"Bidou": A Do-It-Yourself Tummy Tuck in French (Bilingual Story)

Eden Theatre oldest functioning cinema in the world
Today, learn a tummy tuck trick my husband and I use on our morning walks. Passing by historic sites, such as the Eden Theatre--the oldest cinema in the world--is a helpful distraction as we do our "standing situps."

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LE BIDOU (bee-do)

    : tummy, tum-tum

The word bidou is used by children or by adults speaking to children. Bidou is also a colloquial term used in casual conversation. Read on... 


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"Brains are the New Six-Pack"

My husband and I have tweaked our morning walk to include a (not-so) simple exercise de ventre. By thoughtfully contracting our stomach muscles during the sweaty aller-retour to the port, we can tackle two goals at the same time: cardio fitness and improving core strength. The walking part is easy, the challenge is remembering to suck it in.... For this, we have a one-word reminder/call-to-action that really works:

"Bidou?"

Our prompt or truc de mémoire may be childish ("bidou" means "tummy" in baby talk) but boy is it effective! No sooner does one of us call "bidou?" than we instantly cave below the ribs. But not for long. In a matter of steps my mind is somewhere else, far from my midriff! Apparently, it isn't just my stomach that needs training, so does my brain.

To combat such flightiness, we've come up with an extra command: one of us will say "BIDOU?" and the other will name a target. We must hold it in until the You-Name-It destination. Let me give you an example:

Jean-Marc: "Bidou?"

Kristi (sucking it in):  "Oh, Merci! (for the needed reminder) "Bidou Bâteaux!" This is a signal to maintain it until we reach the boats 20 meters ahead. Once we reach the boats (or sometime in between, depending...), it's the other person's turn to keep us on track...

Kristi: "Bidou?"

Jean-Marc: "Oui oui! (my husband replies, confidently. But is he telling the truth? Has he really been holding it in all this time? Seems like it's always me saying merci! and him saying oui! oui!). Nevertheless, "Bidou Phare!" he suggests next.

Hold on! That's a little too far the phare. I know that in 10 or so meters I'm gonna accidentally let it all hang out. Therefore I humbly suggest, "Bidou Cinema?" (because the Eden movie theatre is only another 15 meters up ahead and I think this is a more realistic goal.)

No matter how amusing the game and how consistently we play it, more often than not I forget to keep my tummy tucked in. The good news is Jean-Marc and I are both improving. In fact, I was smack in the middle of a long stretch of holding it in when I saw a man with a very big bidou wearing a funny T-shirt. It read: "BRAINS ARE THE NEW SIX-PACK." 

I'm not a fan of smug T-shirts, but this one got me thinking about how both the French and the English have an unhealthy symbol for "muscular stomach": the French call toned abs une tablette de chocolat--a chocolate bar, picture six squares-- while the English call them "six-pack abs".

Next, I wondered, Does this Frenchman understand the English on his T-Shirt? Ah well, what does it matter? After all, his quirky message was beginning to sink in and make some sense to me. Because a flat stomach is, in my experience (not that I've yet experienced one....), the result of consistent brain power. Indeed, les cerveaux sont les nouveaux abdos!

COMMENTS
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Old wooden boats in the port capucin
Bidou Bateaux? Here is one of our targets--the old wooden boats in Port des Capucins.


FRENCH TRANSLATION by ChatGPT

"Les Cerveaux Sont Les Nouveaux  Abdos"

Mon mari et moi avons ajusté notre marche matinale pour y inclure un exercice de ventre (pas si simple). En contractant consciencieusement nos muscles abdominaux pendant notre aller-retour transpirant vers le port, nous pouvons atteindre deux objectifs simultanément : l'entraînement cardiovasculaire et le renforcement des muscles profonds. La marche est facile, le défi réside dans le souvenir de rentrer le ventre... Pour cela, nous avons un rappel en un mot qui fonctionne vraiment bien :

"Bidou ?"

Notre rappel ou truc mnémotechnique peut sembler enfantin ("bidou" signifie "ventre" dans le langage des tout-petits), mais il est incroyablement efficace ! À peine l'un de nous prononce "bidou ?" que nous rentrons instantanément le ventre en dessous des côtes. Mais pas pour longtemps. En quelques pas, mon esprit est ailleurs, loin de mon abdomen ! Apparemment, ce n'est pas seulement mon ventre qui a besoin d'exercice, mon cerveau aussi.

Pour contrer cette distraction, nous avons inventé une commande supplémentaire : l'un de nous dit "BIDOU ?" et l'autre nomme une cible. Nous devons le maintenir rentré jusqu'à la destination en question. Laissez-moi vous donner un exemple :

Jean-Marc : "Bidou ?"

Kristi (en rentrant le ventre) : "Oh, merci ! (pour le rappel nécessaire)" Puis "Bidou Bâteaux !" Cela signifie que nous devons le maintenir jusqu'à ce que nous atteignions les bateaux (à seulement 20 mètres devant nous). Une fois arrivés aux bateaux (ou quelque part entre les deux, selon les circonstances...), c'est au tour de l'autre de nous garder sur la bonne voie...

Kristi : "Bidou ?"

Jean-Marc : "Oui oui !" (mon mari répond avec confiance. Mais dit-il vraiment la vérité ? A-t-il vraiment rentré le ventre tout ce temps ? Il semble que je sois toujours celle qui dit merci ! et lui qui dit oui ! oui !). Néanmoins, il propose ensuite "Bidou Phare !".

Attendez ! Le phare est un peu trop loin. Je sais qu'à environ 10 mètres, je vais involontairement tout laisser pendre. Par conséquent, je suggère humblement, "Bidou Cinema ?" (car le cinéma n'est qu'à 15 mètres de là et je pense que c'est un objectif plus réaliste).

Peu importe à quel point le jeu est amusant et à quel point nous y jouons régulièrement, j'oublie souvent de garder mon ventre rentré. Mais nous nous améliorons tous les deux. En fait, j'étais en plein milieu d'une longue période de maintien lorsque j'ai vu un homme avec un très gros bidou portant un t-shirt drôle. Il était écrit : "Les cerveaux sont le nouveau pack de six".

Je ne suis pas fan des t-shirts arrogants, mais celui-ci m'a fait réfléchir sur le fait que les Français et les Anglais ont tous deux un symbole peu sain pour "ventre musclé" : les Français appellent les abdominaux tonifiés une "tablette de chocolat" - imaginez six carrés - tandis que les Anglais les appellent "six-pack abs".

Ensuite, je me suis demandé : ce Français comprend-il l'anglais sur son t-shirt ? Eh bien, peu importe. Après tout, son message original commençait à s'enraciner et à avoir du sens pour moi. Parce qu'un ventre plat est, d'après mon expérience (pas que j'en aie encore fait l'expérience...), le résultat d'un pouvoir cérébral constant. En effet, les cerveaux sont les nouveaux abdos!

RELATED STORY
Six-pack abs and The French Gut-Buster (Jean-Marc's new ab gizmo)

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and me read the vocabulary list


le cerveau = brain
le ventre = stomach
la marche = walk
le défi = challenge
un rappel = reminder
le bidou = tummy
efficace = efficient
les côtes = ribs
une cible = target
néanmoins = nevertheless
le phare = lighthouse
drôle = funny
une tablette de chocolat = chocolate bar

Old port and lighthouse at La Ciotat
Bidou Phare? Can you hold in your tummy from here to the lighthouse? A little concentration will help...

REMERCIEMENTS
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I admire your good humor, honesty, and tenacity. Your articles are down-to-earth and honest. --Susan S.

Love your blog. I lost you on my account, many computer glitches. Happy to be a part of your lives. Wishing you and your family love, health, happiness, good fortune. Please keep writing… it brightens my day! ❤️ Suzanne I.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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

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


Bonjour from North Africa + A Gift from Strangers!

Ocean sunset jean-marc agadir morocco north africa
Twilight in Agadir, Morocco, in Northwest Africa. Jean-Marc snaps a photo of le coucher du soleil.

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TODAY’S WORD: le crépuscule

    : twilight, dusk, gloaming, nightfall

EXAMPLE SENTENCE & AUDIO FILE
Listen to all the French in today's story via the sound file below. Then scroll to the vocabulary section to check your language comprehension.

Le crépuscule c’est la lumière incertaine qui succède immédiatement au couché du soleil. The twilight is the blurred light that immediately follows the sunset.

French-English Audio file here

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE…by Kristi Espinasse

“Just 5 more minutes,” my husband says, as we gaze at the glowing red Moroccan sky. Jean-Marc’s bare feet are planted in the wet sand on the smooth shore of Agadir. We’ve been standing a long time before le coucher du soleil, until all that remains are ink black lines drowning out the fiery blaze beyond. The horizon resembles molten lava.

Jean-Marc is transfixed by the final curtain on this radiant show called “Nightfall.” Only 5 days ago the curtains were drawn on an episode in his own life. After a chapter called “Rouge-Bleu” and another called “Mas des Brun” (2 vignobles), Jean-Marc has reached the end of the current chapter “La Cave”. He has sold his wine shop and for once in his life he doesn’t have a plan. Looking straight ahead can be blinding.

“Don’t stare at the sun,” Jean-Marc cautioned, taking my hand as the soleil made its descent into the Atlantic. Looking away I catch another glorious scene: all the colors of the sunset are reflecting on the wet sand. C’est merveilleux!

As the sun goes down I close my eyes and carefully make a wish. My vœu is to grow closer and closer to my husband, like the colors melding together on the horizon. 

When next I open my eyes, something magical happens…

THE NEWLYWEDS (Les Jeunes Mariés) 

A few strangers approached us from behind, waving a smartphone. “We were adjusting the settings on our new camera when we got this picture of you two….” The young couple pointed enthusiastically at the phone’s screen.

Jean-marc kristi holding hands sunset morocco

Jean-Marc and I were caught off guard but were soon reassured by two smiling faces. “We just got married,” the strangers offered and the joyous sparkle in their eyes was contagious.

Vous êtes en lune de miel? You are on your honeymoon?” Jean-Marc asked, and so began a little conversation in the sunset's afterglow.

Before we said goodbye to les jeunes mariés, I typed my email address into the woman’s phone, thanking her for her offer to send copies of the photos. “It will be a nice souvenir of our trip. Merci beaucoup!” I say, gazing at the image of a peaceful couple—us—holding hands before the sunset. In an instant, our 28-year married life flashes before me. Next, I think about the newlyweds innocently beginning their own nuptial journey. Whoah! Like molten lava it will be beautiful, it will sizzle, and it will sometimes burn.

One thing that will help any marriage, new or decades-old, is the support from friends and family--even the benediction of strangers, and in this case it was reciprocal: in their photo, the young couple captured an ideal image of our union and in return we left them with a blessing.

Tous nos vœux de bonheur pour un long et heureux mariage! All our wishes of happiness for a long and happy marriage."

Back in our hotel room, I found an email from The Newlyweds, containing the peaceful photo—our best version of our married selves. Sweet and united. “Closer and closer.” Remembering the sparkle in the young couple's eyes I turned to my husband and smiled: In this next chapter we could be newlyweds….

It was just an idea—an inspiration. Because at this point we don’t have a plan for this next chapter. It’s kind of like The Twilight Zone…. Only I don’t want a husband zombie roaming around the house all day. That’s been my turf for the past 5 years while JM was away at the shop all day. I wonder…is anyone out there hiring? I’ve got a stellar candidate who is thoroughly knowledgeable in French wine and who appreciates a good sunset anywhere in the world.  

***

Jean-marc kristi sunset
24/7 or full-time housemates in this new chapter. (Only now, at the close of my story, do I understand the irony in my “closer and closer to hubby” wish :-)  Currently, I have put Jean-Marc to work making lunch as I finish typing up this post. Earlier, he washed the windows, changed a burnt-out lightbulb, and swept the front patio. I'm going to keep him busy! (Photo credit: Majdouline B.)
 
IN BOOKS: Your Name Is Renée: Ruth Kapp Hartz's Story as a Hidden Child in Nazi-Occupied France
Ruth kapp hartz your name is renee
While in Morocco I had the chance to read Ruth Kapp Hartz's story "Your Name is Renee". I have read many Holocaust accounts and this one is especially touching as it is the survival story of a friend and reader of this journal--and it takes place in France. Thank you, Ruth, and Stacy Cretzmeyer (who told Ruth's story) for this unforgettable read. Interestingly there were several mentions of Morocco as Ruth's father initially avoided deportation by joining the French Foreign Legion in Morocco. Please check out Ruth's book.)

Ruth and kristi
Ruth (center) and Monique visited us at our vineyard in 2009. 

Barry ruth jm moniqueBarry, Ruth, and Monique tasting Jean-Marc's wine at our first vineyard.

Kristi in kitchen at domaine rouge-bleu
Ruth also sent this snapshot from our kitchen at the vineyard. It's a sweet souvenir. Merci, Ruth. I hope others will read your highly recommended book.

FRENCH VOCABULARY 

le crépuscule = twilight, dusk

le coucher du soleil = sunset

le vignoble = vineyard

le soleil = sun

la cave = wine shop

la lune de miel  = honeymoon 

C’est merveilleux! = it’s magnificent

le vœu= wish

les jeunes mariés = young married couple

Tous nos vœux de bonheur pour un long et heureux mariage! All our wishes of happiness for a long and happy marriage.


Moroccan cookies patiesseries desert
Sweet of the Week, No 7: "Les Pâtisseries Marocaines." On our third night in Agadir, we ordered room service. We shared a vegetarian pizza and, for dessert, these chewy honey and nut cookies. I hid several in the nightstand and was punished for hoarding them when a bunch of ants invaded my side of the bed!

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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

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


Manger son Chapeau + Change a habit not a spouse :-)

Fashion hats shopfront in Paris France
The expression "manger son chapeau" comes from "avaler son chapeau" which is from the English "I'll eat my hat if..." Have you ever said this, dear reader? Ever had to eat humble pie? Enjoy today's story, and please help get the word out about this journal by sharing it with a friend. Merci!

Today's Expression: Manger son chapeau

    : to eat humble pie

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Click here to open audio file

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

Over tea, I listened to a friend muse about a little ceramic pot she recently moved. "It was on that kitchen shelf for years. Then, sur un coup de tête, I moved it over here beside the stove, and now it is as if I am seeing it for the first time.”

The subject segued from shifting things to shifting habits. Mon amie shared another example: "I don't know why, but I always peeled my tomatoes raw, at the sink, when everyone else boils them (the skin comes off easily that way). I knew this but I stuck to my own system until recently when I tried the other way. Et c’est très bien!

I loved this conversation and the idea that a simple tweak in one’s habitude can improve one’s life, and I had an example to share with my friend.

Admitting my frustration about sharing la salle de bains with my husband, I confided about something Jean-Marc does that really annoys me: après la douche, when he’s done showering, he hangs the wet bathrobe over my clothes on the bathroom portemanteau. To add insult to injury, he often prefers my terrycloth peignoir over his own. Imagine the shock when I get out of the shower and hurry to reach for my robe in freezing winter and it’s all wet. Next, I go to put on my pajamas (hung on a peg beside my clothes and the robes) and...NOM D'UN CHIEN! They’re all damp!

LE DÉCLIC (THE AHA MOMENT)
Recently, after reaching for a wet robe and wet clothes for the énième time, I had an epiphany: If, after wearing them, I returned my in-between clothes* and my pj's to the closet (where they actually belonged...), they wouldn't get wet anymore! And just like that my years-long grudge went poof

Then came the humble pie moment: the realization I had been blaming my husband this whole time when the source of the frustration was my own lack of discipline or organization. And then there was the irony: I am always reminding my messy family "Everything has a home! The keys have a home, the coats have a home, the papers have a home..." Didn’t my clothes have a proper home, too? 

To motivate my husband to reach for his own robe the next time he showered, I began placing his bathrobe on the peg nearest the bathroom radiator. Imagine my surprise when he returned the kindness—placing my own robe beside the heater. Neither of us said a word about daily switcharoo, which made it all the more mysterious and endearing.

Bon, the moral of this story is: Change your habit not your spouse.

~~~

*"In-between clothes": clothes that are clean enough to wear again. Because it is best to air them before returning them to le placard, they often get left in various places: a peg in the bathroom, on a chair in the bedroom, on a hook behind the door...or in a pile on the floor. Where do you leave yours?:

  • derrière la porte?
  • sur une chaise?
  • sur un valet?
  • sur le lit?
  • par terre?

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY

manger son chapeau = to eat humble pie
sur un coup de tête = on a whim
mon amie = my friend
et c'est très bien = and it's great
une habitude = custom, habit
une salle de bains = bathroom
après la douche = after showering
le portemanteau = coat rack
le peignoir de bain
= bathrobe
nom d'un chien!
= dammit!
le déclic = the aha moment, the realization 
énième = nth, umpteenth
le placard = the closet
derrière la porte = behind the door
sur une chaise = on a chair
sur un valet = on a valet
sur le lit = on the bed
par terre = on the floor
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When “Pour le meilleur et pour le pire”, for better or for worse, means sharing a bathroom with your husband. Photo of Jean-Marc and me taken in 1994, in Marseilles.

Smokey in the kissing booth
Photo from the archived post Pronunciation Fears: Most Difficult French Words to Pronounce.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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

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


"Eclosion": Old love letters, a lifetime commitment, and "rien n'est acquis"...

postcards from Marseilles Provence France

Today's Word: une éclosion

    : blossoming, burgeoning

Audio/Listening: Click the link below to hear the French words in the following story. Then scroll down to the vocabulary list to check your French comprehension.

Sound File here


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

There were a handful of letters I meant to include in our vineyard memoir, colorful cartes postales from Provence saved from when Jean-Marc and I fell in love. I never did find the right chapter in which to insert ces déclarations d'amour and, finally, the cards were set in a box of "things to find a place for" beneath our bed. 

Last summer I took several months off from this blog to organize my thoughts and my life. Jean-Marc spent August at his man cave in the Alps... During la pétite separation I continued getting rid of the surplus in our home, trying to decide what to keep...while mindful not to toss the baby out with the bathwater. (Perhaps my husband of 27 years was safer in the mountains while I navigated "le retour d'âge"*?)

While tossing or donating "7 things a day" I uncovered more letters from Jean-Marc, dated 1990, '91, '92, '93, '94.... Turns out that handful of correspondence under our bed was but the tip of the iceberg!

Speaking of ice...

My husband returned from the mountains. Damn, he looked good! All tan and a dashing grin on his face. I began to melt all over again. He even had a gift in hand (an antique moulin à café to perk me up). Any complacency flew out the window and we quickly began revamping our efforts "not to take things for granted." But we would need more than appreciation to jumpstart a new season in our lifetime commitment. Sometime midsummer I began watching YouTube videos by a couples therapist. His tip? "95/5": you assume responsibility for 95 percent of the relationship (your spouse is responsible for 5 percent). To add to this injustice, cette iniquité, the therapist dared suggest I write down each day 25 things I like about my husband or our marriage. I did this for one day...when I had a sneaky idea: why not incorporate the "gratitude" practice into our morning ritual?

Je t’aime parce que...
There began a morning ritual of noting down one thing we like about the other. The gratitude pages grew and another chose was added to our early morning routine: “read one of Jean-Marc's mots doux from the past.” I dug out his cards and read them aloud. Lingering in bed, coffee on our respective nightstands, the sun rising beyond the window shutters, we relived our courtship days, as chronicled in the letters. So many details had been forgotten, like the “Morse” code we used for our international telephone calls (to avoid an onéreux phone bill).  And other particulars regarding our jobs, our wish to fonder une famille and notes on how to care for a lifelong commitment as explained in the following excerpt:

Amour, One thing I consider important is to talk, every day, even if we are tired, even if you don't want to for any reason. Talking sincerely is the best way to reinforce links and to prevent. Moreover, we will have this language problem and talking will help us to perform communication. Don't you think so?

Perform communication...That was Jean-Marc writing in English, 30 years ago...but it might have been me talking today: We need to communicate! We need to communicate!

Speaking of me talking, where were all my letters to JM? Qui sait? We didn't have to wait long to find out. One morning my husband appeared at the door of our bedroom, un sourire enjôleur on his face and a thick manila envelope. "Tu veux lire tes lettres aujourd’hui?"

He found them!

Postcards from Arizona to France

We now poured over postcards from the Arizona Dessert (Saguaro cacti and yellow poppies contrasted with his postcards of lavender fields and old stone farmhouses...), and letters long and short written on company letterhead (mine from the French travel company I worked for, his from the accounting firm qui venait de l'embaucher) taking turns to read or to carefully file the correspondence in a "his" or "her" pile, by date. On hearing JM read the date, I always pause to tease him, “So this was before (or after..) you bought me my one-way ticket home...” It always brings a chuckle...before we are gently quieted by the reminder that rien n’est acquis! 

In addition to the thoughtful cards, Jean-Marc sent me tape cassettes of French news "to help you keep up your French...." I sent most letters from the office, where I worked as a bilingual receptionist. One day, so deliriously in love, I stuck my head in the office photocopier just to have something interesting and passionate to send him.

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In big loopy writing or small hard-to-read cursive, our billets doux progressed and so did our plans. In a postcard of an old French mas from the winter of winter '92, Jean-Marc wrote poetically: 

It is in a house like this that I would like to live, when the passion of work and when age will have reminded me that nature is truly beautiful. And if in 30 years you will share my life, I hope you will be happy in this kind of landscape. (See postcard below...)

And here we are, 30 years later dusting off our histoire d'amour. There are dozens more letters to read and enjoy. We’ll be careful to keep them, and us, together this time.

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY
une éclosion = blossoming
la carte postale = postcard
déclaration d’amour =declaration of love
la petite séparation = little separation
le moulin à café = coffee mill
je t’aime parce que...= I love you because...
une iniquité = injustice, unfairness
une chose
= thing
le mot doux = love letter
onéreux
= pricey
fonder une famille = start a family
Amour = Love
qui sait? = who knows
tu veux lire tes lettres aujourd’hui? = want to read your letters today?
qui venait de l'embaucher = that had just hired him
rien n’est acquis
= nothing can be taken for granted
le sourire enjôleur = charming, beguiling smile
le billet doux = love letter
le mas = Provencal farmhouse
l’histoire d’amour = love story

*"Le retour d'âge": I slipped this term in later, in place of  "menopause". The term is slightly dated, but the literal translation is interesting: "the return of age"; poetically means: "the change", the change of life

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A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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

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


Celebrating today! + French for gentle, pleasant, sweet & Reader tips for a good relationship

French American marriage eglise church Marseilles wedding noces
Flying rice at our noces de mariage

Today, Jean-Marc and I celebrate 27 years of marriage. Help us mark the occasion by sharing your best tip for relationships in the comments below.

DOUX
(doo)
soft, sweet, gentle, pleasant, mellow

Practice your French Listening Skills. Click to hear Jean-Marc read in French and English:

Le mariage est comme le vin : doux, amer, intense, moelleux, acide ou plat. Mais un couple comme le nôtre sait apprécier toutes ces saveurs. Bon anniversaire de mariage, Chéri!
Marriage is like wine: sweet, bitter, intense, mellow, sour or flat. But a couple like ours knows how to appreciate all these flavors. Happy wedding anniversary, Honey!


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse 

What makes you happy? I think it is a good and healthy habitude to ask the question. One thing that makes me heureuse is when a relationship is going well--especially after a conflict. Never do we feel more grateful than when we are back on track with someone we love. We know we must never prendre pour acquis, never take for granted those we share life with, but life itself can trip us up!  This reminds me of the verb trébucher - to cause to stumble.... 

There are snags in every day. Did you wake to a broken coffee machine, une panne? Or, having made it all the way to the post office (early, to avoid la foule) you realize you left your mask at home...Pulling your shirt up over your face won't cut it--il faut faire un demi-tour... Big or small it's sometimes these dérangements that leave us deranged! If we're not careful l'énervement can carry over onto our entourage.

Having weathered moods, BROODS, and 'tudes, I'd say it is by the grace of God we've made it this far.  (Jean-Marc might give credit to another entity!) And 27 years later, nous y voilà here we are. Hallelujah! (My husband might say Allez L'OM! Go team!)

I am tempted to rewrite these last paragraphs which sort of veered off track from the original plan. Or maybe it's time to trust that "this is all leading somewhere!" Oui! Whether in an essay or in a marriage, have faith your efforts are leading somewhere... Just keep on trucking, and believe in a good future! 

*    *    *
Jackie Jean-Marc Max Kristi June 2021
This summer with our daughter, Jackie (24) and our son, Max (26)

FRENCH VOCABULARY
Listen to Jean-Marc prounce these words, then check your comprehension via the list below

Click here for the audio clip

les noces = wedding, nuptials
une habitude
= custom, habit, practice
heureuse/heureux = happy
prendre pour acquis = to take for granted
trébucher = to stumble, trip
la foule = crowd, mob; multitude
faire un demi-tour = turn back, make a U-turn
la panne
= failure, breakdown, out-of-order
le dérangement = inconvenience, trouble, bother
l'énervement = irritation, annoyance, frayed nerves
l'entourage = family, relatives, relations
nous y voilà = here we are
Allez L'OM = go team (go Olympique de Marseille!)

Jean-Marc Kristi Jens Gary Lou at Le Vin Sobre cave wine shop La Ciotat France
Jean-Marc, Kristi, Jens, Gary and Lou at Le Vin Sobre Wine shop in La Ciotat. Thank you, Jean-Marc, for creating the sound files for this journal, and for organizing wine tastings, which began in 2007--these have led to a lot of friendships...which reminds me, please remember to submit your relationship tips in the comments, below. 
Mediterranean sea and Port of St Tropez France
End photo from St. Tropez, known for its popular fall braderie.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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

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


A Marriage Secret? + A Tribute to Mon Epoux

Ecrins national park alps
For this special edition, all the French vocabulary is featured in the story (the sound file returns next week). Picture taken last month at Ecrins National Park in the Alps.

Today Jean-Marc and I celebrate 26 years of marriage. I had not planned to write un hommage (and was due to update you on a mother-daughter périple)... when I realized il ne faut pas manquer cette chance!

I would have liked to have composed a list of 26 Things (God knows that would be a colorful one!)… but I think I just need to start from here, and work with what I have--and that would be this growing appreciation. I may not always feel that or realize that (or even want to admit that)... but the truth is:

That my life is better because of him
That my heart is larger from loving him
That my soul is stretched forgiving him
That my mind is calmed in union with him

We may not always be better, loving, forgiving, or united with one another--but our hearts have somehow kept us on track. On second thought, The Grace of God has kept us on track. (I can’t speak for Jean-Marc here. But he might agree that une force mystérieuse has kept us together. Qu’est-ce que t’en dis, Chéri?)

My favorite question for married couples is, “C’est quoi votre secret?” More than the answer, I love how this question causes two people to look into each other’s eyes and suddenly light up. There is that unmistakable smile of appreciation. And it is better late than never. Mieux vaut tard que jamais.

I think if somebody were to ask me our secret I finally have the answer: During difficult times, just hold on. And, as often as possible, se regarder dans les yeux...et souriez.

K and jm marriage
Hands squeezed tightly 26 years ago, and still holding on today. To follow our intimate story of love on two vineyards, read along as we write our memoir, The Lost Gardens.

FRENCH VOCABULARY
un hommage = a tribute
un périple = journey
il ne faut pas manquer cette chance! = mustn't miss this chance
mon époux = my husband
une force mystérieuse = a mysterious force
qu’est-ce que t’en dis? = what do you have to say about that
mieux vaut tard que jamais = better late than never
se regarder dans les yeux = look each other in the eyes
et souriez = and smile

Park ecrins alps
Ecrins National Park, in the Alps, one of the many French destinations I have had the pleasure to visit. Thank you, Jean-Marc! Happy Anniversary, Chéri!

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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

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


Faire la tête + A French grandmother's advice for a happy marriage

Jean-Marc and Kristi's wedding at the cathedrale in Marseilles France

If you have followed this blog a while, you've seen this photo a million times. Jean-Marc and I were both scared to death about an imminent "for life" decision! Soon after this picture was taken, we got some very good marriage advice from Jean-Marc's grandmother. Twenty-three years later, it is still one of the best tips for a healthy relationship I've come across -- even if we occasionally break the rule! (Mais bien sûr!)


TODAY'S WORD: faire la tête

        : sulk, pout, be in a huff, look cross


AUDIO FILE & EXAMPLE SENTENCE


Click right here to listen to the sound file, recorded by Jean-Marc

Faire la tête, ça veut dire "bouder", c'est à dire montrer du mécontentement tout en restant silencieux, passif. -sensagent
To sulk, means to "bouder", or to express annoyance while remaining silent, passive.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
 

I notice my husband is shaving this morning, something he rarely does anymore, now that he’s working from home as a wine sales rep.

"Where are you going?" I ask.

"En tournée."

Prospecting? Where? I wonder.

"In Saint-Raphaël."

Saint-Raphaël? My mind fills with visions of the foamy sea, sandy beaches, sidewalk cafés and brasseries, the boardwalk, the boutiques, the marché, and the glamorous Belle Époque architecture.... Suddenly a pulsion comes over me. The pulsion to pout.

"I didn't know you were going out today...." I grumble.
  
"Well, do you want to come with me?" Jean-Marc offers.

"You know I can't come with you. I have work to do!” With a huff and a puff I leave the room.

***

In 1994 the only conseil Jean-Marc's ailing grandmother gave me before I married her grandson was this: "ne boude pas." Don’t boude when love gets tough! “C’est terrible—insupportable!—une femme ou un mari qui boude!

I hurried to look up the word bouder just as soon as I returned from Grand-mère’s modest apartment in Lyon to Jean-Marc’s studio in Marseilles. I was hesitant to ask my husband-to-be what the word meant. What was it that was so terrible, so insufferable… something a husband or wife should never ever do? And why had Jean-Marc’s grandmother selected this bit of counsel above the rest?

"Germaine," as Jean-Marc’s mamie was called, was a stern woman who saw the collapse of a family fortune. In Morocco, after the war, she peddled house linens from her Estafette (a converted military supply vehicle) as there were six mouths to feed. When her husband, a prisoner of war, returned from la guerre, Germaine continued to "wear the pants," selling her linens porte-à-porte, while her husband went seaside to cast out horrific battle images along with his fishing line.

My first encounter with Germaine had me watching the once-authoritarian-now-frail woman eat the eyes right out of the fish on her plate! No sooner had I recovered from the fact that the French serve their seafood with its heads and tails intact, than I witnessed this unforgettable eye-popping scene!

Apart from Germaine’s advice not to sulk, she taught me where all those forks, knives, and cuillères belong on the French table, at once thoughtful about her bourgeois upbringing, and méprisante of it.

***

The French word bouder, it turns out, means “to pout”. From bouder comes the noun boudoir, which originally meant "a place in which to sulk". Though the dictionary says that a boudoir is "un petit salon de dame," it is really nothing more fancy or exciting than a pouting room.

I return to my sulking place, and continue to work and to sniff. Je boude, je boude!

"We'll leave in 10 minutes?" my husband suggests, popping his head in from the hall.

"I didn't say I was going with you!" I snap.

"Well, if you change your mind, I am leaving in 10 minutes."

I continue to faire la tête, or "be in the sulks," while my husband prepares for his surely glamorous tournée along the French Riviera. At my desk, I peck at the faded keyboard, staring into the dismal screen. I can’t concentrate on writing a story when I’m so busy obsessing about my husband’s freedom:

"Monsieur Espinasse goes to the sunny Riviera," I grumble. "Monsieur Espinasse would like the plat du jour. Would Monsieur fancy a glass of champagne with his foie gras?"

Despite my ridiculous imaginings and the cynical commentary that accompanies them, I know that reality is quite different. My husband’s door-to-door sales day will be spent lugging 18-kilo boxes of wine from one cave to another, navigating medieval roads, trying to find parking in a small French village full of one-way streets!

The glamorous day will continue as he stops for lunch at a grimy roadside gas station where he’ll pick up one of those preservative-rich sandwiches: un jambon beurre or un pan-bagnat. He’ll wash that down with a cup of bitter coffee before rushing to the next appointment. Finally he will weave in and out of traffic on the autoroute, struggling to get back to our village in time to pick up our son from basketball at the end of the day.

Meantime I will be working freely at my computer, trying to write the next great American story (or so my imagination would like to think!). To my left, there’ll be a café au lait, before me, the adventure of my choice, if I will but find the words to transport me there. Will I ever find the words? Oh, to be transported!


"Do you know what the word boudoir means?" I am out of breath, catching up to my husband, who is loading cases of wine into the trunk.

"Comment?" What's that? he asks.

"Boudoir. It's French," I reply.

"No. I don't know that word. What does it mean?" Jean-Marc asks, opening the car door for me.

“A sulking place,” I laugh. “It’s a place to bouder, or to be in the sulks.”

"Are you in the sulks?" Jean-Marc teases.

“Oh no, not me!” I glance out of the car window, to the heavens above. I hoped Germaine was watching. God rest her courageous, peddler’s soul.

I look over to the other peddler, seated beside me. Germaine would be proud of her grandson, who has, in his own way, followed in her steps.


***
This story is from 2006, and is included in the book First French Essais' Venturing into Writing, Marriage, and France.


FRENCH VOCABULARY
une tournée = a sales round (sales prospecting) 
le marché = market 
une pulsion = an impulse
un conseil = a piece of advice
ne boude pas! = don't sulk!
C’est terrible—insupportable!—une femme ou un mari qui boude! = It's awful—intolerable—when a wife or a husband sulks!
la grand-mère = grandmother
la mamie = grandma 
la guerre = war
porte-à-porte = door-to-door 
une cuillère = spoon
méprisant(e) = contemptuous, scornful
un petit salon de dame = a woman's sitting room
faire la tête = to sulk, to give somebody the silent treatment
le plat du jour = the day's special (in a restaurant)
un kilo = a kilo, or 2.2 pounds
une cave = cellar
un jambon-beurre = a ham sandwich with butter
un pan-bagnat = a sandwich made with tuna and olives (specialty from Nice)
une autoroute = motorway, highway
le café au lait = coffee with milk

First French Essais is available here in paperback or via kindle

 

First-French-Essais-book-cover

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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

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


To have the munchies, in French + We have a party, I learn a few more lessons...

1-Mas des Brun French wedding anniversary country dinner
Photo (by Pascale Gauthier) of our wedding anniversary dinner, here at home.

AVOIR LES CROCS

    : to have the munchies (a sudden desire to snack)

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

The following story was written in 2014...

On Friday night 45 of our closest friends came over for a sit-down dinner to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Jean-Marc and I weeded our front yard, dusted our window shutters (Spiderwebs? Really?), and rented tables and chairs from the Mairie

Lesson no. 1: Etaler. (Spread out.)

As the guests arrived, I quickly saw what a bad idea it was for the boys to have set the hors-d'oeuvres table on an incline. Not wanting to question our son's 19-year old friends (who we hired to help)--and seeing their pride in their new jobs--I turned a blind eye and hoped for the best. And the guests did their best to cling together at the edge of the drinks table, with only one or two tumbling off the little hill every now and then.

Lesson no. 2: Impose-Toi! (Butt in!)

Because I'm jittery, Jean-Marc insisted he would take care of the party details. So when the hors d'oeuvres arrived--unassembled, in three giant ice buckets (were those tortillas for the spreads? If so which?)--my husband told me to leave it for the boys to work out. "If they have a question, they'll call Vava and Laurent (our friends/caterers)!"

Only, when Vava arrived for the party, she quietly pointed out the ratatouille (in dainty plates across the hors d'oeuvres table) was not for cocktail hour--it was for the main course

Lesson no. 3: Fourchettes, pas cuillières! (Forks not spoons!)

Finally seated, Jean-Marc announced to our 45 guests it was time to pick up our plates and head to the banquet--where the lamb and accompaniments awaited us. Sort of....

We watched as the men at the fire pit handed over plates of roasted meat, but where was the ratatouille? Quick, grab it from the tables in the backyard and dart back to the buffet--scrape, scrape, scrape. Now where were the serving spoons?

Whoops, spoke to soon--I meant forks! Run back to the kitchen and get fourchettes so the guests will quit trying to fling the meat from platter to plate with the help of two slippery spoons!

Lesson 4: On Mange à Table! (We eat at the table!)

All calmed down now, with full tummies, I noticed how some of the guests were getting tipsy.... All those special cuvées Jean-Marc brought out--including a 1994 Chateauneuf-du-Pape (grapes we picked before our marriage) had not gone to waste!

Jean-Marc now stood swaying, eating his ice cream behind me as I sat sober as a splash of water, talking to old friends. But every now and then my arm flew up to swat at my husband--who was dripping bright red cassis sorbet as he leaned over me and my new dress!

Lesson 5: Commander un bon DJ. (Hire a good DJ.)

When an uncomfortably-long lull had us lingering at the dinner tables, I wondered Where has Jean-Marc disappeared to? 

"He's fiddling with the sound system," someone explained. Finally, guests began trickling down to the boules court, where a dusty dance floor awaited. 

And awaited... and awaited. The music just wasn't doing it, and it was either the fault of Jean-Marc's smartphone (some music system!) or the fact that all those "request songs" we'd asked our guests for made for lousy dance material.

My poor husband now stood swaying on the dance floor until two lit girls and a faithful old friend joined in. I could no longer stand staring from the sidelines with the audience; it was time to buck up, disengage from the gawkers, and join the offbeat dancers.

Jean-Marc reached out for me, grabbing my hand and twirling me around a few times, when I stopped to whisper in his ear: "No one wants to dance!" I murmured, so as not to utter my true thoughts: they think our party sucks!

"Well," he said--the sparkle in his eyes melting me inside--"then they'll all go home earlier." With that he laughed, a little tipsy, and twirled me around and around. I was charmed by Jean-Marc's words. He was clearly remembering my aversion to all-night parties. And he was telling me, in his own way, that he didn't have to party all night either... but could be happy twirling his sweetheart around and around... till the party poopers went home.

Though my husband's words encouraged me (the only real party pooper in the group), it was still painfully embarrassing to be dancing with the awkward quartet, before a group of gawkers (who were only feeling awkward themselves, given the beat just wasn't calling them forth)... So when the current song ended I wiggled my way, as discreetly as possible, off the dance floor and into the kitchen to check on things.

The counter tops were inch-deep with liquid from all the dirty wineglasses. I now had a perfect excuse to be absent from the doomed dance floor. If anyone questioned my disappearance, I could cite "the flood on the kitchen counter." But once the water was sopped up, back out to the dance floor I went. 

You wouldn't believe the change of scene: disco fever had struck! The men and woman gyrated, twirled, and bucked back and forth across the dusty boules court. Dancing queens every one of them! Our friend Cyril (a former DJ) had thoughtfully taken over. Yahoo!

Lesson no. 5: La Nuit Blanche ne Tue Pas! (A sleepless night won't kill you!)

By 3:30 in the morning the dance floor was still going strong, but I was not. Worried about my neighbors, worried about my dogs (stranded on the balcony above us) and itching to call it a night, I watched nervously as the party carried on and on... right on into our kitchen.

Apparently our guests had an attack of the munchies! Plates of leftovers were pulled from the fridge. And the freezer was raided for leftover ice cream. 

But like a biblical Martha, I busied myself in the kitchen, trying to scrape melted cheese from the wicker platter (19-year-old boys didn't put a plastic sheet down first). Frustrated and wondering when the party would end--by 5 am or 6 or 7 -- noon?) I scraped at the braided bunch of cheesy wicker, finally shoving it aside.

Returning to the small crowd, I studied all the bright faces (5 or 6 friends remained). I noticed people enjoying life. Life was not some number. It wasn't "3 am" or two hours later, or the next day. Life was now, here for the taking. Why not grab it? 

* * *

The next day my mother-in-law lost consciousness. I am quickly finishing this story so I can drive to Marseilles to sit by her bedside. What's important in life? I don't know, but I am learning. 

*    *    *

I am beginning to think my husband is a much nicer person than I. For when--at that melt-down moment at 4:30 am--I said to him "They're still here!" He looked at me and, with a smile, he said, "they are having a good time at the party."

*    *    *

I am learning, from friends  and my husband, that what's important in life is that we help others to have a good time at the party.

Thanks for your thoughts for my dear belle-mère. (Three years after writing this post, and my mother-in-law is doing very well.)

  Bagatelle wedding Jean-Marc Kristin Espinasse
Jean-Marc, thank you for twenty years together. I have learned so much by your side. 

EMBRYOLISSE cream - used by French grandmothers and makeup artists

FRENCH GOURMET ITEMS - including herbs, mustard, coffee, tisane, chocolate, cakes

FRENCH SHOPPING BAG - made and knit in France!

PARIS METRO CUFF - Unique bracelet with a map of the Paris metro!

WORDS IN A FRENCH LIFE: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France

IMG_20140903_075209

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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

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


How to say "stomach ache" in French

Jean-Marc and Kristi in 1992

When Jean-Marc came to Phoenix to woo me we exchanged gifts. For me, a Provençale skirt 3 sizes too small. (Does my face look as pinched as my waist? At least he looks relaxed.) Twenty-four years later and we still miss the mark--but so far we keep trying to understand each other. (Photo from the forthcoming book "First French Essais." Out next month!)


avoir mal au ventre

    : to have a stomach ache

j'ai mal au ventre = I have a stomach ache.

J'ai mangé les restes et maintenant j'ai mal au ventre.
I ate the leftovers and now I have a stomach ache.

Audio File:
Listen to the words and phrases above: Download MP3 or Wav

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

Last night when my husband got into bed and reached for me like a giggly teen, I groaned.

"J'ai mal au ventre!"

It was true. Ever since clearing out our kitchen cabinets and our frigo, my stomach has been smarting.

"J'ai fini par jeter des choses!" I finally had to throw stuff out! I admitted to Jean-Marc. "But not without trying to finish them first!"

"Ah, ma chérie!" Jean-Marc laughed as he massaged my back. But when his fingers tiptoed over my side, I barked: "J'ai mal au ventre!"

"Aw, désolé, Chérie."

For a split second I enjoyed the unexpected commiseration. I guess my days of hiding three-day-old sandwiches at the bottom of the poubelle are over. Hurray! My man can finally accept that SOME things need tossing!

As I turned to plant a rewarding kiss on my husband's lips, I puckered out on hearing this:

"T'as jeté quoi exactement?"

Just what did I throw out? He dared ask a woman in the throes of stomach labor JUST WHAT DID SHE THROW OUT?

Men may never understand women. But here's the first clue: Don't ask! Ne pose pas une question si tu ne veux pas entendre la réponse!

 *    *    *

Ever seen someone chasing after a bus they've just missed? Shouting Wait! Wait for me! Well, my husband will have to run fast to catch up with the kiss he just missed. He'll have several opportunities to make up for the misstep, beginning Wednesday--when we go into kitchen renovation mode! For the next three weeks our fridge (the one I emptied), our oven, and our camp stove will be docked in the living room. We'll wash our dishes in the tiny bathroom sink, two rooms over. On second thought, maybe the outdoor hose is closer? Wish us luck!

French Vocabulary

j'ai mal au ventre = I have a tummy ache
le frigo = fridge
ma chérie = my dear
désolé(e) = sorry
la poubelle = garbage can (or bin)
Ne pose pas une question si tu ne veux pas entendre la réponse! = Don't ask a question if you don't want to hear the answer

 

  Jean-Marc and Kristi

For those of you who stuck with me to the end of the post, your reward: a translation of the poetic French shirt I offered Jean-Marc (have another look at the opening photo) 

J'ai brisé les liens bleus et les limites de la couleur. Plongez-vous dans la blancheur et nagez dans cet infini. I broke out of the blue lines and the limits of color. Dive into the whiteness and swim (in the white free abyss) infinity is before you. (line two of quote by artist Kazimir Malevitch, born in the Ukraine. Serendipitous timing, as our thoughts and hearts go out to Ukrainians at this time.)

The picture above was taken on a family vacation, in 2006, and is full of symbolism. Years after I gave Jean-Marc that poetic T-shirt, he continues to show me that experiences are one of the most rewarding things in life when you dare to break out or briser les liens et les limites.

French provencal cabanon tree blossoms in Tulette (c) Kristin Espinasse"J'ai brisé les liens bleus et les limites de la couleur. Plongez-vous dans la blancheur et nagez dans cet infini."

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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

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


tenir la route

Jean-Marc reading "Mastering the Art of French Eating" by Ann Mah (c) Kristin Espinasse French-Word-A-Day.com
I still can't believe this hunka hunka burning love (as one of my endearing readers calls Jean-Marc), yes I couldn't believe it then and now, 23-years later... I still can't believe he loves me. Happy anniversary, Baby. We celebrated our 19-year- wedding anniversary (the date we exchanged religious vows), on Sept 24th.

Jean-Marc is reading "Mastering the Art of French Eating," by Ann Mah. Highly recommended! Order your copy here and enjoy the 5-star reviews. More about this entertaining and insightful book on France and food, very soon...

tenir la route (teuh-neer-lah-root)

    : to stay the course

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc: Download MP3 or Wave File

Hier on a célébré 19 ans de mariage. Notre fille nous a payé un compliment: Votre couple, elle a dit, a bien tenu la route. Yesterday we celebrated 19 years of marriage. Our daughter paid us a compliment: Your relationship, she said, has stayed the course. 

To comment on this word entry, or to add to it, click here

HulstonExclusive French made clothes now available to purchase on-line. Thomas Hulston Collections.


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

At a neatly-dressed table overlooking the sea, our celebratory lunch was coming to a disappointing ending. But it was hard to be annoyed at the waiter, whose gentle smile had been so kind and welcoming. I watched as he struggled to keep up with the tables during the lunch rush, and felt the growing anxiety he himself might be feeling. It seemed at any moment the new arrivals, to our left, would stand up and toss their napkins on the table, before leaving in disgust.

I had the urge to whisper to the impatient newcomers, "The waiter is not ignoring you, he is just a little overwhelmed at the moment." Instead, I minded my own business. Let life take its course has become my meditation lately. The idea is not to meddle in God's grand plan. Good things and bad things happen. It is how we steady ourselves that matters. We have simply to trust and to love.

Jean-Marc was growing weary of the wait, too. The stray cats had been a good distraction, but after watching the furry interlopers take turns patrolling beneath the tables for fallen scraps, my husband heaved a sigh of impatience. When could we finally order a cup of coffee? I could read his mind as his eyes scanned the restaurant's terrace for our waiter.

Oh no. I hoped he wouldn't voice the complaint or say something sarcastic. Not after the friendly exchanges we'd had with the waiter. But the truth was, I was losing my patience too. 

"You need to grab him when he comes by..." I hinted, the curt tone in my voice giving away my own exasperation. Such "suggestions" were the story of our married life. On the one hand I complained about my husband's nerve, on the other it was I who sometimes pushed him to the front lines of confrontation. Have you heard back from the plumber? Is the telephone company going to charge us for that? Really? 

I sank down a little in my seat. That everyday life could be an ongoing war was disheartening. That a moment of ingratitude could give way to a restless impatience, was even more humbling. How fortunate we are--and yet our hearts are as fragile as anyone's. These thoughts come to me after the fact. After I've melted into a pool of tears there at the bustling restaurant.

The sequence of events happened quickly. One minute we were waiting for the waiter, the next I was worrying about the impatient newcomers to our left... then the strained look on my husband's face... and the homeless cats.... 

And next I knew the waiter appeared, bearing a little plate of cake. I stared at the single candle on top, its flame already blown out by the breeze, despite the waiter's efforts to shield it. I noticed the spray of whipped cream that outlined the surprise cake. The sweetness hit me, suddenly, and the tears rushed up. 

"Thank you!" I squeeked, and it was all I could do to keep my eyes dry until the waiter left, resuming his sprint from one table to the next.

By the time I looked over at my husband, the barrage had opened and my face was flooded with tears. Jean-Marc's thoughtful gesture had pushed me over the edge of my own edginess. It was just a little piece of cake, but it might as well have been a shimmering engagement ring (and if it were, I suddenly knew, deep down, that I would marry him all over again today on our 19th wedding anniversary).

How thoughtful he is! Try as I might, I could not stent the flow of tears. Next came the runny nose and then the heaving.  I could not explain the reaction but, by all appearances, it looked as though I was mourning--instead of showing gratitude for the anniversary cake he had arranged to be delivered to me there at the table. 

"I can't explain..." I said to Jean-Marc whose eyes never left mine. (I wished they would, for his concentration only intensified my emotion, causing another wave or downpour of tears.)

"It's just that ...." I took a deep breath and finish my sentence, "On a quand même une très belle histoire..." It was true, we had, after all, a pretty damn good love story. 

***

Later, our daughter Jackie managed to put to words what I could not. On showing her the pictures from our anniversary lunch, and sharing with her my teary reaction, she offered: "Votre couple a bien tenu la route!"  Yes, our couple has stayed the course--at times an obstacle course. But we have held on for the ride.

I can't help but make a small parallel, now, when I think about those scraggly stray cats at the restaurant. How cavalier they seemed, as they strutted beneath the tables, but when so much as a strand of grated cheese fell to the ground, they lost all notion of ego or pretense and devoured the fallen scrap

"I'm not such a toughy, after all," I said to Jean-Marc as I wiped the tears from my face back at the table. I'm not sure he fully realizes that when push comes to shove in our marriage, rather than show my sadness, the well of tears inside of me freezes into a giant shield.

After the avowal, I quickly looked away to recompose. Wrung out from the tears, I watched those proud cats, who strutted to a stop, only to scramble when a sliver of sustenance fell from the sky above. Love is sometimes the same way, appearing in scraps. And suddenly, strutting along through life, tough as nails, we are dumbstruck by our hunger.

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 Bescherelle conjugation guide.     Capture plein écran 16052011 092531"This is without a doubt the definitive guide to conjugation of French verbs... an indispensible reference and not overwhelming for beginning students." Order it here.--M. Savoir (Amazon reviewer)

 

The island of Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse, french-word-a-day.com
Jean-Marc bought two round trip ticket to Sardinia for 68 euros. We stayed three nights at a B&B, near Pula. (Lodging was 60 euros per night and the 3 day rental car was 100 euros... just in case you are looking for something do do when in the South of France--visit a nearby island!)

We also celebrated this occasion back in July, when we remembered our civil ceremony.  See a steamy picture of that celebration, here.

 

The island of Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse, french-word-a-day.com
Other reasons to visit Sardinia.... the flowers are so pretty this time of year...

The island of Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse, french-word-a-day.com
If you love bikes you'll see plenty...

The island of Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse, french-word-a-day.com
The locals sells their modest harvests....

The island of Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse, french-word-a-day.com
Already mentioned the bikes, but they're worth another line....

The island of Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse, french-word-a-day.com
And if you like classic motos -- plenty of those!

The island of Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse, french-word-a-day.com
Personally, I'm a sucker for door curtains and their flirty ruffles! Love it when the tiles peek out.

The island of Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse, french-word-a-day.com
Also charming are the brochettes of Italians chatting next to the little trucks called "Apes" ("bees", in Italian).

Sheep in Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse french-word-a-day.com
I used to love to gaze at the sheep. Nowadays, I love to look for the shepherd!

Window shutters in Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse, french-word-a-day.com
Do these shutters speak to you, too? They come in all colors and sizes, but "natural" like this is fine by me.

Church in Sardinia, Italy (c) Kristin Espinasse
Your are always celebrating your anniversary, Jackie sighs. I can understand her confusion. Our civil and religious marriage ceremonies being months apart, there is the temptation to mark the occasion when it arises in July... and again in September. 

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