Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

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

1/8/18, Golden Years

Posted on January 8, 2018

Hi Everyone,

I hope that 2018 is off to a great start for you, and that the year has begun smoothly. Getting through the holidays is something of a mad dash, and then there seems to be a lull at the beginning of the year, when things are quiet for a while, and nothing much happens.

I’ve never liked new year’s resolutions, and making promises that are hard to live up to, I may not keep, and probably won’t. And I almost always ignore the flood of jokes, wisdoms, and ‘clever’ things that people send me from the Internet, although some of them are very funny. But a friend in Europe recently sent me a list of suggestions of ‘rules to live by’ for one’s golden years, from the Internet, that I actually liked a lot. 20 suggestions that caught my attention, and actually sounded like wise advice, at every age, so I’m passing them on to you. I don’t know the source, but I really thought the list worthwhile. I’m not sure when the ‘golden years’ begin, or how golden they really are. It’s an art to age gracefully, to be a good sport as one watches one’s kids grow up and fly off to their own lives. But suddenly one day, the kids are grown, and you wonder where the time went, and how life has gone so quickly. Some people get crabby about it, or sad, or bitter, while others face it admirably with energy and grace. I always admire older people who are busy, active, and have a positive outlook on life. Good health is a vital part of it, but a good attitude about whatever stage of life one is at seems essential. So for what it’s worth, I’m passing the list on to you. I really liked it.

RULES FOR OUR GOLDEN YEARS. Things to think about.

1. Use the money you have saved. Use it and take advantage of it and enjoy it.
Don’t save it for those who have no idea of the sacrifices you made to earn it. Take advantage of and enjoy the present.

2. Stop worrying, about your children and grandchildren. You’ve taken care of them for many years. You gave them an education. They are responsible now for themselves.

3. Maintain a healthy life, with moderate exercise. Eat well, walk, respect your sleep, since its harder now to stay in perfect health. Stay informed about your health, without excess.

4. Always buy the best and most beautiful elements for yourself. The main objective is to enjoy your life.

5. Don’t insist on the little things. You’ve overcome many things in your life, today is important, it’s the present. Don’t let the future frighten you.

6. Independent of age, keep love alive. Love of everything, of your family, of your environment, of your country.

7. Be proud, as much about your inside as your outside. Don’t stop going out. Take care of your body, you’ll feel better and stronger.

8. Don’t lose sight of fashion trends for your age, but keep your own sense of style.

9. Read the papers. Watch the news. Listen, read, make sure your message machine or voice mail is working, and try to use some form of social media. You’ll be surprised by new encounters and new people you meet as a result.

10. Respect younger generations and their opinions. Give advice and not criticism, and try to remind them of the wisdom of the past which applies to the present.

11. Never use the words “In my day”. Your Day is NOW!! You were younger once, but you still exist now. Have fun and enjoy life!

12. Embrace your “golden years”. Spend your time with positive, joyous people, they’ll rub off on you and your days will seem much more agreeable.

13. Resist the temptation to live with your children or grandchildren. They need to live their lives, and you need to live yours.

14. Don’t give up your leisure activities and hobbies. If you don’t have any, organize/plan some hobbies. Find something that you love and spend some good time, have fun.

15. Even if it doesn’t always thrill you, accept invitations. Baptisms, parties, birthdays, marriages, conferences. Do It!! The important thing is to leave the house from time to time.

16. Talk less and listen more. Don’t tell long stories unless you are asked to. Use a courteous tone, and try to stay positive.

17. If you’ve been offended by others, forgive them. Someone said “Holding a grudge against someone is like taking poison.”

18. If you have a strong belief/conviction, keep it. Don’t waste your time trying to convince others. Be faithful to your beliefs and choices.

19. Laugh. Laugh a lot. Laugh at everything. Convince yourself that you are among the luckiest. You succeeded at having a life, a long life.

20. Don’t pay any attention to what others say. Be proud to be yourself, proud of what you have accomplished. There is still a lot of happiness to take from life, so grab it!!

I really liked the reminder to keep up with the news. It’s so overwhelming at times, that it’s tempting to ignore what’s happening in the world. I liked too being reminded to accept invitations. It’s easy, at every age, to turn down invitations that sound dull or boring or just plain tiresome. But almost every time I accept an invitation that I was dubious about, I end up meeting someone really interesting, or have a much better time than I expected. It’s good to get out there, get dressed up and meet new people. It gives us a new perspective on life. And worrying less is always good advice for me, I worry too much about the people I love, and most of what I worry about never happens. Staying positive about life can be a challenge, but it’s so important, at every age. I know some young people who have a dreary, sour, defeated attitude about life, and some old ones who are incredibly positive and cheerful in their outlook on life. Who would you rather be around? The positive ones, or the angry, unhappy people who feel cheated by life, complain all the time, and bring you down?

I really liked the advice in these suggestions, and it reminded me that life can be ‘golden’ at any age. It all depends on how we view it. So I pass this on to you.

Have a great week!!

love, Danielle

1/1/18, Clean Slate

Posted on January 1, 2018

Hi Everyone,

I hope that Christmas has been joyful and peaceful for you, and happened the way you wanted it to, with some happy surprises!!

Mine has been a family Christmas, which is how I like it, with my children around me, and I’ve been very lucky that my 5 younger children and their significant others all came home for Christmas, and my three older ones were nearby too. It’s been a lovely Christmas.

It’s a nostalgic time, when inevitably you think of Christmases of years past, when they were all here, living at home, we hadn’t lost anyone, and life was easier than we realized then. It’s easy to spot the blessings as you look to the past, and sometimes not as easy to recognize them in everyday life, while we’re all occupied with the business of daily living. The past seems infinitely precious now, but so is the present. I’m very grateful to have had my children with me this Christmas. And we can all heave a sigh of relief, the presents are all given out, the rushing around is all done. We pulled off the holidays for another year, and the mad rush that impacts all or most of us between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

And now inevitably we take stock of all that happened in our lives this year, as it draws to a close. I am very grateful for the many blessings of this year, which in retrospect outnumber the bumps—-and there are always bumps in all our lives. But the blessings were many and very sweet.

Now we have one last hurdle to get over, before we can close this year, and get on to a new year, with all its challenges and happy, exciting moments. New Year’s eve, it’s never been a night I love. I always thought that people tried too hard, and I’ve spent it giving parties for friends, dancing on some years, giving poker parties once I was alone (which was REALLY fun!!!), I have spent it romantically, and alone, and in recent years, I really don’t want to go out and party on New Year’s eve, or even give a party (I’ve done it with fancy food, and fast food—and the fast food and curly fries and burgers and corn dogs was actually more fun!!). For the last two years, I spent New Year’s Eve writing, and I really enjoy that. My kids have left after Christmas by then, and rather than looking back at the past wistfully in a quiet house, I’d rather be deeply engaged in a new book, all wrapped up in the characters and the lives I create for them. It’s fun for me, and is a great way to spend it. I don’t need to figure out who to spend it with, or what to wear, or risk my life on the highway in bad weather going somewhere. I stay cozily at home, writing. For now, anyway, it’s my favorite plan, and how I plan to spend it this year. And however you decide to spend it, with lots of friends, a few good ones, among strangers, or alone, I hope you have a great New Year’s Eve, doing what you like to do best.

And today is a new beginning, a brand new year, a clean slate. Whatever last year brought you, whether disappointing or fabulous, today we all get to clear the decks and start again, filled with hope and plans, wishes and dreams, promises to ourselves about what we will do better, or try not to do again. You could meet the person of your dreams, wind up in a new job or home by the end of the year, or get out of a bad situation, or improve an old one. You can do almost anything you want, and start fresh today. I love the idea of that. We are all brand new today.

So let’s look ahead together, at what this New Year may bring us. And my wish for you is that it will be The BEST year ever. The Best is yet to come. Happy New Year. Happy New Day…..I want it to be a great one for you, and for all of us….that’s my wish for you. Happy Clean Slate, as we leave the past behind us, and forge ahead.

Happy 2018 !!! and all my love, Danielle

12/25/17, “Twas the Night before Christmas…”

Posted on December 25, 2017

“Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were all hung by the chimney with care…..”

As I write this, it is 3 am on Christmas eve, and not a creature is stirring, not even my 3 Chihuahuas, who are snoring softly, waiting for me to come to bed. I just finished filling the Christmas stockings of my many children and their significant others, and writing them all letters from Santa, which I’ve done since they were children and still do—-congratulating them for what good people they are, and what they’ve done well all year. (Santa is very pleased with them!! And me too).

Our Christmas is all about traditions. We go to a church service at 5 pm, which is how our Christmas eve begins. It’s a children’s service, which they still enjoy, where we went every year in their childhood, and all the familiar Christmas carols are sung. Then we come home, hang out for a while, and dress for dinner. We have a formal dinner, with the table set nicely, and a good meal. Afterwards, we play a game, and after dinner the siblings exchange gifts. I give them mine the next morning (which was when they used to open the presents from Santa). We enjoy our rituals and familiar customs, and it’s a joy to spend it with my kids. I’m very grateful that they all come home for Christmas. And one of my daughters turns the tables on me every year, and fills a stocking for me and leaves it on my bed, which I open with delight before I go to bed: This year, two beautiful embroidered handkerchiefs, two little porcelain dishes with sayings I love on them: one of them says “The best is yet to be”, and 2 books I can’t wait to read, some cookies, chocolates and chocolate covered pretzels—-and a letter from Santa to me, urging me to be ‘naughtier’ next year!!! Now there’s a fun invitation!!!

And at the end of it all, before I go to bed, I am writing to you. I hope that your Christmas is unfolding gently and lovingly, that it met your expectations and fulfilled your hopes and dreams. Above all, I hope it was peaceful and that you shared it with people you love, and weren’t alone. You are in my thoughts, and I wish you again a very, very happy Christmas. And in the chaos of Christmas tomorrow, I will be thinking of you too. I hope it is a wonderful day!!!

Merry Christmas!! love, Danielle

12/19/17, Busy Days

Posted on December 19, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I hope everyone is well and in good spirits, and not too rushed, swamped, and stressed by the season. This last week before Christmas is a challenge!! Finish Christmas shopping, finish wrapping, send presents to people far away, get the Christmas cards out, visit family, and/or fly to far away locations, and just getting through it all, whatever it takes. It seems to be a tradition now at our house that some major function in our (very old, 111 year old) house breaks right before Christmas, usually too late to fix it in time for the holiday. A few years ago, the entire heating system broke down, and no one could do a major repair until after New Year, so we literally ate Christmas dinner in warm winter jackets. One year, one of the water heaters broke. This year, the hot water is suspiciously cool, and a dining room window broke and won’t close. And when you jam every room full of people, and 20+ people take showers at the same time, the house no longer seems to be used to full occupancy, and some vital system collapses. I see chilly baths in my future for the next week!!! (The same thing used to happen at our beach house over my birthday, when alarms would go off, the hot water would run out, and someone would have forgotten to get a fresh tank of butane or propane or whatever so we could cook. Oops!!) But whatever the kinks in the house, I am happiest when our house is full to the gills, and my whole family is home. That’s the best part of Christmas or any holiday for me.

We all know what the stresses of Christmas are. The important thing is not to let them eclipse the joys of the season. Family battles, minor or major feuds, the usual problems that plague us all and lurk even at Christmas, job worries, financial responsibilities, health issues, and all the dreams we want to come true, and maybe haven’t yet (the right partner, a better job, a nicer home, a kinder boss, an estranged family member to return, a healing for our marriage, a better relationship with those we love). The worries will still be there by next week, so it’s nice if we can put them aside long enough to enjoy the holiday!!!

One of my children volunteered at a homeless shelter for the past two weekends, and I am very proud of her. It is so important to remember those who are less fortunate than we are. No matter what we have or who we are, as humans, there will always be people who have more, and others who have less and need our help. Our foundation in my late son Nick’s honor gives gifts and gift certificates to as many as we can manage at facilities for homeless, troubled, and mentally ill children and young people. And the gift of one’s time is often the greatest gift, and the hardest to give at this time of year.

The year has been crammed full, of good things and scary things (the Napa fires), and sad things, losses and gains, disappointments, victories and lessons learned. Each year is a slice of life with the full mix of blessings and sorrows. And at this time of year, the memories of sweet times and losses flood us, and ultimately carry us through.

So as you rush around this week, trying to remember everything you’ve forgotten to do, and finish all the last details before the holiday, I hope we take a minute to remember our blessings, even if they are small ones, and cherish the good times and the good years, and our hopes for the future. The world around us can be dicey, but even with its ups and downs, we’re lucky in so many ways, no matter how small the blessings.

I send you all my loving thoughts for comfort, strength, and joy, good people in your lives, happy moments that carry you through to better times, and will make these holidays special in some way. May the love and joy and spirit of the holidays be with you, and keep you warm. A very, very happy holiday to all, whatever holiday you celebrate, and wherever you are.

With much love, Danielle

12/4/17, Shockers

Posted on December 4, 2017

Hi Everyone,

These are usually busy days for everyone, after Thanksgiving and before Christmas. The countdown to the holidays has started in earnest. And even though I start shopping in August (which my whole family makes fun of, but I like to get it done early, before the Christmas rush)—but I still always have one or two people on my list whom I feel I haven’t quite taken care of yet, so I do a little frantic late shopping too. And this year is no exception. And I buzz around in the 3 cities I spend time in at this time of year, so I’m busy getting ready for the holidays, after a lovely family Thanksgiving that got things off to a great start.

Out in the world these days, there have been some truly shocking reports, about sexual misconduct and abuses in the world of entertainment, and politics. We read of well-known famous people who have either been abused, or been the abusers, and every day new names are added to the list. These kind of things have happened for centuries, and are not ‘new’, but it is disturbing nonetheless when names of people we respected professionally turn out to be abusive, and even sick in their behaviours toward others. It’s as though a door has opened, dark secrets have been revealed, and people have come tumbling out, suddenly in the spotlight as victims or abusers. We’ve all heard about ‘casting couch’ techniques in Hollywood for years, but never in the numbers and detail that are being talked of now, and it is deeply upsetting to hear of these things happening. And they’ve been handled with seriousness and accountability, as careers have ended, people have been fired, shows have been cancelled, and strong measures have been taken to put a stop to it and support those who have been harmed. It’s all over the news at the moment. And it’s right that the perpetrators of these offenses have been made accountable for their actions. It’s also deeply saddening to hear how many people have been impacted by it, and how upsetting it must have been to them, both male and female victims, though it appears to be mostly women who have been singled out for these abuses, and have remained silent for many years. The victims are often very young people, whose lives must have been changed by it. Being the victim of sexual abuse is upsetting whatever your gender, and at every age. And in every case, there has been an abuse of some kind of power, and spoken or unspoken intimidation, along with humiliating acts.

Luckily for me, I haven’t experienced abuse of that kind professionally in publishing, and have been respectfully treated by the people I deal with. I did have an unpleasant experience on a television show several years ago, which was not sexually inappropriate, but personally embarrassing, and have shied away from that particular show since then, and chose never to appear on it again. As a ‘celebrity’ and well known public figure, these things can happen in interviews, where someone humiliates you for entertainment. And as a person with a real life and children, it is painful nonetheless when I get put on the spot, embarrassed, or have the spotlight put on me in an unflattering light, with millions watching. No one enjoys that, and I didn’t either. You can’t defend yourself adequately publicly if an interviewer puts an embarrassing and unfair spin on things, there isn’t time, you’re at a disadvantage, and it can be very humiliating. There are also some truly wonderful interviewers, like Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, and I have enjoyed and felt privileged during every interview with her. It’s an honor and a pleasure to be on the show with her. And she more than makes up for any bad ones. I love being interviewed by her.

I did have one bad experience several years ago, which involved both abuse of power, and sexually inappropriate suggestions and innuendoes. It took me completely by surprise, and was a frightening and very unpleasant experience. It happened when I came through US Customs, returning to the US from Europe. A customs officer led me into a small private office, supposedly to figure out the amount I owed for duty for what I had purchased in Europe. I had done that many times, and assumed that being taken to the private office was a form of VIP treatment speed up the process of figuring out the duty I owed. What I got instead were verbal suggestions for sexually inappropriate behaviour on the officer’s part, and sexual innuendo. I was so shocked that I was frozen on the spot for a minute, with no idea how to react or respond. I’m a grown woman, calm in most situations, but I felt totally at the mercy of the officer, and all I could think of was that if I did or said the wrong things, or reported it, the officer could retaliate. Customs is a powerful authority. He also made a point of telling me that he knew where I was staying in the city (it was on the customs form), and could show up there any time to find me if he wanted to. I was terrified, and verbally rebuffed as politely as possible his inappropriate suggestions, suffered the indignity of more of the same for a few minutes, and realizing that I was not going to cooperate or be a willing participant, he let me walk out of the office, but I was badly shaken. Nothing like it had ever happened to me, and the idea that he might show up at my hotel that night was terrifying. We like to think we’d be cool in a situation like that, but I wasn’t. I was literally shaking, seriously frightened, and felt totally vulnerable. I told a representative of the airline, who was shocked too, and after paying the duty I owed, I left the airport and called two of my attorneys when I got to my hotel. My male attorney wanted me to report it officially and bring charges against the officer, and my female attorney urged me to remain silent, and was as afraid as I was of some form of retaliation (is that our typical female reaction?? that something even worse will happen if we ‘tell on a sexual predator’?). What if he tried to get even with me, and do something even worse than verbal sexual abuse if I reported him? Both my attorneys were shocked, and after several days, thinking about it, I decided not to bring charges against him. It also shocked me that he would be so bold as to accost a ‘celebrity’ with sexual propositions, in the crudest possible way. He didn’t seem concerned at all by any consequences. The power was all on his side, and whether accurate or not, I felt helpless. That feeling of helplessness was deeply depressing, and I was upset about the incident for months, and frightened that I would run into him again when I came through customs, which I do frequently since I commute to Europe. My male attorney advised me to refuse to enter a private room with him without a female officer present (which I think is the rule anyway), if I ran into him again. But the incident haunted me, and the memory of how vulnerable I had felt. I kept thinking too of what it would be like if he did the same thing to a young girl, who would feel even more helpless than I did—or if he did it to one of my daughters? The thought of it outraged me, but for myself I felt mostly shame that he had singled me out for his inappropriate behaviour. It was all very upsetting. Being famous was no protection—instead it made me feel even more vulnerable. What if I reported it and he denied the accusation, and turned it on me somehow? It would be his word against mine, and he had all the power. The thought of that in the press concerned me too. And in the end, I did nothing about it.

Several months later, while waiting for my bags at the same airport, I saw a customs officer I had seen and chatted with many times before, a kind man who had always been helpful and appropriate, and I told him of the incident in confidence. He urged me to report it officially, and I told him that I was too afraid of some kind of retaliation to do so. Within a day or two of my telling him, he had told his superiors, and I was contacted by the bureau of Internal Affairs for US Customs, and two officers spoke to me, and urged me to file a report on the incident, and I told them why I wouldn’t. On my next flight into the States, they were waiting for me, and again tried to convince me to file a report. They were very kind, but I admitted to them that I was just too frightened to do so, and didn’t want to cause a public scene. They had spoken to him, but they could do nothing, unless I filed a report officially. I spoke to them several times, but I never did report it. I was too afraid of retaliation on the officer’s part if I did. (And I only saw the officer in question once about a year later, and he seemed nervous, but didn’t repeat what he’d done before. I was shaken to the core seeing him again, afraid he would try the same thing again, but he didn’t.)

It makes me realize now how courageous these women are who are coming forward to report the abuse that they suffered. It takes far more courage than most people realize to step forward and speak up. More and more victims are doing so now—-and it even gave me the courage to report this incident to you. It gave me a small taste and understanding of what these victims have gone through, and a deep respect for how brave they are now in speaking up, even long after the abuses happened. And the authorities in these cases are acting appropriately and taking firm, definitive punitive action against the perpetrators. You can’t undo the harm done to the victims, but at least justice is being served in very serious ways.

After my one small experience in this vein, I salute the courage of the victims who have come forward. And with each one who does, another person is given the courage to speak up too. Women today are much braver about speaking up, and feel at last that they have the right to do so, without being ignored or ridiculed, without fear of retaliation. It is a brave new day, and I hope that seeing their abusers punished makes all the victims, male and female, feel validated, avenged, and safe at last. The victims have a voice now, and the whole world hears them loud and clear. It’s a powerful message to us all.

Have a great week as the holidays approach.

with much love, Danielle

11/20/17, Thanksgiving

Posted on November 20, 2017

Hi Everyone,

Well, the holidays are upon us. I’ve been so busy moving, as I told you last week, that the holidays snuck up on me this year. But wherever we are, my children and I fly to get together to celebrate Thanksgiving. We share the holiday with a few close friends who are with us every year, and some friends who join us because they don’t have other plans that year. My married children sometimes spend it with their in laws, but almost the entire family comes together for Thanksgiving (and everyone is home for Christmas). And even our family from Europe comes to join us. It’s a very special holiday, and what I like best about it and try to focus on is that it’s a holiday meant to celebrate gratitude, and makes us think of what we are thankful for. As in all lives, difficult things and challenges and even some sorrows happen during the year, people we love are no longer with us, and we all face hard moments that are often difficult to be thankful for. But woven into the tapestry of our lives, for all of us, are the joys among the sorrows, the unexpected blessings, the enormous gifts that life gives us as well as the challenges. It’s difficult to be grateful for the ‘hard stuff’, but so important to remember the gifts that life gives us every year, that sometimes go unnoticed, or don’t stand out as sharply as the losses or griefs. We have friends to be grateful for, and our children, our homes, our work, the people who make a day suddenly special, the unexpected tender moments that make life worthwhile. The big things to be grateful for are easy to spot, but there are so many smaller moments that we need to cherish and treasure and be grateful for.

Holidays that are spent alone are incredibly hard, and many people find themselves in lonely situations, far from home and loved ones, or at the end of a relationship, or after a loss of some kind. During this holiday even more than any other, it increases the blessing to reach out and embrace the people who need us, whose holidays are looking bleak and lonely. I am always reminded of the phrase from the Bible, “God places the solitary in families”. It has been true for me, at times when I was alone before I was married and had my children.

The theory about Thanksgiving is that it’s about abundance—-an abundance of food, of blessings, of people gathering to share the holiday. That’s a hard concept to hang onto at times, if you’re without a job, a home, the obvious material blessings in life. But abundance is not just about material blessings, it is about all kinds of abundance in our lives, the richness of our friendships, the opportunities we have, the tiny moments of joy that happen, along with the bigger blessings that are easy to remember and be thankful for.

I am grateful for you, my readers, for my friends and children, for the time I get to spend with them, I’m grateful for the kindness and love of my children, and for their happiness and wellbeing, and the good people in their lives. I am so thankful too for my work, my books, my publishers, editor, agent, researcher and all the people who make my work possible, and you most of all for reading the books and being so faithful.

So at this special time of gratitude, thank you for all that you add to my life, your letters, your reactions, the pleasure you have in reading the books and share with me. You give me so much joy!! I hope that your holiday will be filled with an abundance of everything you wish, and all the tiny and large and even huge blessings to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving and all my love, Danielle

ps. I was just reading the responses to my recent blogs, and saw that Joy understood that we lost our Napa house. I’m sorry if I gave that impression. We were incredibly lucky and the house was spared. The flames were all around us, within a mile of our home on all sides, and miraculously, despite burned twigs and branches and charred pieces of wood all around it, the house didn’t burn. So many, many people lost homes in Napa and Sonoma, and our hearts go out to them. (I believe that 9,000 homes and structures burned, although that number may be old by now). And even more tragically, too many people lost their lives, and the firemen and first responders fought courageously to save people and homes.

As for the photographs that we treasure in that home, the whole history of my children’s lives is in those photos, my youngest son did a foolish but very brave thing during the fire. He drove to Napa, got through to our area, despite the heavy smoke and fires raging everywhere, and he went into the house for twenty minutes, grabbed as many of the framed photos as he could off the walls, threw them into his car, and stayed as long as he could. He said that by the time he left you couldn’t see through the smoke. He brought back several hundred of those photos, which I am having copied now, and I will have all the others copied when we get back to the house. It’s a lesson and reminder to make copies of important photos. It would have been a heartbreaking loss to lose them if we had lost the house. And I’m so grateful we didn’t. I was furious with my son for risking himself and going up there, but it turned out all right in the end. He is MUCH more important than the photographs!!!

Thank you for caring about our home there. And among the blessings I will be thankful for on Thanksgiving, and am every day, I’m so grateful that our home was spared. We are so deeply sorry for those who lost their homes, and even more so for the lives lost. They will remain in our hearts and prayers.

love, Danielle

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