Les dents de bonheur - "Happiness Teeth" are part of this elogy

Dear Reader,

The regular edition of French Word-A-Day will return in a few days. Meantime, I've been trying to write a eulogy for my belle-mère without sounding too sentimental, too dramatic, or too poetic--but all of these things, from poesie to sentimentality, evoke the richness of Michele-France's life. This--and her humor, her stubbornness, and that charming gap between her front teeth (the French have a term for this: "happiness teeth" or les dents du bonheur)--only begin to paint of picture of our beloved, ginger-haired Pied-Noir (born in Meknes and proud of it. She was the daughter of an equally strong-willed mother).

Since losing Michèle-France on Christmas Eve, I have pinpointed just what it is that provokes each flood of tears, each hiccup of emotion, each groan in my throat as I toss in bed, walk past her apartment, or sit on a pew watching the curtains close in front of her flower-topped casket, as I did Thursday. It is the realization that there will be no more. No more "My darlings" (Ma chérie, she would say with such tenderness), no more visits to her little apartment up the street, no more shared yogurt cakes, no more "I didn't want to bother Jean-Marc so I'm calling you to remind him to..." no more attitude towards the nurses, sass towards the shop assistants as she limped into the store with the help of her cane and her granddaughter, no more intelligent jokes, no more beautifully painted-red fingernails, a string of gold rings (one from her son) below, no more Elvis, no more bodyguard, no more teasing me about her son's ex-girlfriends, and, I will admit...

NO MORE TAPENADE. You little rascal, I say to my belle-mère during another earth-to-heaven conversation. I've asked you for years for your tapenade recipe. And you went and took it with you!!

In a poignant send-off arranged by the crematorium, to the tune of Love is all we have left, the curtains at the front of the ceremony room open once again. My belle-mère's casket is gone and all that remains is a crown of flowers on the floor. I am stunned.

* * *       

"I miss you so much it hurts," I wrote on Facebook, where my mother-in-law's account is still live. Though she struggled with technology Michèle-France did not let a learning curve keep her from keeping up with the times. Quickly overlooked by her Facebook friends (including some of you) were the gaffes she made (like using a photo of a stranger (you?) as her profile picture. And posting another photo--this time of one of my sponsor's luxury villas--to use as her cover photo). Her grandchildren (or was it my sister-in-law? for Jean-Marc had given up) eventually came to the rescue, helping her to find a suitable picture of herself to use as her profile (and the luxury villa was replaced by a more modest interior belonging to....my sister-in-law! This all could be explained by the following: while my belle-mère tried to conquer technology--she still couldn't figure out her smartphone camera, or else she might have posted a picture of her own lovely salon, or living room.). 

My heart now in a brace, I clicked open Messenger to read over the SMS conversations we'd had over the years. Michèle-France's texts were filled with gratitude and those silly stickers she got me to use, too (do you know the one with the dog digging in the ground and retrieving the big I MISS YOU heart? She was telling us she missed us even before she left this earth).

Now it is our turn to feel the weight of her absence. How heavy it is! Heavy as all those buckets of olives we were planning to cart over to her little apartment when, last fall, she announced that she was feeling better--good enough to make another batch of tapenade. We never got to make that tell-all batch, in which the longtime mystery (those ingredients!) would be revealed. Instead, a bigger mystery has replaced it: Where in the world is my belle-mère? I've been looking for her everywhere--in the sky, in my dark room at night, in the intricate designs in the tiles on my bathroom wall, in the waves crashing across the shore here in La Ciotat, at the top of our cypress tree beyond a bent branch--surely she's looking down on me? I can hear her tender voice, Ma Chérie, Ma Chérie....

She is, I decide, in every particle in everything, everywhere and everlasting. She is as close as a memory...as far as the Heavens. Surely she is up there--waving her tapenade recipe, smiling with those charming dents de bonheur. There is nothing she would keep from you or me, least of all her generosity. In the coming year, I will be reaching, reaching high for those heavenly instructions. I will share with you anything I find.

Amicalement,

Kristi


Michele-france jean-marc and mr sacks

My mother-in-law (those charming "happiness teeth"), my husband, and good ol' Mr. Sacks, who my belle-mère called "Monsieur Sacoche".

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
♥ Send $10    ♥ Send $25    ♥ Send another amount


Bonne Année

Bonjour et Bonne Année. Je suis bouleversé par tous vos messages de soutien et vous en remercie du fond du cœur. Un nouveau chapitre de notre vie s'ouvre... Avec ma profonde reconnaissance.
 
Hello and Happy New Year. I am overwhelmed by all your messages of support and thank you from the bottom of my heart. A new chapter in our life opens... With my sincere gratitude. --Jean-Marc 
 
 💚💙🧡
 
Pictured with Michèle-France, who passed away on Christmas Eve. We are heading back to France, tomorrow, to celebrate my belle-mère's life. I will share Jean-Marc's tribute to his mother in the next post. Thank you all for the tenderness you shared in the comments. Our family is deeply touched. --Kristi 

IMG_20141224_135800.jpg

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
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Une triste nouvelle concernant ma belle-mère


It is with great sadness that my family and I announce that Michèle-France--mother, belle-mère and granny extraordinaire--has passed away on Christmas Eve. 

We will share more about her life when we return to France for her funeral, which will take place on January 4th, 4pm local time in France.  

Amicalement, 
Kristi, Jean-Marc, Max, and Jackie 

IMG_20150311_120157.jpg

IMG_20150311_120157.jpg

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
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Mood swings in French + Catcalling Workmen?

Swing in paris
Une balançoire, or swing, in Paris to illustrate today's word....

une saute d'humeur

    : mood swing


No dog is immune to a mood swing.
Aucun chien n'est à l'abri d'une saute d'humeur

(from the book Tout sur la psychologie d'un chien (All about Dog Psychology)


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse

This past Tuesday, nervous about the aller-retour to the big city, I asked my daughter to drive us to visit Grannit (how my French kids spell "Granny"). My belle-mère is in the clinique de réadaptation again. Whereas two years ago I drove twice a week to Marseilles, for Grannit's previous convalescence, these days the thought of what could go wrong, in transit, steals what courage I have left.

Exiting the highway, there seemed to be an accident lurking around every corner. I began to react to "reckless" cars--and they were all reckless in my eyes.

"T'as vu celle-là! Did you see that one!"

"Yes, Mom. He was only merging."

"WATCH OUT! OH MY GOD!"

"Calme-toi, Maman!

Gripping the handlebar above the passenger seat window, I apologize to my 20-year-old chauffeur for my overbearing behavior. I only had two cups of coffee, so caffeine wasn't to blame. Something else was shaking me up. I just couldn't identify what (update: it was only hormones. Only?).

According to French Cosmopolitan (a magazine I read in my 20s. Not in my 40s...or, now, days away from my 50th...), yes, according to Cosmo, during week two of a woman's cycle: "votre niveau de testostérone vous donne un coup de fouet sur le plan mental et physique..." (I thought that meant testosterone was whipping my mental state.  Yes! I agreed! But it really means it was heightening it. Well, it was certainly heightening my anxiety. Turns out estrogen is the culprit there.  To think I'll be 50 in a few days and I still haven't sorted out what hormones are and which does what. But I've known about mood swings ever since buying the book Potatoes Not Prozac).

WHERE ARE THE POTATOES??? OU SONT LES PATATES!!!!! 


Golden retriever smokey resting after his walk
         Smokey knows the feeling!

We eventually made it into the clinic, in time to wish Grannit a happy December 12th birthday. Grannit's eyes would not let me go, but we had to return home before rush hour (!!!).

Determined to be someone my daughter (and our dear Grannit!) can lean on again, I headed out with Smokey this morning to try to begin to master one area of my life (that of being master of my dog). It is a one-step forward, two back, undertaking, this dog walk of ours but we are gaining confidence. Nearing the end of our block, I heard the scraping sound of shears and a group of men cussing from behind the bushes. Their demeanor changed from gruff to polished when, one by one, the workers sent Smokey and me greetings through the leafy hedge that separated them from us. Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour! said the men.

I ignored the dubious voice in my head and returned, one by one, every single one of the workers' hellos.

Bonjour! Bonjour! Bonjour!

By the time I arrived at the beginning of the hedge one of the voices manifested in the form of a bearded man wearing a wool bonnet. He was walking towards a van with the words Les Jardins de L'Espérence written across the side. "Bonjour, Monsieur. Tell me about Les Jardins de L'Espérance," I ventured.  I had a sense of what the answer would be and the man responded serendipitously: It was, he said, a kind of solidarity to put those in difficult situations back to work, as well as to help the handicapped. I had the urge to put all those Mr Bonjours to work on our half-trimmed hedge just down the block. And this time my instincts agreed, casually suggesting I wait until my husband returns... to make such a proposition.

Smokey and I walked on, one with a smile, the other, unusually calm-footed (or "-pawed"). Did you see that? I thought. Smokey did not act up when we passed by all those muffled bonjours! Tears were running down my face, not from sadness but from the cold wind. As I wiped them aside in front of the boulangerie two more friendly faces appeared in the form of strangers. Hervé and Francine stopped to inquire about Smokey's head collar, or "gentle leader", which looks like a muzzle.

Oh, non, I assured them, Smokey est très gentil! Yes, they could see that, they said, reaching to pet my golden retriever. But they cautioned that if a more aggressive dog challenged Smokey, my "muzzled" golden retriever would be defenseless! I thanked them for their conseil--but at this moment I was working on building back my courage--not feeding my fears. Besides, as goes dog-walking advice:

Too many cooks spoil the broth!
Trop de cuisiniers gâtent la sauce!

But what a friendly melting pot we'd met by venturing out this morning! Hervé and Francine waved goodbye, casually informing us that they often pass this way each day à la même heure. (They must have mistaken my watery eyes for tears!) 

"Au plaisir. Looking forward to seeing you again," I said, bidding our new friends goodbye and heading home with my dog-in-training. I am so pleased with Smokey's progress...and, I admit, proud of my own, as well.

***
I leave you, Dear Reader, with all good wishes for the holidays. See you in 2018. And would you keep my mother-in-law--our "Grannit"--in your prayers? Let's all remember not to take anything for "Grannit"!

Amicalement,

Kristi


FRENCH VOCABULARY

aller-retour = round trip
clinique de réadaptation = rehabilitation center
un coup de fouet = a strong boost 
à la même heure = at the same time
le conseil = advice

Jean-marc and son max planting cinsault at mas des brun vineyard
In case you missed it,  please read Robert Camuto's article "How Bad Choices (and an old tractor) Killed a Winemaker's Dream". It does a good job summarizing why we sold our vineyard and moved on.

Meet Jean-Marc and our son Max in Portland! They will be pouring the very last US bottles of Mas des Brun and other delicious wines this week in Oregon! If you live nearby, don't miss  seeing them.

Portland, OR: December 15th :
- Blackbird Wine Shop ~ Drop in tasting, 6-8 PM. 4323 NE Fremont Street
Portland OR  : December 16th :
- Pastaworks at City Market ~ Drop in Tasting, Noon - 2 PM. 735 NW 21st Avenue
- Providore Fine Foods ~ Drop in tasting, 2 30-4 30 PM. 2340 NE Sandy Blvd
The Harvest Wine Bar ~ Winemaker Dinner, 6 PM. 14559 Westlake Dr, Lake Oswego. Tel : 503-747-7263. Reservations needed
 
 
For any questions, please call +33 6 65 21 35 92 or email Jean-Marc at jm.espinasse@gmail.com

Patina in french

To help support this free language journal with a small donation, click here. (Mille mercis! from Kristi). 

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
♥ Send $10    ♥ Send $25    ♥ Send another amount


Basculer: How bad choices (and an old tractor) killed a winemaker’s dream: Jean-Marc story is featured in this week's Wine Spectator

Jean-marc handling plow
In this week's Wine Spectator Magazine, Robert Camuto has written a cohesive account of how things fell apart at our vineyard near Bandol. Find a link to the article in the following column.

BASCULER

    : to topple over, to change dramatically

Il y a 15 mois, alors que tout "roulait" pour moi, ma vie et celle de ma famille a peu à peu basculé vers le doute et l'incertitude.
Fifteen months ago, while everything was going so well for me, my life and that of my family's took a turn, little by little, toward doubt and uncertainty.  



A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

by Kristi Espinasse

Before things speed up and this year comes to an end, I would like to thank you, Dear Reader, for the encouragement and support you have given me in the past year of transition. Whether you read some or many of these posts, whether you took a moment to comment on them, or whether you sent in a donation to keep this effort going, your interest in this journal continues to give meaning and purpose to my life.

Donc, je tiens à vous remercier du fond du coeur!
So I don't want to miss this chance to thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Just this morning while scrolling through my Google News feed, I was amazed to see a story about my husband! The piece, in Wine Spectator, comes at a serendipitous time: the closing of the year and the end of our 10-year vineyard story. I hope you will take a moment to read Robert Camuto's latest article and share it with anyone who has ever chased a dream and lost themselves in the pursuit.

The article begins...

Jean-Marc Espinasse sat on the terrace of his new home in the French Provençal coastal town of La Ciotat and contemplated what went wrong. Three years earlier, Espinasse had launched a daring boutique winery less than five miles to the east, in the heart of Bandol.... continue reading this story at WineSpectator.com

  

Jean-marc and son max planting cinsault at mas des brun vineyard

Meet Jean-Marc and our son Max in Texas and in Portland! 

Max and Jean-Marc will be pouring the very last US bottles of Mas des Brun and other delicious wines next December in TX and OR. If you live nearby, don't miss 
seeing them.

Houston,  TX : December 13th at 7 PM
- Winemaker Dinner at Bistro Provence13616 Memorial Drive. Tel : 713-827-8008. Reservation needed. 

Portland, OR: December 15th :
- Blackbird Wine Shop ~ Drop in tasting, 6-8 PM. 4323 NE Fremont Street
Portland OR  : December 16th :
- Pastaworks at City Market ~ Drop in Tasting, Noon - 2 PM. 735 NW 21st Avenue
- Providore Fine Foods ~ Drop in tasting, 2 30-4 30 PM. 2340 NE Sandy Blvd
The Harvest Wine Bar ~ Winemaker Dinner, 6 PM. 14559 Westlake Dr, Lake Oswego. Tel : 503-747-7263. Reservations needed
 
Jean-Marc Espinasse
 
For any questions, please call  or email Jean-Marc at jm.espinasse@gmail.com
 
Provence Vacation Rentals - Sablet Home courtyard
 
SABLET HOME- for high quality vacation rentals in the heart of Provence. Recommended by readers. Click here for photos.

Cork screwed
Robert Camuto's book makes a great gift for a wine enthusiast! Order here . You can use the previous link to order any item on Amazon, and so help this free word journal. Merci beaucoup!

Finally, don't miss Robert Camuto's article on Jean-Marc and thanks for sharing it!


Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
♥ Send $10    ♥ Send $25    ♥ Send another amount


Les Bienfaits de la Solitude or The Benefits of being alone

Olive farm st cyr sur me
Solitude revives the soul and the senses. Solitude is the crucible of the mind, the good is purified there; the fake evaporates there.
La solitude ravive l'âme et les sens. La solitude est le creuset de l'esprit, le bon s'y épure; le faux s'y évapore. Citation de Pierre-Claude-Victor Boiste ; Dictionnaire universel (1800)

Photo taken in St Cyr-sur-Mer, at our former vineyard (there were also these magnificent centuries-old olive trees).

la solitude

    : loneliness

 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE

    by Kristi Espinasse

When it dawned on me that I would be spending two weeks alone on the eve of my 50th birthday, I began to fear the big D then the big L. I tried brushing off the wave of blues that suddenly cropped up. Would it grow into depression? Don't even say the word!

No, I don't suffer from depression, so chances are slim it would rear its ugly head. But what about Loneliness? I have never considered myself a lonely person - loin de là! But now that my kids are away -- and my husband, too (only for two weeks), I sense a buffer has been removed from me and the world. This has got me thinking about the different buffers I've unconsciously put into place, over the years, that have protected me from...well, from what? 

THE BIG VOID

As a newly-minted adult wine was that buffer. I quit drinking in 2003, at the age of 35, and threw myself into blogging for the next 10 years. I blogged 7 days a week, then 5, then three. Now I blog once or twice a week and try to be there as much as I can for my family. Family, unlike wine or work, is a positive and healthy buffer! (But is a buffer healthy?) 

Now that my family is gone, I've caught myself searching for a new buffer. What about calling friends? Or setting some sort of challenge --like "every day I will take a new risk"? Try out that evangelical church up the street? or meet a stranger? (I went to the church's website and listened to one recorded church service...and knew for sure that I could not sit through an entire hour of preaching!)

I soon tossed out the idea about meeting a stranger every day or even calling a friend every day.  This just wasn't me. I needed to accept this and "just be".

To just be... to be alone with oneself, this is to face that dreaded void.

It's only been a few days now but this time alone has made me realize that my life is like a hamster wheel, or what the French call Metro Boulot Dodo.  As I take the opportunity to get to know myself better, I am careful not to tie myself into some kind of schedule (schedules can be a kind of buffer, can't they?)

Instead, I am walking my dog at odd hours. (Thanks to those of you who wrote in with tips on how to build back confidence after being overpowered by your dog. I bought The Gentle Leader collar and Smokey and I are making progress every day!) 
And just this morning, while out on a walk, I stopped by my favorite free book booth and met a Frenchman d'un certain âge, who was dropping off un roman. We chatted 5 minutes about everything from New York (he collects books on the subject) to the Cévennes (the topic of the book he was dropping off).

As we said goodbye and set off in different directions, I sensed we both enjoyed a new connection to the universe. No buffers necessary.


Telephone booth repurposed book lending giving library golden retriever smokey and kristi
In case you missed the picture of the telephone booth repurposed into free book stand, here it is. Goodbye for now and à bientôt! 

Jean-marc and son max planting cinsault at mas des brun vineyard

Meet Jean-Marc and our son Max in Texas and in Portland! 

Max and Jean-Marc will be pouring the very last US bottles of Mas des Brun and other delicious wines next December in TX and OR. If you live nearby, don't miss 
seeing them.

Houston,  TX : December 13th at 7 PM
- Winemaker Dinner at Bistro Provence13616 Memorial Drive. Tel : 713-827-8008. Reservation needed. 

Portland, OR: December 15th :
- Blackbird Wine Shop ~ Drop in tasting, 6-8 PM. 4323 NE Fremont Street
Portland OR  : December 16th :
- Pastaworks at City Market ~ Drop in Tasting, Noon - 2 PM. 735 NW 21st Avenue
- Providore Fine Foods ~ Drop in tasting, 2 30-4 30 PM. 2340 NE Sandy Blvd
The Harvest Wine Bar ~ Winemaker Dinner, 6 PM. 14559 Westlake Dr, Lake Oswego. Tel : 503-747-7263. Reservations needed
 
Jean-Marc Espinasse
 
For any questions, please call  or email Jean-Marc at jm.espinasse@gmail.com
 
Alone
A book makes a wonderful gift, click here to order any title from anywhere (France, UK, and Canada readers can now access these book links.)

Le Creuset products are available here.

Nuxe skincare is a French favorite, order here. 

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
♥ Send $10    ♥ Send $25    ♥ Send another amount


Third greatest Frenchman after Charles de Gaulle and Louis Pasteur + Charlie Chaplin's big French heart

Toit

After I began watching Invisible People (homeless interviews) a series of unusual things happened here in the sunny south of France. Our heater broke. Then it snowed. Then our water heater broke. Then our car would not start. And then our daughter's car broke down! And then I ended up all alone for two weeks.

This is not to say that you will have bad luck if you focus on the homeless. But if some of these things happen to you (if your usual comforts suddenly disappear), it is much easier to relate to the down-and-out...and to the lonely. More about the latter in the next post. For now, I want to share about another of France's bright stars. 

Abbé Pierre's "holy anger" drove him to fight for the rights of the sans-toit, those without a roof over their head.  Read about this fiery Frenchman, below, and thank you for sharing this post with a friend.


TODAY'S WORD
le (la) sans-abri (sahns-ahbree) noun, masculine & feminine
 
    : homeless person

"Sans-abri" means, literally, "without shelter"; les sans-abri = the homeless.
=> SDF (Sans Domicile Fixe) is also a term used for the homeless. Les SDF = The homeless

.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE...

by Kristi Espinasse


The following post was written in 2007...

Day before yesterday, I watched and listened as the French mourned the death of their favorite personnage: l'Abbé Pierre, voted third greatest Frenchman after Charles de Gaulle and Louis Pasteur.

"Abbot Peter" was the short priest with the long beard, the white-haired legend in the black beret, the former Resistance fighter in a dark cape who now clutched a bleached wood cane.

Like his appearance, Abbé Pierre, who once broke his vow of chastity, yielding to the force of desire, was a man of contrasts. Humble and soft-spoken, he was driven by a "holy anger" and known for his passionate outbursts when speaking for the homeless. He once told Jean-Marie Le Pen to "shut up!" (Ta gueule!) after the president of the National Front implied that all of France's ills stemmed from immigration.

His beliefs were sometimes unorthodox, as he felt that priests should be able to marry, that gays should be able to adopt, and that women should be able to be ordained. Above all, Abbé Pierre believed in the homeless and their unspeakable living conditions; caring for the sans-abri would be his life's mission.

While [ex] President Chirac was said to be bouleversé* by Abbé Pierre's death, it was the thoughtful words of a homeless man that touched me the most as I listened to the midday news: "Sa mort, ça me fait plus mal que la morsure du froid," his death, it hurts me more than frostbite."

Frostbite and hunger were on Abbé Pierre's agenda, made famous in 1954 when he stole into a radio station and demanded the microphone during a live broadcast. It was a murderous winter for the homeless in Paris and an old woman had just been found frozen to death on the Boulevard de Sebastopol, an eviction notice still in her hand. Reaction to Abbé Pierre's outcry was overwhelming and the French, both rich and poor, responded with blankets, coats, heaters and money as well as with rice, pasta, bread, chocolate and canned food. Charlie Chaplin (exiled in Paris at the time and made famous for his character the "Little Tramp") handed over many thousands of francs, with the explanation "the money belongs to the vagabond I portrayed".

Abbe pierre and the ragmickers of emmaus
   (book available here)

It was in 1949 that Abbé Pierre founded the Emmaus Society with the idea to "travailler avec des pauvres pour des pauvres" to work with the poor for the poor. The poor that were to become his followers were also known as the "Ragpickers" by reason of the junk that they collected, organized and now sold in open-to-the-public warehouses throughout France. For this, Abbé Pierre was sometimes referred to as the "ragpickers' saint".

Activist for the poor for more than five decades, at 5:25 a.m. on January 22nd, at the age of 94, Abbe Pierre's light went out, when he died in Paris after being hospitalized for a lung infection. The feisty yet humble Frenchman had requested that the following words be written on his tomb:

                               "Il a essayé d'aimer." ("He Tried to Love.")

...........................................................................................
References: les sans-abri (mf) = the homeless; boulversé(e) = deeply upset

     

AUDIO FILE
Listen to my daughter, Jackie (soundfile recoreded when she was 10 years old), pronounce today's word and read the French headlines -- from the journal "l'Orient Le Jour":
La mort de l'abbé Pierre, apôtre des sans-abri, bouleverse la France
The death of Abbot Pierre, apostle of the homeless, shatters France
Download wav or Download mp3


FTT GUIDE MPU
Enjoy 62 pages of the best Provence has to offer with this special selection of writings from France Today. Download for FREE

Jean-marc and son max planting cinsault at mas des brun vineyard

Meet Jean-Marc and our son Max in Texas and in Portland! 

Max and Jean-Marc will be pouring the very last US bottles of Mas des Brun and other delicious wines next December in TX and OR. If you live nearby, don't miss 
seeing them.

Houston,  TX : December 13th at 7 PM
- Winemaker Dinner at Bistro Provence13616 Memorial Drive. Tel : 713-827-8008. Reservation needed. 

Portland, OR: December 15th :
- Blackbird Wine Shop ~ Drop in tasting, 6-8 PM. 4323 NE Fremont Street
Portland OR  : December 16th :
- Pastaworks at City Market ~ Drop in Tasting, Noon - 2 PM. 735 NW 21st Avenue
- Providore Fine Foods ~ Drop in tasting, 2 30-4 30 PM. 2340 NE Sandy Blvd
The Harvest Wine Bar ~ Winemaker Dinner, 6 PM. 14559 Westlake Dr, Lake Oswego. Tel : 503-747-7263. Reservations needed
 
Jean-Marc Espinasse
 
For any questions, please call  or email Jean-Marc at jm.espinasse@gmail.com

Provence Vacation Rentals - Sablet Home courtyard
SABLET HOME- for high quality vacation rentals in the heart of Provence. Recommended by readers. Click here for photos.

Words in a french life
Thank you for keeping my book in mind for the holidays! It will make a good gift for a friend or family member and your purchase helps to support this language journal. Mille mercis. Click here to order a copy.

Other gift ideas: Wish everyone Merry Christmas with this Joyeux Noel T-shirt or this one...

French Christmas music here and also here is a popular one

Le grinch
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Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
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Enquiquineuse: The famous French advocate who was known as a pain in the neck

Tulette France old cart and wheel patina shed corrugated roof fall autumn french antique

I woke up this morning thinking about my grandmother, Audrey Young. I was remembering a phrase she shared with me at the end of her life, in a nursing home. "The squeaky wheel gets the grease!" she would say. It meant that if you don't pipe up people will not help you!

Sister Emmanuelle, who we learn about today, would have high-fived my Grandma Audrey--and then the two might have enjoyed a gin and tonic together :-) Here is today's word and a profile on a most amazing femme française as part of our discussion on homelessness


ENQUIQUINEUSE

    : a person who is a pain in the neck

AUDIO FILE
: Listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence in French
 

Click here and Listen to "enquiquineuse"


Mieux vaut passer pour une enquiquineuse qu'on respecte que pour une gentille qu'on piétine.
Better to be regarded as a pain in the neck that one respects than a nice woman that is trampled on.

--from the book 
Etre femme au travail: Ce qu'il faut savoir pour réussir mais qu'on ne vous dit pas Livre d'Anne-Cécile Sarfati
To Be a Woman at Work: What you need to know to succeed but what no one tells you...

Bonjour door matt
Looking for an original gift? Have a look at this doormat...or find something else unique via this link.


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE


by Kristin Espinasse


Y A L L A ! 


Soeur Emmanuelle was a French nun, well known as one of France's favorite personnages. Born "Madeleine Cinquin" in Belgium, at the age of 22 she left her dancing shoes behind--along with that devilish grin (ah, men!)--took her vows, changed her name and became a professeur.

Diplômée in Philosophy at the Sorbonne, she went on to teach in Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia. Though she taught Literature and Philosophy, such intellectual heights never interfered with her street smarts which kept her--and her giant heart--close to the pavement: the pavement that is pauvreté: cold, walked upon, fragile and cracked... and littered with trash. Trodden and overlooked, this "pavement" was something she would never let herself forget.

Poverty... ignited a revolt within her, leading to her outspokenness, to her famous "franc-parler," which often ruffled the feathers of her frères and led to her being labeled an "enquiquineuse": a veritable pain in the neck, a pro-action pest!
 
Her appearance did not betray her values. From those two large bobby pins haphazardly stuck to each side of her veiled head... to the track shoes on her feet (over the thick socks and nylons), one could surmise that she was in a hurry to catch up with one ever-menacing foe: Destitution. 

Which brings us smack back to the pavement and to those poubelles. You might say (in a chuckling way) that trash defined her. She might have been "Soeur Chiffonnière," for she "housed" herself next door to the trash gatherers, or "zabbaleen" (many of whom are children), in one of Cairo's worst slums, where she settled after her "retirement". Troisieme âge, for her, would be spent in combat, always a "combat du coeur": from the heart, for the helpless.

There in a lice- and rat-ridden bidonville, home for her was a 4-meter square room--without water, without electricity. According to Dr. Mounir Neamatalla, a leading Egyptian expert in environmental science and poverty reduction:

"She was living right among them, the garbage collectors, the pigs, the whole mess. I had never seen anything like this in my life... You could see one of the worst qualities of life on the planet, but in this inferno was an enterprising population that worked like ants."

Working side-by-side with "les misérables" Sister Emmanuelle advanced toward her goal, raising money to build schools and hospitals. She also created vegetable gardens for the poor to nourish themselves. Her roommate, Sister Sara, spoke of her character, saying that when a problem arose, Soeur Emmanuelle exclaimed: "On va foncer!" to which Sara softly suggested that they might first pray for guidance and direction. For Sister Emmanuelle, "direction" seemed to be something you sought after first jumping to your feet!

So is it any wonder that, asked about her favorite word, Sister Emmanuelle shouted with glee: "Yalla!" Asked to translate the word, she responded, "En avant!"

Amen, Sister! "Forward march" all the way. Your lumière may have gone out, just three weeks shy of your 100th birthday, but your legacy lights our consciences today...and tomorrow--and for as far into the future as the pest that is poverty stretches its condemning claws. Thank you for showing us that a selfless heart, coupled with awareness, is just not enough. It also takes yalla (yalla-yalla-yalla!) to relieve misery. First we must jump to our feet... then inquire about those directions.
 
***
PS: Soeur Emmanuelle, I have a confession. As a child, I looked up to movie stars (Shirley Temple, The Bionic Woman), as a teen, I admired glamorous runway models (Paulina Porizkova, Estelle Lefébure) as a young woman I pined over literary figures (it didn't really matter who they were, if they were writers I pined). I just want you to know, Chère Soeur, that while you didn't have the strength of Lindsay Wagner or Paulina's perfect posture -- I'm finally beginning to realize that, more than celebrity or vanity fair, it's really all about what's "in there"... and it is going to take a lot of big hearts to fill those little track shoes of yours, and to keep moving "en avant!" 

For more information on Soeur Emmanuelle's charity: visit www.asmae.fr

le personnage (m) = character, individual; le professeur (m) = teacher; diplômé(e) (from "diplômer" = to award a diploma); la pauvreté (f) = poverty; le franc-parler (m) = outspokenness; le frère (m) = brother (religious); la poubelle (f) = trash or garbage can; chiffonnier (chiffonnière) = rag picker; le troisième âge (m) = retirementle bidonville (m) = shanty town; les misérables (mf) = the destitute; on va foncer! = Charge! (Let's get to it!); la lumière (f) = light

Soeur emmanuelle confessions d'une religieuse flammarion

A must-read! Pick up a copy of Soeur Emmanuelle's book in French


ALTRUISM, OXYTOCIN, AND WHY WE FEEL BETTER WHEN WE GIVE

After posting Soeur Emmanuelle's story the first time, in 2008, I read a fascinating response to it in the comments, by Intuit:

"Soeur Emmanuelle" was a remarkable example of a most necessary social behavior, altruism. She devoted her life to helping others. This trait is natural to humans; it evolved long ago as the 'glue' of all socially organized organisms: the 'whole' is more than the sum of its parts when self and others have equal weight in our decisions and actions.

Now, more than at any time in human history, we humans must encourage altruism within our families, locally in our communities and through our group actions from afar, as Nation and Planet.

Here is the secret behind altruism: it is elicited through release of oxytocin within our brains. This hormone is the ultimate 'feel good' chemical because it is the essence of love, friendship, and tolerance of others. It is fundamental to the building and maintenance of social networks built with trust, respect and affection.

It is our social networks that ensure individual and group survival during difficult times. The payback in this equation is that these social networks improve brain repair as we age through reduced chronic stress. We 'share our load' with others.

It is oxytocin that normalizes our thought patterns, tamps down brain-damaging responses of fear, aggression and anger. It enables us to readily appreciate our present, rather than living in the past or longing for our future that short-circuits our perception of the passage of time.

From deep in our brains, it normalizes our secretion of dopamine and serotonin, so that we feel pleasure at our successes and keep to productive daily patterns, rather than sink into depression while mired in unproductive circular reasoning and action.

Alongside prayer and meditation, it is the practice of altruism that underlies all spiritual belief.

Exemplary humans like "Soeur Emmanuelle" have an abundance of affection for the poor children of the world - a model of courage, trust and love. 

 

Also check out The Original French Tumbler. Made of Picardy glass, these are suitable for hot or cold drinks! Click here to order.

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
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Invisible People (aka SDF, sans-abri, sans logement, va-nu-pieds)

Family under the bridge

Read The Family Under the Bridge to a young person and help spread homelessness awareness. "Armand, an old Parisian living on the streets of Paris, relished his solitary life. He begged and did odd jobs for money to keep himself warm and fed, and he liked his carefree life. Then one day just before Christmas, a struggling mother and her three children walked into his life..." Click here to order a copy for yourself or to offer as a gift!

INVISIBLE PEOPLE
I recently discovered a YouTube channel called Invisible People and I cannot stop watching it. It's like getting an entire education in homelessness by the homeless. Each episode is very short, between 3 and 9 minutes, and profiles an S.D.F. or homeless person--from a soft-spoken 83-year-old living in his car...to this resourceful, and creative woman. Do not hesitate to watch several of these eye-opening interviews. And after viewing a number of them, I guarantee you will be incapable of passing a homeless person on the street without stopping to say hello. You may even venture to ask them their story. 

Last night I was tossing and turning in bed and could not get comfortable after pockets of cold air kept entering beneath the covers (our heater broke). I began thinking about some of the people who shared their stories of scavenging for cardboard to sleep on at night--or looking for a blanket after their own covers were stolen! We think thieves break into homes, but it is the homeless who are most often victims of theft. 

Add to the misconceptions about homelessness our own insensitivities. How many of us have innocently joked about looking like a clochard or a hobo, when we really meant to say we need to get cleaned up? We mean no disrespect to the sans-abri, we just aren't thinking about our words. 

This week we will revisit stories of homelessness from the French Word-A-Day archives. In this first story, which took place around 2003, my mom is wandering around the southern French town of Draguignan, when a homeless person confronts her and a few misunderstandings ensue (including a few from readers of the story itself!). Click here for the story and many thanks for reading and sharing. 


Soupe populaire

A tip I learned from Mark Horvath, the creator of Invisible People--and from my Superhero sister-in-law: Give chaussettes! Homeless people go through a lot of socks as they travel in and out of shelters (which often close from 6 a.m to 7 pm--leaving the homeless out on the streets all day) or look for shelters. Share more tips on how to help the homeless, in the comments box below. 

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
♥ Send $10    ♥ Send $25    ♥ Send another amount


Afin de + When, just like that, a cultural curiosity is demystified

Nador Morocco fisherman beach red cap

In order to express thanks and gratitude, in Arabic, the term "chukran" is used. (Hear this sentence in French, below.) Photo taken on the northeast coast of Morocco, at Tmadet Sidi El Bachir. 

Today's word: "afin de"

    : so as, in order to, 

AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the following sentence in French: 

Click here to hear the sound clip

Afin d'exprimer remerciements et gratitude, en arabe, c'est le terme « choukran » qui est prononcé. -- L'Arabe facile.fr



A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE


    by Kristin Espinasse

I told you recently about Jean-Marc surprising me with a trip to.... Nador. As soon as he revealed the destination, I quickly googled for more info only to learn that Nador is "a non-touristic town" on the northern border of Morocco--very near the Algerian border. 

"Non-touristic"? I felt uneasy about traveling to un tel endroit.  After all, the U.S. Passports and International Travel site warns "against travel to remote areas of Algeria due to the threat of terrorist attacks and kidnapping". Wasn't the border of Morocco/Algeria a bit remote?

As we waited at the airport for our passport verification, the line to our left (travelers going to Rome--where we were initially headed before the surprise switch-a-roo) were whisked forward--quickly passing the checkpoint. Looking around our own slow-moving queue, which zigzagged back 3 lines deep, I noticed my husband and I were the only non-Moroccans headed for Nador. I began to pick-up on something else, too... all the women in line wore headscarves (except the youngest girls and one other woman who resembled a Moroccan pop star (she wore bright red lipstick, stylishly painted eyebrows, and her long hair was as glossy and as straight as her stilletos which peeked out beneath tight leather pants. It was reassuring to see her at the other end of the Moroccan Dress Spectrum, and I now felt I fit in somewhere on that spectrum, hélas not too close to the other's red-lacquered freedom of expression. I am most comfortable blending in with the scenery (don't get me wrong. I don't want to be dull, rather, more like one more blossom on a Bird of Paradise plant). But blending in with the Nadorian scenery is something that would be impossible for the next 4 days (on our entire trip, besides an alarming amount of refugees, we saw only 4 other foreign-looking people in Nador--a couple who may have been French and two women, from Holland?)....

Seated on the airplane, now, next to a woman whose head was covered with a black scarf, I was surprised when my seatmate asked me if the headscarf which she had just readjusted looked OK. Est-ce que ça va comme ça? She innocently asked.

Was she talking to me? I can't even tie a French scarf!

Seizing the demystifying and honorable moment I gave my best assessment of the complex-to-me head-and-neck covering--and then showed a thumbs-up for extra reassurance.

As we deplaned I regretted the missed opportunity to have asked my seatmate for her opinion and knowledge as well. There were so many enigmas swirling in my head. Mainly, I needed to know how to say hello and thank you in Arabic, because you can go a long way in any culture with those two magic words.

Kristi vegetarian couscous
  
Jean-Marc loved the couscous that we were served, nightly, at our Riad Dar Nador. This beautiful bed and breakfast cost around 100 euros per night including breakfast and dinner. The staff (two women) were so kind, as was the owner.  When we returned to France, I tried to recreate those simple vegetarian couscous dinners that Jean-Marc looked forward to each evening.

Vegetarian couscous morocco pumkin zuccini grains raisins onion honey garlic tablecloth

Here is a quick recipe I jotted down on Facebook. I'm working on it, so do let me know what you think would be a good addition to it! It's already very good in this simple way:

You'll need a jar of "couscous spices" (link below). Next, boil in a medium saucepan, some pumpkin (I used butternut), zucchini, and raisins (add the couscous spices, to your liking), then pour the cooking water over the couscous grains (I used one cup grains, one cup liquid. Steam for 5 minutes. Transfer the couscous to the plates and arrange the boiled vegetables on top. Top with sauteed purple onion (cooked with garlic and honey). Update: I added chickpeas next time around! Will be making this regularly now. It will be a nice break from all the chili we've been eating!

You can help support this word journal by using these links when you shop at Amazon. Many thanks in advance!

COUSCOUS SPICES-Ingredients from over 30 different herbs and spices include: Grains of Paradise, Lavender, turmeric, ajawan seeds, kalajeera, ginger, galangal, oris root, rose buds, monk's pepper, cinnamon and more

TAGINE--beautiful Moroccan clay cooking pots, see a selection here

Travel Baggage--Onboard waterproof spinner suitcase

For those who know and love Cattier French beauty products, you can find them here on Amazon.

  Image

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Max and Jean-Marc at Vin Sobres
Meet Jean-Marc and our son Max in Texas and in Portland! 

Max and Jean-Marc will be pouring the very last US bottles of Mas des Brun and other delicious wines next December in TX and OR. If you live nearby, don't miss 
seeing them.

Houston,  TX : December 13th at 7 PM
- Winemaker Dinner at Bistro Provence13616 Memorial Drive. Tel : 713-827-8008. Reservation needed. 

Portland, OR: December 15th :
- Blackbird Wine Shop ~ Drop in tasting, 6-8 PM. 4323 NE Fremont Street
Portland OR  : December 16th :
- Pastaworks at City Market ~ Drop in Tasting, Noon - 2 PM. 735 NW 21st Avenue
- Providore Fine Foods ~ Drop in tasting, 2 30-4 30 PM. 2340 NE Sandy Blvd
The Harvest Wine Bar ~ Winemaker Dinner, 6 PM. 14559 Westlake Dr, Lake Oswego. Tel : 503-747-7263. Reservations needed
 
Jean-Marc Espinasse
 
For any questions, please call  or email Jean-Marc at jm.espinasse@gmail.com

 

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
♥ Send $10    ♥ Send $25    ♥ Send another amount