mener a la baguette
So much for anonymity

Chapter 1: Positano, Italy - Summer 2002

Postitano, Italy. Photo by Annwvyn.

Chapter 1: Positano, Italy - Summer 2002

We must bear with ourselves with patience and without flattery.

I am sitting on the floor of a luxury hotel room, tossing potato chips across the parquet tiles to my 9-month-old nephew, Payne.  My sister and her husband are out for an early dinner, and I have offered to babysit.

With a squeal of laughter, Payne scampers across the floor to fetch another chip, pausing as he passes by a tiny glass flask. I casually reach for it, tucking the airline sampler bottle behind me and throwing out another chip to redirect the toddler's attention back to the game. I can think of no better way to pass the time; besides, this activity seems to be a hit!

I take a hit from the little glass flask, having twisted off the aluminum top. C'est l'heure de l'apéro, I reason, calling to mind my husband, who is surely having a glass of wine at this hour. And my sister and her husband would have sat down by now at the dinner table, with glasses of champagne. Yes, it was cocktail hour for everyone including me. So no worries!

Looking out to the balcony, I watch the sun begin to set along the Amalfi Coast. To the right, the hillside is peppered with spicy-colored villas ranging from pepper red to saffron yellow. A true artist would call it a "pastiche", but what did I know? Inside of me the poet's flame had gone out long ago.

Out in the harbor, yachts are swaying, very much like my steps as I stand up and walk over toward my bed. The sea breeze filters in from the open French windows, and I reach out to shut them securely before returning to my cot. I'll just have a little rest. Pitching the last potato chip far over to the curtains, I buy another moment of shut-eye as Payne sets out to retrieve the salty prize.

*    *    *

Waking to the sound of laughter I see my brother-in-law, Doug, through the slits of my eyes. He is shaking his head.

"She's smashed!"

"Doug!" my sister objects, silencing her husband. I watch as Heidi makes a beeline over to my bed. 

"Well she is. She's smashed!" my brother-in-law points out. He's had a few drinks himself, and is ripe for an argument.

Heidi ignores him, kneeling down to have a closer look at me. Strings of pearls glimmer as the moon shines into the room reflecting off my sister. She looks so beautiful in a colorful silk dress. Her bright red lips are quizzing me.

Instead of answering, I'm shoulding: I should wear color, instead of black. I should buy some red lipstick! I should not have drunk those airline samplers!

The scent of Shalimar, our mother's favorite perfume, tickles the inside of my nose. I should buy a bottle of Mom's perfume, too! I think of our mother, who lives an ocean away, in Yelapa, Mexico. We haven't spoken for ages. There are no telephones in the jungle.

"Why are there potato chips on the floor?" Heidi's tone is part curiosity, part impatience. Her wheat-colored hair falls down her back, in waves. Doug tugs on a lock of it as he walks past to open the window.

"Smashed!" he declares.

A brisk stream of air rushes in to the hotel suite. A storm is brewing on the horizon and giant waves coming in from the sea are capped in white.

Suddenly the scent of my sister's perfume and the salty breeze sobers me. I sit up in bed as my eyes dart around the room searching for my 9-month-old nephew!

Payne's diaper is peeking out from the curtains, where he has finally managed to reach the last potato chip. My brother-in-law bends down, sweeping up the giggly baby. Plucking a few soggy morsels from Payne's lips, he  offers his son a tender kiss followed by a mock scolding, "No more beer chips for you, Little Guy!"

"Not beer, it's vodka!" Heidi says, picking up an upended flask.

"Ah... Mother's Little Helper!" Doug chirps.

My brother-in-law's "drink teasing" always makes me wince. But it was true, after chasing children all day, I found it extremely relaxing at night to have a glass or two of wine--until I discovered vodka.

My stomach began to knot as I looked over at my sister. I hated to disappoint her and her husband, after they had generously offered me this retreat. And here I was tossing chips to an infant! It was so ironic, so out of character for me, the mother who insisted on nursing her own son for over a year. And to think, when friends so much as offered a fingerful of whipped cream to my own son, I freaked out. Only mother's milk would do for 12 month old child! But potato chips for my sweet nephew?

I heard my brother-in-law in the bathroom, changing Payne's diapers. His words echoed my thoughts:

"Mother's Helper! Your aunt had a little bit of Mother's helper tonight," he sang, tossing the diaper in the trash. Next he reached for a towel to begin cleaning the potato chips off the floor. He was more amused than angry. Payne was okay, he assured me. No harm done.

But what about my sister? What must she be thinking!

Looking me in the eyes Heidi shook her head and I felt my heart sink. That was it. I'd done it this time! I should have stayed home.

Heidi plucked up the bag of chips, reaching in, ever so gracefully, for the last one. Tasting it, she shook her head once again.

"Italian chips suck," she said, reaching over to ruffle my hair. "Couldn't you have at least bought American?

 *    *    *

Postnote: Ultimately, I decided not to go forward with the memoir.  Here are two posts that hint at why:
1. L'Enjeu est Grand (The Stakes are High)
2. Le Piege (The Trap)

Chapters: click on the following links to read the other episodes

Let goThe opening quote, from the French 17th century thinker Fenelon, is from this book that gives me so much comfort and direction.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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I like how this is honest about your feelings, but descriptive,
describing where you are and how you are feeling. Probably you
will need to wait some time, then reread after you have written
more. Good start !!!!



BRAVO !!! I of course hardly slept all night wondering if you were going to continue on down this path of reflection as you weed your garden.

I can see your new little cherry tree holding your hand as you push down roots together in this foreign land of truth.

I am your #1 fan and I will always be here to lift you up after you fall into the ditch of life....although I truly believe you are now accending up that illusive stair-way to Heaven.



Ronni Ebbers


Please keep on writing, this has much depth, touches our hearts and souls and still you are clever enough to insert a bit lightness.

Am eager for you to finish so I can purchase a copy. This would appear, even at this early stage, to be the best writing you've done yet. BRAVO!


Kristin Espinasse

Thank you so much for these first words of feedback. Jean-Marc felt the writing was "different", not as light as the previous chapter. My sister and brother-in-law have graciously given me their blessing to write the story. I hope no one ever winces over a word I have chosen. I am grateful to them, as I find it very hard to read a story about me, written by someone else!


Wow. This journey I think will bring everything full circle and bring you complete healing. Bless you for your courage to share so publicly. It's going to be a great book!

Karen Whitcome - from dreary Towson, Md  USA

Kristin, you have solid roots in your friends and family and we are here to support your every budding. I can see that you've punished yourself for too long and this is the time to crawl out from behind some closed curtains, reflect and write your important story. Your writing shows that you've progressed from blogger to story-teller and it's captivating. Keep peeling back those layers, petit l'oignon!!

Karen Whitcome - from dreary Towson, Md  USA

JULES!!!! You're next! You can start in the jungle!! :D


I have been reading your blog for several years, and enoy your vignettes so much. Having lived in Provence, your stories bring back many happy memories. And now, a whole new dimension to Kristin. I have also lived with a afriend of Bill for 23 years, so we share something else. I find your descriptions quite arresting; not the light-hearted writing we are accustomed to, but serious and stark. I applaud your efforts and enjoy this style of writing even more.


Tim Averill

Lauren and I are admiring the courage and honesty of writing this saga of yourself. You are an inspiration to everyone who has struggled with these issues, either directly or within a family. We look forward to reading further chapters.


Karen "again" Whitcome - from dreary Towson, Md  USA

I ran across this today and thought of you: (sorry for hogging the Comment Box)

"The repression or suppression of emotions manifests itself not only in our postures and movements, but also in tensions buried deep in our bodies, tensions that consume our energy and undermine our physical and psychological health. By learning how to sense these tensions in ourselves, we will eventually come face-to-face with our mostly unconscious emotions of anger, worry, fear, anxiety, and so on. The goal is not to get rid of these so-called negative emotions--this would be both impossible and undesirable--but rather to find the courage to experience them fully, to open them to the transformative light of impartial awareness."--Dennis Lewis, The Tao of Natural Breathing


So alive. You have an inherent talent for writing. Thank you for sharing.


Thank you Kristin for giving us a glimpse into the beginnings of your new work. Oui, c'est différent, et c'est bon, avec un sens plus profond et engageant. J'en veux lire encore. (I declare, il y avait juste une petite coquille.) This is just the second time I've posted a comment, but I NEVER pass up reading your blog. Merci beaucoup.

Jacquie P.

Dear Beautiful Kristin,
You are on your way so keep going! It is going to be a best seller, I just know. You are truly a brilliant inspiration and a terrific writer and you are telling a very often needed told story that so many if us stuff when we could grow beyond expectations if we only opened up. That old adage that we can't keep it if we do not give it away is so true.
Hugs to all of you.

Sophie Day

This is so much more real and honest than anything you have written! It is impressive to know that honesty can really bring out the writer in an artist. Keep up the good work though it must be painful to relive a distressing part of your life.

Peggy Ritchie

What wonderful courage you have, Kristin, facing and controling your demons, and now sharing the journey with us. We are all inspired by your story and your beautiful writing. Many of us struggle with anxiety and inadequecy. For me, self-isolation is the false cure I struggle with. (It's so much easier not to reach out and risk rejection.)
Merci beaucoup for sharing with us.



Yes I have been up since 5 a.m. to march along beside Kristi as she forges ahead on this new journey. I always fantasize (sp?) that all of you here now could be on the phone with Kristi and I as we pour over your comments together. Yes, Kristi has been reading your comments to me as they come in this morning.

I would also like to share with you a few moments Kristi experienced that she doesn't have time to relate to you - but I thought were important so you can experience what Kristi is going through on this 4th day of her confession and cleansing in front of all the people that so highly matter in her precious mind.

Kristi related to me a profound moment she experienced just after pushing the little key on her computer that sends todays post out into the clouds of conversation on our worlds internet.

'Mom, as I hit send THE key I became aware that I was covered in sweat, every pore of my body was discarding a bitter/acidic odor that didn't at all correspond with the sweetness of the cherry blossoms I hope to smell at the end of this journey. I had to run to the shower to wash it from my soul. My hands were shaking. My knees weak.'

Then Kristi related to me the feelings she experienced when Jean-Marc came in and stood by her desk to read Chapter 1.

'Mom - Jean-Marc's lips were stretched tights in a thin line - his face like stone. He said this was not quite what he expected." .....

Of course I had to jump in and tell Kristi now is the time in your life you are going to really have to toughen up. Who knows who will be standing by your side by the end of your story....but don't worry, I will always be here. And perhaps someday in the future your distant Grandaughter will pick up your book and find her way through whatever ditch she has fallen into. After all - that's what all of this is about - your future - her future.

Well - I'll be back later. Thank all of you dear friends who are here with a pure heart - we must all remember this is the first attempt for Kristi and that this is going to be the 'rough-draft' which Kristi and I will pour over and over (perhaps in Positano) once she hits the 'end button' and the real work begins. Meantime I am going to start working on research regarding Kristi's memoire (sp?) - off to glean some facts about different areas of France where Kristi will be spilling her guts on the cobblestoned streets.

Of course I have seen alot of errors already with text - I AM REALLY QUALIFIED TO CRITIQUE when I can't yet spell etc. You all know my faults - but I think we should limit our help in this area until Kristi finishes the book and then we will decide if we want to ask for all of you to help or hire a professional to help us edit. I think we most need to concentrate on helping keep Kristi's mental state strong and encouraged at this point in the process of her first memoir.

I'll be back later.



Susan Boehnstedt

Dearest RB........
You have come a long way baby. I know these writings have been in your mind for years and the sowing and harvesting has now come full circle. I am proud of you and thankful to God for the courage He has given you to wirte and share with an open heart. My prayer is that through your writings healing may come to many others....So proud of you my dear RB....Way to go !!! XOXOX RB

Stephanie in Webster

Honest and real. We have too little of this these days. Thanks!


I really enjoyed reading the first chapter of your book and I look forward to purchasing it, myself. Life isn't always a sweet package tied up in a pretty bow and we all know it and can relate to it.

Thank you for your honesty. You're a great writer!

Rob T

Wonderful. Thank you for sharing. If it gives someone else the courage to make important changes, it will be worth it. Hopefully, it is therapeutic for you as well. There is no shame in past weakness overcome, or, at least held at bay.

Tracy Downing

Incredibly written. Bravo!

Joy Freedom

You are, without a doubt, a writer. Now I just want to read more of your story!

Elizabeth Jones

Very well written--human and engaging. Keep writing so we can all read, relate, and grow!


Wonderful. I agree with Sophie: this is your best writing yet. I just celebrated 11 years sober (starting at age 51) and life is better than ever. The journey never ends, thank goodness.
Best wishes to you.

Eileen - Charlottesville, VA

Hi Kristin,
Thanks for taking us along on your journey brave one! I think you should just let your writing flow and don't worry about corrections or edits right now.
What a personal victory!
Have a nice weekend!

Vicki, San Francisco Bay area

Kristi, you have me hooked already! The depth and honesty of your writing is compelling. Please don't be afraid to continue. It is difficult to hold up the mirror and see a part of ourself that is unattractive, but remember this is ultimately a story of victory! Completion will bring healing for you and will offer encouragement to others who are struggling with the same issue. Thank you for trusting us to go on this journey with you. It will be an honor to support you along the way!

Leslie NYC

This gives me chills. It is SO excellent. It may not feel good to write this, because it is a purge. It is also much more than that. I think it is what you are meant to offer to the world, and I think it will be incredibly good work. You may discover false friends who only want the cheery version of yourself. I pray you will persevere. May I line up to stand by you the whole way? I am not first in line, but I'll take a number!

Sharon from Arizona

Congrats again on your steadfast recovery. Just a thought about the title. Use the picture of Jackie as the cover and title it- Breaking Free? Just an idea.
Sharon from Arizona

Tonya in Arkansas

Bravo! There are many of us out here who have been very close to people who suffer with this... I know how very difficult it is to talk about or get help for this. It is so much easier to have a doctor work on a scary blemish on one's forhead..and both are disorders. They just present very differently. Getting help for either of these problems should never make one feel shame.. You are not only someone I love to read.. You are a champion.


You are so incredibly BRAVE -- and the writing is excellent.


This is by far your best and certainly most courageous writing. You have my full attention. Please continue.


Brave woman for accomplishing what you have and also for sharing your pain and vulnerability with the world. Bravo

Virginia Ward

Not only beautiful as I wrote yesterday, but oh so brave! I adore you! I envy your courage. Bonne continuation!

Jim from Carlsbad, Ca.

Perfectly written, Kristi - so captivating, I hung onto every word, and if there were any grammatical errors, I certainly didn't notice them! To me, there is nothing so boring as someone who pretends to be "perfect" or "whole" ... like a gemstone, it is the flaws that give a person character anhd substance. You are more beautiful than ever! Thank you for inspiring me to be more of who I am, and less of who I pretend to be.


Continue, love every day and be glad you taste food with better buds, be happy you do not make a fool of yourself as so many do when tippling, be glad you will have beautiful skin and bright eyes and age slowly, slowly while others grow mold like champignons, be glad of your choices, and now----give up what ifs and look in the mirror at one helluva talented, beautiful and kind-hearted  person. You gave up something once before, now give up worrying! It's one of the worst addictions.


Congratulations, Kristin! You have inspired me since I began reading your words, now I am encouraged in knowing we share this battle. Keep fighting, beautiful!

Hilary Lange

I will share your strory with my clients who feel shame at their disease and don't believe that can amount to much. Courage! I look forward to reading your new book. Hilary L'ange


Courage Kristin!


I have been reading your posts for years and in the last few months I felt there was something going on--a bit dark at times--in your life. What amazing support you are getting from your many readers, including this one. One day at a time, your courage and strength are admirable.

Linda Casey

I don't know ... I LOVED the way in which you revealed your darkest secret and of course, you have the most charming way of creating a story line but, for me anyway, I don't think it's necessary to write a whole book about achieving sobriety. Why not just throw in a few anecdotes here and there in other stories ... now that the secret's out? I think, if you're going to write a book on booze, you should tell how funny it is live at a winery. Still .. love your stories. You choose. I'll read them.

Linda Casey

meant to say: how funny it is to live at a winery (given your history)


Keep it up! Your prose is so engaging, even when the subject is difficult - who knows, maybe that makes for better prose. Now, Positano - Ligurian Riviera???


You are brave and honest. Non of us is any more or less then human, we are all imperfect creatures. We all carry burdens of acts less then desired. Lift up that beautiful head, smile and carry on. You do enrich this world and others by your efforts and words. Thank you .

Lisa A.,Los Angeles, CA

I think you are on the right PATH for setting yourself free emotionally and spiritually. It truly is a brave thing you are doing for yourself and your family too. They all might not see it right now, but by writing about the difficult times in your life mixed with the good times; you are setting your entire family FREE at the same time. Every family goes through extremely difficult situations and can relate to your story even if it is not exactly the same. So, don’t be afraid to “Open the closet door” and let it all out. The LOVE of your family and friends will hold you up through it all.

P.S. I love everything your mom wrote. Hugs to you all!

Kristin Espinasse

Linda, no worries, I do not want to right a book on booze :-) There is so much more to life -- and to a memoir! First, to begin the story... 

Bonnie L

I want you to know how much I admire you. I have your first two books because you are living my dream. You had the courage to go after the life that you wanted.

The prologue and Chapter 1 of your next book are very compelling reading. I am hooked. I want to read more. You are obviously a very strong, courageous woman and that is so admirable. Bravo!

Suzan from the gray skies of Pennsylvania

Dear Kristen, I only recently started reading your blog and only to help my French... or so I thought! We are spending July in Paris with our two teenagers so I thought someone in the family should be able to say something in French! smile

Your recent blog and chapter post are lovely, we all have our demons and your story demonstrates courage and honestly at their best! Your gift for writing is alive and well! Thank you for sharing:) xoxo

Dawn B from Beavercreek, OH

Dear Kristin~
I have read your blog for years now, and when I read the post 2 days ago, all I could say was, "WOW! The courage of this precious woman to live in a vineyard, surrounded by her 'foe', and yet stay sober for 10 years!" And to think you have shouldered that struggle - and VICTORY! - alone ... amazing! Thanks for finding the courage to share your story - every story is a beautiful one, even while it is in the process of being written. We are so looking forward to hearing these 'chapters', and the many yet to come. Write on!

I have another favorite writer who is very much like you - she is honest, she writes of both struggles and victories, and she is GOOD! Her name is Sarah Young and yesterday's "post" in her book,Jesus Calling, seems like it was written just for you ... hope you don't mind me taking space to share an excerpt. (She writes as if Jesus is the one talking personally to her / me / you :)

"Come to me for rest and refreshment. The journey has been too much for you, and you are bone-weary. Do not be ashamed of your exhaustion. Instead, see it as an opportunity for Me to take charge of your life. Remember that I can fit everything into a pattern for good, including the things you wish were different. Start with where you are at this point in time and space, accepting that this is where I intend you to are on the path of My choosing, so do not give up! Hope in Me, for you will again praise Me for the help of My presence." (Jesus Calling, p. 40)


Kristin Espinasse

Dawn, thank you for this excerpt from Sarah Youngs book -- I do have a copy but have not read this page... So full of encouragement!

Thanks to each one of you who has written in or who is taking time to read these comments. Such generous souls!

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

Brave woman you are. Brave and supportive family you have, too. Blessings to you in this journey. I am a novice in this area, but am currently working on a master's thesis project (vs. traditional research paper) that centers on writing (epistolary, journals, memoirs, etc.) as instrumental in healing and self-actualization. It seems writing helps the writer as well as the reader. When I need inspiration, I am often drawn to memoirs of recovery and reinvention. The tales that include travel? Icing on the cake! I look forward to reading yours.


I just want to echo the comments about courage. This is a journey, a very personal one, and you are very brave to make it public. I'm hooked! I hope it brings your spirit peace.



I almost hesitate to make any comments about your writing, because what you're doing is so courageous and shows such inner strength.

Early on in Chapter 1 you write, "Instead of answering, I'm shoulding." It becomes apparent in the next sentence what you mean, but in fact I stopped at "shoulding," trying to puzzle out the word, wondering whether it was a typo ("shouldering", as in shrugging?). So you might want to consider rephrasing that.

I see that someone made an earlier correction about Positano's location. I (also) tend to confuse Positano (on Amalfi coast) and Portofino (on Ligurian coast). Your photo looks like it is indeed the southern one?

Keep up the good and the hard work of writing about something that must be very difficult for you. But "The truth will set you free," as well as serve as inspiration for many.


Diane Scott

Dear Kristin,
I have been with you for years. I have been uplifted by your words and insights. I have laughed and cried with you. I am here for you now, as one crumpled heart to another. This world is a double-edged sword: magnificent in its miraculous beauty; malevolent in its propensity for pain. Each of us is the same. So where there is pain in you, there is also great beauty. Focus on the latter. Peace be upon you. His peace.


joie in carmel

Delightful. Your best writing yet. Please continue. We all have some issue in life that perhaps we are not quite so proud of, but when they come out they set one free. So, saying that, it would be wonderful for you to elaborate on all those blogs you have done but putting them into this fun, liberating book of prose. And I just bet there will be a publishing company out there that will want to take this one on.

Cynthia Lewis (Eastern Shore of Maryland)

Bravo, Kristin! You write so well and so honestly and from the heart that you touch each one of your readers in a special way. As you can "see", we think you are very brave and wish to encourage you in every way we can. My very best wishes, Cynthia


Early in my sobriety I had a counselor who warned me to avoid "shoulding"...shoulda, coulda, woulda...never an action only remorse for a lost intent to act. Keep on writing. It is the best and your expressions are just right. Be careful with your edits..first thoughts are many times the right ones and the hardest to share.
Thank you for this gift to us, to your family and most of all to yourself. You have given me courage and hope to continue and to share what I can with those who follow. love on Valentine's and every other day.

Robyn France

Kristin--it is so easy for me (and others) to romanticize another's life--and you have often shown us "the rest of the story" of starting and owning your vineyard in such a beautiful setting--handsome husband and beautiful children, fun and beautiful, artistic mother in tow. All too easy to glamorize---just a few chuckles and sympathy pains until now. Now, we get to the deeper parts which naturally must accompany the rest. Each of us has hidden parts and the fear of exposing them--but often it is acknowledging them to ourselves which is the toughest part. So thank you for sharing the story and opening up to us--it may just help us do the same at some point. Bon courage! You have a whole entourage of friends on your blog who support your efforts and your writing.

Sophie Day

Jean-Marc is also courageous to stand by you in your creative angst. You are truly blessed to have such a loving and supportive husband.

Cate Read Hickman

Thank you for sharing your story. You are courageous and admirable, and your stories are so vivid and interesting. Please keep up the great work! I've enjoyed reading your posts for years, along with your first book too.


A "cherie" blossoms.... x

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm ~ Applegate, Oregon

I believe you just blew the doors wide open! Great writing my (lovely, courageous and admirable) friend!

Susan Carter (Westminster, CA)



Hi Everybody,

It's a little past midnight in France - I am sure after reading all of your encouraging notes that Kristi is sleeping in peace.

Thank you for giving Kristi this peace and support.



Nikki Maxwell

I tried to post a comment after your last blog but couldn't for some teckie reason.
Full of admiration for you Kristin. Didn't see that last line coming and it stopped me in my tracks.
My husband, who has also taken to reading your blog to learn a new French word every day (see it does work!)also commented on your achievment.
Well done, amazing milestone. Keep writing your memoirs - you do it incredibly well.

Judi Boeye Miller, Lake Balboa, CA

Quel courage! You humble me! I want to read whatever, whenever you want to share any part of your life with us. What a journey and such a beautiful telling of it - your writing transports me to your place! We are all standing with you, but you are the tallest of us all! Hugs, kisses & peace, Judi


I did wince when I read some of it as I remembered some of my least proud moments from the past. It is most important that you love and forgive yourself . You were always doing the best you knew how at the time. You chose a courageous journey and now you have made a courageous choice to share a very private thing. Please fully accept, love, and forgive yourself for everything. I hope Jean-Marc can support you fully if you want to tell this story. It must be hard for him
to watch you go to this place. I wish you peace.

The grammarian wannabe

To darling Kristi (and others who are listening) as a frustrated grammarian I must say this: the term "a work in progress" is incorrect, as well as being a mixed metaphor/redundant ; the correct term is "a work in process". Unfortunately, even major publications make this error frequently. c'est dommage!
This is in no way a criticism of your lovely, transcendent writing, which I envy and admire. All the best on your brave new journey.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, The Grammarian. Funny, I was thinking about the term in the last hour...

I have insomnia for the first time in ten years! Oh well, I will honor the process... Of this work in process :-)

To anyone reading, your comments, punctuated by my husbands occasional snores, are lovely company on this quiet night.

I thought about a title for my book, A Mafia of Angels,  after a poem I wrote:

It could go well with the picture of Jackie falling from the sky...

Then again, it could go well with the sheep photo for the book cover and title

P.S. If you are reading, you are part of this mafia of angels, your support over the years (or hours) has kept me in line.


You had me at the first line..... hurrah for you....

Marianne Rankin

It is good to get some background after the shock of the previous post (I had had no idea that sobriety was an issue).

What struck me first in this chapter wasn't even drinking the airline liquor and being "smashed," definitely a no-no when babysitting, or feeding chips to a child with few teeth, but being asleep while a baby crawls around unattended (admittedly a mistake even sober people can make). I was relieved that Payne was all right.

This account nevertheless has value, beyond the quality of the writing. As I recall, one of the steps in AA is being willing to admit, not just to God, but to others, that one is powerless over alcohol, and to do so in such a way that others can be helped by what is said. This is happening already on the blog as some posters mention their own struggles - and to all of you who have done so, I commend your courage.

I had a family member who fought this battle for several years. She wasn't a stereotypical alcoholic; she went to work every day, and managed, more or less, to do various things, although the signs of deterioration later became evident. She never drank on the job, but overdid the cocktails at night. As with the little airplane bottle, a quantity which initially seemed insignificant became greater, and more frequent, over time. This is one of the dangers encountered with drinking - imperceptibly, but really, one develops a habit and dependence which is extremely hard to overcome. Never forget that you HAVE overcome it!

I started reading the blog to perfect my French, and still do, and appreciate vignettes of French culture. But I follow it now as much for stories of my friends (including the ones I've not yet seen in person) as for vocabulary, photos, recipes, and so on. When you meet people, you want to know more about them, and this chapter of a life should be included, if not dwelt upon, as it isn't the whole person.

Kristin, tell as much as will help you and your family, and whatever you write will be enough. The rest of us will be interested in your thoughts and your message, and stand ready to offer encouragement when needed. I'm so glad that you and your family are doing so well, and imagine that their support has been invaluable, too.

Kristin's accomplishment brings to mind the saying, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." It will be good to see how she wound up "at the bottom," and how she climbed back up and out into sobriety and a many-faceted life.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Christine, not sure if I responded to your comment about *shoulding*. I will keep it in mind, as a few people have tripped over that word, though it was just the word to express my thoughts. 


I have loved the blog, sometimes I am rushed and can't read it all... kids and life. I am living in a french speaking country and am American too, I love to garden and you make me laugh. But this captivated it, thanks, hits close to home...bless you and keep up the good work!


I think that writing a memoir about your struggle in this very honest way will free you and lead to do more of the kind of writing you have often spoken of wanting to do. (For instance, the fiction story you began and shared the beginning of, the one with a shop window and something about a sewing machine, I remember I thought was really good, one of the best things you have written, in fact.) Anyway, I think once you have gotten this story, your story, written, it will open up your creativity as a writer in a whole new way. I don't have any idea how I am qualified to say such a thing, just something I feel. Another small thing. I like the way you used "shoulding". Of course it not strictly speaking correct, but who doesn't get exactly what you mean by it? I like your word play, of which I think this is an example which works. I'm another person who started reading your blog strictly out of my interest in French vocabulary, but stay for the amazing personal connection you create with readers with your humor,
honesty and beautiful spirit.

Lisa, Montclair, NJ

Dear Kristin,
Greetings from snowy New Jersey. I always love your Word-A-Day thoughts and am in absolute awe of your bravery! Congratulations on your incredible 10 year victory. Your memoir will be a huge success because of your honesty, strength and courage (not to mention your truly lovely powers of description).
Best as always,

Mark Forster

Dear Kristin,
I always enjoy reading your posts, and appreciate the honesty, clarity and even wry humour of this one.

Don't write off "work in progress" as an expression. I looked it up in the The Oxford English Dictionary (the big multi-volume one). It doesn't mention "work in process" but it has the following entry for "work in progress":

work-in-progress n. work undertaken but not completed, esp. (a) in commerce (see quot. 1978); (b) in the arts.

1930 Times 25 Mar. 24/5 ‘Work in progress, less instalments thereon,’ is £141,069, against £47,351 in the previous year.

1952 R. Giroux Let. 10 Mar. in Breit & Lowry Sel. Lett. M. Lowry (1967) 450 It is clear that the place of the finished book will be important in your long work-in-progress.

1976 P. Israel French Kiss (1977) ii. 24 The work-in-progress on one of the easels.

1978 J. Kellock Elem. Accounting x. 176 Work-in-progress, is the value of incomplete work in the factory and is usually computed on the following basis: the cost of materials and production labour plus the proportion of indirect expenses chargeable to the work up to its present stage of manufacture.

Debbie Ambrous -

Keep going. I look forward to reading your finished book. Keep us in suspense.


Kristi - is that 'THE MARK FORSTER' in the comment above?



Lana, Omaha Nebraska

What a great opening to chapter 1! I want to read more! If this book was finished and I found it at a book store, this first entry would make me buy the book.

I had no idea about your problem. My sister has struggled with the same thing. She hit rock bottom and lost custody of her kids. But after that she turned her life around. She has been sober for over 10 years and I am so proud of her. I think your book will give others the courage they need.


Kristin, your honesty and candor really impress me!
It must have been so difficult to post this story to the world without knowing how people might react.
You seem to be surrounded by love and care, both in your family and in your large circle of friends. We rejoice with you in this story of healing and revelation!


Improve yourself.. improve the world.

If each of us would have dealt with our inner demons, enabling yourself (first of all) to return to a naturally healthy, radiant Yourself, and enjoy the purity of mind and body such purification entails -- the world would be changed.

Love you, Kristi.

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

Kristin, Re: self-editing of memoir writing - a little book The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith. BTW, read your Words In A French Life when first released (loved it!) and later forgot about the blog. So glad I discovered it again. You write beautifully. I currently travel vicariously through others. And, even though I have taken 3 years of French (1 year, 3 times :) pourtant, je ne parle pas toujours du français. Thanks for sharing!

Sarah in Chicago

I have been a reader for several years , Kristin. I enjoy your vignettes about your French life very much. This through me for a loop. I am floored by your raw honesty. I am dealing with an adult niece who is an alcoholic the last year we have encountered so many moving & sad stories relating to this...Congratulations and thank you for sharing. It is wonderful to hear that it can work...I know how difficult it is to guard your sobriety in France...having lived there for 3 years I know how strong alcohol is a part of the culture...
Bravo! Bien Fait!


Thanks for sharing, Krisin. This adds a whole new dimension to your writing talent. Looking forward to each episode.


You may never see my comment-- there are so many. And it doesn't really matter. Stop worrying about what everyone else thinks and focus on you. You are a brave, strong woman. It takes guts to admit that you aren't perfect, but none of us are. This "confession" only makes me admire you more. We all have weaknesses, skeletons, "fallings down" or however you want to put it. We are human. Be true to yourself. I wish you the very best. Write this book for you. I will read it and so will many others.
Much love sent your way-

Cate Salenger


I'm glad you're writing this part of your life. I've been there. I know those feelings of shame and despair. I was trying to figure out how old you were when you quit. I went to my first meeting on my 27th birthday and haven't had to drink since. Thank God! keep writing. It's powerful.


Dear Kristin, can it be the raw nerve you touch is a common one we all share? Reading all the comments, I find myself in tears. Who of us could write our story, pick up that gauntlet with such courage? Isn't it easier for one to take beautiful pictures and write captions? Your brave writing is creating a community ... touched, encouraged, grateful, so very grateful for even the slightest possibility of healing. Take good care. Merci.


As a Californian living in Bretagne with my French wife, your writings have captivated me for a couple of years now. As so many others have said, your honesty and vulnerability are so refreshing. Your sudden revelations astounded me, and filled me with respect for you for your courage and humility. As a child of alcoholic parents and having lived through many nightmares, I truly empathize with your brave struggle and wish you all the best. I believe that your writing is bound to help you and give you the ability to stay on top of this awful disease. And you will certainly help others. Thank you for baring your soul, and stay strong. You're blessed with a loving husband and family and you have so many loving readers--what a great support network! Bon courage!

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

“Toni Morrison said, 'The function of freedom is to free someone else,' and if you are no longer wracked or in bondage to a person or a way of life, tell your story. Risk freeing someone else. Not everyone will be glad that you did. Members of your family and other critics may wish you had kept your secrets. Oh, well, what are you going to do?”
― Anne Lamott
And to reiterate what John said above ... you are blessed with a family that encourages you to share...and your readers are already proving that you are making a difference! Yes, bon courage!

Mim   (Richmond, VA)

Big hugs and thank you for trusting yourself and us with you open sharing. Always your fan.

Kathleen from Connecticut


For some reason I couldn't open your blog yesterday, but finally got it today. You have out done yourself and I always thought that you were very open, but now even more so. I admire your willingness to give us the other side of Kristin. We will always suppose you and love you. You are a beautiful women ...inside and out.

Kathleen and Dean

Jeanne Arnold

I too admire you. You seemed to be so perfect. I wanted to BE you. But I know from experience that no one has a perfect life. I had an alcoholic first husband and I have it in my family. This is very brave of you to recount this sad episode. Thank God you are sober! It is definately tough to do and maintain,but so essential to a real life. I have been ill often and at one point had problems from prescription drugs due to no fault of my own. I only took what was prescribed......but I ended up becoming very sick mentally and put my poor husband through horrible times. I was not at fault-yet,I am amazed he stayed with me through it-because I was truly awful for two years. -I am now off all those medicines (benzodiazepines)and it has been over a year thatI am my old self. I am so thankful for every normal day. My family stuck by me and was there for me and are so thankful I am myself again. It was like a living nightmare. So I think you are amazingly brave. I only hope that writing about it will not retraumatize you and make it more difficult for you to enjoy your wonderful and deserved life now, to stay healthy and happy,and to write your beautiful,uplifting,if not confessional- true-life stories- which I love! Do what you think is best-but you do not have to go through it all again and it may not be the best thing for you. I feel that keeping thankful and positive and focusing on all my present blessings and how wonderful life is NOW helps me stay healthy. Just be careful. Do what you think is best,of course, though. Your accounts are very touching. People do need your peaceful,cheery,sweet and good stories of your life now,though. They are very unique in today"s world. Take care. Jeanne from LI New York PS I used to teach French, and have been to south of france many times and love it- and your blog! Really,thanks so much for it. My niece,daughter,husband and brother also speak French-my niece is presently becoming a French teacher and my daughter met her husband,an Englishman,in France while studying in Paris!


Bravo for writing this - digging deep and revealing painful things about ourselves is what usually produces the best writing. You are revealing the "beneath the surface" truths of your life, and that is what truly draws the reader in. Your husband, if he truly is proud of you, should be supporting you all the way in including these chapters in your book. Stop offering compromises! If this was a story about his troubles with alcohol, that would be different and his permission would be needed. It's not. This is YOUR story and it is important. Courage and blessings to you.

Kitty Wilson

Kristi, 'Shoulding' is on its way into the dictionary, which is after all a record of living language as it comes into common use. No definitions yet, as the context is enough for now, but there are more and more occurrences of it ... still usually in quotation marks indicating it's a kind of argot ...

Since 'shoulding' is a new term, reflective of a new way of engaging with old negative habits that we now understand to be unhealthy, its evolution toward 'official' recognition is AS IT SHOULD BE!!

SO love and admire the new blogs; keep 'em coming.


The other day on Pinterest I read a quote that went SOMETHING like this...."I would rather be disliked for what I am than admired for what I am not." I sure don't live this idea of courage and authenticity 24-7, but I STILL do try everyday to become more of the person I would like to be....a little more loving, a little kinder and sweeter, a little more understanding, gain a little more knowledge of truth in many subjects and lots of other good things. People do change. You have certainly changed for the better, and I would love to read your story, because it is simply obvious that your entire life and all your relationships have become more wonderful than they were a decade ago. That is to be admired. You are wonderful, Kristin! If someone doesn't understand your story NOW, perhaps they will LATER, because people do change (for better or not) Just do what you know is right. The consequences will follow. I expect most of it will be wonderful for you and all whom you love and who love and care for you!

Victor Dalziel

I take it this is non-fiction? This is good and cleansing to the soul. Keep up the good work.

Jan in Monument, Colorado

Not only have you dug deeply into your soul to expose the very private you, you have also scratched a layer off your engaging writing to reveal a writer of substance and true talent. Bravo! An observation if I may from family experience: One doesn't always have to walk the long and painful road to sobriety alone. The fortunate ones have a Jean-Marc to be there every difficult step of the way, sometimes helpless, at times even angry, but always THERE even when they would rather choose not to be. The victory is yours, but the ones who make that journey with a loved one are to be commended for their tenacity and loyalty. Theirs has been a painful journey also.


You bring new meaning to the word 'honesty'. I so admire you for sharing your innerself and your struggle. Your courage helps me. Thank you.


There is an old saying in America that has recently become a hit song, "What ever doesn't kill you makes you stronger." (Kelly Clarkson)
To reveal ones self is a most difficult task because of the pain it may cause others, but sometimes it must be done. You are on a journey that apparently must be taken. Hang in there..everyone is 'rooting' for you. It will all become clear when you get it done.


We all have things to deal with in our lives. You and your husband have the courage to speak out and offer the insights of your own problems in your lives today. I think you have the gift to write, share with humour, love, joy, laughter and tears. May you go with your heart and be guided by our sprits in ' Telling a story My Way " God Bless you in this a new journey of your life.


BRAVO !! I am the child of an alcoholic Mother, who never did make a recovery(and thus lived with guilt and torment all her life)How I used to pray that she would get help, but it never happened. You managed to grab the reigns and get the hell out of your nighmare!! I am so happy for you...and the book may help so many other people who are thinking of ,or trying to tame that horrible beast . You have done it and made such a better life for yourself and children (to say nothing of your husband)Go for that book simply MUST

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