Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

6/11/18, In Loving Memory

Posted on June 11, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I’m on one my usual three city/two country treks, with 10 suitcases and three Chihuahuas, visiting two daughters midway, and meeting another when I arrive at my destination. So I was going to take a week off from the blog, since I’m traveling, and send you a “Gone Fishing” message. But recent events are too serious to ignore, so I’m sitting down to write to you. The events I am referring to are the suicides of Kate Spade, the fashion designer, and Anthony Bourdain, the famous chef and TV personality, in the last week. Ms. Spade was 55, and Mr. Bourdain was 61, both much too young to have left this world, both immensely talented and greatly admired and respected.

 

As most of you know, I lost my son Nick to suicide (resulting from bi polar disease all his life) at 19, so I have lived the fall out of suicide at close range. Several of Nick’s friends followed that same path, and his very best friend, a wonderful boy, with everything going for him, great family, nice girlfriend, successful career, bright, charming, intelligent, kind, an incredibly decent person, and he committed suicide in his 30’s.  It came as a shock to everyone who knew him—more so than when my son Nick died, since he had battled with bi polar/manic depression all his life. Others among Nick’s friends have done so as well. Each of my children has had friends who have committed suicide. And tragically, I have been to more funerals for young people than for my own contemporaries.

 

I did not know Kate Spade, although several of my children knew her and her husband, and one of my sons is/was very close to them, and crushed by her death. Nor did I know Mr. Bourdain personally, but several of my children are his ardent fans. Many years ago, one of my children’s friends was on vacation with us, when he saw on television the news that his famous actress mother had committed suicide, and then not long after, his father. He was 14 at the time, and we shared his grief with him. And I knew Robin Williams for 16 years when he died. We met through our children, because one of my daughters and his son were boyfriend/girlfriend devotedly all through high school. I came to know Robin then, and was always impressed by what a wonderful father he was, and how much he loved his children. At his funeral, his friends were devastated, and his three children were absolutely crushed. Knowing what a dedicated and loving father he was, all I could think was how devastated he would have been if he could have seen how broken hearted his children were. It takes an immense driving force for someone to commit suicide, and I suppose it blinds one to all reason—-in their own agony, they don’t realize how their death by suicide will affect those who love them. We had a wonderful caretaker and advisor on psychiatric issues for the last 5 years of my son Nick’s life—she was a talented, brilliant, warm, sensible woman, and a wonderful mother to her three children, with a loving husband. She was so depressed by my son Nick’s suicide, that she never recovered herself, sank into a terrible depression, and three years later, she committed suicide too, at 36, with three young children, who were the ones to find her, given the circumstances in which she did it. We were all heartbroken by her suicide too.

 

I don’t know of Mr. Bourdain’s family circumstances, but Ms. Spade had a 13 year old daughter, who is left to survive her mother’s death, and our hearts go out to her.

 

Some people believe that people commit suicide out of weakness. I doubt that, and I suspect it must take enormous strength to commit such a devastating act. Most often it is the result of severe depression and some form of mental illness. I hear terrible circumstances through our foundations every day, stories which break your heart. Children as young as 5 or 6 commit suicide, some have left suicide notes for their parents in crayon. (I heard a speech on the subject in the Senate that tore my heart out, when I was asked to address the Senate on the subject too). Children who have been bullied commit suicide, or abused. In many states it is against the law to list a child’s death as a suicide, if they are younger than 13 (to avoid the stigma)—-so our public statistics and records are not always accurate. In spite of that, we do know that suicide is the 2nd most frequent killer of young people up to the age of 25, the 1st one being road accidents. I don’t have the statistics for adults at hand, but I have been told that suicide is on the rise among adults. We donate considerable money through our foundations to organizations dealing with suicide prevention, with hot lines, and therapy.

 

There has always been stigma attached to suicide, religiously, and just in the public. We are aware of it now, but do we do enough to stop it, to improve the statistics? Most people seriously bent on suicide are very intent, often secretive, and many give no warning. My own son attempted suicide three times before his final ‘successful’ 4th attempt. And after one of them, he looked at me sadly after we had saved him, and he said “Mom, if I want to do this, you won’t be able to stop me”. Sadly, he was right. He picked a slim window of time, when we thought he was safely sound asleep in bed, and instead he took his own life. He was determined—-from the time he was 11 years old, until he finally died at 19. It was a race against time, trying to stop him, and to manage his bi polar disease so the worst didn’t happen. We got him 8 years longer than he intended, but not long enough.

 

As an aside in all this, I have a personal war against texting. It eliminates real human contact and exchange. Young people ALL prefer texting to phone calls these days. It’s their primary form of communication. Relationships start and end by text. Too much happens by text. At the funeral of my son’s best friend, at least a dozen young people around me said “But I texted with him today….this morning…last night”. My thought was that if they had talked on the phone and not texted, they might have heard something in his voice, or some sign of how depressed he was, and could have talked to him about it, maybe even gone to see him. Maybe that little bit of human contact would have made a difference. I have done a lot of volunteer work with young people with mental illness, and I once spent a night talking to a 16 year old boy, after his 3rd suicide attempt. He received excellent treatment after that night, and he is one of the success stories. That was 15 or 20 years ago, and he is now a healthy, well-adjusted, productive young man, who writes books and gives lectures. I think people who are truly suffering need human contact, compassion and caring. You don’t get that by text.

 

These very public suicides are something to think about, or any suicide, or even an attempted suicide, by a child or an adult. This is a warning bell to all of us, to look around us, to listen, to hear, to be aware of our fellow man, to reach out when we can, to encourage people to seek treatment, and to seek treatment ourselves if we are at risk.

 

Suicide is a heart breaker, it leaves children who will be marked forever by the loss, and families shaken to their roots and forever altered. Those who commit suicide do not go gentle into the night, they rip out our hearts, and take a piece of us with them. We are all affected by the loss, even when we don’t know them. My heartfelt condolences to the Bourdain and Spade families, my heart aches for them, and for all of us, for these terrible losses, and a world that has become so hardened, lonely, and stressful for some that they see no other way out. I hope that in future we find better ways to help these people who are in so much pain. May they rest in peace at last, and may those they left behind heal as soon as they can, with our love, help, and compassion.

 

Have a peaceful week,

 

love, Danielle

 

 

3/26/18, Inside/Outside

Posted on April 2, 2018

Hi Everyone,

I hope all is well with you, and that you had a lovely Easter, or Passover, if you celebrated either of them. I had Easter brunch with three of my children and their significant others, with chocolate bunnies on the table, bunny ears for all to wear, little chocolate eggs, jelly beans, and the little wind up chicks and bunnies that were fun when they were children.
I was spared April Fool this year, with Easter on the same day. My children are notorious for April Fool jokes and I always fall for them!!

The big excitement for me is that my new book “Accidental Heroes” will be #1 on the New York Times list this week—-it is always a thrill when that happens, and it never gets old.  I hope you read the book too and love it!!! I really love that book, it’s suspenseful and exciting and was challenging to write!!!

I was thinking of something the other day that I wanted to share with you. Twice recently, I’ve had a similar (almost identical) conversation with two very close good friends, one a man, the other a woman, both of them people I respect enormously. Both are people that everyone admires, on many fronts. Both are deep, serious, people with strong personal values. Both have impressive, very successful careers, in businesses they have built themselves. Both have studied hard, and by all normal standards, are high achievers who have accomplished a great deal professionally, and are highly successful. Additionally, both are in long marriages, with the same partners they started out with (not many people can claim that anymore), both have what would be considered today ‘large’ families, several children, and their children are all really lovely ‘kids’, some of them grown up now, and starting on their own lives and careers. Both of them are family people, and have strong family and personal values. I consider both honest, honorable people. Both are good, loving spouses, whom I admire in their marriages. And interestingly, both are religious, and attend religious services regularly. And both are people I truly admire, and many of us would consider role models. What was remarkable about my conversations with them was that both were deeply questioning themselves, and really undervaluing themselves, questioning if they were good parents, were getting really good results with their kids, were they successful enough in their marriages, were they good spouses, and questioning their success and careers. Both had serious doubts about themselves, which would stun me, and did, given everything I know about them. But what didn’t stun me is that I have heard the same things from other people at various times, and have questioned myself in very similar ways at times.

I have wonderful kids whom I love dearly, more than anything on earth, and who love me. They are healthy, normal, upstanding, wholesome, honest, loving hard working young people, and yet I always question if I have done and given enough for them and to them. Have I been enough for them, and been a good parent? I much more easily see my flaws and failings than what I’ve done right. And I heard the same thing from those 2 friends in the last week, and others before them. I have been so blessed in my career, and have had a long successful career I work hard at—-and I work very hard—but do I work hard enough? Am I a good enough friend, person, human being, parent, writer?

What is so remarkable is that good people, who really strive hard to do well and do the right thing, and are really doing a great job on many fronts, so often doubt themselves and think they aren’t good enough. Other people look so much more ‘together’ to all of us. They seem to have all the answers, make the right decisions, look so much ‘cooler’, smarter, better than we look to ourselves.

The best advice I ever got on this subject was from the woman who helped me take care of my son Nicky when he was very sick. She said “Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides”. And it is SOOOO TRUE. Everyone else looks like they have their ‘sh–‘ together, that they know all the answers, and don’t make the dumb mistakes we all do. We don’t see them snap at their kids when they’re tired or had a bad day, or argue with their partner/spouse over something really dumb “you always leave the kitchen a mess….you Never take out the garbage….you never pick up your own stuff, why do I have to do it?….” We see other people’s outer perfection and smooth presentation—-and we look just as smooth, but we know the lumps and bumps of ourselves inside. I question myself a thousand times late at night in the dark hours when I finish work/writing and am alone, and I see everything I’ve done wrong, the mistakes I make again and again, big and small, the times I have failed to go the extra mile for someone and think I should have.

Even people whom we think are so ‘perfect’, are so hard on themselves. Why do we do it? Why aren’t we better at celebrating what we do right??? And all the good things we’ve done!!!

Listening to my 2 friends doubt themselves reminded me of that piece of advice. I’ve heard my kids doubt themselves when they have so much to be proud of in themselves, and I’m proud of them. And I’m sure (or hope) that I’m a better person than I think I am.
I thought I would share that with you, because I’ll bet that many of you do it too—–compare the private you to other people’s ‘outsides’, which look so great.

We are all frail beings, unsure of ourselves, painfully aware of our weaknesses and flaws, and all the times when we think we could have done better. It’s good to remember sometimes that others are no more sure of themselves than we are (no matter how great they appear to us). So if this applies to you too, Don’t Compare Your Insides to Other people’s outsides!!! It’s such good advice!!!

 

Have a great week!!! love, Danielle

1/17/18, “Mixed Bag”

Posted on January 17, 2018

Hi Everyone,

I was reading from Joel Osteen tonight—he always inspires me, and something I read struck me as important. “Everything you say matters. Something you say may seem insignificant to you, but to someone else, it may be life changing.” I find that to be so true, both positively and negatively. Particularly with one’s children, but with other people too. Something we may say casually goes right to someone’s heart. I still remember a math tutor I had, who told me at about the age of 12 that I would never amount to anything, and it stuck with me for a long time, and fortunately proved to be untrue. A family member said some really cruel things to me as a child that stayed in my mind for years—almost like a curse, and I had to overcome those words. And in the same vein, we can encourage people, with a few warm, kind words. We need to use our words well, it can make a huge difference to someone, especially if we offer a kind word at what we may not even know is a low point for them.

This time of year is high writing season for me (it’s nice to stay home in the cold weather), and it’s also my ‘homebody’ season, when I stay home on cold rainy days, putter around the house and get things done that I’ve meant to get to for a while. Hang a painting, clean out a closet, tidy up my desk, make calls I’ve been meaning to make. I love having at home time to do that. I’m really enjoying my new home, and am still settling in.

Doing something as complex and complicated as a move to a new home brought me in contact with many suppliers I wasn’t familiar with, and hadn’t used before, but needed to complete the process, IT people, Internet and phone installers, movers, carpet cleaners, painters, curtain installers, someone to install a movie projector, so my kids could watch movies/DVD’s at home. Some of it was pretty simple stuff, and some of it more complicated. As a woman alone, one sometimes appears vulnerable, and the whole process has been a lesson in human nature. Some people simply cannot resist taking advantage, and others do a fantastic job. I’ve had some real battles to face, which has taken patience. In all, two of the suppliers were outstanding, and did way more than expected, and didn’t charge a penny extra for it. Others couldn’t resist the temptation to cross the line, and padded bills, flat out lied, didn’t show up and weren’t reliable, and didn’t do what they promised at all. In each case, I tried to be patient and reasonable, and sometimes had to get tough about a blatantly dishonest bill, or a supplier who had gotten paid, and then didn’t do the job. It’s disappointing when people do that. Maybe they thought I wouldn’t notice, or wouldn’t make a fuss about it. But after several months of it, when I see an irregularity now, or a ‘cheat’ on a bill, I put my foot down, and in one or two cases, it took a lawyer to get things back in line. It will make me much more cautious in future about whom I trust, what I pay for, and expecting people to do the job they promised!! And with so many suppliers and tradesmen involved in a move, there’s a lot of opportunity to wind up with some bad ones in the mix. And some VERY good ones, which I am grateful for!!! Even more grateful than before.

I can’t help noticing too, and commenting on, what a terrible beating California has taken with fires both North and South, floods, mud slides, and even a recent earthquake in Northern California. Many of the stories are truly horrible from the fires, with so many homes lost, and all their personal treasures, or loved ones, lost. And now the victims of the mud slides are equally poignant, with loss of life, and so many homes. My heart goes out to everyone affected, and all the victims. I hope the planet will calm down now!!!

I hope the year is off to a good start for you, whether you are hibernating, or out having fun!!!
Have a great week!!!

love, Danielle

5/22/17, Reese!!

Posted on May 22, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’ve had a great week. I’ve had a fun, varied, busy one. A wonderful Mother’s Day with my kids a week ago, and busy days since then. I’m in a frenzy of spring cleaning, cleaning out closets, getting rid of clothes I don’t wear (some very entertaining—-and embarrassing—-fashion mistakes, where I manage to forget both my height (5 feet 1 and a half inches!!) and my age, or some trendy things I never should have bought.) When I clean out my closets, I give the best of what I find to my five daughters, give a choice piece now and then to a friend, and sometimes donate or sell the rest. Every May, I spend a couple days with one of my daughters cleaning and scrubbing and refreshing the country house that five of my children share, which they own now, and where we spent summers when they were growing up. The place is 160 years old, and its hard work keeping it in good order, but I always enjoy projects like that. A book takes me more than two years to write, sometimes three, from my first notes on the concept, to outline, first draft, to the many re-writes I do, before the book is finally printed and then published at last. It’s a long process of honing, cleaning, building, editing—–but you take a messy, or tired, or dusty house, or a pile of things to get rid of and repair, or clean out a closet, and presto magic, within hours or a few days, you see the shining results right before your eyes. It’s so gratifying to get results on a project with a rapid beginning and an end. So I’ve been busy with that, found time to read a book I enjoyed, while I take a little break from my own writing (I never read other books while I’m working on my own), went to a dance recital and a school play.

But the highlight of my week was a very special visit. A few weeks ago, while in New York, I went to a birthday party with two of my daughters. The birthday boy was a good friend, a talented young fashion journalist, who knows and has interviewed some major stars. His birthday party was a fun event, at a bar that was taken over for the event. And there was a wonderful mix of young, talented, writers, actors, artists, business people, and some very famous people who were exciting to meet. Among them, I was thrilled to meet Reese Witherspoon, and have always been a big fan of hers. I love her romantic comedies, and also this week, I ‘binge-watched’ her recent TV series “Big Little Lies” and LOVED it!!! It’s a terrific series of 7 episodes, which has been a big hit, with some great surprises in it, and some wonderful actors and actresses (Nicole Kidman) in the cast. Reese is both acting and producing now, with enormous talent at both. I loved chatting with her at the birthday party, and decided to be brave (I’m normally pretty shy, and don’t like to intrude on people), and emailed her after we met, and told her how much I enjoyed meeting her, and how much I enjoy her work. A lively, friendly email exchange ensued in the past few weeks, and we discovered that we were both going to be in the same city this week, and agreed to get together—–and we did!!! What a treat!! She’s a beautiful woman, incredibly bright, enterprising, creative, talented, and full of exciting ideas. She was busy in the midst of a trip, and I had no idea if she could only spare half an hour or more. We wound up spending three hours together, talked incessantly, about her work and mine. I would love to do a project with her, and we kicked around some ideas. We both talked a mile a minute, about life, our work, our families, our plans, and our wish list of what we want to do next. In the 90’s, a meeting at a dinner party led to my 21 TV movies, and it would be a dream come true if our meeting at that birthday party led to our working together one day. And if not, I am thrilled to just know her as a friend. The time we spent together was a gift. She is warm, lively, vivacious, gracious to everyone who approaches her, she is an absolutely delightful woman, and I loved every minute of the time we spent together. And it is soooo invigorating to talk to someone full of energy and ideas. The time flew by. I could have talked to her for another ten hours, and look forward to seeing her again!!

It’s not every day I get to meet a movie star, and get to spend hours with her, talking about our lives and work. I spend most of my time locked up in my office, writing my books—or with my kids, when I’m lucky enough to spend time with them. So meeting Reese Witherspoon was a great big fabulous treat, like a super duper fantastic chocolate cake with whipped cream on top!!! Spending time with her made it a very special week!!!

I hope you have a wonderful week!! I don’t see how this coming week can possibly be as exciting as the last one was for me—-unless I get to see Reese again—-and I hope I will soon!!! Have a great week!!!

love, Danielle

PS. In response to some of your questions at the end of last week’s blog.

The little book I mentioned, with the house story, of the woman who hated her house, and then made it beautiful and she came to love it once she embraced it: The book is called “Gratitude: Affirming the Good things in Life”, by Melody Beattie, published by Ballantine. It may be out of print, I’ve had it for a long time, but it’s a wonderful little book.

In response to your asking if I’ve written a sequel to one of my books—-No, I haven’t. I have never written a sequel to any of my books. I don’t like comparisons, where people may prefer the first book, and might be disappointed by the sequel, so I never write them. Or at least I haven’t yet.

And one of you referred to my ‘flip phone’, because I admitted to using a VERY old cell phone that I love—–mine PRE-dates the flip phone, and is a tiny little Nokia, that has fallen on the floor a million times and doesn’t break. It lights up when a call comes in, or when there’s a message on it. I just love that little phone. I’ve heard that Nokia is going to make a modern version that looks the same, and I don’t know if that’s true. It is definitely a dinosaur but a beloved one. My kids and friends make fun of it—-but I just love that little phone, and I’m sticking with it, as long as there is life in it!!! love, Danielle

3/6/17, Paris in the Spring

Posted on March 6, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I hope all is well with you. I have been writing nonstop lately, working on a new book, so I’m sorry if I was uncommunicative for a week or two as the writing got intense and the book heated up. When I’m writing, I can’t concentrate on anything else!!

Well, as the song says, I love Paris in the Spring…but it is pouring rain, and today there was even a hail storm, this is ridiculous!!! We need some flowers and sunshine by now after the winter!!!

I took a break from writing when I finished a big chunk of writing on Thursday—just in time for one of my daughters to spend three days with me, on her way to do a freelance fashion job in Greece, and it was wonderful to have time alone with one of my kids. We went shopping, had lunch and dinner out, stayed up late talking, and watched a favorite TV series (the new English one about Queen Victoria, which is a knockout, beautifully done!! I had seen it and love it, but watched part of it again with her.)

She’s one of my daughters who works in fashion, so we went to the Celine ready to wear fashion show today, —-in the pouring rain. It was held indoors at a tennis club. And as usual, the characters and ultra fashion-y outfits were in evidence in the audience. Also, the important power figures were very much present: Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue, Hamish Bowles and Grace Coddington (who is a legend) also from Vogue, there were editors and buyers, some clients, Suzy Menkes, famous fashion journalist and a legend too. It was a great opportunity for people watching, as well as seeing what was on the runway. The show itself was very serious, with clothes for the fall, subdued colors, simple clothes, and many things my daughters loved (one of them saw it on the Internet in New York). It was, as always, a fun way to spend a rainy afternoon. And I’ll be seeing two more shows this week. I guess fashion is just a fun way for me to relax for a minute between books, and with three daughters in the business, I’m always interested in what’s happening in that world, and what the new styles are for the next season. Since I went to design school, for fashion design, I still love to keep up with it.

I had a great time writing for the last few weeks, I love it when I get plunged deep in the story, and forget everything else that’s going on—the way you feel when you read a book, and can totally escape whatever is happening in your life. I’m editing another book now, and working on the outline for the next one.

I hope that all is going well for you, and that you’re getting at least a hint of spring wherever you are. Have a great week!!

love, Danielle

6/20/16, Dreams

Posted on June 20, 2016

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’ve had a great week, and that some really nice things happened to you this week. We can all use that, to give us a boost, even something small, a nice moment, something that makes us smile, or some piece of really good news.

I’ve been somewhat pensive, and quiet, in the almost two weeks since the passing of my ex-husband Tom. It’s a sad event for those of us who knew and loved and admired him, but he had an extraordinary life, a truly great life, and I think he got to do everything he wanted to do, and more. He lived to be a great age, and had opportunities and experiences few people have. He once went to Antarctica for several months on one of his boats—-(I stayed home!!! I would pay money, serious money, NOT to be on a sailboat, dodging icebergs in the dead of winter. He loved it, I would have hated it, so I didn’t go. But what an amazing experience for him, and the photos he brought back were fabulous!!). For those of us left behind when someone we love passes on, we are left with memories, the loose ends to tie up in our minds, and some introspection about their impact on our lives. So I have been quiet and reflective.

I’ve seen some close friends for lunch, and really enjoyed their company. And I had dinner at the home of good friends a few days ago. The wife is Japanese, so there were a number of Japanese people there, which was interesting, and nice to meet them. One of the couples had brought their nephew to dinner. He looked to be somewhere in his late twenties, was a biologist, and was leaving soon for a 6 month research project in Finland, so it was interesting talking to him. And at some point in the conversation, despite his youth, he said something that really caught my attention. He said that “You’re not old until your dreams become regrets”. Wow!! That is a very deep, and very true thought. No matter how old we are, we still have dreams, we ALL have dreams, or we should. Things we’ve always wanted to do, haven’t gotten to yet, and hope to get to one day. Some of it may not be realistic: Winning Miss Universe or Miss America at 55 or 65 or 70 is not likely to happen, you may have missed the boat on that. Or climbing Mount Everest. That could be sketchy too. But going somewhere that is actually feasible, traveling somewhere, building something, learning a language—-taking classes of some kind, or even writing a book. There’s no limit to what we can do—there may be some limits, but in many cases, we can fulfill at least some of our dreams. Some people even find their soul mate late in life. And bitterness and regret is not unique to old age. Some people give up on their dreams early, and shouldn’t. One of my favorite role models is an 88 year old friend of mine in New York. She is still working as an interior designer, takes classes to learn something new, goes to a book club, the theater, and sees nearly every movie and reads every book that comes out. She is still learning things at 88. She is a knock out, and so much fun. She is a living example to me of how I want to be when I’m her age, full of life, and busy, and still growing and doing, and fully alive. And obviously, good health helps.

I try to keep track of what my goals are every few years, and what I want to do. I try to keep track of it so those dreams don’t slip away. It’s easy to put our dreams away, and get bogged down in the every day. And sometimes I achieve those goals better than others. But I thought that what that young man said was so true….that you’re not old until your dreams turn into regrets (about what you didn’t do). It was a good wake up call for me, and I wanted to share it with you.

What are YOUR dreams? What do you want to do, that you haven’t gotten around to yet? It’s good to think about it from time to time. I have a rock on my desk with a saying carved on it, “It’s Never too late”. And another one that says “Follow your dreams”. It’s not too late for you to meet the right person, to take a class you’ve always wanted to take, to learn a language, learn to cook, take a writing class, a dancing class, to get in shape, to make new friends. I think that’s how people do stay young, interested and interesting, by opening new doors and windows, learning new things, even small things, and hanging onto those dreams.

It was a good reminder hearing that, and maybe for you too. Take good care, and have some fun! We all need it, a good belly laugh from time to time, and even just a warm moment with a friend. Have a terrific week!!

love, Danielle

4/18/16, Internet Manners

Posted on April 18, 2016

Hi Everyone,

I recently had an experience, which I wanted to share. Times have changed with modern communications. Most people don’t write letters anymore, they send texts and emails. I miss the fine art of letter writing. I love books with love letters in them, or funny letters. Writing a great letter used to be an art, which almost no one bothers with anymore. Some people worked hard on the letters they sent, and I’ve always loved books which include letters, and am sorry letters have gone by the wayside. It’s a lost art now. And text and email is certainly faster and often more convenient, though less eloquent and less elegant. My agent writes some wonderful letters, and I always admire the elegance with which he can turn a phrase!!! My own letter writing is a little rusty these days. Who has time to write a great letter? Most of us don’t. » read more »

2/8/16, Generosity & Forgiveness

Posted on February 8, 2016

Hi Everyone,

I hope all is well with you. I’ve been busy, writing, changing cities, seeing my kids, keeping up with life. Probably you’re busy too!!!

I don’t usually respond to comments on the blog, but now and then one snags me, and I can’t help but chime in. And one of those caught my eye recently, when someone wrote in “Forgiveness and generosity are not accessible to everyone”. And another person commenting on the blog strongly disagreed—–and I so agree with him. The beauty of both forgiveness and generosity is that they ARE accessible, and possible, and even vital for everyone!!! Personally, I don’t think you can have a decent relationship with anyone, a parent, a spouse, a lover, a co-worker, a boss, a friend, a child without being willing to forgive. And I know, sometimes it is VERY hard. There are a few people who hurt me so badly in my lifetime that it will be, and has been, a life’s work to forgive them. But the person carrying the heaviest burden is the one unwilling to forgive. No marriage works without forgiveness, no friendship, no relationship. I think it’s one of the most important gifts between two people, and that one can give: forgiveness. We don’t even have to invite those people back into our lives, hang around with them, have them over for dinner, but we do have to be able to forgive in order to go on with our lives in a healthy way, in freedom from the burdens of the past. It is in our power to forgive and well worth the hard work it takes sometimes to let go of anger and resentment and forgive. The forgiveness we extend to others blesses us every time.

And generosity is within our abilities as well. Generosity is accessible to everyone!! Not money, not a check, although sometimes that is certainly welcome, but the gift of time, of oneself, helping a friend with a move, a problem, a project, sometimes just listening, calling someone you know is having a hard time, or lonely, or sick, or giving them something you love but know would mean a lot to them. There are so many ways to be generous, which can mean so much to others. I have never forgotten the people who reached out to me when I was having a hard time. A gift like that can light up your day, or your life, or change your whole outlook.

Right off the top of my head, three examples come to mind. My oldest daughter had a Moped accident when she was fourteen. At first it just seemed like a very nasty scrape with some cuts and bruises on her leg, but it rapidly became a much bigger deal with an infection that went into her bone and up her leg, and she nearly lost her leg, and endured seven years of surgeries, intense pain, nerve damage, physical therapy, wheel chairs and crutches until she was well again. A year after the accident, one of her doctors suggested that she do some volunteer work with people more unfortunate than she was. At 15, she volunteered to work with children with cancer, undergoing chemotherapy. She stuck with it for many years, loved the kids she met, and found that she had a real gift for working with them. In the summers, she volunteered to work at a camp for kids with cancer, and did that for many years. She directed her studies toward that kind of work, got several graduate degrees and eventually became a social worker and therapist in pediatric oncology, and has had an impressive career in that field. Her incredible generosity with her time, at a time when she was in so much pain herself led to a lifelong passion and a remarkable career. And years later, when I was devastated over the loss of my son and the disintegration of my marriage, her shining example led me to do the homeless outreach work on the streets that changed my life and brought help to many, and immeasurable joy to me.

When thinking about unexpected generosity at a dark time, I remembered a time when I went to an antique shop to look around. I couldn’t afford anything in the shop at the time, I knew the antique dealer slightly, and I was having a hard time just then, and my spirits were somewhere in my socks. He must have sensed it or seen it, and I looked at a beautiful little miniature antique painted desk. It was just a lovely piece, and I would have loved to have it, but I couldn’t even consider it. It was quite an expensive piece. I went home, and the next day, a gift arrived: it was the beautiful little desk, given to me as a gift by the owner of the shop. It was an incredible gift, I was totally stunned, and no one has EVER given me such an amazing gift, before or since. It was pure generosity and kindness. I was overwhelmed by it, and so grateful for the enormously generous gesture. The desk is still in my living room, and I think of how it came to me every time I look at it. It was really a gift of love that warms my heart still.

The other example that came to me was my friend and mentor, Alex Haley. He wrote the book “Roots”, and was an icon and a legend. He was one of the kindest, most generous men I have ever known, always giving to others, always taking time to listen to them. He couldn’t do enough for people, and he had an incredible, compassionate way about him. People stopped him everywhere he went, he was an inspiration to many, and people wanted to talk to him. Going anywhere with him was a challenge, because every five minutes someone wanted to touch him, or meet him, or tell him their life stories. And it always struck me about him how generous he was, giving of himself. No matter how rushed, or busy, or tired he was, he would stop and talk to them, and seemed as though he had waited a lifetime to meet them, and had nothing else to do. They walked away afterwards, feeling ten feet tall after he gave them his full attention, and made each one feel like they were the most important person world. He was so humble, which was a true sign of greatness, and so generous with his time, and heart and soul.

I’m as crabby as the next person, and there are days when I fall short of what I hope to be, when I don’t take enough time with others, or am grumpy when things go wrong. And then I remember these generous acts and generous people….whether it’s with a cup of coffee, or five minutes, or a smile, or the gift of a book we love, or a touch of the hand at the right time, we can all be generous. It’s a gift that any of us can give, and generosity is indeed accessible to us all.

This coming Sunday is Valentine’s Day, and I hope it turns out just the way you want, with the person you want to be with, and the way you want it to unfold. I hope wonderful surprises are in store for you. I hope all your dreams come true. And just know that all of you are my Valentines every day!!

love, Danielle

8/24/15, Whisper Thanks…

Posted on August 24, 2015

Hi Everyone,

I tackled a massive project recently: my desk. On the corner of my desk is a stacked “outbox”, where everything seems to wind up, bank information, literary contracts, birthday cards from my children, poems I’ve written, Christmas lists, and religious articles. Anything I’m not sure where to file, I put on the stack in my outbox, until it resembles the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and if anyone moves too quickly, bumps into it, or adds a single piece of paper to it, it slides into an avalanche onto the floor. I clean it all out every few years, though I rarely go through it all. With a few hours to spare recently, I decided to attack it, put away the sentimental things, photos of friends….a photo of a man I dated a dozen years ago, birthday cards from my husband from longer ago than that. I decided to get rid of what was no longer relevant, file the business papers in my office, and get rid of the towering stack. There were things in it that went back twenty years, and I found some real treasures, some things that made me laugh, and of course a lot of junk. But some truly great stuff from my kids!!! I saved everything that was special or meant a lot to me, and put it all in a box.

And among the papers, I found some things that had inspired me and I was happy to find. And I thought I’d share two of them with you here, about love, and life.

The first one was written by Mary Baker Eddy: “I make strong demands on love, call for active witnesses to prove it, and noble sacrifices and grand achievements as its results. Unless these appear, I cast aside the word as a sham and counterfeit, having no ring of the true metal. Love cannot be a mere abstraction, or goodness without activity and power”. I like that one a lot.

And the other one is anonymous but touched me too:
“If life is funny, it’s okay to laugh.
If it becomes too difficult, it’s okay to travel with a friend.
If life becomes tragic, it’s okay to cry.
If life becomes impossible, you still have to go on, you can never, ever give up.
If life becomes too lonely, look for someone to take your hand.

And if by some miracle, you find your dreams and they actually come true, remember to count your blessings and whisper thanks.”

I love that message a lot. Have a great week!!

love, Danielle

8/17/15, Breakfast of Champions

Posted on August 17, 2015

Hi Everyone,

Here we are in the middle of August, the summer is almost over, and thoughts are turning to Fall and making plans. September always seems exciting to me, maybe left over from my school days, but life begins anew in the Fall, new season, fall clothes, clean slate, and a burst of energy after the summer, to do new things. When the real new year starts in January, the weather is usually so dreary and depressing (unless you live in Hawaii or the Caribbean!!), but in September, everything starts over again, the cooler weather is invigorating, and the pace steps up as we get busier again after the summer. I actually have a new book coming out on September 1st: “Undercover”, about an undercover agent, fighting the Colombian drug cartels, lots of excitement and suspense!!! I hope you like it!!

So back to breakfast. My real breakfast is not too exciting. I eat the same thing every day: 1 piece of toast, and an iced decaf coffee, which seems to hit the spot as I start the day. I’m not much of an eater, and I share my single piece of toast with my 2 Chihuahuas, Minnie and Blue, who get very excited about it!!! So that’s the fuel I use to start my day, nothing too exotic, to say the least.

But I also try to feed my soul in the morning. Some days are better than others, and I try to keep a positive attitude, no matter what is going on—sometimes more successfully than others. Sometimes I think of the things that are worrying me as I wake up, not a great way to start the day. So I need a little boost to brush away the cobwebs. The first thing I do when I get up, even before my breakfast, is check my emails, to see if I have emails from my kids, my agent, editor, or publisher, or anything urgent. With half my life in Europe, it’s already the end of the afternoon there when I wake up early if I’m in the States, as emails come in from abroad while I’m sleeping. So I read through them first thing. What that means is that my first stop of the day is at the little table my youngest son made for me when he was about 10, in Woodshop, (it was for my birthday, I think, he made it and painted it) and I use it as my computer desk, with a little child’s antique chair. It’s a cozy set up in a corner of my office, since I only use my computer for emails, and not for writing my books. I’m always in my office by 8 am, no matter how late I go to bed (usually around 3 am, sometimes a little earlier or later if I’m writing). And first thing in my morning, I sit down at the little computer desk. So I put things on and around that desk to inspire me and start my day off right, and make me happy.
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