Last Friday, I found myself at the very tip of Northern Florida for a full day of school visits.

As I drove on this gorgeous stretch of Florida I was tempted to skip the events and go for a hike and a picnic. The blend of states parks, beach parks, marshes, creeks and ocean is distinct from the rest of the state and on Friday the early morning fog rising from the Amelia River tugged at me, the promise of a beautiful day.

But I’m so glad I only skipped my weekly French Friday blog post 🙂

School visits are always special. These five last ones included.

At the first high school, the librarian had invited me to show up before my presentation so I could have breakfast. She spoke of a continental breakfast. And it would have been plenty enough. There is nothing better than fresh coffee, donuts, banana bread, and fresh fruit to put everyone in a good mood, right?

No, there are the breakfast sandwiches that nobody but locals know about.

To be frank I’m not a huge breakfast person, but I always try what the locals eat. When I am invited somewhere I am part of a place, even for the time of a visit. Or for the time of a breakfast ham, cheese and egg on an English muffin.

And when there is a story behind what I eat, it’s even better.

The chair of the English department was there and as any good English teacher he told good stories. The one behind the breakfast sandwiches is here. In his own words, it was the best idea anyone had to give another life to a closed gas station. In a great American way, although some people thought that serving food in a gas station was weird many more and even the reluctant ones gave it a chance. Their patronage brought the joint to the Washington Post. Not bad. The breakfast sandwich I picked was great. I only wished I could have enjoyed it, slow and easy, but I’m always a little nervous before speaking in front of many people. Next year I will make sure to stop by T-Rays to celebrate the end of the day. Have a look it’s really cool.

Parents play a huge role in American schools. Including at that high school. I spotted some dads signing in for the seniors’ field trip. And a mom stamped my novels (I use an Eiffel Tower and a small cafĂ© stamps when I sign) so I only had to write a short sentence and add my name. While we worked together we spoke. Of course. She hoped to live in France for a little while, at some point. I love it when people share their dreams because it’s the only way to realize that we are all so similar despite our differences.

At this high school, I met with three groups of sophomores in their media center. I love libraries and librarians. This school is so fortunate to have a huge media center and an amazing librarian who cares so much for the students. I spoke about writing, writing in a foreign language and of France too. I had downloaded more music and I played extracts to cut the presentation and also whenever I felt they needed a break. And when I needed one too 🙂

At the end of the third presentation one of the teachers told me that I was like a teacher. I thanked her. And she added that like a teacher I warmed up as I went and adapted to my audience. I had not really noticed but then saw that my notes were left on a chair. I had not once looked at them. Q&A was fantastic. Few kids had traveled to Europe and even less to France, so it’s always with a mix of humility and pride that I try to introduce my small but complex native country.

I had an hour ahead of me to drive to a neighborhing high school, half an hour away. Traffic was jammed, so I missed the lunch graciously offered by the French teacher and munched on my cereal bars instead. I missed that breakfast sandwich.

There, I met a mix of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, all taking French. They had read my novel in class and had tons of questions.

Their French teacher being French it was an additional treat.

My most favorite moments of the afternoon:

  1. What do you miss most about France ? Some people more than things.
  2. What do you like best about the USA ? The list is too long to even start one.
  3. How long did it take you to be fluent in English ? You don’t want to know.
  4. Can you say: “squirrel” because our French teacher can’t ? She and I are even.

Of course, I answered each and every question and agreed to repeat a few words in English. We joked and laughed and this is what we all should do more often.

On Friday, however, being invited to two high schools located in Florida made it impossible to ignore the shooting that had happened 48 hours earlier, on Valentine’s Day, in another high school in the very same state.

I knew I would make sure to talk to the media specialist and the French teacher before meeting their students. I didn’t have to. Teachers and staff told me upfront that it had been hard to be at school since then, but that life had to go on. At the end of the day an announcement reminded students that support was available to anyone who needed to talk.

And yet it was hard to imagine a similar tragedy happening on these bucolic campuses.

I bet people thought similarly in Parkland.

On my way out I saw groups of teenagers waving goodbye to each other, hugging each other. There was after all a three-day weekend in perspective. They all looked so young, so full of energy and possibilities. And I felt suddenly sad and angry too.

Knowing that my own children had been spared from such tragedies through their entire schooling didn’t change my mood.

I’ve always favored the American inclusive schooling to the more rigid French style I’ve known. But I’ve also envied French students for the safety of their schools. Even now with terrorist threats ever present on the French soil, no student has ever shot his classmates.

Our American children and teenagers could be as safe as the French.

It is an American paradox I will never understand. When people are so civil and courteous in the street, in the stores and on the roads what justifies their need for weapons? When they come together as one in times of hardship what explains the unconditional support for the Second Amendment ?

As our nation was mourning again the loss of young lives, I felt sick and tired of hearing that we needed to keep them and their families in our thoughts and prayers.

Of course, we would. How couldn’t we?

But thoughts and prayers obvioulsy have not exactly worked.

Over the last years, I’ve signed every possible petition regarding gun control and also the need for a better understanding and management of mental health.

Obvioulsy, they have not worked either.

Each time a school shooting or a mass shooting happened we all believed it would be the last.

And yet.

I felt angry.

And I did not want to pray.

So I turned on the radio, which I often do when I drive.

This is how I first heard of the Florida man who decided to turn his own AR-57 in to the sheriff’s office and asked them to destroy it after the school shooting.

If you missed it you can read the interview highlights here. His Facebook post went viral.

I listened to the much longer conversation he had with NPR. At some point, he mentionned that thoughts and prayers didn’t feel enough for him and that the tragedy called for action.

It’s only one man, one action.

What if


The soft Atlantic waves


Pour vous qui vivez en France, ce court article paru dans Le Monde recense les fusillades les plus meurtriĂšres aux USA depuis 25 ans. Tristement, je les ai toutes vĂ©cues. AprĂšs Columbine on a tous ici cru qu’un changement important se produirait. AprĂšs Sandy Hook, c’était certain.

Le congrĂšs amĂ©ricain a explicitement interdit la vente d’armes semi automatiques entre 1994 et 2004. Mais depuis que la loi a expirĂ© il est trĂšs facile de se les procurer de nouveau pratiquement n’importe oĂč aux US. Seuls les Ă©tats de New York, de Californie, le district de Columbia, et cinq autres Ă©tats en interdisent la vente. Les mĂȘmes Ă©tats limitent aussi le nombre de cartouches qui peuvent ĂȘtre chargĂ©es dans une arme. MalgrĂ© cela, tout est fait pour annuler les interdictions, lĂ©galement et illĂ©galement, en modifiant de façon mineure les armes.

Si vous lisez l’anglais, cet article du New York Times explique la situation actuelle.

Depuis Parkland, les lycĂ©ens expriment pour la premiĂšre fois leur colĂšre au-delĂ  de leur douleur. Manifestations inhabituelles prennent place et la maturitĂ© des filles et garçons que nous entendons s’exprimer me donne raison. Je ne cesserai jamais de croire que l’avenir et les changements importants sont entre les mains des adolescents d’aujourd’hui.

En les Ă©coutant depuis ce drame, je me dis que peut-ĂȘtre nous sommes enfin arrivĂ©s Ă  un point de non retour.

Malheureusement, entre le moment oĂč j’ai Ă©crit ce billet et aujourd’hui il y a dĂ©jĂ  un Ă©norme nuage noir qui planne et laisse augurer de dĂ©bats houleux.

Si vous le souhaitez, voici un article rĂ©cent qui illustrent la longue route qui nous attend. Celui sur la situation de la santĂ© mentale aux USA est intĂ©ressant. Les deux sont publiĂ©s dans le New York Times et peut-ĂȘtre pouvez les lire dans le Monde qui reprend rĂ©guliĂšrement leurs articles.

J’ai souvent Ă©crit Ă  propos des rituels amĂ©ricains, particuliĂšrement dans les Ă©coles, rituels qui parfois m’ont fait sourire tant ils sont diffĂ©rents de ceux de la vie scolaire française, souvent Ă©tonnĂ©e, jamais fatiguĂ©e.

Que la tragédie de Parkland devienne un rituel scolaire américain serait monstrueux.




French Friday: For Humankind

With the Republican running candidate blasting his opinions about women during his campaign and the #Metoo movement that followed, women have clearly taken the public debate stage.

Whether we appreciate the courage of the women who come forward or fear excesses in the process, it is impossible to ignore the momentum and to deny the need for real equality between genders.

Since it is a very heated debate it’s important, I think, to keep our sense of humor and critical sense as we plow our way along the arduous road.

Just this week, a few events show how the best intentions can fall flat and also how even women can see things very differently.

Pretty much everyone likes Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada. And pretty much everyone noticed him when he corrected a woman who said “manhood” and offered “peoplekind” instead.

Humankind or even humanity would have worked just fine. Despite the fact that Trudeau interrupted a woman while she was speaking, his intentions were no doubt sincere. Inclusion is necessary, but sometimes the desire to achieve it can lead to faux-pas.

Canada is still making genuine efforts. Take this magazine that printed two versions of its latest issue. One is sold 26 cents more than the other to reflect the disparity of salaries between men and women.

In the U.S., Macy’s is soon to introduce a collection of modest clothing and hijabs to capture a slice of the Muslim women’s clothing market.

At the same time in Iran, women are taking their veils off, putting their lives in danger, to obtain the right to choose whatever clothes they wish to wear.

Who is right? Maybe there is no right and wrong when it comes to women’s freedom to be who they want to be.

In any case, women are playing centerstage in these early months of 2018.

Now that I chose to write a month of French expressions for the A to Z Challenge in April, I could only notice that some of the most common French idioms are in fact sexist.

I was tempted to list them but have decided otherwise. I didn’t want to put de l’huile sur le feu, as we say in French (oil on the flame), but instead focus on the delightful aspect of these small words and short expressions. Thanks to my early personal mistakes, I quickly learned that all tell a lot about a country and its culture. Many are not perfectly exchangeable from one language to another. Often, they still have an equivalent. Sometimes, nothing can exactly convey the idea.

To my own surprise, I quickly compiled a first draft of my 2018 list, only missing as always an expression for the letter X.

As I went through the list I noticed that several expressions had something to do with food.

Now, it was telling something about France that men and women alike would agree on.


And nothing and nobody can be better than animals to bring smiles to humankind.



These photos have been taken in my native Normandy, where a few inches of snow fell over the last few days, transforming the landscape in a scenery that I rarely got to enjoy when I lived there as a child.







Belated French Friday: C’Est Ouf to Meet Smart, Kind Middle School Students on CrĂȘpes Day

Post-classroom visit

It’s a belated French Friday post, only because I was meeting a class of 8th graders yesterday.

Which was ouf.

Last Friday, I left you with two French expressions. Dan used the services of Google and suggested “Get the pill” for “Se dorer la pilule” and “This is a pick of ouf” for “c’est un truc de ouf.”

Thank you, Dan for trying. Really, that was cool. But I cannot give you an A. That’s Google’s fault, really.

Google, can you hire me?

* Se dorer la pilule doesn’t mean to get the pill but to get a tan, also simply to relax without doing anything.

Get the pill would be “Prendre la pilule” and it would also be said in reference to the birth control pill.

On the other hand, we don’t have the exact equivalent of the vivid American expression: Take a chill pill.

* Ouf is Fou, only written backwards. Fou in French means crazy.

C’est ouf means it’s crazy.

Un truc is a thing.

C’est un truc de ouf means it’s a crazy thing.


So, yes, meeting with the kids yesterday was ouf, in a very good way.

C’est ouf!

Following your advice, I went with a selection of photos depicting France and Paris. One one girl had been to Paris, so all of them enjoyed my personal Normandy selection. And they smiled when they saw me at their age.

As expected, the addition of music was a great idea. I played music while the students settled in. Then I picked classic French songs and extracts of contemporary songs from singers and bands and played them during the presentation. Even the teacher could not sit still when she heard some French rap.

Since the main characters of my novel eat at different cafés, I added a few slides about typical fare that Parisians and French eat at their favorite cafés.


And I wore my special T-shirt 🙂

The kids loved my last slides about the Chandeleur. Eating crĂȘpes on February 2 is yummier than waiting for a groundhog to see or not his shadow.

So after the school visit I rushed home to prepare my batter. When my four children lived at home I doubled and sometimes even tripled the recipe and we ate crĂȘpes for dinner. Now my husband and I have a couple for dessert and eat the leftovers warmed up for breakfast.

But when I arrived we changed our minds, so I made a regular batter.

The batter, my mom wrote on her recipe, should not be too thin and should not be too thick. That’s the reputation people from Normandy have: undecided 🙂 But her crĂȘpes batter is the bomb.


First crepe is like a first draft. Necessary.


My husband added a sunny-side-up egg on our crepes

We ate until there was no batter left 😩

I wish you all a fantastic weekend!

If you are a football fan, enjoy the Super Bowl. I know of a few diehard Patriots fans around me. It’s in my nature to cheer for the underdog. Although, on Super Bowl I will be found in a park or at the movies, which are pretty quiet on Super Bowl.

Just saying 🙂


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