Tractopelle and Goings on Around here
Depaysement: A Change of Scenery unlocks inspiration

N'importe quoi: Deported from France, Kristin dusts herself off and imagines the ideal career.

Kristi driving ape truck
A clue as to where I really want to be these days: back in this ape triporteur with strawberries and avocados from my French garden in the truck bed and my dog by my side!

If you are new to this list, a warm and hearty bienvenue! When French Word-A-Day began in 2002 it ran 7 days a week--then 5, then 3, then 2. Now we are teetering at one post (and it is a re-run). Dear Lord, what is next? I don't know but I will hang on for the ride and I hope you will too! Meantime, today's essay looks back on a similar time of questioning.... Thank you very much for reading and for sharing!

TODAY'S EXPRESSION: n'importe quoi

     : nonsense

Hear Jean-Marc pronounce today's expression
=> Download MP3 or Wav

N'importe quoi. C'est du grand n'importe quoi.
Nonsense. It's rubbish.


by Kristin Espinasse


In 1993 a fed-up Frenchman bought me a one-way ticket out of his country. Jean-Marc and I tried living together, but all that chemistry fizzled out after merging two cultures under one Mediterranean roof. He didn’t understand my stock of peanut butter (the French don’t hoard food), and I didn’t understand why his mother was still ironing his shirts.


Back home in Arizona, there was no time to nurse my wounds. I needed a job! But I couldn’t go back to being a receptionist or to working in retail, and after spilling coffee in a customer’s lap waitressing was off limits.
Self-employment became my goal. Only by being one's own boss could one soar! Only by calling the shots could one skip out early for a matinee and lose herself in French life (on the big screen this time around). But which mêtier allowed for such freedom?

Girl Friday! I could be my own girl Friday! GFs got to do many things. Variety would be the spice of this new (if newly failed) life. I had all I needed to jumpstart this career: a used car and the adrenaline of a scorned lover! But what to list on my Girl Friday menu? What was I capable of besides getting kicked out of France?

Voyons… I could type a report. Wash a car. Walk a dog. I could even do makeovers--if make-up were not part of my love story’s demise… (On our second date, in Roussillon, Jean-Marc painted my face with the colorful ochre earth. But instead of delighting in the romantic gesture, I self-consciously touched up my make-up.) No use dwelling on past mistakes! My GF venture needed a name--something French, non?  

N'importe Quoi”--now there was a catchy title for a service-oriented company! But was it prudent? Could “Anything At All” be misconstrued?

Onward! I could just see my business card: The background, a colorful scene from French life and, centered, the title N'importe Quoi. And there, lower right, my name above Your Girl Friday.

Business-cardSome girl Friday! I never even managed to run my first errand, to the printer’s. Instead, I grabbed an opening in a shipping department, where I stuffed boxes full of Styrofoam as my heart fell to pieces.

It would take years to grasp the meaning of n'importe quoi. Today I sit here at my desk, a self-employed writer, shaking my head at the would-be Girl Friday of yesteryear. What a pity it would have been to call my venture "Nonsense" or to offer anything at all when destiny was calling me to follow my dream.

I called Jean-Marc to inform him I was returning to France. He then surprised us both inviting me to share his life for better or for worse. And with a little mud on my face nowadays--the good French earth--I’m finally comfortable enough in my own skin to share myself with him.

Thanks to the editorial at France Today for printing this story and for offering the catchy subtitle seen in the subject line of this post. 

adieu = farewell, literally "until God"
le métier = profession
voyons = let's see
n’importe quoi = nonsense


Everything in this bowl came from our permaculture garden--including the arugula! Each morning it is a great pleasure to hunt for breakfast and to plan which bushes and trees will be added to the edible landscape. What ambition I once felt for publishing, seems to be dissipating into the balmy air above my strawberry patch! So, dear reader,  I will carefully ride out this moment, preferably in that cute orange truck you saw in the opening to this post =-)


His protective T-shirt reads: "Save Water. Drink rosé."

Smokey is doing fine after the removal of a second cancerous lump (un mastocytome or mast cell tumor). The first was on his thigh, the second near his shoulder. He is his same old self and we will continue to give him belly rubs, shoulder massages, and pats all around to keep on top of these horrible growths.

Words in a french lifeWORDS IN A FRENCH LIFE
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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.

Patty Cargill

I will happily take French Word a Day ANY day I can get it! As a long-time follower, I am invested in the ever unfolding, heartfelt stories that you offer. We have laughed, cried and sighed with you, et la famille Espinasse, and I feel inspired by your life. You have many admirable qualities and one of the finest is your openness and willingness to put the R E A L you out there, not some prettied-up, la de dah version of la vie francaise. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Kristin. I wish you the very best, toujours, from Roanoke--a lovely Fall day here in the mountains.

p.s. That beautiful plate of food--what a gardener you have become!

Susan Palmer

Bon jour! Where can one buy the t-shirt the doggie is wearing? Merck!


Don't give up on your writing. I agree with all that Patty says above. I write children's books and was told something once by an illustrator that made good sense to me. Though your books have been successful, don't hang your hopes for lasting fame on any one of them. Each has its season to shine in the sun, then you just go on to writing the next.
You might also think of refreshing yourself by expanding into writing children's books. You need not be an illustrator. Many children's agents and editors will look at text alone. The publishing house finds and pays the illustrator. They run 32 pages and usually no more than 500 words or so. You can find instruction on writing them all over the web. You might try your hand at one.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you so much,  Patty!!
Susan, I think it was given to Jean-Marc in Sainte Cécile-les-Vignes. If I find more info I will post it!
Paul,  recently, I have begun thinking about childrens books...with Smokey =-)  Thank you for your encouragement!


Hi Kristin,
I remember this post. I realized it when I read your concern about naming your service N'importe Quoi.

catharine ewart-touzot

wonderful story


This story has always been a favourite of mine and I love that charming photo of you. Follow your intuition, Kristin. If its whispers are too subtle, allow yourself to get quiet and wait patiently. Sounds like you are in the perfect spot at this time, in your garden, enjoying its bounty while taking care of Smokey. I'm so glad to read that he's doing well!

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
I remember this story too and I love it! I love the colorful picture of your garden bounty! Give Smokey a hug for me! Wish I could make it to the wine tasting! My daughter, Tara is a wine tasting associate at a local vineyard. She is learning all about the different varietals, the wine notes, the terroir, etc. She loves it!

Joy Bryden

Another lovely way to start the day, I always look forward to your posts and pictures, you share so honestly and delightfully with us! Give Smokey a kiss from me


I remember that story from you book. I read it long ago. I was and am so envious that you found Jean Marc and your French life. I love reconnecting with you on FB and Instagram !


Thanks for the link. I already had the paperback, but those are too hard for me to read these days, so now I have it on my Kindle Fire. I'm looking forward to revisiting the stories of your adventure. You have enriched my life. Thank you for helping to live in France vicariously.

Karen Cafarella

I love this story and really all your stories. Thanks for sharing your adventures. You are a precious friend to me.


Elizabeth Dawson

This is a beautifu story. You are such an inspiration, such a gift to us all. Thank you.

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,

Where you seem to be now is a familiar story. I think it has to do with where one is in life. Life unfolds and a dream is realized. It sustains the soul to be able to do something fulfilling while enriching the lives of others and being able to focus on family at the same time. Eventually, family needs start to change, lifestyle changes, new interests emerge and perhaps with them, a new joy. At a certain point, energy for the original dream starts to wane. What was once a joy becomes an effort and the inside struggle begins. So much gained in life over the past many years has come from fulfilling that dream. Those opportunities and relationships could be lost. So how to blend the old and the new?

I have come to realize that this doesn't happen just once in our circumstances are ever-changing and our ability to reset can be challenging. My mom used to say, "Have the courage of your convictions". My dad would add, "it builds character". So, having the courage of one's convictions builds character? The years have taught me that they had something there!

I do believe that you have the courage of your convictions and will figure this one out. Just remember, you are so appreciated by so many...


Good lesson in persistence...following your dreams...glad you did, Kristi!

Kristin Espinasse

Chris,  Your words are so comforting and encouraging. And today I enjoyed your parents wisdom. Thank you.
I want to thank everyone who has written in here,  or who will write in after this comment. Your words, encouragement,  and support touch me deeply. I will be back next week with another word. Have a lovely rest of the week.

julie camp

Life is not to save or squander. Spend it with abandon doing what feeds your gardens, family and soul. You are not in debt to readers, although we relish your brilliant, authentic voice whenever it calls. We grow with you and because of you. Forever...julie

Lana Stephen

I love your posts. You don't have to do it on a schedule. It is like getting an email from a friend and welcome when ever it is sent. I love the truck! You look so happy.

Joanne Ablan

Bonjour, Kristin,
What about having your mother illustrate your children's books?
Bonne chance!
Joanne, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, USA

Trina, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

What a great idea to write for children about the adventures of a French life with Smokey.

Joanne has a great idea, if Jules would have the passion for it, that is. (I could understand how some artists may not; painting similar pieces might be found too repetitive for some.)

During graduate school, I met a student who wrote a book and put a call out to illustrators on Craigslist and found a lovely artist. (I think she had each of them send in their rendition of something she described.) 2 souls fulfilling dreams.

Best to you in all your endeavors, Kristin. Post whenever you please ... like writing a friend a letter. Bisous xoxo

Cynthia P. Lewis

Dear Kristin,
Your readers have already made wise, loving and thoughtful comments and I would compress them into a teaspoon for you to sprinkle over your morning fruit. I feel that I have grown maybe a bit more perceptive after reading FWAD over the years and I know, without a doubt, that you have brought me much enjoyment! For this I send you my sincere thanks and best wishes. {Like Lana said, just write when the mood strikes you ... :)

Stacy - Sweet Life Farm

I love today's story and look forward to any post from you. Yes, we readers laugh, cry, smile, stumble and dance right along with you!

I can relate to the "familiar story" Chris speaks of above. It is here I find myself: outgrowing old dreams, searching for new ones to weave into my life story, unsure of what still fits and what needs altering. I keep coming back to Rilke, “Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. in the question.”

Listen to your heart,dear Kristi, it is this part of you that speaks so graciously, be it through your writing or whatever form you choose. I love you. xoxo

Yes, love this story. It would make a great movie. Both pictures are great. My garden is pretty much done now. Glad to see that Smokey is doing well and I too love the t-shirt. Maybe you could print up your own winery t-shirts with something similar and sell them on your website. Darn, we will be one week too late to make the wine tasting but still looking forward to meeting you in October.

Vada Hendrickson

Hi Kristi
Your stories always make my day ~ I read them over & over and also those in the archives. What a beautiful yummy looking salad right from your garden - fantastic - and I am SO glad that Smokey is doing fine. I still love that yogurt cake video you made with Smokey & to commence writing children books with Smokey would be absolutely perfect. You could read your books to Smokey and get his opinions - what fun !! Everything about you is remarkable and beautiful. Many kisses & hugs to Smokey and you & your wonderful family.
Wishing you the VERY Best Always, xxxxxooooo
ciao bella,
Vada, West Vancouver, BC, Canada


Our dearest Kristi,
You have the most wonderful way of wrapping your fortunate readers in hugs and giving us the privilege of being part of your life.
No matter what you write(or grow!)we are all better for having you in our days and filling us with inspiration to see what really matters.
And! SO glad dear Smokey is recovering....this is from your love and good care of him.
(I always remember that Dog is God spelled backwards.)
Natalia XO

Leslie in Oregon

Dear Kristin,

As your next professional endeavors take shape in your heart and mind, please know that your blog readers savor every single post you write, and your writing and thinking grow and refine as you write those posts. I do not say that to pressure you to post, but to reinforce that writing your posts is a very positive purposeful activity. That said, writing a series of children's books with Smokey (and Breizh?) as Franco-American characters could be a fascinating new challenge. Speaking of Smokey, I am very happy to hear of his successful surgery. He is an extraordinary creature, and you take such wonderful care of him. Seeing the gorgeous salad from your permaculture garden leads me to wonder whether Smokey likes fresh fruit. (My Golden, Henry, does.) Eating a bit of it might hasten his healing (but remember, no grapes!)

Best wishes, Leslie


From 'un métier' to 'une profession'! (NB: not 'mêtier)

Marianne Rankin

I would have expected that "save water" would be "conservez l'eau."

I also thought that in addition to the meanings in the post, "n'importe quoi" meant "no matter [what]." For instance, "What shall we do?" - "N'importe quoi" = it doesn't matter, anything. Or "N'importe quoi que je fais" = no matter what I do.

Kristin, we are always glad to hear from you, once a week, once a month, or as the spirit moves you. Write when you wish, and please don't feel obligated or burdened. We will enjoy a post whenever it comes, which might be occasionally or even rarely. We appreciate whatever you send.

Julie Farrar

I love the idea of Smokey-doke books. Especially because of all the trouble he's had in his short life. He's an inspiration.

Ophelia Paine

Kristin - Thank you for clarifying this phrase which I have obviously never understood correctly! BTW, we are renting the Mas de la Perdrix the last week of September, so I will think of you and Jean-Marc in Roussillon. I think you are too far away for us to make the wine-tasting, but hope you have lots of visitors. All the best to you both.

Teresa in NJ

Dear Kristi,
All the above readers' comments have as usual, voiced most of my thoughts and feelings about your blog. I have followed it since the beginning, and also have your wonderful books. So of course I have anxiously checked my email each day in hopes of a post, at the same time fully understanding your need to have your family life and personal time. (Which is where your material comes from anyway.)Thank you for being so generous with your audience in all of your writings. Your faith, courage, honesty, humor, and unfailing love are some of the main reason why I (we?) follow you. For me though, there is also the strong connection I feel to you and you family, as I identify with nearly all you write. My family is similar ( but larger) to yours and we have so many similar situations- good and bad. I also am at a time where I am trying to find my direction for this next stage in life. So, as per usual I am verbose, and my children would be rolling their eyes. But I just wanted to add my appreciation and encouragement, in your personal and professional endeavors, past and future. Whatever you share I will enthusiastically read and I hope you'll always keep us "posted". Also so many of your photos are incredible and " frame worthy". God bless you, your lovely family, and all you do- and here's hoping to meet you at one of your winetastings- our trip to la belle France is way overdue!! Amen!!

Kathleen from Connecticut

A book about Smokey would be wonderful. He has had so many adventures and if you did it from his perspective it woulld be charming.
We are back in Connecticut and back to reality and work.
A couple of plugs......
We found a great restaurant ( Le Blue Restaurant in Frontigan Plage- south of Montpellier) with beach chairs where you can eat, sun yourselves and swim all at the same place.
Then we did a 12K walk with food and whine tastings, sponsored by the Lions Club in Nevers, called the Promenade Groumande Nivernaise 2015. The money goes to charity. Check it out on YouTube.

Kathleen and Dean

Diane Young

Food and whine? Oh, what our fingers do to us when trying to send an email! No whine, no groumande, but good wine for the gourmande francaise! Children would probably respond with glee to Smokey Dokey. Bonne chance whatever you undertake. We're with you.

Lee Isbell

I haven't been commenting much over the past few months. By the time you reach my time zone, it seems like so much has already been said, I can't think of anything new.

I hope you still have the enthusiasm to write to us once a week. Some friends and I will be arriving in Toulouse at about the time your winetasting begins. We'll be staying there a few days, followed by a few days in Carcassonne, then a week in a rental house in Lourmarin. We move on to Paris and I'll be joining a reunion of writing workshop friends in Essoyes. I'm really looking forward to this trip. Have been flipping through my pictures of past trips to get me really in the mood!

Arthur Breaux

Reading these newsletters bring forth the spirit of what you do. I too dont get to them soon enough to contribute anything new. Just keep up as you can. Its a wonderful thing.

EIleen Burns

Dear, dear Kristin, I am no longer receiving your blog posts in my e-mail. My beloved father, Jack, is very sick and loves hearing me read your writing to him...I hope that all is well with you and yours. MUCH LOVE, Eileen Burns

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