Posted on March 3, 2014
When I woke up on New Year’s Day, I had an email from a friend in Paris, congratulating me for something, and telling me that it was ‘greatly deserved’. I had no idea what they were talking about, and assumed that they had celebrated New Year’s eve a little too exuberantly, and had sent me a message that made no sense. Within hours though, I got other emails like it from other friends. I had totally forgotten that the list of people to be honored with the illustrious Legion of Honor awards is published in the newspapers in France on New Year’s Day. (And also on Independence Day, on the 14th of July, Bastille Day). The announcements are only made twice a year. And several hours later, a press release had gone out all over the world. And by nightfall I was getting emails of congratulation from countries as far away as India and Pakistan. My other big surprise over the announcement—-aside from being on the list of honorees—–is that I always thought that the Legion of Honor was only known in France, and I was quite amazed to realize that people in every country seemed to know what it was, even in the States. And in France, it is a huge deal. Since I grew up there for part of my youth, and went to French schools, and have now spent a good part of my adulthood there, I not only knew about it, but was stunned to hear that I was about to be knighted with the Legion of Honor in France. Who? Me? Wow!!!
Twelve years ago, I was knighted in France in the “Order of Arts and letters”, at a high rank, for my literary achievements. I was touched and flattered, and given how many books I’ve written (132 to date), and have been published, in other countries (69) as well as the States, the award for “Arts and Letters” made sense. But the Legion of Honor is the most important distinction in France. It dates back to the time of Napoleon, and was originally created to honor great warriors, usually for acts of extraordinary heroism in battle. In its early days, it was never given to women, and surely not to foreigners. In the 200 years since it began, it is in fact given to women, though less frequently than to men, and sometimes though not often to foreigners. And it is given for major lifetime achievements, not just courage in battle. (Walt Disney was decorated with the Legion of Honor for instance) I’m not sure what it is equal to in the States, maybe the Congressional Medal of Honor, or the Purple Heart, though I’m not sure. There are three grades of it, and you begin as a Knight, graduate to Officer eventually, and after many years and more impressive achievements, you become a Commander. Those who have been decorated with the Legion of Honor as a knight wear a little red thread sewn to their lapel (of a jacket), ‘Officers’ wear a small round red ‘rosette’, very small also on the lapel of a jacket, and a Commander wears the same rosette sewn onto a small white ribbon. And it is a HUGE deal in France. And nowadays, it is given for more general lifetime achievement of an important nature. You have to do something pretty big over a long period of time to be knighted by the Order of the Legion of Honor. And when I heard that I was going to receive the prestigious decoration my initial reaction was “Who? Me?”. As it turns out, I was on this year’s list not just for my literary career, and the number of books I’ve written, and their success in France as well, but for my deep commitment to and work with the mentally ill and homeless, for suicide and child abuse prevention, for my life, and longtime ties to France. But still, when I heard that I was going to receive it, my reaction was still, “Who? Me?” But in spite of that, I was totally thrilled. I was stunned to be included in the ranks of impressive people who have been knighted with that award. » read more »
Posted on February 24, 2014
Well, it’s that time again, where I’ve flown through three cities and two countries in 3 days, and have made it from one place I call home to the other. Whew!! I fly with two of my dogs who travel with me, and when we got home, they looked exhausted, and collapsed into their beds with relief, while I unpacked, read my mail, and tried to get organized to shift gears tomorrow. And I have to admit the change of scene feels great. I left one group of my children at one home, visited one of my daughters on the way, and met up with another daughter at the end of the trip. And I’m looking forward to spending 4 days with 5 of my children. I cruised through cold sunny weather, into ice and left over snow on the ground in New York, and wound up in almost springlike weather. It’s enough to confuse anyone, but it’s a nice confusion. » read more »
Posted on February 17, 2014
I hope your week is off to a good start. And your year, since the year is still young and just beginning. Mine has been a slice of life so far, some good stuff, and not so good stuff. Last year ended on a mixed note too, an anonymous death threat, which was unpleasant, and the best New Year’s Eve I’ve ever had, spent with my kids, which was truly wonderful. And on New Year’s Day, I got the news that I am going to be given the Legion of Honor award in France (it’s being ‘knighted’ with a beautiful medal), which is a Big Deal, and a great honor. There have been a few minor bumps since the new year started, some hurt feelings occasionally, and the local SF press ran a series of nasty articles about me, complaining that I have a high hedge around my house there, and making nasty personal comments about me. I guess they think that sells papers, but it wasn’t true or nice, and being human it hurt my feelings. Over the years, I have noticed that sometimes when good things happen to us (a new man, a marriage or new romance, a new baby, or wonderful new job), it doesn’t always inspire delight in others, but often inspires jealousy. Jealousy is something to be careful of in life. It’s disappointing and upsetting when it’s focused on you, and a good thing to try to avoid!!!
Thinking about all that today, I was reminded of one of my own failings, or character flaws. I take things personally. It’s so easy for people to say, “It’s not personal, but…..” which then becomes a license to say something really awful to you that decks you and hits you right in the gut. Or “it’s not personal, it’s business” when you get fired or don’t get the raise or opportunity you know you deserve. Or sometimes even a friend can do something thoughtless, and even if not meant that way, it seems so personal. And I have a tendency to take things personally. As a mother, an employer, and even as a woman, it’s easy to get blamed for things unfairly. And all my life, when people have done or said something unkind to me, I take it personally—–without thinking that maybe it has nothing to do with me, that that person may just be limited and not have much to give, or that something else is going on in their life. Without looking any further, I get my feelings hurt. It’s something I still work on, to broaden my vision and realize that maybe it isn’t personal at all. But it sure feels like it at times. And hate mail, death threats, and some of the less pleasant things that come with fame aren’t personal either. They are just the expressions of some crazy who doesn’t even know you. But at times, it all FEELS personal. Especially when attacks or disappointments come from people you know, or love. But even then, it may not be personal at all. » read more »
Posted on February 10, 2014
Hi everyone, well here it is again. Valentine’s Day. The very words bring back an avalanche of memories, not all of them pleasant. Although there were a few great ones. The father of 8 of my children proposed to me the day before Valentine’s Day, that was a GREAT Valentine’s Day. The best ever. And there were romances that provided some lovely Valentine’s Days, and my marriages, and then there has been a gray area about it since. More than any other day of the year, Valentine’s Day is a day that says you MUST be in a couple, or have someone madly in love with you, drooling at your feet, or sweeping you off your feet. It would be lovely to get all dressed up and go to a romantic dinner, to have someone wine and dine you, and enjoy that incredible feeling of being madly in love.Or better yet, getting proposed to on Valentine’s Day. What could be better than that? True love.
But real life being what it is, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes a romance or marriage may have gone flat or ended, and sometimes for whatever reason, at some point, we all wind up spending Valentine’s Day alone. You can be a totally nice person, and even a very attractive one, and the right man or woman of the hour doesn’t materialize. And therein lies the challenge of this one very special day of the year. What do you do when you have no one to spend it with, when you’re all by yourself, have no one to spend the evening with, and no one has sent you candy or flowers, or a valentine? » read more »
Posted on February 3, 2014
It’s been one of those whirlwind weeks when everything rushes past me, or seems to, like an express train, and carries me along. Some weeks are like that, and this one was a microcosm of my life. Sometimes, life is quiet, and I wish something interesting would happen, this wasn’t one of those. We all have boring times, and quiet times we enjoy, busy times that can be fun, and other times when it feels like the balls are being pitched at you faster than you can hit them, or even see them before they hit you.
Most of the time, my life is pretty ordinary, I worry about my kids, my dogs, help the kids solve small problems when I can, some piece of machinery not working (a projector in my daughter’s apartment this week), my dogs had an eye problem and I took them to the vet. I went to the ‘reweaving’ place in Paris to get something torn repaired. My refrigerator sounded like a 747 was landing on it or about to take off, so I went to look at new refrigerators, and wound up having the current one repaired for $40.00, a MUCH better solution. So I do the same boring stuff everyone else does. I have the same worries as most people, the same challenges in a day’s time, car repairs, trips to the dentist, concerns about my kids. And then added to that are the things that come with fame, the headaches, sometimes the threats, and also the opportunities, and even some very fun stuff. So along with the refrigerator shopping and repair, I got to go to two gorgeous fashion shows this week, (which I wrote a blog about, the shows were at Dior and Chanel), and there is no question, events like that are exceptional and dazzling and special (but despite that, my fridge still goes out of whack, my fridge does NOT care if I’m famous or not. And I still go to the vet and the dry cleaner). And the fun part of fame is great. I also got to go to Prada, and see some clothes before they put them in the store, and that was really fun too. On the less fun side of fame, there were a series of very nasty articles about me in the San Francisco press, that the journalist who wrote them thought the hedge around my house in San Francisco is too tall. And I did something I never do, I wrote an Op Ed/letter to the editor in response, but the articles were just too mean spirited not to speak up. In a world so full of real problems, starving people, people out of work, children in jeopardy, the economy tough—-does anyone really care about my hedge? I had to speak up, and the response to my letter to the editor has been kind, supportive, and warm. I’m glad I spoke up.
In Paris this week, I had a problem with a neighbor who borrowed an apartment above the one where I live, and invited 300 people to a party, who invaded the building halls and rang my doorbell all night. She was selling furniture out of her apartment, which is illegal. So I had to deal with her, the building owner, my lawyer and eventually the police. Things have finally calmed down but it was time consuming and a pain in the neck. I had a great ‘girls’ dinner one night with 3 wonderful women friends. And dinner with 2 men friends a few nights before that. I enjoyed time with my daughter while she spent a few days with me, and came to work. I had some lovely conversations with some of my other children, and some not so lovely conversations with some of the others. I had business stresses and some disappointments, and some disappointing conversations with other people, and a minor disagreement with a friend over something ridiculously stupid. And I’ve been busy getting ready for the ceremony and reception for the award I’m getting in France, the Legion of Honor, which is a huge honor in France. So I met with the florist, the restaurant, was given the medal by a friend, which an official will pin on me. The medal is gorgeous. And I met with the man who will do the official ceremony, to discuss his speech, and mine (and I am terrified of giving speeches). And in between all that, I answered work emails, and talked to my editor about some work I’m doing. It was a chock full, insanely busy week. It didn’t seem that way when it started, but by the end of the week, my days felt like an overstuffed sausage ready to burst. One thing added to another, both special events, and ordinary ones, some headaches and problems to solve, the disappointments I mentioned that made my heart ache. By the end of the week, I was exhausted, and it all felt like too much, and it got me down.
There is no question, I have a big life. Not in the sense that it’s so important, and a lot of it isn’t. But there is a lot in it. I have many children whom I love and worry about, I work very hard and write a lot of books, I live in 2 cities six thousand miles apart which is sometimes hard to manage, I have employees I care about, obligations to my publisher, dogs I love, and the usual machinery that breaks and falls apart. Just having 8 kids, even as young adults, is a full time job. And when you add the rest to it, it’s a lot. When all is going smoothly, it is an enviable life. When it’s not, it can really be overwhelming at times. And problems are like grapes, they always seem to come in bunches, often about things you really care about or that impact your life. And you can’t control what’s going to happen. When the ‘shit hits the fan’, you have to deal with it, before you get buried in it, and that’s not a lot of fun. So between the fashion shows in Paris, and advance peek at clothes collections, I’m dealing with some real stuff too, very real, that can be very upsetting at times. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my kids, our big family, the work I do no matter how pressured it gets at times or the demands it puts on me, and living in 2 cities which adds a lot of joy to my life. And I love my friends. And my dogs of course.
By the end of the week, I looked at all I’d done and the things that had happened, and my head was spinning. And when I focused on the disappointments (and there were more than a few big ones this week), and the problems (also a few too many), my spirits sank and I decided that the glass was half full, or maybe even less than that. I spent a couple of nights ‘eating worms’ as they say, when you feel sorry for yourself, and I confess that I did. And I was tired too. And the problems and disappointments broadsided me, I hadn’t expected them. And then with a little more calm, I looked at the good things that had happened this week, there were a lot of those too. My daughter’s visit, the problems I was able to solve (not all, but a few), the children who called me and were really sweet to me, the friends who are there for me, the award that I’ll be getting, which acknowledges my hard work, the praise of my editor, and the two nice evenings I spent with friends. It’s the same for all of us. Sometimes life hands you some really awful things to deal with, the death of loved ones, or loss of health, or the loss of jobs you need to support your family, the money you need to live on, or something terrible happening to a child. And some things can’t be fixed. But in our everyday lives, with most occurrences, we have a choice as to whether we see the glass half empty or half full. By week’s end, I had no question about it, I was convinced the glass was even less than half full. But was it really?? When I took a closer look, I realized it was actually half full, and I could see it either way. Half empty or half full??? I had just as many problems to deal with, but seeing it as half full seemed like a much better choice. I can’t always do that, and sometimes seeing it negatively is the easier choice. But seeing it as half full was the better choice, and it was equally true, and made me feel a lot better. It was a good reminder to me to count my blessings, and I have many…..so report from the front from me: the glass is half full. I hope yours is too!!!
Posted on January 27, 2014
I don’t know why but this January has seemed busier than usual. I usually hibernate after the holidays, last year it snowed constantly in Paris and was freezing cold, and I stayed home, writing, and watched Downton Abbey. This year, I’ve been busy. I’ve done some writing too, but have been running around a lot.
It’s ‘that’ time of year again in Paris: the Haute Couture fashion shows that used to be The BIG Deal in French fashion, full of glamour, gorgeous clothes, and chic women watching the shows. Now it’s very much a mixed bag. The Ready to Wear Shows (of which there are many) are the big draw now, and the ones that all the celebs and movie stars from around the world go to. The Haute Couture shows are very few now, and it’s a short week, and the famously elegant women of the past seem to have disappeared. In their place are people dressed extremely, very short skirts, see through clothes, some men in skirts, many without socks, wild hair colors and hair dos (men in blue and green hair, women in pink hair). It’s hard to know where to look, there’s a lot to see at those shows. I only go to two of those shows now, Dior and Chanel (you can see the fashion shows themselves on Style.com). The clothes at Dior were young and summery, since the clothes we were seeing are for next summer/the spring collection. In Haute Couture, they are all made to order, and don’t just appear in a store. They were short, airy, and some were very pretty, though nothing I personally could wear. And at Chanel, they were beautiful and very young, with pretty young girls wearing everything with sneakers (even the bridal gown).
The Dior show was held in a special structure in the garden of the Rodin Museum, near The Invalides, the inside was very futuristic, with various levels, it was like being inside a space station of some kind, and the models passed a few inches in front of us. The Chanel show was held at the Grand Palais, a beautiful antique glass structure. The setting inside was dazzling white, very modern, the models came down a staircase that had been built for the occasion, while we watched from couches, and an orchestra played. It was a feast for the senses, with LOTS of fashionable women in the audience. It’s always exciting to see those shows, and I loved them, as always.
Other than that, I’ve been getting ready for the ceremony where I will receive the decoration from the French Government, the Legion d’Honneur, which is a beautiful medal on a red ribbon. I’m very excited about it!! So I’ve been planning that. (And have to write a speech!!)
Paris has been buzzing with Presidential gossip. The President lived for 25 years, unmarried, with the mother of his 4 children, they parted a few years ago (she ran for the presidency herself, and lost to President Sarkozy). And after he won the last election, the new (and current) President appeared with a new partner, a journalist, whom he declared as, and was treated as, First Lady of France. She joined him at the French White House, where she even had a staff, and went to official functions with the President. And all of this despite the fact that he wasn’t married to her either. And all of that blew up when paparazzi outed him a few weeks ago as having a hot romance with a younger French actress. The unofficial First Lady got extremely upset, and checked into the hospital to ‘recover’ from the shock. You can imagine all the excitement and gossip that caused!! There was a Presidential press conference, everyone wants to know what (or who) comes next, and no one knows. At last report, the unofficial ‘First Lady’ (or ex?) is still in the hospital, and no one knows who will be his companion now. It’s the kind of gossip that happens in cities and towns, among slightly more ordinary people, but it really gets up some steam and a lot of public interest when it’s the president of a country. Stay tuned….if you care…..to see who the next Presidential companion will be. France can’t wait to find out!!! The French are more tolerant than Americans about political romances, but this one involving the presidency has caught everyone’s attention, even in France.
So that’s all the news from Paris. Fashion, and Presidential gossip. It certainly gets the year off to an interesting start. I hope yours is off to a great start!!
My Chihuahua Minnie & her new baby sister, Baby Blue
Posted on January 20, 2014
I hope your year is off to a good start. It’s been freezing in the East and Mid-West, and sounds like a tough way to start the year!! I hope it warms up soon!!!
I was so touched by most of the responses to my book about our family dogs over the years, “Pure Joy”, that I wanted to share some of the responses with you, and reach out to some of the people who wrote to me. There is something about dogs that always touches our hearts!! Hence, the book!!!
Congratulations to Michele Rush (proud Mom of Gypsy and Sophie, two adorable Yorkies) who just got Sally Sue, a one pound Yorkie—who was inspired to get a third one after she read the book. Michele says that Gypsy and Sophie are ‘adjusting to the new baby’. I know what that’s like, as you know I got a new little Chihuahua 3 months ago, and it was a lot easier bringing home one of my many babies, than a baby Chihuahua. Minnie, my 2 year old 2 lb Chihuahua, was NOT happy about the new arrival, and they snarled, growled, and chased each other for the first two months, and have finally settled down. Although Minnie is NOT amused when ‘Baby Blue Angel’ climbs into her favorite bed, or runs off with one of her toys. (I’m sure Minnie thinks of her as Baby Blue Monster—the puppy is full of spunk and chases Minnie all the time, wanting to play. Minnie is much more ladylike than Blue!!!) They all do adjust eventually, but it was a little crazy for the first two months. But Bravo for you, Michele, I’m sure that Sally Sue will be ‘pure joy’, for you, and good for you for reaching out and making room in your heart and home for another one!!!
And Cathy Hiderbrandt told me about her adorable miniature red piebald dachshund Genie, who is the center of her life and her husband’s. I know what that is like. (Minnie owns me….and for now Baby Blue just runs me around….my bedroom looks like a battleground of toys. It’s like having a 2 year old child again!!) Thank you, Cathy, for all your kind words, and Minnie sends you a kiss too.
And thank you to Jossie (Gramsbear) for writing to me about Wicket, a peekapoo. She says he is in Heaven now, but Jossie is a puppy lover, so I hope you find a new puppy to love soon!!
Sue Clarke lost her beloved Shaina, a 5 lb Chih a poo last January, but she is starting to think about getting another one. I hope you do soon!!! It’s amazing how they win our hearts no matter how much we loved the ones we lost. I hope you find a new puppy soon!!!
Valerie Boynton has Fergie and Gidget (one is a purebred Yorkie, the other a Yorkie/Cairn Terrier mix). We have a Gidget too, my daughter Vanessa’s little Yorkie is called Gidget (that’s her photo as a puppy at the beginning of the first chapter of the book). Your two girls sound adorable, and I’m so happy you love the book.
I got one email from the dog herself. Her name is Katie Begonia, and she is a Shih Tzu/Bichon. She is brown and looks like an Ewok (so do my miniature Brussels Griffons!!), and she says she is a diva!! (impressive self knowledge!!), and she has reverse sneezing episodes too!! Her mom is Lori Dawson, and she says that she loves going to the vet, and Katie Begonia says she considers going to the vet a social affair. (Minnie hid under the couch when I told her that. Minnie is terrified at the vet and shakes like a leaf in my arms!!)
And thank you also to Beth Nigro who wrote to say she loved the book, but didn’t mention her dogs.
I got so many wonderful letters from so many people, that I wanted to address at least some of them here. Thank you all for your wonderful responses to the book!!
In all fairness, I also got two very angry letters from readers, both of whom were very unhappy and disapproving that I have gotten dogs at the one pet store I know and trust, and where my family and I have gotten dogs since I was a child. I don’t trust most pet stores, but I know this one well, and have had wonderful dogs from them. And obviously, as a dog lover, I don’t approve of puppy mills. Both ladies who were unhappy with me felt I should get my dogs from rescue organizations. I think they are wonderful to do the work they do, and some homes can really welcome a rescue dog successfully and give them a happy life. And I’ve had one rescue dog myself, the Basset Hound I mentioned in the book. But many rescue dogs are adults, and have been mistreated by previous owners, and have ‘issues’ and special needs, and with a family of nine children, and a busy household, a dog who may have ‘issues’ never seemed right for us. But there is no question, there are many, many ways to acquire a dog: rescue organizations, the ASPCA, pet hospitals, adoption organizations, breeders, and a pet store, if you know they’re reliable, or even from a friend (some people even find an abandoned dog in the street, and take the lucky dog home to love them and give them a new home). I believe you will find the right way for you, and all are valid options to find a dog that you love!!! (One of the two people who wrote harsh letters to me was outraged that I had given dogs to 4 friends in my lifetime, and to my children. But all 4 friends cherish those dogs, and they were a huge success, and my children were wonderful dog owners as children, and still are as adults. We LOVE our dogs!!)
So thank you for writing to me. And I wish you and the dogs you love a new year full of Pure Joy—-and maybe a new puppy!!!
Posted on January 13, 2014
I just read the comments on my blog, and I have tears in my eyes. You are so kind to me, so generous, so full of praise, so compassionate and caring about the things I do or that happen to me. Rather than follow some other topic, I wanted to respond to all of you today, to thank you for the lovely messages you write to me, and to tell you what it means to me. I write the stories that come to my head and heart, some inspired by my own experiences, some not, I write and edit them for at least two years, and then they get published and go out in the world to you, and I have no way of knowing what they mean to you, until I see comments like the ones you leave on this blog. So it is so heart-warming to me to know that you love the books, and enjoy them, and they are either helpful or meaningful to you. Thank you with all my heart for your comments. Truly, you warm my heart, and make the long, long hours of hard work late into so many nights worthwhile!!
A few of you asked direct questions. I felt terrible about the lady who got a very old paperback book of mine which was defectively printed and had about 20 missing pages, and wanted to know what to do about it. Since it’s one of my early books, there’s not much anyone can do about it now, although it’s good for us to know. Hopefully, you can find another copy of the book somewhere. I’m REALLY sorry that happened!!!
Someone else asked if I work from an outline. Yes, I do. I get an idea, I scribble notes about it on a big notepad. The theme of the book starts to come clear, and then I start outlining the characters, who would be in that story, what would they bring to it, why are they in that situation, what is their background. I need to ‘know’ who their parents and grandparents are, how they grew up, to make them react the way they do and who they are. I outline all the characters in the book, and then I spend hours figuring out the right names for them. I have a whole shelf of “What to Name the Baby” books. And then when I really ‘know’ my characters, I outline the story, broadly, and then finally chapter by chapter. The more detailed the outline is, the clearer the story will be to me when I actually write the book. If I’m too vague, it slows me down later on, so I have to figure it out. I discuss it once or twice with my editor, and she makes comments about the direction I’m going. Sometimes I agree with her, and sometimes I don’t, and she’s very, very good at what she does. I always have some kind of message I want to share with you, in addition to the story. For instance, in my newest hardcover “Winners”, each of the people involved in the story have had some very bad situation in their lives: a divorce, breast cancer, a failed business, the loss of a loved one/spouse, as well as the heroine’s accident who becomes paralyzed from the waist down at the beginning of the book. Her life was ski racing, as a member of the US Olympic ski team. She is 17 years old in the book. In fighting to get back her life after the accident, her courage inspires each of the other people in the book, and helps them fight the good fight against what has happened to them. We all face those challenges in different ways. We EACH have our challenges, the loss of a job, or someone we love, a failed marriage, a failed business, loss of a career (getting laid off), a sick child, a discouraging time, financial worries, the loss of a friend, family troubles, or kids acting out and out of line, our spouse or partner having an affair. Stuff happens, as they say. This book is about courage, and fighting against the odds to get our lives back in a good place again. It’s never easy, but in almost every situation, we can turn it around in some way, maybe not in the way we originally thought, but sometimes even better than before. Anyway, once I get the story outlined in detail, and I know my characters really well, and the ‘message’ of the book is clear to me, then the outline is done, and I can start the book. The outline can take me a month if the story is very clear to me, or up to a year. And the book takes about 2 years, allowing time for about 5 or 6 re-writes on it. It’s a long process, which is why I work on several books at once. So that’s how I do it.
Have all the stories in the books happened to me? No. Some have. Some haven’t. And sometimes I take an experience that did happen to me, and use the emotions of that and apply them to another situation. I have to write about things I care about, so I can make the story real. We all deal with different variations of the themes I write about, the challenges, the heartbreaks, the disappointments, the hopes, the joys. Things happen in all of our lives. I’ve been married, I have a lot of children, I’ve been divorced, I lost a son, as most of you know. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to have life experiences and learn from them. We all have. Our humanity and what has happened to us is the bond we share. The emotions in a book have to be real to me. And I try to write about things I know. And even about places I know. When I don’t know a place, an industry, or a time in history, I research it very, very carefully, and I have a wonderful researcher I have worked with for my whole career, so she teaches me about the places, industries, and periods of history I don’t know. The whole process is a labor of love.
And for those of you who want me to sign your books, I wish I could. But it would be too complicated to send them all back to people all over the world. I get fan mail through the website of my publisher at daniellesteel.com and if you ask for a signed photograph, I can send you that, autographed to whoever you want. I’m sorry I can’t sign your books!!
You have all proven to me that why I did this website originally was a good idea. Because I do so few interviews, and like keeping a low profile, I felt that I had so little opportunity to ‘chat’ and connect with you on a more personal level, to share my thoughts, and personal experiences with you. It is so wonderful to know that you enjoy sharing that with me, that you enjoy this blog, and that what I write is meaningful to you. thank you for your wonderful comments, for your kindness to me, and for being part of my life. I can’t begin to tell you how much it means to me, and how much YOU mean to me. I am sooooo grateful for you!!!
Posted on January 6, 2014
I hope your New Year has been terrific so far, and that the holidays were fun or at least satisfactory, and now we can look ahead to the New Year!!!
The year is young and I’ve already had some wonderful surprises. I shared with you my mixed emotions about New Year’s eve, which never measures up to what I hope it will be, which is true for a lot of people. Well, this year, it sure did measure up, and then some!!. Two of my children wound up being home with me, from the other cities where they live, and they very sweetly decided to spend New Year’s eve with me, which was a VERY nice surprise. I had been planning to just cash it in this year, and climb into my pajamas and watch re-runs of Downton Abbey, and go to sleep. But my kids spending that night with me was a terrific surprise. And two of my other local children decide to join us for New Year’s eve. (I haven’t spent New Year’s eve with my children for about 15 years, since understandably they had more exciting things to do on New Year’s eve than spend it with me!!). So instead of curling up with my two Chihuahuas, and watching TV as planned, I got to spend the evening with four of my kids. They cooked a delicious dinner, and shopped for it before, made all of my favorites, they set the table beautifully, arranged flowers, and I got to spend the evening with the people I love. We laughed and talked over dinner, were joined by one daughter’s husband, my son’s fiancée, the boy who has become part of our family for the past 13 years and lived with us when he was in school, and two of their friends dropped by after dinner. We played silly games after dinner and laughed a lot, and thanks to my children, the evening combined elegance, delicious food, a loving group, and good fun and lots of laughs. What could be better??? I can honestly say it was the best New Year’s eve of my life, and I’d have to go a long, long way to match this one!!! There’s no question, the home team is best, and part of what made it so special was that it was so unexpected. At their age, in their early and mid 20′s, most people don’t want to spend New Year’s eve with their mother, so it was a real gift of love from them. It was really terrific!!!
The next morning, on New Year’s morning, I was sad to see my daughters leave, and to see the holidays end. It was a warm, cozy family holiday this year, and it’s rare for all of us to be together. But we were all together on Christmas this year and my children from other cities spent almost two weeks at home, which was the best gift of all. On New Year’s morning, they left at the crack of dawn, and the house seemed sadly empty, just me and the dogs…..but before I had time to get seriously glum about it, I got an email with another big surprise. Twelve years ago, I received a great honour from the French government, and was decorated (got a beautiful medal!!) and knighted as an ‘Officer’ or the Order of Arts and Letters in France, which is a big honor, and I was truly thrilled. It was in honour of my writing career and many books, and the decoration and all that it signifies has meant a great deal to me, since I have spent a lot of my life in France. And on New Year’s morning, I got the astounding news that I am going to be decorated for a second time, and ‘knighted’ again, this time with the prestigious Legion of Honor, also in France. It’s the most important decoration in France, and it’s more for lifetime achievement, and the things you have accomplished in your life, my writing, I guess, the two foundations I have founded to assist the homeless and the mentally ill, and to prevent suicide and child abuse, and perhaps for my involvement in the arts, and now in music. It has been given to some very impressive people, few Americans, and not many women. And no matter who you are, and what you’ve done, when you get a big award like that, your first reaction (or mine anyway) is—Who? ME??? I am so very grateful for such an honour, and REALLY thrilled!!! There will be a ceremony sometime in the next few months to give me the medal, and hopefully my family and the people I love will be there.
So the year is off to a great start, I got to start it with the children I love, and I got a wonderful honour…..I hope it’s an omen of a good year to come. And I hope that your year ahead will be AMAZING!!!
With much love, danielle
Posted on December 30, 2013
Well the year is drawing to a close. It’s been a year of hard work, a lot of writing, a lot of travelling back and forth between the two cities/countries where I live, time with my kids whenever possible, and some lovely times with them, some wins, some losses, and some home runs. It’s been a challenging year for some who are happy to see the year end. And we all seem to work harder than we used to, in a much tougher economy. There is a seriousness to that, which none of us can ignore or avoid, the hard economic times touch us all. And on a personal level, my youngest son got engaged, so we’ll have a wedding in the family next year.
Christmas was hectic, but wonderful, and as I ponder it, I realize how many blessings came my way. As I said in an earlier blog, I feel lucky and blessed. I got home, I didn’t get snowed in or delayed along the way, not always a sure thing this time of year. I had Christmas gatherings with good friends in Paris, and San Francisco, which allowed me to see some friends I hadn’t seen all year, which is always fun. And I realize how lucky I was that all of my kids were with me on Christmas, which wasn’t the original plan. It’s not easy to get everyone together, and although my five youngest planned to be with me on Christmas, it’s more challenging for the three older ones, with in laws, their own plans, and families of their own. This year, all three of my older married children decided not to celebrate with us, which was disappointing for me, but understandable, and I made my peace with it. In years past, it was easier and everyone was here. Now it’s sometimes touch and go as to who can come, and I am very, very grateful to have as many of them with me as can make it. And I resigned myself to not having my three older children with us for the holidays. I tried not to be too disappointed, and tried to be philosophical about it and let it go. That left me with the younger 5 kids, and usually their boyfriends and girlfriends go home to their own families. But this year, all their significant others were able to join us, so our group grew. Then, I discovered that my son in law’s mother was able to join us too, which was a lot of fun. A few days before Christmas, two of the three missing older ones decided to change their plans and come, which was great news. And one of them announced that she was bringing her parents in law, more good news since I like them very much. The children’s father’s first wife joins us for Christmas every year and brings her terrific now 95 year old mother with her, who is a surrogate grandmother to my children. This year, she announced that she was bringing her best friend, another 95 year old lady, and they were the stars of the show. Both are in great shape, still beautiful, go out to parties all the time and travel, and have a busier social life than I do. So we had two very lively 95 year old women as part of the group for Christmas. And fifteen minutes before dinner, my oldest son called with a change of plans, and decided to come home for dinner too. So presto magic, our group of thirteen for dinner on Christmas night grew to 27. The age range at dinner was from 6 to 95. And it was an important lesson for me. I was willing to accept that not all of my children would be with us, and tried not to make an issue of it, and then unexpectedly, at the last minute, all of them came home, and I was so grateful to have Christmas with them, their spouses, significant others, in laws, and even a 95 year old friend. It was a big blessing for me, and a reminder that life sometimes gives you unexpected gifts, and abundance you didn’t even dare to hope for. It was a very happy Christmas as a result, we had dinner together on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and a good time hanging around in pajamas, crowded into the kitchen eating leftovers after opening gifts on Christmas Day. So it was a merry Christmas here this year. And like any family, there were a few crabby moments, the usual holiday tensions when people get tired and stressed, but on the whole, a good time was had by all, and the blessings of the season touched us all. » read more »
Posted on December 23, 2013
Whew….this is the week when every year I speed through 3 cities and 2 countries in the space of a few days, in order to get home for Christmas with my children. In theory, Christmas is a happy time of year, although sometimes we get so buried in the details of it, that we forget the bigger picture, the meaning of the holidays (if you believe in those meanings), and forget to be grateful for what we do have, rather than regretful or even resentful of what we don’t. I am always grateful to get home. The weather can be dicey in both Paris and New York in December, and I always worry about getting snowed in, in either city, and missing the holiday with my family entirely. And being too busy too much of the time, and usually working til the last minute, I worry that I might get sick, catch a flu and be unable to fly. And although I flirted with some kind of bug before I came home, nothing much came of it, so I was able to fly. I stop in New York on the way home for Christmas, to celebrate the birthday of one of my daughters who was born a week before Christmas. So I was happy to spend a day with her in New York on the way home, which is always a treat for me. And it was freezing in New York.
So laden like a beast of burden, with a suitcase full of gifts (which broke and exploded at the airport, but fortunately nothing got lost, but I had to replace the suitcase in New York), and my two dogs in their traveling bags, I boarded the plane in Paris, and whipped through New York, and got home in time for Christmas, and everything I need to do before. I pride myself on being a very organized person, and my whole family makes fun of me because I start Christmas shopping in August, but I have a lot of kids and people to buy presents for, so I like to get an early start, and hate the last minute rush. But no matter how organized I am, there are always people I have forgotten, things that don’t arrive, last minute requests from my kids, so I end up rushing as much as anyone else. » read more »
Posted on December 16, 2013
Okay. I have a confession to make. And if you’re expecting something juicy and sexy, you’ll be disappointed. I indulged myself shockingly about 2 months ago, and it has taken me 2 months to confess it. But now, here I go.
Two years ago now, before Thanksgiving, I was looking to find a dog to travel with me. I had been looking for months, and needed a very small dog that I could take on and off planes, in a travel bag in the cabin. And eventually, after months of searching, true love happened. I fell in love with a TINY (less than one pound) white long haired Chihuahua that was the cutest thing I have ever seen. As an aside, I find that once adult, or perhaps as young adults, children take a hard line with their parents. My children’s mantra is “You don’t need that!” Oh. Whatever it may be. Another purse in a weird color, another pair of high heeled black shoes (a woman can never have too many pairs of black shoes, particularly high heels), some piece of furniture I decide I want….or even a person I want in my life, as friend, employee, or other. In their opinion, a parent is a loving service bureau, with a crisis hot line 24/7. We don’t really need a social life, even less a man if we’re single, besides that would only interfere with our availability. We need to be poised at the ready at all times, and anything you do that could distract from that poses a threat to them. So forget boyfriends, high heels, a silly dress you want desperately, friends in some cases, and other distractions. You are to be standing ready to leap, fully focused at all times. In the case of the adorable white chihuahua I fell in love with, only one daughter (of all my kids, and I have many) was supportive of my getting her. The others were all outraged. What do you need a dog for? The idea that a parent might be lonely, sad, need company, or need even a doggie pal to talk to after the kids grow up and leave is totally foreign to them. It’s not mean-spirited, I suspect, it just never occurs to them that you might be lonely or have needs too, other than just being a parent. In any case, I bravely ignored their stern critical comments and disapproval, was grateful for the support of the one daughter, and fell totally in love with Minnie Mouse, my adorable white Chihuahua, who is now 2 years old, one of the great dog loves of my life, terrific company and super affectionate, and weighs 2 pounds full grown. She is totally pampered and loved, (has a ridiculous wardrobe of tiny pink sweaters) and makes me happy. She has kept me company on many a long, lonely night, and travels everywhere with me. (you can read all about her and my other dogs over the years in my current little gift book “Pure Joy”, which came out last month, and is a fun gift for any dog lover. I love that little book and am very proud of it. And it has 40 photos in it, of my dogs and my kids’ dogs, and some dogs I have given to friends).
Fast forward the film 2 years to this past October, almost exactly 2 years after I found Minnie in a pet shop in NY. I was doing an errand for one of my daughters, and on a whim, “for old times’ sake”, I stopped in at the same pet store, “just to look”. “Just to look” at anything usually turns out to be a lie. Somewhere in my heart of hearts, there must have been a tiny window open, just big enough for a new puppy. Oh oh. Big Uh oh!!! I’d been back to that pet store before, for supplies, and saw the usual cute puppies, none of whom snagged my heart. But they know me at that store, and just as they did with Minnie, two years before, they came out of the back room carrying a 14 oz., eight week old short haired “Blue” Chihuahua (a kind of steely blue gray, a very rare color). She was ridiculously small, and once again looked like a mouse. I held her for a few minutes, and whereas Minnie had been timid and shy, this puppy was adventuresome and brave and funny, and fearless once we set her down. And I started falling in love, while telling myself I didn’t need another dog, and that managing two dogs on my travels might be too much. I tried hard to cling to reason (with little success). I mentioned her to my children that night, who were unanimous this time. The consensus was that I was nuts, don’t even think about it. I got NO family support about the new puppy. None. I was told to forget it. And honestly, I tried. For three days the little blue gray chihuahua puppy haunted me, and not only did I have my children’s disapproval to deal with, but my guilt toward Minnie, who had become the princess in my life. How would she feel about it? I did the only possible thing, I lied to everyone, including Minnie. I went back and saw the puppy again before I left New York, with one of my daughters who was adamant. You don’t need her. DON’T do it. So I paid for the puppy in secret and told no one. She had to stay at the pet shop for a month because she was too young and too small to go home. I literally told no one what I had done. And surely not my kids. I didn’t even mention it to you on this blog. For a whole month, I said nothing, and then it was time to bring her home. She didn’t have all of her vaccinations yet, so I couldn’t take her to France yet, and had to send her home to California, which required admitting my dark secret to a kind employee, who promised to take care of her until I came home. And because she is officially ‘blue”, I named her Baby Blue Angel. I should have called her Blue Secret. » read more »
Posted on December 9, 2013
I hope December is off to a good start for you, with the drumbeat of the holidays approaching, the things we love about them, and the things that concern us. I’m still frantically looking for last minute gifts for my kids. It was a lot easier when new bicycles and special dolls were the order of the day!!! I was remembering the other day that we used to hide all their gifts in the basement (gifts for 9 kids!!), and would haul them all up four flights of stairs to the top floor of our house, after the kids went to sleep on Christmas eve. My husband and I would spend hours, dragging everything upstairs, and then assembling toys, playhouses, bikes. It was a lonnnggggggggg night with very little sleep, and it seemed like only minutes after we finally got to bed, when they’d all be awake , squealing with amazement and delight. It was a lot of work, but SOOOO much fun!!! It’s hard to reproduce that kind of excitement and innocence once they’re adults. We play a game after dinner now on Christmas eve, where everyone brings some small silly gifts to the table (as ridiculous as possible), and people get to choose them (I think you have to guess who brought the gift and if you guess right you get to keep it and get another turn, but future guessers get to steal the gift away from you if they want it and win their turn). It involves choosing, and then stealing a gift from the others. And it gets funnier and funnier as people steal totally absurd gifts from each other. The prize objects last year were a Chewbacca backpack that my youngest son refused to give up, and a monster hat my youngest daughter loved and kept stealing back until she got to keep it. We all laughed a lot and loved it. You find yourself doing battle over some crazy object you would never have wanted otherwise. I provided a book on swear words in several languages, which was highly prized!!! The lucky winner was then able to insult all of us in Russian and Japanese. It’s a funny game one of my daughters introduced to us a few years ago, and it’s a big hit. Although everyone is grown up now, we still leave out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer (all of which disappears by morning), and I still write everyone a letter from Santa, which they find with their stocking in the morning. And last year Santa left me a letter too!! It’s sweet hanging onto our old traditions, no matter how grown up they are!!! It reminds us all of the simpler days when they were younger. » read more »
Posted on December 2, 2013
Exciting, fun news to share with you. The album of songs I’ve been telling you about for two years, finally came out last week, on both iTunes and Amazon, where you can buy and download either individual songs or the album. It’s called “Love Notes by Danielle Steel”. There are 10 songs on the album, 6 in English and 4 in French. I wrote the lyrics, and three composers wrote the music, there are 2 singers (an American woman and a French man), and we worked with 7 musicians and 4 arrangers. It is VERY different working as part of a team, and writing song lyrics, than working all by myself to write a book. This was really team collaboration!! I hope you love the songs. I think they’re really good, and I hope you do too!!! Each one tells a story, some are love songs, the singers have beautiful voices, and the composers and musicians did a great job. We have worked on this album for two years. And I’m very excited that it’s out now, and I can’t wait for you to hear our songs. Here are the links:
I hope you enjoy “Love Notes”!!!!
Posted on November 25, 2013
Here they come…. the holidays…..Thanksgiving is the first important moment of the holiday season, and even for those who try to avoid holidays, we are reminded of the busy, crazy days ahead, and holidays are not always easy. They are so often bittersweet for so many of us. We are not only grateful for the friends and family at our table, but also aware of those who are no longer there and sorely missed. In our family, my late son Nick, and my ex-husband and children’s father, who passed away two years ago. Even with a crowded table, we feel their absence. And my three oldest children no longer join us for holidays, and either spend them with their in laws, family in other cities, or in their own homes establishing traditions of their own. So whereas once, there were 9 children at our table, their father even long after we divorced, as we remained very close, now I spend thanksgiving with my five youngest children—–a huge blessing to be sure, but half the number at our table only a few years ago. It is a change, and makes Thanksgiving bittersweet.
For many, holidays are spent alone, without family, or among friends, or in aching solitude. The holidays often point out what we don’t have in our lives. And there are many ways to spend a holiday like Thanksgiving. For many, serving others less fortunate takes the sting out of their loneliness as they forget themselves and give to others. For those without relatives to spend the holiday with, we form a family made up of friends (who are sometimes easier to get along with than our relatives, and even more fun!!). And for many, the holidays are a challenge that is hard to face. We all spend the holidays differently, and it helps to remember what we are grateful for. » read more »
Posted on November 18, 2013
Sober thoughts today. Marilyn Monroe once said that once you are famous, you experience “Life as an Object”. What she was saying is that when you become famous, and are a public person, you cease to become a person in other people’s minds, and anything goes, you can be treated as an object or a thing, and they forget that you are actually a real live human being at the other end. It’s an interesting comment, and I have found it to be true, over the many years that I have been well known.
The internet has de-personalized the connection between people. People exist in greater isolation, many work at home on their computers and no longer work at an office, where they see people every day and have to relate to them in a humane way. People do things like Facebook and chat rooms, where they collect thousands of ‘friends’, people they don’t know and will never meet, but they are connected through their computer in a ‘virtual’ way. People date on line or by text, they connect and disconnect, start ‘relationships’ and end them, all virtual and not real. Young women have talked to me about being proposed to by text or on line, and dumped just as quickly by text, with no human contact, no phone call, no sound of the other person’s voice. And at the most extreme end, kids and even some adults play video games which ‘kill’ the players virtually, and then shocking public crimes replicate those games and many real people die. I’m not of the old school that television corrupts our kids, or is the source of violence in America, but I do think that the lack of real human connection on these new ‘cyber’ opportunities has had a MAJOR impact on how people relate to each other, connect or don’t, how they behave, what they do, what they say, and they lose sight of the fact that there is a real live human being at the other end. It is something to think about. Sometimes it is better to simply pick up the phone and have a conversation, have an immediate exchange, rather than nuking someone and shooting off a sometimes vicious email in the heat of the moment, when all you have to do is write it and hit the Send button. No one hears the other person’s voice anymore, everything is conducted by email and text. » read more »
Posted on November 11, 2013
Until today, I’ve done three book signings in my writing life. The first one was right after my first book was published, and I got booked into what looked like a big drug store (I was about 21 years old, and had just had published the book I wrote at 19). It was in Gilroy, California, at the time of the Garlic Festival (the smell of garlic was overwhelming as I signed), and the mayor at the time tried to kiss me. It was an interesting introduction into the world of book signings. And I was never very inclined to do book signings, and did no publicity at all for my books in those days. I spent my time writing, and taking care of my children. I never went on tour or on the road for my books. I didn’t really have time, and preferred to be at home writing, and with the kids. And I didn’t do interviews either then.(And still rarely do them now.)
My second book signing was in Chicago a while later. I can’t even remember how I got roped into it. There were two other authors scheduled to be signing books, at a book store, and somehow the people who arranged it, failed to mention that both of the other authors were very unusual and admirable people. One was a Viet Nam vet who had lost all four limbs, and had written a book about his experiences. The other was a fairly well known author whose courage I had admired, who had been severely abused and sequestered as a child, had survived it, and gone on to be a writer, and she too had suffered damage to her limbs. Not to sound disrespectful, but it was somewhat startling at the time, because both of these remarkable people signed their books with a pen they held in their teeth. And I sat between them, feeling odd and guilty because I could sign my books with a pen held in my hand. They were both interesting to talk to, but it was a very unusual experience. » read more »
Posted on November 4, 2013
There’s lots of excitement in my publishing life right now, on many fronts. Last week, on October 29, I had four books come out!! That’s a record even for me. Two paperbacks: “A Gift of Hope”, about my work on the streets with the homeless for eleven years, non-fiction. “The Sins of the Mother”, previously in hardcover, about a woman who built and runs a business empire, and has 4 adult children, who have issues with the past, and better come to understand their mother over time. It’s about the not always easy workings of a family, the decisions parents make, and how one views them with compassion as time goes on. I hope you like the book. Two hardcovers came out on the same day: a novel, “Winners”, about a young Olympic skier, an accident she has which changes her life, and how her fight to come back from it touches everyone around her, as each of their lives, and hers, are turned around in positive ways. I hope you’ll find it an inspiring book, and a great read. And I have a really fun book that just came out too. It’s a small non-fiction book that should make a perfect gift. It’s about the dogs in our family over the years, and some dog-owning advice, and there are some funny stories in it and practical tips too. My two pound longhaired white teacup Chihuahua Minnie is on the cover, and it’s called “Pure Joy”. I hope you think of it for all the dog lovers on your holiday list and in your life!!
And to top it all off, the song album I’ve been working on for two years is coming out on November 26. “Love Notes by Danielle Steel”. It’s coming out in CD, and will be on the Internet. I wrote the lyrics and worked with 3 talented composers and 2 wonderful singers (a man and a woman). So that’s a lot going on for me.
Today, on November 4th, I’ll be on Good Morning America to talk about the books. And I have an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week, and am doing a rare, rare for me book signing of the book about our dogs, at a friend’s store.
Now you can see why I’ve been busy!!! I hope you enjoy reading the books and listening to the music. Thank you for sharing all of this with me!!
Posted on October 28, 2013
Every October, there is a big art fair in Paris, called the FIAC, which happens at the Grand Palais, a beautiful old glass structure where many big exhibits, special events, and fashion shows take place. In this case, galleries from all over Europe, and I think some from the States, come to exhibit, and it’s always fun and exciting to go and see it. I look forward to it every year, and am lucky enough to get a pass to take a look the day before the opening. The art there tends to be on the ‘edgy’ side, which isn’t always my cup of tea, although I love contemporary art. But it’s fun to see who is doing what, and what the trends are in advanced contemporary art. And there is a little bit of everything at the show. (My favorite thing at the fair—or my two favorites actually—-were a bronze piece with a silver finish, which was an exact replica of an Hermes Kelly handbag, which was terrific, but too steep for my budget. And my other favorite was a life-sized, lifelike statue of a boy/young man, which seemed like it was in resin. He was fully dressed, with a totally lifelike expression, and it would have been fun to have. But I didn’t ask the price). I managed to enjoy the entire show, and didn’t buy anything. But it was a fun experience, as always, seeing the show. » read more »
Posted on October 21, 2013
Since I share fashion shows and art openings with you, and events I go to, I thought I’d tell you about two remarkable events I attended recently. One was great fun, and absolutely adorable, and the other a more unusual evening.
On a recent trip through New York, to visit my daughters, my oldest daughter was in town to celebrate her five year old daughter’s birthday, and she had organized a luncheon at the American Girl Doll Store on Fifth Avenue. It is a haven for little girls, paradise on earth. They are among the most popular dolls now, and already were when my own daughters were small, not so long ago. Each doll has a story and a history, her own special look, with an assortment of hair and eye colors, different ethnicity, and they have elaborate wardrobes, furniture, cars, pets, kitchen appliances. A dizzying array of accessories for each doll. And the store is an overwhelming and exciting series of departments which sell the dolls, clothes, and all the stuff that goes with them. Some are even twins, and they have added some ‘babies’ to their repertoire. And amidst this extraordinary store all dedicated to these dolls is a restaurant where children and their parents shopping there can stop for lunch or have a birthday party. It’s been a while since my own kids were that small, and to be literally in a department store full of little girls clamoring for dolls, with dolls everywhere you look was amazing. The store is every little girl’s dream, and when we walked into the restaurant, there was a huge long table covered with dolls you could borrow, with little high chairs to seat them, in case you had forgotten to bring your own doll to lunch. It was an incredible scene. Dolls were being fed, talked to, dressed, undressed, there were several borrowed dolls at every table. We were mostly adults at our table, and only three children (two of them boys, who looked shell shocked to be surrounded by all the little girls and their dolls). Lunch was actually delicious, the birthday lunch was a huge success, and in a crazy way I loved it. It almost made me want to take a doll home, and as we left, my daughters and I threaded our way through three floors of ecstatic little girls picking out their new dolls and as much equipment for them as they could talk their parents into. Everyone was having fun. It was innocence at its best, and we all left smiling, and had a ball. » read more »