Without a modicum of foi, life can be a three-ring circus.



noun, feminine



My daughter says that books are like cigarettes, une mauvaise habitude, and would I please put the reading aside for one night?

"Of course, Sweetheart," I promise, returning the book to its shelf. Is that a tremble in my arm? Sweat on my brow?

"And the cahiers and the pens—put them away too!" Jackie insists.

My head starts to pound and the twitching begins. I leave my hard- and soft-bound drugs, feeling the first symptoms of withdrawal as I walk away from words. I tell my daughter that I got the habit from her Mexican grandmother, Wholia, and that one day she'll need a paper-and-pen fix too. It runs in the family like flat hair and latent fury.

I don't tell my daughter that her Mexican grandmother, Jules, is really American, but leave it as Jackie's told it time and again. It is her story and not mine, and she gets that storytelling gene from Wholia, or Julia—make that "Jules".

At the dinner table, Jackie asks, "Why does Grandma Jules dress up for dinner?"

I sit there in my felt slippers and pajamas, thinking up an answer.
"Because people like to look at pretty things when they eat, and don't we love looking at Grandma Jules?" My daughter agrees.

When Jackie says, "Let's do like Grandma Jules!" I prepare to get up, walk to the powder room, and put on some lipstick. Instead, my daughter reaches for my hand, closes her eyes and says:

"Dear Lord, thank you for this food."

It is no thanks to me, nose deep in a book, fingers curled around another cartouche, that my daughter learned to pray. But tonight we'll take Wholia's example, and hope that, like fury and fine hair, faith runs in this family—if not always in stride.

Thank you for pointing out any typos or "grammar worries" in this story. Click here to submit edits or to comment 

French Vocabulary

une mauvaise habitude = a bad habit
le cahier = notebook
une cartouche = (ink) cartridge (refill for pens)

:: Audio File ::
Listen to my daughter, Jackie, read today's quote:

Terms & Expressions:
  digne de foi = reliable, trustworthy (witness)
  être de bonne foi = to be sincere, honest
  la mauvaise foi = dishonesty
  avoir la foi = to have faith
  perdre la foi = to lose one's faith
  sans foi ni loi = to fear neither God nor man
  avoir la foi du charbonnier = "to have a coalman's faith" (simple faith)
  avec les yeux de la foi = "with eyes of faith" = to believe sight unseen

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thanks for the audio on this story... it's a nice touch! it's a great message, too.


is "confiance" a synonym for "foi"?


Your daughter, Jackie, reads beautifully! God bless. Jacqueline Janvier O'Riain.

Jacqueline Gill

Thank you for this beautiful story. When all is said and done, we will be known for what we taught others about faith. Your mom is a true warrior.


This is a lovely story. I especially enjoy how, in many of your stories, you inter-weave the generations of women in your "world" and communicate the wisdom of each and the things we can learn if we "listen." (and sometimes put down our livres et cartouches :-)

I noticed in the audio version, in the third paragraph, you changed the word "those" to "them." "Them" sounds much more natural. In addition, I believe you are using it as a direct object pronoun, and would be correct grammatically to use "them." I also liked the addition of the last line in the audio version, which adds that Kristin touch", which I've come to expect, which acknowledges our "quirks."

Thank you for being brave and opening yourself up to our comments, and making your readers feel as if we are a part of your extended family.

Michelle Taylor

I'd suggest: "returning a book to its shelf. Is that..."

A lovely story!

Bill in St. Paul

I agree with the above comments: change "those" to "them", drop the "and" in the second paragraph and start a new sentence (Michelle's comment), and add the last line from the audio version.

Jules Greer

OH MY SWEET KRISTI - you are always full of surprises.

I am so excited about the 'audio' addition on this are such a 'smarty pants'. Smart that is to finally start listening to your 'smarty-pants' Mom (ME).

I am still waiting for the day (after this project is done) when you have MAX recite his entire poem in French. Then I will be able to listen to his sweet French voice each morning. We could even put it on Youtube.




Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Mom! And thanks, Editors! Im glad I didnt remove the audio version, for you caught me deleting text that, it turns out, is better left in place. I had deleted the last few words after realizing that one does not run in stride... but one walks in stride. Oh, well. Well leave the mistake in -- and break all the rules!

Charles Orr in Flat Rock, NC

Bonjour, Kristin...great story and great pic of the family in Chateauneuf! Just a few suggestions du matin (here, at least):

1. Consider initial cap on "sweetheart" to be consistent with past usage (e.g., Honey) with words used as names in direct address.
2. I would insert a comma in each of the following spots since each is followed by a complete clause:
a. ...returning a book to its shelf, and...
b. ...her story and not mine, and...
c. ...look at pretty things when they eat, and...


Yes, I vote for the audio of Max reciting his poem in French for a next project. And thanks for the audio. I think an audio book is an excellent idea. That way we get the pronunciation of the words too. Any chance of that?

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Jolly,

Ill keep an audio book in mind. Now to find a bi-lingual actress to read the stories :-)

Sharon Marchisello

:: Audio File ::
Listen to my daughter, Jackie, read today's quote:

Usually, you have the quote written out in French, followed by an English translation. That part seems to be missing here.

Bruce T. Paddock

Hey, Kristin –

How did I miss this one the first time around, just last month? And with you reading it aloud, too!

I think most of these have been covered already, but here goes.

In the second paragraph, you could go with “returning the book to its shelf.” You haven’t reference the book before, but Jackie has, in a sense. It’s your call.

Since “hard” is the first part of the interrupted “hardbound,” it should probably be written as “my hard- and softbound drugs.”

Consider dropping the comma between “Jackie’s told it” and “time and again.”

You need a comma after “and not mine”, because what follows the next “and” is a complete sentence (or, as Charles more accurately points out, an independent clause).

Consider a comma after the introductory “At the dinner table.”

Consider a comma between “pajamas” and “thinking up.” (I think it’s required, but I can’t say why for sure, so maybe I’m wrong.

Technically, you need a comma after “when they eat”, because what follows “and” is a complete sentence. But it’s a line of dialogue, and if you want to indicate that you didn’t pause between the two thoughts when you answered Jackie, then leave the comma out.

Maybe I’m dense, but I don’t understand what you mean with that last phrase. I think maybe, “faith runs in this family—if not always in stride with it,” but I’m not sure.

I see the audio file of Jackie reading the quote, but I don’t see the quote.

Linda Williams Rorem

My daughter says that books are like cigarettes, une mauvaise habitude, and BEGS ME TO please put the reading aside for one night?

"And the cahiers and the pens—put them away,COMMA too!" Jackie insists.

one day she'll need a paper-and-pen fix,COMMA too.

but leave it as Jackie IS told it, time and again. It is her story and not mine,COMMA and she gets that storytelling gene from Wholia, or Julia—make that "Jules." PERIOD INSIDE COMMA

SUGGESTION: AS I sit in my felt slippers and pajamas, I TRY TO COME UP WITH A SUITABLE answer:
"Because people like to look at pretty things when they eat,COMMA and don't we love looking at Grandma Jules?"

Jules Greer

I love the photo above this story. It sets the tone beautifully. Plus the fact that it is a well known fact that I always wanted to be a gypsy in the circus.



Kristin Espinasse

Merci encore and encore. Thanks, too, to Linda--even if I left my toos without the comma before them :-)

sue kelly

May I make a comment about a previous post? Leave out "Le crotte" and "Husband's ex-girl friend at the wedding." Why hold on to unpleasant memories of unpleasant people?


I loved the story, but was confused in the fifth sentence as to who had the story. And, who is the one with the gene, telling the story?. "It is her story, not mine.." WHO knew the real story of the American grand who is being called Mexican?

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Tonya. It is Jackie who tells the story--or tells her friends her grandmother is Mexican (or did when she was little). In my story I am saying that Jackie gets the storytelling gene from her grandmother Jules (or Julia... or Wholia). I understand that it may not be all that clear, but I have told it as is happened. 

Mary Gouveia

I enjoyed the story, but (maybe I'm just being a bit dense this morning) had trouble with "Wholia." It took me a second or two to realize you were playing with the Spanish pronunciation of "Julia." Did anyone else have trouble with that? Maybe "Hulia" would be easier?

Kristin Espinasse

No worries, Mary. Even I had trouble understanding... when rereading my own story (written 5 years ago!). That said, Ill leave it as is! (Is Hulia the Spanish for Julia? ....)

Olga Brown

I like the story.
Have just one comment: maybe I did not understand something, but why do we need "...,time and again" at the end of the first sentence of paragraph #5? I would drop it. The message is clear enough without those words, in my opinion.



Linda's suggestion would turn the opening sentence into a statement that would not need a question mark.

Cynthia Lewis

I find this "petite histoire" very warm and touching with the interactions between the three generations. Will you be including the translation of Jackie's quote? Please tell her that I am a big fan of her readings...especially her pronunciation of "R" in "grande"! My best wishes...

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Cynthia! Ill tell her. It looks like I used all English, for Jackies words in this story. No, I wont be putting in more translations (though the story could use some more French....)

edith schmidt


The phrase "in stride with it" seems a bit awkward, maybe another word for stride:in step, progress with, shuffle along?

Edie from Savannah

Elaine Wilson

I don't know if there is a Julia in Spanish, but I imagine that as in "Jose" the J sound is the H sound that you refer to so, insead of Hulia or Whulia the spelling should be the same: Julia.

Kristin Espinasse

A little panicked here as I have put in stride back the way it was originally (even if Ive mixed up the idiom)! Wish me luck as I now transer this story over to the manuscript!


Kristin, Yours is the most interesting website I have ever read posted by an individual. I am so interested to know where you learned your computer skills. You cover such a wide range of interesting topics and include videos and pictures. Who cares if a slight grammatical error pops up? None of us speak or write perfect English. After all, how many of us can read or speak French? I agree stress can do a number on ones health and you accomplish so much. Be kind to yourself.

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