Two brothers at Aldi and riots in France

The Green Island
L'Ile Verte. The green island, here in La Ciotat, for a peaceful image to begin today's post.

Today's Word: chercher ses mots*

    : to be at a loss for words

*I settled on this "word of the day" following the struggle in writing a story in these sad, scary, and emotionally-charged times. Thank you for reading with open hearts.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

In the parking lot at Aldi I was loading our groceries, Mom's, then mine, into our car, when I saw two familiar faces. It was the funny duo behind us in the checkout line. Turning to the brothers (who were twins?), I smiled:

Je voulais vous remercier pour votre bonne humeur. Ça fait du bien--surtout en ce moment. I hope they understood my French, and my appreciation for their funny commentary back in line, when they were snapping each other's face masks and reminding one another to keep at a safe distance from the next customer. They were regular Laurel and Hardys in the age of coronavirus!

The short, gray-haired men, so full of antics back in the store, suddenly grew shy, in a French version of Aw, Shucks! "Well," one of the guys offered, you've got to have a sense of humor in times like these!"

"C'est sûr!" I agreed, adding, "Are you from La Ciotat?"


"My mom and I are from Arizona," I shared.

The men grew thoughtful. "A lot of upheaval in the US right now..." one of the brothers reflected.

"Here in France, too..." I said, mentioning the riots breaking out in Paris and beyond.

"Non!" The brothers replied, in a possible misunderstanding (were they unaware of the émeutes?).

"Non!" They affirmed. "We are not racist!"

I think the brothers were referring to themselves--or possibly to our region? Either way, they echoed the feelings or beliefs or ideals of many.

Our conversation ended in awkward silence, one that lingered. Later that day the brothers' words returned to mind. "We are not racist." I understood what they meant. I believe they were sincere. I know I am too! My last thought came as a surprise: But is that enough? Is it enough not to be racist?


Je voulais vous remercier = I wanted to thank you
bonne humeur = good humor
ça fait du bien = it does one good
surtout en ce moment = especially at this time
une émeute = uprising, riot

The coast in la ciotat
I leave you with a peaceful image taken here in La Ciotat. Thank you for reading.

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A funny French expression to help you respond "sur-le-champ"

Sos bijoux perdus
The sign near the beach reads "SOS Lost Jewelry in the water." Here in La Ciotat, there's another place where people lose things... and it also has to do with water! Learn a handy expression in today's vocabulary-packed story!

Today's word: sur-le-champ
    ​: at once, immediately, right away

Audio: listen to Jean-Marc read the following definition:

Une riposte c'est une réponse vive, instantanée, faite à un interlocuteur 
action qui répond sur le champ. A riposte is a lively, instant reply, made to an interlocutor [often one who has just asked a question] for an on-the-spot response.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

After packing un panier-repas for my husband's lunch, feeding the hens, and working on a chapter for our book, I knew if I didn't pause to eat something I would quickly turn into an LSB--a Low Blood-Sugared Zombie! (Do you know the feeling?) Funny, LSB also stands for "Low Surface Brightness Galaxy" which could explain our brainpower when we run out of fuel... It could also explain the inversion of letters, above, but we're sticking with LSB--for consistency! 

For le petit déjeuner, I was preparing a kiwi, an orange, and a baguette with beurre de cacahuète...when a cry sounded from a nearby galaxy (my son's room):
"I can't find my boot!"

"Max!" I set down my paring knife. "I thought you were wearing your Dr. Martens to work?"
"I can't find my boot!" The dismissive response reminded me he's as stubborn as his father. And I knew both well enough to predict the next scene....

On hands and knees, I was now searching for the LMO--Latest Missing Object. (LMO also stands for a Living Modified Organism which is what I become each and every time my family pulls me away from my own morning join their own wild goose chase!) Crawling around on the floor Max and I knocked heads. Aïe! Aïe! This was no way to start a day!  What am I doing down here with the dust bunnies under the bed? I should've listened to my friend Sophie....
When I was newly married, Sophie (married to Jean-Marc's best friend, Nico) was my model of the Modern French Woman: feisty, sexy, Sophie also had the gift of riposte, or funny comebacks. It was Sophie who taught me How To Deal With People Who Constantly Misplace Things:
"When zey say, 'Where eez it?' (zees thing they are losing...). You tell zem zees: 'C'est. Dans. Le. Chiotte'." 
(It's in the crapper.)
I should have listened to feisty Sophie. 25 years later and I am still being dragged into everyone else's wild goose chase at the expense of my own treasure hunt (I could be searching for words for my next story, instead of crouching here on the floor, my head pulsing from a skull collision!)

Spotting the missing botte, I let out a victory shout. "There it is! There's your boot. Way back beneath your bed. You go get it!"
Dusting myself off on the way back to the breakfast table, I encountered my husband. "Next time I'm gonna tell you guys to look in the toilet! Oui! C'est dans le chiot!" I said, threatening, une fois pour toutes, to stop searching for everybody's lost stuff.
"Chiotte," Jean-Marc corrected. "'Chiot' means "jeune chien." Next I received a light scolding: "Chérie, after all these years in France, where have you put your French?"

Well, what was there to say for myself? "Je l'ai mis dans le chiot?" I put it in the puppy?

It may not have been a sassy response, but it was quick--sur-le-champ!

un panier-repas = a packed lunch
le petit déjeuner = breakfast
beurre de cacahuète = peanut butter
la botte = boot
aïe  = ouch
riposte = retort
chiotte = toilet, crapper
chiot = puppy
jeune chien = young dog, puppy
une fois pour toutes = once and for all
sur-le-champ = immediate

Smokey as a puppy
Which of these puppies stole my French? A young Smokey and his sisters are scolded by their mama, Breizh. 

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Two celebrations + Langue de belle-mère (a funny word for a certain party favor)

Our garden in mayGiven Mothers Day is celebrated on different dates across the globe, I will take this moment to wish all caregivers a Joyeuse Fête! Photo: the tidy side of our garden. We'll talk about the weeds--and a mother's needs--in the following story.

Today's Word: Langue de belle-mère (f)

    : party blower 

literal translation: "mother-in-law's tongue" (photo below)

 Audio file: Click here and listen to three featured words in the following sentence, read by Jean-Marc

Une langue de belle-mère, aussi appelé sans-gêne, est un accessoire de cotillon utilisé dans les occasions festives. C'est un tube en papier (parfois en plastique) avec souvent tout du long une bande en plastique ou en métal souple, aplati et enroulé en spirale, muni d'un bec en plastique avec une anche ou plus rarement un sifflet. En soufflant dans le bec, le tube se déroule et l'anche émet alors un son caractéristique. A mother-in-law's tongue, also called without shame, is a party favor used on festive occasions. It is a paper tube (sometimes plastic) with a long a plastic or flexible metal band, flattened and wound in a spiral, including a plastic beak with a reed or on rare occasions a whistle. By blowing into the spout, the tube unrolls and the reed then emits a characteristic sound.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

I was standing in the party aisle at the dollar store, fighting back a wave of resistance about buying such throwaway items, when a bag of plastic sifflets caught my eye. Red, white, and blue with stars and stripes, these musical blowouts would be a symbolic addition to the decorations I was gathering. After all, Max, our soon-to-be 25-year-old, is half-American. If any more justification were needed for buying the cheap, single-use item, I found it in the giant description on the label....

"Langue de Belle-Mère" 

Sifflets langue de belle mere party blower mirliton

What a funny and delightful name for party blowers! As someone who appreciates the playful side of the French language, this was a find! Plus, I could share the expression with my blog readers. Vendu! 

Carefully setting the mirlitons into my basket, beside the Joyeux Anniversaire banner (reuseable, n'est-ce pas?), and the balloons, I now had enough festive trim to decorate our living room and surprise Max the moment he woke up! Hélas, returning home on foot from the store, any satisfaction turned to stress...there were a number of to-do's remaining on my list in order to be ready for Le Jour J. There was the birthday cake to make, the shortcrust pastry to pre-bake, the couscous to prepare... and the cadeau to wrap, the card to write, the guest bathroom to clean and...and...

AIDEZ-MOI! Who else was helping around here?!!

Recently, during a venting session (by the way, I googled "venting" and scientific studies show it does NOT help! Best to suck up and soldier on!) in which I unloaded my current frustrations about family life, my Mom said in so many words: Face it. You are not a caregiver.

Who me? Not a caregiver? Ouch! In protest, I cited all the things I do for everybody around here all the time....

"But you do them grudgingly...." 

That did it. I was ready to divorce my entire family! Bon débarras! Mom's next words eased the you-do-it-with-a-grudge sting: "It's normal you'd feel this way! You should be done taking care of kids by now. Mom went on to say I could use a housekeeper and a gardener. But I don't want those things. I'm fine here in the dust and the weeds!

Being somewhat of a rapporteuse, I went and tattled on my mom to my son--and I didn't have to travel far as we are three generations living under one roof.

When Max's reply amounted to the opposite (that I care too much about everybody and their business) I began to notice the varying feedback I was receiving came from family members who feel either neglected...or smothered.  I suppose I may never know the answer as to just what kind of caregiver/homemaker/wife/mother/daughter I am--but this much I know for sure: Domesticity is something I value and admire in others. And what we value says a lot. Our valeurs coupled with effort is what matters.

Recently, a letter from my dad revamped my domestic energy which has been deflated for some time. (The first words of Dad's email refer to a post he was forwarding on) Dad's note begins:

A well written essay on the importance of tending the hearth and giving substance and comfort to the ones we love.  We know how hard you work to take care of your family.

I love you,

Dad's words had a super transforming effect! I began polishing my bedroom window after months of staring at the dusty designs on the glass. From there, I started to see other chores in a new light: the light of matter (as in this so-called drudgery matters!)

As for tending the hearth, my sister Heidi is a shining example to me. Whether tucking homemade sandwiches into our carry-ons when Jean-Marc and I fly home to France, or waking early to decorate her living room to honor a family member's birthday, my soeur ainée truly enjoys and finds peace in homemaking and caring. I called Heidi to tell her about my birthday decorations for Max. "That's wonderful!" she said. 

"I learned it from you!" 

"Thank you for letting me know that," my sister said, touched by the recognition. 

It's time to end this essay somewhere.... I'm just not quite sure where. How about I pass out those party horns? Those langues de belle-mère? And we celebrate--via a needed second wind--all caregivers and those who love them!



joyeuse fête = happy celebration
le sifflet
= whistle
le langue de belle-mère = party blower 
vendu! =  sold!
le mirliton = party horn blower
Joyeux anniversaire = happy birthday
n'est-ce pas = isn't that right?
hélas = unfortunately
le jour J = D-Day, the big day
le cadeau = present, gift
bon débarass = good riddance!
un/e rapporteur/se = a tattletell
la soeur ainée = older sister

*Corrections to this blog are always welcome and appreciated. Thank you in advance!

Max friends gift shoes
Max, trying on a pair of shoes his friends gave him. Also on the table, wines from 1995 -- gifts given to Max his birth year--enjoyed 25 years later! Jean-Marc says all the wine was still good, beautifully intact! I didn't have wine, but I can vouch for the cake--my mother-in-law Michèle-France's recipe is always good! Would you like to know the ingredients in a future post?

Birthday lunch for max
Max, center, with his best friends, and we, his parents.

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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