When an expat's expat parent comes to live with daughter in France: After 25 years in Mexico, Mom is moving in!

Window and shutter in Mexico
Au revoir Mexique. Our Mom is about to begin a new chapter in France!

On ne s'ennuie jamais

    : never a dull moment

Click here to listen to on ne s'ennuie jamais

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
A blow to her wings, not to her spirit! 
by Kristi Espinasse

My mom has been an expat in Mexico for 25 years (the same amount of time I've been in France). Now, following a recent coup dans l'aile, or blow to her wings, Jules will be moving into our nest and we are going to take things au jour le jour (just as the birds do!)

Petit à petit l'oiseau (re)fait son nid.
Jean-Marc and I will be researching the administrative side of when an expat's expat parent comes to live with American daughter and French son-in-law in France. (Kicking myself for not applying for French nationality after all these years. It would come in handy about now!). Meantime there are some non-administrative pépins, like where to put Mom...now that our two kidults have moved back in for the summer. As the French say: On ne s'ennuie jamais.

I'll be back with you later for an update. D'ici là, meantime, please send Jules and my sister, Heidi, (who just arrived in Puerto Vallarta) bon courage. They'll need it. They have two days to turn the page on a colorful chapter in Mom's life. On to the next! 

Jules in st-cyr-sur mer at la madrague
We may need a second bagnole now. How about this Méhari? Perfect for a sunset drive here in La Ciotat...

FRENCH VOCABULARY
un coup dans l'aile = a blow to the wings
au jour le jour = day by day
Petit à petit l'oiseau fait son nid = little by little the bird makes its nest
le pépin = glitch, hitch, snag
on ne s'ennuie jamais = life's never boring
d'ici là = meantime
bon courage = good luck
la bagnole = car 
la maman = mom, mother, mama...comme Mama Jules ♥ 

Heidi Kristi Mom Jules wedding day
Surrounded by my sister, Heidi, and our Mom, Jules at my 1994 Wedding in Marseilles.

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Convoquer: Leap of Faith & Mom goes into the Hospital

IMG_2727_Original
Missing Grandma Jules at this celebration for Max's 29th birthday in beautiful Cassis. An update on my mom in today's story. From left to right: Jean-Marc, Ana, Jackie (reflected in the mirror) Max, and me. (If this, or any photo in this post is not showing, click on the link or somewhere in the empty square to bring it up. My blog site is experiencing issues!)

TODAY'S WORD: CONVOQUER

    : to summon, to call in, to convoke
    : to be asked to attend

Are you an expat and need to file your US tax return? I am using Expatfile again this year to complete all tax forms quickly and easily and I highly recommend it. Click here.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"Leap of Faith"

Friday was set to be a joyous celebration of our son’s 29th birthday. Instead, it turned into a poignant reminder of the delicate balance between joy and worry that our family is experiencing lately.

Before we left for dinner in Cassis, Max went around the yard to his grandmother's studio in a last-ditch effort to get Jules to join us for the festivities. "What a beautiful dress," Max said, pointing to the panther robe my sister and I had gifted Mom. It was hung on the rack above the kitchen island, beside her bed, where I had begun packing her bag for the hospital.

"Would you try it on for me?" Max persisted. Beyond, two of Mom's doves, Mama and Papa, perched on the bars of her kitchen window, as if waiting for her reply. Talk about lucky ducks:  six years ago, when Mom moved in with us and found them in our back yard, it was like winning the bird lottery for those hungry tourterelles! The three of them were fast friends and would sit in the garden all day long, the birds landing on Mom's head, her arms, her legs, while Mom fed them sunflower seeds. But, for the past two years, Mom has not spent much time outside, as she has been drawn to her bed, fatigued. So the birds watch over her now from afar, and hurry round the yard to my place when they need food. 

Back in the studio, Mom stood beside Max, hesitant to answer his question. I could tell she was too tired for an impromptu fashion show, yet her eyes lit up. Anything for her darling grandson.

After helping Jules put the robe on over her nightgown, Max stood back in awe. "You look beautiful, Grandma! Won't you come with us tonight? We are going to the hotel in Cassis where Jackie is bartending tonight. Ana will be there, too! And we’ll have a beautiful table overlooking the sea!"

"Oh, that sounds wonderful, Max. Another time," Mom smiled, pinching his arm affectionately. She needed to rest, and the stress of waiting to know whether she would be able to go to the hospital, to undergo several exams, was beginning to take a toll.

Last month, after the doctor scheduled Mom’s four-day hospital stay for May 20th, I waited anxiously for a message from insurance alerting me that Mom’s expired medical coverage had been renewed. Each day, I checked our mailbox twice, sometimes three times. Meanwhile, I waited for the hospital to call to confirm the date. 

When May rolled around and still no news from insurance, it dawned on me that, here in France, it was the month of jours fériers. With all the national holidays, would Mom’s file ever be processed? Finally, on Tuesday, a letter arrived informing me that her dossier was incomplete. But how could that be? I had carefully included each item on their checklist! What's more, they were now asking for four additional documents, all of which would be impossible for me to furnish on time (or any time for that matter!). 

C’était la panique! But there was no time to clam up. Better to reach out. Ask for help! 

Jean-Marc got on the phone, explaining the situation, and, miracle of miracles, le fonctionnaire on the other end admitted the setback was their fault and that our dossier was indeed complete. Only, he would now have to send it to another office for validation.

"But this could take weeks!" I cried to Jean-Marc.

"There’s nothing we can do but wait," my husband shrugged.

But we didn’t have time to wait. May 20th was only six days away!

I tried contacting the hospital to inform them of the situation, that, malheureusement, we would need to cancel (if indeed they were still expecting Mom. It seemed more likely she had fallen through the cracks, completely forgotten). I began to wonder if it was worth it to keep calling when, even if I did get through (instead of being rerouted each time and automatically disconnected), it meant losing our appointment and therefore losing contact with the hospital’s internist—in which case Mom would really be set back. 

Then, on Friday, I was surprised by a brief message on my answering machine: "Vous êtes convoquée à l’hôpital lundi à 15 heures."

Wait. What? In the eleventh hour, the hospital calls to confirm? This posed yet another souci: I needed to warn them we wouldn’t be showing up! Not without insurance! As I struggled to know just what to do next, I kept hearing the nurse’s authoritative voice replay in my head:

"Vous êtes convoquée à l’hôpital lundi à 15 heures."

We were being convoked. Well, in that case, why not simply follow orders? Why complicate things? Just follow the plan and trust everything will work out. These thoughts were immediately freeing, and my anxieties began to fall away, finally.

These past three weeks have been especially nerve-racking, with Mom getting worse by the day. Apart from making her as comfortable as possible, I feel so helpless. I burst into tears at the most unexpected times and in inappropriate places—much like a friend of ours who lost her son, only the loved one I’m grieving is still with me. But for how long? How serious is Mom’s condition? It began with a sharp pain behind her eye, which eventually was diagnosed as inflammation…uveitis. But there was something beneath even this, the doctor explained, suspecting some sort of autoimmune issue.

Watching Mom grow more and more tired by the day, and after the disheartening news from insurance, I could not wait one more minute for word from insurance confirming her coverage. I called my sister Heidi and it was easily decided: Mom would go into the hospital on Monday! We would stick to the plan. She would undergo testing, with or without l’assurance française! From here on out we would depend on the holy assurance from above and from within: the conviction that if Mom needed to go to the hospital, she would go!

Now that our decision has been made, I feel relief mixed with fear. But more relief than fear. This is a leap of faith and, come what may, we will continue to trust that everything will work out. Sometimes, all we can do is trust in the process and hold on to hope. Tout va bien se passer. And, with all hope, Mom will be feeling better soon. Given her positive, grateful, and faithful attitude, she is halfway there! Now, let’s get her all of the way through this with a collective prayer: if each person reading this would pause and take a moment to think of Jules, to wish her all good health and healing, I am certain this unified prière will begin to work inside every cell in her precious body. And before long, we’ll have a second chance to dine in Cassis, with Mom in that smashing panther robe. I can already feel the sea breeze! 

 

Mom panther robe Max

Jules and Kristi at the hospital in Marseille

Update: We checked Mom in to the hospital on May 20th. She is undergoing testing through Monday or Tuesday of next week. Thanks for keeping Jules in your prayers. If you like, leave her a message below. Merci!

COMMENTS
To leave a comment or an encouraging note to Mom, click here. I will read her your messages.

REMERCIEMENTS
A big thank you to our readers for their donations. Your support is invaluable and truly helps in the creation of this French word journal. I am sincerely grateful!

Judy F.
Cate S.
Conrad N.

Paige H.
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C-Marie P.
Judith C.

So enjoy FWAD and your insightful writings. Thank you! (Glad Chief Grape is home.) --Paige H.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French and English vocabulary


convoquer
= to summon

l’anniversaire
(m) = birthday

la tourterelle = dove

la panique = panic

le souci = worry, concern

Vous êtes convoquée à l’hôpital lundi à 15 heures = You are summoned to the hospital on Monday at 3 PM

malheureusement = unfortunately

le/la fonctionnaire = the bureaucrat

l’assurance française = French insurance

Tout va bien se passer = Everything will be alright

la prière = prayer

Jm poster boat
An exciting surprise awaited Jean-Marc on his return from New Zealand to La Ciotat: A municipal poster, currently showing in town, features his wooden boat!

PROVENCE WINE TOURS
Jean-Marc is back and ready to begin his Provence Wine Tours. Contact him for more information at [email protected]

Ricard sign in Marseilles
I've added some color to this snapshot (taken on the way home from the hospital in Marseille. Good to see these old signs are still up).

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Voir La Vie en Rose: Mom’s Secret to Facing Challenges

IMG_2225_Original
Mom always said to take a new road each day, which is how I discovered this secret square in La Ciotat. Growing up, Jules also taught me to see things that are not as though they are. More in today’s missive “La Vie en Rose”.

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Good news: you have an automatic extension through June 17. I am using Expatfile again this year to complete mine quickly and easily, and highly recommend it. Click here.



Jean-Marc returns home soon, in time to begin his Provence Wine Tours. Contact him to reserve a date at [email protected]


TODAY'S WORD: VOIR LA VIE EN ROSE

: to see the positive side of things

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

The weather report was wrong. Fortunately, it wasn't pouring down rain, but there were other traveling ennuis when we drove Mom to the hospital for her eye condition. Coming out of Marseille's Prado Carénage tunnel, my daughter blared her horn. “Mais ils conduisent comme des fous!" she gasped, as the car to our right cut over, causing us to swerve.  “You would have never been able to drive here, Mom!”

“Don’t say that, Jackie! It’s discouraging. I'm sure I could’ve driven. I memorized the map all week," I remarked, from the copilot seat. Currently, we were arriving at "that building with the arched windows" and it was just as Google depicted it.  "Turn left at the BMW dealership Jackie!" There it was, exactly as the online photo in Google Maps indicated. 

“You’re a great driver, Jackie!” Jules cheered from the back. You'd never know from her words that Mom was uneasy. By focusing on the positive, she was now a voyager on an exciting ride, instead of petrified. Listening to our passenger, I’m reminded of a title Mom kept on the bookshelf when my sister and I were growing up. Florence Scovel Schinn’s Your Word is Your Wand was eventually replaced by The Holy Bible which we call "The Living Word." I find the French translation fascinating: The Word, which is considered alive and active appears as "Le Verbe" in certain editions. "In the beginning was The Word...Au commencement était le Verbe..." (Jean 1:1)

Words and vision have always been important to Mom. One of the first lessons Mom taught my sister and me was to see things that are not as though they are. Though it was hard for me to see all the D’s on my report card as A’s, or to view my crooked teeth as straight, Mom’s scripture-based wisdom proved itself in the end--with the help of long hours of study and braces. (Aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera!)

But back to our narrative in which Mom’s faith-filled eyes are, ironically, suffering from inflammation…

The doctor's assistant had already warned me that the European Hospital was in a bad part of Marseille (I guess BMW thinks as positively as Mom...). Outside our car windows, I saw boarded-up businesses and an automobile repair shop covered in graffiti, a lone pair of jeans dangling on a clothesline above. But from Mom's perspective, you’d think we were in a charming French village and not the gritty city. "I love it here. I've always loved Marseille!

"Mom, hold on to my arm!" I urged after Jackie pulled in front of L'Hôpital Européen to drop us off. “What a beautiful hospital!” Jules enthused. Looking around, I saw patients walking with mobile IV drip bags, others in wheelchairs, and some with canes. All looked pale, but to Mom, they were nearly sunkissed.

Mom winked at the giant security guard at the entrance. Meanwhile, I saw the agent de protection differently and began to envision a band of thugs hurrying past us on their way to ER following another règlement de compte.

“Did you see those handsome men pushing the wheelchairs?” Mom said, pointing to the aides-soignants. “When I check in next month I’ll have them race me down the halls and across the street for a glass of wine at that darling café!" To Mom, even the nearby commerces (including les pompes funèbres, or funeral parlor) appeared otherly. 

Having cleared security, now on our way to the first appointment in section C1 of the hospital, Mom’s enthusiasm ramped up, perhaps along with her anxiety. “This place looks like a resort!” This sunny outlook was beginning to affect me and I could now begin to see the clean, modern lines of the great hall which reminded me of a shopping mall. In fact, we were very close to the popular Les Terrasses du Port shopping center, where Jackie had gone after dropping us off. Why not see this place as a little extension of that? Therefore, Mom and I were only in one of the “department stores.” 

In the hospital’s ophthalmology unit, I pulled a number from the ticket dispenser, ushered Mom to a seat, and began rifling through my bag for administrative forms, for Mom's American passport, her prescriptions, all the while translating any instructions to Mom, in English or to the healthcare workers, in French. While Mom found each étape amusing, I sweated them all. The receptionist called our number and fell instantly under Mom’s charm, and I sighed a breath of relief (Ouf! Mom’s insurance card, set to expire in 4 days, had passed inspection). 

We were in the second waiting room when Mom’s doctor appeared with a bottle of eye drops to dilate her eyes. “Enlevez votre chapeau, s'il vous plaît," the doctor said, to which Mom removed her well-worn Panama hat—but not without a little reluctance. Her trademark chapeau is a little like her shield. I held my breath, wondering, would all of her positivity disappear now?

When next I looked over, Mom was smiling demurely. I could see she was smitten by the doctor! It was at this point that I knew Mom would get through this current trial. If there’s one thing in the world that trumps positive thinking, it’s love! 

And I knew, by the grace from above, I’d get through it too, no matter how many times I stumble as a caregiver.

Standing outside on the gritty curb, waiting for Jackie to pick us up, Mom was filled with gratitude, even as the Mistral threatened to carry off her hat. As she held on tight to her Panama and to me, she beamed. "I'm so proud of you," she said. "I'll bet these doctors are impressed with how organized you were!"

Well, I wouldn’t go that far! But then... Il faut voir les choses qui ne sont pas comme si elles l'étaient

 

COMMENTS
To leave a comment or to offer a correction, click here. Thanks in advance! 

La Vie en Rose t-shirt Sainte Ceciile les Vignes
In theme with today's word "voir la vie en rose", here's a picture from the archives. Jean-Marc, resting at Mas des Brun. His t-shirt is a play on words: "La Vie en Rosé" from Sainte Cécile-Les-Vignes.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Today’s sound file may be difficult to hear, but you’ll enjoy the birds in the background. Jean-Marc recorded it for me in New Zealand, and sent it along with this note:

Found some internet to send you this 
It's beautiful and very wild here 
Will be with you in a week now ❤️

Click here to listen to the French vocabulary


voir la vie en rose = to see life through rose-tinted glasses
l'ennui = problem, aggravating factor
Mais ils conduisent comme des fous! = But they drive like crazy people!
le Verbe (Parole de Dieu) = The Word (Word of God)
L'Hôpital Européen = The European Hospital
Aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera! = God helps those who help themselves
le règlement de compte = settling of scores
l'agent de protection = security guard
l'aide-soignant, aide-soignante = orderly, porter, nurse's aide
le commerce = business
les pompes funèbres = funeral parlor
une étape = one step (or part) of a process or journey
ouf! = phew!
Enlevez votre chapeau, s'il vous plaît = take off your hat, please
Voir les choses qui ne sont pas comme si elles l'étaient = See things that are not as though they are


REMERCIEMENTS
Sincere thanks to readers for sending in a donation in support of my French word journal. Your support makes a difference!

Bob O.
Anne J.
Julie F.
Dawn D.
Lucie A.

Linda A.
Debra H.
Pierre L.
Saundra H.
Valerie W.
Tricia N.B.

Augusta E.
Roseann M.
Catherine D.


Kristi, your posts are a joy! Merci! --Linda A.

Hi Kristi, I thoroughly enjoy reading your columns. All the very best to you and your family. --Debra H

Salut Kristi, Thank you for sharing your adventurous life with us. It is a blessing to read your stories and to learn very practical French that I can share with my students from time to time. May you be blessed with more than enough! --Dawn D.

Your posts add joy to my day, especially when they concern serepdipitous encounters like the one with Jean-Pierre in Ceyreste. They're all part of a bigger plan. Bisous bcp. --Augusta 

Kristi Jules Jackie car ride

My daughter Jackie, right, is driving (the photo is flipped around) Our expressions tell a story: The nerve-racking ride home from the hospital and a treat at the end: Jackie stopped at McDonald’s drive-thru to get her grandmother a sundae.  

8b1d6464-c29c-4e3c-b13d-194ce9db5abc
Happy birthday to Ana. As Grandma Jules says, We're so lucky to have you! (Pictured with Max and Loca.)

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Jamais Deux Sans Trois: Road Rage, A Flat Tire (Bad Things Come in Threes)

Jules passenger looking over the vineyard in St Cyr sur Mer
"Precious Cargo." Jules, at Mas des Brun vineyard in St Cyr-sur-Mer (That's Jean-Marc in the pink shirt, behind his tractor)

TODAY'S WORD: Jamais Deux Sans Trois

    : bad things come in threes

Are you an expat in France (or anywhere outside the US) and need to file your taxes?
Good news: you have an automatic extension through June 17. I am using Expatfile again this year to complete mine quickly and easily, and highly recommend it. Click here.

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Last week may have been the most challenging since my husband left for New Zealand. On Sunday, owing to an old and faulty serrure on our front door, I found myself locked out of the house upon returning from church. I hurried around the corner to Mom’s, put all the groceries I’d just bought into her frigo, and ran back to carefully work the key lest it break inside the lock. Forty-five minutes later, the sluggish lock relented. Quel miracle! Another answered prayer, along with the relief of stepping into a cool house! Despite the initial victory, the week was full of trials, each day punctuated by some disaster or another, whether that was Ricci busting a stitch (she nibbled the area) following her operation or the bathroom sink leaking again. And can you believe it all ended with un pneu crevé?

I was lying in bed at week’s end, agonizing about the car when my daughter came into the room. It was 11 at night and she’d just finished a long shift at a bar in Cassis. “Don’t worry about the flat tire, Mom. I'll take care of it.” The next day Ms. Fix-It bought one of those aerosol tire inflators–le dépanne-crevaison for 15 bucks (everyone should have one in their bagnole!), filled the tire with air, and drove to a nearby garage to have both back tires changed. Next, she phoned Max’s girlfriend, Ana, to ask her to drive Grandma and me to the next appointment in Gardanne. (Having unknowingly pierced the tire on the way home from Thursday’s rendez-vous, Jules and I were lucky the tire didn’t burst, sending us skidding across the autoroute!) 


Autoroute south of france
Who wouldn't be skittish when 18 lanes merge after this toll?! Better hurry over to the right, exit Toulon!

"Mom, you are out of practice. Let Ana drive you this time!” As bad as the week was, it was a lesson in asking for help, something that is hard for so many of us. Why is that so? 

Meantime, there was at least one funny moment (and a few misunderstandings) among all the little fiascos last week. The first malentendu happened when Mom showed up at the house, ready for our ride to the clinic. After Mom had carefully washed from head to toe with iodine for her clinic visit, I was surprised to see her wearing the mink hat she had found at the charity shop a few years ago.

“Mom, you’ll need to take off that hat,” I said, remembering that only sterile clothes could be worn after the special antiseptic shower.
“Well, I didn’t know my hat was controversial!” came Mom’s response.

“Oh, Mom!” I sighed, growing increasingly agitated.

It wasn’t until two weeks later that I understood Mom’s words. It was a simple misunderstanding between us (she thought I was judging her fur hat, while my only concern was the iodine bath!). I wish, instead of getting mad, I had simply asked Mom, “What do you mean by that?”

Onto misunderstanding number two and three…

Back in Marseille, arriving for Mom’s eye appointment, I was slowing down in time to look for a parking spot when the guy behind me began blaring his horn. It's been a while since I've experienced la fureur routière, or road rage, given I don't drive often. I cannot share with you here the string of four-letter words he hurled at me, this after an already nerve-racking drive to Marseille. Finally, I pulled aside, letting Monsieur Gros Mot pass. That is when I noticed another patient returning to his car. Quelle chance!

Excusez-moi, Monsieur. Vous partez?” I asked the man who was paused at the wall beside his car, his back toward me. He didn’t seem to hear me so I got out of my vehicle and began to approach when I recognized his curbed posture. Oh! Le monsieur fait pipi… 

Discreetly as possible I returned to the car and, for his dignity and my own, peeled off out of sight to the lower parking lot where, lo and behold, I ran into Monsieur Gros Mot again. I studied my pire ennemi: a thin man wearing a cap. He had found a parking spot and was now darting into the clinic, late, late for a very important date! I made a mental note to have a word with him in the salle d’attente. It might be a very awkward moment but after chauffeuring my precious cargo to her doctor's appointment, only to be raged at, my adrenaline was just ripe enough to give Gros Mot a piece of my mind.

Meantime, Mom pointed out a parking spot under the shade of a mulberry tree, and with great relief our 45-minute trajet ended. We made it to Jules' appointment on time.

The doctor, wearing a surgical cap and glasses, seemed pressed, nevertheless, he was thorough. He hesitated before leading us past a full waiting room, to an office where he had another machine. There he took the time to examine Mom’s eyes until he concluded, “I cannot give your mom the eye injection today. She has inflammation in both eyes. C'est l'uvéite.” 

The eye doctor dictated a note to a colleague before giving me the address of a specialist in Gardanne. All I could think at that moment was, how am I going to drive there, given the morning’s stressful voyage? (Thankfully Jackie and Ana would solve this problem for me later that day.)

On the way home, hesitating at a fork in the road before the freeway entrance I hit a curb and the car lurched. Ouf! That was close! I made it onto the freeway and even passed a few semi-trucks. It wasn’t until later that evening that I saw the flat tire and realized our good fortune after Mom and I didn’t have our tire blow up!

There was a lot to be thankful for including the experienced eye doctor who had taken his time with Mom. 60-something with a wiry build and longish salt and pepper hair, it suddenly dawned on me: the doctor looked just like Monsieur Gros Mot back at the parking lot….

No! He couldn’t be! I thought, of the potential ironic twist in our morning adventure. Then again both men were pressed and in a hurry... Could it be that Gros Mot was the eye doctor who was late for the afternoon shift? The thought of a villain-turned-virtuous amused me to no end. Well, speaking of endings, Tout est bien qui finit bien! All’s well that ends well. We had a caring doctor (no matter who he might have been before he walked into that office). It all goes to show it is never too late to put your best foot forward, de faire de son mieux :-) 

***
Update: Ana drove us to the appointment at the specialist’s in Gardanne, where Mom received some bad news. It is a severe case of bilateral uveitis and she’ll need to go the the hospital in Marseilles for more tests and possibly some antibiotics to treat an infection. Please keep Jules in your thoughts and prayers. And thanks to our angel driver Ana, who offered to drive us to Marseilles for an afternoon of testing, this Tuesday, for Mom.


COMMENTS
To leave a comment or a helpful correction, click here.

FRENCH VOCABULARY & OLD USA DRIVERS LICENCE

IMG_1058

Click here to listen to the French pronunciation

jamais deux sans trois = bad things come in threes
la serrure = lock
le frigo = fridge
quel miracle! = what a miracle!
le pneu crevé = flat tire
le dépanne crevaison = aerosol tire repair and inflator
la bagnole = car (in informal French)
l'autoroute (f) = freeway
le rendez-vous = appointment
le malentendu = misunderstanding
la fureur routière = road rage
quelle chance!
= what luck!
Excusez-moi, Monsieur. Vous partez? = Excuse me, Sir. Are you leaving?
faire pipi = to go pee
Monsieur Gros Mot = Mr. FoulMouth
le pire ennemi = worst enemy
la salle d'attente = waiting room 
le trajet = trip, journey
l'uvéite = uveitis, inflammation of the uvea
ouf! = whew!
Tout est bien qui finit bien! = All’s well that ends well
faire de son mieux = to put your best foot forward 

Poppies

REMERCIEMENTS
Mille mercis to the following readers for sending in a blog donation this past week. This is a reader-supported journal and I appreciate your help in keeping it going!

Lori R.
Erin K.
Donna B.
C-Marie P.
Patricia N.

I love your work! --Lori

Thank you for the fun adventures, Kristi!! And good health to Ricci and blessings to Jacqui!! --C-Marie

Ana and Max
My son Max and his girlfriend, Ana. Picture taken in a Photomaton, or photo booth. Did you catch a typo in this post? Thanks for letting me know in the comments.

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


Une Friandise: Chocolate Sundaes following Jules's visit to the Ophtalmo

Jackie dessert
I typed the word friandise into my Google photo album search box and voilà, a photo of my daughter and one of her all-time favorite sweets appeared: strawberries with chantilly cream. 

Jean-Marc’s PROVENCE WINE TOURS begin again in May! Cassis, Bandol, Châteauneuf-du-Pape—don’t miss our beloved winemaker’s favorite stomping grounds for grapes! Click here.

TODAY'S WORD: UNE FRIANDISE

  : a sweet treat

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

In the salle d'attente at the eye clinic in Marseille, everyone is wearing shower caps. A male nurse breezes in, administers eye drops to a half-dozen patients, and disappears. A faint scent of iodine lurks in the air--evidence everyone has (hopefully) followed instructions to shower with Betadine the night before and day of the ocular intervention. So much scrubbing seems a bit drastic given patients remain fully clothed during the 10-minute procedure to treat a certain pathologie oculaire caused by macular degeneration. I wonder, did Mom remove her hat? I had a lot of questions, but having delegated Jules’s doctor's visit to my daughter, I would not know every detail of the intervention. But I did get as much info as possible, so on with our story...

Back at Clinique Chantecler, Jackie, also wearing a shower cap, is sitting beside her grand-mère. For the entire ride to Marseille, Jules sat quietly in the passenger seat, nervously filing her nails (hard as a rock from the potassium tablets the opthalmo prescribed for her eye tension). The male nurse reappears, asking all the patients to hand over the box with the aflibercept injection they were prescribed (to be stored at home in the refrigerator and brought to today's appointment). Not surprisingly, half the room has forgotten to bring the medicine. Did they leave the box beside the cheese and the cornichons... as we might have? No, too many precautions were taken here at home…in the form of numerous sticky notes strategically placed around our house, in addition to my phone alarm. While I did entrust my daughter with expediting Grandma to the clinic, I didn’t leave every detail to her. 

Jackie dug through her bag, where, beside her grandmother's medical folder, and her immigrant insurance card, she located the shot box. 
"Merci, Mademoiselle," the nurse smiled. Little did Jackie know she was earning brownie points for later, when her calm demeanor would earn her special hospital privileges. Turning her attention back to Grandma, who is feeling anxious about the upcoming needle in the eye, Jackie is reassuring: "Don't worry. I'm sure it will go quickly, Grandma. After, I’ll take you for ice cream!"

 The other patients, mostly senior citizens, seem intrigued by the two foreigners. One of them reaches out: "Votre grand-mère est anglaise?" Your grandmother is English?

"Non. Elle est américaine," Jackie answers. "Elle a un peu peur." With that, the other patients are quick to offer comforting words:

"Oh, c'est rien!" says the woman with the plastic shield over her eye. Another adjusts his surgical cap,  "Vous verrez, ça ne fait pas mal du tout." The woman with a bandage agrees: "je viens ici chaque mois." The youngest in the group, a businessman here during his lunch hour, smiles warmly, "C'est comme une lettre à la poste!"

Jackie translates each encouragement. "You see, Grandma. It'll be as easy as posting a letter!" But there was no time to explain the postal expression as Jules was soon summoned to the eye injection chamber (if words could paint Mom's imagination at this point.) 
"Mademoiselle, vous pouvez accompagner votre grandmère." Good news, the doctor just made an exception to the patients-only rule, letting Jackie assist her grandmother during the treatment.

(The next ten minutes were not so bad, Mom would later tell me. The hardest part was you had to watch the needle as it approached your eye...)

After the procedure, the foreigner and her petite-fille waved goodbye to the patients in the salle d'attente. At this point, Jackie might've patted herself on the back. But you know the saying: No good deed goes unpunished!  After helping Grandma back into the passenger seat, our Do-Gooder got locked out of the electric car! Now the challenge was for Jules, with one eye bandaged, to find the door handle. But even after the struggle to locate the poignée de porte, the punishment wasn't over. Our little Renault Zoe would not start. A few deep breaths later (and surely some bionic praying on Grandma’s part) Jackie solved the problem by removing the electronic key from its case and using it instead of the dashboard button.

The third strike came when Jules began to suffer a sudden mal de tête. Jackie, our quick-thinking ambulancière, wound the seat back as far as it would go, and soon Grandma fell asleep, only to wake when the two reached le péage in La Ciotat. Before Jules could remember her pain, Jackie reminded her of la friandise she'd promised.

Soon after, I received an update from McDonald's drive-through, "Here in 10," my daughter's text read. "The ice cream's on you, lol, I don't have the money."

I laughed, remembering Jackie had my Paypal debit card from when she did the grocery shopping earlier. I was so relieved the eye intervention was over that I couldn't have cared if the duo ordered sundaes for everyone in line--and knowing Mom she would!  Finally, my telephone chimed with a notification from Paypal that a charge for 7 euros just went through. Well, that was a good deal! After all, a medical cab would have cost many times the price, and it wouldn't have included a doting assistant or a visit to MacDo*! 

In retrospect, entrusting this special expedition to Jackie had been the right decision after all. Not only was it a needed lesson in delegation for me, but it was also an opportunity for grandmother and granddaughter to share meaningful time together. Jackie handled it all with professionalism, ensuring Grandma was in good hands throughout. And while I may not have indulged in a sundae myself, seeing the smiles on their faces was the sweetest reward of all.

COMMENTS
Corrections and messages are welcome and appreciated. Please use this link


FRENCH VOCABULARY

la friandise = a sweet treat
la salle d'attente
= waiting room
la chantilly
= whipped cream
Betadine = an antiseptic used before and after surgery
la pathologie oculaire = eye pathology
la grand-mère = grandmother
l'ophtalmo (l'ophtalmologue) = eye doctor
Vous verrez, ça ne fait pas mal du tout = you'll see, it doesn't hurt at all
la poignée de porte = door handle
le mal de tête = headache
l'ambulancier, ambulancière = ambulance driver
le péage = toll booth
MacDo = French slang for McDonald's

REMERCIEMENTS/THANKS & ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
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Keep up the wonderful writing. Hi from Colorado. --Susan

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Jules and Kristi painting
My precious Mom, in front of one of her paintings.

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Avoir du Cran (To be brave in French) + Mom and I get in a little fight & end up at the circus

Circus curtains billetterie
The curtain is now opening on today's pièce: a feisty (and sentimental) mother-daughter story. My mom loved these circus curtains, seen on a recent walk together. Jules sewed our dresses when my sister and I were little, and these rideaux remind me of our visits to the fabric store.  

TODAY’S WORD: "Avoir du cran"

    :  to have guts, grit, to be brave

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Do you believe that our behavior can provoke the universe? I can't help but wonder when, hours before her eye exam, Mom appears in my room and declares, "I do not want any more doctor's appointments!"...only to be issued, hours later, a slew of new rendez-vous.

Whether or not our conduct stirs the Powers That Be, it moves mere mortals. Not sure how to respond to my mom (or how to deal with the let-down), I choose to reason with her: “But Mom, how many doctor visits have you had in the last year?” I challenge, knowing well we’ve not suffered more than a handful--one or two times to the family toubib, to renew a prescription, and two aller-retours to the ophtalmo after severe pain revealed too much pressure in Mom's eye. But never mind the facts, Jules's mind was made up.

"I'm not going!"

"Mom!  We can't cancel. We're going!"

Sensing some sort of diatribe on my part, Jules quietly exits, shutting the door behind her, against which I unleash a string of gros mots: @#%!! @#%!! @#%!! 

Well, that got her attention. Mom returns. We exchange stubborn looks. I offer an I'm sorry but...!

I'm sorry but do you realise I've arranged my day around this eye exam?
I'm sorry but do you know how hard it is to get a doctor's appointment anymore?
I'm sorry but I am the one handling your healthcare as you don't speak French or drive!

Suddenly, Mom approaches the bed to sit beside me. After a few deep breaths, we are on a walk down memory lane as visions of our life back at the trailer park come flooding forth--including the time Jules tossed our toys out the window after my sister's and my roughhousing damaged our family’s new bean bag, spilling les haricots all over the living room. Mom had her gros mot moments @#%!! but who could blame her as she struggled to raise two girls on her own while working full-time? And yet somehow this single mother managed. Even more, Mom signed us up for Brownies, Girl Scouts, gymnastics, and band, and somehow managed to buy everything from my clarinet to my sister's first car. When my sister had a car accident Mom nursed her back to life and made Heidi return to school to finish the year, despite the scars from several broken bones, in time to go on to college. Heidi became the first one in Jules’s family to graduate from college, and with a degree in journalism! Meantime Jules's worries weren't over: her youngest (moi-même) dropped out of community college and returned home. (I eventually followed in my sister’s footsteps, graduating from college with a degree in French, and began writing after moving to France.)

First car and trailer
My sister's 1970 Camaro in front of our home. That's Shaw Butte Mountain in the background.

"All I want now is peace and quiet," Mom admits, as we sit in bed holding hands, hours before her doctor's appointment. "I am so grateful to live here with you and not to have to worry any longer."

Turning to Mom, I would like to say I understand the struggle and that, at 56, I'm tired too! But one must press on! Only, unlike Mom, I have not been worn down from the stress of trying to pay for ice skates, braces, or clothes at the beginning of each school year. Through it all, we never received the admonition, “Money doesn’t grow on trees!” Instead, Jules instilled a work ethic that had my sister and me earning first an allowance, then cash from babysitting and a paper route, and finally our first paycheck jobs by the age of 15.

"And now here we are in France!" Mom whispers, squeezing my hand. It never ceases to amaze Mom that she is living on the Riviera after surviving in the desert. (Our neighborhood was a senior citizen mobile home park, but Mom convinced the landlord to let us in as she was first to rent a space when it opened. We stayed 11 years. Before it was demolished, we moved on, and Mom eventually settled into a beautiful cabin near Saguaro Lake. Then to Mexico for 22 years before coming to live with us in France.)

“I am so proud of my daughters,” Mom says, turning to me. Jules has kindly forgotten my earlier slur of cuss words and a peaceful truce is once again underway. This wasn’t the first and won’t be our last mother-daughter fender-bender, but we have acquired some tools to hammer out the dents along the way--our shared vulnerability being one of them. Another is forgiveness. Finally, there's grit--the French call it "le cran". Indeed it takes courage and endurance to love and to keep on loving. I love you, Mom. This one's for you. xoxo

***
Update: we made it to the doctor's appointment in time for Mom’s follow-up eye exam. The good news is her eye pressure has stabilized. But she now has to undergo a series of shots to treat the edema, or swelling, inside her right oeil. For that, Jackie will drive her grandma to Marseilles. Wish Mom luck as the first eye injection is today!


Jules getting ready
A favorite picture of Mom taken from the post "Conciliabule: Living With Adult Kids and Grandma"

Jules at the eye doctor waiting room
My beautiful Mom, in the doctor's waiting room, gazing out the window to the Mediterranean. I will always be moved by Mom's strength, courage, and perseverance in the face of so many challenges, beginning in her childhood. Elle a du cran! The French would say. She has guts!

FRENCH VOCABULARY 

Click to listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French and English vocabulary words

avoir du cran = to be brave, to have guts
le rendez-vous =
appointment, meeting
le toubib
= doctor
aller-retour = round trip
l’ophtalmo = eye doctor
la diatribe = tirade, rant 
le gros mot= swear word, cuss word
l'oeil = eye
Elle a du cran = she has guts!
le conciliabule = secret meeting, Ecclesiastical council

Heidi Jules Kristi Busters Restaurant
Heidi, Mom, and me celebrating Heidi's college graduation from NAU, at Buster's Restaurant & Bar in Flagstaff, Arizona

REMERCIEMENTS/THANKS & ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Sincere appreciation to readers supporting this journal via a donation! I would be too tempted to slack off from my weekly writing deadline if it wasn't for you!

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Thank you for the wonderful newsletters! They are so well constructed and so much fun, supporting my learning to speak French and about French lifestyle and culture, too! I’m so appreciative that you do this. Also love your book! --Martha 

Kristi and Jules at the circus trailer

Photo of me and Mom admiring the circus curtains. If you have time, read the story of how my mom sowed the seeds of books (and writing) into my heart. Click here to read "Fireside" (Coin du Feu)

COMMENTS
Your corrections and comments are welcome and appreciated. Click here to leave a message. in the comments section at the end of this post.

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Un Jour à la fois: One day at a time during the holidays + Tarte Tatin recipe

European Christmas decorations window display photo Kristi Espinasse
Take inspiration from these jolly characters, left, and hang in there when this holiday season speeds up! More words and encouragement in today's update.

Words in a French Life by Kristi EspinasseOffer a book this holiday season! Thank you for keeping my collected stories in mind for a French-themed Christmas present. Click here to purchase Words in a French Life or another book to put under the tree.

TODAY'S WORD: Un Jour à la fois

  : one day at a time

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

J’hésite. I am unsure as to what to share today. I've got Christmas on my mind, as do many of you, family, and a To-Do list I'm avoiding (nothing too important. Néanmoins…).

Heureusement, I also have the reminder that “today" all will be well. Even during the holidays… It is when I think of tomorrow, the rest of the week, la semaine prochaine, and Christmas Day that pressure sets in. When I recall my responsibilities beyond today things quickly superimpose one atop the other for an imminent, all-at-once effect and suddenly I'm feeling overwhelmed, dépassée

Un Jour à la Fois
I know the key is to take things one day at a time. And today there is a Tarte Tatin baking in my oven, a new/old dog napping on the couch, a husband working across the table from me, and my Mom peacefully sleeping in her studio on the side of our house. If Ricci gave us a scare a few weeks ago, it was Mom's turn to worry us next. Several weeks ago Jules experienced severe pain behind her left eye. Was it a migraine? Had she scratched her eye? A visit to the ophtalmo revealed Mom’s ocular pressure was high. "She's been seeing more and more floaters," I pointed out. The optician assured me they would not cause the "detached retina" Google had warned about. That was a relief—until recently—when the pain returned and Mom's vision fell like a curtain during intermission…. 

It was back to the eye doctor on Friday and a troubling report: Jules' eye pressure had more than doubled since the previous visit. Mom insists she has used the nightly medicated gouttes prescribed to her, but I’m not so sure.

Now she has three new medications to take and a thrice daily visit from "Sargent Kristi" to make sure they're taken. 

Health issues during the holidays are like unexpected guests: they can leave you scrambling. But when I keep things in the day, letting life unfold, everything tends to work itself out, often beautifully. In this moment I have the comforting warmth of a pie baking, the muffled bark of a dog dreaming, and the rattling of my husband's keyboard and my own here now as I type. Best of all, I have my beautiful Mom, who spends these days counting her blessings and, in so doing, inspires me to do the same.

One more thing that is helping this last month of the year: I've got my husband cooking and he is also taking Mom to her early-morning lab appointments, for a bimonthly prise de sang. Jules and Jean-Marc--the two are a dynamic duo and they love nothing more than to tease me as I chase them to the car, with a list of instructions on how to get through the next hour: don't forget this, and be sure to do that!

Even after the family car disappears around the corner, I’m left wondering if Mom could have had that glass of water before her blood test. Oh well, she’ll drink it when she gets home! 

I'm still working on "lâcher prise" or giving up control, and letting go. Life gives us so many chances to practice during the holidays, doesn’t it? How about you, dear reader, how is the end of 2023 going for you and yours? What is the temperature of your current mood? Thanks for sharing a few things you are grateful for in the comments, and, as always, any corrections to this post are welcome and appreciated. See you next week!

COMMENTS
To leave a comment click here. Merci beaucoup!

Jules and Max
Photo archives. 2017. Max and his grandmother, Jules, when both lived in Mexico.

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to the sound file

un jour à la fois
= one day at a time
J’hésite = I hesitate 
néanmoins = nevertheless, nonetheless 
heureusement = luckily, fortunately
la semaine prochaine = next week
dépassé(e) = overwhelmed
la tarte Tatin = upside down pie
ophthalmologue = eye doctor 
la goutte = drop
la prise de sang
= blood test
lâcher prise = letting go
le sapin de Noël = Christmas Tree

Tarte tatin recipe

KRISTI'S BURNT TARTE TATIN
When the holidays make life topsy-turvy, what better than to make this upside-down pie?

3 apples (I used "golden delicious)
2 TB sugar (more to taste)
a few dollops of butter

Sauté the quartered apples in the butter and sugar. Add some pinches of salt and spices, if you like. For the shortcrust pastry:

85 grams of butter (I used salted)
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon oil (I used olive oil)
1 tablespoon sugar (I skipped this)
1 cup flour

I discovered Paule Caillat's French Tart Dough via David Leibovitz's website. First, melt the butter in an ovenproof bowl for 12 minutes (or until the edges brown). Carefully remove the butter from the oven and stir in the flour, forming a ball. Transfer the ball to some wax paper then add another sheet on top before using a rolling pin to smooth out the dough, to roughly the size of your tart pan. 

Place the sauteed apples at the base of the tart pan, then carefully transfer the shortcrust pastry dough over the top. (I mixed chopped pecans into my pastry dough before rolling it out). Bake for 25 minutes at 210C (410F).

I was unable to flip my pie over for the presentation (it was a burnt sticky mess, let me know your tips for improving it). But it tasted good all the same with its caramelized apples with a crumbly short crust topping. It disappeared quickly!

European Christmas Noel window decorations

REMERCIEMENTS / ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Thanks in advance to readers sending in a blog donation for the first time, and to my returning patrons listed below. Your support keeps the wheels of this digital journal turning, and I am truly grateful!

Tom D.
Linda C.
Karen L.
Sheryl W.
Louise H.

Barbara B.
Holly R-J
Suzanne D.

Joyeux Noel Kristi. Your new dog is wonderful! Sheryl W.
Continued thanks for brightening my inbox. Always a smile to be found. Merci bien. Karen L.
Joyeux fêtes from Suzanne and Don and Loulou LOVE Ricci. . . love love love Ricci. Suzanne D.

Christmas lights in Bandol France
Le Sapin de Noël - Christmas tree above the port of Bandol. Happy holidays and take good care!

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Raffoler: A Great Verb for Something You Love (such as dogs and cookies...)

Jean-Marc and Ricci mini australian shepherd
We are all crazy about our new dog Ricci, who gave us quite a scare recently....
Nous raffolons tous de notre nouvelle chienne Ricci, qui nous a récemment donné une sacrée frayeur.

TODAY'S WORD: Raffoler de

    : to adore, love
    : not be able to get enough of something

A DAY  IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Two weeks ago we nearly lost our little shepherd, la petite Ricci, adopted recently at the age of 3. Jean-Marc and I had been enjoying a stroll along the shore, and all the amusing dog encounters, when Ricci exchanged sniffs with a Boxer. When he got too playful our girl shot off like a bullet up les escaliers, over the boardwalk, and across two lanes of traffic!

We ran after our spooked chienne, bracing for what was around the corner by which she'd disappeared.

Incredibly, our dog had cleared two lanes of traffic before a stranger moved swiftly into action. The man swooped down, trapping her on the sidewalk in front of the pizzeria. We hurried across the street, and Jean-Marc retrieved Ricci while I grabbed the man with multiple piercings, hugging him like my own son--de toute ma force! 

Max Ricci Izzy Loca lap dogs
Sadly, no photo of Ricci’s sauveur. Standing in for this Good Samaritan are my son Max and granddogs Izzy and Loca.

With Ricci safely in Jean-Marc's arms, we walked the rest of the way home a little stunned. What were we to do now? We would like our dog to be able to play on the beach with other dogs--but at what risk? How is our dog supposed to get her zoomies out if she can't go temporarily unleashed? There are no dog parks in our seaside town, making it a challenge to exercise our energetic American Shepherd.

We have been sorting out this dilemma over the past few weeks and we are all making good progress. One blessing that's come of this is we have discovered the Parc National des Calanques here in La Ciotat--a beautiful natural reserve where we can walk along a rocky trail to the top of the city. 

Parc naturel des calanques la ciotat france
Read about this stunning natural reserve on the last page of the Feb/March edition of France Today.

After the randonné, it's time for a visit from Grand-mère (Jules has been catless ever since Lili returned next door, to live peacefully in our neighbor's armoire after three dogs moved onto our property). Jules adores Ricci, whom she visits each afternoon with her pockets filled with friandises. "Here comes the Cookie Monster!" my mom giggles, taking Ricci into her lap. We've given Jules a 3-cookie limit (per visit) for Ricci and I'm amazed she abides by the rules (if only this one time).

IMG_1642

Regarding the dog biscuits, Ricci, elle raffole! She is crazy about them. As for us, on raffole de Ricci! We cannot get enough of her! With her soft-as-silk calico fur she's exotic and she has a very foreign--come to think of it a very French way of expressing herself: elle grogne. She is not visibly complaining or unhappy, she's "voicing" without words. You might say it's a kind of guttural dog purr....

UN CHIEN CHAT
"She doesn't seem like a dog" My mom brings up something we have all been thinking about our ethereal animal de compagnie. "I know," I say, wondering if Ricci is some kind of licorne...

"What do you think she is?" I ask Jean-Marc. After a bit of reflection, he answers "a cat."

"Ricci! I say, are you a little cat in dog's clothing?" Just imagine! One thing's sure: after the scare our pup gave us recently, she has nine lives... just like our dear Smokey had. Maybe he was a cat too? Nah, he was definitely a unicorn.


COMMENTS
To leave a comment or a correction, please click here or simply hit the return button if reading via email. Merci!

FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click to hear the French and English pronunciation

raffoler de = to love, adore, be nuts about
une frayeur = fright
une chienne = female dog
un escalier = stairs
de toute ma force = with all my strength
le sauveur = savior
la randonnée = the hike 
la grand-mère = grandmother
une friandise = a treat, a sweet 
elle grogne = she grumbles
une licorne = unicorn 

REMERCIEMENTS / ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Thanks in advance to readers sending in a blog donation for the first time, and to my returning patrons listed below. Your support keeps the wheels of this digital journal turning, and I am truly grateful!

Caro F.
Karen H.
Monica G.

I love your stories! The one about the train journey was an absolute gem. Caro F. 

Today’s story motivated me to make another donation. I look forward to each new tale and do practice the French I see with each new post. Ricci is wonderful. So glad you have this beautiful new dog. Happy Holidays to you, Karen

Ricci mini aussi and Kristi

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Polyglotte: Is learning a second language risky? (A French woman's warning)

Jean-Marc Lake Garda Italy
"Salvataggio"--looking at the foreign word in this picture, can you grasp its meaning? It reminds me of "salvation" and, though I don't speak Italian, my guess is this is a rescue craft. Read on for more thoughts about words and language learning. (Photo of Jean-Marc on the shore of Lake Garda, in Northern Italy.)

A LITTLE FAVOR FOR THOSE CURRENTLY READING...
If you are able to, would you please order a copy of my book Words in a French Life for a friend? Doing so directly supports this site and it helps others to discover my French word journal. A double gift! Click here & merci beaucoup

TODAY'S WORD: POLYGLOTTE (m,f)

    : polyglot, multilingual, someone who speaks more than one language

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"Bilingualism = Risky Business?"

When our children were little and just beginning to communicate, an elder in the village of St. Maximin came to have a word with me. "Il ne faut pas parler les deux langues à vos enfants!" You mustn't speak both languages to your children!

Abasourdie, I automatically nodded in respect for my neighbor's wisdom, but secretly I had no clue what sort of threat bilingualism posed to my equally speechless offspring. Max was just beginning to babble his own name: "Affime!" he declared (this was as close to "Maxime" as he could get). It tickled my heart to hear my children's first words, in any language, including the universal tongue that is "baby talk." As his Anglophone mother and sole English teacher, was I to respond only in French (here in France)? I like to think my voisine was either misinformed or superstitious, but there was a gnawing doubt that her warning about le polyglottisme contained a grain of truth. After all, my son didn't speak as soon as the other toddlers at la crèche

With time, the dual languages sorted themselves out in Max's growing cerveau, and once our son began talking he never stopped, in French or English. Don't tell my neighbor but Max went on to become trilingual, learning Spanish and studying in Mexico, where his grandmother Jules lived at the time. Now Jules lives here in France and, though she doesn't speak Spanish or French, she has no problem communicating with the locals in either country when she speaks with her heart and her hands.

I gesture a lot, too. Jean-Marc often teases me for it, mimicking me as I "speak." 
"Ah. Bon, Vraiment? C'est comme ça?" He'll say, swirling his arms all over the place. 
I do all those hand moves when I speak to get my point across when my family seems distracted or distant.

But all my hand gesturing didn't translate to much on our recent trip to Italy, The Land of Gesticulation. And there I'd thought my French would surely help me to understand Italian, thanks to their shared Latin roots. Instead, I stared helplessly at the menus and the signs, and the instructions on the box of flu medicine I purchased.

Finally, Jean-Marc admitted he didn't understand much Italian either. Maybe we should sign up for Duolingo? he suggested. (This is not an ad and I have no affiliation with the company. But, for his  daily efforts, my Dad is a platinum member and he's inspired all of us to join--or at least to think about it...) This brings back memories of the elder's warning, years ago. Will learning a third language be somehow detrimental? Will it confuse me or cause me to make mistakes in both languages? I'm embarrassed to admit my reservations, especially given the language-learning theme of this blog

Reservations aside, if you want to know my personal feelings about learning another language, the following quote by Frank Smith expresses them in all their polyglot glory: 

One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way. Une langue vous place dans un corridor pour la vie. Deux langues ouvrent chaque porte sur le chemin. Una lingua ti mette in un corridoio per la vita. Due lingue aprono ogni porta lungo la strada.

Just imagine where three languages would take you! Down a corridor, through several doors, and into the hearts and souls of some fascinating people.

Amicalement,

Kristi
 

COMMENTS
Do you have particular concerns or reservations about learning a language? Let me know here in the comments and GRAZIE MILLE for reading today.

Jean-Marc in Bergamo
While I understood the word "salvataggio" in our opening photo, "pasticceria" doesn't call forth any associations in my brain. My guess is it's connected to pasta? (I now see it means "pastries"...as hinted in the word's prefix!)


FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and Kristi pronounce the following words

le/la polyglotte = multilingual person
le voisin, la voisine = the neighbor
abasourdi(e) =
stunned, taken aback
la crèche = day care, child care center
le cerveau
= brain
Ah. Bon, Vraiment?
= Oh, really. Truly?
C'est comme ça? = Is that how it is?
grazie mille = a thousand thanks (in Italian)
amicalement = yours

Doorstep in Bergamo Italy
"La Drogheria"--does the word evoke its correct meaning for you? We bought a few snacks in here, after being wooed by the colorful doorstep.

Kristi and Jean-Marc in Bergamo Italy
Me and Jean-Marc in Bergamo


REMERCIEMENTS
A heartfelt thank you to these readers who have recently shown their support through blog donations or by purchasing our online memoir. This journal relies on your thoughtful contributions, and I am deeply grateful for your help in ensuring its continuous publication. Your commitment to our work is invaluable, and I want you to know how much your support means to me. Merci beaucoup! --Kristi

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Mercally Italy church
Driving through Mercallo, Italy

Cinzano Italy river
On the road near Cinzano....

Wheat fields near Cinzano
Rolling past wheat fields in our RV

Bordigherra restaurant Amarea
This refreshing break came on our last day in Italy. Jean-Marc found a beach with parasols and chaises-longues. After he struggled to park our camping car in Bordigherra, he was rewarded with a cool dip in the sea and chilled glass of rosé.

Bordigherra restaurant Amarea

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


Baroudeur: A hair-raising adventure in the Italian Alps

IMG_7382_Original
That’s Jean-Marc on his way up to the Dolomites. More colorful photos at the end of this post!

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TODAY'S WORD: "BAROUDER"

    : adventurer, trailblazer

Today's story is dedicated to my husband and my Mom--both adventurers, trailblazers, and true baroudeurs!


A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
by Kristi Espinasse

On the eve of Jean-Marc's and my Great European Camping Car Adventure, I went to check on Mom. There in her studio, on the side of our house, Jules was putting away her groceries: "Ice cream, yogurt, pudding..." Jules sang, happy for her favorite items to be back in stock chez elle

"And what do you have for food for the next week?" I quizzed.

"I don't eat food!" Jules smiled, reaching for the ice cream to cool down in this heatwave. While Mom may be kidding, leaving her alone for a week was a serious matter to me, even if deep down I knew she would be ok. She is a feisty 76: spirited, spiritual, and strong. She raised two girls as a single mother and then lived solo in the Arizona desert, with only rattlesnakes and javelinas for company (her Rottweiler and guns were protection). After she left the desert, and before moving to France, Jules lived in Mexico for two decades, part of that time in a house with bare windows (no glass to keep the rain out). One day (2002?) Mom was sweeping the floor when she slipped and broke her hip. She came to France to recover, only to get breast cancer. She has been with us on and off ever since.

No matter how strong Mom is, or how much character she has, she can be vulnerable and I don't like leaving her alone when we go away. Especially when her grandson Max, who lives nearby, is out of town. And to think Jules no longer has Smokey to sleep by her front door and keep her company. Like this, on Day 2 of our camping trip, I was dreaming of my gun-toting, ice-cream Mama. What if she lost electricity? Would Mom know which switches to flip? What if the heat got to her or she fell down? Because Mom doesn't like the telephone (or Messenger or SMS or any of that) it can be challenging to know how she is doing. Thankfully, she promised to respond to my daily emails. So far so good, "All is peaceful here," her replies assured me.

Tossing and turning in our camper car, somewhere along Lake Garda, I awoke to find my side of the mattress wet. Zut! The little camper window was leaking. This was bad news for my flu, which began the night of our departure and turned into bronchitis. A clap of thunder had me scooting close to my husband, whose side of the tiny bed was dry. Quelle chance!

Jean-Marc was in a deep sleep after a few long days on the road. We had left La Ciotat that first morning at 5 am to pick up our rented camper in Grasse. After a picnic by the river in Cuneo, Italy (it felt so good to submerse our legs into the cold water while eating our paninis) we reached our destination that evening. It was the first of several lakeside campsites that Jean-Marc had carefully reserved and, after some reservations of my own, I was surprised at how easily we slid into camp life, and "glisser" is the word as the rain made for a muddy, slippery ground beside our camper. Next time, we'll bring along a plastic mat as the other seasoned campers had done. We were learning every day and that is one thing to love about roughing it: having to make do and be creative with what we had. Thus, a big T-shirt became a cloth sack for laundry, water glasses doubled as coffee cups, and a couple of plastic tire strips were used as a much-needed doormat. Nothing too ingenious, but it was satisfying, each time, to find an onboard solution to a problem! 

Jean-marc and our Chausson camper car
Jean-Marc, having found a parking spot in Como. That's the Chausson camper car we rented.

The most ingenious thing to me was our onboard toilet. By day two I discovered it swiveled sideways for legroom (turns out you didn't have to be a yogini to use it!). That toilet was a luxury and it meant we could travel to the ends of the world, which is exactly where we were going...

On day 4 we were headed up to the Dolomites, on a suspiciously empty road, when Jean-Marc casually mentioned that he guessed this road was okay for oversized camping cars to use. My husband's remark brought me back to all of the nerve-racking adventures he had ever talked me into before. The King of Shortcuts and his Take-Every-Precaution wife have, kicking and screaming, managed to scale steep mountain paths, pass through narrow railway tunnels on foot, and hurry across pastures dotted with horned cattle. I realize now that most of my fear comes from a lack of knowledge (are pedestrians allowed to walk beside train tracks…in a tunnel? Do horned cattle attack?)

Here we were again, on another hair-raising path, and there was no turning back along this particularly narrow one-way road up to the Dolomites. I began to notice potholes here and there and farther up ahead the road was crumbling off on either side. There in the passenger seat of our roving rental home, just when I thought my nerves couldn't take it anymore, I held on to one thought: we'd soon be eating in a quaint little chalet amidst a blossoming prairie at the end of this Godforsaken path. Just focus on the image. Focus on the little innocent flowers and not the menacing road! Just as I was beginning to relax, a string of words coming out of my husband's mouth strangled every little daisy as hope flew out the passenger side window:

" J'espère que c'est ouvert…"

You hope the restaurant is open?

To make a long, agonizing story short, dear reader, we did make it up to the restaurant (ours was the only camping car in the sparse parking lot). And it was as delightful as those delicate alpine flowers. After lunch and some apple strudel served by a lovely 86-year-old Tyrolian, we parted ways for the first time in days. Jean-Marc went on to hike 2.5 hours until he was able to reach up and touch the Dolomites with his own hand. My husband deserved such a thrill after maneuvering our two-ton trailer and me through the narrow streets and valleys of Italy. Bravo J-M! Meanwhile, I took a nap in the back of our vehicle, soaking in the sounds of nature all around us including the rain which began pounding on our camper car. When that turned to hail we peeled out of there just in time, heading back down over the crumbling road and the potholes, making it safely down the hill and down to the south coast of Italy. Those last two nights were spent at "Agriturismo" sites (camp free on somebody's farm in exchange for buying their products).  

From the Mediterranean to the Dolomites and back it was a smooth trip. And when we pulled into our driveway at 10 pm, Mom, having held down the fort, was there to greet us with open arms, happy tears in her eyes. “ I don’t think I have ever been so lonely in my whole life,” my desert-dwelling Mamacita finally admitted.

"That's why God gave us families,” I assured Mom. “So we would never be lonely." 

Not everyone has a family to hold on to and if that is your situation I hope these stories keep us all connected. Thank you, dear reader and virtual family, for showing up weekly and for clicking open my letters. 

"See you" next week,

Kristi

COMMENTS
It is a joy to read your comments so please don't hesitate to write me using this link to the comments. (My Dad, a faithful reader of this blog, especially appreciates it when you include your town or city! Extra credit if you give a weather report. He loves that!)

Jules and Holly
Thank you, Holly (right), for reading my journal and for sending in this photo of you and Jules taken on our front porch a few years ago. It is one of Mom's favorite pics. We hope you don't mind we posted it!


FRENCH VOCABULARY

Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and Kristi pronounce the vocabulary words below

le baroudeur, la baroudeuse = trailblazer 
chez elle = at her place
zut! = darn!
quelle chance! = what luck!
le panini = Italian for grilled sandwich
glisser = to slip
j’espère que c’est ouvert = I hope it’s open
agriturismo = a farm stay

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REMERCIEMENTS
It is humbling, touching, and enormously motivating to receive your support for my French word journal. And huge thanks to the following readers who sent in a donation following last week’s “anniversary” post:

Jill B.
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J & C Hawke
Bill and Mary E.
Natalia, Rod, et Mignons

Bergamo Italy2
Little daisies at the top of Bergamo, a perched village Jean-Marc used to admire while driving on the Italian freeway for his wine business. This time he got to stop and explore!

Beside the church in Bergamo
Outside one of the churches in Bergamo.

Alois vineyard
Trip highlight: We had a very warm welcome and a farm-fresh lunch at the biodynamic Alois Lageder vineyard near Bolzano. 

IMG_7415 Copy
The rest of these pictures were taken from the passenger seat of our camper car--a wonderful window from which to take in all the colorful scenes of Italy

Bergamo Italy
Also in Bergamo
Col de la Lombarde
This was at the Col de la Lombarde, just after the French Italian border. We (very carefully) passed zillions of cyclists in this area. It was one of the most nerve-racking passages for Jean-Marc, who did a great job maneuvering our camping car. I have so many more pictures. Would you enjoy an extra post this week?

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Guess Who Moved to Lyon? + A useful computer term in French

Brise-bise shutters france
One of the vocabulary words in today's story is brise-bise, for these charming half-curtains seen across France

TODAY'S WORD: un logiciel

    : software

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

Good news! Our daughter will be moving to Lyon to begin a 10-month intensive program in Web Design. Since returning from Miami in September of 2021, Jackie's path has been hit and miss and the highs and lows were beginning to take a toll. So after she completed a 4-week computer coding program, a guidance counselor at Pôle Emploi suggested she apply for an intensive study in Lyon, and this is how Jackie found herself, last week, awaiting the second selection. (16 out of 50 applicants made the first cut.)

While waiting, Jackie found a room in Lyon and did as much as she could to prepare for a potentially imminent departure. Then came the call. She didn't make the second cut.... and then, as fate would have it, they called back...and she was in!

This rollercoaster of emotions came to a peaceful pause Tuesday night. After a quiet knock at the bedroom door, Mama Jules appeared waving a 50-euro billet. Jackie and I were curled up on the bed, spending precious time together before her next-day departure. 

"Buy yourself a nice plant! It will make you feel at home in your new place. And you might think of getting some of those little half-curtains..."

A good idea given Jackie's fenêtre overlooks a busy street. "They're called le brise-bise," I added. 

"Thank you, Grandma!" As Jackie hugged her grandmother, I thought about Jules' perfect timing and her abundant generosity (générosité abondante--is that an oxymoron or a pleonasm? Oh, who cares about WORDS at a time like this! Sometimes GESTURES mark the moment, and I really appreciated Jules's thoughtful housewarming gift for her petite-fille.)

This isn't the first time our Jackie has flown the nest. So why does it get harder each time? And yet it was my eyes that were dry when we parted. My 25-year-old's were full of larmes. "I love you so much I don't want to leave you!" cried our 4-time fledgling.

How to say "ditto" in French? The truth is, I love Jackie so much I don't ever want her to leave le nid familial, and surely that is not the best thing for her. For either of us. So I watched, dry-eyed as she flew off Wednesday afternoon (in fact, she took the train. And lucky for us, Lyon is only a 2-hr train ride from nearby Marseilles).

Back in Jules's studio, a two-second walk from our front door, I am comforted by our daily mère-fille moment. The air is scented with Mom's favorite, Shalimar, which brings me back to my childhood in the desert. Our tête-à-tête is presided over by Lili the Cat who arrived on the heels of Smokey's departure last summer.

Jules' hair fell in a silver braid over her left shoulder, and she wore her bonnet for extra warmth. The space heater rumbled in the background and with it came my first pang of sadness. (That rumbling blade reminded me of "brown noise"--something Jackie often talked about. Ever since living in Miami, with a loud ceiling fan in her room, she has grown to appreciate the benefits of le bruit brun and its ability to neutralize a noisy environment. We enjoyed many talks about the subject, and categorizing various sounds became a kind of game.) 

My mind drifted back from the space heater to Jules. As Mom brushed Lili with her own rat-tail comb I rattled on. "Jackie's gone from fashion design to bartending to web design. Is computer programming really for her?"

I don't remember Jules's exact words, only her wisdom: This is not about computers. It's about the people Jackie will come in contact with. It's about the next phase of a young woman's life.... 

L'École de La Vie
As I listened to Jules, a couple of doves alighted on her window sill. The feathered duo is none other than Mama and Papa, her beloved wild birds, les tourtereaux. How serendipitous. Jules was now able to illustrate her point, and she did so while gazing at the love birds: "Don't worry about Jackie or school or what will come of this. This is about continuing the cycle of life."

Jules set down her rat-tail comb and headed to the counter to use the electric mixer I gave her. She poured a half-cup of dry dog food inside (Smokey's croquettes, which are, dorénavant, sustenance for the doves). Oh, the cycle of life with its sadness and joy! Mom and I covered our ears as the machine pulverized the croquettes. I laughed, thinking this is definitely not brown noise (does "red noise" exist?). I hope Jackie will laugh too, when she reads this from her new digs. Bon courage, My Girl! You've got this! 


FRENCH VOCABULARY
le logiciel = software
Pôle Emploi = the public employement service in France
le billet = bill, banknote
la petite-fille = granddaughter
la fenêtre = window
le brise-bise
= half curtain, café curtain
la larme
= tear
le nid familial = the family nest
mère-fille = mother-daughter
le tête-à-tête = conversation between two people
le bonnet = knit cap, wooly hat
le bruit brun
= brown noise
l'école de la vie = school of life
les tourtereaux = lovebirds
dorénavant = from now on
Tourterelles doves mama and papa
Mama and Papa, the two doves from today's story, alighting on a pile of pea gravel. We are finally topping up the old gravier in our yard, which may have been poured when this house was built in 1960. Your comments and corrections to this post are much appreciated. Merci d'avance!

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.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety