lettre de condoleances and a tribute to Mary Glen

Love in the mist
With this flower, called Love in a Mist, we shower the Glen family with our support. May today's words speak for all of us here--all who have followed Tanya's story of the search for her Mom. Missing for five days, Mary Glen was found Wednesday night, having passed away.


le souvenir de temps heureux

    : the memory of happy times

Lettre de Condoléances pour la famille Glen
Sympathy Letter for the Glen family

Dear Tanya and family, 

Words fail to express what complete strangers, as well as those closest to you, are feeling right now for your dear family. Tanya, you introduced yourself in a letter, over a year ago, telling me you had married a Frenchman and were planning on coming to France. You didn't speak French and needed help expressing yourself in another language. Someone (Sandy? Monique?) told you about my language blog.

I may have told you then to rest assured, you are in good company: that made at least two of us who struggled to speak French! And today, having woken up to news about your Mom's passing, I struggle even to speak English.

It was another reader--Trina--who emailed me the news this morning. Like many, she did not know you personally, but the moment she read your story she was with you, avec coeur. Trina writes:

My heart goes out to all of you, to Mary's friends and family. You are all in my prayers.  

Still unsure of what to say at this heartbreaking time, I will use Trina's example. And gathering everyone near--all who are reading--we will borrow words from the French and do our best to comfort you, showering you with our collective sympathies. With hopes that the pain you are feeling will ease, petit à petit, and that you will bravely continue on with your petite et adorable famille, the one you have recently founded. And may your proud father and loving sister be by your side and you by their side, for the remainder of this life. 

Mary Glen, left. Tanya, right, with her father. Kassi, Tanya's sister is in blue. Photo credit: Rebecca Dever at www.charmingphoto.com

May memories of your dear Mom carry you gently forward to France and beyond. Wherever you go, your Maman is in your heart. And we thank you for putting her in our own hearts, too. What a privilege to have met your Mom via your photos and words; what a joy to have learned about Mary Glen "the most loving person you could ever meet."

The above words were your own, Tanya, and here are the French words I promised. I will do my best to translate them, but remember, I struggle along with you in this "language of love." Oui, amour éternel, just like a mother's love.

And now--

Que le souvenir de temps heureux vous aide à supporter cette pénible épreuve. Sachez que votre peine est comprise et partagée par ceux qui vous aiment.

May the memories of happy times help you through this painful hardship. Know that your pain is felt and shared by those who love you.

Kristin and friends here at French Word-A-Day


To the Glen family: Every bud on the sunflowers and every blossom on the bougainvillea reaching all the way to the heavens represents our collective faces here in this language community. You don't know us but we stand facing you at this difficult time, extending our support and offering our respect in memory of the beloved and beautiful Mary Glen.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
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Braise and Smokey, golden retriever dogs
"God is love," I would say. "Dog is love," Bill would suggest. Today, read about my invisible editor, who passed away suddenly. We didn't always agree, but otherwise got along grammar-warily. Photo of my dog Smokey and his mama, Brez.

hommage (m) 

    : tribute

présenter ses hommages = to pay one's respects
en hommage de reconnaissance = as a token of gratitude

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

William Myers has passed away. You may not have known him but, if you have a minute, I'll tell you about the man who taught me "mom" is spelled with a lower case "m" (...sometimes, anyway).

This was but one of our disagreements. But who was I to argue with the Grammar King? Mostly, I kept opinions to myself, firing off a quick Thanks! Edits all in now! each time Bill responded to my newsletters. And he responded to every single one of them since signing on, sometime in 2006.

One day I noticed the cc line in Bill's emails. Who were all those people to whom (yes, to whom, Bill would say) Bill was copying his edits of my newsletter? Some sort of editorial team? 

Soon I got a letter from another blogger. "Hey,he said, "how do you know Bill? Just wondering, cuz this guy just started correcting my posts!"

I recognized the blogger's address from the cc line of those edits Bill was sending me.

Soon after, my own address stood out in the cc line. This time the edits were directed to Anu Garg! Oh no! I didn't want The Wordsmith to associate me with the grammar police and The Accidental Grammar Posse. (Posse? I began to assume the other "cc's" were random writers in cyberspace, all of us rounded up to witness the latest grammar assault! The streak of light connecting our "dots" (or misplaced commas) was a certain Willam Myers. Who was this man?

Myers photo color
                                            The Grammar King.

In the 8 years since Bill began crossing my t's, I gathered bits and pieces of his colorful personality. I wish I could share them all, but here are just a few:

Openminded for one!
It was odd (and finally amusing) how Bill would end his proper English grammar corrections with a string of street slang or rap. (I should search my inbox for an example of Bill's colorful lingo, but given there are 1000s of emails from him, the task would be overwhelming!)

1000s of emails from Bill
Bill, I gathered, was a compulsive correspondant and internet surfer. He collected email addresses to such an extent that I once heard an isolated French wine farmer ask: Who eez zis 'Beel'? The vigneron in question was briefly mentioned in one of my stories. But he was not overlooked by Bill, who tracked him down and nearly cc'd him--along with the rest of us!

Cynical? Playful?
Bill corrected my grammar with a slap-of-the hand voice: "No, Dummy! It's 'its' not 'it's'! he would scold, in 16pt and in red or purple or green (and not "red, or purple, or green"--notice the commas. Bill would have!)

In His Own Words
"I'm a lapsed Catholic & retired lawyer."

Animal Lover
In a recent email to my mom (small "m")--another character he'd tracked down and cc'd--Bill wrote, "I have long had a big thing for homeless animals. I have rescued & been honored & blessed by: Angie, Lacey, Honey, Snowflake and Kabuke...."

Apparently, when Bill wasn't rescuing apostrophes, he turned his attention to misplaced cats and dogs.

That recent email to Mom (capital "m" this time) was, little did we know, his last to her. It included a long rant about the scandalous and exhorbitant price of medication. Bill was desperate to share some price-saving tips: "It will surely reward your dear husband," Bill wrote, "to investigate the deals at Robinhood Family Pharmacy..."

Mom thanked Bill for his note, so touched that he would think of her. Next, she added:

"You have been such a BIG influence on Kristi and her writing all of these years, I do hope you know how much you are appreciated."

How serendipitous Mom's note would be. In it, she managed to thank Bill for me, as I would not get the chance to....

John, a close friend of Bill's wrote to me. "I wanted to let you know that Bill Myers has died.  I know he so enjoyed his correspondence with you and that it gave him much pleasure as he was increasingly confined.  Thank you so much for you kindness."

I recognized John's email from the mile-long cc lines on Bill's earlier notes. I realized, then, not all of the grammar posse were strangers.... Some were very dear to Bill.

*    *    *

Walking my dog through the forest, a tear streams down my face for a stranger I met in cyberspace. It was too late, now, to thank him properly. (Thank God Mom had followed her instincts, praising him affectionately!) 

Smokey tugged at his leash, pulling me forward along the path. How odd it was to be so touched by someone you'd never touched. Through watery eyes I looked around at the blurry forest when suddenly the tree bark came into focus... and then my dear dog's glossy coat, and then the ground beneath my feet. I once read a book about God. And the words come back to me now, in a new light, a light shining on the objects all around me:

I am the bark... I am the fur... I am the pebbles...

As I listened to the voice in my head define God, I pulled a piece of perforated tissue out of my pocket, to wipe my eyes. 

I am the tears... I am the toilet paper that dries them...

I laughed at the voice, which spoke the truth, with humor. It told me, finally, who Bill was. Like each and everyone of us, he is love.

Looking around now, at the tree bark, my dog's fur, the goosebumps on my body, I see it all so differently. I take a deep breath and breathe out to a deeper calm. Life goes on and on.

To respond to this story, click here.


Provence Dreamin'? Maison des Pelerins, Sablet. A Vacation Rental Dream in the heart of the Côte du Rhone. See photos here

Cat in Villedieu

A photo Bill would have appreciated

Smokey and tulips

And another (of Smokey)

Kristi and dogs

And another, of the blogger he helped for all those years. We had in common a love of language and animals. Thank you, Bill, for helping me cross my t's. When you don't write back today, I'm going to notice. Then I'll go out and notice the bark, Smokey's fur, and the pebbles beneath our feet.

To respond to this post, click here. Edits welcome, too....

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

reconfort: a farewell to a reader with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease

Melanie Olsen
Bon voyage, chère Mélo. If you only knew how much you meant to me--je te garderai dans mon coeur pour toujours.

Our dear friend and fellow Francophile, Mélanie, passed away September 23rd after surviving 18 years with the neurodegenerative disease known as ALS. Melanie will be honored in a ceremony on Monday. In case, like me, you struggle to find words to comfort a family in mourning here below is some encouragement--follow your heart.

le réconfort (ray-cohn-for)

    : comfort, reassurance

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc Download MP3 or Wav file

L’étiquette funéraire est simple; écoutez votre coeur. Observez ceux et celles laissés dans le deuil et offrez votre soutien et réconfort avec des paroles, des mots et des gestes du cœur pour témoigner de votre amour, respect ou sympathie. 
    Funeral etiquette is simple: listen to your heart. Observe those who are mourning and offer support and comfort with paroles, words, or heartfelt gestures to show your love, respect, and sympathy.  -from Etiquette Julie, in Quoi dire ou faire en temps de deuil "What to do or Say in time of Mourning" 

Mas de la PerdrixProvence Villa Rental Luberon luxury home; 4 bedrooms, 5 baths; gourmet kitchen, covered terrace & pool. Views of Roussillon. Click here.  


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

Yesterday morning I woke up with fresh hope. It may have been a result of the strange and cathartic moment from the day before, when my husband surprised me on our anniversary. The outpouring of tears, and the intense emotion accompanying it, had felt, mysteriously, like mourning--and yet it was one of the happiest moments of our married life.

The release left me with a clear and positive mind as I sat down to another day of work as a self-appointed journalist. I've never managed to land a gig at the New York Times and publishing houses aren't exactly beating down my door, but one never knows when years of practice will pay off again!

The thought suddenly hit me: maybe today good news will come my way? In the eleven years since fueling this online journal, I've received a handful of life-changing propositions in response to it. There was the day when I clicked open my inbox and discovered an email from Simon and Schuster (a publishing contract followed!), then the chance to speak at the historical Parisian bookshop Shakespeare and Company, and recently, I was invited to join the editorial team at France Today magazine: they offered me the backpage column "Le Dernier Mot"! 

And who knew what could come next, when, against all doubts and the condemning voices in your head, you continued to follow your dreams? But first things first--no matter the hurdles overcome, you've gotta continue to do the work. And so, with a rare peace, I settled into another session of writing. At the end of the day, I checked my inbox. And there I discovered one of those life-changing, heart-thumping letters--only not the kind I had hoped for.

The email's subject line read "A farewell from Melanie"....

Mélanie! No......... I sat there with my hand clamped over my mouth. The news was so unexpected, and yet.... she had already beaten the odds by 16 years--living almost two decades with a debilitating disease.

*    *    *

I met Melanie in 2008 through my online blog, French Word-A-Day. Her first note to me came after a serendipitous coincidence (were the previous two words an oxymoron? Melanie would know--she was so curious and had a love of language! In fact, she had been looking up the word "insouciance" when--poof!--my mot-du-jour newsletter appeared in her inbox). The word of the day was souci

Dear Kristin, I have been intending for quite some time to tell you how much I enjoy receiving your email.  Many things you’ve written have struck a common cord with me, but when I saw that you had posted the word souci, I knew I could put it off no longer.

Melanie added, almost as a post note, a modest word about herself:

Thank you for all you do!  I love escaping to Provence through your adventures. I now have ALS or Motor Neuron Disease so typing takes time and energy but one day soon I hope to send you a message about my experience in Provence and other connections I have had to what you have written

I had goosebumps reading Melanie's letter and immediately looked up ALS, learning the heartbreaking reality of a horrible illness also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Most people die within two years of coming down with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

There began a tender correspondence. One hundred and two precious exchanges (including the comments Melanie left at my blog). Piecing together her letters and friending Melanie on Facebook, I learned a little, each time, about this beautiful, athletic, and funloving character who one day, at the age of 30, had the wind knocked right out of her sails.

In 1995 on returning from France--where she had passed the most exhilarating and inspiring time of her life--Melanie was diagnosed with motor neuron disease.

It was difficult to believe, even for the friends she would later meet. Poring over her Facebook photos, taken before she learned the news, I witnessed her joy via the scenes of her European adventure: there was Melanie, kicking up her boots on the dance floor, and there she was in Cannes, all dolled up (I wrote to her asking if she modeled, but she quickly downplayed her God-given beauty: "You are too kind!" she wrote, immediately changing the subject).

Melanie in Cannes, France
If I were a talent scout, I'd have snapped up this beauty, illico -- in no time at all!

There were photos of Melanie hiking in Porquerolles, clinking champagne flutes in Venice, and--was that a yacht she was on? I was fascinated by her adventures, lived with verve and a very sweet heart....

Melanie in Monte Carlo
Melanie told me that she loved hearts--collected them (notice the belt), but she admitted that her illness prevented her from sharing her life with someone. I pictured her in her wheel chair, years after this photo was taken. At the time she had no idea that on her return she would be diagnosed with an incurable disease. But her idealism, which she hinted at in one of her letters, had her beating the odds. More than the 2 years that ALS patients are given, Melanie lived 18 years with ALS.

As I got to know Melanie through her photos and brief notes, I could not help but imagine that once upon a time--with a Eurail pass and backpacks on our backs--we would have made wonderful complices, or partners in crime! She'd be the daring one, and I'd gladly tag along--sharing her zest for life, my own world brightened by her shining light.

"I think we have a lot in common," Melanie said one day, responding to one of my blog stories. What a compliment! The validation that we would have indeed been giggly complices in France--where we would have pinched ourselves again and again, unbelieving of our lucky stars that have sent us there, delighted me.

PORQUEROLLES France, Mehari car, Kristin (c) french-word-a-day.com
Moi--Kristin. Melanie's would-be accomplice--only pretending to be as adventurous as she!

 But such correspondence--indeed, such dreams--were limited. The truth was, owing to an illness that robbed her of her strength to eat or even type, Melanie grew weaker by the day. She had, so far, beat the odds--having suffered 16-years from the disease, though she never complained but remained a smiling inspiration to all who knew her. Yet I sensed moments when her bravery waned. Melanie once responded to a post I wrote, "Brebis", about a lonely shepherd. The last lines of the story moved her:

...Little did the berger know—and little do we all know—that out there, somewhere, someone is trying to comfort us without our even knowing....

"Your last thought was so touching," wrote Melanie, in the comments section of my blog. She went on to admit, "It warms my heart to think that it is so."

I, too, find comfort in the thought that out there, somewhere, someone is trying to comfort us, without our even knowing. And those lines, intended for my brave friend, were the closest I ever came to telling Melanie how much I thought of her and her bravery.

Around 2011, Melanie could no longer swallow. One day, in 2012, she wrote in, responding to this post on GMOs, encouraging me to continue to eat healthfully--no genetically modified foods! Melanie then shared with me her fondness for cuisine and how she had loved living in Chicago and DC, "both great cities for culinary diversity." She went on to say that in the past two years, because of her condition, she could no longer eat whole foods. Melanie had gracefully accepted yet another new fate: Ensure.

And yet, despite the liquid nourishment that she now received, she continued to enjoy reading about food--even her inner foodie (I loved it when she called herself this--a foodie!) could not be brought down by a heartless disease. She would have, with sincerity, wished all gourmands bon appetit! And Melanie's message was clear: we must all continue to enjoy life's bounty.

In our 5 year virtual friendship, Melanie encouraged me to continue to write freely and with an open heart and, little did she know, she carried me through my bout with skin cancer.

"Bon courage," she wrote, after a particularly invasive operation on my forehead. But how could I be anything but grateful, compared to my friend, who probably could not even speak (I never had the chance to hear her voice). Melanie would have traded places with me in an instant, wearing my dreaded scar like a rock star!  (On second thought, Melanie would not have traded places with anybody, but she bravely endured her cross.)

As I sat there with my hand cupped over my mouth, reading the farewell message sent from Melanie's family and remembering our delicate friendship (I never managed to tell Melanie just how much I loved her. I never did dare say Please, tell me all of your fears--lean on me! No, I was too afraid of somehow putting my foot in my mouth. I kept thinking my words might come off as pitying. So we wrote about other things, including coincidence--something that fascinated Melanie.

Coincidence! Yes!.... I remembered back to my cathartic moment at the lunch table, when my outpouring of tears felt strangely like mourning. And the heaving that accompanied them... and the bittersweat sadness that my happiness felt like... 

Jean-Marc! I said. (My husband sat beside me as I learned the news of Melanie.) "Jean-Marc! Remember when we were sitting at the table, just before I began to cry... just moments before I felt this sharp tug in my left hand." I looked at my palm, there, beside my thumb--where an insistant pinching caught all of my attention....  Pinch, pinch pinch. Pinch, pinch, pinch! I had thought it was a muscle spasm, but, looking down at my hand, I saw nothing...

But, at that very moment, before even knowing she had passed away, I thought of Melanie

*    *    *

I can see us now, together in France, me and my would-be complice. France, the only other place besides Heaven, that we'd rather be. The only place that we'd once again pinch ourselves on arriving. Can you believe it? Pinch, pinch, pinch--I'm here! 

I look down at my hand, amazed. I "heard" you, Mélanie! I heard you! I'm shaking now, those tears are back, rolling down my face drowning my keyboard. I believe. I believe. Bless your heart, thank you, Melanie--I believe!

*    *    * 

One of my favorite pictures of Melanie. Thank you Wendy, Melanie's sister, for permission to post these photos. Our hearts go out to Melanie's dear family.

 To comment, please click here.

Walk to defeat ALS
- each September Melanie encouraged friends and family to support the ongoing search for a cure for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Her last wish was that in lieu of flowers at her memorial, donations be made to a cause she fought for with grace and determination. The week before she died I received this last message from Mélo in my inbox.

It must be September because I am sending out my letter for the Walk to Defeat ALS. The ALS Association funds vital research for possible treatments and a cure. The money raised also provides for patient services like assistive technology, guidance from an amazing staff, and equipment loan closet which have been so helpful to me all along from the time I was diagnosed to now, 18 years later.  Here are some numbers: Approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year. It is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans may have the disease at any given time. Most patients survive only 2-5 years.   Please make a donation to help support all that the ALS Association does. Thank you so very much!!!

Melanie once wrote to me, pointing out another thing we had in common: the love of the famous prayer by St. Francis of Assisi. 

"Most mornings, as I lay in bed waiting for my help," she shared, "I say the prayer by Saint Francis of Assisi. I was thrilled when you posted it in French and immediately memorized it and now recite it en francais."

This is for you, chère Mélo:

St. Francis of Assisi's Prayer
Audio File: (Hear 16-year-old, Jackie, recite the poem below in French: Download MP3 Prayer-st-francis or Download Wav file

Seigneur, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix.
Là où il y a de la haine, que je mette l'amour.
Là où il y a l'offense, que je mette le pardon.
Là où il y a la discorde, que je mette l'union.
Là où il y a l'erreur, que je mette la vérité.
Là où il y a le doute, que je mette la foi.
Là où il y a le désespoir, que je mette l'espérance.
Là où il y a les ténèbres, que je mette votre lumière.
Là où il y a la tristesse, que je mette la joie.

Ô Maître, que je ne cherche pas tant à être consolé qu'à consoler, à être compris qu'à comprendre, à être aimé qu'à aimer, car c'est en donnant qu'on reçoit, c'est en s'oubliant qu'on trouve, c'est en pardonnant qu'on est pardonné, c'est en mourant qu'on ressuscite à l'éternelle vie.

                              *     *     *
  Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
  Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
  Where there is injury, let me sow pardon;
  Where there is discord, let me sow harmony;
  Where there is error, let me sow truth;
  Where there is doubt, let me sow faith;
  Where there is despair, let me sow hope;
  Where there is darkness, let me sow light;
  And where there is sadness, let me sow joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in forgetting ourselves that we find, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. 

To comment on this post, click here. Thanks for forwarding this edition, helping to get the word out about ALS. It's time for a cure!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

tribute to reader Gus + Bonnes résolutions du Nouvel An

Fanny at Chez Panisse - a book by Alice Waters
A Francophile might like this book cover, and a foodie or kid-at-heart might enjoy the content. Read the reviews for Fanny at Chez Panisse here. Meantime, learn about another panisse in today's column, a tribute to Gus Elison!

Bonnes résolutions du Nouvel An

    : new year's resolutions

Audio File: our son, Max, just woke up and I talked him into helping me record today's sound file (after my own attempt to pronounce the French words might have misled a language learner! Listen to 17-year-old Max: Download MP3 or Wave file
(Did you want to hear my version? You did didn't you?: Download MP3 or Download Wav)

Quelles sont vos bonnes résolutions du Nouvel An?
What are your new year's resolutions? 

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

I did not plan on making a list of new year's resolutions until, tout naturellement, a list began to form....

More Deep Belly Laughter

It was while stumbling onto a video that made my sides split with laughter that I realized DAILY LAUGHTER was a perfect goal. To fully appreciate the video, you'd have to be someone who, like me, got a little freaked out about GMOs last year, had a health scare/surgical snafu and decided to learn more about raw foods, followed a few too many juice guru videos... and ended up able to laugh about it all (...and still make le jus vert for Jean-Marc and myself each morning!)

Goal Number 2 Trust Your inner cuistot! 

Then, yesterday, New Year's Day, I set out to make the chickpea flour-based "winter farinata" (La Cucina di Terresa's) when a change of plans led to an innovative, au pif moment... and I began to accidentally make a southern French savory side dish: les panisses! I'll be frying those up for Max and me at lunchtime (tant pis for Jean-Marc and Jackie, who are away!), and may share the recipe (or a video?). I've got some leftover salmon that I'll spread on top, and some miam miam good confiture d'oignon that a lovely teacher, Youlia, from the Ukraine, offered me on New Year's eve (she had spread her homemade onion jam on top of foie gras, for a sweet/savory combination). 

Goal Three: Bring Joy into another's Life

The most recent new year's goal came after receiving this touching letter, from a reader's daughter:

Dear Kristin,

We both admire a special man. His name is Gus Elison, he is my Dad. On January 2, 1925 he became the oldest of three children. Because of the economy and being so close to Christmas, Dad never had a real Birthday Party. That is until 2013. Kristin, you have meant the world to my Dad, will you help me with a request to have Birthday Wishes from around the world? 

Dad means the world to me, and he is that rare breed of man that has made this world a better place.

Thank you for bringing joy into his life,

Mary Gotz

Thank you, Mary, for letting us know about Gus's 88th birthday today. Bon anniversaire, Gus!

To anyone reading, please join me now in sending greetings and birthday wishes to this venerable member of our French Word-A-Day family: Gus Elison.

Click here to write your birthday wishes to Gus in the comments box.

More about Gus:

=> We first learned about Gus after my mom selected him among nearly 2000 entrants for the antique key giveaway. Do not miss both Mom's and Gus's (original comment) here

=> Next, we met his lovely French wife, Paulette, and saw these photos.

=> What a surprise when Gus and Paulette came to visit me in France, and introduced us to the beautiful Jeanne.

=> Another member of our French Word-A-Day family, Herm, wrote a special poem for Gus. Herm, if you are reading, could you please post that poem in the comments box?


Thanks again for leaving Gus Elison a birthday wish. Click here to share your message


tout naturellement = very naturally

le jus vert = green juice 

le cuistot = a cook

au pif = to cook by guesswork (pif = slang for "nose"), to eyeball it (when measuring), to play it by ear

tant pis = too bad, tough luck! 

miam miam = yum yum

la confiture d'oignon = onion jam

bon anniversaire, or "bon anniv" for short :-) = happy birthday

Thanks for sharing French Word-A-Day with a friend, classmate, teacher, family member or anyone who loves France!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


Chapellerie (c) Kristin Espinasse

Hats off to readers! Each chapeau represents the original character of those who read this blog-newsletter. Which hat are you? (I think I'm that gray one, upper right. Although, lately, I appreciate the two-tone blue one--needed sun protection!!--over there on the upper left). In today's story--meet a few of these unique personnages... and enjoy the unlikely story of their "retrouvailles"! 

Meet with Jean-Marc this month--in Brooklyn or Manhattan-- during his 2012 USA wine tour: click here to see all the cities Chief Grape will be visiting

retrouvailles nfpl

    : reunion, reunification

la retrouvaille = finding again, meeting again, getting back together

Audio File
: listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence: Download MP3 or Wav file

Aujourd'hui, lisons "Les Retrouvailles" une belle histoire de deux amies d'enfance qui se retrouvent en ligne, sur ce blog.... Today, let's read "Les Retrouvailles"--a beautiful story about two childhood friends who reunite online, on this blog...



This is the story of Julianna Palazzolo and Sandy Zeoli, the two friends who reconnected through "French Word-A-Day"....


Time: mid to late 1950's

Place: Northern New Jersey, not far from New York City

Dramatis personae: Sandy Y and Julie P

Things to keep in mind: both girls had unusual last names

Julie and Sandy were friends and classmates at the Thomas A. Edison school. Both liked to write short stories. Julie's were much better (Sandy thought that then and still thinks it now). We went to each other's houses all the time, went to each other's birthday parties, and were good friends.

Julie Palazzolo

Julie (pictured, left) moved away to Michigan. She and Sandy lost contact, although Sandy thought about her on and off and wondered where she was. Occasionally if she were traveling, she would check phone books for Julie's last name. Sometimes there was a name that was close, but not the same. Or, right last name, but father's first name didn't match.

Sandy Zeoli

Sandy (pictured, right) grew up and continued living in the same town. Got married, had a child, divorced, remarried, but lived in the same town.

From Michigan, Julie moved throughout the country, married and divorced twice but never had children, settling finally in the American Southwest.

One day in the summer of 2010, Sandy went to the local library and found a book called Words in a French Life. Having studied French in high school and college, she picked up the book and loved it. She saw the author had an email newsletter and signed up for it in July 2010 (Sandy checked her email file, as she has saved all the emails Kristin has sent since she signed up for it). As a bonus, she also searched and found other Foreign Language "Word-A-Day" emails, as Sandy loves learning new languages. Hoping someday to go to Greece and read and understand a little, she has taught herself some Greek and now receives a Greek Word A Day email.

But, back to our story. In late 2011 Kristin Espinasse, the American woman who fell in love with French, France, and stayed there to marry a French man and raise her children there, and who writes of her life in the "French Word A Day" email decided to take up the challenge to self-publish another collection of her letters on life in France.

Book is published. Sandy buys a copy. Reads through the various stories and then glances at the "thank you's" at the beginning of the book. One name immediately jumps off the page. There can't be 2 people called Julie P. The last name is just too unusual.

Sandy Zeoli 2


So, Sandy writes to Kristin, tells her that she thinks it might be her long lost friend, specifically mentions her (Sandy's) maiden name, and other info only Julie would know and asks if Kristin could pass on the info to Julie. A day passes and an email comes from Julie P entitled "C'est moi!"

We are now catching up on our separate lives and maybe one day soon we will be able to get together in person and share some stories.

Julie Palazzolo


Our thanks to Kristin for being the matchmaker. And, in a very modest way, to the Internet, which allows old friends to connect once again, but without the shared interest in French, etc. and Kristin, in particular, would never have happened.


Comments Corner
I would love to read your reaction to this wonderful "retrouvaille"--or maybe you have a story to share? You can leave a note in the comments box

A note about the previous two photos: I had some technical difficulties uploading these images, which were also a bit small. (By the way, that's Sandy, upper right, and Julie, right). Perhaps we'll have the lucky chance to update this post... when Sandy and Julie finally meet up again in person! Fingers crossed.


French Vocabulary

le chapeau = hat

    le chapeau de soleil = sunhat

le personnage = character (in play)

les retrouvailles = reunion

c'est moi = it's me!



"Les Retrouvailles" (homecoming). Click to enlarge this jubilant image! This photo is two years old. It was taken when Smokey returned, supercharged and satisfied, from "Camp Sully" in Vaison-La-Romaine. Witness here Smokey and Chief Grape... and their joyful reunion! Mille mercis to Mark and Ellen for taking such good care of Smokey and Braise!

 Reader Grammar Tips (gleaned from the comments box!)

I was grateful to learn a helpful French pronunciation tip... after reading the recent reader comments (about, of all things, How Not To Do Laundry like the French). Thanks, Jim, for the educational pause... during the heated debate about whether to include socks with bras. (Come to think of it, while some of us don't wash socks with bras, we might have worn them together at one point... Sorry for getting off topic again!)

"French: An Open-Syllable Language"

Jim writes:

I'd like to comment on the pronunciation given for "bâcler." You wrote it as "bak-lay." Please forgive me for my narrow focus, but the correct form is "ba-klay." Unlike English, French is an open-syllable language, where a syllable ends in a vowel whenever possible. Most Americans fail to pronounce "he is" correctly in French. A native speaker always says "ee-lay" but most Anglophones say "eel-ay" which is incorrect. I know I sound like a cranky retired French prof, but I do think the basic linguistic distinction is important.

Thanks, Jim Herlan

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
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"Roof Support" (c) Kristin Espinasse
Leaving France behind... in the following edition. Picture taken near Sablet and Gigondas (that's Mont Ventoux in the background); today's photo may as well be titled "How to Keep Your Roof on in the Windy Vaucluse". (Squint your eyes in time to see the rocks that are holding down the roof tuiles...)

une randonnée (ran doh nay)

    : walk, ride, outing, excursion

une randonnée à pied = hike
la randonnée = hiking
le randonneur, la randonneuse = hiker

Audio File:  Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words Download MP3 or Wav

Le mois dernier, nous avons fait une longue randonnée dans le désert. Last month we had a long hike in the desert.

 Exercises in French PhonicsExercises in French Phonics bestseller on French pronunciation and how to pronouce French words correctly! (click here)


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

Note to newsletter readers: the underlined words in the following text correspond to stories from the archive. Click on the words to read the passages.

Last month I visited family in Mexico and in Arizona and, in both countries, I had the chance to meet up with readers of this blog. The friends in Mexico taught me restaurant etiquette, or "How To Send Back an Order!"(simply complain: "These eggs are as cold as a dead man's butt!"). So far I haven't had the occasion to use the insult. Maybe you have?

Meantime, no dead butts in Arizona... where we busted ours for an early morning randonnée. The pressure was off from the get-go (the theme of the meet-up was The Horizontal Hike...)  and we walked slow enough to sip coffee as we strolled. I leave you with those photos...


One last cuppa before heading to the trail... from left to right: that's Herm, Naoma, Sharron (Herm's wife), Lynn, and Judy.   


From left to right: Rita, my sister Heidi, Karen, and Susan.


Judy, Ann, and Gaelle, whom I kept calling "Susan". Now I'm having doubts about "Ann", whose name I may be mistaking...


Chasing our shadows into the desert... In the lead, that's Gabriel, his sister Monet (left) and their mom Ronnie (behind Gabriel). C'est moi, to the right, in the beige pants.


These three to the right (Ronnie, Heidi, and Karen) were focusing in on the baby coyotes that barked or howled or yelped (???) excitedly up the hill.


This is Randy, who drove over from Cave Creek, AZ. I informed him of my short-lived waitressing job in Cave Creek (in a former life in the desert...). Randy had never heard of "The Desert Deli" and I began to wonder whether it was all a dream... one great mirage!


Stone Sculpture... Those Palo Verde branches are tickling the têtes of Ronnie, Monet, and Gabriel. Can you hear them giggling?


These two desert dwellers belong to Lynn (that's her husband, left) and Ronnie (that's her son, Gabriel, right)...

There's Lynn and her husband. And that's Ann (I think...), right. "Ann" didn't sign my guest book (or did she?). Now I'm having doubts...


There's You Know Who... and that's my sister, Heidi. Cute photo, non? I wished I had on what my sister had on (don't we always?) but my legs were "blanc comme un cachet d'aspirine" or white as a pill, so it was "no deal".


And this is Karen, left, who, along with Herm, made this French meet-up possible! Many thanks again to Herm and to Karen for everything. (And thanks, Karen, for the lovely scarf! It has that European elegance... yet there's a certain Aztec flair!)


This is Herm, whom you may know from the comments box. He occasionally shares a poem with us there. This time he shared one with me, here, as a souvenir of our Horizontal Hike. I had the chance to meet many of the "characters" in the following poem.  Herm writes:

Welcome to my space on the planet
in a secluded wash just off the trail
Join in with my friends... The critters,
singing birds and a few colorful quail

With Palo Verde trees on both sides,
It's a pleasantly cool and shady spot
Especially good in the midst of summer
when the dry winds blow un-Godly hot

Occasionally someone on their daily
hike will leave the trail to take a peek
At the rare saguaro cactus down in the
wash, a one of a kind, said to be unique

The excitement, the wonder in their eyes
and, oh, the surprised look on the face
they stand in awe... they can't believe
Siamese twins; bodies joined at the base.

--Poem by Herm Meyer

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections, comments, and stories/poems of your own are welcome in the comments box. Tip: this is a good place to ask and answer each others questions on France and French life! Click here to leave a message.

Thanks for visiting today's sponsor!


In film:  Paris Je T'aime & My Father's Glory

In the kitchen: Emile Henri Provençale Pie dish in azure blue! 

In the garden: I'm looking forward to planting sunflowers again this year. Why not plant some with me? Click here and choose a packet!

Az desert

Thank you, Herm, for sending in this photo. Herm writes:

Here's a photograph of a photographer photographing a photographer photographing a Stone Sculpture.....

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
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♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

Je T'aime

An "amour" of a dilapidated door, I love you, and a tickle war in today's Valentine's edition. And don't miss photos from our AZ French meet-up!

je t'aime (zheuh tem)

    : I love you


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

Je t'aime is something I've been hearing a lot of lately -- in English. My niece, Reagan, and my nephew, Payne, are fond of saying it to me!

"I love you Aunt Kristi!" they'll call out at the most unexpected times of the day and their declaration never fails to swoop up my heart and carry it off like an exhilarating wave.

"Je vous aime aussi" "I love you, too" I assure my niece and mynephew. And just in case assurance isn't enough... I fall down and brace myself for another guerre de guilis-guilis, or tickle war! 

After the guilis-guilis guerre I warn them: it is time to calm down! My command, hélas, leads not to retreat, and so I am forced to use the "school 'marmy' method": recital. I will recite a list so long that even Sleep herself cannot resist one great Y-A-W-N.

Because it is Valentine's Day, tonight's list will be in theme: 

"French Terms of Endearment". Would you like to read along with us? ... and learn how to say things like Sweetie Pie, My Little Duck, My Dear, and more? Then click here and read on!


This is my niece "Rea-Rea". I am really going to miss her! 

Here's Payne, just back from soccer and with battle bruises to prove it. That's Winston, beside him.

Happy Valentines Day to all and be sure to try out today's expression on someone!

Le Coin Commentaires
Have a correction or a comment to make. Click here to leave a message and thanks in advance!



 We had a fun hike with fellow Francophiles in Phoenix (say that ten times fast!)...

Meet Herm, who helped organize the recent French Word meet-up! More photos to come in the next edition... on Wednesday or Thursday. Check back!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.

Aussi Froid Que Le Cul d'Un Mort

One of these locals taught me a funny expression when, at a local café, she sent back her fried eggs, complaining they were cold as a dead man's butt! So I promised Lulu (left) that today's not-so-French expression would be in her honor...

aussi froid que le cul d'un mort* (oh si fwah keuh leuh kul dun mohr)

: as cold as a dead man's butt

*(and, gosh, I'll be mortified if I didn't get this translation right... after butchering the shoulda coulda woulda French translation...)

PHOENIX Meet-up: click here  for info on Friday's meet-up in the Valley of the Sun.

A Day in a Mexican Life... (by a damned tourist*)

50 Ways to Please Your Mother

Mom and I are tying our shoelaces and tucking pesos into our pockets.
"You don't want to be one of those damn tourists* who stand there counting out change, holding up the driver and the locals." With that, Jules slaps on her hat and shouts, are you ready yet?!

I suspect we are heading out, after all, for that mountain adventure she's been raving about, on our way to dusty jungle paths far from the typical tourist traps... though by now I am content to remain within a half-mile radius of the marina, especially since my stomach never did settle down completely, not since the pre-flight adventure last week.

Oh, Pffft! Mom gestures, and the unimpressed look on her face reminds me that I do not want to be taken for the namby-pamby neurotic that I really am. 

"OK. So what are we going to do?" I wonder, anxiously.

And Mom, as cool as an accomplice, gives me the gist:

"We're just going to get on the bus, Gus."

Le Coin Commentaires
Corrections are helpful and comments are welcome here, in the comments box.



Bel ria dog of war by Sheila Burnford I am currently reading one of Jules's all time favorite books "Bel Ria". I hope you will read along with me. Check out the story of a darling dog in wartime France. Bel Ria by Sheila Burnford. More than a children's book - any grown up would adore reading this. The vocabulary is rich - a wonderful book for a budding or a practicing writer or a Francophile or a history buff or a dog lover... a great read for all. Order a copy here.








From left to right: Teri, Berthe "Bety", Penny, Lulu, Jules, Breezy, Kristin, and Matt, who is a reader of French Word-A-Day and who emailed, inviting Mom and me to hang out with him and his friends.

We ate with the mischievous group here at the marina, where I've been hanging out all week.


Why venture out when characters like these two bring the best of Mexico right to you? 


Teri and Penny are from Portland, OR... and might've been featured at the top of this post... had they come up with a saucier expression than Lulu's (did they not dare to?).

Fun loving Lulu (see her there in the back?) steals the show once more... that's Matt and I, trying with all our might to stay in the spotlight...

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


Golden retriever, dog, halloween costume, girl, spider mask (c) Kristin Espinasse www.french-word-a-day.com
Our Jackie turned 5 when this word journal began. Here she is at eleven (two years ago) helping Braise (brez) get dressed for today's birthday party!

     Today marks the 8th anniversary of this French word journal!

joyeux, joyeuse (zhwa-yuh, zhwa-yuhz) adjective

    : cheerful, merry, joyful

Listen to my daughter's message, and to the French word "joyeux": Download Wav or MP3 

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
  "And now.. a Word or Two about You"

I have another confession: I have never been good at événementiel (or "event organization"). Jean-Marc planned our wedding, each and every detail (contacted the French priest, ordered the fleurs, selected the menu, had les bagues engraved, and all but tried on the long white robe & satin-trimmed veil for me).

The "big day" found his blushing bride-to-be tripping over a street grate, late for a very important date! I have been trying to make up for that unforgettable entrance ever since: by continuing to réviser a simple lesson from my husband: relax and enjoy life and, especially, celebrate the milestones!

Today marks the 8th anniversary of this French word journal and I am ready to celebrer this joyful event. I've ordered the flowers (okay, I swiped several from "Mama Jules"), and selected the menu: a sweet and savory buffet of words.

Now listen up: this is where you come in (and not as a clumsy bride!):

Golden retriever, dog, halloween costume, girl, spider mask, mont ventoux, vaucluse (c) Kristin Espinasse www.french-word-a-day.com
I would like to ask you to share a word or two... about yourself
 Are you an 85-year-old collector of Southwestern art? Or a new mother, up to her ears in dirty diapers? Are you in a marching band? Do you read this word journal in school? Are you famous? ...or infamous? (or related to someone who is?). Do you speak more than two languages? Can you make your ears move? or can you do the splits?

Do you suspect you are the youngest on this list--or the oldest? Are you a tattoo artist or do you dabble in watercolor? Have you invented something? Do you like frogs legs or are you carrément contre la cuisine des cuisses de grenouilles? Do you have an unusual skill? Do you decorate your window sill? Are you involved in a charity? Have you written a book and do you want to "buzz it" here? Are you shy? Ever won a prize? Or eaten an entire pie? Are you on a mission? Do you have a blog or a website and where can we find you on the web?

Now's the time to de-lurk... time to write just a line or two about you... s'il vous plaît! Meantime, thank you for reading this word journal and for helping to create a cozy community as we move into our ninth year: one sweet and savory word at a time.

Thank you very much, in advance, for sharing something about you, in the comments box. Note: the next post will go out on November 5th, after a short break :-)

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.


Puzzled at which photo to put up today... I found this forerunner in Ramatuelle. Picture taken  last spring.

avant-coureur (ah vahn koor ur) adjective

    : forerunner

synonyme: précurseur (noun)

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

Next month this word journal will set out for—and near—its very dear ninth year! How to sum up one's thoughts about that? With the help of Doctor Seuss, bien sûr:

Oh, les endroits où tu courras!

As you may have surmised, translation is not always on my side. So let's keep le docteur's words intact: 

Oh, the places you'll go!  To this I would add, with glee and wee-stee-tee:

...and, oh, the people you will meet!


Take Lou, for example. He wrote to me back in 2006.

I've just been able to send an e-mail. I read your book, which I enjoy and get your word a day, which is helping me try and learn French, as I'm planning on spending a month next Sept. in the Provence area celebrating my 80th, hope to try your wine, I'm from Casa Grande, AZ., also a desert rat, much good luck to you and to your family, I'm sure, like most of your readers, you feel like family. Au revoir.

And now, three and some years later, at the age of 83, Lou finally came to visit me! He had mentioned wanting to help out with our wine harvest... and so it was that Lou became our most venerable vendangeur!

Lou has often sent encouraging words (you may have seen them in the comments box):

Happy birthday and holiday greetings from an old fan, enjoy your family news and pics, hope to get over one of these days and meet you all, My best to you and yours.

But there is nothing like hearing encouraging words en direct. I stood there on the front patio, listening to un homme d'un certain âge honor me for following and sharing this writing dream. Next, the man with grape stains from his shirt shoulders to his socks, turned and pointed to the horizon. His face sunburnt from harvesting, a bee sting beneath his eye, he said that I was blessed. My eyes traveled back from the skyline and, looking back at Lou, I could not help but feel so: blessed not for what I have, but for whom I have.

Lou's solo trip south (he first visited London) to gather grapes beneath the sizzling sun makes my imagination spin: will I dare to drive a car across a foreign country when I am the same age as he? Or will I remain a wet chicken?

I look at Lou and see what James Dean might have been, nearing ninety: a rebel runner in Time's race, not about to slow down. Never mind gravity.

Time and lines. I try to superimpose my own face on Lou's: eyes on eyes, nose on nose. Will I be as handsome... with a little chance and then some?

But beauty has nothing on bohemia and, like Lou, it is the unconventional life for which I'll strive at 80 or for as long as I'm alive.


(more photos below... keep scrolling!)

Le Coin Commentaires
I love reading your comments. Please don't hesitate to leave a message, or a simple "bonjour". Click here to comment

Speaking of Doctor Seuss, check out Les Oeufs Verts au Jambon: The French Edition of Green Eggs and Ham

French Vocabulary

bien sûr = of course

le docteur = doctor

ouistiti = the word the French say for "cheese" when posing for a photo (pronounced wee-stee-tee)

le vendangeur (la vendangeuse) = grape picker, vintager
wet chicken 

en direct
= live

un homme d'un certain âge = a man of a certain age

wet chicken = la poule mouillée = a coward  



Lou with harvester Zayra. Ah là là!


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


Sweatshirt "Provence-Alpes-Cote D'azur


Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue creating this French word journal and its newsletter, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to help keep this site humming along, please know your donation makes all the difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
♥ $10    
♥ $25    
♥ Or click here to send the amount of your choice

You can also support this journal by purchasing our book-in-progress, click here.