Adieu to a beloved Poet + favorite French words, in honor of Herman Meyer

Sospel  France Eglise church french architecture
This photo was taken on February 16th, at 3:21 p.m. in Sospel, France. Marveling at the heavenly ceiling and the mysteries beyond, I was unaware of a friend's passing on the very day.

ADIEU, HERM
I have been carefully collecting a list of interesting French words since the beginning of this month, in hopes of sharing them with you someday. I never imagined I would use them in a eulogy. L
et's learn some vocabulary now while remembering an honored war veteran--and fellow desert rat (from Phoenix) whom many of you know from the comments section of this blog. 

"Une Lubie"
That's "hobby" in French. One of Herman Meyers's passions was la poésie. More than une lubie, poetry was a gift this 90-year-old outdoorsman and electrical engineer shared with the world. Right up to the end, Herm posted his poems on his blog Poems, Photos and Stuff and sent them privately to cheer up friends. He eventually collected his rhythmic verses into an anthology "that may leave you smiling, pull at your heartstrings and/or leave you in tears..."

Herm's book

"Flambant Neuf"
"Brand new"—Herm, who would have turned 91 on May 23, wasn’t flambant neuf. He would have had fun using the brand new term in a stanza. Most of his works were inspired by photos. His book is aptly named "Pic Poems and Stuff". Don't you just love the "and stuff" which hints at the author's way of not taking himself too seriously?


"Le Système D"
"Plan D"--I learned this term in the comments section of this blog (thanks Sheryl!). Jean-Marc tells me the D is for débrouiller which means to deal with it. How would Herm want us to deal with his departure? What is Plan D?!

"Zinguerie"
Plan D rhymes with zinguerie, a word I saw painted over a (plumbing?) shop while passing through Monaco last week. The term has something to do with zinc... which, come to think of it, is sort of the color of Ham Radio (OK, that was a stretch, but I'm determined to share the words, in the order in which I've learned them, into today's tribute. Hang on, it'll get more chanllenging soon!). Just to say Ham radio was an early passion of Herm's that eventually led to extensive radio school training with NATO in Fontainebleu, France!

"Péché Mignon"
Now there's a fun phrase meaning "guilty pleasure" and I have a hunch Herm would have incorporated this phrase in his picture poetry, where he shared his love of hiking, the Southwest, cowboy culture, friendship, family, service to others, and all creatures great and small to name a few. Perhaps one of Herm's guilty pleasures was repetition (mais bien sûr, he was un poète!); his favorite expression, shared now and again in the comments on my blog, was this gem:

C'est la vie, c'est la guere, c'est la pomme de terre!
(Literally: That's life, that's war, that's the potato!)
(Herm's translation: "Stuff happens!” Of course he’d say “stuff”! This poet wasn’t stuffy or smug!)

Herm
"Herm on his daily ride around the park" (title of an email he sent)

"C’est commode"
"It’s convenient"--In one of Herm's last emails of 2020, this passionate outdoorsman announced his hiking days were finito! From then on he rode, et c'était commode! Of course he "poemed" the news:

As time passes by for this aging man
I'll keep doing the exercises that I can
But, instead of the cross-country hiking
I'll stay active with my in-the-park triking

"Se Gâter"
"To take a turn for the worse"--I learned this reflexive verb while out on a walk with Jean-Marc. "Le temps se gâtent" he said, as the bright sky darkened. Returning home, I found an email from my friend Karen in Phoenix, who shared the news of Herm's passing. 

"Sans Déconner"
"No kidding" (Just a cool Southern French phrase you hear--even in Paris! It doesn't really fit in this section. But we're going to make it fit, just as Herm did with his rhyme gift.)

I received a courriel from Herm's wife, Sharron, who shared about Herm's joy reading my blog.  Sharron left me with a compliment as she signed off:

"I always fondly called you his "other girlfriend." Please share this with your mom, he was also a fan of hers too.”

"Frimer"
"To show off"--Because Herm didn't talk a lot about his service to the United States, let's show off for him here.
 In 2018, he was honored as a war veteran, and selected to go on the Honor Flight--an all-expenses-paid trip to see the Korean War Memorial in Washington D.C.

"La Pénurie"
"Shortage"--Now Herm has passed to the other side, the mysterious Ever After. Let us all make sure there are no shortage of words for our word wrangler to work with, as he writes his poetry from the hereafter, l'Au-delà.

Help honor Herm by sharing a favorite French word in the comments section just below. And share what town you are writing in from. Merci beaucoup (I have a feeling Herm would say Merci buckets.  He was comfortable enough with words to have fun with them :-) 

"La Houle"
Swell--That's "swell" as in "ocean waves" but it may as well mean swelled or swollen hearts. To Herm's wife, Sharron, his 3 adult boys, Brien, Craig, and Neal, and to all who love him, our collective hearts go out to you. May the favorite French words that follow in the comments, send waves of comfort your way.

Tu vas me manquer. I am going to miss you, Herman Meyer! Sans déconner!

Signed, 
"Your Other Girlfriend"

 

Herm hike in the desert
Read more about Herm on his blog and his book of "pic poetry" Photo: Herm leads a group of Francophiles at a meetup in Phoenix, in 2011. That story here.

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


They don't have that in France! In Memory of my brother-in-law

Doug
My brother-in-law leaves us with countless memories of his generosity, big heart, and Tell It Like It Is character. In today's missive, a few French souvenirs, in memory of Doug.

Today's Word: inoubliable

1. unforgettable
2. never to be forgotten

Merci pour ces inoubliables moments en famille, Doug.
Thank you for these unforgettable family moments, Doug. Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the French

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

My brother-in-law passed away eleven days ago, Sunday. He was fifty-nine.

My sister is currently helping to write Doug's obituary. I wish I could be there with Heidi, in Denver, to help her find the words, to sit beside her as we rifled through old photos and said a lot of Remember That Time Whens....

One thing I'll always remember about my beau-frère was his no BS attitude. And when it came to his belle-soeur in France there was plenty of nonsense to call out! Take shower curtains for example. Years ago, when Doug and Heidi came to visit, Doug left a pool of water on our bathroom floor. It just wasn't like him - he was tidy, in an everything in its place way. And water’s place is in the tub. (An impossible feat to keep it there when your hostess has no shower curtain!)

As we mopped up the salle-de-bains, using thick square cloths (des serpillières gaufrées) and a broom, Doug offered to buy us a plastic curtain...and a decent mop, for crying out loud! I can still hear my brother-in-law's voice, a bit sarcastic, often blunt, it cut through the nonsense and revealed what it is we were hiding behind (certainly not drapes!).

“Kristi, why don’t you guys have a shower curtain?”
“Uh... they don’t have shower curtains in France.”
“What? You don't have shower curtains in France? Oh, come on!”

At that moment in time (newly arrived in France, living in the countryside of St. Maximin), I believed it was true. After all, there wasn’t un rideau de douche in any of the homes I'd visited so far. I never saw them for sale at our tiny quincaillerie, but you could find dainty curtains (les brise-bise) at the hardware store. And they were nowhere to be found at our supermarché, (which, incredibly, began selling Halloween costumes one year!). It seemed to be yet another commodité moderne the French hadn't yet discovered--such as tumble dryers or drive-thru banking or one-hour dry cleaning...remind me to tell you about my beau-frère’s run-in with the sassy lavandière who refused to press more than 3 of his shirts. Doug was perplexed: “I guess they don’t have a business mentality in France either!”

There began a decades-long joke between my beau-frère and me. The ribbing always ended with some encouragement: “Kristi, I am sure France has (such and such). Go find it!”

Apart from Doug’s skill at calling out people’s BS, my brother-in-law was an excellent chef. He went all out on Thanksgiving (best turkey and stuffing bar none!) and his Christmas dinner was Michelin-star superb. But the simple fare, eaten casually around the kitchen island, in our pajamas, made me feel truly home again! We Froggies (as Doug called us) relished these American brunches which Heidi and Doug prepared as a team, serving up sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, toast, and waffles--and Mimosas and Bloody Marys too.

Doug's smoked ribs were another quelque chose you could not find in France! “You could make this, Kristi! Don’t give me that BS that you don’t have BBQs in France!”

“Well, we don’t have Green Eggs ® in France!”
“No, you probably don’t!” Doug smiled, proud of his new cooker.

The last time I saw my brother-in-law we were having breakfast together at Pancake House in Denver. This newly-forged tradition was a chance to reunite with The Froggies, Payne, Reagan (my niece and nephew), and Heidi (even after le divorce, the two were committed to family). Catching up over coffee and stacks of buttermilk pancakes, I told Doug about our recent predicament: "We keep getting locked out of Heidi's house," I laughed.

"You need an extra set of keys!" Doug said, offering to take we Froggies to the hardware store after breakfast. There at the quincaillerie, waiting for the key to be copied, my brother-in-law snickered. I'll bet they don't have Hide-A-Keys in France either!

I snickered back before a wave of nostalgia hit. Looking over at Doug, I saw his tired face, his baseball cap pulled low over his brow. He was not doing well. (In addition to sharing jokes about France, my brother-in-law and I shared the “Better Off Sober” etiquette…). Remembering all of my brother-in-law's caring gestures over the years, as well as his growing struggles, I didn't want our visit to end without due appreciation.

"That’s so like you to take care of these nagging details!" I blurted, waving the shiny new key in the air. "Thank you...for everything."

"Yah, well, if I didn’t do it you guys wouldn’t!" Doug laughed, before hugging us goodbye for the very last time....

* * *

Comfort Food. This morning I wanted to make meatloaf when I realized one ingredient was missing: Worcestershire sauce. In all the years I’ve been in France I have never bought a bottle. I am, finally, on my way out to search for it now. In a quincallerie? Beside the dainty curtains? Well, maybe not... I've gotta look harder!)

Thank you, Doug, for this and for your generous heart. PS, I know what you’re thinking: “Meatloaf? Oh, I get it: now you’re going to tell me they don’t have steak in France!”


Jean-marc heidi Stiteler doug kristi
New York 2008 Jean-Marc, my sister Heidi, Doug, me.

IMG_20181007_103623
At the Pancake House in 2018, with Reagan, Jackie, and Payne.

FRENCH VOCABULARY
inoubliable
= unforgettable, never to be forgotten
le beau-frère
= brother-in-law
la belle soeur
= sister-in-law
la salle-de-bains= bathroom
les serpillières gaufrées
= waffled cloths for washing floors
le rideau de douche
= shower curtain
la quincaillerie
= hardware store
le brise-bise
= half curtains (pictured here)
le supermarché
= supermarket
la commodité moderne
= modern convenience
la lavandière
= washerwoman
quelque chose
= something

une étiquette = label

PXL_20201015_081213400.MP
Years ago. I'll never forget Doug demonstrating how to open a bottle of champagne with a sword! "Sabrage is a technique for opening a champagne bottle with a saber, used for ceremonial occasions."--Wikipedia

Max doug jackie
Max and Jackie will miss their Uncle Doug, who took them to sports events and spoiled them with fun times--memories they will always have.

PXL_20201015_081236075.MP
That time Doug and Heidi brought Grandma Audrey to France! And treated us to dinner at Le Louis XV and a stay at l'Hôtel de Paris!
Doug heidi grandma kristi jimmy
Old photos, wonderful memories. We are still digging through pictures--bye for now....

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Les dents de bonheur - "Happiness Teeth" are part of this elogy

Dear Reader,

The regular edition of French Word-A-Day will return in a few days. Meantime, I've been trying to write a eulogy for my belle-mère without sounding too sentimental, too dramatic, or too poetic--but all of these things, from poesie to sentimentality, evoke the richness of Michele-France's life. This--and her humor, her stubbornness, and that charming gap between her front teeth (the French have a term for this: "happiness teeth" or les dents du bonheur)--only begin to paint of picture of our beloved, ginger-haired Pied-Noir (born in Meknes and proud of it. She was the daughter of an equally strong-willed mother).

Since losing Michèle-France on Christmas Eve, I have pinpointed just what it is that provokes each flood of tears, each hiccup of emotion, each groan in my throat as I toss in bed, walk past her apartment, or sit on a pew watching the curtains close in front of her flower-topped casket, as I did Thursday. It is the realization that there will be no more. No more "My darlings" (Ma chérie, she would say with such tenderness), no more visits to her little apartment up the street, no more shared yogurt cakes, no more "I didn't want to bother Jean-Marc so I'm calling you to remind him to..." no more attitude towards the nurses, sass towards the shop assistants as she limped into the store with the help of her cane and her granddaughter, no more intelligent jokes, no more beautifully painted-red fingernails, a string of gold rings (one from her son) below, no more Elvis, no more bodyguard, no more teasing me about her son's ex-girlfriends, and, I will admit...

NO MORE TAPENADE. You little rascal, I say to my belle-mère during another earth-to-heaven conversation. I've asked you for years for your tapenade recipe. And you went and took it with you!!

In a poignant send-off arranged by the crematorium, to the tune of Love is all we have left, the curtains at the front of the ceremony room open once again. My belle-mère's casket is gone and all that remains is a crown of flowers on the floor. I am stunned.

* * *       

"I miss you so much it hurts," I wrote on Facebook, where my mother-in-law's account is still live. Though she struggled with technology Michèle-France did not let a learning curve keep her from keeping up with the times. Quickly overlooked by her Facebook friends (including some of you) were the gaffes she made (like using a photo of a stranger (you?) as her profile picture. And posting another photo--this time of one of my sponsor's luxury villas--to use as her cover photo). Her grandchildren (or was it my sister-in-law? for Jean-Marc had given up) eventually came to the rescue, helping her to find a suitable picture of herself to use as her profile (and the luxury villa was replaced by a more modest interior belonging to....my sister-in-law! This all could be explained by the following: while my belle-mère tried to conquer technology--she still couldn't figure out her smartphone camera, or else she might have posted a picture of her own lovely salon, or living room.). 

My heart now in a brace, I clicked open Messenger to read over the SMS conversations we'd had over the years. Michèle-France's texts were filled with gratitude and those silly stickers she got me to use, too (do you know the one with the dog digging in the ground and retrieving the big I MISS YOU heart? She was telling us she missed us even before she left this earth).

Now it is our turn to feel the weight of her absence. How heavy it is! Heavy as all those buckets of olives we were planning to cart over to her little apartment when, last fall, she announced that she was feeling better--good enough to make another batch of tapenade. We never got to make that tell-all batch, in which the longtime mystery (those ingredients!) would be revealed. Instead, a bigger mystery has replaced it: Where in the world is my belle-mère? I've been looking for her everywhere--in the sky, in my dark room at night, in the intricate designs in the tiles on my bathroom wall, in the waves crashing across the shore here in La Ciotat, at the top of our cypress tree beyond a bent branch--surely she's looking down on me? I can hear her tender voice, Ma Chérie, Ma Chérie....

She is, I decide, in every particle in everything, everywhere and everlasting. She is as close as a memory...as far as the Heavens. Surely she is up there--waving her tapenade recipe, smiling with those charming dents de bonheur. There is nothing she would keep from you or me, least of all her generosity. In the coming year, I will be reaching, reaching high for those heavenly instructions. I will share with you anything I find.

Amicalement,

Kristi


Michele-france jean-marc and mr sacks
My mother-in-law (those charming "happiness teeth"), my husband, and good ol' Mr. Sacks, who my belle-mère called "Monsieur Sacoche".

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Goodbye, Breizh.

Braise-June-2015

                         Breizh. May 17th 2006- July 25, 2015

9 GOLDEN YEARS

Yesterday we said goodbye to our beloved golden retriever, Breizh (a.k.a. Braise, and Brez). We are so grateful, dear girl, for all of the happiness you gave us.  We can never thank you enough. Repose en paix.

I leave you, dear reader, with Jackie's words:

Tu étais toute ma vie, depuis mes 7 ans, ma première meilleure amie, ma fifille je t'aime, tu es parmi les meilleurs anges. 25/07/15


You were my whole life, since I was 7 years old, my first best friend, ma fifille I love you, you are among the best angels. 7/25/15. 

Braise and Smokey, golden retriever dogs
                              Breizh (right) and Smokey

Breizh leaves behind her 6-year-old son, Smokey, her vineyard family, and a pack of loving readers who have cheered her over the years. Thank you for your love and support.

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


Tristesse: sadness in French. Goodbye Uncle Rusty

Delphinium or Lupine near Orange (c) Kristin Espinasse
Are there seasons in Heaven? A field of French flowers for a favorite Uncle.

tristesse (tree-stess) noun, feminine

    : sadness

A Day in a French Life...
by Kristin Espinasse

We need to keep this simple today. Simple as sadness.

For while love is sometimes a mystery...
can sadness be put in the same category?

No, sadness is simple... as love should be.

Sadness is frank. Sadness un-peels itself and off goes the coat, then the sweater, then the shirt... eventually bearing our hearts, our very hurts.

While our hearts hold on to Haiti, some people question the Pourquoi of it all: "Why would God do this?"

Adding to the tristesse is our own personal misery. My dear sweet Uncle Rusty (Jules's 66-year-old brother) passed away on Friday. Three months ago he was fine. Three weeks ago he learned he had cancer.

Along with others out there, I try to compose my thoughts about tragedy, calamity, and being taken "unawares" from this earthly "comedy". It has all happened so fast.

While others question the Pourquoi—and so slip into doubt and hopelessness, I am busy making a pact with my dear Uncle up above:

For as long as he looks down on me...
I promise to "smile up" and make him proud of what he sees.

Updating this post 12 years later, I would like to dedicate it to my dear Aunt Betty, Rusty's wife and the love of his life. Also to their son, my cousin Josh. Uncle Rusty would be so proud of you today.
***

Update (from my mom,  Jules):

Thank You all of my FRIENDS AT FWAD, Yes, I am still crying - your messages are helping my broken heart. Rusty was the shinning star of my life as a child, even until my 20's. I followed him around just like a little puppy, he was everything to me. Rusty was a mechanical man, when I received my first baby-doll stroller he dismanteled it in one day. He built me tree-huts and then moved on to building doon-buggies and jet-boats before they were even invented. When I was 10 and Rusty 13 a friend from California brought him the plans to build a skiff-type boat, that had a stand up bar which he held onto and a 35 hp. motor on the back. We spent all of our afternoons after school (me sitting in front of his stand-up bar with the controls mounted flying up and down the Colorado river chasing mud-hens. We looked like we were on a flying carpet-coffee table. In the evenings we would dance the jitterbug together. So many wonderful memories... XOXO JULES

 

DSC_0081

A Day in a Dog's Life...
by Smokey Dokey

Of all the members of our family... I am the one who most resembles our dashing Uncle Rusty. For one, we have the same color hair! Secondly, we have the same sweet hearts. Also, just as you, Dear Uncle, were a handy man, I fancy myself "handy mutt". More about those talents that I have inherited—from I know now who... in future episodes.

Love (and don't forget to forgive others, as we dogs do),
Smokey

A Message from Kristi
Thank you for reading my language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on the creative process of writing. My wish is to continue offering posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation of any amount.

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

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens