When an expat's expat parent comes to live with daughter in France: After 25 years in Mexico, Mom is moving in!

Window and shutter in Mexico
Au revoir Mexique. Our Mom is about to begin a new chapter in France!

On ne s'ennuie jamais

    : never a dull moment

Click here to listen to on ne s'ennuie jamais

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
A blow to her wings, not to her spirit! 
by Kristi Espinasse

My mom has been an expat in Mexico for 25 years (the same amount of time I've been in France). Now, following a recent coup dans l'aile, or blow to her wings, Jules will be moving into our nest and we are going to take things au jour le jour (just as the birds do!)

Petit à petit l'oiseau (re)fait son nid.
Jean-Marc and I will be researching the administrative side of when an expat's expat parent comes to live with American daughter and French son-in-law in France. (Kicking myself for not applying for French nationality after all these years. It would come in handy about now!). Meantime there are some non-administrative pépins, like where to put Mom...now that our two kidults have moved back in for the summer. As the French say: On ne s'ennuie jamais.

I'll be back with you later for an update. D'ici là, meantime, please send Jules and my sister, Heidi, (who just arrived in Puerto Vallarta) bon courage. They'll need it. They have two days to turn the page on a colorful chapter in Mom's life. On to the next! 

Jules in st-cyr-sur mer at la madrague
We may need a second bagnole now. How about this Méhari? Perfect for a sunset drive here in La Ciotat...

FRENCH VOCABULARY
un coup dans l'aile = a blow to the wings
au jour le jour = day by day
Petit à petit l'oiseau fait son nid = little by little the bird makes its nest
le pépin = glitch, hitch, snag
on ne s'ennuie jamais = life's never boring
d'ici là = meantime
bon courage = good luck
la bagnole = car 
la maman = mom, mother, mama...comme Mama Jules ♥ 

Heidi Kristi Mom Jules wedding day
Surrounded by my sister, Heidi, and our Mom, Jules at my 1994 Wedding in Marseilles.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


haut les coeurs!

"Heart in Burgundy" (c) Kristin Espinasse
Current events have us wearing our hearts on our former façades... and it's a good thing, n'est-ce pas?

haut les coeurs (oh lay ker)

    : lift up your spirit, take heart, be brave! have courage!


Thank you, Carolyn Foote Edelmann, for today's French expression: Carolyn writes, in response to Monday's seisme post:

Small thought - watching their dignity and fortitude, I think [the Japanese] may not want to be called 'victims'.

My Provencal neighbors had a phrase which sounded to me like "o, liqueurs!" - but was, in fact, HAUT LES COEURS! - [High the hearts]... I love it that this word, in France, implies "to infuse with courage".

Thank you for linking those of us who love France with a country I am taught to love (having lived through Pearl Harbor) as I never thought I would, watching their fortitude in the face of the impossible.

 

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

Universal Love

I am rooting through the medicine chest, looking for the small blue box that contains my mouth guard. I haven't worn the protective shield in over a month, but I need it now. Teeth grinding is up, along with that ticky tremblement just beneath my eyelid. Twitching and grinding - it is the body's way of responding to those things that are out of its control: like our dog's destructive behavior, like Japan, like Mother Nature.

I grab the small blue box and pry it open... when something flies past me... landing with a TING!  I bend over, narrowing my eyes, ignoring the annoying tremblement de la paupière. 

I see a heart lying there, on the floor... t'was a heart that had fallen out of that toothbox...

Suddenly it all comes rushing back to me...

I see myself back in Mexico, packing my bags. I see my mom reaching to hug me. I hear her voice: "I've put a little surprise in your toothbox... open it up when you are on the plane."

I'm on the airplane now... reaching into my backpack for the blue box. I open it up and there, beside the plastic tooth guard, is the tarnished locket-heart.

I hear Mom's explanation when I call her that evening to thank her.

"It was a gift," she says.  And she tells me the story of the bus ride, when the Mexican "street man" stepped on board. 

Listening to the poor passenger who had taken the seat behind her, Mom sympathized, pointing to her own losses: she took off her hat and pointed out her thinning white hair. Then she pounded on her chest, pointing out her missing breasts!

When she put her hand on her hip, the man could not possibly know about the once broken bone. Mom didn't have the Spanish words to tell him.

And so, without translation, the odd couple on the bus shared their rotten luck, without drama, without fuss. And when Mom stood to get off the bus, so, too, the Mexican man stood up.

Humblement, the street man reached into his frayed pocket and pulled out the little tarnished heart-locket. He closed Mom's hand over the gift, before sending her off with a mutual heart-lift. 

***

Standing there in the bathroom looking down at the treasure in the palm of my hand... I feel the quiet peace that has swept in all around me. The world outside the bathroom door might be in a state of chaos. But I no longer feel swept up in it, shaken or tossed. 

 

 Le Coin Commentaires
To comment on today's word or photo--or to ask our cozy community a question--click here to access the comments box. Corrections to French/English text most welcome.

  

  July2005 039

Mum's the word! Jackie (pictured sans maquillage, age 7) thanks you for your feedback on her story! She's written three more articles... one of which is très "edgy". (She doesn't seem to have a problem with self-censorship, as her mother does!) I warn her that posting the story might get her kicked out of school. Her roll-of-the-eyes response? "Et alors, la liberté d'expression? What about freedom of speech?" 

Exercises in French Phonics Exercises in French Phonics is... 
" a great book for learning French pronunciation"
"useful and practical"
"high quality material, good value for your money" --from Amazon customer reviews. Order your copy here.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


A la recherche du temps perdu

IMG_5002
                                                   "Jules & Frida."

À la recherche du temps perdu

    : in search of lost time; remembrance of things past*

*One of the English translations to Proust's famous "A la recherche du temps perdu". Have you read it? Pick up a copy, here.
..

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

In Search of Lost Time

On this journey I had the privilege to get to know my step-dad, who, all these years I misunderstood.

After asking John for his forgiveness, I listened meekly for his reply.

John answered, with a twinkle in his eye.

"Kristi, one thing you will discover about Mexico, is that the expats here are either "Wanted"... or Not Wanted."

With that, John confided, "Something I have learned in life is that everything changes. What's important is to be grateful for every moment."

  IMG_5042

"Reunited."

 

IMG_5057
"Angel Wings". When John presented me with this delicate poncho, I realized I had recovered those lost wings.

ADIEU MR JOHN
This story was written in February 2011. We are sad to say that John passed away on August 7th, 2016. Thank you for taking the time to read the story, HERE

 

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


raconter

IMG_4814

Picture of Mom and me taken by Abdalla of Quebec. We met him and his lovely wife, Colette, who are here visiting Puerta Vallarta. I hope to share more about our meeting with these sparkling sweethearts sometime... 

raconter (rah kon tay)

    : to tell (a story)

raconter une histoire


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

 I visit my Mother's casita for the first time in 18 years... 

At night she tiptoes into the cuarto de visitas, the guest room. "Kristi... Are you awake?"

It is 2 a.m., it is 4:30 a.m. and now, this morning, she arrives at ten to six. Each time, I inch over, leaving room on the pillow as Mom sets her head gently beside mine and there, in the still of the night, she spills her beautiful 64-year-old mind.

I listen to her dreams, to her memories, to her inspirations, every thought unveiled in exquisite detail. Her interior life rushes out, unbridled, and it is my honor to be washed over by the beauty and the unbearable alike.

My heart both soars and it breaks, but I will not break the flow of Mom's story no matter how long it takes.  

 .
Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections are helpful and comments are appreciated and enjoyed. Thanks for leaving one: click here.

Have time for another story? Check out the archives, here.
. 

IMG_4813
Click photo to enlarge. Thanks again to Abdalla and to his wife, Colette, for this photo.

IMG_4784

IMG_4806
Jules and Breezy.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


s'aventurer

P1000094

"Mom and Me".  Photo taken Feb 1st, on arrival: read on... (sorry about the blurry image, but blurry, like love, covers a multitude of sins! That's my lovely mom, Jules, left.)

s'aventurer (sah ven tur ay)

    : to venture

synonyms: se risquer = to risk, oser = to dare

 

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

I arrived in Mexico yesterday, after almost cancelling the trip when Montezuma's revenge (or what the French might call a very bad case of gastro) struck the night before my flight was to leave Phoenix.

Because the theme of this trip is "to venture out of one's comfort zone", the moment was ripe to dare, or oser, to catch the plane ride to Puerto Vallarta - with a stomach in a million little pieces. And because the only risk was one of mortification and not of "contagion" (it wasn't the flu bug that I was carrying, but the remnants of food poisoning), I enplaned, careful to pack an étanche, or waterproof, paper bag au cas où.... or just in case!

I kept my mind off an upset estomac and on the happy memories that I had made thus far: a moment with my dear friend, Susan, and time with my sister, Heidi, and my niece and my nephew, who gave me a memorable pep talk: "You've got to be a daredevil Aunt Kristi! (We were sitting in the parking lot of Krispy Kreme in our pajamas. I had not wanted to do the doughnut run in pj's and would not dare get out of the car, though my family had gotten me this far."Truth is, I'm just a big wet chicken," I explained to my 7-year-old niece, teaching her the French expression for "coward", which is more than a chicken: a WET chicken! or poule mouillée.)

I watched my niece and my nephew swagger out of the car in flannel wear, along with my sister (clad in a fluffy leopard robe, slippers, and bedhead), and walk in to order doughnuts comme si de rien n'était! as if nothing were out of the ordinary. I began to wonder about reverse culture shock... or was it the new thing in the States to do the doughnut run in one's bed clothes? 

The next morning, with a stomach very much amiss (nothing to do with the doughnuts), I made my flight. The old wet chicken would have stayed in bed an extra day, just in case, but the new daredevil that my niece and my nephew saw in me remembered her guts, however groaning, held them high, and boarded that plane for the ride of her life.

***
Post Note: the flight was uneventful and, soon enough, any queasiness was replaced by butterflies, or papillons: My mom and her husband, John, were waiting for me at the end of the long hall, just after la douane, or Customs. 


Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections are helpful and appreciated and comments are the best part of of this journal. Thanks in advance. Click here to leave a message.

Phoenix Readers: I would love to meet up with you! We are planning a hike on Feb 11th at 8:30 a.m. (at the Starbucks on or near 7th street and Thunderbird. Stay tuned for a confirmation! Please join us (so far Herm and Karen and Ed and Gail and my sister, Heidi, will be there!) I would be so happy to meet you so don't be shy -- it would make my day--et encore!--to meet you! 

P1000088

My mom, Jules, and my other "sister", Breezy.

P1000149
How do you say "sibling rivalry" in French? My sister, Heidi, and I packed a bottle of Jules's all time favorite perfume (now, Breezy, what can you say for yourself? Hum? Hum?):


Shalimar Shalimar Eau de Parfum by Guerlain. Introduced in 1925. Fragrance notes: an alluring, classic fragrance of exotic florals and vanilla. Order here

Note: Whenever you buy an item from Amazon (using the link above) your purchase helps to support this free word journal. Whether you buy a DVD or a dog bone, you will be contributing to this blog. Thank you for your support!

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


revivre

Trompe-l'oeil (c) Kristin Espinasse

Picture of a "fools the eye" or "trompe-l'oeil" taken in the medieval village of Les Arcs-sur-Argens (Var, France).  

revivre (reuh veevreuh)

    : to live again

Listen to 13-year-old Jackie pronounce these French words (Download MP3 file

Aimer, c'est mourir en soi pour revivre en autrui. 
Love is to die to self so as to live again in others. --Honoré d'Urfé

Newforest (whom many of you know from the comments section) notes: I think "mourir en soi" means the same as "mourir à soi-même", which implies -> not to live for oneself any more, and to become free to give one's life to others, to put other people's happiness first. 

 

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

Guts & Gratitude

When Mom viewed Saturday's edition of Cinéma Vérité, she was transported back to France, to 2003, when, after breaking her hanche, she came to our village to recuperate. But once she arrived here to heal her hip, she began to notice a pain in her breast.... 

In the letter below, Mom recounts how she spent the hours leading up to her mastectomy. The idea of the surgery greatly troubled her and when the fear of the unknown became paralyzing she shot up... and proceeded to move every limb in her body in order to shake off the numbing unknown. Next, she flew out the door for a last-minute périple around the medieval village. What "unknowns" that troubled her heart were replaced by the "knowns" that had gotten her this far: namely, a community of caring villagers who had been there for her and her broken hip and who would be there for her even after this. 

Reviewing the snapshots of her former stomping grounds, Jules was overcome with gratitude: 

Darling Kristi,

You have flooded my entire being with memories of Les Arcs this morning. I used to run up those very stairs several times a day and night. I first started my voyage ascending in my trusty 'walker', then my cane, and finally achieved my freedom to practically fly up the cobblestone pathway to the castle above the night before my cancer surgery.

I remember that cool brisk evening. I was running all over the village, down to the train station, back up around the mountain to your neighborhood, back down through the village, across the bridge and up to the castle.

I was in another body that night, running from my fear, it was like I had a new body full of strength I didn't know I possessed... it was the longest night of my life. As I have said before of Les Arcs "It takes a village", they were my village and my family and without Les Arcs I would never be the person I am today.

XOXO

MOM

 

Reading Mom's words, I can picture her in her straw fedora and borrowed hiking boots. I see her racing around in the dark night, stopping, par ici et par là, to look into the brightly lit households as the villagers, who poured another cup of mint tea (how many Moroccan families had taken her in and filled her with sweets?) or glasses of wine. I know she swept past her dear friend E's "home", no more than a cubbyhole at the back of a garage, where a mattress and empty beer bottles were evidence of her only comforts. Those, and her raggedy, gentle-natured dog.

Mom was a spirit that night, passing imperceptibly through the village, mentally tucking in all her friends before she tucked her own self in high up in a one-room loft, on loan from a friend. There, she slept peacefully... on no other than "Peace Street".

In Marseilles the next day nurses rolled Jules away on a stretcher. I stood outside the elevator, staring down at my Mom, who propped her head up and smiled back at me. The doors were closing and the nurses had asked me to step back please.

Mom winked at me. "I'm ready!" Mom chirped, to the French nurses, who looked at her bemusedly. "Roll me in! Praise God. I'm ready!"

That night the villagers drank their tea and their wine, depending on which household you peered into. And I like to think that they raised their glasses and toasted the free-spirited woman. Mom was no longer outside their windows looking in, but that doesn't mean that she wasn't busy blessing them.

***

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections are welcome and to post a comment, click here.


. 

Mom's departure 8.14.03 008
My beautiful mom, Jules, after the surgery in 2003.

Mom's departure 8.14.03 003
She didn't know it then, but another mastectomy awaited her in Mexico (the bad news). As for the good news: her husband was waiting for her. I cannot wait to see John and to thank him for all he has done to take care of my mom. I am only sorry it took this many years to express my gratitude.

Note: Mom celebrated her 5-year "all's clear" mark and is doing great! 

French Vocabulary

la hanche = hip

le périple = tour, journey

par ici et par là = here and there

. 

Claras war
I could not put this book down!  I have packed it in my carry-on, to take to my mom. It has nothing to do with cancer, but everything to do with courage and today's verb, revivre! Order a copy here.
. 

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


respirer

Merry Minou (c) Kristin Espinasse
Respirez! Breathe in! And let out all your cares. Photo of a merry minou taken in Nyons.

respirer (reh spee ray) verb

    : to breathe

synonym : souffler

Note: I'm running behind schedule this morning... any terms and expressions related to "respirer" are most appreciated in the comments box only: click here.

Audio File and Example : listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words (Download MP3):

Pour bien vous détendre, il faut respirer profondément.
To relax, you must breathe deeply.
. 

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

H20 and Hieroglyphics

In the corner of the room sits a small, opened suitcase. There are one, two, three books inside - stories I promised she would like. As soon as I can, I'll add my notebook, my eyeglasses, and my tooth guard. (Les dents, elles grinçaient encore hier soir, et je me suis réveillée dans la nuit en train de grignoter mon appareil dentaire!)

A few small piles are stacked beside the valise: jeans... "and bring your white skirt and shorts..." Mom suggested. "Tennies and flip flops...". Check check check. Check check. I will not pack too much... just this one carry-on. No more!

More than a scientific method of packing, I need a scientific method of relaxing. Jules has a tip on that one too, it amounts to these four words of wisdom: "Relax Within I Am."

I know who "I Am" is and I Am is not me... I am simply to break down these words and repeat, as following:

Re ("breathe in!" Mom instructs.)

lax ("breathe out...")

With ("breathe in!")

in ("breathe out...")

I ("in!")

Am ("out... ... ...")

I try this for a time until I begin to notice how my eyes won't stop watering. It is distracting and purpose-defeating (the goal of the exercise being to clear the mind!) to have to reach up and dry my temples and the tips of my ears each time. These are not tears; the water streaming from my eyes, down past my temples, oreilles, and onto my pillow, must be all that extra oxygen that I am breathing in. Or have I got that backwards?: water contains oxygen... No wonder I can't relax when all of the oxygen is leaking out of the corners of my eyes!

I decide to abandon the exercise. I notice that, malgré tout, peace and a certain stillness has encompassed the room. I look slowly over to the window, below which un étendoir steals the patch of sun shining there. On the drying rack I spy Max's basketball maillot, un torchon, some threadbare chaussettes... will I need socks in Mexico?

Relax....

I breathe in! Above the drying rack I stare at the heart on the window. It is for my daughter. I had drawn it in the steam that had gathered there as I aired out the room this morning. We'd passed a restless night: she, whimpering non-stop from a stomachache and nausea, and I, listening helplessly to her suffering. 

The next morning I threw open the windows. "A little fresh air will do you good!" I explained. On opening the windows the glass quickly fogged up and I reached over and drew the heart. "For you," I pointed out, carving the letter "J" in the center. I signed "Mommy" in cursive, in the lower right slope of the coeur.

The rounded heart and letters had an unexpected exponential effect: my daughter perked right up! "Thank you, Mommy!"

The doodled heart might have been a sackful of her favorite candies or a life-size teddy bear. Her eyes shone in delight.

I sat beside Jackie, shaking my head about those backwards letters: I hadn't anticipated their changing direction... on closing the window... but the effect was not lost and I sat there basking in my patient's appreciation. The gesture had not taken a lot of thought... it had been more of an impulse. 

***

So much for methodology. In spite of any efforts I'd stumbled onto the tranquil moment and there rested, quietly, gazing at the coeur's reversed letters, or the hieroglyphics of the heart.
. 

 Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections are most helpful and comments are the best return on these stories! To leave a message on the blog, click here

French Vocabulary (coming soon, please check back... meantime enjoy this poem by Newforest: many of you enjoy Newforest's commentary in the "Coin Commentaires" . Enjoy this poem, in French, in response to today's story.):

Sur le carreau d'une fenêtre,
dans la buée,
un doigt trace un coeur
pour J
♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥

Message en gouttelettes,
Perles d'amour maternel, 
Larmes d'eau de rose
dans la buée du carreau.
♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥

Larmes hiéroglyphiques,
remède magique
pour le mal au coeur de Jackie
maintenant toute ravie.
♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥

Un coeur sur le carreau de la fenêtre
un langage à l'envers qui dit:
♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥ ♥♥ 
Un soupir de bien-être
Oh! Thank you Mommy!

***

Newforest included this vocabulary guide... to help you with your translation :-)

-> le carreau = tile (ceramic)
Here, carreau (/ vitre) = pane (for a window)
le carreau de la fenêtre = the windowpane

-> la buée = steam, condensation, mist, blur (on your glasses, on a window)

-> tracer = to draw (lines)

-> un doigt = a finger

-> gouttelettes = tiny drops, droplets

-> Perles = pearls

-> amour maternel = maternal love

-> Larmes = tears

-> mal au coeur = stomach pain that makes you feel sick, nauseous. (avoir mal au coeur)
Emotionally speaking, it's what you feel in a sad/hearbreaking situation.

-> toute - here, it has the meaning of completely, thoroughly

-> ravi(e) = delighted, overjoyed

-> à l'envers = upside down, backward, inside out ... You read the newsletter, so you can guess the right expression in French

-> Un soupir = a sigh

-> bien-être = well-being

 

 

window (c) Kristin Espinasse

What would you name this one? Could you get away with this kind of window whimsy in your own neighborhood? Click here to leave a comment.

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


abracadabrant

DSC_0088
Meet an extraordinary 8-year-old and a giant named Hefty in today's story. All photos by Braden (except for the one above...).

abracadabrant(e) (ah bra kah dah brahn [brahnt]) adj.

    : amazing, extraordinary

syn: invraisemblable (bizarre), extravagant

abracadabra : interjection , also, masculine noun for magical formula  

Audio file: Listen to "abracadabrant" at French Wikipedia...


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

Hero-in-Progress

When Jean-Marc needed to spend the day prospecting with an American wine importer, I offered to host the man's 8-year-old son, or traveling companion.

Doubtful about my decision, I ran to the phone and rang Jules, in Mexico.
"Oh, Mom. How will I do with him?!"

Jules told me not to worry. Instead she shared the story about "Hefty", the giant carnival hand:

"When I was a little girl," Mom began, "I had a horrible wart on my thumb... I was always trying to hide it. One day I was sitting on a tree stump, outside the carnival grounds, staring at my thumb. That's when Hefty appeared. The giant, noticing my sadness, assured me I would never shed another tear. I watched Hefty disappear into the carnival tent and, fast as that, return with a secret ointment. Abracadabra! The wart disappeared!"

As Mom told the story, I could sense her wonderment. The kindness of a stranger... it was such a small detail in the grand scheme of a child's being, and yet the carnival hand's caring gesture never left her.

I considered Mom's words. I might not be as giant, or giant-hearted as Hefty, but there is that unmistakable oddness, or rather, that awkwardness that amounted, did it not, to no more than self-doubt? 

I began to hope for a genuine gesture, like Hefty's, to somehow surface from deep within me. Maybe in this way my eight-year-old guest and I would enjoy the same simplicity?

"Don't worry," Mom assured. "And what an exciting thing... just think about your visitor and wonder just whom, after all, you are hosting."  Thinking about it that way... perhaps Einstein was coming for the day? Or Victor Hugo, or Gandhi, or some other hero... or hero-in-progress!

When Braden arrived I was as nervous as a bride. "Would you like orange juice? Milk? A pain au chocolat?" Our hero was not so hungry and, after a bite or two, I was wondering what to do? what to do? 

I spotted my camera on the comptoir.... 
"Would you like to take some photos, Braden?" 

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     Braden enjoyed "styling" the subject before taking the pictures.

And—voilàwe were off! The rest of the day I spent in the privileged presence of an artist and visionnaire. As I followed the intrepid ingénu...  I began to notice ordinary things anew! And oh the possibilities... of pairing grapes with flowers and pumpkins and trees!

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By the end of Braden's stay my narrow world was as wide as the Milky Way. And it's all thanks to Hefty whose heart went out. And to the child he helped, who then pointed the way to me:

"The potential of a child... is as endless as a giant's smile."

 

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::
Corrections, comments, and stories of your own are welcome here, in the comments box.

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            The artist's self portrait. "Looking in" by Braden.


French Vocabulary

le comptoir* = counter

voilà = just like that! 

*Newforest, whom many of you know via "Le Coin Commentaires" offers these notes:
Originally, "un comptoir" (from the verb "compter") was a table used by a shopkeeper, on which he showed the goods you wanted to buy - he also used that table to count his money which he kept in a drawer. 

Nowadays, "un comptoir" can be found in shops and bars, in banks, post offices, libraries & commercial places.

For a kitchen: "un plan de travail", "une surface de travail" (I heard French people saying "la table de travail" but I believe "un plan de travail is the most common expression) 

*** 

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Thank you, Braden, for a wonderful day! And thanks for taking the photos here.

 Gift Ideas...

Paris Hook PillowHand-hooked, heavyweight 100% wool face. Soft cotton velvet back. Order one here.

 

 

 

Eiffel lamp Eiffel Tower lamp: see the reviews, here.

 

 

 

Pie dish Emile Henry 9-inch Provencal pie dish in cerise red. Order one here.

 

 

 

Shalimar Shalimar Eau de Parfum by Guerlain. Introduced in 1925. Fragrance notes: an alluring, classic fragrance of exotic florals and vanilla. Order here.

 

 

 



A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


historiette

DSC_0037
                     Smokey, back from a romp with the ragondins.

historiette (ee-stor-ee-ette) noun, feminine

    :  short story

synonyme: nouvelle, récit
 

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

Last night I dialed up Mexico and listened as Mom picked up the phone at the other end of the jungle. I felt grateful to hear her voice and immediately asked whether she would like to hear about the fictional nouvelle that I had begun.  

Mom was game. 
Only, as I heard myself recount the historiette (involving a senile goat that wears recycled espadrilles), I realized--before Mom even suggested it--that I still wasn't addressing the muse... or was it that the muse wasn't addressing me?... or rather neither of us was "addressing" but rather "a-skirting". Quite simply put, we were, both of us, the muse and I, conveniently and once again skirting the heart's history. Whether or not skirts were involved is beside the point. Let's see, is there a point?

I think you use humor to deflect, Mom pointed out, in so many mom-wise words. 
Underneath the guise of comedy, lie your profound stories. 

I offered a few stuttered yah-yahs your right about thats. Mom was unconvinced. That is when she reminded me of a line she had just heard in a movie, words that stirred her heart, and maybe they would stir up my own in time to share a few true lines.

"You are God's Muse"

 "You are God's muse," Mom said, quoting the film. She left enough silence for the words to find feeling in my mind. We are God's muse.... 

Later that night, after the house had fallen to sleep, I somewhat reluctantly put my espadrille-shoed chevre aside, reassuring myself that the story could be told another time. I thought of Mom's words:
 "Remember, you are God's muse. Just fire up that computer, put your hands over that keyboard and LET IT RIP!"

I opened a new window on my computer screen. I took a sip of coffee, staring for a thoughtful while at the proverbial blank page. Finally, I typed in the title of my story. My throat tightened followed by a stinging in the eyes. Closing them, I felt wet lashes.

I looked up at what I had typed: only a word, only a heading. The title read "Naked". 

Next, I closed the word document and shut off the computer. I walked down the quiet hall to the bedroom, where I changed into my pajamas. I can't sleep without them.

  

   "Locked" in St Paul Trois Chateaux (c) Kristin Espinasse
 

                                          :: Le Coin Commentaires ::

 Click here to leave a comment, to share a story of your own, or to simply delurk in time to say "bonjour"... 

 


 

***


 

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A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


French word for "goal" or "aim" and thoughts about writing

DSC_0057
Flowers far from France...


le but (bewt)

    : goal, aim
.

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

Yesterday morning a great big soupir stopped me in my tracks and had me asking why? Why do I do what I do? What am I aiming for? Am I on the right track?

I called Mom last night and caught her ironing. Le repassage? I asked her the same question that I had asked myself that very morning: Mom, are you doing what you love? I already knew the answer, for my dear Mom would love nothing more than to paint and to pursue people (on the street, at the café, via Facebook, here, in my comments box). She loves Art and Others. Tout simplement. Yet she is inside... ironing.... She hasn't picked up a paint brush in eight months, hasn't chased down an unsuspecting stranger in weeks. Instead, she irons her husband's shirts, which are coming apart at the seams.

And what about me? Am I doing what I love? I love Writing and Characters. (Well, I love characters and I think I love writing... ) I think I want to paint people via words....

This morning I wrote a story about mon enfance. Unlike many writers, I had a very happy childhood. I would now like that same carefree feeling to fly forth in my work: no rules, no regulations, only trust, play, and discovery day after day. Yes, this is what I love!

Et encore...

My wish is that my words and my photos will lighten hearts... while growing my own. I hope these missives will help to connect people, collapse cultural barriers, and cause more laughing and rejoicing. At the very least, I hope these journal entries will help us not to take ourselves too seriously, after all we are, deep down, more alike than we are different, you and me.

If I can give back even a chouïa of the knowledge and espérance that I receive from the readers who respond to these "every other day epistles," then perhaps my growing heart qui bat will signal I am, after all, sur le bon chemin, or on the right track.



:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

Comments are the best part of French Word-A-Day. They help connect people and help to share ideas. Thanks for leaving a comment today. If you have never left a comment, don't be shy. You might simply say "Bonjour from (name your city)!" Merci for commenting.

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"The Adoration": Smokey and Braise with Uncle Jacques. (Photo taken in January.  Smokey is two months "bigger" now. Leave Smokey or Braise (or Jacques) a message.

French Vocabulary & Audio File:
Download WAV
or Download MP3

Thus the aim of art is almost divine: to bring to life again if it is writing history, to create if it is writing poetry. Le but de l’art est presque divin : ressusciter, s’il fait de l’histoire; créer, s’il fait de la poésie. Victor Hugo

le soupir = sigh
le repassage = ironing
tout simplement = quite simply
mon enfance = my childhood
un chouïa
= a tiny bit
l'espérance (f) = hope
et encore = what is more
qui bat (battre) = that beats
sur le bon chemin = on the right track

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens


objectif

Moroccan Woman (c) Kristin Espinasse
The Picture of Grace. Moroccan women are beautiful!, my husband tells me. In 15 years of marriage, this is the first time he has said the unsayable, done the undo-able (admired another woman from afar... whilst I was "a-near"). But because he spoke the truth, I could not clobber him for it.

French Word-A-Day @ Twitter!
 

Here in France, my doctor says, we have a surplus of the H1N1 vaccine. In America, I tell her, even our president is waiting in line for it.

objectif (owb-jek-teef) noun, masculine

    1. lens (of camera)  2. objective, target
.

 

Yabla French Video Immersion.
The fun way to learn French


Audio File & Example Sentence:
Download Wav or Download Objectif

Ils étaient à l'aise face à l'objectif.
They were at ease in front of the (camera's) lens.



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

I don't go anywhere anymore without my camera. It hangs on my person like an oxygen mask. Just like missing a breath, I am afraid I will miss life if I am not able to capture it in digits and indulge in its dramatic detail bit by bit.

Pixel by pixel, I love to indulge in architecture and nature, but I am most passionate about the lines and the landscape of humans, strangers...

Cela dit,* I rarely photograph l'homme* because in the time it would take to ask permission -- the stranger's spirit escapes when natural expression gives way to "do I look okay?"

I called Mama Jules in Mexico to tell her about my photo periple* through Morocco:
I said, "A man shouted at me, 'No! No! No!' " 

Mom explained, from experience, that Moroccans do not like to have their picture taken:

"...for as I learned while living in France back in 1997 - Moroccans do not like to be photographed! I was lounging on my favorite bar stool one night in my hangout in the Moroccan part of your village of St. Maximin... I was 51-years-old and liked to celebrate each day with "Pastis 51". I always walked around the village with my camera hanging around my neck, but one night I made the mistake of lifting the camera up in this bar (the interior was all black and white, hundreds of great photos on the walls) very chic, the owner was from Paris and he and his wife were absolutely beautiful and very sophisticated. When the flash from my camera exploded in this little bar -- everyone dropped for cover under the tables and to the floor! That's when I began to learn the difference between my life and theirs...."

Next, Mom told me a story about the Native Americans from my native Arizona:

...it has been said that American Indians feel that the lens steals their âme*....

I had wondered about that gut-feeling I got back in Morocco; indeed, each time I lifted my camera, it felt as though I were lifting a weapon: not a stone or a bow and arrow: but a "soul-snatcher" capable of wounding... like a rock to a sparrow.

***
Post Note: I should point out that the man who shouted after me ("No! No! No!") eventually welcomed me to take a photo of his droguerie* (this, after I explained to him that I had not been pointing my objectif* at the children playing in the street, but at the beautiful bougainvillea just above. I assured him of this by sharing with him my camera's photos.

Comments are the best part of French Word-A-Day! Mom and I read each and every comment... and Dad checks in to see where you all are writing in from (so please list your city next to your name :-)

French Vocabulary

cela dit = that said; l'homme (m) = man; le périple (m) = journey, voyage; une âme (f) = soul; la droguerie (f) = hardware store; un objectif (m) = camera lens

Shopping

Tagine Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron 2 Quart Moroccan Tagine:
Though I brought back a traditional terracotta tagine (one requiring coals...), I already have my eyes fixed on this modern version (which works with any stove top!). Santa Claus, are you listening? 

Cooking at the Kasbah: Recipes from My Moroccan Kitchen:
Moroccan food features the delicious flavors and health benefits of other Mediterranean cuisines...

Un, Deux, Trois: First French Rhymes:
...a collection of 25 traditional nursery rhymes for children

French Exambusters Study Cards:
Over 1500 questions and answers written by certified teachers and professional translators with a focus on exam preparation.

How to say "tailspin" in French?....

DSC_0401
"La Chasse Queue" (The Tail Chase) : Smokey's new favorite thing to do (with all that energy he's been building up since the attack) is to chase his own tail (missing, I'm afraid, from this photo -- it was hard to keep my camera's lens focused while laughing at my puppy's aerial antics... all that jumping and spinning!). To the right of his broken face, you'll see his healing cheek. He reminds me of Al Pacino in Scarface. Maybe it's the cheekbone (one is much higher than the other now. Perhaps it is just the swelling?).

Still in the mood to read? Check out Eliane's delightful message over at the Sullivan's blog (her words are in French and English -- an excellent way for us to grow our French!).

A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating 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, ZELLE is a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase our online memoir, The Lost Gardens