le piege : the trap + book update

Snowy Vineyard (c) Kristin Espinasse
Photo of the vineyard where we spent 5 lively years! Thanks to your helpful notes, I will be writing the first draft of the memoir in private. Read on...

le piège (pee-ezh)

    : trap, snare, pitfall, booby-trap

Audio: Listen to the following words & example sentence: DownloadMP3 or Wav

  How to properly pronounce French words? Read this inexpensive book!

piéger (verb) = to trap
piégé = booby-trapped
une voiture piégée = a car bomb
un colis or une lettre piégé(e) = a parcel or letter bomb
le piège à souris = mousetrap
la question piège = loaded or trick question
le piège à touriste = tourist trap
tomber dans le piège = to fall into a trap

Un piège, ou trappe, est un dispositif destiné à capturer un être vivant. -Wikipedia
A snare or trap is a device for capturing a live being.

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

I am trying to remember whether the French have an expression for "wow", because a teary wow! is just one of the reactions I am having to your ongoing messages of support, following the announcement that I am writing my memoir.

But isn't a memoir something someone writes at the end of one's life? some people wrote in, a little surprised by my decision.

There are many kinds of memoirs. In book publishing, memoirs are also a way to recount a specific period in one's life. A good book title narrows the scope of the subject; here are a few made-up ones to illustrate this point:  

  • Grappling: My 5 Years at a Wine Farm & How I Stayed Sober
  • Its What It's: How My Blog Readers Taught Me Grammar and Punctuation

(Come to think of it, that second "memoir" might be a lot of fun to write! It is true: I have and continue to learn punctuation thanks to the notes and explanations you send in. )

Though I will not know the title of my book until I have discovered its overriding theme, I like to think it is "A Love Story"--no matter how overused that title is. On the other hand, a How-To title could hint at a good portion of the book's content:

  • How To Become An Author, Editor, and Publisher When You Failed Language Class.

Sometimes book titles are borrowed from one of the chapters inside the memoir (think Me Talk Pretty One Day).

In my book, a particularly chilling chapter recounts a drastic measure taken towards a flawless life. That chapter is called:

  • Waking Up at The Wrong Time : Becoming Conscious on the Operating Table

Indeed, the book itself could be titled after that very chapter. Waking Up at the Wrong Time... such a title would so meaningfully evoke one woman's premature arrival at consciousness.

I realize that statement sounds absurd. How can one become conscious before becoming conscious?

Only eternity knows the answer. And Love is eternal... 

Once again, please accept my deepest thanks for taking the time to write in, following the previous three posts. The process of deciding to write a memoir--then typing the first three chapters online--feels just like going through the towel dryer--one of those old-fashioned French dryers where a flimsy rag passes between two rolling steel bolts. On the other end, out comes the towel, crisp at a piece of paper. It will take 280 to 330 sheets of this kind of paper to tell my story. 

To comment on this post, or to read what others are saying about this topic, please click here

 Another snippet from the book follows, just below my picture near the end of this post.

French Laundry (c) Kristn Espinasse
"Airing one's laundry in  public?" A few people wrote in, concerned about a tell-all memoir. Please trust me to know what to share - and what not to! My Mom has dug out her big red protective marker and my daughter will be reading the rough-draft! 

Jean-Marc will kick off his USA Wine Tour this spring. Check out his itinerary and see if he will be in your area. Click here

One thing I learned from readers' reaction to my post about the risks of writing: depending on your perspective, or life experience, a scene will evoke darkness of light - or both. I am always having to remind myself to adjust my perspective.

That's me, serving dessert. At the vineyard where we lived, we had many, many guests. Rarely did I meet a fellow teetotaler. In the meantime, there was lots and lots of wine to bring out. When Jean-Marc reached past me to pour the wine for a tablemate, I casually moved my plate out of the way, afraid a drop of alcohol would fall into my pasta--what if I ate the tainted food? Could I still believe I was abstinent? Would I be able to claim my end of another year chip

When emptying the bottles for the recycle bin, I would carefully rinse my hands, what if the alcohol seeped through my skin?!
I have relaxed a lot in the recent years. But I don't ever want to get to cozy around wine. The risk to relapse is ever present. 

I had not meant to write any more of my story online, having made the decision to write the chapters in private... and then, these thoughts rushed out. If you know anyone who might benefit from this story, click on the Prologue, or introductory chapter, where you will find a "share link" at the end of the post. From there your friend or family member can read through the first three chapters of my recovery story.  DSC_0390
"Love locks in Paris." Happy Valentines Day to you! Click here for your Valentine... a list of endearing terms and several heart photos I've taken just for you! 

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

l'enjeu est grand

I will always be there for you (c) Kristin Espinasse
I stumbled across this photo this morning. I think it speaks volumes after today's story, which is dedicated to my husband.

Today's word is an expression: l'enjeu est grand

    : the stakes are high (there is a lot at risk)

Audio File: listen to me say this phrase Download MP3 or Wav

Je ne sais pas quoi faire. L'enjeu est grand.
I don't know what to do. The stakes are high. 

All kinds of "steaks" or "enjeu" expression here, if you are looking to improve your French. If you are looking to relate to life... then please read my story, below. It's a follow up about the memoir I would like to write... 

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

Do not allow yourself to get excited by what is said about you. Let the world talk. —Fenelon

Jean-Marc and I are lying on our backs in the dark. It is 5 in the morning and I've had insomnia for the first time in years. My mind is spinning after the recent revelations I have shared on my blog. But no matter the positive reception, no matter the encouragements, I can't help but fear what's coming next—if I go ahead with plans with this tell-all memoir.

The thought sends chills and I pull up the covers. "I feel hungover," I joke, turning to my husband. But just like the aftermath of a drinking spree, will I regret being so loose with my story? So much has already come out, in the previous posts. The sharing of my sobriety is detoxifying. There are cold sweats and headaches now, ten years after my last drink.

Jean-Marc laughs. "It's all that pastis you swallowed last night!" As he shifts beneath the covers, pockets of warmth are freed, enveloping me. With the warmth, comes a sense of security. It seems safe to broach a subject that is bothering me. 

"There are a couple chapters we need to talk about..." I begin. Though I have gone over the sensitive material many times in my mind, I forget that Jean-Marc is hearing the chapter outline for the first time. So busy spitting out the controversial details, I am unaware of the growing silence in the room.

"If I could just get past these chapters," I conclude, "I think I can tell the rest of my story." 

Jean-Marc turns over, his back is now to me. In 19 years of marriage, such body language is easier than French to interpret.

I quietly get up to make our tea, realizing that my number one supporter may no longer be able to cheer me to the finish line. Without him, I will not make it past chapter one. I won't even want to.

Stopping at the bathroom sink, I splash water on my face. Looking into the little mirror, I see scars all over: a huge "H" on my forehead, an "L" down my nose. Stitch, stitch, stitch. The latest one, a dent near the tip of my nose, tells of ongoing struggles.

Damn it! I think, shutting off the tap. He's still mad at me. But haven't I paid for my past follies? If my squeaky-clean daily living wasn't enough, I'd coped with skin cancer in the last year and a half. It is as though the recovery work that began in me a decade ago continues to push up "toxins"—to the very surface of my skin!

Climbing back into bed with the hot mugs, I hand Jean-Marc his tea, setting mine down on the nightstand beside a stack of notebooks. Slipping under the covers I still feel the chill in the air. I ask Jean-Marc what he is thinking.

"About a lot of things..." My husband's words feel condemning.

But what did I expect? I deserve the cold shoulder—I have put him through a lot. I will continue to pay penance for my actions, not because he asks me to—but because I need to! I will bring Jean-Marc his morning tea... I will write my stories, always focusing on the good things...  I will wear sunscreen!

"Listen," I say, defensively. "I don't have to write this book. I can stop now, call it quits after those two chapters. I have received several notes... readers telling me that because of my coming clean, they are finally going to quit drinking. If writing those chapters has helped someone, it has been worth it. I need not go any farther!"

"But this book," I continue, "is not about drinking. As for the chapters I have just told you about, I don't have to include them. I can just omit the information and the story will be: "I got drunk, I fell down, I got sober, I started a blog, became an author, moved to a winery! stayed sober through that, and skin cancer—and lived happily ever after!

Re the controversial parts, I can drag myself over the coals sharing all my faults and revealing all my transgressions. And YOU can be the hero at the end of every episode, cheering me on and on!

But by not sharing the whole story, my behavior—recounted across those revelatory pages—won't make a lot of sense! All the colorful exploits will be taken out of context. Either I tell the whole story, or quit now.

The look on Jean-Marc's face tells me he's coming round... but just in case, I assure him:

Yes, I can just stick to blog-writing and keep typing these skipping-through-lavender-fields lighthearted anecdotes. And you can be the one who is always hiding encouraging notes in my robe pocket, gifting me with cherry trees," I say, referring to the opening chapter in the book that I still so deeply want to write. 

"I told you," Jean-Marc mumbles, "write what you need to write." 

Another period of silence passes in which each of us reaches for our computers and our tea, to surf the net, silently. Checking my mail I am struck dumb by a letter.

The forwarded email has accidentally ended up in my inbox. In the letter, someone I admire—who has also shown a lot of affection toward me—is telling another friend about the first two chapters of my memoir. Concerning the Prologue story, she writes:

This one is about her marking her 10th anniversary of sobriety. And, yes, if you read it and get the impression her husband is a jerk, he is.

I am stunned as I read my friend's words. I know she cares about me, but I had no idea how she felt about my husband! Farther down the email, I see the recipient's response:

I can appreciate what this woman went through to get where she is and should I assume that the rest of the manuscript details what it took for her (and out of her) to get where she is today? 

They were talking about us—me and "The Jerk"! My heart fell as I began to realize the consequences of my sharing. Write enough about my husband—no matter how lovingly—and somebody out there is going to think he is a connard!

It occurred to me then that no matter how sensitively I told my story, I was putting my husband's reputation at risk.

"You have my permission," Jean-Marc said, setting down his tea. "I don't care what anybody thinks about me."

"But you should care. It might hurt you one day. Someone might mistake you for a connard!" 

The more I thought about it, I realized what danger I was putting him in. Though a few illustrative sentences about Jean-Marc's behavior might balance out my own questionable behavior in one of the dramatic chapters, would readers be left with a bad taste in their mouths? And would that be what they remembered?

Only I will know all his proofs of love and the lengths he has gone to to pull us through.

Next I thought about the risk to my own reputation. Did I really want to be labelled? You know, she's an alcoholic... complete strangers would say. Should I choose to go ahead with my story, there would be other colorful labels that would crop up, too! 

Having built up a blog in the past ten years, with supportive (and down right adoring) readers, do I want to risk off-putting any one of them with some tidbit from my private life? 

I began to think about all of the people that would read my story, from my French aunts to my grandchildren to the lady at the flower stand, to whom I had given my card. Did I want them to know everything about me? What would be the consequences?

In ten years would family members look at me and say, "But Kristi, what were you thinking?"

Would my husband still be here?

Is it really worth it? Even if I were to work with an agent and a publisher—and be paid for my story—would it be, in the end, at my very own expense?


Monday morning now. My husband is laughing again. After a particularly painful weekend, he is back to his chipper, teasing self when I bring him his morning tea.

"Pray for me, that I might tell this story," I whisper.

"I already have," Jean-Marc smiles.

"Are you just saying that? You didn't pray!" I say, poking his side. 

"Yes, I did," he pokes me back, and I'm touched, believing him.


My mom supports me, my sister too: "Call me every day," Heidi insists, encouraging me to tell my story, if it will help me. "I think it will help others," I say. 

"You bet it will help others!" my sister agrees.


Post note: To my friend who wrote that Jean-Marc is a jerk. He has not seen your letter and I am not mad at you. I only ask that you will remember to withhold judgment. I want to tell my story but I am terrified of anyone judging my husband or myself, which will happen, I know.

Jean-Marc may not always be an angel, but he is my Prince Charming. His love has swooped me up, quite literally off the ground.

A final word: when I have my doubts about sharing my story, including the bad decisions I have made, it gives me great courage to know that readers are not judging me. I read every comment, here are just a few that speak to me, as I continue to weigh whether or not to share certain details of my story:

If it gives someone else the courage to make important changes, it will be worth it. Hopefully, it is therapeutic for you as well. There is no shame in past weakness overcome, or, at least held at bay. --Rob T

Kristin- You may never see my comment-- there are so many. And it doesn't really matter. Stop worrying about what everyone else thinks and focus on you. You are a brave, strong woman. It takes guts to admit that you aren't perfect, but none of us are. This "confession" only makes me admire you more. We all have weaknesses, skeletons, "fallings down" or however you want to put it. We are human. Be true to yourself. I wish you the very best. Write this book for you. I will read it and so will many others. Much love sent your way- Teresa.

To comment on this story, or to read the comments, click here. 

Chapters: click on the following links to read the book that I am currently writing

Tom mann

Jean-Marc (here with Tom Mann) will kick off his USA Wine Tour this spring. Check out his itinerary and see if he will be in your area. Click here.

If I continue writing... I'll tell you the story of moving to a wine farm. Yes, I was tempted there. No, I never tasted so much as one drop of Jean-Marc's award winning-wine. I swear.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

So much for anonymity

Kristi and Jean-Marc Espinasse
 "This one's for you!" (pictured: that's me with the cake, my husband, right, gets all the wine around here--even when we lived on a vineyard, where wine all but flowed from the garden hose.)

A (Very Special) DAY IN A FRENCH ...by Kristi Espinasse

Yesterday a delicate and meaningful milestone quietly passed. Waking up, I searched for a way to respectfully acknowledge the date, lest it pass as another ordinary day. Quietly walking out to the bedroom terrace, I looked around at the countryside.  As far as the eye could see, there was greenery: olive and almond trees, the forest, and the sea.

It was a relief to wake with a clear head and no regrets. Breathing in the morning scent, I closed my eyes. Now was the time. I offered up the simple acknowledgment, and thanks. There was a moment of complete and utter silence, and then seagulls cried in the distance. A train passed, blowing its horn. The neighbor's dogs barked. My robe sagged, and I reached down to tighten the belt. It was both an ordinary and an extraordinary day.

"You can take me to lunch," I hinted to Jean-Marc, both reminding him of the important date—and suggesting how he might help me to mark the occasion.

"How about with a big glass of cognac?" he chuckled.

"That is NOT funny!" No matter how many times I tell him that such jokes, given the circumstance, are in bad taste, he cannot help himself.    

"OK, then how about a six-pack?" my husband continued.

"T'es terrible!"

"I'm very proud of you," Jean-Marc assured me, planting a kiss on my lips. His tenderness provoked flashbacks of years ago, when I would discover little notes stuck in a book I was reading or in the pocket of my robe.

"Çela fait dix jours. Continue, Mon Amour... That makes ten days. Keep it up, My Love," the encouragements read, and "Trois semaines! Fier de toi, Ma Chérie! Three weeks now! So proud of you, My Dear!"

The scribbled notes were encouraging but had I foreseen the future, I might not have had the guts to continue on the new path, not knowing that some of the rockiest parts were just around the corner. The hand-written notes would stop. The sores would begin to open.

A decade has passed and I am still on that fragile path; despite all the setbacks, I have never once veered off track. And even if I wouldn't be celebrating the 10-year mark with a glass of champagne, I was looking forward to eating out with my husband.

Only, when my daughter ran up, asking to bring a friend home for lunch, plans changed. Five months at the new school, and she, too, had passed a delicate milestone: the courage to invite a new friend home!

Well, at least I no longer have to fret about what to wear to the restaurant! The positive thoughts continued as I set about tidying the house, and preparing for my daughter's special lunch.

But as I hurried to fix up the house for our important guest, I felt a familiar rush of panic. There won't be time to finish the cleaning AND to get the meal started. Recognizing the anxiety—that old foe that I could not cope with ten years ago—I was able to put a stop to it. No, there wouldn't be time if I insisted on a perfect outcome. But there was plenty of time otherwise!

What was important, after all, wasn't how the house looked or what we ate, it was how our guest would feel. I wanted Jackie's friend to experience that good and cozy and welcoming feeling and to leave with a desire to return! 

"Promise to come back and see us?" I said, kissing my daughter's friend goodbye after lunch.

"Oui!" came the shy response.

Noticing the look in the young lady's eyes it seemed a guardian angel was smiling back at me. If I had gone to the restaurant to celebrate and be pampered, I would have missed this heavenly encounter.

At the end of the day Jean Marc presented me with a gift. Gently tapping on the door to the bedroom, where I had been putting away a stack of freshly folded clothes, he curled his finger several times, signaling to me to follow him.

I was a little leery of whatever he was dragging me out to see. After polyester pajamas, discount branch shredders, and T-shirts I could never wear in public, I never knew what kind of gift was up his sleeves.

"Will I like it?" I asked, nervously, letting my husband lead me by the sleeve.

Opening the front door, I saw the little cherry tree posed just beyond the welcome mat, like a gushing guest. I looked closely at the delicate, leafless branches. The tiny buds were burgeoning.

"Congratulations!" Jean-Marc said. "I'm so proud of you!" 

The burgeoning continued, inside of me, as teardrops surfaced like the little buds of the cherry tree. Fragile as its branches, my sobriety continues.

Update: February 3rd, 2019, I celebrated 16 years of sobriety.

Golden retriever Smokey resting on the balcony overlooking the vineyard and hills

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety

Chapter 1: Positano, Italy - Summer 2002

Postitano, Italy. Photo by Annwvyn.

Chapter 1: Positano, Italy - Summer 2002

We must bear with ourselves with patience and without flattery.

I am sitting on the floor of a luxury hotel room, tossing potato chips across the parquet tiles to my 9-month-old nephew, Payne.  My sister and her husband are out for an early dinner, and I have offered to babysit.

With a squeal of laughter, Payne scampers across the floor to fetch another chip, pausing as he passes by a tiny glass flask. I casually reach for it, tucking the airline sampler bottle behind me and throwing out another chip to redirect the toddler's attention back to the game. I can think of no better way to pass the time; besides, this activity seems to be a hit!

I take a hit from the little glass flask, having twisted off the aluminum top. C'est l'heure de l'apéro, I reason, calling to mind my husband, who is surely having a glass of wine at this hour. And my sister and her husband would have sat down by now at the dinner table, with glasses of champagne. Yes, it was cocktail hour for everyone including me. So no worries!

Looking out to the balcony, I watch the sun begin to set along the Amalfi Coast. To the right, the hillside is peppered with spicy-colored villas ranging from pepper red to saffron yellow. A true artist would call it a "pastiche", but what did I know? Inside of me the poet's flame had gone out long ago.

Out in the harbor, yachts are swaying, very much like my steps as I stand up and walk over toward my bed. The sea breeze filters in from the open French windows, and I reach out to shut them securely before returning to my cot. I'll just have a little rest. Pitching the last potato chip far over to the curtains, I buy another moment of shut-eye as Payne sets out to retrieve the salty prize.

*    *    *

Waking to the sound of laughter I see my brother-in-law, Doug, through the slits of my eyes. He is shaking his head.

"She's smashed!"

"Doug!" my sister objects, silencing her husband. I watch as Heidi makes a beeline over to my bed. 

"Well she is. She's smashed!" my brother-in-law points out. He's had a few drinks himself, and is ripe for an argument.

Heidi ignores him, kneeling down to have a closer look at me. Strings of pearls glimmer as the moon shines into the room reflecting off my sister. She looks so beautiful in a colorful silk dress. Her bright red lips are quizzing me.

Instead of answering, I'm shoulding: I should wear color, instead of black. I should buy some red lipstick! I should not have drunk those airline samplers!

The scent of Shalimar, our mother's favorite perfume, tickles the inside of my nose. I should buy a bottle of Mom's perfume, too! I think of our mother, who lives an ocean away, in Yelapa, Mexico. We haven't spoken for ages. There are no telephones in the jungle.

"Why are there potato chips on the floor?" Heidi's tone is part curiosity, part impatience. Her wheat-colored hair falls down her back, in waves. Doug tugs on a lock of it as he walks past to open the window.

"Smashed!" he declares.

A brisk stream of air rushes in to the hotel suite. A storm is brewing on the horizon and giant waves coming in from the sea are capped in white.

Suddenly the scent of my sister's perfume and the salty breeze sobers me. I sit up in bed as my eyes dart around the room searching for my 9-month-old nephew!

Payne's diaper is peeking out from the curtains, where he has finally managed to reach the last potato chip. My brother-in-law bends down, sweeping up the giggly baby. Plucking a few soggy morsels from Payne's lips, he  offers his son a tender kiss followed by a mock scolding, "No more beer chips for you, Little Guy!"

"Not beer, it's vodka!" Heidi says, picking up an upended flask.

"Ah... Mother's Little Helper!" Doug chirps.

My brother-in-law's "drink teasing" always makes me wince. But it was true, after chasing children all day, I found it extremely relaxing at night to have a glass or two of wine--until I discovered vodka.

My stomach began to knot as I looked over at my sister. I hated to disappoint her and her husband, after they had generously offered me this retreat. And here I was tossing chips to an infant! It was so ironic, so out of character for me, the mother who insisted on nursing her own son for over a year. And to think, when friends so much as offered a fingerful of whipped cream to my own son, I freaked out. Only mother's milk would do for 12 month old child! But potato chips for my sweet nephew?

I heard my brother-in-law in the bathroom, changing Payne's diapers. His words echoed my thoughts:

"Mother's Helper! Your aunt had a little bit of Mother's helper tonight," he sang, tossing the diaper in the trash. Next he reached for a towel to begin cleaning the potato chips off the floor. He was more amused than angry. Payne was okay, he assured me. No harm done.

But what about my sister? What must she be thinking!

Looking me in the eyes Heidi shook her head and I felt my heart sink. That was it. I'd done it this time! I should have stayed home.

Heidi plucked up the bag of chips, reaching in, ever so gracefully, for the last one. Tasting it, she shook her head once again.

"Italian chips suck," she said, reaching over to ruffle my hair. "Couldn't you have at least bought American?

 *    *    *

Postnote: Ultimately, I decided not to go forward with the memoir.  Here are two posts that hint at why:
1. L'Enjeu est Grand (The Stakes are High)
2. Le Piege (The Trap)

Chapters: click on the following links to read the other episodes

Let goThe opening quote, from the French 17th century thinker Fenelon, is from this book that gives me so much comfort and direction.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety