The Vas-y Effect. You know this secret to happiness and success...

Bicycle paris hearts
A random photo from Paris. You can never see enough hearts! Keep looking for them, and enjoy the following pick-me-up message.

TODAY'S WORD:  "Vas-y!"

    : go for it!

FRENCH SOUND FILE: Click below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce all 12 French terms in this post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here to listen to the French vocabulary


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"The Vas-y Effect"

Coucou and a warm bonjour to anyone reading. I am sitting here trying to calm my mind and figure out where to begin today. So far I have woken up, enjoyed some reading/devotional time, and gone for a walk with my husband). Returning home, I picked up the house (that sounds funny doesn't it? How much does a house weigh?), had a boring bowl of flocons d'avoine and now sit quietly in front of my laptop, trying to stave off panic and doubt. 

There are a dozen directions in which I could go from here (finish an article, begin a chapter, compose this week's blog post...). I could even call it a day--ça suffit pour aujourd'hui!--crawl under the covers and give up on my dreams. Abandonner. But if I am still typing it is because a still small voice whispers: Vas-y!

(Now those are two brilliant words in French: Vas-y! "Go ahead!" as in put one foot in front of the other and move forward.)

Meantime la peur, l'angoisse, le doute--for my work, for my family, for the holidays--it all threatens to steal this moment of concentration. And they say this moment is all we have. The future is made up of moments just like this one. We never reach that happy/balanced/focused place. We must uncover it here and now. Doing so involves risk. The risk of trying. Trying involves effort. And effort involves la volonté or will. Are we willing? At the very least are we able...

...to do what we need to do right now to be at peace, to find release, to be free...?

There is no denying we are capable. But do we want to? Yes, we want to move forward (but aren't we going in circles now? We spend so much time going round and round that the initial effort we so resisted would be done by now)! So it's discipline then? Discipline is the key to happiness??

Yes! Discipline does lead to happiness in my experience!

Well, thank you for listening to all that. I needed a personal pep talk this morning. And now my daughter has returned from some errands and says she has something to show me. I go downstairs and see a bounty of groceries. "I know you have la crève and it is not easy to cook... so I got choucroute for lunch...and there's plenty for dinner! And there are kiwis and crêpes and hot chocolate and..."

And I will end on that happy note! I do believe we are rewarded when we take the first steps towards our dreams/goals/or nagging to-dos. Trust the process, I tell myself, again and again. Now, off you go, dear reader, to face the moment. Vas-y! Vas-y!

***
Hearts and Smokey
While looking for "hearts" in my photo archives, I found this sweet soul, Smokey.

*The "devotional" I mentioned in the story, and highly recommend is The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman 

FRENCH VOCABULARY

vas-y! = go for it
coucou = hi there
bonjour = hello
les flocons d'avoine = oatmeal
ça suffit pour aujourd'hui = let's call it a day
abandonner = to give up
la peur = fear
l'angoisse = anxiety
le doute = uncertainty, doubt
la volonté = will (to do something)
avoir la crève = to have a bad cold
la choucroute = sauerkraut

Heart leaf
Enjoy your day and keep looking for the hearts in it. See you next week! For more calming thoughts, read Desiderata again in French and in English.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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

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


Today is The Day! Something mammoth to celebrate!

image from french-word-a-day.typepad.com

Today's Expression: "dans la panade"

    : in a jam (in a difficult situation)

Other ways to say "in a jam": dans le pétrin, dans la mouise...but if you really want to speak like a native it's dans la merde!

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Today is the day! Twenty years ago, on Sunday, October 28th, this French word journal began. Jean-Marc (or a seven-year-old Max?) took this picture in the hallway of our home in a medieval French village. When I look at the image above, I see a 34-year-old woman striking out on a new path. Just look at that mammoth computer. How things have changed over two decades. Nowadays, in a jam, I'll type on a tiny phone using my two thumbs and a lot of squinting--because, short of hijacking a satellite, I will do just about anything to publish my weekly post, and so stick to a promise I made to myself 20 years ago.

Now, if I am an accidental hijacker, that makes you an accidental accomplice. Because without your regular encouragement, this blog, this body of work, would not exist. Thank you for your love and support!

I am off to post this latest entry, in time to meet Jean-Marc for a celebratory lunch. Only, it seems my blog server is having technical problems...making today's delivery very uncertain. I may have to don a Hijacker costume for an early Halloween scare for those tech guys working on the issue. But all I have is a "cowboy" ensemble. Now, how does one say "This is a stickup in!" French? Would that be "Ceci est une intrusion!"? 

Goodbye for now, dear reader, and may these letters never be an intrusion. Thank you for reading and, as always, I would love to hear from you. Simply hit the return key (if reading via email), or leave a comment, below. I would really appreciate it.

Amicalement

Kristi

I leave you with a photo taken in Le Marais, during my recent escapade with my daughter

image from french-word-a-day.typepad.com

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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

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


Redémarrer: Bonjour. An update from Kristi

Sunny English sheepdog
In Denver, I got to meet "Sunny", my sister's 5th chien de berger anglais ancestral, and enjoy a longawaited reunion with family. Read on and bienvenue to new subscribers. Delighted to have you with us! 

Today's Word: redémarrer

    : to restart, start again, to get moving

FRENCH SOUND FILE: Click the following link to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to check your French comprehension.

Click here for the audio file

The eightHave you read The Eight? It takes place in France, is loaded with history, and Mom loved it! Order it here.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

Et hop-and just like that-summer is over. The French call this time of year la rentrée, "the start of the school year" or simply the return from vacation for those of us heading back to work. It is time to redémarrer or restart this blog with a quick update from our home in La Ciotat.

From the Rocky Mountains to the Mediterranean Sea...
It feels good to come home to France after a solo, three-week visit to Colorado. And like anyone returning from a getaway I have a lot to catch up on including, apparently les mites! Hungover from jetlag I stood in our kitchen pointing to le plafond as my husband balanced himself atop our wobbly dining table, a sharp wooden stick in his hand. You need such weapons to scratch the buggers loose from from their encrusted nests. Allez! Oust! Begone unwelcome weevils! Get out of my oatmeal, get out of my rice, get out of my life!

It is time to calm down and focus on writing and it doesn't come easy after a two-month pause. Writing for a living means the brain is constantly churning. Everything is grist for the mill! The mind chatters possible sentences, edits phrases, rearranges ideas and words only to scatter when facing a blank page. All that brain sweat for nothing. Two summers ago I decided to go on summer break "just like teachers do," and rest my head. I still don't know whether that's a good idea or not. I think this summer taught me that writing regularly is more than a healthy discipline--it is an anchor.

There, I've said everything but what I came here to tell you. Let those previous paragraphs be a warm up and now let's sprint to the finish with a recap of my time in Denver: After 3-and-a-half years apart from my family, I had the chance to see my sisters, Heidi and Kelley, and our Dad for a belated 80th birthday celebration. While this was the highlight of my trip, so were the many hugs from my niece and nephew, and seeing the two off to college at CU in Boulder. I also got to experience a “Tailgate party” before the CU football game, and, back in Denver, savored enough Mexican food and pastrami sandwiches and Triscuits to hold me over until the next time. Oh, and we discovered Elk burgers (thanks Rondo and Tom!) and Colorado corn so good it makes organic French maïs taste like cardboard. I will need to better explore the French farmers markets during corn season--and update you.

Kelley-heidi-Dad-Kristi
My sisters Kelley and Heidi, our Dad, and me in Boulder.

Other highlights included a special gift delivery from a reader (see painting below), keeping up with my sister on daily walks with sheepdog Sunny (Heidi is a jet plane while I'm a hangglider) and a sober dance in the rain at a biker bar! But I'll save that one for now. A writer must always have a story up her sleeve and the option to leave it there!

Now, back to those pesky pantry invaders and to other areas needing attention and care here at home. Tell me, how are you and how was your summer? I would love to hear about it in the comments. And thank you so very much for reading these French-infused updates, moths and all!

Amicalement,

Kristi

Edits to this post are welcome and appreciated. Merci beaucoup!



FRENCH VOCABULARY
Are any of the following words new to you? Which is your favorite term and which is hardest to pronounce? 

le chien de berger anglais ancestral = old English sheepdog
bienvenue = welcome
redémarrer = to restart
et hop! = and that's it! and just like that!
la mite = moth
le plafond = ceiling
allez! = go on!
oust! = get outta here!
le maïs = corn
amicalement = yours

 

IMG_4064

Thanks, artist Judy Feldman, for this precious rendition of our dearly departed dog. Those eyes! That tongue! That soft, silky, golden hair... That's our Smokey! Hard to believe he's been gone two months.  

IMG_4112

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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

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


Tout va bien se passer (French for Everything's Gonna be OK!)

La ciotat beach franceWelcome to the antépénultième post of the year. Read on for less obscure and more meaningful words! (This photo was taken this morning. Do not miss the end photo of a horse in the sea also taken here in La Ciotat.)

Today's Phrase: Tout va bien se passer

  : everything will be alright (it'll all work out!)

Click here for the sound file

   
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
Round three of trying to compose a story for this last (second-to-last? or antépénultième) post of the year--in which I'd planned to share what's on my mind and, in so doing... en agissant ainsi ... cobble together an offering in the midst of les fêtes (au fait... BONNES FETES! By the way, happy holidays!).

Like so many of you, I have a lot on my mind, which is just the Devil's way of distracting us from our goals and dreams, and my goal and dream is to keep writing. Not because I enjoy writing (I don't. It can be torturous...), but because writing is an effective way to focus, to calm down, and, best of all, to find meaning in seemingly meaningless things. (The word manger is a timely example!)

I may not have a 'real' story to tell today, but I can write for writing's sake! And so as not to waste your precious time, I will add as many French words--autant que possible--for édification. That, after all, is why you and I are here: to improve or s'améliorer. You came here to improve your French, and I'm here to improve tout court!

At this point in our messy essay (this, the antépénultième paragraph? on verra!) I am doubtful as to just what these words are adding up to... except freedom (au moins pour moi -- at least for me). I hope this billet will free you, too, from whatever might be torturing you!

Back to writing... It is not my style to plug this many French words and phrases into a post. I would rather things happen naturally, and not forcibly.  Mais, on fait comme on peut, we do as we can... on days when we feel we can't. Otherwise said, if we do what we can on days we feel we can't...we are a little freer, less tortured, and enjoy more meaning in life.

I'd better end here while I still have your attention. Have I? Good, then please remember this: It is okay if you are stuck today. You won't fall terribly behind. You are not a failure or a loser or an imposter. Most importantly, You are not alone. And one more message for those who need it most: It will all work out. Tout va bien se passer.


FRENCH VOCABULARY
Tout va bien se passer = everything's gonna be OK
antépénultième = third to last
en agissant ainsi = in so doing
les fêtes = the holiday season
au fait = by the way
bonnes fêtes = happy holidays
autant que possible = as many as possible
améliorer, s'améliorer = to improve, to improve oneself
le billet = column, blog post
tout court = period, full stop
on verra = we will see
au moins pour moi = at least for me
on fait comme on peut = we do what we can

Horse and trainer in La Ciotat photo Kristi Espinasse
I'll end with Mom's favorite picture, taken a few years ago here on the shores of La Ciotat.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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

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


They hopped the fence: how our ideas (and our chickens) take off

doves and pigeons by Kristi Espinasse
"Writing is for the birds!" Photo taken here in La Ciotat this morning, when things were peaceful....

Today's Word: les guillemets

  : quotation mark

I set out to tell you a story about fugitive hens (no worries, they're back) when every possible distraction known to man or bird befell me. Welcome to a typical beginning to each and every writing session.

If I am currently typing this on my mobile phone, squinting at a tiny screen while hunched over my kitchen counter, it is because I refuse to let them win!

Them are the hurdles I've suffered in the 37 minutes since firing up that godforsaken laptop in order to compose a colorful récit.

Them are different or the same every time. This morning thems a mind-numbingly slow computer (this binary slug no longer allows me to type guillemets, so I have to use italics instead--in fact none of the numbers or characters on my laptop's numeric keypad work. Type the small c-with its cedilla-and I get an empty space. A blank!).

Earlier, d'un seul coup, my lazy HP switched keyboards on me, from AZERTY to QWERTY, meaning every time I type m I get a point-virgule (or something--who can possibly recall details at a time like this?).

Ça rame! Ça rame! Waiting 37 minutes for my (relatively new) PC to warm up, an opening line to this story is thrumming on my mind (or was). But as fresh new computer glitches arise and test me, I've lost my story's delivery along with bits of my memory.

Extremely frustrated I want to slam something (not my laptop! How 'bout a pastis?) Instead, I stomp on over to the kitchen counter, where my smartphone is charging...and where I am now reduced to typing with two thumbs, which feels dumber than bad grammar. Au fait...

Them may have stolen a lot this morning–-nerves and nearly my sanity--but thems still haven't taken away my tenacity! I leave you with an unexpected vocabulary section (how different the words would be had all gone smoothly). 

Amicalement,

Kristi

 

FRENCH VOCABULARY

un récit = story

les guillemets = quotation marks

un point-virgule = semi-colon

Ça rame = it's chugging along (literally, it's paddling)

d'un seul coup = all at once

un pastis = anis-flavored alcohol

au fait = by the way

amicalement = cheers, fondly, yours...


REVERSE DICTIONARY

keyboard = le clavier

computer = un ordinateur

QWERTY = a standard English-language typewriter or computer keyboard on which the first six letters of the second row are q, w, e, r, t, and y --https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/QWERTYAZERTYkeyMerriam-Webster

AZERTY - The AZERTY keyboard first appeared within the last decades of the 19th century in France as an alternative layout to the American QWERTY version of typewriters -Technopedia.com

MVIMG_20181115_075520

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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

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


A Bundle of Joy: Celebrating The 17th year of this journal!

Bundle of oy

The anniversary of this French word journal passed quietly by last month, unbeknownst even to me. But now that I've put two-and-two together, I'm not letting this milestone go unfêted (another lapse into franglais?). In keeping this brief, I will share the one thing that comes to mind when I think about writing this newsletter to you, and that is "Bundle of joy."

Now here's the part that is étonnante: the act of writing does not = "bundle of joy" to me--nonpas du tout! (For a very long time that fact alone made me believe I was a writing imposter and not un écrivain...) Neither does putting together these blog posts--does HTML rhyme with "joie" in your universe? Heavens no!--unless you're a hacker or "pirate informatique" and btw don't you love French?! 

No, this "bundle of joy" of which I speak comes after delivery (just like a baby!)--after the uncertainty, after the effort, after the still-to-this-day doubt that maybe I've made a mistake in my delivery?

I read somewhere early on--or was it a friend who warned me...: Once the story is out there it is no longer your own. It belongs to the reader who will interpret it as only he or she can--based on each and every experience, good or bad, he or she has ever had.

Sacrebleu! 
That might have put me off writing then and there, except it didn't and now I look up from my computer screen and here I am in my 17th year of sending you these missives (I learned that word--along with a host of others and lots of grammar and geography too--from you. Your readership has been an education to me!).

As I pause today to mark this milepost in under 370 words, je tiens à vous dire, I have to tell you how deeply grateful I am for your "just show up and we've got your back" audience attitude. It reminds me we are on this creative journey together and this is why I write: for the connection and for the joy it brings.

Amicalement,

Kristi

Stone building with autumn leaves in france

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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

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


laquelle

1-DSC_0460
Holiday progress report: I haven't begun to look for the santons (pictured last year)--and the box of ornaments is still waiting to be unpacked. Doubtful things will come together this season, but I do know where to find the recipe for this cake! Meantime, a story for you today about writing... and how to tell all those stories you've got up your sleeve--in one fell swoop

laquelle (lah-kel)

    : which

  • Laquelle is the feminine form of "lequel."
  • la raison pour laquelle = the reason for which
  • dans laquelle = in which

Audio File: listen to this sentence:  MP3 or Wav

Il faut écrire une histoire--mais laquelle?
(I) need to write a story--but which one?


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

Some nights I am badgered by that old foe, Angoisse. I know I'm not alone, that all over the world people are anxious about tomorrow. For some that may be a school exam, for others, a nagging problem at work or a visit with the doctor. For me, it is the blank page. What will I write about tomorrow?

 

I've trained myself to not think too much about the next day's effort. Why cut short today? Tomorrow will take care of itself! This is especially true regarding creative pursuits: best not to plan too much, otherwise you are forcing the scene. For what if--instead of your sled of huskies--a team of reindeer comes dancing onto the stage? IN A SLEIGH!

One must always be open to reindeer!

Still, I like to have a few tricks up my sleeve before firing up my computer and facing a giant and empty screen. So in the middle of the night I sometimes wake up--nagged by my familiar tormentor. Her name is "Laquelle" and her mission is to turn me back into a wall-starer, instead of the writer I've become.

Laquelle (or "which" in French--and boy is she ever one of those!) likes to taunt me with her namesake question, "Which one? Which story you gonna tell today, Big Shot?" She snaps her gum and waits for my answer.

And I fall for it every time. "I... well I could tell the story about Sunday's photo outing in the town of Céyreste! I could write about how scary it is to point my camera at the buildings after being chewed out by French homeowners. And how, pushing past this fear--lifting my camera to a decorous second story window--I glanced a scene just beneath it: there behind the glass doors of a senior center, a room full of elderly people were smiling sweetly at me--amused by the scene outside their window.  

 "Cute..." interrupts Laquelle, in her sarcastic way. "Anything else up your sleeve? Haven't you got a better story, Ms. Writer?"

"Well, there's the one I've been meaning to tell--tentatively titled "Five Bucks"--about losing my mouth guard in Phoenix. I was sure my sister's sheepdogs ate it... But, giving the dogs the benefit of the doubt, I offered my niece and nephew "5 bucks if you find my tooth guard anywhere in the house!"

Driving the kids to school the next day, my sister inquired about the hunt. "Any luck?"

Hopeful, I turned to have a look at the little faces in the back seat, but all I saw were shaking heads.

"No worries," Heidi said, a mischievous grin on her face. "I'll check the crottes when I clean up the yard!"

"Ew! Yuck! Beurk!" The kids and I cringed.

"Hey," said my sister. "Five bucks is five bucks!"

*    *    *

"That's a disgusting story," Laquelle says, twisting her face. No one wants to hear it--especially at breakfast time!"

"But my sister was only kidding!" I argue. 

Laquelle points to the clock on my nightstand: 2:36 a.m. "Maybe you'll get your act together by tomorrow?"

"Aha! I know one! I could tell about my 16-year-old's good news! As a part of her fashion school curriculum, Jackie was required to find un stage, or internship, at a fashion designer's--one who manufactures their own line of clothing. What luck it was when a good friend put her in touch with a hip boutique in Marseilles. She'll begin her 6-week training this spring!" 

"Is that all you got?" Laquelle, puffed, blowing on her just painted fingernails--and looking horribly bored.

"Well, it's just a sketch--I'd have to fill in all the details. Like how beautiful Jackie looked in her black and white equestrian themed top (a steal at the second-hand shop!), black pants, a thick knitted scarf--her hair tied up in a floppy bun!"

"No one likes a braggy mom," countered Laquelle, who had quit drying her nails in time to catch a great big yawn.

Gosh, it had to be 3 three a.m. by now. As I tossed and turned in bed, haunted by fragments of stories, an idea came at last.

"Knitting! I haven't yet talked about how I relearned to knit on the cruise last month! Another passenger--Celia--and I stopped into a cozy yarn boutique in Rouen, picked out several skeins and a pair of those circular needles. "These will make it easy for you," Celia said, agreeing to teach me. 

This began a series of knitting sessions--held in the ship's cocktail lounge. Julie and Nan joined us and--while other passengers were toasting with champagne--we were clinking needles!"

"But knitting's not cool," Laquelle said, patting me on the head with her still-wet nails. "Why don't you take up silk-screening like your sister-in-law. Now that's cool!"

 "Cool?"

My questioning put the little devil on my shoulder in defense mode: "Look," Laquelle said, "you want to share a story tomorrow but all you have are a bunch of scraps! Besides, you can't even decide which one to work on. And how do you know that you'll choose the right one?"

For once, Laquelle had a point. Which experience was worth recounting? To answer this question, it would take another, more meaningful question. The Big Question:

Why do you write?

I'm not sure of the answer. For one, I write to entertain--myself and others. In this case, any of the above story fragments could work....

And then I write to record my life. For this, I should choose the story of my daughter's first internship--a milestone! And also the story of "delivery"--in which a room of white-haired spectators smiled and, unbeknownst to them, encouraged a wayward photographer.

The dog-eats-mouthguard and knitting stories are more whimsical. They aren't for everyone, but they are fun and challenging to write. (Yes, for the challenge--perhaps this is one more reason to wake up and face the blank page each day.)

Perhaps it isn't so important to know why we do what we do. What's necessary--truly vital--is to follow that creative urge, to take it to wherever it leads you.

teddy bear window in Ceyreste
What encouraging looks were waiting, inside the senior center just below, as I trained my camera on this window!


Comments
To respond to this story, click here. Can you think of more reasons to practice an art? How do you push past your resistance to get started with a project? Which of the above stories would you most like to see developed? Add to the discussion here.

Selected Vocabulary
la crotte = dog doo
beurk! = yuck! 

 

1-DSC_0052
I'd like to plant some cabbage beneath our window today. Oh, and I'd like the dogs to stop barking at the sheep--they have barked during this entire writing episode! WHOOF WHOOF. WHOOF WHOOF! I can't hear my thoughts! But one more thing I tell myself about writing is this: to persevere amidst the noise and chaos and incessant interruption is a writer's badge of courage! 

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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

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


Bonjour. It's good to be back!

Near Shakespeare and Company bookshop
Last month's sabbatical began in Paris... More in today's letter. 

We will be back to the regular format of French Word-A-Day soon. Meantime, there's a letter waiting for you, just below, and a few ways to say 'hello.'

You know the word for "hi" in French. Here are some other oft-heard salutations. Have fun changing up your greetings next time you see a friend.

  • salut (hi!)
  • coucou (hey there!)

Bonjour! When last we spoke I talked about a one-month sabbatical. What I didn't tell you was how nervous I was about taking it. There was that risk of never coming back....

For decades (since young adulthood) I've lived with this belief that I am an all or nothing person. That, for example, if I dared keep this gig as a writer, I'd better keep on track--or veer off to The Land of Flake forever. (Flake--flakiness...).

But I have also secretly suspected that, deep down, I'm NOT an all or nothing person. That there is a resilient, flexible, can stop and start again soul at the helm of my personcraft, or being. Sometimes we just have to throw off our life jackets and test the waters. Thank you, dear reader, for waiting there on the raft for me! You promised to be there when I swam back. If you are reading now you can see my outstretched hand. I'm ready to get back on dry ground. Are you still ready?

One, two, three... heave

Before setting off for a new season of writing, I'd like to take a moment to thank those readers who joined me on the one week AmaWaterways Paris to Normandy cruise last month. What a warm-hearted and fascinating group you were.

Thank you Joan and Glenn, Jean-Marie and Mark, Chris and George, Celia and Martha, Julie and Brad, and last but not least, thank you Nan and Tom and Charles and Martha (these two showed up for a surprise visit when we docked outside of Paris!). Thanks also to readers Julie and John (who were on the cruise just before us, and who took the time to leave a message in my room. I was delighted to read it!). 

I would also like to thank my best friend Susan Boehnstedt (aka "Rouge-Bleu") of Critics Choice Vacations. Susan invited Jean-Marc and me to host the cruise, after highly suggesting our candidature to AMAWaterways! (Thank you Denise, at AMA, for making this possible!)

Going on this cruise was the best chance to see a beautiful part of France. And while it is hard to pinpoint a favorite endroit, or place--or a favorite thing about the cruise--I will share a comment by Jean-Marc, one that wonderfully captures the gift of cruising with AMAWaterways:

C'est bien reposant! How restful this is! (This, coming from an overworked winemaker and business man, is the best compliment one could give. So thanks to the hard workers at AMAWaterways for keeping an impeccably run boat. We enjoyed our chance to travel with you!

I leave you now with a few pictures from our cruise along the river (more photos to come). I hope these images will inspire you to travel the waterways of France. For more information, contact Susan at Critics Choice Vacations: Susan@CriticsChoiceVacations.com  Phone: 480-831-9076

 

Les andelys

There were so many breathtaking landscapes along the waterways. We stopped in Les Andelys for a view from above.

Joan of arc rouen
In Rouen we stood where crowds witnessed the demise of Joan of Arc (flames once went up where now you see the plaque on a bed of flowers.)

  little boy in Normandy
I didn't get a picture of the irises that grown on these traditional rooftops. But I did get a snapshot of this little Norman boy as our tour bus cruised past.

3-susan honfleur
Taken with Susan's camera (that's her, left, me, right). I think Linda took this photo. Linda is Susan's longtime friend from their days in Douglas, Arizona. It was a pleasure to meet Linda and spend pre-cruise time together in Paris. I especially enjoyed our lunch together in Île Saint-Louis where we chatted about Susan (were your ears burning, Rouge-Bleu?). The picture was taken in Honfleur, where we froze. Thankfully Celia (mentioned in the Thank you section, above) had this handmade bonnet on hand. 

Linda and susan in honfleur
Here's Linda with Susan, in Honfleur.

Omaha beach France

The most touching moment of the trip was our visit to Omaha beach. I leave you with this image (more to come). This is Janet, whom I met on the cruise. I found her all alone. Lowering her umbrella, she spoke to the lost heros. Her gesture puts words to the gratitude in all our hearts.

French christmas music
Everyone loves this holiday CD! Listen to A French Christmas and "Mon Beau Sapin", "Saint Nuit", "La Marche des Rois", "Petite Ville Bethléem", "Il est né Le Divin Enfant". Order CD here. 

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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

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


le piege : the trap + book update

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


le piège (pee-ezh)

    : trap, snare, pitfall, booby-trap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSC_0030
One thing I learned from readers' reaction to my post about the risks of writing: depending on your perspective, or life experience, a scene will evoke darkness of light - or both. I am always having to remind myself to adjust my perspective.

DSC_0053
That's me, serving dessert. At the vineyard where we lived, we had many, many guests. Rarely did I meet a fellow teetotaler. In the meantime, there was lots and lots of wine to bring out. When Jean-Marc reached past me to pour the wine for a tablemate, I casually moved my plate out of the way, afraid a drop of alcohol would fall into my pasta--what if I ate the tainted food? Could I still believe I was abstinent? Would I be able to claim my end of another year chip

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

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

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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

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


muse

Sheep in Les Arcs (c) Kristin Espinasse
Who (or what) is your muse? For me it can be a scene, like this one... and suddenly inspiration comes! Photo taken in Les Arcs-sur-Argens, where we lived from 1999-2007. 

I tried to find a French synonym for une muse, but I landed on a French definition instead. Here it is, along with the day's story, written two summers ago:

une muse (myooz)

    : une source d'inspiration pour un écrivain, un poéte, ou une artiste 

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the definition to muse: Download MP3 or Wav file

la muse verte = absinthe (the drink that is said to have inspired 19 Century writers)
invoquer sa muse = to call on one's muse
courtiser les muses = to court the muses
taquiner la muse = literally to tease the muse (to give a go at poetry)
les muses = The nine Muses

un musée = museum (from the Greek mousaion, or "a seat or shrine of the muses").

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

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

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

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

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

"You are God's muse"

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

Later that night, after the house had fallen to sleep, I reluctantly put my espadrille-shoed chèvre aside. I reassured myself that the story could be told another time. Next, I thought of Mom's words:

"Remember, you are God's muse. Just fire up that computer, put your hands over that keyboard and LET IT RIP!"

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

I looked up at what I had typed: only a word, no more than a title. It read, Naked

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

 

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

French Vocabulary

la nouvelle = short story

la historiette = anecdote, short story

la chèvre = she goat

 

  Smokey (c) Kristin Espinasse

Forward today's story to a struggling artist. Thanks. (Picture of Smokey taken two summers ago. What is he thinking? Click here to add a thought bubble.)

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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

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