Posted on October 20, 2014
I just wanted to share with you that I have TWO new books coming out on October 28. A hardcover novel called “Pegasus”, which begins in World War II, covers three generations of 2 families who are close friends, the book takes place both in America and Europe, and it has lots of exciting things in it. Among them, there are some very interesting things about Ringling Brothers Circus, and life in the circus during the war years. It’s a big meaty book with lots of great stuff and characters in it. I love the book and hope you do too. And one of the elements of the book is about Lippizaner horses, the incredibly beautiful white horses that are used as show horses, who do elegant and amazing acrobatics. I REALLY REALLY hope you love the book!!!
And the second book is a children’s book called “Pretty Minnie in Paris”, for children about 4 to 8 years old. It was inspired by my tiny little white long haired tea cup Chihuahua Minnie (she weighs just over 2 pounds!!), and in the book Minnie lives in Paris, belongs to a little girl named Francoise, and both Francoise and Minnie love to wear pretty clothes. It’s about Minnie’s adventures in Paris….and there will be a sequel to the book a year from now. I am sooo excited about this book too, it is unbelievably cute, the illustrations by Kristi Valiant are gorgeous, and there is lots of pink and purple glitter in the book!!!! If there are any little girls in your life, they will LOVE it!!!
I hope you have a chance to enjoy both of these books.
Lots and LOTS of love, danielle
Posted on October 13, 2014
I hope that all is going well for you, as we slide into the fall, from September into October.
Two friends sent me some wonderful words in the last couple of weeks that I wanted to share with you. Both of these sayings really touched me.
One is a Chinese ‘precept’, which a good friend sent to me, about money, and what it can and can’t buy, and was such a good reminder.
“Money can buy a house, but not a home.
It can buy a bed, but not sleep.
It can buy a clock, but not time.
It can buy a book, but not knowledge.
It can buy a position, but not respect.
It can pay for a doctor, but not buy health.
It can buy blood, but not life.
It can pay for sex, but not love”.
And the other words that touched me were from a Jewish friend, who shared the Yom Kippur prayer with me during the recent holiday.
“To those I may have wronged,
I ask forgiveness.
To those I may have helped,
I wish I had done more.
To those I neglected to help,
I ask for understanding.
To those who helped me,
I sincerely thank you.”
I love both of those so much, and the people who sent them to me. And you, my beloved readers, always help me with your kind words and support. So as the prayer says, I sincerely thank you.
with much love, danielle
Posted on October 6, 2014
I had a great privilege today, as I write this. I had the honor of knowing Robin Williams, socially through our kids (one of my children dated one of his for four years), and he was incredibly generous with his time, and came to the gala benefit evenings I gave for my son’s foundation for mental illness. He always showed up, every time which was a thrill for people who came to our event. We had mutual friends, and met a few times a year. He visited my home, and wherever I’d run into him, or when he came to my house, or to my daughter when she went to theirs, he was incredibly gracious, kind, and warm. He was a lovely person to meet and know, always charming, always funny, always nice to talk to. And I was greatly saddened to hear the news when he took his life nearly two months ago. It was a terrible shock, and knowing his children, I was particularly saddened for their loss. » read more »
Posted on September 29, 2014
Instead of reporting to you on big antique shows, fashion shows, world events, or personal things that matter to me, sometimes even very personal (like losing a friend this summer, or my late son’s anniversary date last week), now and then I get to share a pet peeve with you, and it’s always rewarding when I discover that you share my irritation about the same thing, and I’m not alone in my complaint. (There’s comfort in numbers).
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Posted on September 22, 2014
It’s hard to think of a different blog this week. I will have been in 3 cities this week, in 2 countries, touching base with my children. And the day when everything comes to a screeching halt for me is September 20th, the anniversary of when I lost my son Nick, at 19, to suicide. I know that many of you are aware of it, and have read the book I wrote about him, “His Bright Light”. He had bi polar disease all his life, and put up a valiant fight to have a good life in spite of it. He was an incredibly talented singer and musician, and lyricist. He wrote extremely well, he laughed a lot, was talented and full of fun and mischief, and he was greatly loved. But his illness overtook him in the end, and I’m so grateful for the nineteen years we shared with him. Even now, he is a blessing in our family.
It’s an incredibly difficult thing to lose a child, you have to fight courageously to make it meaningful, to help others, to not let yourself be drowned by the loss. And the anniversary dates are brutally hard. like waves that overwhelm you. But however hard, or poignant the memories,I am so deeply grateful for the belssing he was, the joy that we shared, and that he came into our lives at all. I know that wherever he is, he is smiling and at peace, loving us as much as ever, just as we love him more than ever, and he will forever be a gift in our lives. May he rest in peace and the tenderness of God’s love for him, and ours….and with all my love to you,
Posted on September 15, 2014
Things are revving up and speeding up, as they do after the summer. As the days get cooler, our lives seem to get busier.
I just finished a book, and am editing two others that are due out in the coming year. I’ve been traveling, visiting with my kids. We have 2 September birthdays in our family, so we’ve made plans for that. And I went to the big antique show this week that happens in Paris every two years, The Biennale. Beautiful museum quality antiques in some booths, paintings, and every important jeweler in the world has a stand at the show. It’s exciting to see it all, and a little dizzying!!! But really lovely stuff. The show is kicked off with a black tie event and dinner, which I go to whenever the show is in Paris every two years. It’s the summit of all antique shows, and really a glamourous event. Lots of women in evening gowns attend, wearing some very spectacular jewels. And they come from all over the world to see the show and attend the opening. You hear every imaginable language, and some very big ticket items are sold. It is truly an impressive event.
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Posted on September 8, 2014
With Labor Day a week behind us, Fall is getting started, and things are speeding up. The weather is still gorgeous everywhere, in every city I’ve been in, still warm and sunny, even finally sunny in September in foggy San Francisco, and still hot almost everywhere else, but with a hint of cooler weather to come, and sometimes chilly evenings. And I definitely notice that the pace is picking up, with things I have to do, and work on my desk. I am currently working on two sets of ‘galleys’, the final stage of a book before they print it, and my last chance to make corrections before they do. I finished one set of galleys last night, and am starting another set today, for books that will be published and available in the coming months. Galleys look like the printed pages of a book, but they’re not bound together yet, so the pages come in a big stack, and I can make necessary changes and edits on them, it’s my last chance before the book gets printed.
Book wise—-I’m getting revved up for two new books coming out in October, a hardcover novel, “Pegasus”, it’s a World War II book, a historical novel, and my new children’s book, “Pretty Minnie in Paris”, about a white long haired teacup Chihuahua who lives in Paris and loves to wear pretty clothes. It is the cutest thing you’ve ever seen, with gorgeous illustrations by Kristi Valiant, and lots of pink and purple glitter on the book. If there are any little girls in your life, they will love it!! So on the book front, things are getting busy. And my own tiny white Chihuahua, Minnie, had a photo shoot this week for publicity shots for the children’s book. She wore eight different coats and two tiny tee shirts, and she looked very cute!!!
On the social front, I am going to a big very fabulous antique show, the opening night dinner, which is always a very glamourous event, and the antiques at the show are museum quality and wonderful to see. I always look forward to it, and the show happens every other year. It’s fun to see, jewelry, paintings and spectacular antiques. On a more human scale, I had my adorable Godchildren to dinner last night, for pasta and a movie. They are 4, 7 and 10, and really wonderful kids. They came to visit me with their parents for a week in San Francisco this summer, and we went to Las Vegas together for 3 days. We watched “Sound of Music”, which I love as much as ever, and really enjoyed with them. It had a very international flavor, as my godchildren are half French and half Japanese (and are in the dedication of my children’s book), so I knew all the songs in English because I had seen the movie in English as a child, the film we watched was dubbed in French, so the songs in the movie were in French, and my godchildren knew all the songs in Japanese, and sang along in Japanese—now there’s an international mix for you!!! We had a lot of fun, and I can tell you that the songs in Sound of Music sound great in Japanese too!!
Family-wise, it’s the time of year when I miss my kids, after spending time with them in the summer, and everyone back in their cities, lives and jobs now after the summer. My three girls in fashion are all hard at work on their ready to wear fashion shows in New York, and will be doing the same in Paris soon, and I will miss them in both places. They’re working 20 hour days, and I keep up with their shows, very proudly!!, on style.com. And the others are all busy at work too. And I’m back to editing books, and working on new ones. So it feels like ‘back to school’ for all of us, although no one is in school anymore. But we all seem to be busy. This summer was a mixed bag, with wonderful time with my kids and visits from my French friends, and then the sad loss of a close friend, and two I was less close to (an accident and two suicides, so shocking in all 3 cases), and cleaning up after the earthquake in the Napa Valley. It wasn’t a lazy summer. And things are speeding up now. Two of my daughters have birthdays this month, and for the first time, I wasn’t able to be with one of them, as she had to work on a fashion show, September is a busy month for all of us.
I hope the Fall is off to a nice start for you, with fun projects up ahead, things you’re looking forward to, and interesting things to do. I wish it were still summer, but there’s always next year…..I wish I could fast forward to next summer now!!! But there is lots to do before then. Have a great week!!
Posted on September 1, 2014
My last two weeks of the summer (after a very nice summer and some wonderful time with my children) have not been peaceful or easy. The loss of a close friend, that I mentioned to you, and a few other bumps, have made the last of August more like real life than the end of summer.
Almost two years ago, one of my daughters who live in New York lost her apartment and belongings to Hurricane Sandy. She lived in a ground floor apartment she loved and had fixed beautifully, and living right on the River, her building was hit hard, her street was flooded, and her apartment was engulfed in river and sewer water when Hurricane Sandy hit lower Manhattan. What I saw there at the time was overwhelming, and my daughter’s losses heartbreaking. I had never seen first-hand before the aftermath of a hurricane and the resulting floods. It was devastating, and profoundly shocking. And in l989, we lived through the 6.9 earthquake in San Francisco. We did not experience much damage in our home, but the quake itself was terrifying.
As I told you in my last blog, I went to Las Vegas with friends and their children last week, had a great time and came home, and hours later was woken out of a sound sleep, as my bed shook violently and woke me up. It took me a few instants to realize that it was an earthquake and not a bad dream. And living in San Francisco, we are allegedly prepared for that to happen, but after a while, you start to assume it never will. You get complacent, and then suddenly a good shake wakes you up and scares you, and you are sharply reminded that you live in earthquake country, which is a serious matter, and we should always be prepared for what can happen. » read more »
Posted on August 25, 2014
I just took a vacation with friends from France, and their kids (my Godchild and her siblings again), to a place where I haven’t been in 14 years: Las Vegas. I’d been there 3 times in the past, just for a day or so, and found it a bit dazzling and overwhelming, but it’s definitely a place one should see at least once. And on my friends’ American Tour with their kids this summer, it was their next to last stop and I agreed to join them. And Wow!! What an adventure that was!! I never thought of it as a place for kids before, but we didn’t stop for 3 action packed days. We saw the fabulous Cirque du Soleil’s O show, which is as beautiful as I remembered, combining acrobatics with swimming, a pool which appears and disappears, and then disappears partially, while one part of the cast is dancing on a solid floor, and the others are diving acrobatically (or from high trapezes) into the water. It is a breathtaking experience for all ages, and the children I was with were as dazzled as the adults were. On our last night we saw David Copperfield’s magic show, which is less poetic than O, but totally amazing and fascinated us too. And in between we went to roller coasters inside 2 hotels, Circus Circus and New York New York, we watched the volcano erupt outside the Mirage Hotel, and the water show of fountains outside the Bellagio. We walked for miles along the Strip, peeking at enormous, impressive hotels, each with a special flavor of its own. Some of our group went to the Venetian Hotel, but I missed that, we walked through the lobby of the Bellagio, and walked for many blocks along Fremont Street, which was a little less my cup of tea, with half naked people in costumes posing for photographs, and a lot of souvenirs and tattoo parlors. I wasn’t as crazy about that, it felt like the old days in Times Square in New York, a little on the seamy side. But the rest of what we saw in Vegas wasn’t seamy at all, but mostly fun and exciting. » read more »
Posted on August 18, 2014
Serious Moment. It happens sometimes. And life lessons.
On a foggy Saturday morning in San Francisco recently, after a long night of writing, just back from Paris, my phone and computer came alive at 6 am. Emails, messages, texts, calls, with the totally unbelievable news that a close friend in Paris had died, the husband of one of my very close women friends. The first thing I saw was an email that gave his first name and said he had died. I only know one person by that name, but immediately rejected that possibility….it couldn’t be him….too young….I saw him only a few weeks ago….we’re all having dinner in a few weeks….not him…I tried to figure out who else I knew by that name. I opened the email and saw his wife’s name, and I felt as though an entire mountain had come crashing down on me. It was indeed the close friend which my mind flatly refused to believe could have died. » read more »
Posted on August 11, 2014
Weirdly, I was thinking this morning and an old French saying popped into my mind. In French it’s “Les chiens aboient, et la caravane passe….” Translated, it says “The dogs bark, and the caravan moves on.” The meaning being that something may be loud and catch your attention and seem all consuming at the time, and then it moves on and turns out not to be such a big deal. In other words, don’t sweat the small stuff. And although I often have trouble remembering that myself, it is so true!! Things happen which seem loud and strident and upsetting, an event, an incident, an argument, and we all get so upset. It seems all consuming and can just ruin a day, or a week. It happens to me all the time, a child, a friend, a partner, an employer or employee says or does something that just infuriates me or hurts my feelings, and becomes the focus of my world for a while—-and maybe yours too!!! And then time passes, and with a little perspective, it just doesn’t seem like such a big deal, and life moves on. I wish I remembered that more often. And it was a good reminder when I thought of it today, so I thought I’d share it with you.
I hope there are no ‘dogs barking in your life” at the moment, with things to annoy or upset you. But if so, try to remember that the caravan will move on soon….you can remind me of that too the next time I get wound up!! Have a great week!!
Posted on August 4, 2014
So have you read my new hardcover yet, that came out last week, “A Perfect Life”? Sorry, I don’t mean to push. I just love the book and hope you do too. I hope you get to read it on vacation, or on the way to work, or tucked into bed at night.
Actually, I was writing to give you a heads up about a children’s book I have coming out in October. It’s called “Pretty Minnie in Paris”, and it’s ADORRRABLE!!! I am in love with it!!! It’s the cutest thing you’ve ever seen for little girls, about a little girl named Francoise in Paris and her tiny white long haired Chihuahua—-Minnie of course!!! They love clothes and cute shoes, and Minnie has lots of outfits, and loves to match Francoise (in matching tutus, snowsuits and party dresses). It’s illustrated and the illustrator, Kristy Valliant, did a fantastic job, capturing my real Minnie, and turning her into a storybook character everyone will fall in love with (Kristy came to visit in Paris to do drawings and take photographs and videos of the real Minnie, and captured her perfectly!!). If you have any little girls in your life, it will make a fantastic gift (for all the little girls I know too) with lots of drawings of Paris, and Minnie in her adorable outfits. She gets lost at a fashion show in the book, and I’ll let you read the rest. It won’t be out til October, but I couldn’t resist telling you about it now. I am thrilled to have been part of the creation of the book, and my own little Minnie is of course thrilled to be the star of a children’s book. It’s full of pink and purple glitter and everything little girls love (and me too!). I have a regular grown up novel coming out in October too, “Pegasus”, it’s a historical novel which begins in World War II. I think it’s one of my best books, a family saga of two families…..but “Pretty Minnie in Paris” will steal your heart. I hope you’re finding down time to relax and read this summer. At the moment, between writing books, I’m plunged into a novel by one of my favorite authors, it’s a cozy read and takes place in Ireland. It’s nice to relax for a change.
Posted on July 28, 2014
Whew!! It’s been hot everywhere I’ve been lately, with more to come. I love the heat in the summer, and I’m never a big fan of air conditioning, which is like stepping into a refrigerator. I’d rather enjoy the hot weather.
I had one of those moments of reality and gratitude today, when for a moment, you see reality, take stock, and are really grateful. I had one of those days a few days ago, when everything went wrong. Small stuff, but truly aggravating. A problem in my office, some work challenges, some legal issues in the building where I live in France. My family vacation with my kids is over, which always makes me sad. They all left for their cities and went back to work, and my home is always MUCH too quiet when they’re gone. I just had one of those days when everything you touch is a problem or isn’t going the way you want. And it’s easy to forget how lucky one is on days like that. My greatest moment of gratitude was about a flight one of my children took last week, that nearly crashed on landing, and I was soooo profoundly grateful that it didn’t crash, and although badly shaken, my daughter was fine and unhurt. She called me sobbing when she landed, and just thinking of what could have happened really shook me up. As we all know, and don’t always remember, life can change in an instant, and everything you care about dissolves or goes out the window. So I am VERY grateful that didn’t happen. But I had an annoying day a few days later anyway. It happens.
And then today, I had a business lunch with my French publisher. I rushed around doing errands in the morning, and he had given me the address of a restaurant I didn’t know. When I arrived, it was on the roof of a hotel I had forgotten about, in Paris, and the roof was set up as a garden, within a block or two of the Arc de Triomphe, with a fabulous view of the rooftops of Paris, and if you walked around the terrace, which I did, you could see Sacre Coeur in the distance, and many of the spectacular monuments of Paris. The view was incredible.
When my publisher arrived, we had a delicious lunch, and sat there in the roof garden, talking business and enjoying the view (although there was a slight haze of pollution in the distance). And in a quiet moment, I looked around and realized how lucky I am, to be sitting in that beautiful place, enjoying a wonderful lunch, with all of Paris spread out before me under a blue sky. How much better can it get? I felt so blessed and fortunate as I sat there. And yes, life is aggravating at times, and bills are always bigger than one wants, and we all have worries and concerns and even aggravations with our families, and work, and just the little pitfalls of life. (The dry cleaner always manages to lose my favorite sweater, whichever one it is at the time). It’s so nice sometimes to just have one moment of clarity, when we realize how lucky we are. Sometimes life is really hard, and terrible things happen that worry us or break our hearts…..and then at other times, there is a moment, just a flash, when all is peaceful for a few minutes and we realize how lucky we are, and how good life can be at times. I’m happy I had one of those moments, it gives you the strength to fight the battles that we all have to face. I was sooooo grateful for that lucky moment today!!! I hope good things are happening to you.
Posted on July 21, 2014
I hope that all is well with you and that the summer is rolling out nicely for you, with some time to relax, enjoy your families, take time off (and hopefully read a book or two. I have a new book coming out in hardcover tomorrow, “A Perfect Life”. I hope it will be the perfect summer read for you!!).
As I’ve confessed to you before, among my many confessions to you, I’m a creature of habit, AND I am not good at relaxing. I always love having something to do, and getting me to just sit still and take a vacation and enjoy some down time is no easy task. I always think I should be accomplishing something, writing an outline, helping one of my children, doing spring cleaning, or pulling a closet apart. But in spite of that, I take a vacation with my five youngest children every summer, and it is one of the best moments of the year for me, wherever we are, rivalled only by a week together at Christmas with all of my kids. We have gone to the same hotel every summer—we used to spend three weeks there, but now with all of my kids working, and busy with their careers, we are grateful to have a week together. And in spite of myself, eventually I unwind and actually relax. And it is sheer heaven being with them. We swim, lie in the sun, have meals together, they tell some hair raising stories of pranks and mischief they committed when they were younger, and are thrilled to tell me everything I didn’t know, which they think is hysterically funny now. We share long lazy meals, go to favorite restaurants, play games like Scrabble and cards, and a recent addition called “Catch Phrase”, which I love, it’s a little bit like charades where you have to describe a word, with a timer ticking, while everyone tries to guess the word, and pass the game along before the buzzer sounds. Some years they come with their boyfriends and girlfriends, or just a friend, and sometimes they come alone. Only one of the younger five is married, and my son in law fits right in with the rest of my ‘kids’ (in their mid and late 20’s now), and is a welcome addition to the group. It is one of the rare times of the year when we all relax together, enjoy each others’ company, reminisce about old times when they were little and other vacations we shared. And we have gone to the same hotel for about 25 years, all of their lives. Many of the same people still work there, and it’s like meeting up with old friends every year. » read more »
Posted on July 14, 2014
Unlike (ready to wear) fashion week, which is a wild 10 day relay race, as store buyers, press, movie stars, celebrities, and anyone associated with fashion professionally, dash from one venue to the next to see as many as 7 or 8 major fashion shows a day, in 4 cities (New York, Paris, London, Milan), repeating the wild week again and again, until everyone is exhausted and has seen the wares of every ready to wear designer. Unlike ready to wear, Haute Couture fashion shows happen only in Paris, and whereas once upon a time, a dozen or so years ago, and for many years before that, the Haute Couture shows were the Big event, now Ready to Wear is where everyone wants to go and be seen. I guess I’m dating myself when I say that the Haute Couture shows used to be absolutely knock out, and attracted the most elegant women in the world. The front row at the fashion show was every socialite you’d ever heard of, important dignitaries and movie stars, and presidents’ wives, along with well known royals, and the women who attended the shows actually wore haute couture in their daily lives. The shows were beautiful, dignified, the clothes were spectacular and it was a rarefied scene and atmosphere that took your breath away if you loved beautiful clothes. But like it or not, the world has changed. My daughters and I were reminiscing about those shows a few days ago, since I started taking my 5 daughters to them when they were very young, like 7 or 8 years old. And the shows were dazzling then, for them, and for me. I’ve always loved fashion, and the haute couture shows were every woman and young girl’s dream. All of Paris buzzed with the excitement, and the women who attended them (by invitation only) were stunningly elegant. But that world no longer exists.
For those who haven’t read about my talking about Haute Couture, what defines haute couture from ready to wear, is that every single stitch is hand made. There is not one machine made stitch on an haute couture garment. The seamstresses who worked on them had to be apprentices in the workrooms for twelve years before they were allowed to touch the clothes. The way it works is that there are two haute couture shows a year by the designer, in January (to show summer clothes) and in July (to show winter wear). The designer would put together about 70 designs, complete outfits, a sample of each one is made by hand, and usually famous models wear the samples down the runway in a beautiful show, so everyone can admire the clothes. Appointments are made afterwards for clients to try on the samples, and if they like them, the client will order a dress or outfit, and it will be handmade to her precise measurements. She will then have three fittings, sometimes more (the first one in a sample of the garment made in muslin, not the actual fabric), and about three months after the process began, the haute couture outfit or dress she ordered is delivered to the client. That process is still true today, and hasn’t changed. Haute Couture clothes were always expensive, but not the way they are now. A dress or outfit cost around $10,000 not that long ago, a spectacular evening gown $20,000. A wedding gown 50 or $100,000. Today those same clothes can easily be 75 or $100,000 for a wool dress, $150,000 for a suit, up to $300,000 for an evening gown, and $700,000 for an elaborate wedding dress. At those prices, there are only a handful of women in the world who can afford them. And not only have the Haute Couture clients changed, but so has the world. I went to two of those shows in the last two days, as I do twice a year, and have for most of my life, as an admirer of fashion (I went to Parsons School of Design and studied fashion design, and three of my daughters work in fashion, so it’s a family passion), and there were no Presidents’ wives at the shows I attended, only one major movie star, no royals, and the famously well dressed women are only a memory now. I occasionally see well known movie stars at those shows (Jennifer Lawrence at Dior yesterday), and have seen Gwyneth Paltrow, Cameron Diaz, and Kirsten Dunst, and Rihanna in recent years, but on the whole people go now for the spectacle, and many to be seen, and very, very, very few are going to buy haute couture. The haute couture client of today is a very different breed. And the world we live in a very different place. Money is tight, jobs are scarce and the economy strained in many countries, the entire world wears jeans and sneakers, some even to work, exercise clothes are considered okay in every public place. Luxury is often frowned on (though secretly envied), men rarely wear ties now, it’s considered fashionable not to shave, and most people have nowhere to wear the fabulous creations of Haute Couture. And all but 3 of the once numerous haute couture designers still produce haute couture collections, which are labor intensive to make and out in the stratosphere in price. Many of the clothes one sees on the runway are then put in the designer’s museum, and never made for any clients. Sadly, haute couture has become an exquisite beautiful, absolutely spectacular dinosaur from another age. A few people still buy it, but most people’s everyday lives, even those with money, just don’t lend themselves to those fabulous creations anymore. And there are sometimes simpler clothes in the collections too, but always at an astronomical price, due to the fabric, or embroidery, or the remarkable labor and expertise that goes into them. I go to look, and am in awe of the workmanship and the creativity every time. » read more »
Posted on July 7, 2014
As a person who has had a war with machines all my life, I can’t help but ask myself that question. Machines have always hated me, and I have to admit, it’s mutual. I hate them back. I have no problem with a light switch or the basics. I owned an electric can opener years ago that I could never operate. It took me 5 years to learn to fax, and longer to figure out how to get my messages off my cell phone. I kept forgetting how to do it. I can however manage a toaster, and now a microwave if it’s not too high tech. And my cell phone is prehistoric. Smart Phones terrify me, so I have stuck with my old 14 year old battered cell phone that has disco lights that warn me when I have a message. I could give you a list a mile long of the machines I can’t figure out how to operate, and my mistakes on my laptop are legendary. I usually hit delete instead of send when writing a message, and then can’t figure out later why the person didn’t get my message and didn’t respond, when I complain that they didn’t. I write on a 1946 manual typewriter which does not erase my latest book. And I can’t blame the machinery in question, in my case it is ALWAYS pilot error. I can write a 500 page book, but damned if I can send an email without a hitch.
So for me the world of virtual everything and E-everything is pretty scary. In that context, I was told today that there are, or are going to be, computer operated cars that you don’t have to drive yourself, you just program them and they drive you. My home in Paris can usually be accessed by a minefield referred to as L’Etoile (The Star). In the center of it sits the very dignified Arc de Triomphe, there is a circle of traffic that runs around it, and a dozen broad avenues leading away from the circle. Sounds simple, but it isn’t. You take your life in your hands when you enter that circle of frantic traffic, cars going at odd angles to each other at full speed, in a mad dash to go from one boulevard to another, it looks like bumper cars or the destruction derby. And I have friends who have devised elaborate routes to avoid the circle entirely. So how is a computerized car going to navigate that without imploding? Hard to imagine. And there is an “app” to park your car now. Why? I can actually manage to park my car myself. I can drive without a problem, I just can’t operate my computer.
I am also terrified by surgery performed by robots. I know it’s state of the art surgery at its best—-but what if the computer blows up, or goes haywire, or does something crazy, like my toaster or my microwave? The idea of a surgeon in Cincinnati, eating his lunch while operating his computer, performing surgery on me in Phoenix, or Houston or Miami, scares me to pieces. I can barely get my mouth open at the dentist, let alone stomach the idea of a robot doing surgery. On the other hand, a surgeon with shaky hands after a bad night before isn’t too reassuring either, and a robot presumably eliminates the possibility of human error, but still…
And I learned today that drones will no longer be used for aerial photography in real estate. Why? Did they hit someone? Take off their head? Hit a 747 at high altitude? If they’ve been eliminated in real estate, what terrible thing did they commit to be banned?
And the last straw came when I saw on my computer tonight (while trying to send an email) that there will now be computerized Smart Bras. Computerized bras? Wow. Now that is impressive and really scary. My current bras are definitely not smart, they just hang there doing their job quietly. They seem to hold things up okay, although admittedly my bra size is small ( okay,very small), so they don’t have to do a lot of work, but my bra has never complained about it, at least not that I know of. What does a Smart Bra do? Do I really want to know? Will it teach my boobs to speak another language, vacuum, do laundry? A Japanese friend has a robot to do housework and vacuum. So could a Smart Bra be taught to do household chores, walk the dog, or feed the children? How smart could our boobs get, and our bras? I’m afraid here I go back to basics. I think I’ll stick with my fancy French bras which do absolutely nothing except decorate the landscape. My daughters once decorated their Christmas tree with fancy multi-colored bras. But a computerized Smart Bra? Maybe it could decorate the Christmas tree all by itself….I’m afraid that technology has left me way behind on this one…..I’m still back in the dark ages wearing a Dumb Bra, not a smart one, don’t have a robot doing my vacuuming, and park my car myself. And the idea of getting into a car that will drive itself is terrifying, what if it gets confused and takes me somewhere I dont want to go, while my Smart Bra gives it the wrong voice commands…..wow, guys, I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready for virtual everything. And if my bra spoke to me, I think I’d faint…unless it paid me compliments….maybe a Smart Bra could be taught to lie….”Congratulations!!! You wear a 44 Quadruple D”…..in that case, maybe it would be okay…..but I guess for now, I’ll stick to basics….have a great week!!! A real one!! Not just a virtual week!!! And watch out for heavy machinery!!!
Posted on June 30, 2014
I hope your week has gone well, and had some nice surprises in it. We can always use some sunshine in our lives, an unexpected gesture from a friend, or even from someone we barely know, a kind comment, or a thoughtful touch. It can change a week from mediocre, or even lousy if things are going wrong, into a special moment we didn’t expect, and turn everything around. So I wish you good surprises in the week ahead.
I had an interesting experience this week, and was discussing World War II with my beloved editor. It always surprises me in France, when you talk to very old people, who look extremely meek and frail, or when people talk about their grandparents who are no longer here—-to discover that they played some vital part in the Resistance during the War, when the Germans occupied France. People whom you would never suspect of heroic acts, did remarkable things during the war, saving others, rescuing children, hiding families, taking enormous risks, or blowing up supply trains when they were young. Too often, I think we dismiss old people, never realizing who they were and what they did when they were young, or what they were capable of. Few of us have lived through a war on home turf, particularly in the States. But for those who experienced the Occupation of France, and other sectors of the war, they were pushed to the limits of bravery, far beyond what even they knew they were capable of. And even in normal life, people we know have done heroic acts, to save a life, a friend or a stranger, at the site of an accident, or during a plane crash, or even in daily life. Opportunities for courage present themselves in everyday life, and we often surprise ourselves by how brave we can be, or those we know.
One of my favorite war stories was of a friend’s grandmother, a countess in France, whose husband was in the Resistance and taken away by the Germans. She had to get to Paris, I can’t remember why, and had no way to get there. So she borrowed a tractor from a farmer, and assured him she would return it, and told him who she was. And she headed for Paris, from the South of France, on the tractor, and encountered another young woman along the way, and gave her a ride on the tractor. And soon they met another young girl on the road, also on her way to Paris, on foot, and gave her a ride too. Because they were just a bunch of young women on a tractor and looked like farm girls, the German soldiers didn’t stop them along the way. Apparently, by the time they got to Paris, there were 5 or 6 young women hanging onto the tractor. All got there safely, and none had the travel papers they needed for the journey, and miraculously, they were never stopped. The young Countess did eventually return the tractor to the farmer, and she was in the Resistance for the remainder of the war, and was decorated for bravery afterwards. I love the image of all those young women arriving in Paris on the tractor, totally ignored by all the soldiers they encountered as just a bunch of silly farm girls. It was very brave of them to undertake the trip in plain sight!! And must have made quite an impression when they rolled into Paris on a tractor!!! Whatever works. » read more »
Posted on June 23, 2014
Wow….busy times here, and I hope that all is well with you.
Oddly, I always find that my social life is very irregular. In New York and San Francisco, I very seldom see friends, and try to spend as much time as I can with my kids. They always have the priority when I’m in their cities. And given the nature of my work, I tend to hole up and disappear whenever I’m writing. Everyone has their own style, and I’m always impressed by writers who have a regular pace and schedule, write for a few hours in the morning, and then go out, see their friends, play golf, or whatever. That sure doesn’t work for me. When I’m writing, I can’t deal with any distraction, I don’t see anyone, talk to anyone (except my kids if they need me), I don’t even read phone messages or mail. Anything distracts me from the work, so I lock myself up in my office and don’t leave my house for weeks at a time. My writing style is to keep my foot on the gas, and keep it there until I finish whatever I’m working on. It can keep me locked up in my house for weeks or a month at a time, with no contact with the outside world. If I interrupt the writing to go to dinner with friends, it can take me days or even a week to get back into the book afterwards. So I don’t do that, and stick with the story, and usually write 20 or even 22 hours a day at a time when I’m working on a first draft, sleep for a few hours, and then go back to work. I’m very energized when I write, and hopefully excited about the story, and don’t want to think about anything else. (I used to have to be more civilized about my writing schedule when my kids were young and at home, but now that they’ve grown up, I can indulge my preference to stick with the story). And coming back from a long writing binge like that is like returning from a trip. I catch up with everything I’ve missed, return calls, open mail, and get back to real life. It makes for a somewhat erratic social life, since I don’t accept invitations to anything while I’m writing. And I find that one’s social life can be erratic anyway, even without writing, since people kind of hibernate in winter and don’t entertain much except for holidays, or everyone goes their separate ways in summer, and then catch up with friends in the fall. And I’ve found that there are times when I don’t go out socially for a long time, and then I get a bunch of invitations and go out every night. And for the last ten days, it has indeed been a feast of seeing friends, and fun invitations, and I’ve been out every night, which is very unlike me. But friends have come through town, childhood friends have surfaced after years of losing touch, and I’ve just had a bunch of fun activities and invitations, and even did a little work, though not serious writing, at least not this week. I’m always working on something!! But it’s only when I’m in the heat of the first draft of a book that I disappear. The rest of the time, I can edit or correct or work on an outline, and not go at it 22 hours a day, and manage to do other things. » read more »
Posted on June 16, 2014
I hope that all is well with you. Yesterday was one of the nights that I wait for with excitement all year. Kind of like the old movie “Brigadoon”, where a whole town appears once a year, or once every hundred years, and then disappears again. In this case, the magic happens once a year and it was a little less magical this year, but fun anyway. I’ve told you about it before, it’s the White Dinner in Paris, an extraordinary event that began in Paris about 26 years ago. It has been emulated in other cities since, with some variations. But the original real deal is in Paris. It began when a naval officer and his wife celebrated their anniversary in June, by setting up several folding tables with friends, and served an elegant dinner on white china, with a table cloth, in front of one of the monuments of Paris. They invited a few friends, the husband wore his white summer naval uniform, as did his friends, the wife wore a white dress, or perhaps all the women did, I’m not sure. They had a fabulous meal in an incomparable setting, right on the streets of Paris, in the setting of their choice, I’m not sure which of the monuments they chose, but there are many spectacular ones to choose from. And they loved the evening so much, that they returned to do it every year, and invited more and more friends. Eventually it grew to an event of several thousand. And it is still a remarkable event. It is organized by a committee of six men in Paris, the entire event is by invitation only (a greatly coveted invitation in Paris every year), it is free, no money changes hands (in Paris, i believe that in some of the cities where they have imitated it, they charge to attend the event). And once invited, the location of the dinner is kept secret until 2 hours before. Sub heads or group leaders are assigned lists of people to notify. The rules are that you must wear white clothes from head to toe; each couple must bring a folding table, 2 folding chairs, china, cutlery, a white table cloth, and all the equipment to serve an elegant dinner for two. You bring your own food for two, people bring silver candlesticks and flowers to decorate the table, and at 7pm the night of the event, you are notified of where to meet at 8pm, and you arrive dressed in white with all your gear. It is a deep secret where the dinner will be held, and thousands of people arrive at the meeting place, filled with excitement, wondering where they will actually be dining. There is a celebratory atmosphere, people are excited as they gather and wait to hear where they will go next. The final location is a few blocks from wherever you meet, because you have to carry your folding table, 2 folding chairs, and a pull cart/caddy of some kind with everything for the table and the food. Outfits range from white jeans and casual clothes, to some very sexy white cocktail dresses and high heels. (I opt for flats and white jeans myself, because walking across the cobblestones in high heels, pulling a caddy full of plates, cutlery, glasses, and food, doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but the women in elegant white dresses look great.) Men wear everything from white suits to white jeans too; everyone wears white shoes, and respects the rules of white from head to toe.
As people chat and greet each other in the meeting location, finally it is 8:45 pm, and your ‘group leader’ tells you where the dinner is, always an amazing location, and people are thrilled as they head to the dinner location a few blocks away. And in a radius of a few blocks around it, people flock to one of the remarkable Paris monuments, and people fly in for this event from all over the world, so you hear every imaginable language around you. You arrive at the dinner location at exactly 9 pm, and in a matter of minutes the huge crowd is directed to their exact spot, in neat rows, and your assignment is to the inch of where you unfold your little table for 2 and set up. And once the tables are up, you are in long, long rows of tightly packed tables, in most cases, with men on one side and women on the other. Out come the candles, the candlesticks, the flowers, the china and chrystal, and within minutes, an elegant outdoor dinner is set up. Astoundingly, fourteen thousand people now attend this event, and it is totally orderly, remains friendly, orderly, and well behaved. People help each other set up, and offer each other some of their wine or food. Also amazingly, there are no crashers, bystanders gather and watch, but no one tries to fake an invitation or claim a place they weren’t assigned. Also interestingly, the event is technically ‘illegal’ because there are no permits requested for a group of this size dining in a public place. But the event has become a Paris tradition now, and the diners are left alone to have their fun. Music appears later in the evening, and before that, it is timed so that everyone has just settled into their seats at sunset, as the evening sun glimmers on whatever monument you are dining at (at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, the Place de la Concorde, in front of the Louvre, or Notre Dame, or whatever the location of the year. Some years the group is divided between two locations, because of its size.) And as night falls all the tables are candle lit, as the diners in white celebrate their favorite (and mine) night of the year. Sparklers are handed out late in the evening. And at 1am, like Cinderella, they pack up everything they brought, are instructed not to leave a single shred of food or paper, everyone takes away their own garbage (in white plastic garbage bags of course), and fourteen thousand elegant white clad dinner guests disappear into the night, hoping to be invited again next year. It is a magical event. Although occasionally real life intervenes, a few years ago it rained (though it rarely does on that night), which thinned out the crowd a lot. Only the die hards stayed. » read more »
Posted on June 9, 2014
I hope you had a good week last week. Mine was one of those roller coaster weeks of personal, business and family ‘stuff’. I knew by mid-week when my best day was the day I went to the dentist (and I’m phobic about the dentist) that it had not been my easiest week. But I got some good results for my efforts, and I’m grateful for that.
I’ve been really busy trying to finishing up some work, so I’ve been working hard, and making plans for the summer.
And I noticed something perhaps interesting last week. I don’t know why, but I tend to jam all my ‘difficult’ appointments into one week, on the theory that it gets them over with, and then when I am faced with a really challenging week of my own making, I wonder what I was thinking. Sometimes, if everything else is stressful or challenging, I decide that I just can’t deal with one more stress, so I cancel the appointments that scare me or worry me: like the dentist, which always scares me, and then I reschedule for another time. At other times, I just plow through it, and am usually glad I did, to get it done and behind me. But I noticed something this week that I hadn’t thought of before. I’ve had some challenging weeks, and lo and behold, last week was one of those weeks when I had scheduled not only the dentist, but a medical appointment that I had been putting off for months. Nothing too serious, but just one more stress I didn’t need. And for some reason, I thought oh what the hell, just do it, so I did. So I went to the dentist, took care of the medical appointment which was nothing and went fine. But what I realized is that when I am courageous with my life, which I have been lately, oddly it makes me brave about the other things I have to do. I actually talked to my dentist this week, like a normal human being, instead of feeling sick before I went, skulking into their office, and then cowering in the chair wanting to refuse to open my mouth, and then wanting to hug everyone in the elevator when I leave, because I survived. But some courage in my daily life creates the courage to face difficult things, or just the ones that scare me. And having handled the dentist easily, it then gave me the courage to do the medical appointment (not a big deal, but just one of those things we all worry about: my annual mammogram, which was fine. I’ve never had a problem with it, but always worry anyway, because I’m a natural born worrier!!). But I realized that courage breeds courage, and when we face one of our demons, we face the others more easily. And similarly, when we let ourself off the hook and allow ourselves to be chicken, suddenly we get chicken about other things. At least it works that way for me, although sometimes we need to give ourselves a break. I noticed the same thing years ago when I had a really harrowing delivery with my son Nick, and having survived that I decided to take a fear of flying class right after, like a month later, confronted my fear of flying, took the class, and have been flying easily ever since. We need to go easy on ourselves at times and not pile too much on. But when we do muster up some courage, it makes us brave for other things.
What do you do when you’re scared? It’s a recipe that works for me, but it’s not for everyone. When the sh– hits the fan, I try to remind myself that God loves me, even if others appear not to. And I find Joel Osteen’s books incredibly encouraging and uplifting, and they’re very practical and down to earth. I just re-read “It’s Your Time”, which really boosted my spirits and got me feeling better and empowered again.
And I love these words of Winnie the Pooh, by AA Milne, “There is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” What could be better than that? So Onward!! Have a great week!!!