Archive for 2018

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

 

9/10/18, Remembering

Posted on September 10, 2018

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope that September/back to school/the fall is off to a good start for all. I’ve been busy, travelling, writing, visiting my children. It’s fashion week in NY, so my daughters in that industry are busy, working 15 and 18 hour days.

 

But I can’t see this date, and not think of what tomorrow represents to us, what it means, and what happened on September 11th, seventeen years ago. An unforgettable time in our country. A time of fear and heartbreak, and as far as I know, one of only two times when this country was attacked on home turf by hostile forces, at Pearl Harbour in 1941, and in New York and Washington, DC 60 years later on September 11. Almost 3,000 people were killed in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, and the Pentagon in Washington, and with the crash of the third plane which took off from Newark, and was headed for Washington to create more destruction there.

 

The most heartbreaking image that haunts me from that day, were the people who knew there was no way out, and leapt out of the World Trade Center, some of them holding hands, to their death below. It was an unspeakably awful moment in our history. And like the entire country, I spent the day glued to my television, incredulous at what I was seeing, as the World Trade Center crumbled. The country was badly shaken for months afterwards, it changed the nature of air travel forever, and showed us that it was possible to attack us in our own country, at home. Nineteen terrorists created unimaginable destruction and havoc, on a day we will remember forever. It’s difficult to imagine now that it happened seventeen years ago. In many ways, it still seems like only yesterday. The children who lost parents on that day are adults now. But the memory remains as vivid as ever.

 

As happens at the worst of times, heroes emerged on that day, helping to save others, and in many cases sacrificing their own lives. We remember them now, with love, gratitude and respect, and pray that nothing like it ever happens again.

 

Have a peaceful week as we honor those we lost and remember that day,

 

love, Danielle

 

9/3/18, “In His Father’s Footsteps”

Posted on September 3, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,

 

Happy Labor Day!! I hope you’re enjoying the long weekend, and can catch a last few days of vacation before life gets serious again, and the summer is officially over!!! I’m happy to be spending it with three of my daughters.

 

To get the Fall off to a good start, I have a new book coming out tomorrow, “In His Father’s Footsteps”, about three generations of a family. The book begins with the liberation of one of the concentration camps in World War II, the first camp liberated by the Americans, and among the survivors are a young man and young woman who met while in the camp, Jakob and Emmanuelle. Both managed to survive, and had lost their entire families. In the days after the camp is liberated, they try to figure out where to go next, having lost everything during the war (he is Austrian, she is French. He was from a wealthy family in Vienna, who lost everything, she is the daughter of a seamstress in Paris), their friendship blossoms into love, as they help each other get their bearings and regain their health after their shocking experiences. With the help of an American refugee organization, they marry and immigrate to New York, where they are sponsored by a man who owns a garment factory, where they are given jobs, and a tiny apartment on the Lower East side. They arrive in New York with nothing, and work hard. They are ultimately exploited by their sponsor, struggle to survive, get better jobs, and are determined to make a good life for themselves in America, and they have a son, born in New York. With some good breaks, and the fruit of their labor, they meet a kind man who gives Jakob a good job as a runner in the wholesale diamond market. With time, hard work, integrity, and diligence, Jakob carves out a solid career, eventually owns a business, and provides a good life for his wife and son Max. They are cautious, sensible, persevering people, deeply affected by their wartime experiences and all that they lost, and serious about the solid, successful life they have built since. Max grows up in more fortunate circumstances, thanks to his father’s hard work, and he in turn is affected by his parents’ view of life, and he wants a very different, all American life, and to take advantage of the opportunities and education he has been fortunate to have. A Harvard graduate, he builds a successful business of his own, and leads a fast track life, very different from his parents’ lives, who are cautious and always concerned that another war could sweep everything away again. A visit to the camp his parents survived, and where they met, gives him new respect for his parents, and better understanding of what they’ve been through and how far they have come. Max’s own life choices in turn affect his own children, who want to make choices very different from his, and have yet another perspective than their father’s and their grandparents’ view of life. It’s about family ties, about how each generation differs from the last, but with a common theme of hard work, integrity, and the importance of family, as they strive to leave their own mark on the world, each in a different way than the generation that came before them. It’s about how we evolve, and what we learn from our parents and grandparents, and how we come to understand them as we mature, no matter how different we are.   I hope you enjoy the book, and each generation in it as the story unfolds.  I’m excited about the book and hope you will be too. I always love the poignancy and compassion of family sagas, as we watch a family build and grow, as each generation tries to improve on what was achieved by those who came before them.

 

I hope you have a wonderful Labor Day, and that you have some wonderful memories of the summer to carry you forward into the fall. Have a great week!!!

love, Danielle

 

8/27/18, Fun Movie

Posted on August 27, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’re enjoying these last days of the summer

I went to a fun movie last night with one of my daughters—-another daughter had read the book and loved it. I had seen a trailer for the movie, which didn’t seem too exciting, and didn’t do it justice, but I went to the movie anyway, to enjoy an evening with a daughter. I rarely get time to go to the movies with them, they work hard and are busy, and when I travel to their cities to see them, I want to spend the evening talking to them, and catching up on their news, not sit in a dark theater—-besides which, we’re all often so tired from working that we fall asleep in a movie theater!! Last year, a whole group of us went to a show when we were in Las Vegas together—–and the entire row of us fell asleep!!! It must be a family trait!! But we didn’t fall asleep at the movie last night—-we loved it!!!

      

We went to one of the fancy new movie houses with reclining seats (and we were joking about how fast we’d fall asleep in big comfortable seats in the dark!!!) We got popcorn, candy, a pretzel, soda, and all the snacks we could carry, and I was quite startled to see that by state law, all the food sold at the concession states how many calories they are!!! Ugh, if I’m going to indulge myself at a movie, I’d rather not know, but I can see the value of warning people of their calorie intake as a precaution for their health. Since I don’t get to the movies very often since I write at night, the calorie listing was new to me.

The movie we saw was “Crazy Rich Asians”, and I loved it. Lots of fun, good dialogue, good characters, the movie took place in Singapore, Shanghai, and was a romantic story. I won’t tell you how it turned out, but I had a great time, loved the movie, and would see it again in a flash. Since I see most movies on planes when I travel, I hope it turns up on the airplanes soon so I can see it again. So if you are looking for a fun movie to celebrate the end of summer, go see it before life gets busier again after Labor Day. Have a great week!!

love, Danielle

       

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8/20/18, Bea, an Amazing girl!!!!

Posted on August 20, 2018

Hi Everyone,

 

Well, here we are, the last week in August, Labor Day is just around the corner, and we have ‘done’ the summer. It has whizzed past us, I hope you had lots of fun, some time off and vacation, and I hope you’ll look back on this summer with a smile. And now we have all the excitement of the fall to look forward to, and our winter plans and projects, in some cases moving at high speed after the summer. I am definitely back at work, and working on new books.

 

I wanted to bring you up to date on something I have mentioned to you before, that happened in my family two years ago. My nephew’s daughter Bea, my great niece, was 17 years old then, a beautiful, happy normal high school girl. She grew up in France, her father is French, her mother American, and they had just moved to Brussels, Belgium from Paris a few months before. Her passion was, and is horseback riding, her dream was to ride in the Olympics. And her great love was, and is, her beloved white horse Deedee. She has two older brothers, lots of friends, and lots of dogs. A very normal high school girl. And in March of 2016, her whole world changed. The family went to Florida for Spring vacation, she stayed back a day, and set out to join them in Florida a day later. She went to the Brussels airport for her flight, and Fate intervened in a very major way. It was the morning that terrorists blew up the Brussels Airport, right as Bea was in line to check in. We know now that she was standing roughly 3 or 4 feet from one of the bombs when it exploded, and was one of very few survivors in the terminal. It is a total miracle that she survived at all. Seven months in the hospital of fighting for her life, dozens of surgeries ensued. Hundreds of people were killed and injured. She was in a military hospital along with the other survivors, because the wounds inflicted were so extreme that they were only comparable to wartime military injuries, not civilian ones. She was burned over much of her body, was paralyzed in the days and months after the explosion, her body was full of shrapnel, pieces of metal in the bomb designed to do the most damage possible to a human body, and she lost both legs. It’s the kind of horrifying event you read about in a newspaper, but doesn’t happen to anyone you know. But it did, to this very wonderful 17 year old girl. And the future looked dark indeed for a while.

 

We don’t have any idea how any of us would respond to catastrophic events in our lives. Something like that is beyond imagining. She was in a medically induced coma for a while, to alleviate her suffering. And what not only survived but flourished and grew to incredible proportions was her extraordinary spirit, her strength and determination, not only to survive, but to have an amazing life in future anyway. She has a family who adores her, and a remarkable mother who exhibited strength and courage that kept Bea fighting for her life at the darkest times—and fighting for the quality of her life.

 

One of the most touching moments in her early recovery was when she was finally well enough to sit in a wheel chair and be rolled outside for some air. Her horse trainer had arranged with Bea’s mother and the hospital to bring Bea’s beloved horse Deedee to visit her. The video of it reduced me to sobs, and still does. Bea was sitting in her wheel chair, not expecting a visit, as Deedee was led out of the trailer, was instantly alert, and literally raced across the parking lot to where Bea was sitting, found her, licked her face adoringly, and then rested her head on Bea’s shoulder. It was pure love between those two. It was a turning point for Bea in her recovery. A day or two later, she was cautiously lifted into the saddle on Deedee, and held there so she wouldn’t lose her balance and fall, and thus began the next chapters of Bea’s life, with courage, love and hope, and a fierce determination not to be beaten or destroyed by what had happened.

 

Fast forward the long arduous film of what came after: 7 months after the attack she left the hospital, and went back to school for her last year—-she was greeted at school by a standing ovation by the entire school. People around the world, who didn’t even know her, had been praying for her. In June, 15 months after the attack, she graduated, and walked across the stage in braces to accept her diploma. She went to rehab at a Naval Facility in San Diego and is still there. Next month, she will start college. And for many months now, she has been training for the next Paralympics in Tokyo. Three countries invited her to ride for them. They first contacted her after someone had seen the first meeting with Deedee at the hospital. She is hard at work now training for the Paralympics, and getting ready for college. Her determination, and extraordinary spirit are astounding—-how can any of us complain about the problems and disappointments and minor inconveniences in our lives when you see someone like her, determined, strong, never lagging, never giving up, absolutely passionately determined to have an amazing life, and not be robbed of her youth and spirit and courage about life. After college, she wants to start a company for sports equipment adapted for people with physical impairments. She has feeling in her legs and back now, and her hope is to continue to improve. She has worked incredibly hard in the most grueling way at her recovery, and is continuing to do so.

 

Bea is a remarkable girl. Extraordinary, remarkable, incredible, courageous, amazing, don’t even begin to describe her. And her remarkable mother has fought alongside her every inch of the way. Her whole family cheers her on. I am stunned by her courage and spirit. It’s breathtaking.

 

What she has done and is continuing to do is an inspiration to anyone who knows her or hears about her. She didn’t quit, she didn’t give up, she didn’t complain about her losses, she held on tight and celebrated what she did have, and reached out toward all the good things and good times and victories that lay ahead. Her whole life is a victory, a shining example to others, an inspiration to us all. She is the best of what a human being can be faced with incredible challenges, and she has met them all.

 

I am in awe of this brave nineteen year old girl who has faced the unthinkable and is turning it into a victory every single day. And this is only the beginning of what I know will be a shining life that will continue to dazzle and inspire us all.

 

Have a great week!!!

 

love, Danielle

 

 

Filed Under Family, Friends, Kids, Paris | 20 Comments

8/13/18, “Nostalgia”

Posted on August 13, 2018

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope that all is well with you, in these final weeks of summer, which as always has sped by too fast. Whooosh!!! And it’s over!!! Although it’s still boiling hot everywhere I’ve been. I’m ready for fall.

 

I used to love the months of my children’s summer vacation, and I never used to work/write during the months of their vacation from school. Now our time together in the summer is short but very sweet, as they lead their busy lives in other cities, and none of them have the long French/European style summer vacations, so we seize the time together when we can. Typically, I have a week together with my kids every summer in July and a long weekend with ALL of my kids together in August, so we start and end the summer together. We wait for that time together with great anticipation every year, and like all good things it goes by too fast, but that time is very precious to me, and to them.

 

We just had our end of summer weekend together, and we were a small group this year for the first time. One was away, in Texas, one recently moved to Austria, another had a wedding to go to so he came a little late to the weekend, another had another party to go to in another city so left early, and yet another was unable to come, so there was a lot of coming and going, and late arrivals and early departures, and we were a ‘normal’ sized family for once, and some of the children arrived staunchly for the whole weekend, even from far away, and we had a great time, although we missed those who were absent.

 

Many, many years ago, when I was first married, my husband loved the Napa Valley, had spent a lot of time there, and he wanted to find a home there for us to spend summers and weekends when we could. I’m more of a beach person, so I wasn’t as crazy about the location as he was. I’m also not a drinker, so the charm of the vineyards was lost on me. We looked at some houses, rented for a couple of years, and finally found an old farm that was a quaint funny old place, built in 1857, with a number of farm buildings on it, and an old house. It was a working farm, run by a 95 year old woman, who had kept the place running and in good shape, whose heirs were several nieces and nephews who didn’t want the property so they were willing to sell it. By coincidence, I met the heirs through our church. The property had buildings for the animals, and we didn’t know then how many children we’d have, and that we’d eventually have 9 of them. It had vineyards on either side, but none on the property, which didn’t matter, and it was quiet farm and wine growing country then, about an hour and a half out of the city. I wasn’t crazy about the place, but it had ‘possibilities’, and my husband had a vision (a lot of them!!) for it. We bought it (despite my misgivings) and turned all the farm buildings into living spaces. A small horse barn (big enough for 2 horses) became a small and very cute guest house, a milking shed for the cow became a playhouse for our kids. We built a tree house for them too and a play area. We turned a water tower into a tiny 3 story, 3 bedroom house with a bathroom and no kitchen. We kept chickens in the chicken coop (and bought a pig who wandered around, and loved the orchard where she could eat all the fruit she wanted). And a small shed that housed rabbits became another small guest house, which we still call “the rabbit house”, the ranch manager’s house became a small house with two bunk rooms and two other bedrooms and a kitchen. And the main house, also with 3 small bedrooms became our main house, for my husband and myself. It became a family compound with all the buildings close together. And there was a big Victorian barn for farm equipment. The first thing we did was add an old fashioned porch on the main house, which was my husband’s idea and gave the place a lot of charm, and is still today the favorite gathering place for the whole family, with the main kitchen, and we put a long, long table on the porch for dinners on warm nights. We put a swimming pool where there had been a planted field, and years later a tennis court for by then our many kids to use. A bike shed, vegetable gardens, and my husband planted vineyards on every inch he could, which proved to be a wise move in later years. Our children, who own the property now, since their father passed away, support the property now with the grapes they sell for wine. And I put picket fences everywhere to keep the kids from wandering off when they were little, and keep our many dogs safe too. For years, it was a happy, healthy place of freedom and happy summers for the kids, and weekends through the winter. I grumbled about it at times, and we worked hard ourselves to improve the place and keep it up. Our weekends were as much work as play, or more work, as we continued to work on it. It still looks like the working farm it once was, and is wonderfully old fashioned and quaint—and very much unlike the fancy homes that have sprung up in the area over the years. Now there are restaurants and shops, tourists, and city dwellers that spend weekends there. And our place still has the look of a granny’s house and old farm. We bought two small neighboring homes bordering on it, and the old farm has grown, but it hasn’t changed. And as our family grew, it became the perfect place for them to bring their friends when they were teen agers, and spend their summers barefoot, in the country setting, for their entire youth and now as adults. The property had some very old trees on it, to provide shade, and we planted some more, which have grown into beautiful old trees while our kids grew up.

 

Fast forward the film, and we still have our funny old farm, it’s a wonderful place for our children to gather now as adults, and bring their friends. The ones who live nearby use it more frequently, and those who live across the country, come once or twice a year, and always come on our August weekend. There are hundreds of family photos framed on the walls in all the buildings, of all the good times we have shared there. And it is the perfect counterpoint to our busy city lives, our stressful jobs, and all the pressures in our lives. Going to the old farm is like a trip back in time, to their childhood, and also to all the history on the farm before us. We have so many memories there. The kids have kept everything just as it was when they were very young, their rooms are the same, their childhood treasures and mementoes are still there, so many of our family memories, and the main house that my husband and I lived in is unchanged. Whereas once I complained about ‘boring summer months there’, it touches my heart to go there now, and revives precious memories. I realized this weekend that I was younger than some of my children now when we bought the place and started working on it. We’ve owned it for well over half my life now, and I’ve finally come to love it. It took a while!!! For a long time, it was a muddy, dusty, old farm with blazing heat in summer, and some very wet cold winters, while I wished we had a beach house, and missed my own childhood haunts in Europe, which seemed so far away, although the Napa Valley does look a lot like parts of France and Italy. It remains a major grape growing/wine making area, and it became ‘fashionable’ and popular along the way. But our old farm doesn’t look fashionable, it has charm and warmth and is quaint, and shines with the love lavished on it for so many years.  I realized this weekend that we’ve had our summer reunions there now for more than half my life, and somewhere along the way, love for that old place snuck into my heart. It was my husband’s favorite place on earth, and he eventually retired there, and in the many years that passed, he imparted his love for the old farm to all our children, and I’m so glad he did. He was right all along (and I remember now how my heart sank when I first saw the place. It was not on my dream wish list at the time to own an old farm!!! I missed Paris and my life in Europe—but that came back into my life much later anyway) He would be so proud to see what good care his kids take of the farm now, how well they run it, how much they love it, and how well they use it, share it, and enjoy it, and what good shape it’s in. His dream has been preserved.

 

It was a huge trauma for all of us last fall when the fires raging in the Napa Valley came within 500 feet of the buildings on the farm, all entirely wood Victorian structures. All their childhood memories and mementoes of their father are there, and one of my sons heroically drove up and rescued hundreds of photographs from the houses and drove them to the city. I have since had them copied for all the kids. And miraculously the property was spared by a last minute shift of the winds, and the flames stopped just short of the houses.

 

I only go there twice a year now myself, once in the Spring with one of my daughters, who runs it with her younger brother, and I take a crew of men and women to help us repair, refresh, replace, repaint, and do everything we need to, to keep it fresh, looking good and running smoothly. They keep it up all year, but I am the very willing head of the janitorial committee to help keep the place looking beautiful and loved. They use it all year, but once a year I run the energetic spring cleaning. I end on a Friday, and they spend the weekend there with their friends to start the summer. And I only stay there once a year myself for our August long weekend reunion. It is always very nostalgic for me to go there, hundreds of memories crowd into my mind, of them as little kids, and their father, and our life there. It was his vision and his dream which brought the farm into our lives. What an incredible gift and legacy for all of us, especially our children. I walk the same paths as I did then, walk into rooms which still look the same, and remember all the love and laughter and warm times we shared there. He was very artful about it, which amused me less then and makes me laugh now: the flatbed truck he gave me one year for my birthday, because he needed it on the farm—-the vintage trucks he collected, and occasionally pretended to give me, although he used them and I didn’t….the flock of goats (that I did NOT appreciate at all), and the tractor I gave him. There was no glamour there, just wonderful family life with a lot of barefoot children running in the grass, free of their city life for a whole summer. It was a fantastic experience for us all.

 

It amazes me to realize how many years have passed, the children have grown up, and we still have the farm. It has been a lasting blessing in our lives, for more than half my life. I eventually got the beach house I had dreamed of, and sold it after 15 years, the charm of that wore thin, and the children preferred their farm life, and the freedom to run around there, instead of the beach. So the farm won hands down in the end, and now I cherish my days there at the end of every summer, as we follow our old traditions, and make new memories there every year. It is a piece of our history which I cherish and am profoundly grateful for. It makes our long weekend together there every summer extra special, and where once the children were in our home, now I am a grateful guest in theirs.

 

I hope the end of your summer will have special moments for you, and will brace you for the long winter months ahead.

 

Happy end of summer!! Have a great week!!!

love, Danielle

 

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8/6/18, Late night thoughts…..

Posted on August 6, 2018

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope that August is off to a good start, and that you are managing to have some vacation time off from work. In France, and a lot of Europe, EVERYONE takes the month of August off….or the month of July. But in August, shops and restaurants are closed, businesses close, and just about everything shuts down. In the US, many people take their vacations at other times of year too, but not in Europe. In some ways, it makes things easier, because everything closes down at once—but forget trying to get any business done in August. And my month of August is usually quiet too. I’m moving around a fair amount this summer, meeting up with and visiting my children, and getting some work done in between. But the pace slows down, even for me—-getting ready for September and renewed activity as life speeds up again.

 

I still keep the same late hours even when I’m not writing, habit, I guess, I’ve been a late night person all my life.

 

As I sit at my computer, three signs meet my eye, that I usually see first thing in the morning, when I answer the emails that arrived during the night:  “Wake up every morning as if something wonderful is going to happen.”  “Do More of What Makes YOU Happy”, and “Miracles DO Happen”. They get my day off to a good start, and my thought in the right direction. And then there are two other signs next to the desk where I write: One says “There are no miracles, there is only discipline”, and the other says “What hath night to do with sleep?” And a tiny one “Courage is not the absence of fear or despair, but the strength to conquer them”. And some others that I love on my office walls: “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile” attributed to Albert Einstein, “It is the history of our kindness that alone makes this world tolerable”, Robert Louis Stevenson, “Courage is the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good.” And “We cannot do big things, but only small things with an immense amount of love”, Mother Teresa. And one of my favorites “Nothing is impossible to God.”

 

The late night hours are always a good time for reflection, about what you’ve done, are doing, are planning to do, wish you’d done, and wish you hadn’t done. Late, silent nights are also a time when fear sometimes runs rampant in our heads, as we worry about what could happen. I can whip some of those thoughts into a real terror, with no one to talk me down and reassure me. I am a worrier, not a warrior!! I take things too much to heart, and sometimes people’s unkind words or acts cut through me like a knife, and at other times I worry that I may have been thoughtless with others and hurt them. I have a hard time understanding and dealing with people who are intentionally mean and hurtful. And we all run into people like that at times, or work with them, or know them. I am always shocked by people who intend to be mean, it’s like having someone throw sand in your eyes, it makes no sense and is hard to understand. I detest cruel people, and abuse, and those who want to hurt you, but those people do exist and it’s best to steer a wide berth around them, and avoid them at all costs, as best we can. It’s particularly unfortunate if you have a mean boss, or someone at work that you have to deal with every day who is determined to hurt and torture you, and make your life miserable, someone who abuses their power that you have to put up with. As a writer, I lead a fairly isolated life, so gratuitous meanness and injustice always come as a shock to me. It’s always a surprise. But then the kind people we meet make up for it and make our lives a better place. And fortunately, there are many good and kind people in the world. And good is more powerful than evil.

 

I have a nice one on my walls in Paris too (many of them in fact since I collect sayings and quotes I love). “A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers”. Forgiveness is so important in life, when deserved, and sometimes even if not. And bad, unkind people are to be avoided. Sometimes people we know, even good friends, become sour about life, or bitter, and are out to hurt others, and sad as it is, it is best to let those people go. Jealousy is so often the cause of people’s meanness to others, and is at the root of some very unpleasant actions.

 

I particularly love the quote of Anne Frank’s, the young girl who was taken by the Nazis in Holland in World War II as a teen ager. “I still believe in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.” Powerful words to live by and hang onto.

 

I hope that all is going well for you, and I hope you’ll have a wonderful, extra special week, with good things happening to you!! You deserve it!!

 

With so much love, Danielle

 

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7/30/18, Dog Days

Posted on July 30, 2018

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’ve had a good week, and the summer has been fun for you so far. I feel like it’s speeding past, and the bulk of my summer is over, after this I’ll be visiting family and getting back to work, with one long weekend to spend with my children. But June and July sped by with lightning speed. And as I write this, I am sitting in a blistering heat wave, with temperatures over a hundred all week, and no relief in sight. Ugh. That’s a little too summery for me!!!

 

Since only my youngest child still lives at home (and is very busy and independent, so I hardly see her, and most of the time she is too busy to spend time with me) and the others are grown up and most of them live in other cities, in order not to be alone, my dogs are my constant companions, and provide endless joy, and some very sweet moments with them. Dogs can be wonderful company. I have three that I take everywhere with me, all 3 teacup Chihuahuas: Minnie is The Princess, a long haired white, she’s 6 years old and I wrote the Pretty Minnie children’s books about her. Blue is a blue gray short hair, shy and gentle and delicate, she turned 5 last week—-and was the bane of Minnie’s existence when she arrived, but now they are best friends, and inseparable. And Lili is the baby, totally wild, a little bigger than the other two, and she’s not quite two years old yet, and defines the ‘terrible twos’. She is always into mischief, if she can be, and collapses at the end of the day, exhausted by all the things she got into. If I leave my purse open for even a minute, she dives into it, looking for whatever she can find, preferably chocolate (which is lethal for dogs, so I’m very careful with it). Minnie and Blue weigh three pounds, I think Lili is creeping up on five, but I haven’t weighed her lately. And when she has the opportunity, she eats everyone’s food. Minnie has a very funny quirk about her food when we travel. She has her own travel bag, with a little bowl of kibble in it, and she gives me a furtive look of false innocence, and carefully pulls her blanket over her food bowl to hide it, and then puts a toy on it, to scare anyone off who might want to steal her food. She is really funny when she does it. Maybe she thinks I’ll get hungry on the trip and steal her kibble. Until now, her travel bag was the only place she did that, but recently, she did it with Lili’s bowl of food at breakfast, covered it up, and then went and ate her own bowl of food, and when Lili came to eat her breakfast and couldn’t find it at first, Minnie gave her that innocent look again as though to say “Gee, I don’t know….I guess she forgot your breakfast, and only gave me mine today. Lili figured it out pretty quickly.

 

Blue gave me a terrible scare this summer. She and Lili play rough occasionally, and chase each other around at full speed. When they do, Minnie stands back and lets them run like maniacs, but stays out of it. After Lili and Blue went crazy together playing in June, afterwards Blue looked as though she might have injured herself, she cried when I picked her up, didn’t want to walk much, and it got worse day by day. We had four trips to the vet, who said she had pulled a muscle in her neck, or something similar, that it was only muscular, and not to worry. They are so small and fragile that I was afraid she might have broken something. My vet was only available once, and the other times I got fobbed off on assistants in his office, who were nice but I didn’t know. And all of them insisted it wasn’t serious. Two weeks after it happened, she was slightly better but not much, and we left on vacation, with the dogs, and she started really crying, didn’t want to be touched and could hardly walk. I took her to a local vet, and he said to take her home immediately and get her to a neurologist and get her an MRI—which was impossible where we were vacationing, they had no MRI machine locally. He said if we didn’t get her help immediately, she might become paralyzed. I don’t know who cried more, me or the dog. So I found someone to take her home (so I didn’t have to leave my kids on our only week of vacation together all year), she went to a neurologist my vet recommended, and spent 3 days in the hospital, for an MRI, spinal tap, and treatment for the pain. I was worried sick, and she looked so pathetic when she left. It turned out that she had injured a vertebra in her neck, it got inflamed, and she got an infection of the bone marrow. Once they knew what it was, they gave her the right drugs, and when I picked her up 3 days later, she was her old self, miraculously. She’ll have to take medicine for a while, but she is back to her old bouncy self now. But for those weeks, she looked so pathetic, was in so much pain, and I felt so helpless, with no idea what was wrong. I’m sooo grateful that she’s better. I also learned another lesson. It’s really important to have a vet whom you trust and is available, like a good doctor for yourself or your kids. None of these had ever been sick before, and I like my vet a lot, but with Blue screaming in pain and getting sicker by the minute, I discovered that the vet I loved and trusted was almost completely unavailable. Like a rejected lover, or crazed ex-wife, I was leaving him desperate messages begging him to call me, sending texts and emails, begging his assistants to give him messages. He missed all our appointments, stood me up by phone repeatedly or didn’t call at all, and I had a VERY sick dog (the MRI is also very dangerous for a dog that small). In the past few years since I started using this very likable and probably competent vet, he has become completely unavailable, and you never know what will happen, as we just proved—-you need a vet who will call you back and be available in an emergency. Mine wasn’t, at all. Afterwards, I called around to 5 or 6 of my passionate dog lover friends, and amazingly, four of them go to the same vet, and said how available he is. So I made an appointment with him, went to meet him, and loved what I heard and saw. Just in the past week, he has called me twice, after going over all of Blue’s tests for a few weeks ago, and assess what happened. So I have a new vet I am really happy with, AND Blue is acting like a brand new dog she is so bouncy and happy again. I am SOOOO GRATEFUL!!!

 

So, as you can see, and knew anyway, I am a dog-nut. I love my dogs, have a wonderful time with them, and really appreciate them. And I’m very grateful to have found a new vet. It’s important to have a good one. The old one was very nice, but is just no longer available to his patients (other people I spoke to, who went to him as well, confirmed having the same experience with him in the last year or two. It made everything in an already bad situation even more stressful. Apparently he has other interests.)

 

So all is well that ends well. It was a bumpy road, and scary at times, figuring out what was wrong with Blue, and getting help for her. But she’s happy and so am I. Our little friends are so important to us, and those of us who have dogs we love, love them sooo much!!

 

A friend of mine has been waiting for the birth of a Golden Retriever puppy, she has waited months for. It was born today, and she already sent out pictures of the newborn puppy. As Charles Schulz of ‘Peanuts” fame said so well, “Happiness is a warm puppy”—-it sure is in my life anyway.

 

Have a great week!!! We’ve got one month of summer left. Enjoy it to the fullest!!!

 

lots of love, Danielle

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7/23/18, A dose of real life.

Posted on July 23, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’ve had a good week—-even a great week!! And have even taken some time off. I can’t believe how fast the summer is speeding by. We’re already halfway through it. I’m glad we still have August to look forward to!!! And I hope you have some fun plans ahead.

 

I had a wonderful vacation last week with four of my children, and two of their friends. We had a really great time, but that went too fast too! And as happens sometime in life, real life intervened at the very end. One of my beloved dogs, (who turned 5 this week!!) got very very sick, injured vertebrae in her neck and was in terrible pain. It breaks one’s heart when any little being, whether a child or a dog is suffering, and you don’t know what’s wrong and can only guess. A lot of tears (hers and mine) and tests later, it turned out that she had gotten an infection in her bone marrow, and once they knew what was wrong, with medication, she bounced back fast, but it was very upsetting for a while.

 

Even more seriously, my beloved brother in law, who has been like a true big brother to me since I was sixteen, passed away on the last day of our holiday, a sad event for me. And then, since problems and griefs usually come in bunches, like grapes, I got hit with an unexpected re-write on a book, and a big project I was excited and hopeful about, went down the tubes. So after the wonderful vacation, came a dose of real life. And I found myself having to practice what I preach (to my kids), that even when everything seems to be going wrong, some good always comes out of it, things will look up again soon, and sometimes our greatest disappointments turn out to be the greatest blessings, but it’s tough to take when the bad stuff is happening. At least I am happy to say that my little dog isn’t suffering and sick anymore, she’s bouncing around like nothing happened. She recovered very quickly once they knew what was wrong, and gave her the right medicine to clear it up. My Chihuahuas are so tiny (teacup size)/3 lbs. that it’s scary when they get sick. And she’d never been sick before.

 

I was sad to see my kids leave after our holiday together, and half an hour after they left, I buckled down to the re-write, and worked twenty hours a day for a week, and finished it. Work is always the best medicine and cheerer-upper for me. (As are my kids!!). I get so involved in the work that it keeps my mind off everything else. I finished the re-write last night, and am going to enjoy some adult time now, seeing friends, and maybe relaxing for a day or two before I dive into my usual pace and heavy work load. So after a terrific week, I had a not so great one. I take very little vacation/time off, so I appreciate every minute of it, especially when I spend it with my kids!!!

 

Hopefully August will be an easy month, I have a little more time ahead with my children, a long weekend in August, and I’ll be visiting two of my daughters.

 

And despite my own griefs, worries, and disappointments, I was SOOOO THRILLED that they saved all 13 of the boys trapped in the cave in Thailand. When the story first hit the news, it seemed unlikely that they would be able to find a way to save them, all of them anyway, or any of them, and when at last they brought them out one by one, I was elated. What a fantastic rescue mission, a thousand people, experts, working on it with such brilliant results—-a tragedy averted, and I can only imagine how grateful and relieved their parents are. With wisdom and dignity, they kept the press away at the end, so we didn’t get much of a view of the boys as they were rescued, but just knowing that they were safe was fantastic. The whole world was watching it unfold. Truly wonderful that they were saved. Young boys do foolish things sometimes, either fearless or testing their courage, curious to see how far they can go, it must have been terrifying for them to get trapped, and what a blessing that they were all saved!!! Bravo!!!

 

I hope you have a great week ahead, with some vacation plans hopefully.

 

And some good news for me: My new hardcover book, “The Good Fight” came out a week ago, and will hit the bestseller lists this week at #2, right after Bill Clinton’s book. Seeing my books do well, and knowing that you’re enjoying them never gets old. I hope you get a chance to read it, and love it!!! It’s about the turbulent times of the 60’s, the battles for desegregation, and the Vietnam War, and a young woman who forges ahead bravely, ahead of her times, following her grandfather’s example as a courageous Supreme Court Judge. I hope you love the book. It’s a fascinating time in our history.

 

Have a wonderful week, and I hope lots of good things happen for all of us….

 

much love, Danielle

 

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7/16/18, On Vacation…

Posted on July 16, 2018

On vacation. See you next week, Love, Danielle

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