Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

11/13/17, Bad for Good

Posted on November 13, 2017

Hi Everyone,

First of all, my apologies for not showing up last week with the blog. I hate letting you down, but I was up to my ears in a massive project: I was moving, which was a huge undertaking. I moved from one apartment to another in Paris, after living in the same place for 13 years. Our family home in San Francisco is the mother ship and home base for me and my family, but I spend half my time in Paris, so that’s important to me and my children too. And being a homebody, I go from one location to the other, and I love my nest. I rent in Paris, found the apartment by accident 13 years ago, it suited me perfectly, I loved it, and somehow assumed I would be able to stay there forever. It sold four times in 13 years, and each time, the owners had it as an investment and let me stay, so I had begun to consider it ‘mine’. A year and a half ago it sold to someone who wanted to live there, and gave me 2 years notice (according to French law) to leave. I was shocked when I received the notice, then crushed. I had denial for about a year—they couldn’t really make me leave, could they? Yes, they could, and they did. It took me 15 months to have the heart to tell my kids we had lost our beloved Paris home. I think I had denial about it until then. My 5 youngest children come and go a lot and stay with me for work, visits, and vacations, so I knew how sad they would be too. I tried valiantly three times to convince the new owner to let me stay, to no avail. So a year after my ‘eviction notice’, I began searching for a new apartment, and the reality was grim, and depressing beyond belief. I hadn’t moved in 13 years, and I had forgotten how miserable that search can be, and how many frogs you have to kiss before you find a prince. I always feel that finding a home is like romance. You know almost instantly if it’s right for you, and there has to be chemistry. Aside from that I’m not a ‘mover’, I have lived in very few homes in my life. I lived in 2 homes through my entire childhood until I married, and two in each marriage. My children were born while we lived in one home, and while they were too young to even remember it, we moved to the home they grew up in and we still live there. And now that they’re grown up, they stay where they live too, and don’t move. We put down roots and stay, so I felt like I was being torn out of our Paris home by the roots, a painful process. It was very emotional for me to have to move, and a horrible thought from a practical standpoint too. And moving is expensive, no matter what you do.

The search for an apartment was almost comical, but not quite. Apartments that were advertised as bigger than they really were. Places were announced as ‘newly renovated’—-yeah, in 1932 maybe, but no more recently than that. Dirty, tired, beaten up, ugly, dark, too expensive, 5th floor walk ups, grim, miserable places I wouldn’t want to spend an hour in, let alone live in. No matter how small, people in France buy their apartments if they possibly can, so the rental market is slim, rental apartments are owned as investments, often treated badly by tenants, so landlords don’t bother to take good care of them, and rent some places in really appalling condition, figuring they’ll get beaten up anyway. So renting an apartment in Paris is not so easy. They also don’t come with any light fixtures or kitchen equipment, and you have to provide your own. (Thank you, Ikea!! I love their kitchens and light fixtures. They save my life!!). Anyway, the search was depressing for six months once I accepted the fact that I had to leave, and I think I saw every beaten up, ugly, grim apartment in Paris. (Sometimes realtors would send beautiful photographs of apartments—-but they turned out not to be the apartments I went to see.). And then with incredible good luck, the person helping me look heard of an apartment that might come on the market, right in my own neighbourhood. We went to see it, and there it was, pure romance, I knew in the first 2 minutes that it was The One. I fell in love then and there. No more frogs, I had found the prince. It was the right size, location, had a warm feeling to it, and was even in my budget (prices had escalated in 13 years, and I was shocked by that too). And then of course, reality and complications set in. An overstaying tenant who was in no hurry to leave, kept changing their minds, and left me hanging. A four month battle ensued, and I doubted I would ever get that apartment. It had everything I wanted but I couldn’t get in.

I packed up my old apartment, and for anyone who has moved, you know what that’s like. My closets were like bottomless pits, or Ali Baba’s cave. Everything we were too lazy to throw away or didn’t know what to do with, wound up in a closet or on a shelf. I spent three months throwing things away, packing other things, getting rid of things I should have gotten rid of years ago. Packing up 13 years of one’s life is a massive job. I compare finding a new home to romance, and moving is like childbirth, painful and an utter mess, until at last you have the end result in your arms, and it all seems worth it. Getting there is NOT half the fun. I’ve spent the last four months packing, sorting, and putting 13 years of my life either in the garbage or in boxes, and sold some things. I did all the packing myself, and let me tell you, I’m in no hurry to do that again. Fortunately, leases are long in France, and a short term lease is 3 years, and most leases are for 6, 9, or even 12 years, which suits me just fine!!! So I packed it all up, and then sat on my boxes and waited for the apartment to become available, which began to seem unlikely, and was stressful as hell. And then, miracle of miracles, with a few days notice, the tenant up and left. We were notified of it on a Sunday afternoon, and since I was all packed up anyway (even my kitchen had been taken apart, ready to move, and all I had left to use were the fridge and the sink, even my stove had been disconnected, and the microwave and toaster packed God knew where, in what box). When the tenant moved out, we moved in the next day. With no time to do painting or fixing anything before I moved in, so movers and painters were bumping into each other as I moved.

And holy shit!!!! What a massive job moving was. The movers were very nice, and I had people to help me, but moving is just a nightmare, as you watch your whole private world come apart, and can’t find anything for weeks. I am very organized so I had lists and plans and notes about everything, and diagrams to show the movers of where things should go—-all of which meant nothing. It was chaos anyway. Utter, total chaos, with boxes everywhere, most of it in the wrong rooms, and I couldn’t find a damn thing. It looked like a war zone.

I also discovered during this process that what someone wise once said is true: anyone on a diet, getting a divorce, or moving is a crashing bore. For the last 3 or 4 months, anyone who said “how are you” to me, whether my butcher, mailman or best friend got a long saga from me about the state of the move. I have been a dead bore to everyone I know with the agony of finding a place, the stress of battling to actually get in, and the chaos and mess of the process of moving to a new address. I’m sure everyone is sick to death of hearing it. But it happened. I did it!!! I moved 19 days ago, worked like a dog 18 hours a day—-setting up a new home, I discover, is kind of like writing a book, you create a whole new universe in your head, you develop a vision of it, and then try to make reality match that vision with whatever you have in hand. I REALLY lucked out, because I’ve had moves in my life where you don’t have enough to fill a new home, and are sitting on orange crates or the equivalent for a while—in this case, I had what I needed, and all I’ve had to buy were some rugs for the kitchen (Ikea again!! I love their stuff), and a medicine chest for my bathroom. I had everything else—the big job was to figure out where to put what. Like a Rubix Cube, or a puzzle. I took it on like a major challenge, and the people who helped me with the move worked as hard as I did to make it all work. I packed it all up myself, and realized that if I tried to unpack it all myself too, I’d be buried for months, so I lined up enough help so I didn’t kill myself in the process, and found a great handyman through a friend to put up shelves, hang things, and put my kitchen back together. And it’s a lot easier to take a place apart than to put one together. I can only do so much, and the boxes were heavy to move around. Two weeks ago, even a week ago, I thought I’d never dig my way out, as I sat looking at the mountain of boxes, and pushed furniture from room to room……and like magic, it has all fallen into place. I have an adorable new office where I can write peacefully, enough room for my kids to visit me and stay as long as they can. Their familiar things are in their rooms, mine are in my room, so it actually feels like home, and doesn’t seem strange and new. My bathroom at the new apartment only had a shower, and I love baths, so my gift to myself was to buy a bathtub small enough to fit in the shower, which feels like a total luxury!!! I love my new home, I would never have moved if I wasn’t forced to, but it has turned out to be a huge blessing in the end.

It has also been a life lesson for me. 21 months ago when I got the eviction notice at my old place, I thought it was one of the worst things that had happened to me. And the six month search for a new apartment confirmed it to me, until I found the new apartment. And four months of battling to get it was definitely not fun…..but in the end, forced from my cozy, familiar home, I find myself in one that I like even better, that suits me better, works better, and I think even my kids will like more. The French call it “un mal pour un bien”, a bad thing for a good one in the end, which is exactly what happened here. What seemed like a very bad thing turned out to be a great one for me. It was forced on me, but I think it was meant to be, and now it feels like a gift. I feel very blessed and incredibly lucky that in this case the ‘bad thing’ turned out to be a happy one. It reminds me that hard things that happen can turn out to be a blessing and a real gift in the end. I walk around the new apartment now, still a little dazed, wondering how all this happened, and how I wound up here. I’m loving it. I unpacked the last box 2 days ago, and the little framed sayings and quotes that I love are on the wall (I hammered them up too late at night and the neighbours have already complained, oops!!!). So I’m home again, and all my old stuff looks fresh and new. It’s a whole new chapter, and a new life in a new place…..so the bad thing in this case turned out to be a very good one!!! It will be a good thing to remember the next time something happens that shakes me up. People kept reminding me how stressful moving is (as if I didn’t already know), and they were right. It was incredibly stressful, but I’m so happy to be home now. And I hope I won’t ever have to move again!!!

much love, Danielle

10/23/17, Napa/Sonoma Fires

Posted on October 23, 2017

 

Hi Everyone,

In the midst of the fires currently raging out of control in Northern California, in Napa, Sonoma, Santa Rosa, and neighboring counties, it is a bittersweet moment for me personally that my fun, happy, entertaining, and hopefully engrossing new book “Fairytale” has come out today, at such a sad time. The book takes place in the lush beauty of the Napa Valley, the California wine country. There is intrigue in it, and some of it involves a winery. I hope people will enjoy the book, but it’s hard for me to focus on that now. The fires in the area have been burning since Sunday, wreaking unimaginable destruction. Whole towns are decimated homes have been burning to the ground, lives have been lost, and hearts have been broken over the tragic losses, people crying over losing everything they own to the fire.
 

For me, Napa is a very special place and we own a home there. My husband and I bought a funny little old farm/ranch when we were first married, over 30 years ago. We turned the farm buildings into little houses and cottages for our many children (most of whom were born after we bought it). We spent every weekend there, and every summer. All of my children’s childhood summers were spent on that old farm we transformed. Its 160 years old, with a Victorian barn, all the structures are wood. We kept the place as the kids grew up, and now they spend time there together, as siblings and adults. There are beautiful old trees around it, an old fashioned porch that surrounds the main house. The entire property is a wonderful gathering place for us, a real old fashioned family home, which is how we use it. They loved it as kids, and went barefoot all summer, and with nine children and their friends, the place was full to the gills every weekend and all summer. ALL our treasured photographs of their childhood are there on the walls, the most treasured possession that we are worried about losing now.
 

As I write this, for the past 40 hours, all the Napa area is at risk, and on fire. Parts of the burning area look like the end of the world. The fire raced over a hill to the back of our property, and is currently a mile away from the back of our property. We don’t know if we will lose the houses on it or not. The fire jumped the road yesterday. There is no predicting which way it will turn, spurred on by the wind. The smoke is so thick in the area that someone who checked on our houses on the property yesterday said that you could not see the houses, from the driveway 20 feet away, all you could see was smoke.  We were told this morning that our houses there are still standing, but that could change in an instant, as the fire burns on less than a mile away. The smoke has drifted all the way to San Francisco 60 miles away, you can barely breathe in the city, the sky is full of smoke, and this morning I could not see out my windows in the city. It looks like it’s snowing, from the ashes falling on the city. The news is full of devastated people looking at the burned out pile of ash that was their home. It breaks my heart to watch it. A tragedy of this magnitude touches us all.
 

I have my own memories, and fears, of fire. When I was five years old, sent away to summer camp, the other children and I were woken by the counselors late at night in the midst of a forest fire that had started, we were wrapped in wet blankets and run across a field to safety, with walls of flame around us. I have been afraid of fire ever since, am ever mindful of it, and have at least two smoke detectors in every room, and fire extinguishers always near at hand. And now this…..a fire we can do nothing to stop, devouring everything in its wake. The fire fighters say it will be days before they can fight it, they are still too busy evacuating people, and trying to save lives. Two of my sons were evacuated from our home at 2 am Sunday night, it took them 5 and a half hours to get back to San Francisco, and at every turn they met a wall of flame, and had to find a different route. The area was closed by then, and the video they took is terrifying.
 

I am devastated by the Napa fires, and the areas around it, heartbroken for those who have lost homes or suffered losses. It is a natural disaster and tragedy we cannot stop. My heart aches for everyone affected. I am so very, very sorry. In a way, I am glad now that I wrote the new book about Napa, to honor it, and bring its beauty to the attention of the world. And in the meantime, my deepest sympathy to everyone affected, and my prayers….and may we all in the area be included in your prayers. We need all the help we can get.

 

with much love, Danielle

10/16/17, Vegasstrong

Posted on October 16, 2017

Hi Everyone,
 

Last week’s blog about the tragic events in Las Vegas merits a follow up. And I hope that all is well with you!!!

I’ve only been in Las Vegas 3 times in my life, and although I’m not a gambler, I had a good time there every time. In fact, the last time I went, I went with my Godchildren from France (aged 3, 6, and 9 at the time) and their parents, and was wondering what we’d find to do with children there, and I was amazed to find that there was lots to do with kids (two hotels with indoor roller coasters, and a wonderful pool at our hotel). And we had a great time.

By a very odd coincidence, while trying to figure out what to do to celebrate one of my daughters’ birthday this year, she decided 6 months ago that she wanted to go to Las Vegas with the whole family, or as many as we could gather. It’s an odd destination for us, but it sounded like fun to everyone, and a great excuse to get together. We originally booked it for the last weekend in September, and then found it wasn’t convenient for my daughters coming from New York and Paris, so we switched it to the following weekend. If we hadn’t, we would have been in Vegas for the fateful weekend.
Like the rest of the world, we were shocked and devastated by news of the tragedy on that Monday, and seriously considered cancelling the trip. Somewhat out of fear of copy cats, but more than anything out of respect for those who had lost their lives and been injured. It seemed like a sad time to go there, and we discussed cancelling and postponing it. But no one could reschedule (we’re a big group to coordinate, coming from many different cities, everyone with busy lives), my daughter was disappointed to lose her family birthday celebration, so we decided to stick to our plans and went to Las Vegas, the weekend immediately after the tragic shooting. We were all a little hesitant about going, and in the end we were glad we went. What we found there was a brave, dignified city, fully paying their respects to all of those affected, while warmly welcoming tourists coming to their town. There was a huge memorial with flowers, at the location of the shooting, (the stage was still set up and dark, as part of the crime scene and investigation, which was sad to see), and billboards everywhere, honoring the dead and injured and their families, and a phone number for counselling. The city was quieter than I have seen it in my previous visits, and even though it was a holiday weekend, it wasn’t as crowded as one would expect. We were hesitant about going, and felt awkward celebrating a birthday while others were mourning, except that it was a very tender, quiet, respectful poignant time. We went to two shows while we were there, which we had tickets for, for many months, and at both shows they stopped the show at one point to speak about what had happened and offer their sympathy to all of those affected. If there is a gracious way to handle such shocking events, I thought that the city of Las Vegas did a noble job of it. And everywhere were signs that said “Vegasstrong”. Indeed they are, to come through such a terrible event, and still try to keep things balanced and running smoothly, and be gracious to people who came to visit so soon after.

We stayed at the Wynn Hotel, which was terrific, and I was honored to meet Mr. Wynn himself for the second time, an extraordinarily nice man with a lovely wife. He made a point of welcoming us, which was an honor. And we thoroughly enjoyed the hotel. None of us are really gamblers, but we spent some time in the casino one night, I put a 20 dollar bill into a slot machine, and I must have hit the luckiest slot machine in the house. I played for 4 hours on the same machine, and it gave me back enough money to keep me playing for hours. I had great fun doing it, while the others in our group did the same for a while, and then went to have drinks (and laughed at me glued to my slot machine, and I went home with $300.) Far more dangerous than the gambling tables for me is the shopping in Las Vegas. WOW!!! The Wynn and its sister hotel the Encore have fabulous esplanades with gorgeous shops. We went to two shopping Malls, the Crystals, and Fashion Show Plaza. We had an excellent dinner at the Encore, with a light and water show, eating outdoors, and a Mexican restaurant the second night. And we went to two of the famous Vegas shows. We had planned to see Jennifer Lopez, who cancelled, in honor of those who had died and were injured. And instead we saw Criss Angel, an extraordinary magic show, and we saw the very impressive Michael Jackson Show of the Cirque du Soleil, which was dazzling. There were images of Michael Jackson dancing on screens, and it made me intensely sad watching his incredible talent, and knowing that he is a bright light no longer here. Another tragic loss.

There were many quiet sobering moments while we were there, thinking of what had happened. And the best part of the trip for us was our family being together for a special weekend, honoring my daughter. But instead of feeling odd or wrong for being in Vegas, we all agreed that there was something very touching about being there, knowing what had happened, and feeling the solidarity of the city, who will rise from this tragedy, with tender memories of those lost, but a tremendous feeling of strength that they will not be daunted or destroyed by this event. They are exactly what they say: Vegasstrong. I came away with a huge feeling of respect for them, and renewed sympathy for those whose lives were lost, or were injured.

It was a very special weekend, for many reasons, and we were all glad we went. Our hearts are with you, Las Vegas…..We mourn your losses with you, and celebrate your dignity and your strength!!! Vegasstrong!!!

love, Danielle

10/9/17, It Has to Stop!!

Posted on October 9, 2017

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’re all well, safe, happy, and that things are going well.

I had only just written and posted my blog to you last week about Bouncing Back, when during a very late night business call with France, I learned about the horror that happened in Las Vegas. It had just happened during the middle of the night in California, and within minutes I had calls and texts from many friends in France, with sympathy and compassion. The French know the tragedy of these mass public massacres. It has happened too often in the last few years, in France, and so many other countries around the world. And we haven’t become inured to them, but tragically, we are no longer surprised either. We are heartbroken, and deeply pained for the loss of life, the broken families, the lost loved ones, the injured, but it happens so much too often. In Marseille last week as well where two young women were stabbed by a madman, in Canada where a car barreled into a crowd….the Bataclan in Paris….Spain. The hideous attack in Norway on a group of children, Sandy Hook where children and teachers were gunned down, and the Orlando nightclub shooting, the attack in Manchester, England. We can reel them off now, in different cities and countries, most often a crime committed by a lone gunman, killing and injuring a staggering number of people. The perpetrator usually kills themselves, and then afterwards people who barely knew them, as neighbors or schoolmates, either say how odd they were, or that they seemed totally normal, and the attack comes as a surprise to all.  NO!!! WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR WORLD??? What is wrong? What terrible pervasive illness has poisoned and infected our society so that these attacks keep happening again and again? Most of the time there is no reason for it, not even political.

When I was very, very young, a child or in my teens, it was the ‘fashion’ for criminals to hijack airplanes, and no one got on a plane without wondering if the plane would be kidnapped and landed in some distant place. And now it is these appalling mass murders, where hand held videos are shown afterwards, with all the images jumbled, and hordes of people fleeing in panic, screaming in terror, and hundreds lie dead afterwards, as the lives of all those who loved them are changed forever. We are ALL changed forever by these events. We are diminished, we are broken, we are tarnished that these things continue to happen and we haven’t found a way to stop them, or to see these events coming, committed by marginal people who often have been suspiciously anti-social and disturbed for years, and then it erupts like a volcano, and hundreds lie dead. How did the plane hijackings stop? Did people just get tired of them? Did they go out of style? I suppose security measures got tighter even before 9/11, and it became too difficult to hijack a plane. Why can’t we get better at stopping these horrendous attacks, instead of describing them so vividly afterwards?? In most fancy stores now (even at the Disney store in Paris, when I shop for my Godchildren), a guard stares into the mess in my purse, and I know he can’t find anything relevant in it, because I can never find anything in my purse, and least of all my keys. And if someone were carrying a bomb or a weapon, would they really have it sitting in their purse? We are losing precious lives here, we are losing people we love.  There are no strangers among these victims, we are all brothers and sisters faced with these heartbreaking attacks. I’ve mentioned to you, and again in the last blog, that my 17 year old great niece lost her legs in the attack on the Brussels airport. She is an extraordinary young woman, and has survived it remarkably with spirit and courage, but most people don’t realize that with the kind of bombs and weapons used now, ‘injured’ does not mean a sprained wrist, a minor burn, or a broken leg, it means loss of limbs, sometimes several limbs, and bodies blown apart in a way that until now only happened in wars. My great niece was in a military hospital afterwards because of the nature of her injuries. But injured after these attacks now is life altering, and so is the trauma.

When do we stop this? How do we stop it? Where do we stop it? Not just to shake our heads and cry when we hear the news, and watch yet another video of a screaming crowd running in fear of their lives. I don’t want to see that video again. Committing these crimes is too easy, the perpetrators slip right through all the nets and filters, they slip quietly under the radar, sometimes for years, and then attack. The shooter in Las Vegas killed (as of this writing) 58 people, and injured OVER FIVE HUNDRED. It was the worst massacre of its kind in US History. And so was the attack in Nice, France a year ago, the attack in Brussels, and the Bataclan nightclub attack in Paris before that. STOP!!! No More!! The Las Vegas shooter injured and killed all of those people in 4 and a half minutes, with 10 assault weapons he brought into the hotel in a golf bag, got a room, broke a window, and  started shooting, as people started running, screaming, and falling dead. Others simply get into their car now, or rent a truck and plow into a crowd, or run their car up on the sidewalk and kill a mob of people. How easy is that? You don’t have to know how to build a bomb, you don’t need military training, you just drive into live humans, even children, and end their lives.

No!!! NO! Stop!!! It really has to stop. We come from civilized nations, we are educated to whatever degree, and even if not, we are humans, why are we not dealing better with our mentally ill? And if people have political beefs against other nations, they need to find another way to express it. I haven’t been to a movie theater in 2 years in Paris, because there is a good chance that the Bataclan could and will happen again. The same with sporting events in stadiums there, or night clubs. We can’t give up all the joy and freedom in our lives to fear, but we can’t be foolish either. These massacres are a plague which so far we have no cure for, no vaccine, no protocol, no means of predicting it. And again and again, people are dying in large numbers around the world. Innocent people, children, people with dreams and families and men and women who love each other, good people who were kind to others, and contributed to the world…..please, let us join hands and hearts and find a way to stop the senseless killing and to find an early detection system of some kind so we can identify the perpetrators before they do it, not after. Please…….it has to stop. And my heartfelt sympathy and profound compassion to everyone affected in Las Vegas. For now, we are all losers in this terrible war. May we find a way to bring peace to our world, to express our differences in a non-violent way, to put down our arms, to embrace our brothers and sisters, before we become a nation of widows and orphans, drowning in a sea of broken hearts.

May those who died rest in peace, and may the rest of us learn to live in peace.

 

much love, Danielle

10/2/17, Bounce Back

Posted on October 2, 2017

 

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’ve had a great week. Mine has not been one of my best, although I saw a movie I really loved “Victoria and Abdul”, with Judy Dench. It’s about Queen Victoria in her final years, and a young Indian commoner, who worked for her, and became a best friend/confidante/almost like a son to her. She must have had a lonely life as the monarch of a vast empire, the longest reigning queen in history, until the current Queen Elizabeth II. Her love for the husband, Prince Albert, whom she married at nineteen, was legendary, and he died at forty one, leaving her alone for more than fifty years until she died. Supposedly, she had his clothes laid out every day after his death, for the rest of her life, and never recovered from his death. So to see the true story (undoubtedly with some dramatizations) of the companionship she found very late in life, from a young man who worked for her and stayed with her until she died, was very touching and poignant. You see the weight on her of being responsible for an empire, the loneliness it created, the people around her jockeying for position, and trying to take advantage of her whenever possible, and the comfort, support and solace she found with this unexpected young man. I loved the movie, and the insight into a Queen who has always fascinated me, and fabulous performances by Judy Dench, and the rest of the cast. What an extraordinary actress. I really loved the movie and both its historical and human aspects.

My week has not been a shining or glorious one, the kind of week that shakes you up, dumps you on your head, breaks your heart a little, and really forces you to scramble, and dig for what you believe in, or say you do. I’ve been working incredibly hard on a project for the past 3 months, involving my home. It was physically and mentally exhausting, and a wonderful challenge filled with joy. I had a great time with it, and put my heart and soul into it, and worked hard on it, and expected a great and happy result. It involved some other people, and I discovered this week that they hadn’t been honest with me, did some double dealing behind my back—-and as happens in life, totally by accident, it all came out, and I made some very nasty discoveries, was brutally disappointed, and will probably lose quite a bit of money over it. My first reaction was shock, crushing disappointment, and overwhelming sadness to have been lied to, misled, and taken advantage of. It happens to most of us at some point, to be disappointed or betrayed by someone, and suffer a loss as a result. And it’s happened to me before too. But as much as the money lost, there is that incredible childlike feeling, like a kid in the sandbox, when another kid kicks sand in your eyes, and you want to just sit there and cry and say “Why did you do that?” HOW could they do that, but some people just don’t have the honor or the scruples to do the honorable thing. And then what do you do? To the best of my ability, I fought back. But sometimes you just don’t win. And that’s hard to stomach too. I have fought my way through a hurricane of emotions this week, from sadness and disappointment to anger and then back to sadness again. There is a wonderful (well not so wonderful, but very apt) word in French which is “lache”. There is really no exact English translation for it, but it means cowardly and dishonorable, people who do the wrong thing, and try to get away with it. It’s ugly and incredibly painful when it happens to you, when someone around you is “lache”, and intentionally hurts you by doing the wrong thing. And if you’ve been square, honest, and fair with them, it hurts even more.

I think in this case, I was taken for a fool, the people involved thought I wouldn’t fight back and they’d get away with it, or maybe they just didn’t care, and did what was the easiest and most convenient for them. It involved being incredibly dishonest with me. When I discovered it, it felt like a massive kick in the gut, and knocked the wind right out of me. I was literally shaking when I made the discovery. Someone “squealed”. And these people had been looking me in the eye, knowing they had been lying to me.

As you know, I love collecting encouraging sayings, I frame them, and hang them on my office wall. I started thinking about them, and it really made me ask myself if I believe what I say. One of them says “When you hit a disappointment, don’t stop there, keep going.” “When a chapter ends badly, that’s not the end of the story, turn the page”. And the one I kept thinking of was a very simple one “Bounce Back”. I will confess that I whined a lot this week, and felt sorry for myself, but I also realize that the sayings on my wall are true. When you get disappointed in life (and this was a big one), you can’t just stop there. Life doesn’t end at that moment, you have to go on, rebuild whatever has been destroyed or lost, and pick yourself up. You HAVE to, there is no other choice. It’s not easy, and dragging yourself around when you’ve been taken advantage of, lied to, or abused is REALLY hard. But do I believe the sayings on my wall, or not? Am I going to just lie down and quit because things went wrong? It’s not the end of the story. There will be other chapters, and victories at other times. My kids were wonderful and supportive because they knew how much the project meant to me. Losing something you care about and have invested yourself in is a real loss, almost like losing a person or a friend.

But I also know what’s real in life, and what isn’t. I survived losing my son Nick, and that’s as hard as it gets. One of the criteria in my life is ‘will this matter in 20 years?”. Most things you won’t even remember then, and won’t matter. This is one of those things I’ll look back on, know it was a rotten experience, but many good things will have happened to balance it in 20 years. So this will never be a good memory, but other good things will come. And we all get kicked in the stomach sometimes. It teaches us something, and in the long run, it makes us strong. I love the saying too that we are “stronger in the broken places”. I think that’s true too.

So here I am. The life lessons were tough this week. I couldn’t have seen this coming, or predicted that these people would really do a lousy thing to me. But it’s not the end of the world. No one I love died. It won’t ruin my life. It’s just one of those nasty times that hurt, and yeah, there are people in the world who hurt us, and are out to do some pretty nasty things at our expense. Getting revenge won’t make me a better person, and won’t get me far. And even if I’m sad for a while, it will make me stronger in the end.

So my conclusion after a really tough week is that the little sign on my office wall is right: Bounce Back. There’s no other choice really. And now I get to practice what I preach—-and what I frame!! And I get to model for my kids that you can be knocked flat on your ass and have the wind knocked out of you, and you can get up, get moving and recover, and life will be good again.

It has been an utterly crap, tough, upsetting, disappointing week—but so what? It happens to all of us, and I think that sign is the only option: Bounce Back. I’m not bouncing too high yet, but I’ll get there. Things will look better eventually, not all things we want work out, no matter how hard we try. And not all people behave honorably. But whatever happens, when the roof falls in, there is really only one choice, for your own sake: Bounce Back!! I’m working on it. It’s actually what my books are about—that tough things happen to all of us, but we can survive them. And hard or even bad things happen to ALL people, fame, looks, money, and success don’t protect us from the tough stuff. Rich or poor, old or young, famous or not, these things happen to us all. I’ll recover from this, and good things will happen again…..and in the meantime, I will be working on bouncing back!!! Have a safe, happy, wonderful week!!! And I’ll try to do the same. Seeing the wonderful movie about Queen Victoria cheered me up!!!

love, Danielle

ps. As some of you also know, through this blog, my 17 year old great niece was in the terrorist attack at the Brussels airport 18 months ago. She was one of only 2 people who survived the bomb explosion in the terminal she was in, she was badly burned and lost both her legs, but she survived. Eighteen months later, she had countless surgeries, was in the hospital for 7 months, and since then returned to school, graduated, and has proven to be the most remarkable young woman imaginable with spunk, and drive and courage and determination to have a good, independent life, no matter what happened. The entire school gave her a standing ovation when she came back. Now, she is about to enter intensive rehab for a year at a military facility, where she will be taught to lead a fully independent life. When she finishes, she will start college, and she is already training for the Paralympics, for the equestrian events. She is an extraordinary rider, and had wanted to enter the Olympics, now she will compete in the next Paralympics. Nothing stops her and she absolutely radiates courage and joy. There was a short film made of her, that she did to support an organization that helped her when she was in the hospital, in which she said, that the accident that happened to her was the best thing that ever happened to her, because it taught her so much as a result. I cry just writing that, at what an amazing young woman she is!!!

THAT is real. THAT is courage. A breathtaking unthinkably horrific incident met with that kind of courage and determination. Compared to that, my little disappointment is nothing. Bigger events give one perspective, and given what my great niece has experienced and the positive spin she has put on it—how can I even complain?? I can’t.

love, Danielle

Filed Under Art, Current Events | 7 Comments

9/11/17, “In Memory”

Posted on September 11, 2017

 

Hi Everyone,
 

Wow…time seems to be flying too quickly, as always, and as I get back to serious writing in the fall, the date struck me a few days ago, and I was shocked to realize that today is not only the anniversary of September 11, but it is the SIXTEENTH anniversary of it. Sixteen years? Is that possible? I think it is one of the most striking moments of our history, one of two in my lifetime, the other being the assassination of John F. Kennedy when I was still a kid in school. Others have compared 9/11 to Pearl Harbour, when America was attacked on its own turf, and it catapulted us into World War II. I suppose the beginning of every war is that way, whether the First World War, or the Second. Fortunately 9/11 did not lead to a war but was certainly a life changing event for all of us.
 

As with the Kennedy assassination, I think all of us remember where we were when we heard about 9/11. I was in bed, asleep in California, around 6 am, some of my kids were still young then, so I had a nanny to help me with them. It was around 9 am in the East. And the nanny I had was a sweet woman, she was English, and had that very dry, crisp style that some English women have. She came into my bedroom and woke me up, and said in a strong official voice, “America is under attack. I thought you should know”. Thought I should know?? Was she kidding? But no one kids about something like that. I woke up instantly and sat up and asked what she meant by “under attack”. I had visions of New York being bombed. I had a daughter in New York at the time, and another one in Washington, DC. I turned on the TV, just in time to see the second tower go down. And I was finally able to reach my daughter in DC, and asked if she was okay. She sounded mystified, and had no idea what had happened. She lived relatively close to the Pentagon, and she looked out the window as we were talking, and couldn’t believe her eyes, as smoke poured out of the Pentagon, after the plane had crashed into it. I would have liked to bring both daughters in the East home to California, but there was no easy way to get them out, since the airports were closed, and stayed closed for many days.
 

My first thoughts were for my children’s safety, and it took hours to absorb what had happened in a broader sense. Watching the ongoing news on TV, and seeing the building collapse, it looked like a science fiction movie. It just couldn’t be real…..could it? The World Trade Center collapsing? That just wasn’t possible. I watched the news on TV all that day, and little by little it began to sink in. The image of people leaping from the building, some holding hands, is an image I will never forget. So many people affected, so many lives lost, so many dreams shattered on that day. 2,996 people killed, and more than 6,000 wounded. And so many stories of incredible bravery. It truly is a day none of us will ever forget, nor should we. And that incredible feeling of having been invaded, violated, attacked on our home turf. Where do you feel safe after that?
 

I spent the entire day watching TV with friends, and one of them said “This is going to change everything, our lives will never be the same again”. I thought that was an exaggerated statement, and couldn’t see what he meant. But with hindsight, I know now that he was 100% right. Travel has changed radically, and the rules at airports get more stringent every day. It’s a good thing, and ultimately protects us from another 9/11, but it’s a sad statement about our world, that some people have evil intentions and want to hurt the rest of us. (We have seen smaller versions of it in many countries, including our own for the past sixteen years). It has certainly made travel infinitely more complicated, all the safety measures we go through now, that didn’t exist before….and the concerns, the fears. My children always call me now before a flight, just to tell me that they love me, they started doing that after 9/11, and I always know that they’re not just saying I love you, they’re saying goodbye in case they never call again. What a terrible thought. And I call them before I fly too, for the same reason. We never discuss the reasoning behind the call, we just do it. But there is an instant when I last see them, before they fly somewhere, or I do, when we cling to each other for just an extra second or two, in case it’s our last chance to do so.
 

Like any act of terrorism or violence, 9/11 has marked us. The scars will always be there, for the families and survivors of the brave men and women who died there. We heal in time, but there is no question, an event of that magnitude is life changing in every possible way. Historically, personally, nationally, internationally. It was a terrible, terrible event.
 

I couldn’t let this day go by without acknowledging it—-without sending my deepest sympathy and tender compassion to those who lived through it, and the families and loved ones of those who didn’t. I hope nothing like it ever happens again. I’m sure we all hope that.  May our prayers be heard for a more peaceful world.
 

With deepest condolences, yet again 16 years later, and all my love, Danielle

Filed Under Current Events | 7 Comments

8/28/17, “Fight!”

Posted on August 28, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I hope all is well with you and life is going smoothly. I’ve been back at work and VERY busy writing, and revving up for September, right around the corner!!

I did something atypical for me and interesting this weekend. It’s a nice counterpoint and balance to the fashion shows I report to you from Paris!! (And possibly a relief for those who read my blog and don’t want to hear about fashion). Like a great many people, I watched the Conor McGregor/ Floyd Mayweather fight in Las Vegas—I saw it on TV, not in person. The seats apparently were selling for an absolute fortune, thousands of dollars, and I was told that some of the best seats sold for $40,000. From what I saw on TV, it was a star studded audience of famous people and celebrities, masses of enthusiasts and supporters, the hype beforehand was enormous, and the excitement in the fight location was palpable. It was a BIG event!!! I’ve only been to one actual prize fight in my life, because I knew the organizer, but it was small town, small scale, and a minor event. It looked messy more than glamourous or organized (and I didn’t enjoy it, or ever want to see a boxing match again). And as those of you who follow the sport know, Floyd Mayweather came out of retirement, at 40, for this fight, which was a HUGE money making event, with millions to be gained from it, for the promoters, and the fighters. It was a very big deal. Also, an unusual event because Conor McGregor is an experienced ‘cage fighter’ in the MMA, so not a traditional boxer. It was his first official boxing event, and he couldn’t use the variety of skills that he can in cage fighting.

The idea of watching two men beat each other up, as a ‘fun’ spectator sport has never appealed to me, and is certainly violent, but the attention around it was hard to resist, so I decided to watch it. At the one boxing event I went to years ago, I had a front row seat which was a lot closer to the action than I’d ever want to be. Sitting at home, watching it on TV, made it a much ‘cleaner’ event, gave me enough distance to be comfortable, and was a lot easier to watch. And I found it fascinating. One of the elements I found interesting was that Mayweather came out of retirement for the fight, and said it would be his last one, so a final victory and undefeated fight as the last one in his career heightened the tension around the fight. He had a perfect record of never having lost a fight which seemed remarkable. His opponent, Conor McGregor, who is Irish, is 29 years old, and has a long career ahead of him, to make up for it if he lost the fight to Mayweather. Mayweather is certainly a colorful persona, who wears flashy boxing outfits, and has lots to say, which makes it that much more fun to watch. (There’s a fashion element here after all!!). He entered the ring wearing a black and gold robe (his entire support team wore matching ones), black and gold shorts and matching shoes. McGregor wore less flashy white shorts, and was draped in the Irish flag when he walked in. And both men were obviously talented professionals. I was impressed by the main referee as well, when he reminded both fighters of the rules at the beginning, before the fight started. I was also startled, while watching the fight, by how little time they had between rounds, to recover and catch their breath in their corners, while their supporters ministered to them. (They applied ice bags to McGregor after each round).

Experience-wise, apparently McGregor was at a disadvantage, as apparently cage fighting only goes 5 rounds (and boxing events 12 rounds), so the concern was that he wouldn’t have the endurance to go twelve rounds—-and in fact he didn’t. After the 5th round, he looked seriously winded, and rapidly started to look worn out in subsequent rounds.

In the first three or four rounds, McGregor swung a lot at Mayweather, and landed a lot of punches, some of them not acceptable in boxing: several hard punches to the back of his opponent’s head. Mayweather let McGregor use up his energy and his best shots in the early rounds, and let him wear himself out, and as the fight progressed, Mayweather came to life, and his expertise and skill became apparent as he honed in on McGregor and began hitting hard. In the ninth round, it became clear that McGregor wouldn’t hold up much longer, and began to look dazed. And in the tenth round, Mayweather used all the strength, experience and skill that has won him a career of wins, and landed at least a dozen punches, that McGregor could no longer ward off and return, and when the fight became entirely one sided, with McGregor no longer able to defend himself, the referee ended it and declared it a victory for Mayweather with a TKO (Technical knockout, he wasn’t unconscious, or on the floor, but McGregor’s ability to fight was over. It would have been cruel, and potentially dangerous if the fight had continued past that point.) I thought that the referee ended the fight at exactly the right time, when it was no longer sport or entertainment, the victory was clearly Mayweather’s, and McGregor would surely have been in danger had it continued. I thought the referee did his job well.

What impressed me most, and I really liked, beyond the sport and the hype and the excitement in the room, and the spectacle of it, was the good sportsmanship instantly shown by BOTH fighters, immediately when the fight ended. There was no gloating, no malice, not even disappointment on McGregor’s part. For those first instants after the fight ended, the two men smiled at each other, hugged, talked, congratulated each other, and each immediately sung their opponent’s praises when mikes were pushed into their faces for comments. They had nothing but good things to say about each other. It was really a good fight, the audience got their money’s worth with ten rounds full of action, and an end to the fight which was reasonable and responsible. It’s always disappointing not to win, and McGregor must have felt some of that, but it didn’t show. He looked excited and happy to have been there at all, and the respect between the two men was impressive. In so many sports, you don’t see that kind of sportsmanship, and you see angry players, who stomp around, glare at each other, behave badly, and claim they were cheated out of their victory by someone, and can’t simply accept graciously that they lost. There was none of that here!!! And it was noteworthy that Mayweather was able to finish his career with a final victory making him undefeated for all 50 fights of his career, an extraordinary record.

So there was no official fashion show, gorgeous models were not heading down the runway, showing next year’s fashions, and there was no bride at the end of an haute couture show, no designers took a bow, as they do at the events I usually go to, but it was interesting and different for me to see it. It was a milestone event for both men, McGregor’s first official boxing match, against a formidable opponent, and a final win in Mayweather’s undefeated career. A great deal of money was made on all sides, all aspects of the sport were respected, the fans got to watch an action packed boxing match between two impressive pros, and Mayweather can go back into retirement with a final victory to his credit. And it’s back to fashion shows in Paris for me!!

love, Danielle

Filed Under Current Events | 2 Comments

8/7/17, God Bless America!

Posted on August 7, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I’m still a little dazed from travelling, moving around a lot in the last few weeks, and a vacation with my kids, and now getting back to work. I’ve been doing re-writes (on books) all week. And I had a REALLY lovely experience I want to share with you.

One of my employees, a wonderful woman, became an American citizen this week, and I was honored to be invited to the ceremony. I’ve never been to one before, and I was thrilled to go. I knew it was an important moment for her. She is Italian, and grew up in England, and has been in the US for more than 30 years, with a green card, and decided to become a citizen. And the ceremony was beautifully organized, and very touching. It was held in really lovely theater from the 1930’s, there were 1,014 people naturalized, from 92 countries. And everything was perfectly planned from the moment we got there.

While we waited for the ceremony to start there were films of various beautiful parts of the US, and some wonderful film clips of Ellis Island, which is a fascinating place, which I’ve researched in the past for several books. The stories of immigrants there in the early days are very touching, and they have remarkable records, where you can find your ancestors in the ledgers of immigrants going back over 100 years. We were greeted by various Federal employees, a chorus sang, and there was a mounting sense of excitement as we waited for the new citizens to take the oath. It’s a long, long process for many, until they get to the final event. We saw a wonderful film clip from Madeleine Albright, the previous ambassador to the UN, and Secretary of State (under Clinton). who was apparently Czechoslovakian, and came to the US at eleven. She gave a very moving talk of what it meant to her then and now. There were a few more speeches, we sang the Star Spangled Banner, pledged allegiance to the flag, and then finally the oath was administered and 1,014 people became Americans. What touched me profoundly was how excited and thrilled they were, and how much it obviously meant to them. To those of us born here, we take our citizenship and freedoms for granted much of the time, and then you see how much it means to others, how they have struggled for it, and wished for it, it really makes you realize how precious those freedoms are, and what a gift.

After the ceremony, people milled around outside with a festive feeling and atmosphere, then a group of us went to lunch to celebrate with her. It was a fun day, and a very special moment I was proud to share!!

The other excitement of my week was official, but less patriotic, and a lot less fun—Upon renewal of a drivers’ license in California now, you have to take the written test, every five years. The booklet of questions to prepare you for it is 80 pages long, with sooo MUCH to remember. I passed, but was terrified I wouldn’t.

So I’m keeping busy and having fun. It was a very ‘official’ week for me!!! I hope you’re having a great summer!!!

lots of love, Danielle

7/31/17, Two weeks “off”?

Posted on July 31, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I apologize for not writing to you for the last two weeks. I don’t know if they qualify as “off”. The time has flown. It has actually been an insanely busy couple of months, and especially for the last two weeks. I barely got a minute to sit down, and answer a letter or write a blog, or keep up with returning phone calls. Five of my children visited me for 10 days, and we went away for 6 days of it, as we do every year. I had a lot of things to do in my house, I had a re-write to do on a book, I decided to weed some things out in my house and sold some furniture, and with one thing and another, I haven’t stopped for two weeks. The vacation with my children was really lovely, and I’m always grateful for the time we spend together. The time just whizzed by, and 6 days for a vacation just isn’t very long. By the time you get settled, wherever you go, it’s time to pack up and leave. They left a week ago, and I haven’t stopped since!!! I’m going to be seeing them again in August.

I also went to New York and saw 3 of my daughters there, and met up with friends from Paris, who had three of their children with them. We’ve had some good times and good meals out together. Now tomorrow it’s back to real life, and I have another re-write to do. I do many, many re writes before a book finally gets published. It takes a couple of years from when I write a book until it gets into your hands.

One nice thing happened this summer, aside from seeing my children which I always love—my three little dogs have finally gotten used to each other, and seem happy together now. It was a hard adjustment, the third dog really upset the apple cart, and REALLY upset one of my other dogs—but she’s grown up and is less of a puppy now, and the three are finally friends. It took nine months—-and when I added the second dog four years ago, it took six months for them to adapt and bond. But we are finally getting there now.

So it’s back to the grind for me now, time to get back to work. The vacation is over. Thank you for your patience!!! I’ll be hunkering down with the typewriter tonight and for the next several weeks!!!

lots of love, Danielle

7/10/17, Fabulous Again!!

Posted on July 10, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I hope you had a great Fourth of July, and did something really fun!!!

I didn’t get to celebrate the fourth, but I had a fun time going to the Chanel Haute Couture Fashion Show, with one of my daughters (who works in fashion herself, and had just put on a beautiful fashion show two days before.) As I’ve mentioned before, the stage setting at the Chanel shows are just AMAZING!! Not just the fashions. For one of his recent shows, they had a rocket ship center stage—a life size model of one, which was cleverly built to look like it was taking off. It was incredible. This time, they had built a replica of the Eiffel Tower inside the Grand Palais, where they hold their shows. And the top of it was enveloped in fog (smoke blowing at the top of it). I am always mesmerized by the scenery as much as the fashions. I can’t even imagine what goes into building those sets!!!

The show was very beautiful, and the clothes were just lovely—-for the fall/winter season. It’s always a special treat to go to their fashion shows, and I am always in awe of the genius and talent of the designer, Karl Lagerfeld, who is well into his 80’s now and still going strong, and a powerhouse and legend in fashion. It’s wonderful to see someone so full of talent, still creating, still innovative and still inspired—it’s inspiring just to see what he does. Time has not dimmed his talent or slowed down his creative genius!!!

Other than that, I have a new book that came out last week, “The Duchess”, it’s a historical novel set in the 19th century in England and Paris, about a young woman who, according to the laws of the times, inherits nothing when her father dies, and is turned away by her nasty half-brothers (Only men could inherit then, in England). From a privileged protected life, with an adoring father, she finds herself alone in the world, with no skills, no allies, no one to protect her. She goes to Paris, and through a series of unexpected events, she opens a brothel at the age of 20 or 21, and runs the most glittering, glamourous brothel in Paris, and finds herself at the center of power, surrounded by the most important men of the times. She eventually goes to America, and has a whole new life there, and the book is about how she turns adversity into a quite remarkable life, and what happens after that. It’s a different theme for me, and I hope you love it!!! A fun summer read for the beach or wherever you spend time this summer!!!

Have a great week!!
lots and lots of love, Danielle