mom luck as the first eye injection is today!

Jules getting ready
A favorite picture of Mom taken from the post "Conciliabule: Living With Adult Kids and Grandma"

Jules at the eye doctor waiting room
My beautiful Mom, in the doctor's waiting room, gazing out the window to the Mediterranean. I will always be moved by Mom's strength, courage, and perseverance in the face of so many challenges, beginning in her childhood. Elle a du cran! The French would say. She has guts!


Click to listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French and English vocabulary words

avoir du cran = to be brave, to have guts
le rendez-vous =
appointment, meeting
le toubib
= doctor
aller-retour = round trip
l’ophtalmo = eye doctor
la diatribe = tirade, rant 
le gros mot= swear word, cuss word
l'oeil = eye
Elle a du cran = she has guts!
le conciliabule = secret meeting, Ecclesiastical council

Heidi Jules Kristi Busters Restaurant
Heidi, Mom, and me celebrating Heidi's college graduation from NAU, at Buster's Restaurant & Bar in Flagstaff, Arizona


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Kristi and Jules at the circus trailer

Photo of me and Mom admiring the circus curtains. If you have time, read the story of how my mom sowed the seeds of books (and writing) into my heart. Click here to read "Fireside" (Coin du Feu)

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


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This is such a beautiful post- thank you for writing it and sharing such personal details about your lives together, both today and in the past.
And wishing good luck for your mother and her eyesight during her treatments.

Suzanne Dunaway

Oh, oh, oh, what a story. What a childhood, what a maman!!! Merci. We need avoir du cran right now. Our Loulou has moved on….but no pain at last.

Kristin Espinasse

Oh, Suzanne. I am so sorry to learn Loulou kitty has passed. I was just thinking of her while reading your blog archives, filled with so much joy. As Natalia would say, "Arms tight around you", and Don too. Sending love.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Chère Ally! xoxo


Such a wonderful story and your mom is a breath taking beauty with such an interesting life story ‼️💐💛


Hi Kristi,
What a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing! Makes me think of my own Mom who just turned 85!
Blessings to you and Jules! I’ll be praying 🙏🏻 that her eye treatments go well!

Kristin Espinasse

Happy birthday to your Mom! Thanks for your prayers, Eileen. 

Mary Liz

Whar a fine snd good daughter you are!


Merci Kristi for sharing your life. The ups, downs and sideways. I love the relationship you have with your maman. It’s real and rooted deeply in love. Proof of that is that you can have a spat and end up holding hands💕
You both are as beautiful in the inside as you are on the outside!

Angela Bell

This really tears at my heart, Kristi. It is such a beautiful tribute. Jules is a remarkable woman. We can and should honor all the famous women whose achievements make history, as we do in March, but it’s really the everyday heroes who make the wheels turn. God bless Jules and each of you. PS I know what she means about not wanting to go, but ultimately we are grateful to be able to.

Debbie Lesser

Your mom is such a a gem! How lovely for you and your kids that you get to spend so much time with her at an age when most of us have only occasional contact with our loved ones. I really enjoyed this story, Kristi!


A lovely vignette chez Espinasse. And a beautiful illustration of how " is the greatest of these." Thank you, Kristin, for allowing us into your lives.

Sue Lennox

This one was special for me, Kristi, with all your references to Arizona and the difficulties of raising kids as a single Mom. Wishing Jules good results from her eye injections!

Sharron Meyer

What a beautiful sharing of the life and times with Jules!


What a beautiful story today - a picture of how to keep loving. When we are hurt by others, but can recall all they've done for us, their good points and not their faults, and how we have plenty of our own faults that offend or hurt others, we can forgive and love them in spite of what separates us. Well done Kristi and Jules - you are an inspiration! ♥

Geraldine Ventura

Loved your story today! My mom was not single but because I wanted to go to college, she had to work, well or not. She made great sacrifices for my sister and me, and unfortunately contracted breast cancer and died at age 49. You are blessed to have had your mom all of these years. She sounds like a fantastic mom! Thanks for sharing this story.


This one brought tears to my eyes. I am caring for my father and know how frustrating it can be when independence clashes with care. Yet the love shines through. Thank you for a beautiful story.

Larry Mason

Just a quick word to say, keep up the good work. I’ve greatly enjoyer “watching” your family grow up—and especially meeting Jean Marc back many years ago in Washington DC. Still haven’t gotten French but am slogging along in Duolingo picking up some Italian. Languages are not my forte. Again, keep writing; never stop. 😉

Elizabeth L

What a special relationship you have with your mom, Kristi- thank you for sharing it with us, your readers. I loved your reference to a “mother-daughter fender-bender”…a clever and apt way to put those small conflicts we all have with loved ones.
Hope her eye treatments go well. How wonderful to have three generations of strong women to support one another!


An inspiring story, parts of which I recognise as a single Mum, myself. You are lucky to have such a role model and a woman who still has spirit/'cran' I hope the injection was painless and went well and that she continues to enjoy a more relaxing life now she is with you, a caring daughter. Bonne continuation!

Nyla Witmore

I too am so moved. Knowing the heroic back story of your mother and her two daughters is something to be proud of, even with confrontations. I am your mother’s age and live in a seniors residence where, as time goes by and we ate in our 80s, we know that doctor visits are “de rigeur.” We wish it were not so. More than the word “courage” is the word HERO and you both have embodied that word in spades. You two are our heros in this readership blog.

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,
Getting through challenges at this point in life is made so much easier because of the loving kindness and support from our children. All the love and care for our children over the years comes right back to us as parents and we are so very fortunate. Thank you for this reminder.

I am going through dry eye issues and lots of visits to the eye doctor. I truly empathize with Jules and wish her relief. She is blessed to be there with you and your family.


Kristi, thanks so much for that heartwarming mother-daughter story! The circus curtains were the perfect touch.
(I am now the proud owner of a Happy-Po! 😂)

Stacy Lund

Dear Kristi,
Thank you for writing this touching story which flooded me with memories and thankfulness. I do understand Jule’s wish to enjoy this time of rest and peace. It is a blessing she has you to share these years with and to no longer have to struggle.

My own mother worked so hard to provide for us and dealt with trauma and loss. Their undeniable strength is a reflection of their faith and love for us. This week was my late mother’s birthday; we lost her four years ago. I miss her every day.

Please give your mom a hug for me. I’m sending you both love and prayers!


Our dear Kristi,
This beautiful post not only wrapped itself around my heart but truly brought tears to my eyes.Wonderful,strong ,courageous Jules has absolutely instilled those same marvelous attributes in her daughters,and the bond you all share is nothing short of a blessing ,a gift,and an inspiration for all of us.Please know we keep all of you in our prayers,most especially for Jules,her eyes and medical issues.We are close in age( though I believe I'm older) and I lack words to express what an act of grace it is to have a loved one to help you in all circumstances and always have your back.
Something that will never be taken for granted.
Always(always!) Arms tight around you.
Natalia xo


Last week I was wondering how your mother was doing. Thank you for sharing - life is not easy and loving relationships are so important. Bravo Jules - just look at what she has navigated over the years. My sister in law gets eye shots once a month and a very dear friend also. They have stabilized her eyes. Praying that they do the same for your mother. Another hug for both of you. Love, Nancy

Sheryl Wells

Your mom is truly beautiful! Her daughters, you Christi, and Heidi are so beautiful too! And Strong!
Sheryl W.

Leslie NYC

Truly one of my favorite of your posts. You're all beautiful, and I appreciate your candor.
I was raised by a mother who was a young widow, and who struggled financially. I too had jobs of all kinds from an early age. We had plenty of fender benders and lots of love!

Karen in Northport, NY

Oh, my, a cosmic transatlantic alignment today. My bff and I were just saying how tired of med treatments we were. She's got a dominant hand that doesn't work, I've got blood pressure that has me back on the mirepoix and water diet. This trip back to stardust surely does take a lot of cran. I try to remember that it's also hard on the young ones looking down the road with us. Been there. Scary stuff. But that good old dark NY humor does come in handy. Works for me anyway.💞

Marianne S. Rankin

I clicked to listen to Jean-Marc read the vocabulary in French, I turned the volume up as high as it would go, but couldn't hear it.


Beautiful story mum, I love you.

Karen Cafarella

You are both so lucky to have each other. Both beautiful and strong. Hope the first eye injection went well. Sending love and hugs to you both.


That is an amazing life story, Kristi! Bravo! I really like the mother-daughter fender-bender phrase. I'd say that's an apt description of a couple of the relationship collisions I've encountered on some of my life's roadtrips!
Jules is indeed very brave to meet the challenge of under going eye injections. And how wise of you to put her care in the hands of her loving granddaughter!

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks for the I do, Marianne. I have not had any other reports. Maybe other readers can help. Is anyone reading this note experiencing the same issue regarding the sound file? 

Carole Fitzgerald

Dear Kristin and your lovely Mum , drs appointments are not much fun. I have pressure in my eyes . I take Ginko Biloba supplements every morning. Also a warmed up wheat bag helps with dry eyes. My naturopath gave then to me . I had lots of Doctors appointments when I was diagnosed with a life threatening diagnosis of breast cancer many years ago. You are both very strong women , love to you all , hugs from very hot Mornington Peninsula Carole xxx

jean b palmer

Thank you Kristin. Your insight, kindness, honesty brought memories and tears to my eyes. What a special people you, and your Mom, are!!! Thank you for sharing.



i am very pleased at the way you see and love your mother.
She is strong, for her, for you and her grandchildren.
but what do you expect, she is a Virgo.

my regards to her,
from the old man, (10 days older than your mother).
best wishes.

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