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!!!
Posted on June 2, 2014
Well, this was a nostalgic, sentimental week. We had two office farewell parties this week, which were both bittersweet—for two lovely people who have worked for me for a long time. One takes care of my house, and the homes of my children; he keeps everything in remarkable running order, is incredibly creative, intelligent and ingenious—–which you have to be in a 104 year old house, which is a mystery a lot of the time!!! He has worked for me for 24 years, half his life, and a big chunk of mine. He was just a ‘kid’ when he started, and learned all the workings of the house, took some interesting classes along the way, and I have watched him grow up into a remarkable man. He got married two years ago, and my whole staff gathered around to celebrate him this week and say goodbye tearfully. He is going to do a lot of travelling, and just wanted to spread his wings, try new things, and see the world. I’m very sad to see him leave, but happy for him that he’s going to be having fun and doing some great things (he’s going on safari in Africa!!!). But it’s always sad to see old friends leave, even if I’m happy for him. We had a lovely dinner in a nice place, great food, good company, and a lot of toasts to wish him well!!!
The other person leaving is a young woman who has worked for me on and off for 22 years. We jokingly call her our perma-temp!! She is a beautiful woman who first came to my office to help out as a very young woman (and she still is). She didn’t want to get tied down to an office job as an assistant, but stayed with us for about a year as a ‘temp’, and then worked as a producer in TV, with start-ups and in the dot com world. But she very kindly came back and did another stint with us when we needed help in the office. So back she came, worked with us for a while, she is great at being creative, problem solving, and just doing whatever needs to be done. Along the way, she got married and had 3 adorable kids, but she still came back to help for weddings, she worked in my gallery for a while, and now she just filled in for my main assistant during her maternity leave, and she stayed for a year again. So we had a big delicious lunch today (lasagna, pasta, salad, and lots of good stuff) to thank her for her year with us, again. Hopefully she’ll be back for another wedding, or someone’s maternity leave. She posted my blog for me every week, and we are going to miss her good cheer, great sense of humor, and sunshiny face in the office. In twenty two years I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in a bad mood. And she was great helping one of my daughters with some of her projects.
So Boo Hoo, farewell to two people I love and will miss…..and happy trails to both of them, until we meet again.
Posted on May 26, 2014
I’ve had my nose to the grindstone, and been doing some writing, and getting organized for summer. I always seem to forget summer is coming, and then Memorial Day hits me, and I realize Wow!! Here we are…..get ready. I try to get my heaviest work done by Memorial Day, so I can relax a little in the summer, and spend some time with my kids.
I helped one of my daughters get their country house ready for summer, and we threw away dead plants and old wicker furniture that didn’t survive the winter, did some painting, lots of cleaning, washed sun umbrellas, and hauled and dragged broken pots, got rid of weeds, and worked like dogs for a few days, and were excited with the results. The place looked great when we were finished. Her father and I used to do that every year. There is always more work to do on country homes and beach houses to keep them looking nice, but this was a major spring cleaning, which is good to do.
And we’re making summer plans to be together. And I’m trying to wrap up the biggest projects on my desk. So I don’t have anything exciting or glamorous to tell you. I haven’t been to any fashion shows or big parties, or social events. I haven’t seen anyone except my children, and I’ve been chained to my desk, except when I did the big spring cleaning project with my daughter. But these are good projects to do to keep everything in order.
So here comes summer!! I hope yours is shaping up nicely and you’ll get some vacation time in the coming months. I always wind up working a little in the summer now too, since my kids don’t have as much free time as they used to, since they’re all working, and no longer in school. I loved it when we had long summer vacations together, now it’s a little bit of time here and there, but I’m grateful for any time I can spend with them, and that they are willing to spend it with me.
I’ll try to do something more interesting than house cleaning and working at my desk, so I have more exciting things to report to you next week. And I’m actually going to try and take a day off this Memorial Day weekend….Hope yours was great!!!
P.S. A friend sent me a DVD of a terrific TV series that is popular in Europe. You can get it on DVD in the States, it’s Danish, with English subtitles—-I thought the subtitles would bother me but they didn’t, because the show is so terrific. There are 3 seasons of it available on DVD, and it’s called “Borgen” about a young female prime minister in Denmark, trying to run the country, deal with political intrigues, and manage her family/husband and 2 kids at the same time. I absolutely Love it!!! I’m still a Downton Abbey addict, but I really enjoyed this series, and maybe you would too!!
Posted on May 19, 2014
I just had the ultimate compliment and had to share it with you. This morning I got an email from one of my daughters, it was a photograph of someone’s “Instagram” of a person we don’t know, who had a tattoo of my face (taken from a photo on a book jacket), which went from the top of her thigh to her knee. Above and below it, it said “Everyone reads Danielle Steel” (one of the phrases my publisher uses for my books, and in ads). And the likeness was perfect, an exact replica of the photograph, with every hair and feature. Getting that tattooed on her leg, must have hurt like hell!!! I’ve never known a man who tattooed my name on his arm, in a heart, or paid tribute to me in a tattoo in any form. But to have a nearly life size likeness of my face tattooed on her whole leg!!—–WOW!!!! That is loyalty from a fan and then some. And I am not making light of it—-I was actually really touched and flattered. I can’t think of anyone I know who would do that!!! It is an amazing tattoo, and I don’t know the person who has it, but I am EXTREMELY touched and honored by it!!! It is astounding and quite spectacular, and an incredible tribute from a fan, and a person who doesn’t even know me!!!
I had to tell you about it. It was truly amazing!!! My daughter was vastly impressed too. Who do you know who has a tattoo of their face on someone else’s leg??? And to the person who has the tattoo, thank you for making such an enormous gesture in my honor!!! I was totally bowled over!!!!
I hope you have a great week!! This was definitely the high point of mine, and the most unusual tribute I’ve ever had.
Posted on May 12, 2014
I went to a very fun dinner in Paris when I was there, which I wanted to share with you. A French friend had been asked to entertain a group of Americans from Los Angeles, who were members of an organization called YPO. The Young Presidents Organization. The Presidents are between 40 and 45 years old, and there is a second phase, once they pass 45, which I think is called WPO. The friend who gave the dinner recently joined the organization, in the younger group, and I had thought it was a strictly American organization, but I discovered that it exists in France too. I’ve heard about it for years, and assumed it was a businessmen’s association, in order to meet other CEO’s and presidents and make business-related connections. In fact, when the friend had asked me if I thought he should join, I told him I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to make contacts for his career, ‘networking’ as they say. And the group in Paris was there for a vacation, with their wives, my friend knew none of them, and he had agreed to entertain 12 of them at his home, which I thought was brave of him since he didn’t know any of them. And as his wife was away on a trip, I agreed to join him and lend a hand, since I speak English. I didn’t expect it to be an exciting evening, but was happy to help out. An event had been planned for them before dinner, with champagne at Notre Dame Cathedral, where they were going to hike up more than 300 steps to the top of the bell tower. I decided to pass on that, since I don’t drink, and the prospect of a 300 step hike didn’t sound like so much fun to me!!! And I turned up for dinner at my friend’s home at the appointed time.
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Posted on May 5, 2014
This Sunday will be Mother’s Day, which merits some mention, as it is a very special day. Like so many holidays, there can be a bittersweet quality to it. We’ve all had a mother, though some of us may no longer have a mother present with us. And particularly for someone young who has lost their mother, it can be an anguishing reminder of a loved one no longer here. And there are some women who want to be mothers, or wanted to be, and were unable to achieve it for whatever reason, and accepting that fate is a huge challenge for some women, and finding other ways to include children in their lives. And some may still be trying, and are agonizing, wondering if it will ever happen for them. And to complicate matters further, stories are legion about how difficult mother/child relations can be, particularly mother/daughter relations, which unfortunately can be a mine field. So although it seems like a benign, wonderful day, it can be a complicated holiday too. One can end up focusing on the mother one wishes one had, but never did.
I have been very blessed to have many children, 7 children I gave birth to, and 2 stepsons I love like my own sons, so Mother’s Day has always been a BIG deal for us. But even in the happiest, biggest families, there are aspects of Mother’s Day that can be challenging or painful. I lost one son when he was 19, and he is greatly missed on every day, every holiday, and Mother’s Day too. I have wonderful goofy photographs of his last Mother’s Day with us, when he was being silly (as he often was) and made us all laugh. I took a photograph of all the children, and he put on dark glasses and made funny faces. We had a wonderful day, and four months later he was gone, and is sorely missed on Mother’s Day every year. Our Mother’s Days were always wonderful when the kids were little and everyone was at home. I was decked out with macaroni necklaces until I could barely see over them, and Kleenex boxes they decorated for me, and pencil holders made out of soup cans that I still have on my desk today, and cherish. My office is full of the treasures my children made me, handprints and decorated plates, drawings, and jewelry boxes covered in glitter. My computer table is one my youngest son made me out of wood he painted when he was 8. They were such wonderful times, and everyone made a big effort to come home once they were in college. And eventually, life caught up to us all. Several of my children moved to other cities for their work. I stop in New York to celebrate an early Mother’s Day with two of my daughters every year, and another of my daughters who lives away flies to San Francisco for the weekend without fail. And my two youngest children always spend the day with me. Of the oldest ones, one comes home on some years, the others don’t. I’m grateful that they still come home for Christmas and Thanksgiving, so I can’t insist or complain about Mother’s Day. But it’s different when kids grow up. Lots of things are different then, and you have to adapt to grown up Mother’s Days, even though at first it was hard. I was so spoiled by having all my children with me for so many years, that the transition to their lives as adults is challenging at times. » read more »
Posted on April 28, 2014
I hope life is treating you well!!
I spoke to a friend recently, and I was so distressed by what she told me. She is a lovely, decent, honorable, hard working young woman (and I’ve known her for many years, in business and personally), who was trying to start a business with a friend. She sunk a lot of money into it for her, and she works hard for it and supports a family. And she discovered that the friend, her best friend apparently, took her money, and started the business in secret behind her back, betrayed her, and cut her out. She is now out the money, and just as bad, and sometimes worse, she was double crossed and betrayed by her best friend. When I saw her she was hurt, sad, angry, stunned, shocked.
I’ve been there, and maybe you have too. There is no worse feeling than being betrayed by someone you trust, whether a spouse, a parent, a child, a co-worker, a boss, a friend. And it happens every day. No one wants to live their life in paranoia, believing that evil is lurking around every bend. And for most of us we trust our friends and family, the people we do business with, or employ, or who employ us. Which makes it all the worse when we discover that they weren’t honorable, were frankly dishonest and ripped us off. There are many, many books written these days about sociopaths, who are often hard to detect and play a good game. They prey on honorable, honest, decent people, because if you are, you just don’t expect someone to be dishonest with you and rip you off. And even if they do, if you’re an honorable person, you respond to the betrayal with reason and moderation—-not with the vehemence another sociopath would. I think bad people pick their victims carefully. But it’s so unfortunate it has to happen at all. And it makes you feel heartsick when it happens, for the loss of the friend, as well as whatever they took from you dishonestly, whether it’s a business, money, an opportunity, or even a man. How many times do you hear of a best friend cheating with someone’s husband? It happens too often and is such a rotten thing (for both of them) to do. » read more »
Posted on April 21, 2014
I hope you’ve had a good week, that you had a warm family Passover or Easter, or are just having a nice Spring if neither of those religious holidays are part of your life. Religiously, and just philosophically, I have always loved what Easter represents, not the crucifixion, but the resurrection. A renewal, a rebirth, a healing from the challenges we live through, rising from the ashes. It’s about hope that we will survive our difficulties and things will get better again. Whatever one’s religion, or none, it’s a comforting thought.
I just had a wonderful weekend before that, in LA with one of my daughters, to celebrate her birthday. We had a great time, and I always have fun with her in LA. I loved it!!! And as I left LA, she gave me some magazines to flip through on my trip home. And I had a great time browsing through Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Time Magazine, W, Town and Country. I love looking at the fashions, and reading articles that interest me. I wasn’t expecting to find one in Vogue that struck a real chord with me, I was having too much fun looking at the clothes. And then I found one about a fascinating woman. It was an article about an apparently famous political journalist in the l950′s, named Dorothy Thompson. I probably should know about her, or have heard about her, but I don’t know of her. She was greatly respected and apparently in 1939 was named by Time Magazine one of the two most influential women in America, along with Eleanor Roosevelt. She ran a foreign news bureau in Berlin, and apparently stood up to Adolf Hitler, and wrote a book about him, which got her expelled from Germany. From everything the article in Vogue’s Nostalgia section said, she sounded like an amazing, admirable woman. A trail blazer in a major way, at a time when few women worked, most were in the home, and she was apparently a devoted mother and grandmother as well. They mentioned her in Vogue because apparently in the 50′s, she complained that she had nothing decent to wear, and was a size 20. (They commented that in those days a size 12 was considered slim). And apparently Vogue did a whole article at the time, based on putting a wardrobe together for her with half a dozen looks, in her size. But the woman who wrote the article I read went on to say how she had always admired her, and what a gutsy woman Thompson was. It made me think of actresses we admire from those days, who were gutsy too, or appeared to be, Barbara Stanwyck, Rosalind Russell, Katherine Hepburn, women who spoke their minds and had big personalities. Clearly, Dorothy Thompson was not just acting a part, but was the real deal, and just reading about her, I admired her too. The writer said that reading about her had given her courage in her own life, which made me think too. » read more »
Posted on April 14, 2014
Just as the fashion shows roll around in Paris every year at the same time, so does Baseball Season in the States. I used to go to baseball games with my late son Nick occasionally, and as of last year, my youngest son has picked up the tradition. He invited me to some games last year, which I thoroughly enjoyed with him. I had a really great time with him, and was very touched when he invited me to Opening Day in San Francisco this year, with my youngest daughter.
First, came the wardrobe issue. The night before the game, I pulled out all the orange sweaters I could find in my closet, orange shoes, an orange bag, a black Giants T shirt my son gave me last year, and black jeans. The colors of the SF Giants are black and orange, and I found a black baseball cap with the team emblem on it in my son’s room, and a team jacket I bought last year in case he invited me to future games. So I was all set to look like a fan—-in Halloween colors!!! (see photos below). The day dawned brilliantly hot and sunny, one of those rare days in SF that feel like real summer, although San Francisco is blessed with very few warm days, and is chilly year round. But Not On Opening Day, it was gorgeous.
My daughter and I went to meet my son and his fiancée at the stadium half an hour before the game was to begin, and the excitement was mounting when we got there. There was a flag ceremony, music blaring, the fans were excited, the stadium was crowded. The fans had turned out en masse to support their team under a hot sun, people were wearing shorts, and it was around 80 degrees. And at one point, Three Coast Guard planes, painted in bright colors flew over us. And then, red silver and blue streamers were unfurled into the crowd. It’s obvious how much San Francisco loves its baseball team, and I was thrilled to be there with my son.
Right before the game began, there was another special moment. The little boy that the city has named Bat Kid, appeared with the adult Batman, in a batmobile and drove slowly around the edge of the field. ‘Batkid’ is a very special little boy, 5 or 6 years old, whose dearest and most cherished wish was made possible last year, with the city’s help, through the Make-A-Wish foundation. A cancer survivor in remission he wanted to be Batman for a day, and in extraordinary fashion, downtown San Francisco was literally transformed into Batman’s City, as almost everyone downtown dressed up, and he even ‘fought some bad guys’ and saved the city. It was far more than a little boy’s dream come true, the city fell so in love with him, and everyone downtown helped make it happen. The Downtown area of SF came to a standstill that day. Today he reappeared as Bat Kid, with Batman, and the adorable little boy, in his Batman costume, walked onto the field to throw the first pitch. After that touching sight, the National Anthem was sung, and the game was on.
All the usual, colorful sights were in place, the vendors with hot dogs, ice cream, cotton candy, and drinks, threaded their way through the crowd. Everything was festive and exciting as the game began, and the home team didn’t let us down. The score was 7 to 3, against Arizona, and the fans were cheering loudly, and I was happy as can be with my son and daughter, and future daughter in law.
It was a perfect, gloriously sunny day, on a happy occasion, sharing all the excitement with two of my children. I can’t wait to go to more games this season, if I get invited, and until then, beloved friends, Play Ball!!!!
Posted on April 7, 2014
I hope that all is well with you. Every book must have them, and every life: new chapters. And that’s never been my strong suit. I love the old and familiar, favorite restaurants, favorite places, favorite people, those we know well. I get attached to houses; I even keep my cars forever. New is exciting, but old and familiar feels safe and warm.
My first husband was French, but had an American grandfather, and we came to San Francisco when we were engaged. I was seventeen, ridiculously young, and the grandfather was a remarkable person, who lived to be 103. During our visit to San Francisco, I discovered a remarkable beach that I thought was spectacular. Years later, long after I had moved to San Francisco and we were divorced, I rented a house there for a few weeks. It was a beautiful long stretch of beach, it wasn’t fashionable, it was rugged and simple, natural and peaceful, and I loved it. I remarried, to a man who loved the country, and I spent 20 years spending weekends and summers in the Napa Valley, and it was lovely….but it wasn’t the beach. And I could never ‘sell’ my beloved beach to my husband, who preferred Napa, and the country life there. By then ‘my beach’ had become a bit more fashionable, though not very, and it still had a simple natural feel to it. And finally, divorced and alone again, I looked at some houses at the beach, and my longtime dream came true. I bought a house at the beach I loved. I fell in love with it instantly, and called the house “Coup de Coeur”, which means love at first sight in French. And I spent some wonderful years there, entertained friends, my kids were still at home, and in middle school and high school. They wanted to be in the city with their friends, and I never got to spend a summer at the beach house, but I went there a lot. It was where I went to find peace, or entertain friends, or spend time with my children. It was a happy place and a happy house. I loved it.
Fast forward the film again. The kids have grown up, half of them moved to other cities for their work, and seldom come home because they have jobs and lives somewhere else. And the peaceful beach is too peaceful for them. And 10 years ago, I went back to France, and live there half the year. When I come back to San Francisco, I want to spend time with my kids, who don’t want to go to the beach, understandably. And I’m too busy when I’m home. So the beach house stands empty now, and makes no sense. When I go there, I am still in awe of how beautiful the beach is. The area is more polished now, the real estate more expensive, and it’s as lovely as when I first saw it, and the house cuter than ever, but we just never go there anymore. And owning a house you never go to makes no sense, economically, practically, even emotionally. And I realized recently that it was time to end the chapter, and for someone else to enjoy the house I once fell in love with, but never go to anymore. In recent years, we’ve gone there for a few weekends a year, which makes no sense. So I decided to put the house on the market and sell it.
I only made the decision a few weeks ago. It made perfect sense, and still does. So I dove in, called realtors, and decided to get the house ready to sell, and clear it of our things. I’ve owned the house for 13 years, and in a perfect world, I would love to keep it as a little gem, a wonderful escape to retreat to when I need peace. (But that’s a high price to pay for peace. I can rent a house there for a few weekends a year). In reality, I wont miss it, but I’ll miss the idea of it. Buying a house there was the fulfillment of a dream. It was my happy place. But now I have a life in Paris, and my children are grown up. So I just spent the week at the beach house, emptying closets, reading old notes, finding forgotten treasures, smiling at old photographs, and boxing things up to send to the children, or bring home, and in some cases just throwing things away. It’s the right thing to do, but the right things are not always easy. As much as missing my beach retreat, it marks the passage of time, and reminds one that life has changed and moved on, and what makes sense at one time in our life, no longer makes sense a dozen years later. I am grateful that I was able to have that house, and the fun times we had there. When I had my art gallery, I used to invite all my artists and their partners out for a beach day once a year, and we had a ball.
I finished getting the house ready to sell today, and it was bittersweet. It looked wonderful when I left it, and it may not sell for a while, so we’ll get to enjoy it a few more times. But I have put it out there, for someone else to fall in love with it at first sight. To me, houses are like romance, you can walk into 50 houses, and they do nothing for you, and then you walk into The One, the right one for you, and you know it instantly. I hope that happens to someone when they see my beach house, it’s time to pass the baton to someone else, who will enjoy it, and spend happy times there, and watch their children grow up there. And then it will be someone else’s turn. It would be greedy and foolish to hang onto a house I no longer use, so I am setting it free, to be loved and enjoyed by others who will spend more time there, and have as much fun there as I once did. The chapter of my life at that beach is over. I had the dream, and now it’s time for the chapter to end. Paris is where I go for fun now, and to relax, and spend time with friends, and with my children when they visit me. I will miss the idea of the beach house, more than the reality.
So I spent the week packing boxes, and tucking away memories. The chapter ends. And a new one begins. The house isn’t sold yet, and will be put on the market in the next few weeks. And the new chapter will be full of surprises, and whatever life has in store. I’m grateful for the 13 years I had there. And now a new chapter will begin.