Something to Celebrate!

Cat in La Ciotat
If I were a 20-year sober cat, this is what my life would look like. I love this imperfect, slightly crooked picture and hope you do too for a future postcard. Meantime, many thanks for your postcard orders!


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse
“In The Clouds”

I don’t know what it is about my mind but sometimes the most obvious things escape me. I am a dreamer. Blame it on that. But when I quit floating through the moment, and stop to focus, I do see the picture! 

This week, and today specifically, I am pausing to visualize two decades of sobriety. Twenty years ago today I woke up to a new and blessed beginning. I remember it vividly: the decision to stop drinking. It came with tears. These weren’t larmes of regret, they were and remain tears of surrender.

This new beginning happened around the time this blog began, and it--this promise to myself--would become an anchor. No matter how many times we moved homes, or the ups and downs of life, this gift of sobriety would hold me steady through many trials and changes. 

If sobriety is an anchor, faith is the solid ground beneath it. What would I do without my faith? I don’t know, but one thing I would not do is give it up. Because looking over 55 years of life, Faith is the one constant--faith and grace (can the two words be interchanged?)

I was walking home from church yesterday when I overheard a young woman walking toward me. The woman with the Australian accent was saying to her companion: “When I look back over my life...I realize God has always been there....

I thought to myself, Amen. My next thought was, Maybe that was an angel...an angel with an Australian accent!

No matter how far along my faith walk, or my sobriety walk, I still need these reminders that I am not alone. God has my back.

Back to the woman’s message...about finding God in retrospect...This is exactly what I say to my grown children or to anyone who struggles with faith: Just look back over your life... then you will see God in action. It is grace that carries us through. Are you ever amazed at how you have survived? But for the grace of God go I.

Last week our son joined us here for lunch. I left the chili to simmer and joined my husband and Max in the garden, where they were enjoying apéritifs. Two bottles of wine were opened for the tasting, and on the table, a bucket of sea urchins the two men had just caught. I picked up a spoon and began savoring les oursins, while carefully tuning into the conversation.

Max was telling his dad about how he had emptied our cellar of more wines, transferring them to his own storage unit at his new condo
”That’s great, Max!” I said, relieved to have more space freed up in our home (I’m hoping the guys will move my washing machine to the cellar, and free up space in our bathroom—which we will hopefully one day renovate.)

Jean-Marc chuckled, "Good thing you took it before Mom drank it!" 

"You two should thank me!" I said, ignoring my husband’s joke. “Think of all the wine and money I have saved you over the years. Just imagine...

...At one-half bottle a day (sounds like a lot but it's = to a glass at lunch and two glasses at dinner...)

...times 4 weeks (let’s say 15 bottles a month...)

...times one year ( 180 bottles)

...times 19 years...

That is almost 3500 bottles!

While Max and I were  busy being very impressed by this calculation, Jean-Marc accidentally redeemed himself from the bad joke he told earlier:

"It has been 20 years, Chérie."

Oh my goodness. He is right! And today, February 6th, marks the day! I may be a little in the clouds...but I am still floating around, amongst family and life, enjoying every precious moment. Had I not made that decision 20 years ago, I don’t know where I would be today. And that is a sobering thought.

 

IN CELEBRATION: The Lost Gardens Memoir, now $20
In celebration of this milestone, our story "The Lost Gardens" is now a symbolic $20 instead of $29 when you purchase with this link. If you have been meaning to read about our life at two vineyards--following my sobriety--this is the time! Our husband/wife memoir is online, readable in blog format. Upon checkout, you will be given two passwords to enter the website, where you can begin reading right away. Click here to order The Lost Gardens Memoir

Bike in Provence France
Bye for now, and back to dreaming up future postcards. How do you like the two images in today's post? Let me know and thank you for your postcard orders. and for the various ways you help out this journal. I truly appreciate your support.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Advice for Each Decade of Life & Surrender: A Mother Daughter update

Cafe de l'horloge la ciotat france
Would this picture be good for the La Ciotat postcard series? Thanks for your helpful feedback and for your postcard orders this week! I am enjoying the quiet, mindful activity of addressing envelopes and my handwriting is slowly improving :-)

TODAY’S WORD: s'abandonner

: to surrender yourself to, to unburden yourself 


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

As I walked into Le Café de L’Horloge two customers seated near le comptoir offered a warm bonjour.

"Boh-wher!" I replied, or tried to. For once it wasn't my faulty accent to blame. The freezing Mistral had numbed my face during the 30-minute walk to Port Vieux, where I was meeting my daughter for lunch. I waved goodbye to the diners after Jackie arrived, and the two of us headed upstairs to share a quiet booth with a view. "Isn't it cozy here? I love this place. It is open all day," Jackie said rubbing her hands together to warm them.

Hungry, I searched for la carte. "It's tucked inside that book..." my daughter pointed out.
"Oh, nice!" This artsy café had a charming literary twist (there are more books next door at the Emmaus bookshop). I reached for the menu inside a  paperback by Sylvain Tesson: "S'Abandonner à Vivre." Surrender to Live...

For now, we were surrendering to our appetites. Jackie suggested the bagel with salmon and la soupe de poireaux. A young woman from Paris took our order and disappeared down the stairs. "One more week of classes!" I said to my 25-year-old, who was completing a 4-week computer course offered by Pôle Emploi, the French national employment agency.

"Yes, but then what?" my daughter began to worry again. After some thought, I reminded her of a bit of wisdom I'd overheard recently:

In your twenties, try everything.
In your thirties, figure out what you do best.
In your forties, make money from what you do best.
Try not to do much in your fifties.

If I could say that in French it might go something like this:

Dans la vingtaine, essayez tout.
Dans la trentaine, découvrez ce que vous faites de mieux.
Dans la quarantaine, gagnez de l'argent avec ce que vous faites de mieux.
Essayez de ne pas faire grand-chose à la cinquantaine.

At 25 and 55 my daughter and I are at opposite ends of the career spectrum--between "essayez tout" et "ne pas faire grand-chose"--with Jackie trying everything between bartending and computer coding and me slowing down. Yikes. If Jackie has her doubts so do I (dois-je ralentir?).  And yet here we are, holding each other up with cheers and bouts of laughter.

"I'm going to embarrass you," I smile, giving my daughter an extra big bear hug back outside the café.
"No, you're not embarrassing me!" Jackie hugs back. We laugh and say our goodbyes before my daughter returns to computer class. She is anxious to see the 3D objet de déco she's designed which has just been cut out by a laser printer. It boggles my mind. Who knows what they'll print next. ..Baguettes? 

What would I do without my daughter? I think, on the cold walk home alone. Have I been present during lunch? Am I paying attention? Have I missed anything? I remember her smile. How she spoke to me in French and, catching herself, reverted to English. I think about the way Jackie ordered our lunch, poured the water, and spread chocolate over our shared gauffre before reaching into her purse for two euros, "I'll leave the pourboire." She is so calm. You’d never know she struggles with doubts and fears and anxieties.

Yet, she is showing me how to laugh at life. On the drive to pick up my daughter from class in the centre ville, I see her waiting on the side of the road. Suddenly, I catch a glimpse of a patrol car in my rear-view mirror...et c'est la panique! As I drive by my daughter my eyes widen and I begin wagging my finger back and forth, signaling I CAN'T STOP NOW! (Not in the middle of the road as usual.)

Finally, I pull over and my daughter, catching up to the car, opens the door. Neither of us can speak, we are laughing so hard. Eyes glistening with tears, we look at each other with comic relief. On rigole, et on rigole encore!

"Mom! You should have seen your face. I just knew you were going to freak! You and the cops! Toi et les flics--C'est toute une histoire! The fits of laughter continue until I have to wipe my eyes in order to drive. Fear and uncertainty have gone for the moment. These old foes will be back, but for now, we can laugh!

Well, dear reader, it is time to sum up today's story and bid you au revoir. So, no matter your age, be sure to slow down, try everything, and remember laughter is a form of surrender. Abandonnons-nous tous à vivre!

Amicalement
Kristi
P.S. The next time you see cops and panic, do what the French do: whisper Vingt-Deux les Flics! ("Twenty-two the cops!") It doesn't mean anything. It's just funny and kind of freeing!  

ADVICE FOR EACH DECADE OF LIFE
I thought it would be interesting to continue the "Advice for Each Decade" info cited above. Will you add your experience and wisdom to the comments section and whether or not you agree with the 20s, 30s, 40s, an 50s advice? To rephrase:

In your twenties, try everything.
In your thirties, figure out what you do best.
In your forties, make money from what you do best.
Try not to do much in your fifties.
In your sixties (fill in blank)
In your seventies (fill in blank)
In your eighties (fill in blank)
In your nineties (fill in blank)
At 100 (fill in blank, and merci to our readers who are nearing la centaine!)

Cafe de l horloge street view
View looking down to the cobbled streets of La Ciotat.

Jules in la ciotat at cafe l horloge
Can you spy my mom in the background? Photo of Jules taken a few years ago in front of Café l'Horloge, at 7 Rue Albert et Georges Arnoux, 13600 La Ciotat. A nice place for coffee, lunch, or apéros!

AUDIO FILE: Listen to the French vocabulary list

Click here to begin listening


FRENCH VOCABULARY
s'abondonner = to surrender oneself
le Café de L'Horloge = The Clock Café
le comptoir
= bar, counter
Le Port Vieux = The Old Port in La Ciotat
la carte = the menu
la soupe de poireaux = leek soup
le pôle emploi = job center, unemployment office
dois-je ralentir? = should I slow down?
objet de déco = decorative object
la gaufre = waffle
le pourboire = tip, gratuity
rigoler = to laugh
toi et les flics = you and the cops
c'est toute une histoire = it's quite a story
amicalement = yours, kind regards
un apéro = pre-dinner drink

Cartes postales post cards
Would you like to order a set of my postcards from La Ciotat? Click this link for more info

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


6 Postcards from France: Les Cartes Postales

square postcards from La Ciotat France

NOW AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE: KRISTI'S POSTCARDS FROM FRANCE
Bonjour! I have created a limited series of cartes postales from photos I have taken around our seaside town of La Ciotat. These postcards are meaningful as they feature scenes close to home. One pack of postcards is $24 and contains these 6 cards:

1. Horse and Trainer in the Sea
2. Smokey and the Doves
3. The Barber Shop and The Bulldog
4. Villa on the Mediterranean
5. Sunrise and Doves
6. Lili The Cat

--The postcard size is just under 6 inches (5.9 by 5.9)
--The back is completely blank. 
--Each card weighs .30 ounces

Voilà for my special edition of 6 postcards from France. I hope you enjoy them and will consider buying a set for yourself--or for a friend!

The $24 price for 6 assorted postcards (envelopes not included) includes shipping from France. Allow 2-4 weeks for delivery.



Postcards from france boxer and barber shop
Our dining table has become a processing center. Here are stacks of 6 postcards about to go into their envelope. Next, come the French stamps--and on the back of your package another exotic timbre to seal the envelope. Lots of licking is involved: envelope, stamp, stamp, stamp!

Postcards from france boxer and barber shop
That's my daughter's thumb. Jackie was watching me assemble the sets of cards before tucking them into the envelopes and sealing them shut.

"Can you imagine if you sold 2000 of them?" Jackie mused. "You'd have to hire a bunch of lickers!"

Haha! For the moment, I have 33 sets ready to ship. This is a one-woman production. Though I may eventually hire my daughter. She has prettier handwriting and could address the envelopes! 

9771B216-D3F3-4867-B575-EDCF9B6A4FD2
Thank you for reading about my home-based postcard enterprise. Don't forget to ORDER HERE and thanks in advance!

6046799B-1FB2-4F5B-9F6D-7D103FCBB4CD
Taking photos in the French countryside

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

Ways to contribute:
1. Send a check (to this new address)
2. Paypal or credit card
3. A bank transfer via Zelle, a great way to send your donation as there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend, and so help spread the French word.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety