Posted on April 20, 2015
I hope all is well with you. I was very, very touched and pleased that you all liked my blog about the Shabbat Dinner, and were very interested in the fantastic red headed writer/film maker I mentioned, super active, still working hard, who just celebrated her 87th birthday. So I wanted to write to you to give you the info. Many of you wanted to read her book. She is the lady I mentioned who was deported at 14 or 15, and survived 4 concentration camps during World War II.
Her name is Marcelline Loridan-Ivens, and the book is called, in French, “Et tu n’es pas revenu”, which means “And you didn’t come back”. (The publisher is ‘Grasset’, a French publishing house). I don’t know if the book has been translated into English or not, but I imagine you could find out on the Internet. The title and the book really, refer to her father. She was caught and deported with him. They were separated in the camps they were in (in different buildings, but the same camps), but they managed to see each other a few times, but he didn’t survive the camps and was killed there. And she survived and went home to Paris when the camps were liberated at the end of the war. The book is incredibly poignant and touching, and clearly she and the whole family were deeply marked by her father’s not surviving. She talks about a letter her father wrote to her and managed to get to her in the camp. The deprivation, and the anguish, and the horrors of the camps come through her words so powerfully, when she speaks and when she writes. It’s quite a short book, but moved me tremendously. She goes right to the heart of the feelings and the experience. She’s a strong woman and a survivor, despite her tiny size. When she was deported, her mother and the two younger children escaped and were hidden by people for the rest of the war, and her two older siblings joined the Resistance and survived the war. (The Resistance were the brave people who did everything they could to sabotage the Germans while they occupied France). So out of 5 children, only she and her father were caught and deported to the concentration camps. And yet she survived it. She really is a monument to the strength of the human spirit. And the book is powerful and wonderful. I hope you can find it in a language you speak. It is a wonderful book!!!
Some of you were confused too by my saying I hadn’t been to a Shabbat dinner before, but ‘have been 3 or 4 times. When I went to the first Shabbat Dinner I was invited to, I had never been before. It was a Chanukah Dinner. Since then, the same friends have invited me 2 or 3 more times. I love it, and am always thrilled to go.
I hope you can find Marcelline’s book. I don’t usually answer questions in the blog, because there are so many of them. But so many of you asked about this lady, and her book, I really wanted you to know the information. Take care, and have a great week!!
Posted on April 13, 2015
I hope you had a good week last week. Mine was a little scrambled, with cancelled plans, sick kids, and a lot of work to do. The usual stuff of life that we all deal with every day. No one is exempt from petty aggravations, changes of plans, unexpected bills, flat tires and the things that annoy us all, not to mention the big things that shake us up more severely.
I’m working on a book, so I was going to keep it short here, and talk about The Big Event in our family: the opening of baseball season!! I love going to baseball games with my youngest son, who is an ardent fan. I have a collection of ‘acceptable’ outfits to support the Giants (who do great even without my support!!), orange loafers, orange and black shoes, a black and orange ‘fan’ jacket, orange sweaters so I don’t freeze when I go to the games. I love going to baseball games with my son (and all the junk I get to eat). So I’m excited that the season is starting. There is always something so wonderful and happy and patriotic about those games. It’s good All American fun!!! So, Go Giants!! Let’s hope they have a great season ahead of them!!! With another shot at the World Series at the end of it!!! » read more »
Posted on April 6, 2015
I hope that you’re all doing okay, and that all is well with you.
I had a truly fascinating evening recently, and wanted to share it with you. I was invited to a Shabbat Dinner, (a Sabbath dinner) by friends in Paris. They introduced me to their Sabbath dinners a few years ago, and they give them almost every Friday. I’d never been to one before and didn’t know what to expect the first time, and didn’t think much about it before I went. What I found was a really interesting group of people, of all ages, and the atmosphere was lively, warm, enthusiastic, relaxed, congenial. It was a gathering of all ages, many religions, all walks of life. The friends that do these evenings are a lawyer (she), a cardiologist and researcher (he), and they had friends from their own professions, other lines of work, their children, their children’s friends, their friends’ children. The evening began on a religious note as they lit the candles, said a prayer, chanted a prayer, broke bread and sipped wine (no different from our Christian traditions), and then everyone dug into delicious food and engaged in long, interesting conversations about politics, literature, art, film making, and a million subjects. It is a treat to be invited to their Shabbat dinners, and I look forward to it, every time. I’ve been to 3 or 4 of them now, and it’s a privilege to be invited, and I am always intrigued to see who will be there from their grab bag of friends, colleagues, and young people. And the most recent dinner of theirs that I went to was a knock out, and incredibly eclectic. I love the way they gather people around them, regardless of religion, and one feels warmly welcomed, whatever one’s traditions. (What a contrast to the Catholic traditions I grew up with, with quiet Friday night dinners, and always a meal of fish which I hated, although I loved my religion. But I hated the fish, always felt sick from it, and years later, discovered I was allergic to it). At my friends’ Shabbat dinners, the food is plentiful and varied, Italian, Thai, exotic, hearty, roast beef, many choices, and a huge array of delicious, irresistible, and fattening desserts!!! Even the food is joyful at their table, and everything seems happy. To some degree, although I’ve never been to a Shabbat dinner, other than theirs, I think the evening and the combination of people, interesting mix, and long hours of conversation are more likely to happen in France than in the States. The only thing all the guests have in common at their dinners is that everyone is French, probably not by intention, it just happens that way.
The other thing that always strikes me at their dinners is how seriously educated their guests are, and the variety of jobs they have. My own friends seem to be in business, some in the arts, doctors, lawyers, and have pretty human scale jobs. But their friends are in fields that I never even think of. This time I sat between a nuclear scientist and researcher, whose intellectual capacity is out in the stratosphere somewhere compared to mine, although he was very nice, and he’s married to a school teacher. On my other side was a man who sells gold, the man next to him is the head of all cultural radio in France, there were a film maker, a screen writer, a politician of some kind, several lawyers, the age range was from 2 weeks of age (the hosts just had a baby, their 4th child) to 87 years old, with a group of young people at the far end from 17 to 22, two of them law students (the hosts’ older children). Two birthdays were celebrated, 17 and 87. And all the ages and professions and groups were mixed, and it struck me as I looked down the table of 14 or 16 people, that there were two Catholics I knew of including me, two Muslims, and most of the others were Jewish. We all stood respectfully for the lighting of the candles and chanted prayers, as the baby passed from one set of arms to another, amidst the lively discussions around the table, and as always, the table was crowded with platters of delicious food, Mediterranean, Italian, Greek, roast beef and potatoes. There is something for everyone at their table in terms of religions, personalities, interests, careers, and even food (and way too many delicious cakes, and I tried at least three of them).
The star of the show for me was a tiny woman (I’m 5 feet 1, and she was several inches shorter than I), with bright red hair, a lively personality, she strode into the room looking lively and attractive, bursting with energy, and I guessed her to be about 70, and discovered when we celebrated her birthday later that she was 87, that day. She is a documentary film maker, still busy in her career, just released a new movie, and published a new book, and I found her instantly fascinating as I listened to her at dinner. She was as sharp as a tack, and one of the livelier participants at the table, she had style and energy and a magnetic personality. And listening to her, I discovered that she survived 4 of the worst concentration camps during the war, is a well-known personality, and has made some important documentary films, and was married to a film maker. She was mesmerizing as she talked, and showed us the number tattooed on her arm at one point. She spoke without hesitation or artifice, there was nothing arrogant about her, and listening to her life experiences, especially during the war, was riveting. I have no idea how she survived what she did, and remained whole, alive, full of energy and life. Her family had been decimated by the camps and the war years. Our hostess gave all of us her latest book, which I read the next day, in awe of what she survived in the camps, and how she survived it and demonstrated the strength of the human spirit then and throughout her life. Her book was incredibly touching and poignant, and I was filled with admiration for this woman whom time has not touched, but has been through so much in one lifetime. I felt truly honored to meet her and talk to her.
The dinner ended long after one o*clock, and as always was warm, fascinating, touching. I will long remember the tiny red haired, ageless, timeless woman, so full of life and talent, with a spirit that nothing has destroyed. And once again, I went home feeling so lucky to be included in such a special evening, and to meet so many talented, bright people I would never have met otherwise. And then I went back to my own real life, filled with more ordinary pursuits, and less unusual people. What a blessing to share an evening like that, and come home richer for it. And I will be forever haunted by the film maker’s book about her experiences. I felt humbled by it, and all of those around me. It was, once again, an amazing evening, which I won’t forget. It was a rare night, filled with special people of varied and extraordinary talents. And I felt so lucky to be a part of it……
have a great week!! love, Danielle
Posted on April 2, 2015
After recent events and what appears to be a plane crash that was a suicide mission, it seems more important than ever to keep our thoughts clear, especially faced with events that are so hard to fathom. We have had many of them recently. Acts of terrorism seen on television with a human being burned alive as a message to the world, equally distressing acts of terrorism in Paris with people in a grocery store taken hostage and some killed, and now what appeared to be a healthy apparently normal young person allegedly turning a normal flight into a suicide mission, taking 150 innocents with him. The common thread here is that innocent people became victims and lost their lives while pursuing ordinary activities, buying bread, or taking a short flight in the course of a school trip, or on vacation. We are all the innocent victims of these acts, whatever the reasons for them, political or not. We somehow seem to get caught in the crossfire, or the acts of troubled minds, and our lives are changed forever. Even if we are in the outer circle of these acts, they shake our faith, our belief system, they engender fear as soon as we or our loved ones leave home. We worry about each other and ourselves, and a darkness takes hold of world thought, our trust in our fellow man is shaken, and the forces of evil appear to win another round. Most of us, wherever we live, whatever we do for a living, pursue ordinary lives, worry about our kids, groan at our taxes or when our car breaks down, we pay our bills, scold our kids, walk our dogs, buy our groceries, and do our laundry. We dont expect tragedy to strike us or those standing next to us in the course of our daily lives. We are profoundly shocked by the acts we read about, and disheartened. We dont feel as safe as we used to. We are all touched by it. We are in just as much danger in the parking lot of our local supermarket if someone goes nuts, as we are getting on a plane to someplace exotic. These random acts affect us all. We are linked by a bond of humanity that has been severely disrupted in recent months. These are not easy times to live in. And while our countries and leaders fight their battles, we are just trying to lead good, ordinary lives, and take care of our loved ones.
More than ever, with the reports we see now, and given the people who run amok on a grand or small scale, whatever the reasons, we need to focus on the things that keep us strong, and allow us to believe in the good things in life. And whatever one’s religion, the degree of one’s faith or none at all, the message that has always meant the most to me is that of “Resurrection” at this time of year. Much of the focus in Christian beliefs is on ‘crucifixion’ at this time of year, on unmerited punishment, and the pains that exist in all of our lives. The losses, the sorrows, the griefs, the things we do not always understand which befall us, and happen to us all. People we love die, people get sick, we lose jobs, money, houses, safety, security, we get divorced, mugged on the street, something happens to one of our kids, small griefs and large ones. It happens to us all, no one is exempt from the pains in life, though some people are luckier than others. But sadness hits us all at some point. But more important than the bad things is how we deal with them, how we get up again after we get knocked down, how we believe in people again, and ourselves, how we rise from the ashes of the flash fires in our lives. Resurrection. In the Christian faith, this week are the darkest days of the year, which honor the crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday. I have always liked crosses, but not crucifixes, which seems to put the emphasis on the wrong thing, to me. What seems most important is the notion of resurrection, rebirth, starting over, having the guts to get up and move forward again. Easter Sunday is the celebration of the resurrection, that rebirth, the power of life, instead of the message of death. Now to me, that positive message of rebirth seems something truly worth celebrating, whatever your beliefs. It is the message of not just survival, but of strength. We have all had bad things happen to us. The key, the most vital part is getting up again when you’ve been knocked down. I have a little saying on my office wall that says “Bounce Back”, just those two words to remind me, when I am in the pit of feeling sorry for myself, to get up and get going again. We HAVE to. No matter how hard, or how impossible it seems at times. We MUST continue, no matter what we see on the news, or what friend disappoints us, or what loved one hurts our feelings, or robs us of peace or good feelings. We cant let the bad guys win. We just cant. We cant afford to, or it pulls our own lives down. However we get there, with or without religious beliefs, we have to find rebirth in our own lives, even after reading about something like the plane that was brought down on a suicide mission, even when things are tough in our own lives. We have to bounce back. That is what makes the notion of resurrection so important. It’s a far bigger message than any other to me. I love all the warmth and coziness and shared joy and fun of Christmas, but the really big message, to me anyway, is the one of resurrection, of rebirth, of starting over, no matter how tough life or the world seems at the moment, or what we’ve been through. And the darker the world seems, the more important that message of rebirth is.
My wish for you, for myself, for each and all of us, and my prayer, is that you find that moment of rebirth, the strength to go on, or just stand up, that we continue to believe in the light and not the darkness. In some big or small way, may you find a moment of rebirth. We all need that. It is the very essence of hope.
One of my favorite sayings is what Anne Frank said, the young girl who was hidden with her family during the war, and eventually died in a concentration camp with them. She was 15 years old, and said “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are truly good at heart”. It sounds naive, we see and hear and know of so much evidence to the contrary. I cling to those words as a message of hope for us all.
May you have a moment of rebirth, of light shining into your heart and life, despite the darkness we hear and read about every day. Resurrection. Rebirth. The world needs your light to counter its darkness. May we all shine brightly together, no matter what we see and hear around us.
with all my love, Danielle
Posted on March 30, 2015
It’s a somber quiet hello today after the events of the last week. Or The Event, the crash of the German airliner in the French Alps, flying between Spain and Dusseldorf, which now appears to have been a suicide mission on the part of the co-pilot—–and took 150 lives with it. 150 families and loved ones who will be forever affected by it, a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. And yes, there have been other, bigger ones, like 9/11 or natural disasters, but this was so unnecessary and is so profoundly shocking. And knowing that there were children, a class of adolescents and babies on the flight makes it even more horrifying.
For the moment, they are still piecing together the puzzle, and as a police detective (specialized in terrorism and aviation) I spoke to in Paris said, it has highlighted security failures in the system: a seemingly fail-safe anti-terrorist system which allowed the cockpit door to remain locked and would eventually open automatically after entry was refused several times—but too late in this instance, a rule which allowed only one pilot to be in the cockpit alone for a brief time (that rule was changed throughout Europe within hours of the crash. American regulations didn’t allow that, but the airline in this case was German, where a pilot could be alone in the cockpit briefly on that type of plane), and no psychological testing required for pilots of that airline. (It seems to be coming to light now in the investigation that the co-pilot had a history of psychological problems, and allegedly had not been cleared for flight that day). All circumstances which allowed the unimaginable, unthinkable to happen, if what they believe now is true, that a person/co-pilot with a history of mental issues crashed the plane into the mountains in order to commit suicide, and took a plane full of innocents with him. Apparently, the pilot (who had left the cockpit for a few moments) fought heroically to re-enter the cockpit, and even tried to break down the cockpit door with an axe, once his co-pilot had denied him re-entry, and was taking the plane down at a rapid rate. The drama ended within minutes and turned into tragedy. It is a haunting event which has touched us all. For anyone who flies, we all take our risks, as you do when you drive down the highway too. A mechanical failure or bad weather can bring a plane down, and today terrorism has become a factor we are all aware of, and was demonstrated so shockingly during 9/11. Similarly people who went to the grocery store to buy a loaf of bread risked and lost their lives when terrorists took over a grocery store in Paris recently, and tragedy struck there too. But to have to worry now about becoming part of a pilot or co-pilot’s suicide is a heavy dose of reality for us all. And it is always a tragedy when lives are lost, or even one life, whatever the circumstances.
Authorities are now looking for fragments of the victims’ bodies to return to their families, using DNA tests to identify even tiny pieces. It is ALL so unthinkable. The death of any loved one or family member, or even a good friend, changes your life forever. The absence of that person leaves a hole and an ache in your heart forever. The terrible ‘why’ it happened, trying to understand why they were struck by an illness, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, a careless moment behind the wheel of a car, or why they may have been negligent for an instant. And to die in innocence seems such a terrible way to lose someone. And to be the victim of someone else’s suicide, in a circumstance where you are supposed to feel relatively safe and have no control, seems particularly awful. I was in Paris when it happened, and people all over Europe are badly shaken by it, as I am sure they are in the States too. I flew myself 3 days later, and I think the event was on everyone’s mind then as well, both passengers and crew seemed unusually quiet, and I felt that way too. It peels away a layer of safety and trust, and adds one more thing to worry about on the list, along with terrorism, mechanical failure, and bad weather.
The world seems so troubled these days, none of us feel totally safe anymore in our daily lives, wherever we live, whether put at risk by a crazed student on a campus, a shooter in a fast food store, as victims of an elaborate plot, or simply one lone moment of madness, as seems to have happened on the flight from Spain to Germany this week. What is making the world so much more tense, causing people to implode and commit unthinkable acts (like at the Boston Marathon), fall prey to politics which injure others, or take others with them in an act of suicide? We hear about too many of these events. It crosses our minds more often, and we and our loved ones seem so much more at risk in the world today. I think about it each time my children fly, or I do, and probably you do too. And even a life lived more locally is not without risk, if you can be killed at the grocery store by a mad gunman. We can’t hide at home, we can’t imagine danger in every corner, and yet we seem to have regressed to an era in history (like the middle ages) when daily life was dangerous, and the future was never safe or certain, and the weapons of choice now seem to range from homemade bombs to very sophisticated ones and elaborate plots, a handgun or an airplane.
The family of the young co-pilot must be deeply aggrieved too. It is a tragedy for everyone on that plane and everyone they loved and who loved them, and for all of us, to be mourning again people we did not know, and who should not have died on that plane. Laws will be changed as a result, which will prevent exactly that scenario from happening again, but it is somehow a sign of a deep wound somewhere in our civilization that such troubled people have power over us, even when we least suspect it. My deepest sympathy and my prayers go out to all of those affected, and to all of us as well, as we stand by helplessly and mourn innocent people yet again. The tragedies seem to be becoming more shocking and more frequent. May we somehow find a way to heal the wounds in our world, and help each other.
Posted on March 23, 2015
I hope you’ve had a nice first few days of Spring, and are enjoying warmer weather somewhere. All the cities I travel to still seem to be in the grips of winter. Paris has cooled down again, New York is still freezing, and had more snow in the past week, and for now Spring is more a hope than a reality.
I had an absolutely wonderful time I wanted to share with you. I took my Godchildren to the preview of the new Disney movie, “Cinderella”. And nothing is more terrific than the world seen through the eyes of a child, and they are such a perfect age. The youngest is 4 years old, and I got her Cinderella’s ‘ballgown’, complete with light up shoes and tiara at the Disney store. She put it on immediately when I gave it to her, and it was soooooo fun watching her play Cinderella. And I LOVED the movie. It is beautifully done, with real actors, not animation, and the star who plays Cinderella, Lily James, is one of the actresses on my favorite TV series (Downton Abbey), and one of the stepsisters is from Downton Abbey too. I saw the film in French, and it was a preview, which was VERY exciting. Now I want to see it in English, and about 16 more times. It reminded me of how totally I enjoyed my children at those ages, and the time I spent with them, where everything you do is an adventure, everything is new and thrilling, no one is tired, jaded, worried, stressed, overworked, or facing the challenges of real life. And no matter what is happening in your (adult) life, the cares and worries melt away with the magic of a fairytale, a delightful movie, and sharing it (or anything else) with children you love. I had as much fun as they did, and they are exceptionally lovely children, so we all had a good time, they were mesmerized, and totally enthralled, and their mother and I cried at all the touching parts. I came out floating, it made us all happy, and was an absolutely great experience. If you have a sentimental side at all, and a touch of romance, and want to be swept away by a wonderful movie, with a happy ending, go to see Cinderella, with or without children, as soon as you can!!! I absolutely LOVED it!!!!
much love, Danielle
Posted on March 16, 2015
I hope that all is well with you and that a hint of Spring is in the air and just around the corner.
I wanted to give you my last report of Paris fashion week as it draws to a close for this season, and as usual, I wound up my participation with a flourish: the always impressive, dazzling, fantabulous Chanel show. It is always an ASTOUNDING fantastic show, and today was very much in keeping with their ready to wear tradition of gorgeous clothes. One of the most impressive things about the Chanel ready to wear fashion show (as opposed to Haute Couture, which is loftier, more elitist, all made to order and hand made, whereas the ready to wear clothes are mass produced, and Chanel is at the very high end of the ready to wear market)—but one of the things that makes the show special and different is the lengths they go to with the setting and decor. They go ALL OUT and spend millions to make the setting and backdrop of the show an event you will never forget. One year, they had a giant, and I mean GIANT, like 30 feet high maybe, gold lion center stage, with the models coming out of its mouth and onto the runway. The one that I will never forget was when they flew in a small iceberg from Sweden, put it in the middle of the Grand Palais, a fabulous glass palace where they hold their shows—–the models walked around the iceberg, the room was freezing to preserve the iceberg, and after the show, it was flown back to Sweden, and set back down in its natural habitat. Last year, Chanel created a “supermarket”, an extraordinary replica of one, with real food in it, and where the models strode around with shopping carts, wearing gorgeous mostly casual clothes, to show the collection. I was sooooo excited by the fun setting that I hardly noticed the clothes, I wasn’t sure where to look or what to watch, the beautiful clothes, or the amazing setting where the groceries had fun names. This time, the setting was still the Grand Palais, which had been transformed into the Brasserie Gabrielle, —-a brasserie is like a bistro, an informal restaurant, and it looked like a real restaurant. As you entered, there was a bar, where coffee, orange juice and croissants were being served. Then you made your way to your assigned seat (with your name on it). And there were tables set up for both male and female models wearing the collection, on the other side of the runway, while waiters waited to take their ‘orders’, as part of the staging. By comparison, Balenciaga who had one of the most beautiful shows of the season clothes-wise, did their show in a half finished construction site, and Celine did their show on the courts of a tennis club. But Chanel doesn’t do things by half. They go ALLLL OUTTTT, and they sure did with the bistro setting today!!! » read more »
Posted on March 9, 2015
Despite hideous, cold, snowy, awful weather in most of the US, particularly the East, it’s springtime in Paris. It’s almost embarrassing to admit it, sunny, with still a little nip in the air, but beautiful weather, and it feels like spring, with temperatures in the 60’s. And it has been challenging to get to Paris for all the buyers and editors coming from the States. One of my daughters had a 25 hour flight from LA to Paris (normally a 10 or 11 hour flight), with an emergency landing in Boston, and a stop in New York, in a blizzard, and long delays. And many flights were cancelled, while the East of the US was pummeled by snow storms and arctic temperatures—-all of which made arriving in Paris, in the sunshine, with gentle weather, seem even more magical. And it’s that wild, busy, chaotic exciting week in Paris again, with the fashion shows of all the major French designers, packed in day by day for 8 days, while fashion magazine editors, store buyers, designers, stylists, models, international press from all over the world, come to Paris to run from one location to another to see the runway shows of each French designer’s line of women’s clothing for the upcoming fall and winter season. They show the clothes 6 months in advance, so stores can order them, and the manufacturers can make them in time for the fall/winter season. (Spring summer clothes are shown in September, also 6 months in advance of when they’ll be available in stores. Fashion week is an advance look at the next season, for the entire world to observe). And if you can’t get to the shows, you can see them all, listed by designer, on style.com
» read more »
Posted on March 2, 2015
If you’re in the East of the US, I hope you’re staying warm!!! After 80 degree weather in LA last week, I ‘breezed’ through New York for a few days, and it was bone chillingly cold, and felt Arctic to me. I had forgotten how cold that can be!!!
But despite the freezing weather, I had a wonderful experience in New York. Several times, I have had the privilege and pleasure of being on Good Morning America, being interviewed by Robin Roberts. Once in a while, you meet a special person, who really makes a deep impression, and you know you are in the presence of a truly lovely human being, beautiful both inside and out. And Robin Roberts is one of those rare, rare people. I knew it the first time we met on the show, beautiful, gracious, elegant in style and spirit, compassionate, wise, modest, kind, intelligent, charming, poised. There are never enough adjectives to describe her. She is one of those rare, rare interviewers who totally highlights her guest, puts a favorable spotlight on them, and does nothing to put herself forward. She makes you feel like a very, very special person, and you float away after the show with a warm glow, dazzled by her.
I was immensely relieved to see that she looks better than ever, after her illness, which she battled courageously. She looked fantastic, was adorable, and actually makes the interview fun—–which isn’t always the case for me, in fact never is with other interviewers, because I’m very shy and interviews and live TV always scare me silly. But not with Robin. With Robin, they are a treat, and actually fun to do with her. I was on the show to talk about my new book in hardcover, Prodigal Son, and we talked about it, and then talked about my career more generally, my children, fashion, and the fact that three of my daughters are fashion consultants and stylists. And they even showed two of my fashion ‘adventures’, a couple of really odd things I bought a long time ago. It gave us a good laugh. And once again, I floated off the show after talking to her, and she lit up my whole day, and I know I’ll remember the interview for a long time, as I do all the others. So many interviewers want to challenge you, put you on the spot, embarrass you, and catch you out, Robin just wants to celebrate your accomplishments and share them with her viewers, and it becomes a positive experience for all, the guest, the audience, and hopefully for Robin too. She gives so much of herself to making the guest feel comfortable and at ease, and good about themselves, and look good to the world. I can never thank her enough or the wonderful experience it is being on the show with her.
I had to be at the show at 8 am, and leave my hotel at 7:30 am to do so. I got up at 3:30 am, the hairdresser and make-up artist came to my hotel at 4 am to get me ready, and then we set out in the freezing cold to be driven to the show, where you’re given a dressing room to wait for your time to come on. I am always very, very, very nervous before the show, but once I’m on with Robin, the time flies, and it’s over before you know it. I had a busy day after that. But what a wonderful morning, and what a gift to see Robin again….I would get up even earlier to be on with her, or skip sleep entirely…..I always feel so lucky, blessed and privileged when I see her, and am a guest on the show, interviewed by her. What a very, very special human being she is!!! I wish her every happiness for all the joy she gives to so many. And I feel lucky to know her. And when you see her on Good Morning America, know that, yes, she is every bit as lovely and nice as she seems on the show—–even more so in real life!!! It is an honor to know her.
Posted on February 23, 2015
I hope last week was a good week for you, and that you got a day off for President’s Day and had a long weekend. I used the day off (my office was closed) to do some travelling, and I am definitely moving around these days. Last week, I visited a new city, Seattle, to meet two of the big distributors of my books, Costco and Amazon, as I told you in last week’s blog. This week, I spent the whole week in a city I know well, and always love: L.A. I had meetings for some very interesting possible new projects, and this seemed like a good time to explore them, between books, so I went to LA for the week. San Franciscans are often snobbish about LA, but I love it, and always have a great time there. For one thing, I left Paris in a snowstorm two weeks ago, landed in New York in freezing weather between two snowstorms, and the weather has been below zero in New York for weeks now. The weather in San Francisco has been nicer than usual for this time of year but not summer, and Seattle was gray and chilly while I was there. I hopped my bus, which is a fun and easy way to travel—I’ve had a rock star bus for 20 years, which was a fantastic way to travel when my kids were younger. Herding 9 kids and all their equipment onto airplanes got complicated and when I had to go to LA for business regularly, when I was making the TV movies (and always took the kids to LA with me). The bus was terrific for all of us then, with comfortable couches and seats, a kitchen and a bathroom. I still use it whenever I have to go to LA, or for trips to the mountains. I can walk around, eat, sleep,work, go barefoot, and do whatever I want. So I got on the bus in San Francisco last Monday, and five and a half hours later, I was in LA, in gorgeous sunny weather, hovering around eighty degrees. It felt like summer, sheer Heaven. It was so wonderful to be in warm weather, and escape wintry cities for a few days. (I felt guilty toward my New York friends, who keep telling me how cold it is with bone-chilling temperatures).
I have new dramatic agents in LA (dramatic agents handle movies and TV, as opposed to my literary agent, who handles my books). And it was exciting spending time with them, getting to know them, and meeting the people they thought I should meet. It was a VERY exciting week, spent mostly on business, and tossing around some ideas. LA is a vibrant city, where much of the business activity centers around the entertainment industry, and if you’re even remotely related to it, it’s exciting and fun. People are busy, working hard, doing interesting creative projects and the names of famous actors, actresses and directors are bandied around like old friends. And even for someone on the fringe of that world as I am (I did 21 movies for TV, based on my books, 20 years ago, and they still show on TV from time to time around the world), the excitement of that milieu is contagious. And last week was particularly exciting in that business, with the Academy Awards only days away. I had a wonderful time meeting people involved in the business, and those who produce everyone’s favorite TV shows and series. TV Series have become one of the most popular forms of entertainment, and everyone seems to be addicted to one show or another. The series I LOVE is Downton Abbey, and have been in love with it for five seasons now. And they say that next year will be the last season!!! (And before it ends, I hope they tie up all the loose ends just the way I want. I email with several friends who also love the show, and we all have our wish list of what should happen next. I love so much about that show: the characters, the script, the touching moments, the dramas, the funny comments, how well written it is, and the fabulous authentic costumes of the period (1924 right now, it started in 1912, with gorgeous costumes), and even the hairdos are fascinating and true to the times. An incredible amount of meticulous research must go into that show. And when I turn it on, I feel like I’m visiting old friends, after 5 years of devotion to them. Sometimes, when I have a bad day, I watch a favorite episode to cheer me up!!) Being around creative people, involved in creating TV shows and movies is always invigorating. So I thoroughly enjoyed my week in LA, the people I met, the meetings I attended, and my new film and TV agents treated me like royalty. I told them that I felt like Cinderella at the Ball. When no one is spoiling me this week, I will feel like Cinderella after the coach turned back into a pumpkin and the coachmen into 6 white mice!! I’ll be back in my cozy old cashmere nightgown (with the holes in it), at my typewriter at my desk. I won’t be meeting any new creative people, the weather will probably be foggy and gloomy, and no one will be squiring me around!!! Back to real life. LA always has an unreal/movie quality to it, and going back home afterwards is always something of a jolt. But I sure had fun while I was there, and my agents were incredibly kind to me, and even took me to dinner twice. They are both wonderful people, and I really enjoyed their company and discovering their world. They’re terrific, and are already two new friends, and it was a pleasure working with them, and their abundance of ideas.
So it’s been a very lively two weeks for me, ‘out in the world’, and now I have work to do, a set of galleys to edit (the last stage before a book goes to the printer, and my last chance to change anything that needs correcting), and I have an audio script to correct for one of my books to be read on CD. (I have to pick the actor’s voice for that too). And I’ll have to deal with everything that piled up on my desk while I was in LA. But what a fun week it was, definitely a Cinderella experience!!…..and now back to real life. Have a great week!!
PS. AND DON’T FORGET THAT MY NEW BOOK “PRODIGAL SON” COMES OUT IN HARDCOVER TOMORROW!!! As the publisher says, “it’s a novel of suspicion, betrayal, and suspense”. It’s full of doubts and questions, and the mystery as to who is good and who is evil, with two men who are twins as the main characters, and all the people and complications in their lives. It’s an exciting book, and I worked hard on it. I hope you love it, and have a chance to read it soon!!! love, D.
Posted on February 16, 2015
I hope you had a good week last week. Mine was insanely busy. I’m travelling around these days, and have had some new experiences. I’ve never done book tours for my books, because I have too many children, and write too many books. I wrote my first book at 19, and was already married and had a child by then, and there was no way I could take care of my daughter, and write, and go on tour for the books. So I said right from the beginning that I wouldn’t tour, and my publisher at the time informed me that I would never succeed if I didn’t, but I took the chance and stuck with my decision not to tour. And actually, things turned out pretty well, since here we are and I’m writing to you, and presumably you read my books. Then habit set in, and (many) more kids arrived, I write several books a year, and there was just no way I could tour, keep up with my work, and drive car pool and show up at soccer games, lacrosse, ballet classes with my daughters, and the orthodontist. So I have always stayed close to home with my children around me, or one on my hip, and my nose in my typewriter all night. Nothing much has changed, except the kids have grown up, more or less (I still have one at home, although her life is busier than mine). So recently, I decided to do something different, but which seemed important to me. I told my publisher that I wanted to meet some of the big distributors of my books, notably Walmart, Costco and Amazon. Walmart is more of a challenge since it’s in Arkansas, but Costco and Amazon are in Seattle, and only a short hop by plane from San Francisco when I’m there.
So I set up the meetings, and set out on a new adventure last week. I went to a city I’ve never been before: Seattle, on a very grown up trip, to meet some people at Amazon and Costco. And since I’ve never done anything like it before, it was a little daunting. It seemed a little silly to be knocking on their doors to say “Hi!! I just wanted to thank you for doing such a great job for me!” but essentially, that’s what I did. And as usually happens, when you dare to do something new and different, it totally surprised me, and was unexpectedly terrific, and I’m so happy that I did it. I’m shy, and writing is a great excuse to stay home and not get out in the world much, but I am SOOO happy that I made the trip. Everything about it was perfect.
My first meeting was with a wonderful woman from Costco, who has been there as long as I’ve been writing. She had a busy week, so she very kindly agreed to meet me at my hotel for a drink after work. She was incredibly nice to do that after a long day, and she even had to pick her dogs up at Day Care before she met me. And it was one of those chance encounters when everything clicks. Everything. I felt like I was meeting an old friend, I had heard wonderful things about her from my editor, and several other people, and everything they said was true. It took about 5 minutes to figure out that we were kindred spirits. She stayed for more than two hours, and by the time she left, I had a new friend, and so did she, with hopes and promises to meet again. I had a wonderful time talking to her about the business, which I never get to do. No one at my house knows anything about publishing or selling books, and I don’t see my publishers often either, or even my agent, or editor. Everything happens by email now, so I have very little personal face-to-face contact with anyone in the business, and I live 3,000 miles from the publishing world, in either of my homes. I had THE MOST wonderful time with my new friend from Costco. The whole meeting felt like a gift, and was a reminder to me to take my courage in my hands more often and do something new. It was really terrific, and got my trip to Seattle off to a wonderful start. I can’t begin to tell you how great it was, and what a wonderful person she is!!!! I felt like I had won the lottery when I went back to my room, smiling from ear to ear. (And of course we talked about dogs too. I always take my two little Chihuahuas with me everywhere, but I didn’t for this short trip, and as I left the house, they both looked heartbroken and shocked, and one of them to prove a point got sick as I was walking out the door, and I left feeling severely guilty!! But they’re both okay now.)
I’m not very good at going out on my own, so I didn’t go out to dinner that night, and actually skipped dinner and ate some pretzels and a Kit Kat in my room instead. Seriously healthy food!!! And I’d had a hot dog for lunch.
The next morning, I woke up at 6, nervous about my next meetings. I couldn’t possibly get that lucky again, and this wasn’t going to be just a friendly drink at my hotel. I was going to Amazon (if I could find the right building) for serious, grown up meetings. And indeed Amazon is a complex of buildings in downtown Seattle, but I found the right building (with good directions) more easily than expected. And was met immediately at the entrance by a lovely young woman who was all set to take me upstairs. She had a fascinating history, and had lived in Thailand, the Philippines and Chicago, and totally stunned me when I got upstairs, and had a ‘snack’ waiting for me of Oreo cookies, which she heard I love, and hard boiled eggs, which she had read I eat when I’m writing. We chatted until the woman I was meeting arrived, the head of books who was a lovely person, and generously spent an hour with me, talking about the books, and she did everything to make me feel at home. And it was fascinating being at Amazon. The atmosphere is informal, people are casually dressed, and are even allowed to bring their dogs to work. In some ways, it felt more like a college or a big school than what I had expected. And after an hour, I was escorted upstairs to meet Jeff Bezos, the head of Amazon. And yes, I was nervous!!! I was led through two conference rooms and several ante rooms, and had no idea what to expect, when in walked a friendly, smiling, relaxed man with all the modesty of someone truly important and we sat down and chatted like old friends. I was bowled over that he, and the woman in charge of books had been so generous with their time, and spent so much time with me, getting to know me, so I could thank them for all that they do for me. Mr. Bezos was extraordinarily kind and welcoming, and everyone acted as though they had been waiting years to meet me, and we chatted for nearly an hour, we posed for a photograph together (he looked a lot better than I did), and then I left, a little stunned and dazed by the whole experience and my two days in Seattle. I had met with three very important people in book sales, and the whole experience was amazing. We don’t talk about my work a lot at home, and never have, I don’t go out in the world much or take advantage of my fame, so being somewhere where the whole focus is on me and my work is amazing and unusual for me. (No one at my house is impressed by who I am, and I wouldn’t want them to be!!), so to be center stage for two days was kind of a shock, and with such interesting, impressive people. I have always wanted to meet Jeff Bezos and now I have, and he couldn’t possibly have been nicer or warmer, as well as his entire staff. (I even took the bag of Oreos with me, which turned out to be lunch. I was too nervous and excited to eat, until I finally got home that night and had soup and some kind of carrot soufflé I found in the fridge.)
I had a fantastic time, and it was a great trip. Afterwards I wandered around the shopping district a little. I never got to see much of the city touristically, although my hotel was on the water, and the sky was beautiful. Both days were gray, but there was a soft pearly gray light over the city, which reminded me of Paris. And then I hopped a plane and went home to San Francisco. Mission accomplished!! I actually got to meet some of the people who are so vital to my books, and thank them in person, and now we know each other. It was exactly what I hoped for, and everyone was so wonderful to me. It couldn’t have been better. So a small act of courage going there, and making the time in my writing and travel schedule turned out to be one of the best ideas I’ve had in years. It was a wonderful, wonderful trip, and I was immensely spoiled by everyone. And I had so much fun!!! Going to Seattle to meet those three people turned out to be an incredible gift for me, and I’m truly grateful for their kindness and the experience. Have a wonderful week!!
Posted on February 9, 2015
I’ve been whipping through various cities, all of them freezing cold, and some of them buried in snow. I love snow until it gets messy, and this is the time of year when we’re all a little tired of winter and gray weather, but spring still seems like it’s a long way off in most places. And this time of year is always a good time for me to work. And I’ve been busy at my desk, writing and editing.
I suddenly realized that Valentine’s Day is only days away, which I always face with a little trepidation, sweet memories, and a bit of hope. I have a sweet piece I wrote in the February issue of Harper’s Bazaar this month, about when my husband John, (father of eight of my nine children, whom I was married to for 17 years) proposed to me on Valentine’s Day. I’d have to say that that was my best Valentine’s Day, with the most successful results (despite the divorce 17 years later, we stayed very close in spite of it). And we shared some great Valentine’s Days in between. And my husband after that filled a hotel room with roses and rose petals on Valentine’s Day, and we were married 6 weeks later, and we remain very close and good friends too. So I really can’t complain. Two great Valentine’s Days in one lifetime is a pretty good score, even if the other Valentine’s Days were not quite as romantic or exciting, and sometimes downright dull. One of my daughters, who is currently not involved with anyone, said the other day with a look of disgust, “It’s a stupid day, designed to make us feel awful and like losers if we don’t have a boyfriend”. She has a point there too. It’s a day when those of us who are not in relationships stick out like rocks in a stream, as the waters flow around us. I told you several years ago in a blog about the year Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday and I went to church, where the priest asked everyone in couples to stand up so the rest of us could applaud them, and they handed each couple two roses, while the rest of us slunk out of church alone and empty handed, even more depressed than when we came in. No roses for the ‘losers’!!! I complained to the priest afterwards and said that we should have gotten the roses to make us feel better, the couples had each other. But on Valentine’s Day, the world celebrates lovers, and the rest of us eat chocolates we buy ourselves as consolation. It’s an easy day to feel sorry for ourselves if our love life isn’t as we wish it would be. And let’s face it, EVERY year can’t be romantic, and a lot of men think Valentine’s Day is silly, and don’t always pay adequate homage to it, in their wives’ and girlfriends’ opinions. So don’t feel totally alone if your man/or woman doesn’t make a big deal of it. Personally, I love Valentine’s Day, with the right person, in the right circumstances. If not, well, that’s how it is, this year, but not necessarily forever. There’s always next year, which may be a whole lot better, and just as you wish!!! Dreams DO come true!!
I hope your Valentine’s Day is lining up as a real winner, with wonderful surprises in store, maybe even a proposal, or at least a romantic evening!!! I am buried in work at the moment, so I have a feeling that mine will involve me and a box of chocolates at my desk, but you never know. Prince Charming may be lurking out there somewhere, if he isn’t at home watching sports on TV. I have a busy week ahead before that, with a business trip to visit some of the big distributors of my books. It’s something I’ve never done before, but a good thing to do, to meet the people who make a big difference in my work life, and work hard for me, even though we never see each other. So I thought it was a good time to get out there, meet them, and say thank you. So many people are part of the process before my books actually reach you. Editors, publishers, wholesalers, distributors, bookstore owners, supermarket chains, shippers, truckers, printers, book binders, the art departments who come up with the covers, PR people. The list of those involved is dizzying, and I rarely have an opportunity to meet any of them, or thank them. So I’m taking a couple of days to do it. It’s new for me, exciting, and a little scary to get out in the big world, and meet new people as part of the business process. It’s a lot easier staying cozily at home, in a couple of warm ratty old sweaters or my nightgown, at my desk, writing the books for you. That’s the fun part for me. But it seems appropriate to thank some of the people involved, that neither you nor I ever see, but are an important part of the process too.
I was reading some of your responses to my blogs the other day, and some of what you wrote moved me to tears. It means so much to me to know that the books are meaningful to you, that they helped you in some way, and resonated, or that you just had fun with them and enjoyed them. And although I can’t answer all the comments, please please know how much they mean to me and touch me. I am sooooooo very grateful for your support, your kindness, your loyalty, and your very generous words. Writing a book is a very solitary process, you pull the story out of your head, and the feelings out of your gut and heart, weave it all together, and spend a long time writing, re-writing and polishing it, and send it out in the atmosphere like a balloon floating through the skies, and hope that it lands in the right hands, of someone who will care about it, and love it, and that it will have meaning to. It touches me deeply and means the world to me to know that the books mean a lot to you too.
There are a lot of other options to reading books these days, far more than there used to be, most of them on the Internet. You can watch movies at home, send photos on Instagram, tweet, watch funny videos, play video games, or look for the love of your life on Internet dating. Or just hang out at home, watch TV, or play with your dog. People don’t read as much as they used to, so your reading the books is very important to me, given all the other distractions we all have. And the world is serious business these days, with drama happening every time we turn on the news. I still love relaxing, and even escaping, with a good book, and I’m glad and grateful that you do too!!! And I’m very, very grateful that you read mine.
So I hope that this Valentine’s Day will be the best one ever for you—–full of romance and roses and chocolates, and hopefully dinner with someone you’re crazy about. And if not, there is always next year!!! Life is so full of wonderful surprises, that’s the best part of it, you never know what’s going to happen, and even if you’re watching TV alone at home this year, you may be madly in love with someone fantastic next year. You really never know what life has in store, at any age or stage of life, and something wonderful may be just around the corner. And please know that whatever happens, wherever you are, year after year, you are my Best Valentine every year!!!!
with all my love, Danielle
Posted on February 2, 2015
Happy Days, it has just been “Haute Couture Week” in Paris, the fashion shows of Haute Couture shows, by only a handful now of famous designers. There are 2 kinds of fashion weeks now in Paris. Haute Couture and Ready to Wear. “In the old days”, 10 or 20 years ago, the only people involved in Ready to Wear shows were in the fashion business, magazine editors, fashion press, and mostly store buyers who went to those shows to select what they would buy for the following seasons for the stores they represented. Those in the audience came from around the world. And it’s really more like fashion “month” in ready to wear, since there is a full week or longer of those shows in New York, London, Paris and Milan, each week in a different city. “Regular people” who just like to see clothes didn’t used to go to the Ready to Wear shows, and they weren’t a glamourous event. The shows were attended by hard working, serious store buyers trying to make the right choices for their stores for the next season. And both Ready to Wear and Haute Couture shows happen twice a year. The Couture in late January and early July, the ready to wear in February/March and late Sept/early October. And the audience for the Haute Couture shows were the Elite, famous actresses, the wives of Presidents and heads of State, the Crowned Heads of certain countries, and women with a great deal (!!!!) of money to spend on their wardrobes. The audience for Haute Couture was as exciting as the clothes and famous models on the runway. Now, in today’s world, the importance of both kinds of fashion has changed. Today, haute couture is for only a tiny few. Haute Couture only happens in Paris. It is the fine art of exquisite clothes, where every single stitch must be made by hand. Nothing is mass produced or made by machine. You see the clothes on the runway, go to the fashion house that made them to try on the samples if you can squeeze into them (in a size 2), or see models show them to you again, order them, and many months later, the clothes arrive, after hundreds of hours of hand sewing, embroidery, where every tiny bead and sequin is sewn on by expert hands. Few women still wear those kinds of clothes today, ‘need’ them for their wardrobes or can afford them. And they barely make sense for the lives most women lead today, where women work, everyone dresses more simply and even the best dressed women spend a lot of time in jeans and running shoes. (A typical Haute Couture outfit 30 years ago, not so long ago, was a dress or suit, with matching hat, coat, and even sometimes matching shoes and handbag in the same fabric). Today, there are only a few houses left who do haute couture, the most illustrious of which are Chanel and Dior, and a few designers who are newer to the scene. It’s barely a three day event (whereas the Ready to Wear Fashion week lasts for 8 jam packed days, of as many as 8 shows a day. For Haute Couture there are one or two significant shows to see a day, although in years past there were 4 and 5 shows to see per day). And the women in the audience at Couture used to be as elegant as the models on the runway.
Today, although seats aren’t easy to get, almost everyone interested in fashion goes to the Ready to Wear shows, fashion editors, bloggers, minor and major movie stars from nearly every country around the world, people who love fashion, and others who just want to be seen (in some pretty wild outfits!!!). Hundreds of members of the press scream the names of stars as they get out of their cars, it is a MAJOR event. And like a once beautiful dowager from another era, Haute Couture is slowly, designer by designer, fading away, and only really followed by a select few. I love fashion, and living in Europe for a lot of my life, I have gone to the Haute Couture shows since I was in my teens. And going to them was always a HUGE deal. You have to be invited, the beautiful invitations arrive a few days before and I sat in the audience, in awe of everything I saw. I had a grandmother who loved fashion too, I used to do designs as a little girl, went to Parsons School of Design to study fashion design when I went to college (at NYU, they had a combined program), and have followed fashion closely all my life, often just as a pleasure to see, not necessarily to buy. And when my own daughters were small, I took all 5 of them to the Haute Couture shows, which fascinated them. They knew they were seeing something very special, and it was a rare privilege for them to be allowed to be there. In all my years of attending the shows, I have only seen a handful of children there, maybe only one or two in addition to my own. And they sat rapt by everything they saw. (The shows are always in spectacular locations, with some incredible stage sets to set the mood for each show). So my girls caught the bug from me, and 3 of them work in fashion, and are part of the chosen few who decide what we’ll wear next season. It’s fascinating to be around them, and listen to them talk to each other and their designer friends. And since my girls were in love with fashion at an early age, as were some of their friends, some of the big young designers today grew up in my house, hanging out with my girls. One of them, Alexander Wang, a wonderful wonderful person, used to cut up some of my girls’ clothes and ‘redesign’ them. I would find them (at 15, 16, 17) wielding a scissor over one of their dresses and I’d have a fit and scream at them all about what they were doing—-little did I know he’d be a huge and very important designer one day!!! (He designs for his own brand, and Balenciaga in Paris, and one of my daughters is the design consultant with him.). The whole group of young designers is all in their late 20’s now, and what incredible talent they have!! It’s a hard working business with lots of stress, and long hours, as they produce 4 collections a year.
When I was very young and newly married (I got married at 17), the audience at Haute Couture was, as I said, the Elite of the world. I’d sit in my place in the front row, agog at who I was seeing. And there were rows of women who were well known, on best dressed lists, and the important and very elegant buyers of Haute Couture from all the big designers. They were usually from aristocratic or even royal families, married to important men, and they would select a whole new wardrobe every season. (The clothes cost only a fraction them of what they cost now. Even a suit, and certainly an evening gown are in the six figures now. A wedding gown can cost half a million dollars or even a million. They weren’t nearly as expensive then, although haute couture has never been cheap. But upper end ready to wear now costs what haute couture did then. Now haute couture is out in the stratosphere.) Those rows of elegant women are almost forgotten names now. Bunny Mellon, Deeda Blair, Nan Kempner, were the goddesses of high fashion 20 years ago. They have been replaced by a wide assortment of people, most of whom you and I wouldn’t recognize by face or name. I saw the wives of some French ex-presidents yesterday, but the big rock stars and movie stars from around the world go to ready to wear, not Couture (although many famous actresses borrow haute couture gowns to wear to the Academy Awards. The big houses will lend clothes for special events if it gets press for them. It’s good advertising for the house and the designer). The women who attend the haute couture shows now are mostly foreign, not French or American. Very wealthy women from Middle Eastern countries, some Asian, many Russian. The world economy is reflected at the Haute Couture shows as well. What countries have big money and can afford clothes at those prices? Very few countries have an economy that can support spending that kind of money today. There are probably only a handful of women around the world who still buy haute couture, and can afford to. The Haute Couture shows are mostly a PR and press event for the house now, and are probably a money loss for them in terms of what they’ll actually sell. The sets for the shows are fabulous and cost a fortune, and the samples on the runway (previously there would be about 75 ‘looks’ and outfits. Now closer to half that amount. It’s just too expensive to make those clothes, even as samples). At the ready to wear shows what you see on the runway will be mass produced, at Haute Couture, if ordered, each garment is made stitch by stitch by hand. the detail on the clothes is incredible as well as the design, beautiful embroideries, beading, it truly is a lost art, and a joy to behold (very special or iconic pieces are always put in the fashion house’s private museum of their most exceptional clothes. Every important dress house has its own museum, with their archives, Balenciaga, Chanel, St. Laurent, Givenchy, Dior). And in the audience are not only women who might buy them, but now there are people in the audience who would never have been there before, press in the audience as well as the press section (of many hundred photographers), bloggers, and people who are friends of the house, or associated with them in some way, or just managed to wangle an invitation, and many of them wearing sweatshirts, running shoes and jeans. Most people who attend like to show off with what they wear, but a lot of people now go in crazy outfits, or even sloppy clothes (I do miss the days when everyone looked gorgeous and it was fun to see what they were wearing. There are still some pretty clothes in the audience from the regular couture buyers, but not nearly as many).
The demographic has changed at the Haute Couture shows too. The clothes designers made in the past for Haute Couture were definitely for grown ups, and the women who bought them were a few in their 30’s, the occasionally very lucky young daughter, but mostly women in their 40’s 50’s and 60’s who spent big money on clothes (and had the jewels and lifestyle to go with them). But what one saw on the runway was a very sophisticated, glamourous, ‘adult’ look. Cute was never a word I would have associated with Haute Couture. Today what you see on the runway is mostly for young women in their very early 20’s. Even my daughters in their mid to late 20’s would look silly in most of the clothes, and there is almost nothing I could wear. Last year, Chanel’s haute couture spring show was ALL very short shorts, worn with tennis shoes in fun fabrics and colors (orange and gold, pink and silver, and others). I can’t imagine a single grown up woman wearing the short shorts I saw last year, nor would they want to spend a fortune on them. Most of the women buying and wearing haute couture now are the very, very young women who are the mistresses and wives of much older men, 40 years older than they are. The men can afford them, and dress their very young companions in haute couture, to show them off like beautiful dolls. And the clothes on the runway reflect that, the clothes you see for the most part can only be worn by the very, very young. And for the most part, the women who used to wear high fashion, and can even afford it, have been forgotten and left in the dust. Haute Couture is now for very young women, and the older men who buy it for them. That, and the high prices of Haute Couture, as well as our changed lifestyle today is probably what has driven most fashionable women from haute couture to ready to wear, and has made the ready to wear shows the more popular event, and more glamourous than they once were.
I usually go to see Dior and Chanel Haute Couture, the only two big houses left who still do couture. One by one, all the big Haute Couture designers of the past have dropped out. This time I only made it to Chanel. It was, as always, a spectacular show, with bright colors (for the spring and summer), a variety of dressy and more casual clothes, elegant women in the audience, and some oddballs who went overboard in what they wore to watch the show. But the clothes were beautiful, and the designer Karl Lagerfeld is a genius of fashion, an icon, and an absolute marvel. He’s in his 80’s, and designs both ready to wear and Haute Couture collections for Chanel. He also designs for Fendi, and his own brand. Full of energy, creativity and talent, he is tireless and brilliant. Every collection is exciting, and the shows really fun to go to. The set was all white yesterday, with cut outs, representing a fantasy garden, and as the models walked out, the whole set burst into bloom with brilliant colored flowers that sprung out. It was a knock out, and as always a fabulous event of beautiful clothes in the rarefied atmosphere of Haute Couture. No matter how it changes, no matter how few women buy it now, or that it’s a dying art, I always find it exciting, and an inspiration, and am thrilled and feel lucky to be there. And it is always fun to go!!!
I did an interview with T Magazine of the New York Times on line about Haute Couture week. It’s online, check it out if you like: http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/tmagazine/2015/01/23/danielle-steel-couture-week-icon/?_r=0&referrer=
And if you want to see what was on the runway, take a look on style.com.
Posted on January 26, 2015
I hope all is going well. It seems weird to think that the holidays were only a few weeks ago, it feels more like months!!! I’m plunged into the New Year, and getting very busy now with meetings and writing.
I had an experience a few days ago, which seems smart to share. It’s something that happens in every city and country, and is a product of our sometimes troubled world and economy, I guess. You read about it in the newspapers, often with a very unhappy ending, and it really is smart to be careful!!!
Two men rang the intercom to my apartment in the morning a few days ago. They said they were from the gas company, but wore no uniforms or anything to identify them as from the gas company. They said they had to come in to “photograph around the apartment, to look for my gas meters, because the gas company was planning to change them”. The hour was not unusual: 10 am, but the story seemed odd to me. Not impossible, but maybe a little off. My gas meters had been changed for newer ones a year or so ago. The men did not look particularly official, had no uniform, or cap or badge to make them seem official (although some people are in full uniform and can be frauds too!!). And there was no way I was letting 2 strange men into my apartment, to wander around, taking photographs. In France, we always receive a letter from any maintenance company (gas, phone, alarms, etc.) well in advance, often weeks in advance to warn us of such a visit. I had had no letter to warn me, which was the most suspicious part of their plan. I called the gas company quickly, and miraculously, a person answered, not a machine, and they told me that it was a bogus story, they were not sending anyone out on missions like that, and had sent no one to me. I then went back to the intercom where the men were still waiting, and I told them I was not letting them in. They got nasty then, and threatened me, and they said that if I didn’t let them in immediately, they would cut my gas line then and there (which they couldn’t do, I’m sure), and I told them to do whatever they wanted, they weren’t coming in. They argued about it very aggressively for a while. Without telling them, I called the police. The men must have realized the ruse wasn’t working, and they left, before the police came. The police said it was a common ruse, and unless I had some real proof that the mission was real (an advance warning letter in the mail from the gas company), never let people like that in. It was the first time it had ever happened to me. I had only recently issued warnings about things like that to my family who stay with me, and people who work for me. But only when you are nose to nose with it, does it bring the point home. And I think that the recent violence in France has made people more cautious, but this is a scenario which has always worried me. And now I saw it in action.
I could so easily imagine some much older person, alone, faced with threats of cutting off their gas, letting people like that into their home. And then, only God knows what would happen: a robbery, a theft, a mugging, an assessment for a future robbery, or worse. It can happen to any unsuspecting person, or even in a distracted moment when you let your guard down.
Companies like Federal Express in France don’t have enough regular employees, so they often send out workers they subcontract with, with no Uniform or official indicators, to deliver packages and letters. I never let them in, because there is nothing to prove that they are what they say. But a uniform isn’t a guarantee either. Plenty of robbers or bad people show up in official uniforms, as mailmen, delivery people, and even police, and are frauds. You need to be careful even of delivery people, someone with an armload of flowers for you, you open the door, and then there’s trouble. I was lucky that these two were so transparent.
I remember a few years ago, a serial rapist in New York was wearing a full legitimate police uniform, ringing doorbells, and young women let them in, and then terrible things happened. Another was masquerading as a fireman. If you have not called for help, and are not expecting a package, delivery or serviceman, be VERY, VERY, VERY careful, and better yet, don’t open the door and let them in!!
I’m not suggesting that you become totally paranoid, hide under your bed, and keep your doors locked forever. But we all need to be wise and careful, alert, and suspicious enough to protect ourselves. Don’t just open the door to anyone, try to be as sure as you can that the person at the door is for real, and if you have any doubt at all, don’t open the door, particularly if you’re alone. You’re better off delaying or even losing a legitimate package than getting hurt, robbed, or worse. The police told me that this is a very common occurrence, and whenever you aren’t sure of the people at the door, DON’T let them in.
So please be careful!!! Take good care!!! Be Safe!!!
much love, Danielle
Posted on January 19, 2015
I hope the New Year is rolling along nicely in its first few weeks. The world seems a little bumpier than usual right now in these first days of the year. In my blog last week, I mentioned the tragedies in Paris, and am noticing the mood in Paris in the aftermath. I think when anything shocking happens, people retreat into their shell for a while to try and figure out what happened, and why, and how they feel about it.
January is a quiet month in most places. People have gotten through the holidays and are tired, the weather tends to be dreary everywhere, gray and cold, rainy or snowy, except if you live in a tropical place somewhere. Two years ago, I stayed home in January in bitter cold weather in Paris, and discovered the TV series Downton Abbey and fell in love with it, and became addicted to it. It’s also a good month to stay home and catch up on work. Nothing much seems to happen in January. And I usually do a lot of writing this month.
And this year, January has happened with a jolt, with the events in Paris. The reaction of French people has been one of strength. Only days after the events which riveted the attention of the world and turned all eyes toward Paris, they held a ‘solidarity rally’, in which 2 million people showed up in a public square in Paris, walked about ten blocks, many of them arm in arm, and holding signs—and quite amazingly was attended by almost every Head of State and Crowned Head in Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East. They came together to show their support for the people of France after the sad events and attacks that had happened. I was in New York at the time, and cried as I watched the March on CNN. It was extremely moving, old people, young people, world leaders, Presidents, little children. It represented almost half the population of Paris and the surrounding suburbs, and was an extraordinary heartwarming and peaceful event.
A week after the intense drama began, with attacks, deaths, hostage situations, and suicide missions carried out, the mood of Paris is quiet and pensive. Much like the atmosphere in New York after 9/11, which was a far bigger event, in terms of loss of life, the city and its people seem silent and somewhat withdrawn, almost like someone who has been injured and needs to be in a quiet place for a while to think about it and heal from the shock. It is an odd combination of emotions, both sadness and strength, determination not to be terrorized or victimized, respect for those who died, and although quiet, the people seem very brave and strong. There are noticeably fewer people on the streets, and in restaurants and stores, fewer cars, less traffic. People seem very serious, and wisdom dictates staying out of big public places that could be vulnerable: the subway, department stores, big stadiums, some people are avoiding places of worship, so as not to draw attention to themselves. Like any time of mourning, it is a time to turn inward, rather than reach outward, and yet the march last weekend was an extraordinary reaching out in unity and show of strength. But it is also a harsh awakening to the risks and dangers of our troubled world, with the realization that people are vulnerable in every country around the world. Just as 9/11 was a tremendous wake up call in the US, I think these recent events in France were a similar sounding of the alarm in France that they can be at risk in a grocery store, at work or at home.
The big event in January in Paris usually is the sales. The government demands that all stores hold sales in January and July, with terrific bargains of great goods, marked down up to 70%. Stores don’t get to just do sales randomly whenever they want, and they are expected to put their past season’s merchandise on sale during those two months. It usually creates a festive atmosphere, draws shoppers to Paris from all over France, and even from other countries. People come for bargains and pretty things, the streets and stores are crowded, and traffic gets very congested. This month though, the city is almost eerily quiet, with few people in the stores, and no sign of traffic or the usual excitement about sales. Maybe it will pick up before the month is over, as people recover from the trauma to the city and the nation, but suddenly buying a sweater on sale, or a pair of shoes, seems insignificant compared to the bigger issues. I have a feeling that the sales won’t do as well this month as they normally do.
And even farther along the spectrum, in the last days of January is fashion’s Haute Couture week, with really beautiful fashion shows held by important designers of Couture clothes: clothes that have to be ordered, take several months to make and are entirely handmade (every stitch!!). They are extremely beautiful, and works of art, and also extremely expensive given the man-hours it takes to create them. France has always made a big fuss about Couture week, and about its fashion industry, ready to wear as well. Weeks after a national tragedy, it’s hard to imagine people coming from many different countries to view the fashions on the runways. But it’s an industry as well as an art, and people are resilient. And I’m sure that in a few weeks, people will be ready to see the shows, and ready to return to life. Chanel and Dior are the two most important houses that produce the clothes, and there are a number of others. And maybe after a few weeks of silent mourning, people will be ready to face the world again, and think of fashion. For now, it is quiet in Paris, and the mood is somber and strong. And in some ways, maybe it will be a relief to think of something more frivolous, and turn back the clock to an easier, simpler time. France has survived Revolution, Occupation, and two wars. The French are strong people, and they will come through this as well…..and for now, their serious quiet mood seems appropriate. It is the right reaction for the time, and perhaps good for all of us, wherever we are, to think of what’s important to us, what freedoms are essential to us, and what national values, or even what personal values we believe in. A little serious thinking never hurts. And the outpouring of support from other countries has been amazing.
We live in challenging times. I hope that your life is peaceful and all is well with you. And I’ll be writing to you about the fashion shows in a few weeks, when I go to see one by Chanel. Take care.
Posted on January 12, 2015
It has taken me several days to catch my breath enough to write to you about the violence and tragedy in Paris last week. Everything one can say sounds trite, the words are not enough. The very idea of violence against our fellow man shocking, the results whatever the reason shocking, and in the end, despite politics and religion, it is about lives lost. Not just lives you see on TV in alarming videos, or read about in the newspaper, when violence occurs and people die, but someone’s father, mother, husband, child, someone we love or respect or care about is gone forever, and the lives they touched are forever changed.
For years we have read about civil wars, nowadays we read about terrorism, and not only committed by foreigners, but in our own country, by our own people as well. It is inexplicable and terrifying, heartbreaking, and part of our daily lives now. Whether 9/11 or the Boston Marathon, or the tragedy in Paris, or a lone gunman on a college campus, the children murdered at the school in Connecticut a year or two ago, or a number of years ago the children shot and killed in an Amish school, or in Colorado, and in the bombing in Oklahoma 20 years ago. Whatever the reason, or whoever the perpetrators, in the end, it is about the people who were lost, and the families who must live on without them. And our hearts ache immeasurably for those who died, for those who love them, and even for ourselves. We each lose a part of ourselves as well when tragedies occur, we lose our faith, our peace, our trust, our confidence that we are safe, and things will turn out well, and even that our children are safe.
Throughout the centuries, and all through time, religious causes have driven people to kill each other. It is an age old story, but one we are never inured to. It is always shocking, but it is not new. Today we see it more vividly on TV, cell phone videos, and computer screens. But the story is the same, the loss as agonizing. And each time something like this happens, no matter who does it, we are stunned into silence, we are grief stricken, and our hearts ache.
I am so deeply sorry for the families and loved ones of those who died in Paris last week. Whatever the political opinions or religions of the people involved, in the end it is about each person who was lost. We question what could or should have been done differently, why it happened, and in some cases why we didn’t suspect it could or would. It is always difficult to understand the reasons for man’s cruelty to each other at times, and the justifications. It is difficult to understand why it happens or that it does at all. How does a crazed student or young person slip through the cracks, climb over the barriers in their own head, and kill innocent children? Or in another case, kill the parents of innocent children.
We are all traumatized by this. I hear grief in the voice of everyone I speak to in my second home in France. People are subdued and shocked and sad. We all suffer a loss through something like this, and it breeds fear, anger, and cynicism.
We don’t know why it happens, why a breaking point is reached. We pray it won’t happen again. I fear there will always be tragedies of this kind; it is the nature of the human race. And for those of us in the outer circles of public events like this, we are helpless to change it, or make it better, or prevent it from happening again. I am reminded of something Mother Teresa said “We cannot do big things, only small things with an immense amount of love”. Let us do the small things, let us live our lives in love, let us make our small circle of life and the world better because we’re in it. And let us hope that those who perpetrate tragedies will find mercy in their hearts in future. Let the families and loved ones heal, and may those who have died in violence find peace.
When my son Nick died, a suicide at 19, I caught a very bad cold that turned into pneumonia shortly after. I went to my doctor, a kind man, who gave me a ‘dreidel’, the little top that is a tradition at Chanukah in the Jewish faith. It has Hebrew letters on it which say “A great miracle happened here”. When he gave it to me, I thought he was crazy. How could a miracle possibly have happened when my son was dead? But in time, it proved to be true, we started two foundations in his name to help the mentally ill and the homeless and we have helped thousands of people since his death. I wrote a book about him, his life and his illness, which over a million people have read, and it helped many of them. I have spoken out about mental illness, which has helped dispel some of the stigma and mystery around mental illness. One boy, my son, started all of that and caused it to happen, which is a miracle in a way. So many, many lives were touched because of his death. And when there is a tragedy, there is a miracle in it too. It can spawn empathy, understanding, compassion, forgiveness, change, it can be a bridge between grieving people, bring people closer together, and change lives. My prayer is that somewhere in the ashes of this tragedy, there will be a miracle for those who have survived and for the rest of us. May a miracle we cannot even guess at now eventually emerge? And to those who have lost loved ones, my deepest sympathy. And may we all do small things to help and comfort each other, with an immense amount of love.
With all my love to you, Danielle
Posted on January 5, 2015
HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!!!!
I hope the new year is off to a great start and will only get better and better.
As I’ve mentioned to you before, I love quotations that I find here and there, and I frame many of them and put them on my office walls to inspire me. Sometimes just a few wise words at the right time can make a difference. So I thought I’d share some with you here, to inspire you too, and get the new year off to a happy start. I hope you like these too:
– Miracles DO happen!! (I have that one hanging right above my computer, where I see it whenever I send or read an email).
– “Life is a series of thousands of tiny miracles” Mike Greenberg.
– No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.
– “There are three things in life that are important.
The first is kindness. The second is kindness. The third is kindness.” William James
– There is No Set path, just follow your heart.
– Believe in the power of believing in yourself.
– Do what you can’t do later.
– Live the present, dream for the future, learn from the past.
– “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” Teddy Roosevelt.
– It is never too late to start your life over.
– I have the power to transform my life.
– If you can dream it, you can do it.
– Let your light shine!
– “When you go through a disappointment, don’t stop on that page!” Rev. Joel Osteen
– Bounce Back
– The night is darkest before the dawn
– “Never, Never, never, never Give Up.” Winston Churchill
– “One cannot do big things, only small ones, with an immense amount of love.” Mother Teresa
– Nothing is impossible.
– he best is yet to come.
Happy New Year to you, all my love, Danielle
Posted on December 29, 2014
I’ve been thinking about you over the holidays, hoping that all was going well for you, and that your holidays went smoothly, and weren’t difficult, too challenging, or disappointing. I hope they were fun, even better than you hoped. And I hope that Santa was good to you!!
I had a lovely Christmas with my kids, short but very sweet. We came from as far away as 6,000 miles (me, from Paris), to be together. Three of my younger kids flew out from New York, one from Chicago, one from LA, others were already in California. With a family this size, it’s a major feat to get everyone together. And everything went according to plan. I am always particularly grateful when none of us get snowed in somewhere. Two years ago, my plane was the last flight out of Paris in a snow storm, and 2 days later, mine was the last flight out of New York in another snowstorm, before they closed the airport. But I made it home that year too. This time of year, the weather can be dicey, and with 4 of them flying in from the East Coast, I was relieved once everyone got home. And I always cut it very close, as I am with one daughter in New York every year on her birthday on December 18th, and the next day, I fly back to California for a holiday party I give. I haven’t missed it yet, but it could happen. Anyway, I made it home on time this year.
The time we actually spend ALL together has gotten very short: we were only all here for 3 days together this year, which doesn’t leave much margin for error. It doesn’t leave time to catch up if you have a bad day, miss a flight, or have a headache. But I am enormously grateful that they still all come home despite busy lives, demanding jobs, living in other cities, and significant others who are welcome to spend the holidays with us, but often need or want to be somewhere else. So I’m sure that my kids feel pulled, wanting to be home with me and their brothers and sisters, and wanting to be with their partners too. We had a lunch for Santa and little children. Another lunch for the people who work for me, which was a lot of fun. And we always have a family dinner on Christmas Eve, which is the high point of our Christmas together. We go to the same children’s mass first, in the same church where we have gone since they were born. There are lots of little children, and everyone sings Christmas carols, and then we come home for dinner. Our table used to be full with all nine kids, and my children’s father always joined us, even once we were no longer married. He was an important part of our Christmas celebrations. My three oldest married children no longer join us on Christmas Eve, and have dinner at their own homes that night, or with their in laws, so our ranks have been thinned out. Their father, and my late son Nick are no longer with us, and we feel their absence sharply that night. So that night, I have dinner with the 5 younger of my children, and their significant others when they’re around, if they have any. Santa still drops in for a visit, and everyone tells him what they want for Christmas. And at the end of dinner we play The White Elephant game (we play it at my staff Christmas luncheon too. I got a first aid kit this year and love it). It’s a funny game, everyone brings a gift, and we put them in a pile. Each person selects a gift, and you’re allowed to ‘steal’ it twice from someone else if you like it. And the gifts can get pretty outrageous. My youngest son flatly refused to give up his Chewbacca back pack last year (he swore he was going to wear it to work!!). I got a somewhat naughty Santa sweater this year at our family dinner, and managed to hang onto it, and I wore it on Christmas Day!! We had fun playing the game, played Christmas music, and enjoyed being together. And the challenge for me that night is remembering how grateful I am for my children around the table, and not thinking back to those who are no longer with us, and when our Christmas table was loud and boisterous, with many more people around it, John, Nick, and my older children. I have to force my mind to the present, and focus on now, and not remember the happy times when they were all little kids. These holidays together are precious too, and happy, even if everyone is grown up now.
On Christmas morning, we open presents and hang around together in pajamas, we have lunch around the kitchen table, eating left overs from the night before. And at 6pm, EVERYONE comes home for a Christmas night dinner, my older married kids, the younger children, and even some of their in laws, and little children. It’s a busy, loud, boisterous dinner that night, more like the old days. And I totally envied one of my daughters in law, who arrived for dinner beautifully dressed, but her feet hurt so much after countless holiday parties, so she wore her bedroom slippers: the cozy fleece lined kind—-I wanted to rip them right off her feet and put them on. She was the only woman in the room whose feet didn’t hurt, tottering in high heels, after days of celebrations!!! It was a really nice dinner, and everyone had a good time.
Christmas ended quickly this year, with all of them having pulls in their own life now. My youngest married daughter wanted to be at home with us, but her husband didn’t come, so she left at 5am on Christmas morning, to fly back to New York, and have Christmas dinner with him. She managed to keep everyone happy, him, and the family, and sacrificed herself getting up at 4am on Christmas Day and spending the day on the plane. Another daughter left at 6am the day after Christmas, to join her boyfriend and his family on a trip. So it was a beautiful holiday, but the time together was short. They used to spend a week or two at home over Christmas, and we had the luxury of time together. Now, it was all over in three days. But they were three wonderful days. I can’t complain when they make such a huge effort to get home at all, and it was wonderful to be together. As one of my friends reminds me regularly when I think or talk about the past. “That was then, this is now”. And she’s right. And now was wonderful this year, even if the time we spend together is short. They make a huge effort to be here at all.
I got lovely presents from all of them, and tried hard to find things they like. The girls love to get clothes, and with three of them working in fashion, it is REALLY hard to find things that the designers they work for didn’t design, they didn’t design themselves, or haven’t seen for 6 to 9 months before they appeared in the stores. But I think everyone was happy with what they got. I always love the sentimental stuff, a pillow with “Momma” embroidered on it, and a little gold bracelet with “Momma” on it, a wonderful carved book from one son, (a box made of typewriter keys!!), a beautiful bracelet from two daughters who teamed up, and a delicate ring that spells out the word “Mom”, and shoes are always a winner with me, and I got some great ones!! (pink suede flats, red high heels, black flats with sparkles on them, sandals with wooden soles for the summer, ‘camouflage’ flats—-I love shoes and they all know it!!!). And I got a beautiful little portrait of my little blue gray Chihuahua, “Blue”, who is Minnie’s baby sister. (I already have a lovely portrait of Minnie!!)
So we made it through, it was a lovely, warm, loving holiday. We will always remember those who are no longer here, and feel their absence. But the good times buoy our spirits and outweigh the losses…..and as my friend says, That was Then, this is Now. And it was a lovely Christmas this year, they were home for a few days, and I cherish my time with them. I hope your holidays were good too….and they are behind us now. We can look ahead to the New Year. And for the first time ever, I’ve decided not to do anything on New Year’s Eve. I don’t like going out that night, my children are all busy or away. None of the invitations I got felt right, many of my close friends are away. So I’m going spend it at my typewriter, and work right through. It feels like the perfect way to spend New Year’s Eve this year…..writing!!! Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve, and be careful if you’re driving or on the road. And I wish you a fantastic new year, of health, peace, prosperity and happiness. May all your wishes and dreams come true in the new year!! (and mine too!!)
I send you all my love, Danielle
Posted on December 22, 2014
I was packing up my briefcase today before I travel, and remembered a little book I used to carry in my briefcase, and put away a few years ago. It was about Gratitude, and I loved the stories in it, it was by Melody Beatie, I think. I don’t mean to sound like Goody Two Shoes with my messages to you, but I figure that we’re all in this together, and not every day is easy, in fact some days are damn hard, for any of us. And if I can encourage or inspire you to see things differently sometimes, I figure it’s a fair trade, because when I read your messages to me, you so often warm my heart and encourage and inspire me. I love the messages you write me. Thank you!!
There were several stories in the book, but there was one that particularly resonated for me, which is why I dragged it around with me until the book became dog eared, and then put it in my bookcase so it didn’t fall apart. The story I loved was about a house she had bought years before, possibly her first house, and it was the only one she could afford. It was in a bad neighborhood, the house was in bad shape, a major fixer-upper, and as she put it, it was just plain ugly and even once she bought it, she found she hated the house. She tried to do a few things to doll it up, and finally gave up on any kind of improvements, and decided that making the house beautiful was hopeless. So instead of working on it, she just sat there and cried every night, hating the house more and more. And she couldn’t afford to buy a better one, or move, or spend much money to improve it. She said she cried for months, and was totally miserable there. I don’t know what turned things around, but sometimes after you’re miserable enough, something changes or clicks in, and you decide to try and accomplish the impossible anyway. Crying every night is wearing. So she tried to do one thing to improve it. The result wasn’t fabulous, but she said it looked a little better. It was some very small improvement, like pretty clean shelf paper in the kitchen. So encouraged by that, she did one more small thing. And then another, and then she bought some paint and painted something ugly into a better color. And inspired by the minor changes, she did more, and more. She made a lot of small changes, and she didn’t turn the place into a palace, or even a gorgeous house, but she said that as she worked on these small projects every night, instead of crying, she started to love the place, even as ugly as it was. And after months of small changes, she actually loved the house. And the overall look of the place had improved—-the house hadn’t moved to a better neighbourhood, it wasn’t gorgeous, but it suddenly felt like a home, her home, and she really began to love it. And once she loved it, and had tried to make it better, something happened in her life, a series of fortuitous circumstances, and she was able to move to a better house, and she was actually sad to leave the house she had come to love. And the new house was a huge improvement in her life.
I liked the story because it reminded me that sometimes you have to embrace a circumstance you really don’t like, or even hate. The more you complain or try to run away from it, the worse it seems to get. And only when you’re willing to embrace a situation, in all its misery and ugliness does something actually change. How many times have we had jobs we really hate, with a nasty boss or co-workers, or an apartment in a building, or a home with neighbours who make your life miserable? Or a family situation you think you just can’t change. And believe me, I can complain with the best of them when I’m not happy about something. And I’m not always a good sport about it!!! But only when I stop bitching about it, and wailing, accept my fate as it is at that moment, and really accept it and try to improve it right where I am….only then does the situation actually improve, and someone mean gets nicer, or an opportunity comes along that allows me to make a change. Her point with the story was that only when she got truly grateful for the ugly house, and love it, and work on it, did a better house come along. It was a good reminder to me that sometimes we have to embrace situations we don’t like, and do our best to change them right where we are, before things actually change. And then suddenly the blessings are abundant, and things turn out much better than we hope.
The story applies to a lot of things, where we live, where we work, who we hang out with, family battles, or even the holiday plans we’re faced with that are not the ones we want. So I’m sharing the story with you, because I really like the story of the ugly house she came to love….and then she got a better one.
It’s a good reminder to me to embrace the situations I don’t like, and be grateful for what I do have. I have a feeling that she’s right, and things don’t change until we learn to love what we’ve got, and the situation we’re in. It’s something to think about.
And as we head into these last few days before the holidays, my wish and prayer for you is that these days are gentle and easy, as much as merry and bright!!! May all your Christmas wishes come true, and may you be surrounded by those you love, and I hope they are kind to you. And I hope you bring the light and warmth of the holidays to someone else’s heart as well.
A thousand good wishes to you, and all my love, Danielle
Posted on December 15, 2014
It’s less than two weeks before Christmas, and I’ve definitely been busy on the holiday circuit, and with holiday activities, and it has been fun. It’s a nice time of year to spend time with people you care about and enjoy, not just the ‘have to go to’ parties or the ‘think I should’s’. I weeded those out a few years ago, so I get to spend time with people I really consider friends.
This week was a bit of a whirlwind. On Monday I gave a lunch for my women friends, we see each other pretty regularly, so there wasn’t a lot of ‘catch up’ to do, just talking about our plans for the holidays, our families, and latest news, and taking time out from the rush to enjoy each other and have a civilized lunch. There were 7 of us at lunch, since five others couldn’t make it. Almost all of us work, and several of them still have young school age kids at home, and those activities take precedence, for all of us. Or work obligations. It was really fun to have lunch, and to discover that one of the group is having a baby, her fourth, which is brave of her, since she has a big career as an attorney, and a cardiologist husband, and 3 older children, so she has a very full life, but is very excited about this baby. And we were all thrilled for her!! They don’t have baby showers in France, that’s an American tradition, but I’m going to have one for her before the baby comes.
On Tuesday, I had lunch with one of my closest friends, which we do often, to discuss whatever is happening in our lives and enjoy each other’s company. He’s a male best friend, so we also give each other the benefit of the opposite sex perspective on situations, and that can be very helpful at times!! We always have a wonderful time together! And that night, I was invited to an interesting dinner given by American friends, an ex-Ambassador and his wife. And they invited me and a friend to meet the new American Ambassador to France, who is a charming woman. The ambassadorial post in France is not given to a career diplomat, but always to a major supporter of the current president, so it brings some very interesting people to the job, which is an appointment by the President. It was a fun evening and a small dinner of about 10 people, so a good chance to talk to her.
On Wednesday, I had lunch with my co-producers of the song album I wrote the lyrics for last year. And it was nice to catch up with them, and that’s a whole different milieu, since music was very new to me, and not my usual professional world.
On Thursday (which is Saint Danielle Day in France, my saint’s day. Saint Danielle!!), I gave my Christmas party, with 30 good friends, it was what the French call a ‘dining cocktail party’, officially it’s a cocktail party, but that tells people that there will be enough food passed around, or set up on a table that you won’t starve to death if you decide to stay. And in France, all parties go longer, so people will come to a cocktail party and stay til 1 or 1:30 am, which is what happened. It was the group of my social circle in France, and we really had a nice time together, particularly because everyone knows each other well. It was fun!!
And on Friday, I had lunch with a women’s group (of 5 women) that I belong to, and we meet once a month, usually for dinner, but everyone is so busy right now that we met for lunch. And that was really fun too. We all gave each other small gifts, one of them gave me some ‘lotto’ tickets, and I won $10.00 !!!! And Friday night, I went to a Shabbat dinner at the friends who are having the baby. They have a Friday night dinner every week, where friends come for dinner, and stay for long conversations. The food is plentiful, the discussions interesting, the people varied, and their children and their children’s friends come to dinner too. It’s a warm family gathering that everyone enjoys, and I love being invited to their Friday night dinners, with the lighting of the candles, the opening prayer, the traditions, and the lively atmosphere after the formalities. It’s always a special evening to be with them and their friends.
And today, I stayed home to work, and started packing to leave. Tomorrow, my God daughter and her family are coming to dinner. She is four years old, incredibly adorable and irresistible, and we’ll all open presents under my Christmas tree. It has been a thrill to give the little girls I know my new children’s book, “Pretty Minnie in Paris!”, which has wonderful illustrations, and even glitter on the cover, and so far they have all loved it (and so have some of my grown up friends!!) It’s about a little teacup Chihuahua who lives in Paris, and loves to wear pretty clothes. And the illustrations by Kristi Valiant are fabulous!!!
So this week has been all pre-Christmas events, all of which I’ve enjoyed. And last weekend I stayed home to wrap presents—which I am terrible at, and they all look like someone was blindfolded while they did it. Wrapping presents is not my strong suit!!
And before I leave Paris, I’ll have lunch with another good friend, and on my last night here before the holidays, two friends are coming to dinner.
Next week, once I leave Paris, I’m going to spend a day with one of my daughters to celebrate her birthday and have dinner with her and her friends, on the way home. I have a business meeting too, and then back to California for all our family Christmas traditions, and a chance to see some friends too. And I give a lunch every year with Santa present for all the really little children I know. I’ve been doing that since my own children were that small.
So, as you can see, I’ve been caught up in the whirl of Christmas, still doing a lot of shopping, seeing a lot of friends, and still managing have time to work, on a new book outline, some re-writes, and editing a set of ‘galleys’, which is the last stage in “book production”, my last chance to make corrections before a book goes to the printer and is turned into an actual book.
I do love the busy-ness of Christmas, the chance to see friends I love, the excitement of finding just the right gift for someone and hoping they’ll be excited about it, and the quiet moments when you think about what it all means, and inevitably, you think of the people who were part of your Christmas and no longer are, like my late son Nick. There are always some very nostalgic bittersweet moments to the season, but on the whole, happiness prevails.
So that’s what I’ve been up to. I hope your Christmas is off to a good start, and even if it falls short in some way, or the people you love aren’t around, it is a finite number of days, and you know it will be over soon. Before it is, I hope you have some wonderful days and evenings, and some special moments with loved ones and friends.
I am thinking of you, and send you much love, on holidays, and at any other time.
all my love, danielle