Archive for 2018

11/19/18, Apocalypse

Posted on November 19, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you are well, happy and SAFE!!! And getting ready for a lovely Thanksgiving.

 

I’ve had a crazy week. I’ve been writing pretty much day and night for the last 6 weeks, working on new books. Locked up in my office, and working even harder than usual so that I can take a few days off and enjoy the holiday with my children.

 

And sadly, the terrible fires in California have been a huge concern, and a distraction, and source of great anxiety to us all. So many lives and houses lost, so much loss, in both Northern and Southern California. Particularly awful since the North end of the state was already so devastated only (exactly) a year ago, in Napa and Sonoma counties. Whole towns were razed to the ground. I have several friends who lost their homes last year. And now, here we are again, in both Northern AND Southern California. I’m sure you’ve seen it on the news. Horrifying pictures of entire areas in flames, houses collapsing, the fires raging uncontained. Last year, the smoke reached dangerously unhealthy levels, and traveled more than a hundred miles, at times planes couldn’t fly, ash fell on San Francisco like snow, 80 miles from the fire. This year, with the fires raging more than 100 miles from the city, the smoke has reached new, unimaginable levels of toxicity. The city has watched the air quality numbers rise to staggering heights. The numbers sailed through the dangerous ‘red’ zone, to purple, which is EXTREMELY dangerous, schools are closed, many offices, people in the city are being told to stay indoors, do not open windows, do not walk their dogs, the cable cars have been shut down as it would be too unhealthy for passengers to be in the open air, the ferries have stopped, everyone is told that they must wear masks if they go outdoors even for minutes. The masks suitable for the ‘purple’ level of emergency have a rubber seal and make it nearly impossible to breathe, but are essential for one’s safety with the highly toxic air. The bay has vanished beneath a lethal looking cloud of smoke, you can’t see anything beyond your house, the sky is black at all hours of the day, an eerie dim light shines looking like a midwinter evening at mid-day. It is frightening, and worrisome, people feel cooped up in their homes, and everyone is anxious about the fires, and worried now that this will not be a once in a lifetime catastrophic occurrence, but an annual event. Meanwhile, the fires rage on, and the fog continues to envelop both ends of the state. Yesterday, San Francisco was declared the #1 city in the WORLD with the most dangerous air: more so than Beijing, Bangladesh, all of the industrial cities in Mainland China, and cities in India and Taiwan. It looks and feels like the end of the world, like a science fiction movie, with everyone running around with masks, and the streets fairly empty as people try not to go out. How long will it last? No one knows. An ‘inversion’ has settled over San Francisco, keeping an atmospheric ‘lid’ on the smoke, and trapping it over the city. The hope is for rain sometime later in the week if the wind comes up, and it rains, but for now, nothing is moving as the numbers referring to the danger level of the air quality continue to rise to a shocking degree. Many people feel the effects. It is a truly catastrophic event for anyone in the affected areas, which are extremely large. And hundreds of people continue to be unaccounted for. Droughts every year set the stage for these terrible fires. At this point residents of the affected areas can only pray for relief soon.

 

Many people have tried to get away from it during the past weekend, to areas where the air is slightly healthier, hotel rooms were impossible to find, planes were full. It truly is a shocking natural disaster, and my heart goes out to all of those who have lost homes or loved ones.

 

And in the midst of it all, Thanksgiving will be in a few days. We all have many blessings to be grateful for, and I hope that you will be spending your Thanksgiving with family and/or friends. There are so many blessings I am grateful for, and I hope that the fires will end soon, and the state can begin to heal again.

 

May you have a blessed Thanksgiving, and a safe, healthy one, with all my love, Danielle

 

11/12/18, Writing…

Posted on November 12, 2018

Dear Everyone,   I’m writing!!!!  See you next week, love, Danielle

Filed Under Current Events | 4 Comments

11/5/18, Book Signings

Posted on November 5, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’ve had a great week, and thank you for your comments to my last blog. I always enjoy them!!!

 

I’ve had a crazy busy week, travelling from one end of my world to the other, stopping to see two of my daughters on the way, and now I’m back to work at my desk. I started wrapping Christmas presents last week—ugh!!! I wrap like a 5 year old!!! With wads of scotch tape to hold the mess together!!! My gifts for children look like they were wrapped BY children!!!

 

One of you asked if I do book signings and book tours, which is worthy of a response!!! Book tours, never. I already had my first child, when I wrote my first book at 19, and I told my publisher at the time that I could not travel and leave home. That was more and more the case, as I continued to have children over the years. And with 9 kids at home to chase around by day, and my books to write at night, and a husband to take care of too, there was no way I could get away for a book tour, and was delighted not to!! They used to be like 15 cities in 15 days, and I never did one. The publisher at the time told me that if I didn’t do book tours, I would never be a success as an author. Oh well, I figured the kids were more important than a book tour, and things turned out pretty well on both fronts, the kids and the books, with no book tours. So the answer is no to that question. And now, how would I ever have time to write the books if I did book tours too? I’d rather be home writing than doing book tours.

 

As for book SIGNINGS, now that’s a whole other story. For pretty much the same reason, I have only done 3 book signings in my whole career. And all 3 were pretty unusual, and many years apart.

 

The first one happened when I was about 20 or so, with one of my early books. The publisher thought I should do a book signing (since I didn’t do book tours), so I agreed to do it, although I’m pretty shy. They often grouped authors together for those signings, sometimes with better known authors, who would attract people, and I was totally unknown then. I arrived at the book signing, and discovered that they had paired me up with a very successful author, who had had a terrible childhood, and had been the victim of shocking abuse by her mother. She had been locked in a closet or an attic for many years, eventually had been rescued but was very physically damaged by those early years. She was a very successful author, was in a wheel chair, and had very limited use of her limbs, but wrote very popular books, so she was the star of the show. The other author was a Viet Nam war veteran, who was a very interesting man, and surely very brave, and had lost both arms and both legs in Viet Nam. He was only able to sign the books by holding a pencil in his teeth. I have to admit, being very young, and nervous about the signing anyway, I was somewhat daunted by being seated between two people, both in wheel chairs and neither could hold a pen. I felt terrible for both of them, both were more successful than I, and I went home full of admiration for them, but not sure that I was ready for another book signing. It was an unusual experience, to say the least.

 

The second book signing was several years later, a little further along in my career. I was slightly better known but not as much as I am now, and I was a little nervous, worried about how foolish I’d look if no one showed up. Several hours before the book signing, it began snowing—I mean, REALLY snowing, like a blizzard. There was about a foot of snow (in New York) on the ground by the time I sat down to start signing stacks and stacks of books for people who had not showed up. The publisher had very generously provided trays of delicious treats and tiny sandwiches and hors d’oeuvres. So I sat there nibbling the hors d’oeuvres, waiting for people to come, while it continued to snow. Finally, after about an hour, a homeless woman wandered in. She was very nice and we struck up a conversation and chatted for about an hour. I gave her a book, and we ate quite a lot of the little sandwiches, and at the end of the book signing, we filled a shopping bag for her with all the snacks and sandwiches, and she went off, happy with the food, and she was my only customer that night. Technically, the book signing was not a huge success, but I had a nice time with her. I figured after that that maybe book signings were not for me (although the food was great!!). I didn’t do another one for twenty years or so, and said that I never would again. It’s very embarrassing sitting there with mountains of books and talking to yourself while no one shows up. I was really grateful for the company when the homeless lady showed up!

 

But a few years ago, when my children’s books came out about my little Chihuahua Minnie (“Pretty Minnie in Paris” and “Pretty Minnie in Hollywood”), a very sweet friend who has a beautiful store asked me to do a book signing at her store. She has a really lovely store a few blocks from my home, and sells beautiful table top things and high end items for the house. She also has a section of coffee table books, and had ordered some of my children’s books to sell. She was so kind with the offer, that I couldn’t turn her down, she had an excellent list of guests, ordered champagne, hired car parkers for the hordes of people she was sure would come, and organized everything. All I had to do was sit, sign books and smile and she would do everything. Easy as pie, right?? Who could resist an invitation like that? So I accepted gratefully, and got all dressed up on the appointed day, I only had a few blocks to drive, and I was literally walking out the door when my youngest (college age) daughter bent down to pick something up off the floor, didn’t notice the sharp corner of a cupboard right over her head, stood up in a rush and slashed her head right open with a huge gash, and stood up with a wash of blood running down her face. It was quite horrifying, she didn’t feel awful, but the things they say about heads bleed a lot I can assure you are true. I rushed over to help her, and was immediately covered in blood too. I had an instant decision to make—-the book signing where I was expected right then—-or take my daughter to the hospital? What do you think? I went straight to the emergency room with my daughter, with a friend who was there. We sat for an hour in the emergency room, waiting for her to be seen, and as emergency rooms are, an hour later, we were still sitting there looking like the Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I called my friend hosting the book signing and explained, and promised to come for at least a few minutes before it was over. Another hour, and we were still in the ER going nowhere fast. I then dashed to the store where they had the book signing, leaving my daughter with the friend. My daughter was feeling fine, but looked very scary, with an ice pack on her head and blood everywhere. I then rushed into the book signing, looking like I had murdered someone on the way, covered in blood, tried to look nonchalant, (unfortunately I don’t drink, because I’m sure the champagne would have helped), I chatted with all the people there, pretending to look normal, signed as many books as I could in about half an hour, apologized to my friend, and rushed back to the hospital, where we waited for another two hours before they FINALLY stapled (ughkkkk!!!) my daughter’s head back together. Being of the internet generation, by then she was putting photographs of the gash in her head on Instagram, Facebook and sending the photos to friends. YERGHK!!! And all stapled back together, we then went home. I hear people really enjoyed the champagne and yummy food and happy atmosphere at the book signing!!  So that is the story of my third and final book signing. Incredibly bad timing, and lots of drama. And by the time we got home, my daughter was feeling fine, and considered it an adventure. I was pretty shaken up over it, seeing my child covered in blood!!! I figured after that one, I’d quit while I was ahead…..so do I do book signings?…..eh not really. I can’t even imagine what might happen at the next one. So no, I do not do book signings, and if you missed the first one, got snowed out for the second one, and missed seeing me dash into the third one, looking like Lizzie Borden after she swung the axe……then I guess you missed my entire book signing career!!! I don’t think I’ll be doing another one!!! But I’m happy to sign a book for you whenever I see you. But my book signing event karma is not so great!!! And that is the story of my 3 book signings!!!

 

 

Have a great week!!! lots of love, Danielle

 

10/29/18, Trick or Treat

Posted on October 29, 2018

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you had a good week last week, and that this week will be more treat than trick for you!!! (Treat being lots of dark chocolate or whatever makes you happy!!!)

 

I worked REALLY hard last week, writing 20 hours a day, so I am definitely back up to fall speed and my winter writing schedule. And I finished what I was writing on Friday, so I treated myself to a fun day on Saturday (after Xeroxing everything I’d been writing, since I type it on a typewriter and don’t use a computer). After the Xeroxing, I did some Christmas shopping….and of course a few treats for me!!! I’m having my Godchildren for a Halloween dinner, and they’re still young enough to really enjoy it!!

 

After Christmas shopping on Saturday (I went to a really cool store that is ALL men’s socks in a million different rainbow colors—–great stocking stuffers for the men on my list!!)—after that, I did something I never do. I NEVER go to restaurants alone, I’m not a big eater, wouldn’t enjoy being in a restaurant alone, it always looks weird to me when I see women alone in a restaurant, or people alone generally, and it’s no fun without someone to talk to. If I’m out doing errands, I just plow through until I get home, and I always have a bar of dark chocolate in my handbag if I get hungry, and it doesn’t hurt to skip a meal. I’d rather do that than go to a restaurant alone. And I’ve only done that once in my life. But Saturday, I decided to spoil myself a little after a week of hard work, and spotty meals. I tend to eat food that’s easy to eat and I don’t have to pay attention to when I’m working. Like hard boiled or scrambled eggs, the occasional sandwich, and waaayyyyy too many cookies!!! But Saturday I stopped for a late lunch, I had truffle risotto and calf’s liver (I love liver—-I know, no one else does). It was yummy, I was on an outdoor terrace, having a ball watching the people go by, sitting in the sun, feeling lazy and spoiled and enjoying it thoroughly. It was a fun restaurant I go to a lot, so they know me, and the kind of place where families and couples go, and all kinds of people so I didn’t stand out alone. And the people watching is superb there. Lots of foreigners, on my right were two Chinese women who looked like they were having a good time. They took photos of each other with their phones. to my left were two young Americans, maybe about 18 or 19, a boy and a girl, talking about college and exams, and how awful their parents are (I tried not to laugh at that. The boy said he had to take a trip with his father and said “Erghk!! How Sinister is That!!”) And beyond them was a beautiful Russian woman with what seemed to be her boyfriend. Lots of people came and went in some wild outfits. It’s a restaurant where a lot of people go in the fashion business, and some models, actors and actresses sometimes, and people who want to see and be seen. There was a Chinese actress posing for photographs in front of me, and some crazy outfits: one couple had on matching suits with Bermuda shorts, and she was wearing Mickey Mouse ears. It was a fun interlude for an hour, and at least I had a decent meal after a week of eating snacks nonstop.  I did some more errands after that, and went home and listened to some music and answered some emails.

 

I still haven’t figured out a Halloween costume, I have a pink sweatshirt with Miss Piggy on it, and may settle for that this year. I hope you have a GREAT HALLOWEEN!!! Whether in costume or not, and I hope you get lots of treats!!!

 

I learned something VERY unusual this week by the way—At least I think it is, a social event popular with the Millennial generation (late 20’s to early 30’s) Apparently the big trend is for “Gender Reveal” Parties. Clearly, I’m from the Dark Ages because I’d never heard of it before, although all my children knew about it when I checked. It sounded extremely sexy, but apparently isn’t. Here’s how it works if you don’t know about it either. When a Millennial is having a baby, instead of having the doctor tell her and her partner or spouse the sex of the baby, the doctor writes the baby’s sex down on a piece of paper, seals the paper in an envelope and the future Mom takes it to a party planner and a baker, and they throw a party, which will either have a pink or a blue theme, they invite all their friends, and when they go to the party, they discover the sex of their baby, along with all their friends, from the pink or blue balloons. I have to admit, I was stunned, I can’t imagine wanting to share that discovery with 50 or 100 friends or even two. In my generation, it was a very private moment to share with my husband and not discover at a party. But apparently, Gender Reveal Parties are a big deal now. You learn something new every day!!!

 

 

Trick or Treat!!!

 

love, Danielle

 

10/22/18 “Night Owl thoughts”

Posted on October 22, 2018

 

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’re having a great week, and had a great last week. I’ve been very, very busy, with a heavy writing schedule, as usual this time of year. I settle into the winter, and hibernate for a while, writing new books, and working on new ideas. So it’s writing time for me.

 

And special greetings to one of the readers who responded to my last blog, —- clearly a soul mate, whose tech skills are on a par with mine, and can’t find the apostrophe on her laptop. You’ll notice that I am lazy about apostrophes too!!! Her daughter tells her she doesn’t even TRY to learn—-I hear that all the time. And as much as I love my ridiculous ancient Nokia cell phone with the disco lights when I get a message, texting on it is a nightmare, since it’s the kind where you have to press several times on a key in order to get the right letter, and if I get it wrong I have to start all over again. So I keep my texts VERY short. Anyone over 30, not to mention 40 or 50, is of a very different generation from current texters, who would rather text, than call or talk, and the words just seem to flow from their fingers. The only thing I do on my IPad is play solitaire, and I see 2 year olds in their strollers happily working their IPad, and I want to hire one of them to show me how!!! If I ask someone in my office to call someone for me to leave a message—-they respond immediately, “I’ll text them right away”. It doesn’t even occur to most people to call anymore, they only text, and don’t even bother to answer their phones. And I guess it is true, that I don’t even try to learn new technology. The day will probably come if I am very old one day that I won’t know how to work the lights in my bedroom, turn on the TV, or open the curtains—-everything happens on an IPad or some form of ‘device’ these days. And as soon as you do learn something ‘techie’, it becomes obsolete immediately, and you have to learn all over again. I’m going to have to start hiring 5 year old consultants in my office who are up to date on all the latest technology. It does seem a shame though that everything is so high tech now, it definitely cuts out the human element in communications, it’s also a perfect way for people to dodge giving you straight answers, and avoid a simple question, like “where are the kitchen chairs I ordered 6 months ago?” And there is an App for everything now, none of which I have on my phone, or would know what to do with if I did.

 

I’ve always been a night owl, it runs in my family. My father and grandmother stayed up very late, and needed very little sleep, and in some ways I’ve been lucky to be like them too. It allowed me to manage 9 children AND a writing career (I wrote at night when the kids were asleep when they were young), and get by on very little sleep. I still do. I’d go to bed late (around 2 or 3 am, after writing for many hours), fall asleep the instant I hit the bed, and wake up ready to go 4 hours later—–a real blessing at times!!! I still go to bed late, now that my kids are grown up, and still get by on very little sleep, and write until the wee hours, but now I wake up earlier, and often wake in the middle of the night, and then my mind starts racing, and I think about all the things I should be doing, have to do, or should have done. I sometimes get the best ideas during those sleepless hours, but I find that I worry more about silly things in the middle of the night. I’ve made a lifetime career of a fertile imagination, and I sometimes get ideas for new books in those late night wide awake hours. And then of course, there is the silly stuff—like I just remembered the Halloween table cloth I ordered in August, which never came. This time of year, I lie awake thinking about what to get people for Christmas, I haven’t worked out my Halloween costume yet…..and I am working on several books at once, which gives me plenty to think about in the middle of the night, as I work out the plots or search for a title. If I lie awake for long enough, I get up and answer emails (which come in at all hours from all over the world)….and….true confessions, my one concession to High Tech: I have discovered online shopping, and I can get up to some real mischief with that!!! I notice that with all the complaints (in my family and office) about my lack of computer skills, and offers to bring me up to date, NO ONE has offered to teach me how to shop in the Internet, and I pretty much figured it out for myself with very little help. And I have some real fun with that sometimes!!! For someone who likes to shop, which I do, internet shopping is a huge temptation, and I have gotten some really fun stuff!!! It’s so easy that it feels like it’s free at times (it’s not!!), and I feel like a kid in a candy store….I want that and that and that….and that!!….and oh wow!! Look at how cute this is…..It’s a very dangerous sport, but can be a lot of fun. And they make it very easy, even for non-techies like me!!! So now I can shop in the middle of the night if I can’t sleep. Uh oh!!!

 

I’m including a photo of something very fun I got recently. I saw it in a shop window, as a display item, and tracked it down. It’s a company that makes furniture made with teddy bears and other toy stuffed animals. You can either get it with the teddy bears over the whole surface of a chair or bench, or just around the edges. It’s easier to sit on with the teddy bears just around the edges, so I went with that. I love it, it’s so fun, and super comfy to sit on. I ordered it with little white polar bears, but you can have it with any kind of toy animal you want: monkeys, camels, bears, dogs, cats, swans, flamingos. It’s a silly fun thing and I love it.

 

I hope you have a fun week ahead. Halloween is approaching, and I haven’t figured out a costume yet. My favorites over the years were as a ‘ghost writer’, with a white face and white wig, dressed in white with a necklace of pens around my neck, Cruella de Ville, and my famous/infamous whoopie cushion costume, undignified but funny….maybe I’ll just be me this year. One of my daughters dressed as me for Halloween a few years ago, and looked exactly like me, in a black turtle neck sweater (my uniform because I’m always cold), black jeans and black loafers, red hair in a long pony tail, glasses on her head, and lots of bracelets on both arms. I laughed when I saw her, and she put on my serious “I’m thinking about a new book” face. I hope you have something fun planned for Halloween. You still have time to figure out a costume!!!

 

 

Have a great week!!! love, Danielle

10/15/18, Your comments

Posted on October 15, 2018

 

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope that all is going well for you, as we creep up on Halloween. Have you planned your Halloween costume yet?? I’m going to give a Halloween dinner for my godchildren, but I haven’t figured out what to wear yet (they’ve already seen my Whoopie cushion costume, so I’ll have to come up with something new). And yes, I bought Halloween costumes for my dogs—they are tired of their bumble bee costumes!!!

 

On a night when I couldn’t sleep, having cruised through 3 time zones over 6,000 miles in 3 days, I guess jet lag caught up with me. I like to say that I don’t get jet lag, but it does catch up with me too, though not often. Being wide awake in the middle of the night, I read your comments in response to my blogs, and was deeply touched by many of your kind, loving comments, especially about my son Nick (from the people who say they have been helped by him, with their own struggles.  I keep you close to my heart, and in my prayers).I always read your comments, but sometimes I go back and check for any I missed, and being awake at 4 am was a great opportunity. Some of your comments made me laugh out loud.

 

On a practical note, one of you suggested that I go to a San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting to report about the coyotes loose in our neighbourhood. There are more and more reports of them all over the city, and I think your suggestion is great, and will act on it. The city is refusing to deal with it, and they say there are too many to deal with or control. I hear more and more reports of pets lost to coyotes, not just in SF, but all over the country. What is happening that we’re being inundated by coyotes??? But I thought the Board of Supervisors suggestion was great.

 

Another comment was that someone had read 118 of my books, and was afraid that they had missed some. I have written 171 books to date—-5 of them were never published (my 2nd through 6th books, written when I was in my late teens. My very first one was “Going Home”, which was published and is still in print. And they were all published and are still in print, from my seventh book on). 5 of my books are non-fiction, on a variety of subjects (pregnancy, homelessness, my son Nick, etc). There are 147 novels, and the rest are a book of poetry, and many illustrated children’s books for young children. If you look at the most recent hardcover book, it lists all the books going back to the first one, so that way you can tell if there are any you’ve missed. And thank you for reading the 118 until now!!! Wow!!!

 

The comment that really made me laugh out loud, was the reader who was laughing at me for recently replacing a 14 year old TV in my bedroom. She said that if I have a 14 year old cell phone too, that would make me a historian. Well, guess what? I DONT have a 14 year old cell phone—-I have an 18 year old cell phone!!! Ha!!! So there. And it works great—-it is a tiny, old, Nokia, which pre-dates the flip phone. I drop it on the floor regularly, and I pick it up and it keeps on going (when my children drop their cell phones, it’s the end of their phones!! Not mine). I love it because it’s not only reliable, but it has multi colored flashing (disco) lights when I get a phone call, so if I’m in a noisy place, I can SEE when it’s ringing, if I glance in my purse. And then it has different flashing lights to tell me I have a message. How can you beat that??? Unlike a smart phone, I cannot tell you on what date and time Grace Kelly was born, what shoe size Albert Einstein wore, or how many people live in South Dakota and what their favorite movies are. It has a camera feature I have never figured out how to work, and basically it only works for phone calls and texts. I don’t want emails on my cell phone, or like my children, I would have my eyes glued to my phone during every meal. I am NOT a high tech person. I can barely work my computer, and make embarrassing mistakes on it all the time, I only use it for email, and not much else, and I don’t know how to shop on line (and everyone refuses to show me). I write my books on a 1946 German typewriter, an Olympia, which I LOVE, and wouldn’t dare write on a computer, or I would erase 14 chapters while trying to figure out where the shift key is. I accidentally erase as many emails as I send.  The only thing I know how to do on my IPad is play solitaire, which I enjoy. Supposedly I could send emails, watch movies, or launch a rocket ship and work my curtains from my IPad, but damned if I know how. I have proven to be an F student on anything computer oriented, which is embarrassing, and even more so when I see 2 year olds playing games on their IPad in their strollers. It’s in their genes, not mine!!!  When I got married, I arrived in my husband’s house with the only TV I had at the time (museums were begging me for it), it had lots of snow, only certain channels worked and had a coat hanger stuck in it as an antenna. Although much older than I, my husband had adopted every kind of modern tech at the time, and was addicted to TV, he would watch several channels at once on separate TVs, and even had one in his closet so he could watch the news while he got dressed in the morning. I didn’t watch much TV, so I didn’t mind my dilapidated old TV (which he made me throw away. Can you imagine??!!). And when we moved into a new house, he sent me out to buy 15 TVs to put EVERYWHERE. I dutifully went to Macy’s and bought 15 TV’s, and was taken upstairs by security who didn’t recognize me, and thought I was buying TV’s with stolen credit cards. Who buys 15 TV’s??? So if the reader who commented on my 14 year old TV and was laughing about my cell phone, was laughing at that—now you know the WHOLE story. (My husband also got the first ‘portable’ phone at the time, which was in a suitcase, weighed about 40 lbs, and he took it proudly to restaurants so everyone could see it. Personally, I like my 18 year old Nokia much better). Maybe one day I’ll get a Smartphone. But I’m not ready to take that leap yet—-and I will NEVER be writing my books on a computer. I paid $20. for my typewriter at a 2nd hand shop (or maybe 10th hand) when I wrote my first book at 19, and my Olympia isn’t going anywhere. 171 books later, we are doing just fine!!!

 

So now you now some of my dark secrets. I am not a ‘techie’. My children have given up trying to get my old cell phone out of my hand. And I also have a new TV in my office, and I haven’t even figured out how to turn it on yet, a year after I got it. I worry sometimes that someone might try to steal my old Nokia cell phone out of my purse one day, and my kids laugh REALLY hard at that. After all, they must be jealous that my cell phone has disco lights and their Smartphones don’t. And I really don’t need to know Albert Einstein’s shoe size, or Julius Caesar’s birthday. I’m doing fine as I am.

 

So thank you for your comments and for reading my blog. And even if I don’t answer you specifically, know that I read ALL your comments, and am very grateful for them, and enjoy them a lot!!!!.

 

Have a GREAT week!!!!

 

love, Danielle

 

10/8/18, Let your light shine!!!

Posted on October 8, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’ve had a good week, a productive one, some fun times, and accomplished whatever you wanted to. The fall is here, and it’s a great time to rev up our engines, start new projects, finish old ones, —-even as adults, many of us still have a ‘school year’ mentality, and the fall feels like the beginning of a new year. I’ve been busy too, and working on new books for you!!!

 

In a serious vein, I’ve lost three friends and a family member recently. It’s a sobering experience and leads one to some introspection about life in general, and the people specifically. Three lived to a great age (2 at 89, and one at 90), and one died very young. And three of them made a strong mark on the broader world. Two in artistic fields, in which they were well known, one high up in federal law enforcement, and one of them was ‘unknown’ except to family and friends. But whether ‘famous’ or not, we all leave a powerful mark on our world. All of them were people I greatly admired, and their passing was publicly mourned. The last of them was an absolutely remarkable woman, an award winning French documentary filmmaker and writer, who had survived five concentration camps as a young girl in her teens, including Auschwitz, and was a dynamo of strength, courage and talent, and right up until her last day she was fascinating to talk to, full of energy, always working on a new book or documentary film. She could outstay anyone at a party, smoked, drank, and lived a full life till the end. Interestingly, only one of them had children, the other 3 did not (the three famous ones didn’t, an interesting statistic), all had major careers, and all four lived their lives as shining examples to the rest of us. Three of them were in great form and productive until their last day. They were inspiring to know, and I feel blessed and honored to have known them.

 

In doing some reading to come to terms with these losses, I came across a Bible quote from Matthew which I have always loved. “Let your light so shine before men that they see your good works…..”. All four of the people I mentioned were brilliant examples of that. And in a world filled with social media, and rapidly reported news, we are constantly, daily, hourly assaulted with shocking news and bad events. It’s not so easy to shine in a world filled with the distracting smoke of bad behaviour, and bad news. And yet, these people did. Every day, we have a choice about what we see and what we do, what our standards and values are, and how we treat our fellow man. Do we focus on the bad events? Do we sacrifice our own values, and take the easy road, or the high road? Do we make excuses when we fall short, or keep going on our own road toward higher goals, and lend a helping hand to others on the way? Years ago, when I started writing books in my late teens, my good friend and mentor as a young writer was Alex Haley, the writer of Roots. Famous, successful, he always had time to help others, was always encouraging to young people, and I don’t think I have ever known a nicer, kinder, more extraordinary human being. I marveled at his kindness. (His personal motto was “Find the good and praise it”—-not so easily done in today’s world)

 

In the scheme of life, being famous doesn’t really mean much, except that it helps you to reach out to more people, and it can be exciting to see your name on a list of some kind, or the cover of a magazine. But what really matters is what we Do. When all is said and done, I think who we are is determined by what we have done, how much good we have done during our time here on earth. That’s not always an easy goal, the low road is so much easier. But the people we stand back and admire at the end of their lives are invariably kind, and have lived a lifetime of small gestures to others that make a difference. It can happen in a moment, in a smile, in a gesture to a friend, or a stranger, an act of kindness that makes a difference to just one person. We all fall short at times, and wish we had done better, given more, tried harder, or been more patient. We don’t always realize what a difference we make to someone else. We don’t have to be internationally known or enormously talented to do good works. We each have the chance to let our light shine every day in the smallest of ways. It’s a nice thing to remember when we are tempted to be short with someone, growl instead of smile, and don’t reach out a hand to someone else.

 

I liked finding the reminder of that Bible quote, it’s a wake up call, to let our light shine so brightly that it lights up the darkness that surrounds us at times in the world.

 

The people I knew whose lives ended in the past few weeks were all shining examples of that…..their light shone so brightly, their good works to others (not just their talent) will be long remembered, and blessed everyone on their path.

 

There is another quote that I love too, by Robert Louis Stevenson, “It is the history of our kindness that alone makes this world tolerable.” And what I remember most about the three lost friends and one family member is not how famous they were, or how much they accomplished, but how kind they were. Maybe in the end, it is the only mark worth leaving on the world.

 

Have a happy week, and Let your light shine, even in the smallest of ways…..and I will try to do the same.

 

With much love,  Danielle

 

 

10/1/18, The Rose and the Thorns

Posted on October 1, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’ve had a good week. I’ve had a long crazy one, travelling again, and my travel day this time consisted of TWO, not one but TWO cancelled flights, and 7 hours in the airport between them (with my 3 dogs), only to go nowhere and go back home that night, unable to get a seat out for another 2 days. It’s fairly typical travel hell nowadays, but it sure isn’t fun when it’s happening. And I think cancelled and delayed flights happen a lot now. In the end it took me 4 days to get home, instead of one. It’s all part of the complicated landscape of travelling now, and challenging at best. I was exhausted by the time I got home.

 

Two hours after I got home, I celebrated my daughter’s birthday with her, and some friends. It was a really fun evening, and her birthday was the reason I came home. I would have swum home if I had to, not to disappoint her.

 

And the next day, I had some sad, bad news. A friend had gotten sick a few weeks ago, seemed to be coming out of it and recovering, and this morning at barely 60, he had cardiac arrest and died. I was stunned when I got the call. It just didn’t seem reasonable or possible. We had spoken only a few days ago, and emailed regularly. He was a wise, intelligent, extremely kind person who had been very helpful to me, always willing and quick to go the extra mile to help. He was a truly lovely man, with strong protective instincts. I always felt safe when in his presence, as though nothing could harm me when he was around, which is a rare feeling. I met him many years ago, and our paths crossed again earlier this year. The friendship picked up then for the past several months. I saw him twice this summer, and as usual, he was wonderful to me. We exchanged some emails, just chatting, and three weeks ago, I learned through one of my children, he was ill in the hospital, and wanted to hear from me. So I sent him an email, and we began talking. He was suffering from the illness he had, but he was determined to beat it. And he assured me only days ago that he would. While he was ill for the past few weeks, our correspondence became voluminous and intense, as I tried to encourage him, and hoped he would get well soon. I sent him some prayer cards, and some religious things, including a medal from a convent near my childhood home in Paris, and some books. And our email exchanges were fun too. I was always happy to hear from him, and he was grateful for the support. The thought that he might not get well seemed remote and unlikely, and he said that he was confident that he would. We spoke a few days ago, and he was “confident that he was getting better”. And then one morning a few days ago, that terrible call, that he had died suddenly, and was gone. It left an instant void, and an overwhelming feeling of sadness, and I was stunned all day after hearing about it.

 

The concept of birth and death has always been a mystery to me. It always struck me when I was having a baby. One moment you are X number of people in the delivery room, and minutes later, there is one more person in the room. How did they get here? It is utterly remarkable to me that a person can be added or subtracted at a moment’s notice. And similarly, death makes no sense to me at all. People you love and care about and know, see regularly or once in a while, and suddenly that person no longer exists. Game over. The person you loved or knew is nowhere to be found on this planet, you can’t talk to them or see them, and never will again. Vanished. Gone. Whatever they were doing before, and in all the places where you used to see them, they are no longer there, and you will never hear their voice or see their face again. It seems incredibly cruel, especially with our loved ones. Now you see me, now you don’t. And we are left with the memories of time shared with them.

 

I’ve often said that some books are shorter than others, and it applies to people too. Some lives are shorter, and they are not meant to go the whole long distance. But for those of us left with our memories, and not with the person we loved, it’s hard to understand why this happened, and what it means to us.  I will miss talking to my friend, and reading emails from him, the exchange of laughter, the comfort and the reassurance of his emails. Why destiny chose to make our paths cross again this summer for these few months, I don’t know. And I know even less how such a lovely person, anxious to help anyone he could, should die so young. I’m grateful to have known him, I will cherish the memories of who he was and what he shared, and the example he set for kindness in this world. He always went the extra mile for anyone.  I will miss his smiling face, and so much about him.  He said to me the last time we spoke, that he preferred to focus on the roses in life than the thorns. He was certainly a rose in many lives, and I will long remember and cherish his friendship.

 

Have a great week!!

 

love, Danielle

 

Filed Under Family, Friends, Paris | 7 Comments

9/24/18, The Wild West

Posted on September 24, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’ve had a great week since the last blog.

I’ve had some startling news about my home in San Francisco. It’s in a quiet residential neighbourhood, across from a park. Children play in the park, and there is a dog park for the neighbourhood dogs. And it’s a pretty peaceful place.

 

After several years of drought, and two years of ferocious severe fires, mostly to the North of the city, in Sonoma and Napa counties, the wildlife in those counties are being driven out, looking for food and water. Deer show up in unexpected places, and I was just made aware of a most unsettling situation. Coyotes have been seen all over the city, in parks and on city streets, and have now made their home in the park across the street from my house. People who work for me have seen them, neighbours have warned me, photos have turned up on Facebook of two of the coyotes walking past my house, and they were seen yesterday, standing in front of my home, watching people come to work in my office, one of whom comes with her dog. A few months ago, a friend of one of my sons was surrounded by coyotes in the Presidio (a big park that used to be an Army base, and is now where children play, people picnic, jog, and play baseball there. The coyotes were ready to attack her, until someone heard them, and her screams, and chased them away.) I have very old frail dogs at my home in San Francisco, who are living out their final years peacefully, and I am frightened for them and the people in my home, with coyotes “casing” my house, and living across the street. (We have no idea how many there are, if they are part of a pack, or are protecting their young, which would make them more aggressive).  With really bad luck, they could attack a person coming in or out of the house, or a dog being walked on a leash.

 

We called local animal control to ask for their help, and they said that there are so many coyotes in the city now (people I know have seen them in neighbourhoods all around the city), that they do not try to remove them, or move them somewhere else back to a more natural habitat, and they don’t come to help when coyotes show up on your doorstep, as they have on mine now. It certainly makes San Francisco a dangerous city, with animals who pose a real threat (to people and domestic animals), running free around the city. They suggested that we keep our dogs indoors and be vigilant. And that’s it.

 

Sadly, one of my closest friends lost a beloved dog to coyotes earlier this summer, in broad daylight in the morning, in another part of the country. Other friends have lost their pets to them in the country near San Francisco. And we have them around our home in the Napa Valley, and keep a close eye on our dogs there. I heard them there this summer, howling terrifyingly close by, seemingly moving in for the kill of some animal. Similarly, friends who have homes in Lake Tahoe, in the mountains, have a problem with bears hanging around their homes, and two have had bears break into their houses (and empty the fridge), and sleep in their beds.

 

We aren’t dealing with bears in the city of San Francisco yet. But the proliferation of coyotes in the city is a frightening prospect. It’s a sad situation for wildlife animals seeking food and water, but it can be a tragic one with potentially dangerous animals running unchecked in the city with children and small dogs and even adults at risk to be attacked by animals that present a real danger to small dogs and humans. Apparently, they’ve taken several cats in my neighbourhood.

 

It certainly is the Wild West, and very scary!!!

 

Stay safe, and have a great week, full of happy moments, good times, and good surprises!!! (not scary ones!!)

 

love, Danielle

 

9/17/18, Hard Day, Hard Week

Posted on September 17, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’ve had a good week, even a great week, as the Fall gets off to a busy start. For those of you with children, they’re all back in school by now, which keeps parents busier than ever, until the new routine is established, and things settle down. And with after school activities, and sports teams, kids keep us running. Mine are all working now, and I miss those school days (which will sound crazy to you if you’re dashing all over the place with your kids, and wish they’d hurry up and grow up. Beware of what you wish for!!! They grow up all too soon!!). I still have one child living at home, and am grateful that I do!!! Every time she leaves her laundry stacked up in the front hall, or borrows something and forgets to return it, or loses something, or scrambles my schedule, or uses enough towels to stock a hotel, I remind myself of how lucky I am to still have her at home!! Any time I spend with her is precious.

 

I had a busy, mostly fun week last week, doing errands, catching up, seeing friends for lunch and dinner. I love having friends in for dinner after the summer, to catch up with how everyone’s summer was. I worked, and finished an outline I love, for a future book, and can’t wait to get to work on it. And I’ll see a few friends this week too, and visit two of my daughters, and see 2 more of my kids by the end of the week. Seeing my children will be the best part of the week. And I have a bunch of real life stuff to do too. A visit from the plumber to solve a (lack of) hot water problem, a trip to the vet to check the dog who was sick this summer (Blue, with a disk problem), put away summer clothes, call to complain about the kitchen chairs I ordered 5 months ago and haven’t received yet. Ordinary real life housewifely stuff, which I enjoy. I got a new TV for my bedroom, after 14 years, which is fun. I like the rhythm and routine of ordinary life, I find it comforting and relaxing to get small things done. Last week had its serious moments too, I went to the memorial service for a dear friend, and unfortunately will go the memorial service of a beloved brother in law this week. The friend was 91, a famous fashion designer (Hubert de Givenchy, an extraordinary really lovely man). My brother in law was in his late 80s, and like a real big brother to me since I was 16. Both men led good, full, long productive lives. I will miss them both, but it is in the order of things for people to leave, and both lived well lived complete lives to a great age, which makes their leaving easier to accept.

 

But all in all, I know this will be a hard week for me. However well I fill the time, whatever I do, there is a date that I cannot escape every year, the anniversary of my son Nick’s death, by suicide at 19. He was greatly, great loved, and still is, and I miss him always. Talented (in writing and music), brilliant, funny, loving, compassionate, he was a wonderful boy, suffered from bi polar disease all his life (I first noticed it before he was 2, and knew it for sure by the time he was 4 years old). We did everything we could to help him, but he finally just couldn’t live with the pain anymore. He led a remarkably full life in his short time, he already had a successful career in music (writing lyrics and music, and lead singer in a successful band). And even after his death, his life has been a blessing to many people. We established two foundations in his honor, to help mentally ill people, and the homeless. Thousands of people have been helped in his name. There is a blessing in even the hardest events in our lives.

 

Anniversary dates are always something of a mystery to me. The person we loved, and still love, is just as gone the day or the week or month before and after the anniversary. But there is a power to the anniversary date that is like the sound of a gong that reverberates through you, shattering the silence and any sense of peace. It’s as though your body knows what day it is as well as your heart. Life stops for me on that day, as I try to remember him without remembering how terrible that day was. Birthdays are easier because there are happy memories of that day. There are no happy memories of the day someone you love dies, and it pierces your heart like a spear. The memory of that stops you in your tracks. I try to keep it as gentle as possible, but there is no easy way. This will be the first year that I won’t be with some of my children on that date, but I will see them the next day. There is something particularly terrible about losing a child, at any age, because it is not in the correct order of life, and a child is part of you from the moment they are born until you die, and they take with them a part of you that belonged to them.   So it will be a hard day. It always is. Some years are harder than others, and some years are a little better, and gentler. You never really escape it, but some years whatever you do to soothe the pain seems to work, distraction, seeing friends, whatever you do, and you get through it. Other years you barely crawl through it. The pain begins to dim the next day and gets back to something you can live with, but you hit a wall on those days, time stops, and you are catapulted into the past to a day you wish had never happened. In a way, the agony of that day doesn’t make sense, because they are just as gone before and after the day, and you learn to live with it…..but the actual anniversary date is particularly tough. I dread it, but one gets through it. It comes at you like a heat seeking missile, headed straight for your heart.

 

He was an incredibly sweet boy with a huge heart. Forever missed, forever loved, for the rest of time.

 

Have a great week!!! I hope it is a gentle week for you, with lots of happy moments in it.

 

all my love, Danielle