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.
Posted on March 31, 2014
I seem to have come across a lot of new Moms recently, of a relatively new breed, which has made me think of a new element in motherhood today. There have always been ‘older’ Mothers, either people having a last child of several, or some who had tried to have a baby for years, had given up and got a late surprise. Very few people used to actually set out to have a first child in their 40′s by choice. But in recent years, that phenomenon has become much more common. For the past many years, women are more and more determined to pursue their careers, often choosing to focus mostly on that, more and more people choose not to marry. And I think in recent years, women who chose not to have children in favor of their careers, have made a last minute decision to have a baby after all, before it’s too late. Others were waiting to find the right man, and when he hasn’t turned up by the time they’re 40, or older, they pursue other options. The result is that I think there are a lot more first time mothers in their 40′s these days, many of them single mothers, particularly in big cities where there are women seriously pursuing careers. And what I find I am hearing a lot more about is women having ‘postpartum depression’. There is nothing new about that either, and one always heard about women suffering from that, but they were few and far between. Now I hear about it all the time, and I have questioned if it is really that, or actually the shock of motherhood after a lifetime of freedom suddenly curtailed. Talking to a brand new 44 year old single Mom recently, she said that many of her friends had recently had babies, and ALL of them had experienced postpartum depression, which set me thinking. There is no question, postpartum depression is a very serious problem, and must be taken seriously, but I really wonder if these brand new mid-forties mothers really have it, or are just in shock over what they’ve gotten themselves into, particularly if they’re on their own. And a recent conversation with two other women in that age group, single moms with new babies, made me wonder about it even more.
I married in my late teens, and had my first baby at 19, and continued having more children later. It was a shock to have a baby at that age too, and daunting at times, but I grew up having children, and had to make big adjustments to my life, at an age when I had really never had freedom, and went straight from my father’s home to my husband’s, with no time in between to have a grown up life of my own. I never really questioned what I was giving up when I had kids, and didn’t have time to figure out or experience what my life would have been like without kids around. By the time I was ‘grown up’, I’d had kids around forever. But for women in their forties having first time babies, it is a HUGE adjustment.
For those single career moms, they did what they wanted to for 20 years as an adult, spent weekends away with friends, took naps when they were tired, went to spas, had facials and manicures, spent their money on themselves, could sleep late when they chose to (uninterrupted sleep), entertain how and when they wanted to, went out to dinner anytime they wanted to at the last minute, went to the gym every day for as long as they wanted to at the time they wanted, and took vacations where they wanted and could afford to go. No one messed up their houses, they didn’t have to find help, figure out if a child was screaming from an ear ache, was sick, or just tired and cranky. Their lives were their own for a very long time. And suddenly enter a baby (sometimes/often without a live-in partner, or any partner at all), and no one can really tell you what that’s like. And most people today don’t have the benefit of ‘tribes’/families in the same city, so no aunts or mothers or grandmothers or even older sisters to give them advice with a new baby. They’re relying on books, classes, and friends in the same boat, which isn’t the same as a wise old grandma or aunt telling you what to do with a colicky baby. And pediatricians and emergency rooms are now besieged with calls from frightened new moms who have no idea why their baby is screaming, and are panicked.
Suddenly those women who had seemingly enviable well ordered, even self-centered lives, discover what others know from having children earlier: a baby will eat up your time, wake you up frequently in the night, cry for seemingly no reason for hours, nursing is not always as easy as it looks, and some days you’re lucky to get out of your nightgown by 6 or 7 pm, and all you did all day was nurse the baby, and do endless loads of laundry, change the baby a million times, and never make it into the shower. Lunch with friends becomes complicated, dinner even more so, so those new moms end up isolated, and then scramble for day and/or night nurses so they can get a little sleep, and they’re sleep deprived and not used to it. They look and feel a mess, have no time for the gym, nor time for a facial which they thought was a given, and unless they have some kind of regular child care arrangement, they never get out of the house. The amount of time it takes to care for a baby comes as a huge shock to women who have only had to take care of themselves for 20 years, and it’s harder than it looks. I think many of the women who think they are suffering from post-partum are really just suffering from a huge adjustment to the reality of having a child, (with all due respect to those who really do have postpartum). They heard all about labor and delivery, but too little about everything that comes after that. And I’m not saying having a baby at any age is a bad idea, but I do think that most of those women who grab that last baby-train out of the station before it’s too late had no idea of what a huge change it would make in their lives. I never had lunch with friends when my kids were little, never slept through the night, never had time for professional manicures or had time to bother with nail polish, and I worked at night when the kids were asleep and was with them all day. You learn to get by on very little sleep, but it takes time. Even good changes in life can be hard to adjust to, and I can’t think of a bigger change than having a child. It changes your life in wonderful ways, and is a huge blessing, but if you’re not used to putting someone else first, deferring your own plans, having your life turned upside down, and going without sleep…..it is going to be a MAJOR adjustment. I feel for those women when I listen to their shock at what it entails, and I think once they adjust to it, as we all do with kids, they won’t be depressed. But those first months, or even year, must be rough. Maybe those of us with kids should be more honest about what they’re getting into, instead of just giving them baby showers. In some ways, they are better informed than we were who had kids earlier, and most of the later moms can afford to pay for advice: they have’ lactation experts’ and day or night nannies who teach them the ropes, they read books about various child rearing theories, and are afraid to just wing it. They want to be competent, as they are in their careers. But a baby can turn your life upside down in a minute, and a baby that cries for hours and hours is unnerving for anyone, and with no partner to take turns with you, dealing with it, you’re really stuck. So I feel for these modern day new moms, and I suspect they’re not suffering from depression, but just from the shock of a whole new life, and the end of their old one. They’ll figure it out, but I think the adjustment is a lot harder when you’re older. And it’s a brave new world with all these brave new moms. And hats off to them for accepting the challenge.
Posted on March 24, 2014
Exciting news!!! My new hardcover book “Power Play” is going to be #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list this coming Sunday, March 30th. Traditionally, that’s the prestigious list that writers strive to get on. There are others that matter too, but being #1 on that list is certainly an encouraging sign that the book is doing well and people like it. The list is sent to people in the business (publishers, agents) 10 days ahead of time so I got the news last week that it’s going to be #1 this Sunday, and I’m REALLY happy about it.
Above all, I hope that YOU like the book. It’s about two very successful CEO’s, a man and a woman, and how differently men and women react to success and professional (or political) ‘power’. For some men, having that kind of success is an aphrodisiac, and for some women that kind of responsibility, being the head of a major company, is very isolating. Also, as a rule, successful men are extremely attractive to women, and successful women are generally perceived as VERY unattractive to men, and very daunting, even if they’re not. The story revolves around these two people, and the complications and issues in their lives, the difficult situations they encounter at work and in their private lives. Writing it was a fascinating study of modern times in the business world, the people in it, the pressures on them, and how they deal with it. How they handle their families, and what their priorities are, and the leeway they give themselves, in some cases, to cross some very important lines, both in business, and in their private lives. I hope you find that it makes for a fascinating and exciting book, and I really hope you read it!!! I loved writing the book, and creating the people in it…..I hope you really enjoy it!!!
Posted on March 17, 2014
First of all, Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you who are of Irish descent. In the international mix of my ancestry (Portuguese, Spanish, German, French), I can’t make any claim to Irish, so it’s not my holiday. I think there was an English great grandfather somewhere on my mother’s side, but that’s about it. It’s always such a festive day, so if you’re Irish, or want to celebrate with them, have a Great Day!!!
Other than that, life is getting back to normal after the glamour of fashion week in Paris, and the real excitement of being decorated with the Legion of Honor. Now I get to wear the little red ribbon on my clothes that identifies me as a Knight of the Order of the Legion of Honor (and a miniature of the medal for special events). It’s a big distinction in France, and I’m wearing the red ribbon with much pride. But then after the honor, and the ceremony, and the fashion shows, you go back to real life. Someone has to take out the garbage, sometimes me, feed the dogs, go to the dry cleaner, and do all the mundane stuff we all do. I had a lot of work to do this week, taxes are due, money is tight, kids have problems, dogs get sick. Two of our family’s dogs had surgery this week, which worried me. And I had to grind through all the stuff that wears you out, worries you, and is a LOT less fun than being decorated, and watching a fashion show by Chanel or Dior. Welcome to real life!!! It can’t be a party every day, and I’m lucky that it’s fun some of the time. Getting the Legion of Honor really thrilled me, and it’s a once in a lifetime event!!! I will cherish the memory of it forever, and loved sharing it with my children who were here.
I had a classic French experience this week. I pay my phone and internet bills by automatic transfer from my bank, which is easier than writing one more check every month. And lo and behold, I discovered that six months ago, the phone company and my bank got in an ‘argument’, a disagreement over procedures, so my bank stopped making the transfers, but never told me. The phone company wasn’t getting paid, and didn’t tell me. And yesterday I had one of those nightmare days where modern communication was vital: I had to do some things with my bank in California, had some important business to do with my agent, one of my children needed advice, another was travelling, I was emailing and calling people in several countries, doing business, and needed phone and Internet vitally. And guess what? All my phone and internet services went dead. Just like that, one minute a string of emails, and the next, a total black out. What happened??? I couldn’t figure it out, except a notice on my screen said I hadn’t paid my bill. Impossible!! Well not so impossible. I called the bank, who blamed the phone company for not complying with their ‘norms’ so they stopped paying them. I called the phone company who told me to get another bank. And guess who got squeezed in the middle with no phone or Internet service on a day I REALLY needed it??? Me, of course. What a crazy, ridiculous situation. So I paid my bill by credit card on the phone, and they promised that sometime 2 days later, I would get service back. Oh Great. And 2 days with no communication at all, and my whole life was conducted by cell phone. How crazy is that? While the phone company and my bank were throwing rocks at each other, I got bonked on the head and stunned into silence. It made for a VERY annoying day!!!! And I was really mad. Other than that misadventure, I love France, and Paris. The weather has been gorgeous and spring like and makes one dream.
So it’s back to real life for me. I may be a Knight now, but the phone company wasn’t impressed. My dogs aren’t impressed, I have to feed them now, and take out the garbage….and do some work….then I’ll do the dishes…..some laundry….I feel just like Cinderella after the ball!!!
Posted on March 10, 2014
It’s been a busy ten days in Paris with the Ready to Wear Fashion shows in full swing (to show clothes for next fall, so store buyers can see them and order them now, 6 months ahead of time). It’s always a crazy time, with show after show every day, and for those who love fashion it’s like a ten day long buffet of constant treats, feasts to the eye, exciting line ups with beautiful clothes worn by gorgeous models, often in amazing locations. And by the end of the week, I think everyone is on overdose, both those who design the clothes and put the shows together, and those who see dazzling fashion shows all day every day for about 10 days. I had a front row seat both to the behind the scenes hard work, and the front row excitement of being a spectator, with my three daughters who work in fashion staying with me for ten days. Before Paris fashion week was New York fashion week with American designers, Milan where the Italians show their latest creations, London Fashion week, and finally Paris. By today, I was almost reeling from the beauty and the gluttony of it. There are anywhere from 35 to 75 outfits in each show, worn by 40 or 50 models (depending on who the designers are), and each show is attended by from 300 to 1,000 people, buyers, press, fashionistas, movie stars, celebrities, customers, and there are several shows every day.
I lucked out the way the show schedule played out, and the first show I saw was Balenciaga, which is always one of the most beautiful, and one of my daughters is the design consultant to the designer, Alexander Wang, who designs for Balenciaga now. The show was held in the early morning on a rainy day at the planetarium, a beautiful old building with a circular staircase. I was excited to see Alex Wang’s and my daughter’s work, and What a Show!!! It was an absolutely spectacular show, one of the best I’ve ever seen. Incredibly chic, elegant, which really showed Alex Wang’s talent. I was thrilled with what I saw, and I knew just how hard they had all worked on it, as I watched my daughter come home at 2 am at night, and leave for work again at 6:30 the next day. They all work incredibly hard to put together the season’s collection and put on the show. It was going to be hard for anything to match up to that first show. I went with two of my other daughters and we were very proud!! » read more »
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 »