I wish you cheerfulness. That is what we all need to offer and to receive. That is true courtesy which enriches everyone, beginning with the one who gives it. This is the treasure that multiplies in the exchange. We can sow it along the roads, in the tramways, in the newsstands; it won't lose one atom of itself. It will grow and flourish wherever you toss it. (French translation and credit below)
TODAY'S WORD: Recevoir
: to receive
: to entertain
ECOUTEZ/LISTEN to Jean-Marc pronounce these French words:
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Je vous souhaite la bonne humeur. Voilà ce qu'il faudrait offrir et recevoir. Voilà la vraie politesse qui enrichit tout le monde, et d'abord celui qui donne. Voilà le trésor qui se multiplie par l'échange. On peut le semer le long des rues, dans les tramways, dans les kiosques à journaux ; il ne s'en perdra pas un atome. Elle poussera et fleurira partout où vous l'aurez jetée. -Alain, Propos sur le Bonheur
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A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristin Espinasse
Sobriety Does Not = Foolproof Entertaining
...it equals so much more
There was a time, early in my marriage when, not knowing any better, I would prepare for a dinner party in the most exhaustive way. I would wake up that morning with no clue of what to cook--rush to the grocery store, filling my cart so high that I would have to let everyone in the line behind me pass me, par politesse. Returning home, worn out before the day began, I would put away the groceries, put away my toddlers (who were also in the grocery cart), and begin to clean my house. Having cared for the kids all day while tossing menus around in my head, I would prepare myself before preparing dinner (usually something in the pressure cooker--a metaphor for my emotional state?). I will never forget the night my English friend Caroline arrived, pausing outside my kitchen window to witness the chaotic scene: the sink was full of pans and the countertops were piled with cutting boards, utensils, vegetable scraps....
And I will never forget the day I threw a plate across the room at my husband. It was all TOO MUCH! I wanted to go home to America and let my sister resume the cooking and entertaining. I could lie on the couch and drink beer!
(Today, February 3rd, I celebrate 13 years of sobriety! May I never go back to being a beer-guzzling couch potato who dreamed of marrying a prince. Clearly God had a better plan for me. Even if--3 years into my sobriety--He put me on a vineyard and turned my husband into a winemaker! Poof!)
Challenges, challenges. Back to entertaining. It was my friend, Alicia, stockbroker by day and Malaysian Martha Stewart by night, who taught me the most precious lesson: prepare as much as you can in advance! Days in advance!
I have lost touch with my friend but I will get back with her one day - as I try to do better at maintaining my friendships (something I am not very good at. This has nothing to do with not loving my friends. It may have something to do with being "a solitude"--or a recluse or a hermit or an introvert...or an alcoholic? But we should be careful not to label one another. Don't you think? As my Mom always taught me: what you say is what you get).
Meantime, this week I reconnected with several friends - over one dinner party and one luncheon (both at my house) (both in the space of 4 days!). And while Alicia's tip has transformed my life (I use the tip for packing and more), it could not save me from The Argentinian Ants! I watched as they marched into the kitchen, foiling my best organizational plans!
Yesterday's lunch with Corey and Yann and Anne and Kirk would be a test! There was no way I could prepare the quiches ahead of time... or the ants would get to them as the pies cooled in the oven. The best strategy would be to prepare everything an hour before my guests arrived -- and to sit down quickly for lunch before the meal cooled down (inviting the ant invaders)!
I won't go into the painful comedy involved in getting soup and quiche ready in under an hour - but I can tell you that by the time my friends walked up the driveway, I had ants in my pants from nerves gone haywire (and probably, simply, from having ants in my pants!)
You see, no matter how much progress I have made, I still get very disheartened over that still-elusive state of peace and calmness. You would think I would have "earned" it after practicing 13 years of sobriety. But truly, there are days I ask myself if a glass of rosé would do me more good than harm?
At those times when I wonder if a glass of rosé wouldn't be the lesser evil (compared to this tension), I tell myself this: Look back. Look back over the last 13 years. More than beginning to write, I began to pick up the pieces of that plate I threw across the room.
Still picking up the pieces, "sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly," I can now begin to fill my plate and offer the goodness to others. Ants and all.
Thank you for reading and for the encouragement you have sent in over the years. It means so much to me.
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Read about yesterday's lunch and see photos at Corey's Tongue and Cheek blog (lunch entry is right here.) And thank you, Corey, I am so touched to see your post! And thank you for teaching me to make soup and quiche and to just be oneself. You are so fun to be around.
Anne and Kirk, thank you for the wonderful photos from yesterday's lunch- posted to your Facebook page or to mine
Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi