mal barre = up the creek, in big trouble, screwed
Le gazon (pelouse) - lawn, grass, turf in French

La soeur - sister in French

Kristi and Heidi (c) Kristin Espinasse
My beautiful sister, and Mom's first-born, Heidi (right). Our mom, Jules, painted the quail and my mother-in-law, Michèle-France, gave me the owl (next to the rosary and the purse). Voilà... just another family photo. Do you sniff homesickness? 

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la soeur (sir)

    : sister; nun

Audio File: listen to today's French word as well as the following expressions: Download MP3 or Wav file

l'âme soeur = soul mate
la belle-soeur = sister-in-law
la demi-soeur = half sister
la petite soeur or soeur cadette or, la soeurette = little sister

Ma soeur aînée s'appelle Heidi. The name of my older sister is Heidi.

la soeur jumelle
= twin sister
la soeur de race = soul sister
la soeur de lait = foster sister


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

00-1-602.... Please pick up the phone... I whisper, dialing my sister's cell. This isn't an emergency—I just want to hear her voice.

"Hey, Kristi!" my sister answers, and the melody in her greeting tells me she's got time to chat. In fact, she'll even call me right back—on her nickel.

I relax back into the pillows that are propped up against the wall where I might have put a headboard had I gotten my renovation act together—or followed through with my vow to tackle tiny projects (like the inspired centerpiece or the corner office).

This time my phone rings and my sister's voice drowns out my restless thoughts. I begin to wonder where Heidi is. She certainly wouldn't be languishing in bed staring at the cracks in the wall.... She'd be at the hardware store with her bullet list! 

I laugh when Heidi tells me she is sitting in her car, waiting for the pet store to open. She needs dog food for Winston and Truly, her sheepdogs, or chiens de berger anglais. (Took me forever to figure out what these dogs are called in French. But then I'm lazy.)

The idea that my sister is out of croquettes is strangely inspiring. She has the sort of household where the roll of garbage bags is located at the base of the garbage can: efficient, functioning. Only lately, since her divorce, has it begun to dawn on me that she doesn't have everything covered all the time. How could she?

"Me too! I chirp. "We're all out of dog food too!"

"Yeah," Heidi continues. "I was about to toss together some rice, some bouillon, and some dog biscuits and get by another day..." 

There is something so heartening in finding out that your sister who gets-things-done  (she's an Aries) has considered the same lazy solution as you have: wingin' it with the dog food.

"That's exactly what I was about to do!" I laugh, "only I was going to use pasta and some dried up ham that the kids were supposed to eat. I'll have to try the soup/rice/dog biscuit idea sometime!"

"It works when there's no other solution but it's not good for the dogs' digestive tracts," Heidi warns me, letting me in on why she's waiting in the store parking lot before opening hours.

I was kinda hoping she would have gone ahead with the throw-it-together dog mix, like me. But she's doing the best she can, and I could do as much. I grab my car keys and head out into the night. While my sister's market is about to open, mine is about to close. I hate that we live an ocean apart, but it comforts me to know that Heidi is always there for me and that sometimes, coincidentally, we are doing the very same thing—like running out of croquettes.

Such synchronicity is the next best thing to being together, and if I close my eyes I can almost hear my sister in the supermarket aisle, ever looking out for me. "Get that one," she says, "the dogs will love it and it's on sale!"              

Heidi and Payne


My sister, Heidi, with my nephew, Payne. Heidi is an associate broker at Coldwell Banker.

I rarely write about my older sister (the one everyone guesses to be younger than I), though you'll find a tender scene here or there in the story archives:

" sister Heidi and I, pint-sized Thelma and Louises at the age of 13- and 9-years-old, used to careen across the dusty desert floor, tumbleweeds spinning in our wake. With Heidi at the wheel, we killed time... this after a breakfast of burritos and beer...." (an excerpt from the story Camionnette. Read it here)

I also refer to Heidi in this poem, "We Three":

...I had a sister who was prettier than I.
Jackie looks like her...

Another picture of my sister, here.

Heidi's sheepdogs, Winston and Truly. Have a minute for another story, about an endearing figure in French pop culture & beyond? You will learn a word that you will want to sing time and again, "Yalla!" Read my story about Soeur Emmanuelle, click here.


Sunflowers for my sister (c) Kristin Espinasse
It may be cold and snowing (two days ago...) here in the South of France—and the sunflower seeds may still be dormant, planted last week one-inch below the surface of the earth—but it is always the season to give your sister tournesols. Picture taken a few years back, near Joncquières (Vaucluse).

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


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Eileen - Charlottesville, VA

Hi Kristin,
I enjoyed reading today's story! I too am an Aries and my sister Kathleen is four years younger. She always smiles when I am a little frazzled or things don't go smoothly because I am usually on the ball. She is the opposite. I love having a sister and it is comforting to just pick up the phone and chat. The picture of Heidi and Payne is great!
I enjoyed the Camionnette story and Souer Emmanuelle. She reminds me of Mother Theresa. I would love to read your poem but the link didn't work. Have a great day!

Debby Montague

Thanks for starting my snowy New Hampshire day with a smile. My sister lives a continent away, but I can still "help" her walk the dog and she can help me clean the bathroom. And more convergence - I'm an Aries and she is four years younger than I.

Bonne journee, Kristin!


My sister and I had a very strained relationship for most of our lives. She is my older "half" sister, and I was my dad's first (and favorite) child. I can't blame her for feeling jealous, but I didn't know how to handle it as a young girl, then got busy with my life. We lived in separate states and only saw each other every few years at family gatherings.

About 5 years ago, all of that changed when we had a wonderful reunion at a Thanksgiving dinner at our nephew's home. We laughed, hugged, caught up on our lives, and relived happy memories (yes, there were some).

My sister is beautiful, lives a wonderful life with a husband who adores her, is healthy and fit (nearly 70 and teaching Zumba, playing tennis regularly) and is a social butterfly in her upscale retirement community in southern California ... amazing considering how painfully shy she used to be.

I regret losing so many years of our lives together, but I am overjoyed that we have found our sisterhood now. Treasure your dear sister.

Herm in Phoenix, Az

Salut Kristin,

I had the pleasure of meeting Heidi, la randonneuse (the hiker) at the Arizona desert hike which took place two years ago this month when you visited Phoenix. There were some good pictures of Heidi on your post covering that event.

À la prochaine


You and your sister are equally beautiful! My sister, too, is my dear friend (although when we shared a room in childhood, we were not so close!) And we, too, became even closer friends during her painful divorce a few years ago. I am so thankful she only lives a few cities away. It must be hard to have your sister so far from you!

Kristin Espinasse

Great to read about your sisters - thanks for sharing
Herm, here is the link to our hike, when Heidi joined us


This makes me miss my sissy-poo! We are so different as well. Thanks for sharing this slice of life.

Lin Powell

I am so glad I have a sister. My brothers are great, but we can't have the same talks that I can have with my sister. We can have an hour long talk about absolutely nothing.

Susan Dautel

Hi, Kristin. I knew I would love today's writing when I saw the title word. My sister Kathy first found your postings and got me hooked on them. Your ears should burn as we talk about you, your books, your bravery in sharing details of your interesting life and perspectives. You are a treasure that two other sisters share! Susan

Sevahn Merian from Michigan

What a funny, adorable story about your sister! She is very pretty too--like you! Sometimes sisters make great best friends, and often our best friends are like sisters. As for our pets--companions of a different category altogether, completing a rich circle of love.


Darling Kristi,

It's a few minutes past 10 a.m. here in Mexico and I am wondering why there are so few comments on your lovely story about sisters...then it dawned on me...SISTERS - OH MY GOD MY SISTER REFUSES TO SPEAK TO ME, perhaps your story has brought to mind to many of your friends here in the comment box the same sadness and anxiety I felt when I read your sweet story of our precious Heidi.

My sister has not spoken to me since our Mother died - and then I remember our last conversation as I was telling Reta how much I loved her and the other end of the phone was silent...a very awkward moment. I tried emails etc., but they were all unanswered.

I could list a hundred reasons why my sister hates me....I am still trying to let go of the abandonment by silence she has always silently heaped upon my head.

Perhaps your sweet story about Heidi reminded many of their loss.

Who knows why one day you can put out a story and receive hundreds of comments and the next day the box is empty.

I am missing everyone's comments but then again I guess we are not the center of everyone's world - they just happen to be the center of our world Kristi.

I love you Honey and your story was wonderful...maybe I'll try to write a nice long letter to Reta today and see what happens. I miss her so and wish she was in my life.



Edie Schmidt


I can see the resemblance between you and your sister and you are both tres attractive! I am the middle of 3 sisters and wish that I lived closer to both of them. I just talked to my older sister in Colorado last night and got caught up on the latest news. My younger sister lives on the Chesapeake Bay and we all got together for the wedding of her younger daughter at their lovely home on the water. It was a grand time.I just wish we could get together more often. I certainly believe in the power of sisterhood!

Edie from Savannah

Suzanne, Monroe Twp., NJ

I loved this story about you, Heidi and your friendship as sisters. I am lucky to have a sister with whom I am close and as you know with whom I travel each year. Margaret (sister), our mother and I will be in Nice for two weeks in March. We both live on the East Coast and can visit fairly easily but I treasure the shared vacations and those memories. BTW she is an Aries too and gets LOTS done on the internet. She's my go to technology expert (she was even like this as a child). And it is never taken for granted when you have a sister you can call to share your trials, your worries, your challenges at work and know that she will listen and give good advice. Thank you Margaret for being my sister and thank you Kristi for reminding me of that.

Kristin Espinasse

Just back from a walk with Smokey and I am teary-eyed over Suzannes comment to Margaret. I am lucky to have met these two, and their extraordinary mom, Portia. Speaking of moms -- thank you, Mom, for your note. And if my dear aunt is reading, it is thanks to her that I had the idea for word a day... my aunt Reta sent me the link to Anu Gargs word-a-day and I signed up, then began this French version. I hope these two sisters will reunite one day soon. 

joie blair

This brought quite a smile to my face. My sister is 3 years younger, but, she is Heidi and I am you. She is terribly organized (but does have her moments) and I am not. Mind you, like you I do make an attempt at it from time to time. As different as sisters sometimes seem to be, I think they are more alike although some don't want to admit it. We would both pull the rice and leftovers for the dogs (they love veggies and they are good for them). I am fortunate that mine lives only 10 miles away and we see eachother all the time.

Dawn Johnson

I loved your story about tor soeur, Your phone conversation sounds so much like the conversations I have with my sisters. We all live far from each other and sometimes months go by before we get a chance to get caught up but I love that we can always pick up where we left off. I love feeling like we are simply spending the day together through the phone and often I can get my whole house clean before I know it. I've been blessed to visit France a number of times but my dream is to take a trip there with mes souers in the near future.

Gordon Lyman

Good post.
A phrase that needs a correction, to: digestive tracts.


Ahhh...sisters...I had an older one (by 6 yrs)who I think never got over the feeling of being usurped by the new family member. We had a rocky relationship (jealousy issues) but in our later years (50's plus) managed to overcome most of them (especially after the death of our parents)She is gone now and I really miss her as we were the only siblings..
I really HOPE that your Mom and her sister can manage to find peace soon is too short to hang onto bad memories...Good luck with that letter Jules !!


Our dear Kristi,
What a wonderful,loving post. I am sure Heidi had tears when she read it, as did you,Kristi,when you wrote it.
I am also an Aries;my 'sister of my heart' is a December girl. We've been 'sisters' for over 60 years. We lost touch for twenty of them,like dear Jules has with her sister.
When we found each other again, all that went before was forgotten. We speak every day, and having her in my life is nothing less than a cherished gift.
I am certain that your wonderful mom will find this happening,too.
Thank you,dear friend, for reminding me of one of life's blessings.
Love, Natalia XO


How sweet to have kin that shares so close in your life and resemblance too. I always wondered what it would be like to have a sister, being stuck in age between two brothers. However my aunt, seven years older than I, lived with us in my younger years and I looked up to her so much. She has a spark that ignites spontaneous giggles and when email came into my life we have stuck together like cyber glue. It's hard being 2500 miles away in Hawaii, but most everyday we email each other on our treasures and trials of life - dogs, broken washers, our business trials and daily dos. Speaking of which, how funny, I'm out of dog food too! I think we're all sistas at heart. Jules I pray your love will be returned one day - how lovely you can keep an open heart.. L O V E is always the answer.

Diane Young

Dear Kristi,
You are so blessed to have a sister. I'm an only child with many cousins who live in other states, but I have some long term friends whom I count as sisters. I do pray that Jules and her sister will be reconciled soon. Life is too short to spend time at odds with anyone, relative or friend.

Helen Eatwell

Dear Kristi,
I thought the first photo was of YOU, your sister and you are so alike, both pretty! Just to add that you may just hear "La Petite Soeur" being used about a nun from "Les Petites Soeurs des Pauvres". They are a wonderful Order, whose apostolate is to the elderly poor and sick; each convent has a large care home attached to it with up to 76 residents. They're in 31 countries in the world, but are most well known in France. My daughter made her final profession with them last August, and she's totally happy and fulfilled - I just wish more young women would realise they could feel like that too in serving others. What an example your Sr. Emmanuelle was... By the way, my daughter told me that in France today a nun is often referred to as une religieuse. Best wishes, Helen.

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm ~ Applegate, Oregon

Truly a lovely story of sisterhood which sparked a flood of emotions, thoughts, memories…touched with sadness. Heidi is so beautiful, such a warm, welcoming smile.

I think having a sister is a blessing like no other. My sister and I were best friends growing up, though we have as different personalities as you and Heidi. We have not lived in the same state for over 15 years though the miles never mattered. The last couple years brought another kind of distance, one I would not have foretold. Yet, through thick and thin, divorce and marriage, we have been there for each other and may we continue to be. I am traveling to Seattle this weekend to be with my mom and sister to celebrate our dear mom’s birthday.

Thank you, Kristi, loved reading your tale of sisterly love!

Karen Whitcome - Towson, Md  USA

I've been blessed with three by blood and several other sister-friends who have been there for me (and vice versa) no matter what the stage of life we've gone into and out of. Sisters are the ones who are just there for you.

I love those sunflowers! Can't wait for the season to change now!!

Bill Facker

This post and the comments attached brought a memory of that wonderful moment in the old classic movie "White Christmas" when Rosemary Clooney & Vera-Ellen sang "Sisters". You go Girls!...and JULES -I join Kristin in hoping for you and your Sis to "find" one another again. Don't give up ... never give up, it will happen. Aloha, Bill

Bill Facker

I neglected to mention my own three little sisters .. I am the oldest sibling, along with them and my little brother. They (and my brother of course) are a gift from God. I am, like your Sister Kristin, the Aries in our family. Aloha, Bill

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks, Gordon. I am editing this post now and appreciate the correction. (LOL, did I write digestive traCKS? Off to fix it...!)


Speaking of dog food.

I am one of those pet owners who are interested in a natural lifestyle for their pets, and while practicing it myself, I could only guide you to these books to get ever rewarding results for your pet too:

The Whole Pet Diet: Eight Weeks to Great Health for Dogs and Cats [Paperback]

Dr. Pitcairn's New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats [Paperback]

Benefits are obvious -- your dog who is fed natural diet (yes, it means you cook for your dog too) feels energized, looks and acts happy and shiny! And all that at 3-5 min a day -- that long it takes to toss some meat and veggies into some other cooking pan while you cook for yourself. Oh, and did I mention -- NO DOCTORS VISITS (other than once a year reg check-up), and no money spent for any medications!

New levels of quality life for your furry companions! And for you too!

Gary Rodan

RE: Soeur, To your list of Soeur words let me quote from > where Alizee sings in her bubble bath: >>) so Grand or Grande Soeur. informally my Big Sister?

Gary Rodan

Sorry she sang "J'en ai marre de ma grand'Soeur qui gemit tout et qui pleure..."(accent aigu in gemit)

Barbara Johnson

I am so grateful to have a wonderful sister (who doesn't live close enough to me) and I am equally grateful that my daughters have a sister. Their brother is wonderful and very close to both of them, but sisters are so special.


A great post!Love your story - Heidi and your friendship as sisters.I am the middle of five kids, with boys the eldest and youngest and 3 girls in the middle. I was a tomboy and my sisters were girly girls so, even though we were much less than two years apart, we were very different.I enjoy my relationships with my 4 siblings.


I,grew up in an all male home and felt a certain amount of privilege in being the only girl. Sometimes, I felt excluded when my father took my brothers fishing and hunting. On top of that, my neighborhood was all male. So, I had to learn to cope in an all-male environment. Doing so made me confident and willing to take risks. On the down side I didn’t understand little girls in school. They always seemed so overly dramatic and unwilling to let things go. Boys would fight but then it was over. With girls, battles lingered below the surface. Even when I matured and entered the workplace, I handled men much better than women. Okay, rambling. But your prompts definitely sparked some thoughts and feelings. Thanks!

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