Quelle idée! = What a crazy idea! Or was it?
To ask for guidance or advice in French

An Elephant in the Room? Chez moi?

Elephants in France

These elephants were spotted on a French door--and in the window--of a home in Pernes-les-Fontaines. As for elephants in the room, read on in today's missive.

"l'éléphant dans la pièce"

The English expression "elephant in the room", which literally signifies [in French] "éléphant dans la pièce" but which mustn't be translated as such in French, designates "something very important and very obvious, that we should therefore see, but that we don't want to admit or recognise and that we don't want to talk about" (French translation and credits, below)...

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L'expression anglaise « elephant in the room », qui signifie littéralement « éléphant dans la pièce » mais qui ne doit pas être traduite ainsi en français, désigne « quelque chose de très important et de très évident, que l'on devrait donc voir, mais que l'on ne veut pas admettre ou reconnaître et dont on ne veut pas discuter ».... (from Anglais Practique - Practical English)

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

I received an email, day before yesterday, from a longtime reader. Her message echoed another reader's note, received, coincidentally an hour before:

Dear Kristin,

I wonder why you have never mentioned your cats after they disappeared. It's the elephant in the room: we know you must be heart-broken and so are so many of your readers, vicariously. This may sound weird, but it's hard to just go on and forget them, as a reader. Maybe I missed an update. I don't wish to cause you pain by saying this.


No matter how good-intentioned the inquiry, I shriveled inside. But before clicking shut the email, the words "elephant in the room" reached out and brushed me--as gently as a 200 pound trunk.

I sat back, trying to find the humor in the current situation. "Well, that's not the only elephant in the room!" I croaked, and I shook my head, as if shaking it would loosen the laughter inside of me. Instead, it seemed to tighten the invisible noose around my neck.  You certainly know the feeling, Dear Reader, if you've ever loved.

But today, the breakthrough came and my feet are touching the ground again. The cats are not back but my relationship is intact and, suddenly, the tears have broken loose--like rain over a scorched desert.

Re the elephant in the room. They have been there all along. They are scattered across these story archives, disguised in pink tutus, little sparkle wings on their backs. None of us have the monopoly on Happy Ever After. If we did, why would we ever try?--to grow, to change, to fly


Kristi and Smokey

Me and Smokey. Dog therapy: stronger than a shot of gin, and without the side effects of medecine.

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Alyssa Ross Eppich

Thank you, Kristin-I know how hard having an elephant in the room is. I'm thinking of you these days.

Lee Mears

Thank you for the "Dog Therapy" photo of you and Smokey. It really gave me a lift this morning.

Leisa Hunter Smith

Oh dear Kristin, I have been thinking similar thoughts to the reader(s) who wrote in, secretly hoping against hope that your dear kitties had returned home.
Please know your readers, like me, send love, compassion and support...and shed tears with you, for all that is happening in your life.
We have elephants residing here in Australia too. This week has been one of the worst I have encountered in my life, right next to the week I went in rehab. But I have to believe that if I take it a minute at a time, it will improve......it must. Keep working your recovery and know that you are supported, from souls all over the world. x

Heather in Arles

Your readers care for you so much Kristi. They are so invested in your life and what you share with them. And you are incredibly honest and sharing - one of the things that makes your writing unique. But all of us who write blogs have certain things that we don't share. Some are simply too painful. I am grateful for all that you do and for your courage - it is inspiring. And yes, thank you for that happy-inducing photo of you and Le Smoke!

OK, now for another "elephant in the room" that many of us are dealing with right now...the possible demise of Feedburner! I came over to say Hello today because out of the blue I realized that I haven't had an email notice from you in some time. I have had the same problem and only realized once half of my list was gone! Luckily, I do have a backed up list but still...I will have to enter in manually a couple of hundred while making the move over to Mail Chimp (and hoping that I can figure it out!)...which is nothing compared to your 30k!

Sorry to add fuel to the fire but wanted to give you a heads up just in case...sending Love and Strength,

Debra Swanbrow-Quenaudon

You rock, Kristin! Your honesty is freedom itself...we are all locked up in our own "wish that hadn't happened-s" dancing around "elephants"...and there's still Smokey to love. You are right about "dog therapy." It's good stuff. Life's surprises serve a purpose even if they don't always make us happy. I love reading your blog.

Sevahn Merian from Michigan

Dear Kristin,

I have been praying for your cats to come home to you all this time, and admire how you keep your readers happy by going with the flow, making each day count, even as your heart is broken. I hope that one day you will again see your cats, or have their extended family (cat cousins perhaps?) come live with you. Your photos are keepers, and I put them on my computer as wallpaper, changing the background as the months and seasons go by.

You have a lovely heart.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
Love the photo of you and Smokey! Thinking about you and hoping your day is looking good! Thinking about you! I like to think that the cats were picked up by a caring animal lover!

joie in carmel-by-the-sea

I think the elephant is leaving the room. You said the one important word....my relationship. There is something special about dog therapy. Hugs.

Betty Doolittle Tuininga

Dear Kristin,

My heart is with you. I remember when my Bijou disappeared after a mad love affair of 18 years....my heart still breaks all these years later. Makes me wonder how people can actually not take care of their pets. The pictures of you and your beloved dogs bring me such joy. I no longer can have pets and miss them dearly.
It is obvious that they are truly loved...bj

karen kearney

So sorry for your loss and relieved that you can now grieve because you have had the courage to face that elephant in the room.
I hope that your cats have somehow managed to survive. Most vets recommend keeping cats indoors for their own well being and to protect the birds that they prey on. If they never go out they don't miss it.
Thank you for all your good work and openness. I enjoy your honesty and artistry.

Chris Allin

Dear Kristin,

We all share in the human condition. No wonder you are able to touch us deeply when you are so openly honest. Glad to hear Jean-Marc's voice today. (I can still hear him saying "my beautiful wife, Kristi".) Unconditional love... our dogs offer it easily yet we humans must work at it. My heart is still aching for your kitties~

Micki Simms

Dear Kristin,

As a psychotherapist, I think your response about the "elephants in the room having been there all the time" and statement that "none of us has the monopoly on Happy Ever After" are "right on!" No one wants to continue to dwell on a loss in a public forum. Had the cats returned, knowing you and your joie de vivre, there would have been an on-line celebration; "The Prodigal Cats Return!" That was not to be. We, the readers, have to look between the lines and be sensitive to your grief, perhaps only saying, "I'm so sad that there's been no word of the cats" to let you know that we "get it." And yes, not better therapy than "dog" or (in my case) "cat" therapy! It's cheaper and no chance of a hangover or missed dose!

Love the site; your work is inspiring,


Micki ♡ 😸

catharine ewart-touzot

seems that there are quite a lot of cat lovers among your readers..I never was,and not sure I am yet, but I kept my son's cat while he was deployed and they are certainly lovable little creatures. They are quite unlike my dogs,in behavior and quite different in personalities. But like all creatures that we take the time to care for and fall in love with when they are no longer there the hole they leave is enormous. I think it is the same for contacts and acquaintances also..they become part of our lives when we miss in varying degrees when no longer there..your blog is certainly something we all would miss so we do enjoy and appreciate the effort from you for us to continue in your life..and as to the elephants maybe those are for us to share mainly with our dogs.

Nancy, San Antonio, Texas

Good morning! So relieved to hear about your relationship. Was very concerned for you and JM. Hope you have a wonderful day with your family.

Karen from Towson, Md

It's an unspeakable sense of loss. Pink tutu shaped tears are enough.

karen skilling

I think my cats keep me alive. Could your cats have left to go to your former home? They will; go miles and miles to get where they think is home.

Betty Gleason

So happy your relationship storm has passed. Hope it makes you both stronger together. Here's hoping a passing stranger picked up the kittens & is loving them well. Life is full of lost & found loves, and maybe elephants too.

Bettye Dew

As a writer of essays, Kristin, you follow in the footsteps of Michel de Montaigne, the 16th century Frenchman who fathered the form. Montaigne wrote about his irritations, his joys, his health, his blunders, his faults, and whatever tweaked his curiosity. With his great sense of human nature, he knew that readers tend to trust those who are willing to admit their own deficiencies and uncertainties. And yet, he recognized that the drive toward candor and self-disclosure should only go so far. Since his time, many great essayists have managed to be both frank and protective of their privacy. Kristin, you can be very proud that you are fulfilling Montaigne’s charge to present to readers a portrait of a complex human being. Congratulations on “First French Essais,” which I greatly enjoyed reading.

Cecile Warnock

Dear Kristin, As a reader of only a few months, today as I read through some of the recent guest posts, it is as if these people have met you. Well, I haven't - I came to your blog somehow, I can't recall just how, and took more time to read some posting than others, but the one thing that resonated was the sincerity and genuine openness in your writing. And then I was introduced to Jean Marc on your blog....OK, so aside from the fact that he is handsome and he is French and has this grand passion for grapes and an attachment to his leather sacque, and I am a huge francophile having lived near Bordeaux for four years as a young girl and travelled back to France when I could over the years, whenever you write about him and share pieces of your life together, it is apparent to me that you have a wonderful and loving partnership. Why did I feel upset after reading an earlier posting that there might be trouble between you and Jean Marc? I know you only from your pen and some photos...... but I was and it did not make me happy! I thought "how can this be?" So "whew" alors, all is okay.

In our house there is one large elephant who visits and then there are a few small ones that drop in. Managing them can be a bit dicey! I would rather have a visit with the elephants in the wild (I do love the creatures) rather than have them plop into in my living room. My current visiting elephant is reminding me to take time for the things I care about. To do the things I used to do before I took on a marriage partner so I don't miss out on thing like JM coming to Washington DC last year. It's not like I don't know to do that, I just let it happen and then fuss at myself, lamenting about what I missed. I thought it would be fun to taste the wine but really I wanted to meet the man you write about who is so loving and funny. I made a reservation for the dinner, but my husband, a rather snobbish wine lover and collector, "didn't know who this person was or anything about his wine", so I cancelled. I was going to the wine tasting but didn't. Lesson learned (yet again), to go anyway because you might miss learning something, meeting someone special, having a delightful experience. Rather random perhaps as a response to your message today, but I have been meaning to write. I have your book, plan to read when we go to the beach in two weeks. I am a cat lover - I missed the posting that they disappeared which is very sad to hear and not easy for you to wait for them to return. Send an angel to find them. C

Diane Young

Chere Kristi,
Think that maybe someone has found them who really needed them more than you, as you have Smokey and Braise. Dame Julian said after her spiritual experiences that "all will be well" and it will in God's time. You make us all remember the important things in life. And Sunday will be a time of celebration and warm memories pour notre meres qui sont avec le Bon Dieu. Cherish each day for the beauty of creation.

Faye Stampe, Gleneden Beach, OR

I was also wondering about your little cats. I'm so sorry --- maybe they decided to take off on their own.

Everyone has the "elephant in the room" issues. When I was doing marriage counseling --- we used to say --- where are all the functional families? Ha. They don't exist. Because it's human beings trying to co exist --- and that is always a challenge!

I loved the photo --- stay well!

judi dunn

.Dear Kristin... your philosophy is a practical one... and I think to be able to move thru life in a 'pragmatic' manner is a mode of survival for all of us... to love someone , including pets and to lose them is a letting go that is the most difficult of all emotions to wade thru....keep your hopes up that they may return and who knows.... there may be a little meow at your doorstep someday..keep your sunny outlook and your heart filled with love... Judi from Tallahassee, Fl..

Kitty Wilson-Pote

Such a marvellous and moving vignette from the heart today! Thanks, thanks, thanks. Those two little rascals who've vanished continue to romp in all our hearts too, Kristi, and continue Out There among all the other beloved companion critters inexplicably and suddenly gone. Glad they blessed us all for a time here. I too lost a beloved cat-girl recently, a little silver limpet who spent most of her time draped over my right shoulder. Though an indoor cat, she bolted out past the dog late one freezing winter night and never returned. My heart aches without her, yet she chose that route to whatever freedom she was after. The love lingers forever.
So too, obviously, in key relationships that are stressed, when the roots are strong the blooms arise anew -- hurray for that natural rhythm. It keeps us questing, learning, reaching for the best loving balance, always.
Merci for how much you enrich our lives and spirits with all you express -- you are a treasure.

Kristin Espinasse

Hello Cecile, and bonjour to all who are reading. Reading your stories and your sharings (Bettye, loved the Montagne reference) is the most enjoyable thing. Thank you all so much for tender words and, as Chris says, being a part of the human condition enough to relate to these stories. Every comment here is appreciated and savored. Merci beaucoup!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Kitty. What a lovely thoughts your shared, including:

So too, obviously, in key relationships that are stressed, when the roots are strong the blooms arise anew -- hurray for that natural rhythm

Joanne Ablan

C'ést très émouvant, ce photo de vous et Smokey. Tous les deux a des blessures invisibles et visibles, n'est-ce pas? À cause de la joie
sur les visages de vous et votre gentil chien, je me fait rappeler avec
affection le manège médiéval à Crève-Coeur en printemps quand la
pelouse est très verte! New book title: Always On the Mend!
Amicalement, Joanne, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA

Mary in Oregon

My cat was trying to get out my door last week, and in preventing that, I twisted my body, slipped, fell on my stairs and now I am in a cast for 6 weeks after wrist surgery. I do not blame my cat -- I love him dearly.

Your kitties have been sadly missed by me ,too. Your beautiful dogs are there for you - and for that I have compassion for the loneliness that they will try to overcome. Kiss their foreheads for me.


Our dear Kristi,
What a beautiful post today,filled with strength to keep going,no matter how many elephants we are forced to entertain at one time.You never stop giving us inspiration to overcome whatever it is that we must,and strength to face it because we know that we are not alone.
What a gift you have!
I wish we could tell you how your honesty,love and candor gives us a beacon to follow.
Prayers of thanks that all is--and will be-- well.
You fill me with hugs!
Love, Natalia XO

edie schmidt

Ce n'est pas la mer a boire!
But we know how cats love to roam so perhaps they've found another home. We once had a beautiful but flaky Abyssinian cat who kept running away and finally never came back. I think we were just a way station in the life of the cat.

Edie from Savannah

Vivian Langley

Kristin, Each morning,I can hardly wait to get your messages, always heartwarming and joyful. I had forgotten about the kittens; elephant in the house; I am not a cat person. The picture of you and Smokey say it all. Merci. Vivian

Joan Linneman

Hello, everyone! I love all your comments.
Joan L.

Hilary Frye

It may not have been news in France, but Edie Brickell and her spouse had to appear in court after a lover's spat escalated to a 911 call. Nothing serious though; he broke her heart and she bloodied his ear.

Karen from Phoenix

Sending BIG HUGS your way.


ooooooh, all will be well. you'll see.
you have a direct line to your inner wisdom- she will not fail you. just breathe

jan greene

Kristin, We are with you in this time of stress and release. It seems that nothing is quite as easy as we hoped and nothing resolves as quickly as we desire. But, you are quite the rock of all this and prayers going your way for continued healing and peace with JM. jan greene

Cynthia Lewis

Dear Kristin,

I was late reading your post today....by now you sound asleep. Your explanation of the expression "les elephants dans la piece" made me think of all the "elephants" which we keep in our hearts over the years: animals which we have loved and lost as well as people whom we have dearly loved and who are now deceased. Tears well up when we think of them. Life is precious and fragile. Each moment is important. Thank you for your thoughts today. My best, Cynthia (P.S. I never worried for a moment about you and Jean-Marc....you love each other and always will.)


Please take heart from a long time cat owner :-) I am a HUGE believer in cats enjoying the outdoors -- just like dogs do! If they have their claws intact and have some safe escape routes (hiding under porches or climbing trees) they can avoid most predators and/or danger. Cats do tend to be "wanderers" before they are neutered which may be driven by hormones or curiosity. I have had to walk a mile and go to the local animal shelter when my young cat wandered aimlessly the week before he was neutered. Thank goodness, i found him at the animal shelter. After being neutered, he stayed closer to home in his "territory" (our large yard) much better. Please do not feel bad or ashamed -- animals and pets are part of the natural world and many things can happen in nature with the best intentions. Anyway, i just wanted to give you a boost.


You may be a huge (self righteous) believer in outdoor cats but I'm a believer in song birds and other species who are native to the environment. Cats are an invasive species that kill hundreds of thousands of birds, rodents, etc. per year. Be a compassionate environmentalist, if you must own cats--keep them indoors!

Chris Allin


One of the greatest threats to the songbirds in our back yard, more than our neighbor's cat or roaming bobcats, is other birds! I once spent a whole weekend chasing a bluejay away from the nest of a house wren in a flower pot on the patio. How disheartening it was to come home from work on Monday and find broken egg shells on the ground under the nest. But the bluejay was redeemed in our little back yard world. A Cooper's hawk will sometimes sit in the woods, stalking the bird feeders where a variety of little songbirds gather. The bluejay will sound a mighty alarm, squawking and flying around until the hawk takes flight. We have come to realize that it is the balance of nature we are witnessing.


Kristi, I admire your gentle honesty and the talent to pour your heart out onto the page, or the screen, in this case. Thinking of you and sending a big hug!


As the Elephant tromps off... may you know that we are all part of your French world. We feel the loss if unspoken or spoken by encouraging words and are here to help you back up. Non of us, I'm sure as good as Le Smoke... but virtual hugs are being sent to you. We at some point have suffered loss of some sort and I'm glad you shared. Sharing is healing! Thank you for updating us and warm hugs from Louisiana.


Dear Kristin,
I think I need to examine the herd of elephants in my own room!
I see that since I wrote to you.
A friend once explained to me, "One loss brings up all the others." She was talking about the sudden death of her ex-husband, and how inexplicably(to her) it shook her to her core.
I think the fact that your writing is so moving combined with my own elephants to make your disappeared cats so hard to take. As other readers have noted, you are very open and candid. You are wise to protect your privacy after all you reveal, yet we readers will take as much as you give us. Thanks for writing so beautifully.
I hope to own my feelings more. The fault is not yours!



Kristin Espinasse

Just waking up, now, to Chris and Joys messages--which fill me with Natalia Hugs! (If you read these comments, you know those hugs!) Chris, I did not even see the connection, that time. Now that you mention the yanking and the crooked path--and home--I do! Each one of us travels through our days this way, never knowing what is around the corner. I dont mean that in a negative way--for we can move with a smile on our face and wonder and gratitiude in our heart. 

Joy, thank you for your generous donation and for the bonne continuation encouragements, to keep on writing. Not everyone wants to read these kinds of stories, preferring the journal to return to lighter, whimsical topics. But this column is also a record of our days--and remembering them helps me to appreciate... everything!

HAPPY MOTHeRS DAY MOM!!--and to all Mothers out there (including my husband, who is a Maman Poule--out mothering his vines this morning.

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