Une Friandise: Chocolate Sundaes following Jules's visit to the Ophtalmo

Jackie dessert
I typed the word friandise into my Google photo album search box and voilà, a photo of my daughter and one of her all-time favorite sweets appeared: strawberries with chantilly cream. 

Jean-Marc’s PROVENCE WINE TOURS begin again in May! Cassis, Bandol, Châteauneuf-du-Pape—don’t miss our beloved winemaker’s favorite stomping grounds for grapes! Click here.


  : a sweet treat

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

In the salle d'attente at the eye clinic in Marseille, everyone is wearing shower caps. A male nurse breezes in, administers eye drops to a half-dozen patients, and disappears. A faint scent of iodine lurks in the air--evidence everyone has (hopefully) followed instructions to shower with Betadine the night before and day of the ocular intervention. So much scrubbing seems a bit drastic given patients remain fully clothed during the 10-minute procedure to treat a certain pathologie oculaire caused by macular degeneration. I wonder, did Mom remove her hat? I had a lot of questions, but having delegated Jules’s doctor's visit to my daughter, I would not know every detail of the intervention. But I did get as much info as possible, so on with our story...

Back at Clinique Chantecler, Jackie, also wearing a shower cap, is sitting beside her grand-mère. For the entire ride to Marseille, Jules sat quietly in the passenger seat, nervously filing her nails (hard as a rock from the potassium tablets the opthalmo prescribed for her eye tension). The male nurse reappears, asking all the patients to hand over the box with the aflibercept injection they were prescribed (to be stored at home in the refrigerator and brought to today's appointment). Not surprisingly, half the room has forgotten to bring the medicine. Did they leave the box beside the cheese and the cornichons... as we might have? No, too many precautions were taken here at home…in the form of numerous sticky notes strategically placed around our house, in addition to my phone alarm. While I did entrust my daughter with expediting Grandma to the clinic, I didn’t leave every detail to her. 

Jackie dug through her bag, where, beside her grandmother's medical folder, and her immigrant insurance card, she located the shot box. 
"Merci, Mademoiselle," the nurse smiled. Little did Jackie know she was earning brownie points for later, when her calm demeanor would earn her special hospital privileges. Turning her attention back to Grandma, who is feeling anxious about the upcoming needle in the eye, Jackie is reassuring: "Don't worry. I'm sure it will go quickly, Grandma. After, I’ll take you for ice cream!"

 The other patients, mostly senior citizens, seem intrigued by the two foreigners. One of them reaches out: "Votre grand-mère est anglaise?" Your grandmother is English?

"Non. Elle est américaine," Jackie answers. "Elle a un peu peur." With that, the other patients are quick to offer comforting words:

"Oh, c'est rien!" says the woman with the plastic shield over her eye. Another adjusts his surgical cap,  "Vous verrez, ça ne fait pas mal du tout." The woman with a bandage agrees: "je viens ici chaque mois." The youngest in the group, a businessman here during his lunch hour, smiles warmly, "C'est comme une lettre à la poste!"

Jackie translates each encouragement. "You see, Grandma. It'll be as easy as posting a letter!" But there was no time to explain the postal expression as Jules was soon summoned to the eye injection chamber (if words could paint Mom's imagination at this point.) 
"Mademoiselle, vous pouvez accompagner votre grandmère." Good news, the doctor just made an exception to the patients-only rule, letting Jackie assist her grandmother during the treatment.

(The next ten minutes were not so bad, Mom would later tell me. The hardest part was you had to watch the needle as it approached your eye...)

After the procedure, the foreigner and her petite-fille waved goodbye to the patients in the salle d'attente. At this point, Jackie might've patted herself on the back. But you know the saying: No good deed goes unpunished!  After helping Grandma back into the passenger seat, our Do-Gooder got locked out of the electric car! Now the challenge was for Jules, with one eye bandaged, to find the door handle. But even after the struggle to locate the poignée de porte, the punishment wasn't over. Our little Renault Zoe would not start. A few deep breaths later (and surely some bionic praying on Grandma’s part) Jackie solved the problem by removing the electronic key from its case and using it instead of the dashboard button.

The third strike came when Jules began to suffer a sudden mal de tête. Jackie, our quick-thinking ambulancière, wound the seat back as far as it would go, and soon Grandma fell asleep, only to wake when the two reached le péage in La Ciotat. Before Jules could remember her pain, Jackie reminded her of la friandise she'd promised.

Soon after, I received an update from McDonald's drive-through, "Here in 10," my daughter's text read. "The ice cream's on you, lol, I don't have the money."

I laughed, remembering Jackie had my Paypal debit card from when she did the grocery shopping earlier. I was so relieved the eye intervention was over that I couldn't have cared if the duo ordered sundaes for everyone in line--and knowing Mom she would!  Finally, my telephone chimed with a notification from Paypal that a charge for 7 euros just went through. Well, that was a good deal! After all, a medical cab would have cost many times the price, and it wouldn't have included a doting assistant or a visit to MacDo*! 

In retrospect, entrusting this special expedition to Jackie had been the right decision after all. Not only was it a needed lesson in delegation for me, but it was also an opportunity for grandmother and granddaughter to share meaningful time together. Jackie handled it all with professionalism, ensuring Grandma was in good hands throughout. And while I may not have indulged in a sundae myself, seeing the smiles on their faces was the sweetest reward of all.

Corrections and messages are welcome and appreciated. Please use this link


la friandise = a sweet treat
la salle d'attente
= waiting room
la chantilly
= whipped cream
Betadine = an antiseptic used before and after surgery
la pathologie oculaire = eye pathology
la grand-mère = grandmother
l'ophtalmo (l'ophtalmologue) = eye doctor
Vous verrez, ça ne fait pas mal du tout = you'll see, it doesn't hurt at all
la poignée de porte = door handle
le mal de tête = headache
l'ambulancier, ambulancière = ambulance driver
le péage = toll booth
MacDo = French slang for McDonald's

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Jules and Kristi painting
My precious Mom, in front of one of her paintings.

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.

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

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

TODAY’S WORD: "Avoir du cran"

    :  to have guts, grit, to be brave

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

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

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

"I'm not going!"

"Mom!  We can't cancel. We're going!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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Kristi and Jules at the circus trailer

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

Your corrections and comments are welcome and appreciated. Click here to leave a message. in the comments section at the end of this post.

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.

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Canular: How To Say Practical Joke in French? + Jackie & I have fun at Max's expense...

Paquerette flowers outside Chateau Lumiere
Merci for your encouraging notes following last week's update regarding subscribership. Your words revive me! Today's mischief takes place in La Ciotat (photo snapped outside Le Palais Lumière where a patch of daisies looks as innocent as a team of pranksters in hiding. Read on.) 


    : practical joke, prank, hoax

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Getting cozy on the couch with a cup of tea and our shepherd Ricci, I watched my daughter prepare to leave for her brother's pour rendre un service.

Grabbing the car keys Jackie turned to me, "Mom, why don't you come along to Max's? We can walk Ana's dog while she’s away.” 
Visions of climbing 4 flights of stairs to my son's condo (to lead a scent-obsessed Beagle on a kilometer-long promenade) had me sinking back into the sofa. "J'ai la flemme," I admitted.

"Energy comes in moving!" Jackie countered.

Don't you love it when young people share their wisdom? Jackie is right. I needed to shake up my afternoon routine. Some salty fresh air and, though I didn't know it yet, a little mischievous behavior, would be vivifiant for body, mind, and soul, and who could have guessed the positive effect would ripple out and tickle somebody else in the process.... 

If my daughter managed to rouse me, the drive to her brother's fired up every nerve ending in my being as I gripped the handle above the passenger door. "Jackie, slow down! Don't follow so close to the other cars! DID YOU SEE THE PEDESTRIAN???"

Speaking of pedestrian, between beginning today's story and procrastinating its development, I came across the word "pedestrian" and was amused by its various meanings:

1) lacking wit or imagination
2) walking

Isn't it interesting how the very act of walking stirs creative intelligence? Perhaps this explains how, after marching from the car to Max's condominium and up 4 flights of stairs, a creative urge came over me. The urge to play a practical joke on my son. Normally void of ideas for these kinds of bêtises, my mind was now reeling with ideas.

A look around Max’s home revealed he’s been struggling to keep up with le ménage ever since he began his new job two months ago. On top of domestic challenges, he's been exhausted from keeping on top of a new job. A little prank might perk him up.

"Jackie!" I giggled. "Do you know what a practical joke is?"


"I'll show you... Let's turn everything in Max's fridge upside down! Here..." I said, opening the door, “Start with the condiments..." While Jackie upended the ketchup, mayo, and pickles, I grabbed a bowl. "Let's put the jar of cornichons here in case it leaks. We just want to have fun--not flood his apartment," I said, bummed that we couldn’t turn over the bottles of beer because of their narrow tops.

As Jackie turned her attention to the shelves, putting everything the wrong way up, I carefully flipped the bowl of onions, peppers, and herbs on the counter, and then made my way over to the spices. Les épices were lined up neatly at the back of la table de cuisson, but not for long...

After we'd somersaulted everything in the frigo and around the stove, I headed to Max’s room when Jackie suggested we stop here. Elle avait raison. We'd made our mischievous mark, besides, there'd be more occasions in which to mess with Max. Especially after he retaliated--no doubt he would!

With a pat on the back we left Izzy the Beagle, swearing her to secrecy: Chut! Ne dis rien! "Now Izzy, don't tell Max what you saw!" With that, we returned home for dinner.... and waited for a call from Max, eager to know his reaction. 

Finally, when the call came, our victim didn't mention anything amiss.

"Where are you?" Jackie quizzed.

"I'm in the basement, organizing some things."
"Oh, anything else new?"
"No," Max replied with a yawn. Jackie and I were feeling let down until an afterthought from Max stirred us again:  "By the way, did you turn over that bowl on my countertop?"

"No..." Jackie responded. Giving me a thumbs up as she spoke into the receiver. "I don't know what you are talking about."

"Bon," Max said, sounding bored. "I've gotta finish up here. Talk to you later." We were sure we'd get a call back, but the night wore on, and not a word from Max.

Meantime, I began to doubt our farce. Was it not clever? But then, a brilliant practical joke isn't about cleverness--its appeal lies in timing. Was this bad timing?

The next day I nearly bypassed the morning prayer to open text messages first thing. The little devil in me was desperate to know if Max had discovered the full extent of our friendly trespass. Surely by now he would have seen the contents of his frigo mis à l'envers.

Still no word from him, I tried to be coy with my message. "Hey, Son. Do you know the term "topsy turvy?"

(No response.)

"Things feeling a little upside down over there?" I persisted.

Finally, my phone chimed! "I saw your joke" the text read. My son's deadpan response killed it -- that wonderful creative buzz born of a pedestrian effort.
"But Max," I despaired, "didn't you think it was funny?" 



"He's just tired," Jackie remarked when I couldn't let go--until finally I did.

I let go of the fish. In French un poisson is synonymous with "practical joke" or farce. But it may as well be synonymous with "the outcome of things".  It reminds me of the would-be thrill and adventure of writing: the reward, it turns out, lies not in the untouchable outcome but in the golden nuggets we gather along the way. This story (and the fun and games behind it) was born of one child's wisdom and the other’s wisecrackery. Indeed, the old Max will be back. Once he gets the hang of his new job, he'll be back at our home, setting all kinds of traps for the family. After all, we learned these pranks from him—even more, Max has shown us time and again how les badinages and plaisanteries are a good way not to take ourselves too seriously.

Meantime, let the outcome be the uncontrollable outcome. Continue to work, love, learn, and especially to have fun. See you next week, dear reader, for another story about whatever the universe conjures up.


Typical of Max to shake up his professional presentation...with something unexpected! (That's the cereal he and his sister used to eat when they were little). 
You might say our son has been in the wine business ages before we had our two vineyards: At the age of 10, Max rode his bike to town to buy a bottle of wine as a gift for his dad. After consulting with the storekeeper in our little French village, the boy rode home with a Côtes du Rhône!


Click here for Jean-Marc’s vocabulary soundfile in French & English

un canular = practical joke
j'ai la flemme = I'm feeling lazy
debout et en avant! = up and at 'em!
une bêtise = mischief, tomfoolery
cornichons = pickles
le ménage = housework
les épices
 =  spices
la table de cuisson = stovetop
le frigo = fridge
elle avait raison = she was right
Chut! Ne dis rien! = hush, don’t say a word!
mis à l'envers = put upside down
un poisson = fish
le badinage
= banter
la plaisanterie = joke
une farce = practical joke
une rousse
= a redhead (see photo at the end of this post)

Jackie walking Izzy
Jackie walking Izzy the pocket Beagle on the beach

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Ana and Jackie
In today's story, I mention "rendre un service" (return a favor). After Max's girlfriend Ana dyed Jackie's hair, Jackie offered to walk Ana's dogs, who sometimes stay at Max's. How's that for bartering services? 
Jackie hair color
Looks great, Ana! After blond, brunette…we’ll see how long Jackie remains une rousse.

Thank you for taking the time to comment. It is a joy to read every note! Click here to leave a message.

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.

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

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

Indice: Jackie's Airport Layover + A “flighty” Hint or Clue Regarding Something I’m Up To

Le Petit Prince airplane on french merry-go-round
Because airports are part of today's update, here’s one of the few pictures from my camera roll in theme with the story. It's a bit of a stretch, but then so is today's update (and that is your first clue).


    : clue, hint

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

As I type this billet my daughter is flying over the Atlantic, halfway between New York and Paris. Jackie's been away 4 weeks, on the road and in the air since earning her B+3 bachelor's degree in Lyon. (Ça y est! It's official: we have a graduate!)

Such freedom after buckling down for the intensive program must feel revigorante. After receiving her UI (user interface) degree, our 26-year-old flew from Marseille to Denver, on to Palm Springs, then to Tulum (le Mexique) where she zipped around on a scooter (mama mia!), then onto her old stomping grounds in Miami, and finally to New York City where former Florida roommate, Ruby, offered a canapé to sleep on and a snuggly Shiba Inu. (Jackie wanted to sneak the puppy into her bagage cabine before leaving.) 

Soon my youngest will land in Paris for a several-hour layover. At Aeroport Charles de Gaulle she'll have plenty of time to think about her next move (more schooling? a job? Or more travel before settling down?). Meantime I'm wondering just what will she do in the Paris airport with all that time on her hands? What healthy alternatives are there to do in any international airport besides drop more money and eat at Chuck E. Cheese (Is there a Chuck E. Cheese in Paris? I know my daughter was asking about it when nostalgia had her revisiting her favorite childhood haunts on her US visit).

But back to costly airport layovers—a subject I’ve been obsessed about lately (more about that in a bit)….A visit online at ParisAeroport.fr reveals a thousand ways to spend-while-you-wait for your connecting flight. From food to fancy fringues, if you're not careful with your portemonnaie your vacation could end up costing even more than you bargained for.

Beginning with food... Brioche Dorée, Ladurée (pastries and candy…), McDonald's, Starbucks--unless you’ve managed to hijack a sandwich from the previous flight (and pockets full of pretzels from the cocktail cart) these airport eateries will be your pricey alternatives....

One could always stick to water. But have you seen the price of a bottle of H20? I don't know about Paris, but a tiny bottle of water was $6 when I landed in Frankfurt 2 weeks ago. It sent me on a nostalgic hunt for the nearest water fountain (located just across the mall from one of the Frankfurter hotdog stands).

After you’ve eaten, you might be tempted by all the airport boutiques--a most dangerous way to pass the time! One more warning: jet lag is like being drunk—your senses are not as sharp. This is not a good time to be making costly decisions. Meantime Bulgari, Céline, Gucci, Dior - line the Paris airport walkways like pricey little traps. A young woman with a credit card could get in trouble!

Say you manage to skip the overpriced food and tempting boutiques (including the glittering joailleries!)—just what is there to do for all those terminally long hours in an airport terminal, international or otherwise? Some sort of healthy activity would be ideal. But what—beyond walking in circles—is available beneath the friendly skies that won't take your wallet for a ride?

They say business is about finding a need and filling it. And this, dear reader, got me thinking about a side gig. Lately, it's been a struggle to keep this blog up and "flying", and now with a sharp decline in readership, I wonder what tomorrow holds. Fifteen years ago, at its peak, this French Word-A-Day newsletter had 50,000 subscribers from all over the world. And now I watch with growing alarm as dozens unsubscribe each week. This journal is becoming a shadow of its former self--even the old saying If you build it they will come no longer seems to apply when readers are rushing elsewhere. But where?

Part of me (the part that doesn’t take things too personally) suspects that with the growth of social media readers are migrating north, leaving the warm shores of the blogosphere for a thrilly-chilly dose of whatever the Algorithm Gods serve up on Instagram--anything to keep us addicted to bite-size bits of information. When I lament about the future of blogging, my tech-savvy daughter tells me You must keep up with the times, Mom! But how to keep up with the times as a writer? Isn't writing timeless?

And so I’ve begun dreaming up a side-gig--un petit boulot supplémentaire--something outside the writing sphere but with the familiar rhythm and beat that keeps my soul singing and my mind dancing. There you have it, dear reader--sphere, rhythm, beat, dancing--a few hints, clues, or indices regarding an idea that’s taken a seat I’m my mind. You might say a seat amidst thousands in a bustling airport terminal. In the next 5 weeks, I’ll flesh out this novel idea and report back to you beginning of April. For now, cha-cha-cha! Time to get up and make a move!


Dogs at the airport
One healthy, free activity at the airport during a long layover is dog watching. It's a favorite airport sport. But I may have one better... stay tuned!


Click here to listen to the French  pronunciation

un indice = clue, hint
le billet =
post, blog post
ça y est =
that's it
= to fly over
revigorant,e = invigorating
le canapé = couch, sofa
le bagage en cabine = carry-on bag
les fringues = threads (clothing)
le porte-monnaie
= wallet
une escale = layover
la joaillerie = jewelry store
intemporelle = timeless
un petit boulot supplémentaire = a side gig


Sincere appreciation to readers supporting this journal via a donation!

Lowery W. 
Jackie C. 

"(For) Your wonderful blog." --Jackie
"Thank you for your letters." --Lowery


Ricci relaxing
It's been 4+ months since we brought darling Ricci home from a farm in Aveyron. She's gone through two separations since then: one, after I went to the States and, two, when Jean-Marc left for New Zealand. As you can see by her relaxed attitude here, she's adapting very well! Still, she's got one eye open lest her current guardian leave the room.

Jackie on bike
After touring Tulum on a scooter, Jackie rode one of these on the beach. She's now safe here at home in France, after her memorable trip.

If you are reading via the newsletter, click here to comment, send a correction, or share your thoughts about today's topic. Merci!

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.

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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

Pancarte: A Funny Sign Taped to the wall of our W.C.

Valentines Day in Rome
Valentine's Day is past but an unusual love note lingers in today's story....
Also, a book you might love: Amour: How the French Talk About Love. Find it in the "Books" section" here.


    : banner, sign

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

The last moments before Jean-Marc flew to New Zealand for his wine mission were spent fixing our plumbing--or trying to. Ever since we moved to this 1960s villa in 2017 we've been walking a fine, crooked line with our abominable système d'évacuation WC. It all boils down to the snaking path of our canalisations, the stubborn corners of which create blockage from a build-up of papier toilette. Repairing the problem could involve ripping out our floors to locate the crooked pipes and reroute them. The demolition involved could be extensive and I don't want to destroy our floors. So we have remained as stuck as our bouchon as we tiptoe around the problem, being soucieux with we put in the toilet. Easy for us, but try getting family and guests to behave...

(While we are here, dear reader, and just to add to your French vocabulary....Here are eight things not to toss in the toilet: lingettes humides, cotons-tiges, serviettes hygiéniques, cheveux, préservatifs, mouchoirs en papier, couches jetables et emballages de produits hygiéniques.) 

"I think one of the kids' friends tossed a tampon in here," Jean-Marc suspects after our pipes become clogged again (as evidenced by water rising unnervingly close to the toilet rim). 

"Well, we don't know that," I say, defending la coupable. I like to think people think before tossing just anything into a toilet, but my husband is right: the truth is many don't! We have discovered everything from plastic Q-tips to chicken bones in our toilet bowl! (Regarding the bones, for years I pinned the blame on a senior family member but, come to think of it, the latter happened when several workers were renovating our house, stopping at noon for lunch...poulet rôti???).

While we know better than to flush feminine products, I was astonished when our plumber advised us not to put le PQ in the cuvette. Well then, what did he expect us to do?
"Prenez une douche," he suggested. "You might take a shower after. It's what I do...."

I tried very hard not to picture our plumber following his own advice. Meantime, our toilet is located in a separate room from our salle de bains, did he really think we were going to hop on over to the shower to rinse off? Honestly! Sometimes I think France is still living in le Moyen Âge.

What with this non-flushing fiasco, Jean-Marc and I have become part-time plumbers in the 7 years we've been here, with one of us manning the garden hose and the other on standby beside the toilet. Removing a heavy metal grate from the back porch, my husband feeds le tuyau as far into our pipes as possible then releases a jet of water whilst inside the house I listen for the familiar glug, glug, glug of I'm not sure what. Then comes the call, VAS-Y! TIRE! With that, I flush the upstairs toilet. then hurry down the stairs to pull the chain on the other WC. (Ideally, one person is stationed at each toilet, but often there are only two of us here. Even so, I don't like to ask guests for help with this particular chore...)

When my sister and the kids visited last summer, Jean-Marc reminded me to tell my family NOT to put TP in the toilet. “But they'll think we are barbaric!” I argued. (For being so anti-barbaric I was rewarded with a grizzly midnight shift during the family visit as Jean-Marc and I snuck out to the backyard and pumped the pipes when all the toilets became stopped up!)

As the years passed, and our pesky plumbing problem persisted, I began dreaming of one of those Totos or Japanese toilets with the built-in water jets. But at 3000 euros a unit (and not all plumbers know how to install them) I researched other options. As stressful as this situation is, it's brought forth a few discoveries. For one, I've found The HappyPo--a portable douche that allows you to skip toilet paper altogether. And let me tell you, even if we move on to another house and the perfect plumbing system I will forever have my HappyPo with me in the WC! And you should too! This douche à fesses portable is especially helpful for those suffering from petits soucis (such as hemorrhoids).

At D-12 hours until his departure for New Zealand, we hang up the towel and agree, whether we believe it or not, that the plumbing is somewhat fixed again. So while Jean-Marc finished packing his bags, I had a nap. No sooner did my head hit the pillow than I heard my husband ripping piece after piece of tape... a familiar sound! Noooo.... He can't possibly be using duct tape (his solution to everything from broken bumpers to ripped hammocks) to fix our plumbing problem? My mind was alive with images and scenarios of our duct-taped toilet (???) until, exhausted, I fell to sleep.

When I woke up I'd forgotten all about the tape until I entered the bathroom. And there, taped to the wall and also to the door, a handwritten pancarte. (So that's what he was doing...) The first word was giant and in red: "ZERO" and the next words were in his characteristic cursive: ZERO papiers, serviettes...dans le WC. Merci d'utiliser la poupelle. Sorry. Merci." ZERO toilet paper, pads…in the toilet. Sorry. Thanks.

I found the all-caps, red-lettered note jarring (not to mention it riled my aesthetic sensibilities to see a sign like that at home). Finally, deep down, I didn't want this to be the last message I see before my man leaves (to think we once exchanged love notes!). But my emotions were overcome by amusement on noticing a slight error in the text. In the haste to tie up so many loose ends before his departure, my husband had scribbled a "p" instead of a "b"...so that poubelle (garbage can) read "poupelle".

(Pardonnez-moi for all this toilet talk, dear reader, but I can't stop laughing over the accidental exactitude of poupbelle--for isn't that where the plumber was suggesting we put the toilet paper? And didn’t it all add up to that?)

Back to the handwritten pancarte. Ah well, it wasn't the love letter of times past. And though I planned to rip it down as soon as my husband left, I've decided to keep it posted on the bathroom wall, that all-caps plea in Valentine-red ink. After all, it is a lively, caring, and protective sentiment all the same, one I can hold on to. Now if only our WC could learn to let go....  


Your comments, corrections, and shared experiences are appreciated. Click here to leave a message.

Bernard and Jean-Marc bike tour New Zealand
After 48 hours port à port, door to door, Jean-Marc landed in Christchurch. I leave you with a few pictures from his bike tour with longtime pal Bernard. Bernard and Jean-Marc began their biking adventure on the West Coast of New Zealand

Mille mercis to readers sending in a donation for the first time, and to those of you who regularly contribute to my journal. Your support means a lot and keeps me on track posting this weekly letter.

Mary S.
Gaby & Steve T.


Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the French and English

la pancarte = sign (read a 2008 entry from the healing village of Lourdes, France)
le WC = toilet 
les canalisations = pipes
soucieux, soucieuse = careful, mindful
un bouchon = a blockage
le coupable, la coupable = the guilty party
le PQ (le papier Q) = toilet paper
le poulet rôti = roast chicken
prenez une douche = take a shower
le Moyen Âge = the Middle Ages
le dépannage = fixing, repair
la cuve = tank (of toilet)
la cuvette = toilet bowl
le tuyau = pipe
vas-y, tire (la chasse d'eau)! = go ahead, flush (the toilet)!
la poubelle = the garbage can


The Paris Writers Workshop 2024, in its 28th year, is a dynamic week-long literary adventure (June 2–7) in the inspiring City of Light—with masterclasses by an award-winning faculty in Fiction/Novel, Creative Nonfiction/Memoir, Travel Writing, Poetry, and Screenwriting. Benefit from small-group masterclasses, individual meetings with instructors & literary agents, practical guidance for work in progress, tools of writing & paths to publishing. Early-bird registration thru March 15.

River in New Zealand
Thanks Bernard and Jean-Marc for these beautiful pictures! This must be the river they swam in.

Glorious New Zealand! Do you think Jean-Marc will ever want to return to France? 

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

Calin: A Hug in French, Family Reunions and My Break in the States

Dogs in golf cart
Some friendly characters encountered back in the Southwest, USA.

"The book’s chapters weave through the realities of being a mother, wife, and daughter living in an adopted country with different rules, cultural norms and language nuances." Read Carolyne Kauser-Abbott's review of Blossoming in Provence.


    : a hug

Rien ne vaut le sentiment d'être avec sa famille--et un câlin.
Nothing is worth the feeling of being with one's family--and a hug.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Salut! Ça va? My two-week congé is over and I am home now in France--back to the murmur of French, to the scent of the Mediterranean Sea, to bright yellow mimosa and extended family. Sunday's cousinade, or gathering with the cousins near Aix-en-Provence was a joyous occasion even if I am still queasy with le décalage horaire. Surely jetlag was responsible for the confusion when my aunt-in-law, Annie, said I could set down the dirty dishes dans le potager. Now for me, potager means "vegetable garden," but who am I to question the authority of une véritable countrywoman?

Balancing a stack of dessert plates I was headed to the garden when doubt stopped me in my tracks. This time I consulted Cousin Sabine…
"Dit, Annie tells me the dirty dishes go in the potager???"

"Ah," Sabine laughed, "Maman is referring to le comptoir! We call that le potager. Voilà dear reader, an old-fashioned term for you the next time you're referring to the kitchen counter!

I spent a lot of time at the kitchen counter--er, le potager--back in the States, where my daughter Jackie and I had the chance to spend time with our American family. This short and sweet réunion de famille began with a brief stop in Denver, where my sister Heidi nurtured us back from desynchronosis or time zone syndrome. While filling up on everything from homemade tacos to spaghetti and meatballs, I savored time with my nephew and niece, Payne and Reagan, who came home from college CU Boulder for a visit before Jackie and I ubered back to the airport, direction Californie. I was headed to the desert on a very specific mission: to hug my dad.

From cousinade to "calinade"
While family back home often reassure me the phone is marvelous technology, rien ne vaut une bonne câlinade--nothing compares to holding your loved ones close. So, after, several calins back in Colorado, it was time to hug a few more family members. My little sister, Kelley flew in from Washington State, followed by Heidi, and we spent 4 memorable days in Palm Springs with Dad and belle-mère Marsha, enjoying lots of time at le potager, chatting at the kitchen counter, and lots and lots of hugs! But the best was seeing Dad looking so fit, healthy, and happy, grâce à son épouse, Marsha, who is also a doting hostess to us girls. And it was great to finally enjoy our "coffee with Kristi" as Dad calls our father-daughter chats, in the same room instead of on different continents, technology permitting.

Over breakfast of fruit and Raisin Bran, I watched Dad toss blueberries directly from the carton into his bowl. "Dad, don’t you wash the pesticides off those berries?" My father smiled: “I think the body does a good job sorting these things out.  I'm not worried.” I like Dad's relaxed attitude and realize all the stress of keeping my food clean is more harmful than a handful of unwashed berries. It's these bits of no-nonsense wisdom—and Dad’s endearing presence I miss so much...and the fact I can’t see the blueberries--those little things he does daily that speak of his philosophie de vie. So I soak in as much together time as possible and make a vow with my sisters to visit more often.

While chasing each other in golf carts, accompanying Dad and Jasper to the dog Park, or gathering around the potager/comptoir…we all seized the chance to laugh, shed a few tears, and encourage each other. All of these are important for an expatrié, for anyone living an ocean apart from loved ones. Yes, the telephone is a marvelous invention (and Whatsapp and FaceTime, too) but those warm hugs are vital. Rien ne vaut un bon câlin!

COMMENTS - To read the comments or to leave one, click here. Thank you for taking the time to respond to my story.

Heidi Kristi Kelley Dad Marsha Jackie

Heidi, Me, Kelley, Dad, Marsha, and Jackie.

Kristi Heidi Kelley sisters
A sister sleepover, with Heidi (center) and Kelley (right)


First study the French terms below, then click here to listen to them

salut = hi
ça va = how are you?
la cousinade = reunion of cousins
le décalage horaire = time difference, jet lag
le potager = kitchen garden, kitchen counter (in old Provençal)
dit = tell me
la réunion de famille
= family reunion
la câlinade = a made up word for hug fest
le câlin = hug
la belle-mère = stepmother (can also mean mother-in-law)
la Californie = California
grâce à son épouse = thanks to his wife
la philosophie de vie
= life philosophy 
rien ne vaut = nothing equals 

With much appreciation for your donations to my French word journal. Merci beaucoup! 

Odile G.
Dan St G.

Sherry P.
Bill and Mary
Martha and Charles M.

Thanks again for your blog and amazing photos. Odile

I look forward to reading your stories and looking at the beautiful photos, and appreciate the time and care that you put into trying to make everything just right. Be of good courage! Peace and all good, Sherry

Love the blog and stories of life. It's also a good media for Martha & I to keep up with you folks. Thanks again for all the good reads. Charlie and Martha

Don't miss the story about my belle-mère, Marsha.
And a favorite memory "Joie de Vivre" about Dad's visit to La Ciotat

Desert landscape
In addition to seeing my family, the scent of the desert and its familiar landscape brought me back to my roots. This year marks 30 years since I said "I do" and permanently moved to France from the Arizona Desert.

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

Pompette: French for “tipsy” or “mildly drunk”

While this weekly chronique is on break, I’m celebrating a meaningful anniversary. More in this story published recently in France Today magazine.

"Pompette" is a colloquial French term that refers to a state of mild intoxication or tipsiness, rather than being fully drunk. It's often used to describe someone who has consumed alcohol and is slightly under the influence.

THE DANCE OF LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

On the terrace of a stately mas outside St-Rémy-de-Provence, amidst fields of lavender, I was sipping sparkling water and chatting with another wedding guest when the band came on. Suddenly, my high-heeled, gold-sequined-wearing interlocutrice set down her second glass of bubbly and shimmied over to the dance floor. “Allez! On danse!” She called, over a bare shoulder.

Oh to have such confidence in my own dancing shoes! But this was no time for wishful thinking. An invitation was dangling in the lavender-scented air and it would be impolite not to respond. Worse, it would dishonor les mariés who, by tradition, were the first on the dance floor and were presently waiting for the wedding party to join in. I watched as les invités set down their champagne glasses and let their bodies catch the rhythm of the beat. Easy for them after a few glasses of champers, but for me, having recently celebrated 20 years of sobriety, I couldn’t be swayed by inebriation. Stone sober, I entered the dance floor, hoping my awkward arm-swinging “deux pas'' went unnoticed.

The problem with the French, or any terpsikhore (there is actually a name for one who loves to dance), is they don’t wait around for weddings to shake their booties. Soccer stadiums, parking lots, and restaurants are all potential dance floors. This reminds me of a hip-shaking night out with friends in St. Tropez years ago. As we perused the menu, one of the women began humming along with the background music, got the urge to Get Down On It, and soon our dinner party of 8 was dancing beside our dinner plates.

While my mind is usually convinced that everyone on la piste de danse is a disco king or queen except me, in reality there are some disco dorks on every dance floor, and it is thanks to those Missing-the-Beat-but-Feelin’-Dynamite types that I am learning to let go. Twirling across the room, my husband is often there to catch me, and my clumsy deux pas is now a near-synchronous pas de deux.

When I stop to think of it, I owe my life in France to dance. For it was here, dans une boîte de nuit in Aix-en-Provence, that I spied my future partner. And by no cosmic coincidence, it was the first time I ever partied sober in a nightclub. As daunting as those first steps to sobriety were, I ventured out onto the dance floor and, this many years later, feel eternally blessed for that mighty move…and the series of steps I continue to perfect “one day at a time.”

pompette = tipsy 
un interlocuteur, une interlocutrice = conversation partner 
Allez, on danse! = come on! Let’s dance! 
les mariés = the newlyweds les invités = guests 
deux pas = two step 
la piste de danse = dance floor 
pas de deux = “step of two”, a dance duet
une boîte de nuit = night club 


Heartfelt thanks to readers sending in a donation to my French word journal. 

Dick F.
Kerry L.
Alice W.
Laurie F.
Renee H.
Rosalie I.
C-Marie P.
Cynthia K.
Marie-Louise L.

I have so enjoyed your books and look forward to your weekly stories and pictures. I have been reading for a couple years now and thought I better send you a little something. God Bless, Renee

IMG_1271Outside the nightclub where we met 33 years ago.

To leave a comment click here.

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

Congé: A word for when you take a break from work/business

Vroom! A zippy reminder this blog is on congé, or break. See you in two weeks. Enjoy a few cartes postales from La Ciotat until this Ciotadenne returns….

Surf twingo

Many thanks to the following readers who recently sent in a blog donation during my congé. Your support means a lot!

Julie S.
Karen F. 
Betty M.
Janice H.

Glad to do it. I love your site. Keep it up, please. Julie S.



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

Bien Joué! Why Jackie is leaving Lyon

Coiffure hair salon french village
Today, find out why my daughter was at the hairdresser's when she should've been on her way to FINAL EXAMS! 

Note: After today's post this journal will go on break thru February 8th.


    : well done!, good job!, way to go!
    : well played

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

I really want to learn a new thing, I do not know what I am interested in, though. UI/UX design? Being a certified therapist? Fashion? So much that I can or could be. Should I pretend to be someone until I am this person?

The above is an excerpt from a letter our daughter wrote one year ago. I am happy to announce we are all rejoicing now that she has passed her examen oral in Lyon—la dernière étape in a race to earn her BAC + 3, or bachelor's degree in one year. Bien joué, Jackie! You did it! You hunkered down, put your doubts and fears behind you, and traded your bartender apron for a student’s cap. Then you proceeded to wow us all! Tu nous as bluffés.

I admit when you shared you were going to study UX/UI design, I was doubtful: did you say computer coding was part of the curriculum? I had similar misgivings when you dropped out of fashion in Toulon to go to bartending school in Miami. But if there’s one thing about you it’s this: once you know what you want, your determination follows. I watched you line up everything, lightening speed: you located un logement in Lyon, turned in all your papers at le pôle emploi (to the stellar counselor who found you this intensive program and knew could do it), packed your belongings, sold some things and once again headed off into the unknown in search of who you might become.

Then, the first setback. After quitting your job, you got a call informing you you were rejected from the program! Was this a sign? Some of us here at home whispered we didn’t think computer design was right for you, but you remained calm. You called the director to ask, Why? You told him you were very interested in this program and to please reconsider your candidature. Meantime you looked for a last-minute employment and tried to stay out from underneath that cloud that forms above you during transition time, dark as the inside of a cocoon before the butterfly struggles out and takes flight.

Friends talked you into a weekend getaway. You had just landed in London when your phone rang at the airport. You almost ignored the call, but finally answered. It was the school director. Having had a second look at your dossier, he decided to give you a chance. Class started in less than a week!

You hung up the phone and quickly called back the rental company. The room was still available! You flew home and boarded the train to Lyon.

You were the first to arrive at the renovated house-turned-apartments in Villeurbanne, never suspecting the strangers now filing into the common space (it was their first night in these new digs too) would become friends for life: a young doctor from Saudi Arabia, a computer programmer, a student musician, 2 nurses, a nuclear engineer, a biochemist, a dental hygienist, a logistics specialist, a shop manager/wedding photographer, and an agronomist (ahem, a weed producer).

You had me laughing when your biggest concern the first day of school was switching out your rickety chair for the one across the classroom you’d already set your sights on. I now see it as a metaphor….

At 25, you always considered yourself un mauvais élève: a dreamer with severe test anxiety. But you set your mind on overcoming these obstacles and soon you had that chair, and more. You wasted no time choosing your project (your mock business was a cruise company for seniors, and you threw your heart, soul, and sweat into designing your logo, your app, your webpage, and interviewing seniors (your grandparents included).

The calendar ahead was challenging, 3 years of work crammed into one--including an internship (it was up to you to find the company, dar dar!). Six months into the program and the pressure was unbearable: you wondered how you were going to turn in your preliminary report, finish your internship at the PR company, print out all your work in a series of booklets, and create your PowerPoint presentation. C’était la mer à boire! A bitter and impossible feat!

When in the 11th hour you had a panic attack at the PR office and an ambulance took you to ER you might have had a good reason to call it quits….after all, was this accelerated program worth the toll it was taking on your nervous system?

Back home we held our collective breath. “Jackie is tough! She's a Marcus!” Grandma Jules reminded us. Meantime, there in Lyon, your roommates rallied around you, gathering in your shared living room to hear you practice your 50-minute speech for your final exams before un jury. They took notes and shared “improvements”. 

You made it home for a needed rest at Christmas. After 4 days you wasted no time returning to Lyon. You had to find un imprimerie to print out your project, including 4 bound reports, or the 200 pages you had carefully written, and present it before the real jury. You buckled down to business and we did not hear from you again. Le silence radio…

On January 10th you called me unexpectedly. I braced myself as it was your exam day.  "Hi Mom, I'm on my way to the hairdresser’s."

“The hairdresser’s? But shouldn’t you be cramming for your exam?”

Your voice on the other end of the line was so peaceful. Now that you had finished your internship and turned in your work, the intense pressure had subsided. As for your presentation for your oral exam, you knew your subject like the back of your hand. Speaking of which…

“I also got my nails done,” said you. Je vais mettre toute les chances de mon côté. I’m putting all chance on my side and presentation is important!

Well, I couldn’t argue with that, and I hung up the phone with a big smile on my face. I knew right then you would be OK.

Still, I held my breath until you called back that afternoon.... Ça y est. C’était bien passé!”

“Well, what did they say?”

”They said I'm ready to do a master’s!”


Voilà, dear reader. I hope you enjoyed this happy update. Jackie is still waiting for the official news, the confirmation that she will receive her certificat (incredibly it is the equivalent of à BAC +3 diplôme) from the vocational school in Lyon. Meantime she finished the challenging UX/UI design program, having met all of the requirements. Bien joué, ma fille! You got that chair and now you’ll get the graduation cap!

Jackie at the hair salon
Jackie at the salon in Lyon, finally feeling ready for her examen oral.

I love reading your comments and learning more about you with each note. Also, you can join me in congratulating Jackie! To leave a comment, click here.

Jackie, left, during her internship at a PR firm in Lyon. After this, she had a few weeks to turn in her final project. And in January, stand before the jury for her oral presentation.

Jackie (right) and her roommates. They shared many meals together and Jackie insists she would never have made it without their care and attention. 

Don't miss the soundfile.

Click here to listen to the French terms below

bien joué! =
good job!
la derniere étape
= the last step
BAC + 3 = bachelor degree
tu nous as bluffés = you blew us away
un logement = accomodation, housing
le pôle emploi = the employment center
un mauvais élève
= a bad student
dar dar = right away
C’est la mer à boire = it’s like drinking the entire sea, no small feat
un jury = examinations board
une imprimerie = printer's
le silence radio = radio silence
mettre toutes les chances de son côté = to put all chance on one’s side

Sincere thanks to these readers who recently sent in a website donation. I appreciate your help in publishing this journal! --Kristi

Joan S.
Walt S.
Mike P.
Patricia S.
Suzanne R.

Bonne année, Kristi! —Mike 

Your journal is a lovely combination of everyday family happenings with many useful phrases and new words to learn. It is well written and I look forward to reading it on Thursdays.  I also enjoy your instagram postings. —Joan

Ricci, receives some scratchies while Jackie rests and enjoys the Australian Open tennis match. 
Reading via email? For the link to the comments box, click here.

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

S'Enfuir: To Flee in French: Startled or spooked, our new dog ran away in a panic

IMG_0900 Copy
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: to flee

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Following last week’s missive “locals helping locals,” I could not imagine the favor would be returned so suddenly… Here is the extended version of a post shared on Instagram, after our dog escaped. 

“Partie comme une fusée” Off like a bullet

After Jean-Marc left for Le Beausset Saturday, to help a friend plant grapevines, Ricci and I strolled to our neighborhood marché paysan, to buy fruits and vegetables. I'm going to take it easy today. Make a hearty lunch, and relax this morning, I thought to myself, already feeling peaceful. In the parking lot where our farmer's market pops up weekly, I struggled with a few baskets of produce while managing my dog. I decided to briefly attach Ricci to one of the fold-out tables, where all the produce baskets were resting. Beneath a giant plane tree, I was chatting with a vendor when un bruit soudain startled my dog...

The noise sent Ricci fleeing from the table. The clasp of her harness having snapped, Ricci took off like a bullet! I watched in horror, feeling like the one who had pulled the trigger. How could I have taken that risk! Why hadn't I tied her more carefully? I dropped my panier and shot out of the municipal parking lot.

Ricci careened towards traffic, her leash bobbing along the narrow trottoir, pursued by frantic me. I heard the cars in the roundabout screech to a halt as our frightened dog cleared the two-lane road in front of La Pharmacie Saint Jean. (Oh Saint Jean--patron saint of shepherds, where were you went my little berger ran off?)

Shooting down the sidewalk, cars passing her closely on her left, the fugitive startled a few walkers who did a double-take when next they saw me flying by. Ma chienne! Ma chienne! Two hairdressers enjoying une clope in front of the salon de coiffure locked eyes with me as I darted past. I could feel their concern and picked up my step. Adrenaline coursing through my veins, I saw every detail, even if my eyes were fixed on the champs de vision into which my spooked dog had vanished.

Clipping past the surf shop, la fleuriste, and the boulangerie that just went out of business… I charged after my little dog, clunk-clunk-clunk in my daughter’s riding boots, one size too big. Barely slowing to look both ways, I shot across two lanes to reach the promenade and kept running when my legs began to slow....
Things were looking bleak.

RICCI! RICCI! RICCI! my shouting turned to muffled pleas… oh please! oh please! oh please! …God please! With Ricci out of sight, my words were more a mantra than a calling, a means to tame the terror I felt inside, to drown out other words that told me my dog might soon be crushed by a car.

I passed several walkers who were unaware of the drama unfolding and only saw a deranged woman babbling in bad French. Ma chienne s’est échappée! Ma chienne s’est échappée!

I ran a few blocks further and...there she was! Down on the beach. My heart filled with hope. This is the usual spot where we play drop and run (I drop down at a distance and Ricci charges across the beach into my arms. But just when it looked like this nightmare was over, Ricci, panicked and fled

Ricci american shepherd running on the beach
Attrappez ma chienne! Attrapez ma chienne si vous plaît! I thundered from the sidewalk, but a dozen swimmers preparing to brave the cold January waters did not understand the deranged foreigner shouting from the boardwalk. 

Ricci shot up to the digue, disappearing yet again. I had missed my chance. Oh God I missed my chance! Would it be the only one? She was now headed to the busy roundabout where traffic picks up.  Ricci! I cried in vain.

My mind reeled: why is she running away from me--her big sheep? In the 3 months since I brought her home from the farm, she's herded me like un brébis. More than a little shepherd, Ricci is a Velcro dog, a veritable pot de colle. She is my complete shadow. I know she was spooked but why was she still running away from me? Did she feel she could no longer trust me? Did she, when I tied her to that table and next she heard a POP!!….did she mistake it for an attack?

Vous avez vu ma chienne? Ma chienne! I shouted to anyone listening. "She went that way, past the telephone booth," a man said, but my gut told me he was mistaken. Another man arrived in time to point me straight ahead. Arriving at the one-mile marker in this unexpected sprint, gathering what force remained in my 56-year-old legs, I took off again, with a new mantra gurgling out of me:

JESUS, I BEG YOU! JESUS, I BEG YOU! I didn't care if I sounded like a mad-dashing religious fanatic. Or that faith is something you keep to yourself. Nothing mattered anymore except a miracle, an intervention, the hand of God in this impossible matter.

La Dernier ligne droit-The Final Stretch

Just when all hope was lost the man from the vegetable stand sped past me on his electric trottinette. I thought he had dropped out of the race a while back, but no! Here he was and I knew, I just knew, he would find her. He spotted her another block ahead and managed, along with a few others to corral her back around until, HOLY MOLY!, she was now running to me! (Study, for a moment, the photo at the opening of this post. Right there, pile-poil where you see the umbrella, is where our ecstatic reunion happened.)

In case my little fugitive was still under the spell of panic that set her rocketing across the bay, I dropped, threw my arms out as wide as they could stretch, and grabbed her as she ran up. Whether a miracle of miracles, or a simple answered prayer, my sweet, scared dog was guided safely back to me. Oh, Ricci!


Thanks to all who helped along the way-to the jogger who immediately sped up, to the merchant who dropped his vegetable cart and hopped on his trottinette, to the walkers I could barely see in the far-off distance who reached for my dog. THANK YOU! And if you are a Ciotaden, a local, and you saw a madly wild woman screaming REE-CHEE! GOD HELP ME! You now know this saga had a happy ending. The moral of the story is: no matter how cautious we are will our animals, when their innate instinct for survival kicks in, they are out of our control. The best we can do is count on the goodwill of others, who care and who take the time to help. Merci! Merci beaucoup! Even if I did not get a chance to thank you-dear jogger, dear walkers-I saw you and you are everything! Finally, please visit the Farmers market in the St Jean quarter, open weekend. Adrien, the owner's son, now runs it. But he dropped everything this morning to help us!

With 3.5 year old Ricci. (Photo taken one day before she fled.) Last week marked 3 full months since we brought Ricci home from the farm where she was destined to be a breeder. After "one or two" portées (litters), the owner put her up for sale in the classifieds. Jean-Marc found her there and the rest is history... and now a lovely future, we trust!

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Click here to listen to all the vocabulary in French and English

pile-poil = exactly, right
s’enfuir= to flee, escape
Partie comme une fusée = off like a rocket
Le Beausset
= town near Bandol
le marché paysan = farmers market
un bruit = noise
soudain = sudden
les fruits = fruits
les légumes = vegetables
le panier = basket
le trottoir = sidewalk
le berger = shepherd 
la clope = slang for cigarette
le salon de coiffure = hairdresser’s
le champ de vision = field of vision
le chien (la chienne) = dog
ma chienne s’est échappée! = my dog got loose
la digue
= seawall, embankment 
la brébis = sheep
attrapez ma chienne! = grab my dog!
le pot de colle
= pot of glue, a clingy dog
la trottinette = kick scooter
le Ciotaden, la Ciotadenne = one from La Ciotat 

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Ricci and Jean-Marc at Plage Lumiere
Ricci and Jean-Marc playing Catch Me If You Can! our favorite game, even if Ricci didn't respond that time. When we panic, we forget so much--even the things we know so well!

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