Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

9/18/17, Sweet Nick

Posted on September 18, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’re having a good week, as we all adjust to fall. I just finished a book and have hit the deck running into September, as I always do. We have two family birthdays in September, which provides some fun and levity. But this week is always a serious one for me, particularly so this year.

As most or all of you know my son Nick suffered from bi polar disease all his life. In those days, doctors absolutely refused to diagnose patients with bi polar disease as children. It was considered unthinkable to diagnose them before their early twenties. Today, it’s entirely different, children as young as 3 are diagnosed, treated and medicated. It’s thought now that not treating the disease as early as possible can cause irreversible changes in the brain that can’t be reversed later, due to lack of treatment early on. So doctors are quick to diagnose bi polar now. And I’m sure, as with anything, there may be some premature diagnoses, that turn out not to be accurate later. But on the whole, I think lives are changed, improved, and even saved by today’s early diagnoses. And maybe it’s better to early-medicate than not medicate at all until too late. It was clear to me by the time he was 4 that Nick had a serious disorder of some kind, and by the time he was seven, I was sure he was bi polar. I first suspected it when he was two. And no doctor agreed with me until he was 15, and he was first medicated at 16, which was considered shockingly early. The appropriate medication changed his life within weeks, and was definitely the right thing for him. Once on medication (lithium), he said he felt normal for the first time in his life. (Before that, when he was very young, doctors would explain his ‘off’ unusual behaviors by his near genius IQ, his too bright mind, and the fact that he was possibly spoiled, and had a famous mother. And yes, I probably did spoil him, but that didn’t account for his too exuberant, too bright, precocious behaviors. To most people, he just seemed like an extremely bright kid, but I thought there was more to it than that. He was too smart, too fast, too old for his age).

Despite his illness, Nick led an amazingly full life. As many bi polars are, he was brilliant, talented, charming, funny, incredibly endearing. I got a long letter a few months ago, from a girl who met him 21 years ago in a parking lot while he was on tour, and a half hour encounter and conversation with him, she claims, changed her life forever. She was a drugged out 15 year old at the time, and he tried to talk her out of doing drugs. He was what they called straight edge, although on the racy music scene, he did no drugs and didn’t drink at the time. She said his words came back to haunt her as she grew up, and she eventually gave up drugs, and has a solid life with two kids now, and decided to share the story with me. I’ve had many letters like that. He touched many people in his short life, and made a lasting impression.

In his short time, Nick performed (sang as lead singer, wrote music and lyrics) with two bands, one of which became relatively famous and is still around. There are CDs and videos of Nick performing with them. He toured the country, performing night after night, which wore him out, but he loved the tours, which were grueling. He had an incredible musical talent, and huge stage presence and personality. I think he would have been famous if he’d lived. And he was just a knock out person, and an incredible kid. He was ridiculously funny with a great sense of humor, a huge heart, he was compassionate. And very, very smart. He was bright and funny and talented and greatly loved. And 20 years ago this Wednesday, September 20th, he took his life at 19. He made three attempts before that, and finally succeeded on the fourth one, although we kept careful watch over him and he was never alone. But with that kind of determination, we couldn’t stop him from succeeding at suicide in the end. The weight of his illness was finally just too much for him.

Many, many, many people with bi polar manage the disease well, get good treatment, and lead full, productive lives, just as some people survive cancer. Nick just wasn’t destined to be one of them. That’s hard to accept, but it was true for him. Someone wrote a song about him after he died that said “If love could have kept him alive, he would have lived two hundred years.” He was loved by just about everyone who knew him, and incredibly so by his eight siblings, his father and me. But sometimes love isn’t enough. With bi polar every day was a battle, and a victory. When I read his journals after he died, I read with great sadness that he had begun talking about suicide with great determination at eleven. We were able to give him another 8 years. I wish it could have been more. We tried every kind of treatment. But I can say with certainty that in spite of his illness, he REALLY enjoyed much of his life, LOVED his music with a passion, did more than many people by the time they’re sixty, and accomplished a great deal in 19 short years.

This week is the anniversary of his death. Always a tough day for us as a family. We each have our special memories of him. He had a special relationship with each of us, and was very close to me. He was a great blessing in our lives, and a gift. I don’t think he was meant to live a long life, and I don’t think he could have done it. He put a huge amount of energy into surviving for nineteen years, and so did we, in helping him do it.

This year the anniversary is particularly poignant. It has been 20 years. It doesn’t seem possible, but it is. His younger siblings have grown up, have good lives, and his older ones, and he comes with us every day in our hearts. Sadly, his two best friends are gone now too, and also died very young, one also by suicide although unlike Nick, he showed no warning signs before, and the other tragically in a fire, saving his room mates, he helped them all get out, and got trapped himself and died a hero’s death. So Nick and his pals are up there somewhere now, up to mischief, I’m sure!!

We all think we could never survive the death of a child, and it’s certainly not an easy thing. We have tried to balance his death by a foundation in his name, to help the mentally ill, and have helped thousands of people in his name. I used to dread too when he would have been gone for a long time, when his life among us would seem so far away…. twenty years…. but it isn’t far away, he still seems right here with us, and stories of some of the really funny or outrageous things he did still surface all the time, and we end up laughing all over again. There was a lot of laughter in Nick’s life, and love, and joy. He was a gorgeous boy and a wonderful person. And is constantly and forever loved and missed.

I’ll spend the day quietly with some of my children, as I do every year. The anniversary of that date is a tough one, and doesn’t bring back happy memories, but then the happy memories flood in. Nick was all about joy! He constantly made us laugh and smile, and even now he still does. Sometimes I just grin or laugh out loud when I’m alone and remember something ridiculous he did. He did ridiculous so well!!!

As someone said so simply afterwards, “Too bright, too brief”. It was too brief, but he was a very, very bright star, and lives on in our hearts forever, shining brightly.  The brightest stars remain with us forever, and he surely will.  My love to all of you, I hope you have a peaceful week.

love, Danielle

Filed Under Family, Kids | 6 Comments

8/28/17, Early Bird

Posted on September 4, 2017

Hi Everyone,

Say goodbye to August….and summer. We did it!! Hopefully we all got a little vacation time, relaxed a little, and had some playtime. All in all, I had a good summer, even a very good summer this year, although a very busy one, and got two separate vacation weeks with my children, which made it a great summer for me.

And while leaping into September, and welcoming the fall (I love the weather, and the exciting feeling of starting fresh with new energy—I’ve felt that way since my school days)—–I also do a leap frog jump every year, thinking of the months ahead. True confessions: as I’ve told you before, I am one of those incredibly irritating people who start Christmas shopping in August. I know, it’s awful, and it drives people crazy. But the fall and winter months are my busiest writing time of the year, so I try to use any free time I have before that. And by August, I am itching to get started on Christmas. I did that two weeks ago. It also avoids my standing in long lines in stores in December, and no longer finding anything I want in the right sizes. So I am an early bird Christmas shopper. Very, very early. I started dragging shopping bags home a few weeks ago. And I have other bad habits related to Christmas (which I love!!). I rarely have time to shop, and I love shopping. Most of the time, I am socked away in my office, writing. So it’s really fun for me to get out and look around in the stores and shop. And when I do, watch out!!! First, I start seeing cute things for my kids and close friends that I hope they’ll love, and then a little something for me will catch my eye….hmmm…wow that red purse is cute!! Or a book, or a pair of shoes, or something for the house—-for my house!!! Uh oh!! The joke in the family about my Christmas shopping is “one for them, and one for me….okay, two for them, and one for me….uh oh….three for me, and one for them.”….at five for me, and two for them, I’m in trouble!! I start seeing so many fun things to buy for myself, and have to call myself to order, and focus on who I’m shopping for.

So, to confess all, I am up to my usual tricks. On my first Christmas shopping day two weeks ago, I was positively saintly. I found two things for one son, two things for another son (really fun stuff I hope they’ll love), and two things for one daughter….But on the second day, I started slipping. I jumped straight to finding one Christmas gift for three of my kids, and half a dozen things I loved for me: a pair of dressy pants, a fun purse, and two pairs of shoes. I know, that’s cheating. I came home with several shopping bags for me, and a skimpy catch for the day for everyone else. And of course, I felt guilty when I got home. So now, I’m trying to be good, and only buying Christmas gifts for the people on my list, and restraining myself. But I can tell you it won’t last. Something bright and fun will catch my eye (I bought a little red Chihuahua statue for my Paris office, and a little heart dish. I couldn’t resist!!), and I’ll be off and running again soon with the “3 for them, and 7 for me” system. Christmas shopping is just toooooo much fun!!!

So the Early bird is at it again. Christmas is starting at my house. The end result is that I feel ridiculously virtuous by November, when everyone is starting their Christmas shopping, and I’ve finished. But then of course, there are always the people I’ve forgotten on my list, and rush out to buy something for….so it’s Christmas in August at my house. While the rest of the world is wrestling with September, getting past Labor Day, and car pooling their kids to school, I’m Christmas shopping….it’s just toooo much fun!!! And the five for them, two for me system, or the reverse is just too tempting. The flesh is weak…mine sure is when it comes to Christmas shopping. So have a great week, and I’ll wait a few weeks before I wish you Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays.

love, Danielle

8/21/17, Lovely Weekend, and bittersweet.

Posted on August 21, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I hope these last days of summer are ending the summer gently for you, with some final fun times before Labor Day closes the summer season, and we head into the ‘full steam ahead’ of September.

I had a very special weekend last week, with ALL of my children, a rare occurrence that only happens about twice a year, on Christmas, and my birthday. I have never liked my birthdays. With a summer birthday, none of my friends were ever around for my birthday as a child, and my childhood birthdays were always somewhat disappointing because of it. For my sixth birthday, my parents sent me away to camp for two months, which I hated, and I’ve just never liked my birthdays. I much prefer celebrating everyone else’s. John, my husband of eighteen years, gave me some wonderful birthdays and birthday parties, and our children have followed his traditions. So I spend my birthday with all my children, every year, usually in seclusion at their country house. And that’s what we did this year, ALL of my children flew in from their various cities, and so did I. It always touches me how much effort they make. They flew in from New York and LA. A wonderful boy we love who lived with us for many years and became part of our family flew in too, and usually does. One of my children flew in from Colorado. They give up a weekend they could spend enjoying their summer closer to where they live, but instead they all come home like homing pigeons to celebrate me. They spend a week at our old country house, which is a very old ranch/farm (built in 1857), where we spent every summer when they were children. They own it now, and it touches me to see how beautifully they take care of it. I leave them to enjoy each other during the week, and join them for my birthday weekend, and they organize meals, and usually one outing to a restaurant. We’re a big group with all 8 of them, and their partners, and after living pretty quietly all year, except for the holidays we spend together, I love the noise, and hustle bustle of all of us living under one roof again and now as adults. We’re together for breakfast, then they go off on walks or to exercise, and we meet late in the morning at the pool, have a big lunch together, lie around all afternoon afterwards, and have big family dinners at night, with good food, wine (for them), and a lot of laughter, singing, talking. Sometimes we play games (dice, and board games, and Scrabble). It is such a happy time for me!!!

The house we share is filled with photographs of them as children everywhere, some with me and my husband, and just seeing those photographs brings back soooo many happy memories, of when they were little. I have to keep my mind set on the present and the future, not to look back with too much nostalgia at all those old happy moments, when they were children. There is a bittersweet quality to that, which I try to resist, and try not to get too sentimental over those days in the past, when we were all so happy together. It’s better to focus on the present, and how good they are to me now just by being there!!!

By the time I left at the end of the weekend, I was filled full up with new happy memories of the weekend with them, and then we went back to my house in the city and spent two more days together. My time with them really is a gift. And I can’t think of a happier way to spend my birthdays.

And at the end of the weekend, in the typical juxtaposition of real life, I had to attend a memorial service for a close friend of my late husband’s. And that really was bittersweet, seeing old friends gathered. Because I was married to men twenty years older than I, many of their friends are quite a bit older, and some have passed away. It was nice seeing many of them at the service I went to. And it was indeed a bittersweet moment, happy to see the friends again, and sad to have lost one of them.

Life. With all its gifts and beautiful moments, good people and happy experiences, tender memories, and losses, and new people we meet. I felt very blessed after my birthday weekend…it takes the sting out of getting another year older!!!

Have a terrific week!!

much love, Danielle

PS: The Icing on the Cake.
As though our lovely family weekend wasn’t enough to celebrate my birthday, the day after I wrote this blog, my children gave me a surprise birthday dinner with all of them, and 4 of my closest friends. It was fantastic, and so much fun. They absolutely stunned me with their surprise. It was a fantastic birthday this year, in every way, thanks to them, and I didn’t suspect for a minute they were giving me a surprise dinner too.
It was the best birthday I’ve ever had!!!
love, D.

Filed Under Age, Family, Friends, Kids | 29 Comments

8/14/17, Filling the Void

Posted on August 14, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’re all fine, and enjoying these last weeks of summer. By this point, midway in August, I always feel like it’s the countdown til the end of summer, and most of the time I’m ready for that to happen. Kids will be going back to school in a week or two, or leaving for college, most vacations are over, and we get our motors revved up, to pick up speed and head into fall. I’m definitely thinking that way, as I have a busy fall ahead for the next few months.

One of you who sent in a comment to the blog brought up a REALLY good point, two in fact, which I thought I’d address here. She mentioned that she lives far from her family, doesn’t have children of her own, and that it’s difficult maintaining friendships once friends have children, and become busy with parenting. She said it makes her feel like an outsider, because she doesn’t have kids of her own. And I can really understand that. Actually, it’s been a subject that has come up a lot recently with my children. The four oldest are married and have children now, and the four youngest aren’t and don’t have kids. With so many kids of my own, I get to see the problems which arise in each age group. And my four youngest have talked a lot recently about how hard it is for them to still connect with their friends who are married and starting to have babies. It has also made me aware of my own behaviours in the past. As most of you have figured out, I’m crazy about my kids and somewhat ‘obsessed’ with them. I realize now that for years and years, I would sit at dinner parties and must have bored my dinner partners to extinction with stories about how adorable my children were, and what cute things they did lately—which I found fascinating, and the person I sat next to most probably didn’t (Oh ughkkk….here comes that woman again who only talks about her kids. It was my favorite subject). I thought they were so cute, and they were, but I probably bored everyone to death (and maybe still do). And now I listen to other people’s stories about their kids, and most of the time, I could fall asleep with boredom about how cute they looked yesterday, how brilliant when they said “Daaa…” and how hysterically funny when they tried to comb their hair with a spoon. Uhhh yeah….but not THAT cute. And nowadays to make it worse, they whip out their phone and show you 785 photos taken just yesterday. I think MY kids are cute, but I have never been that enamored with other people’s children, whom I never thought were as cute as my own (and still don’t). People who have kids, particularly ‘new’ or very young kids, or babies, just don’t realize that people who don’t have children are just not that excited about hearing about the accomplishments of a 4 month old. (Let’s face it, eat, sleep, poop, smile occasionally, and for people who don’t have children, it’s just not that fascinating.) My children complain about it now, that their friends not only become gaga when they have kids, but they become inaccessible. They’re busy, they can hardly keep up, now they have their jobs AND a baby to deal with, they’re sleep deprived, not everyone can afford child care, so they drag the baby along to dinner, who may cry through an entire dinner, or make the evening a challenge. Once you start having children, it’s generally easier to hang out with other people having children, who are dealing with the same problems, and concerns, and time constraints.

So, what if you don’t have kids yet, and your friends do, and it makes you feel like an ‘outsider’, as the person who wrote to me said? For one thing, as new parents, people need to try and be a little bit aware and considerate, that your friends may not want to eat dinner with you at 4:30pm because it works with the baby’s schedule, may not necessarily enjoy an evening spent with your baby or 2 year old, and they still want some adult time with you, so they can talk, and not just play with the baby instead of have an adult conversation with you. I think new parents or any parents should ASK their friends if it’s okay to bring the baby/child, and not get all insulted when that doesn’t appeal.(Most people are not that keen on kids before they have their own. They ‘don’t get it’. And they don’t want their social interactions controlled by your nursing schedule, or the baby’s sleep needs. You have to remember, with people who don’t have kids, that they want to spend time with YOU, but maybe not with your baby or toddler, or even 5 year old. Try to get a sitter occasionally, so you can spend an evening with friends who don’t have kids, and may not want to spend an evening (or a weekend) with yours.

And for those who don’t have kids, I think we all need variety in our lives. And there are landmarks in life. A time will come for all young people when most, not all, of their friends will marry (or not) and start having kids. It’s a rite of passage and marks a new chapter in time, for those parents, and also for their friends who aren’t there yet (and may never want to be). If possible, it’s nice to have friends with partners, and single ones—-friends with kids, and friends without. It’s cozy sometimes to have a family evening with people—-and also fun to be out with single pals. You may want a ‘baby fix ‘ occasionally, and also to be with friends whose lives are still more similar to yours. Your friends with kids probably feel as left out as you do, remembering the good old days when they were free, had no responsibilities, and could go to a movie, or a bar, whenever they felt like it—-and could afford to. So for those of you who don’t have kids for now, and many of your friends do, try to have some single ones too, or who don’t have kids, so you can share the non-parental evenings you enjoy, and try to be patient with the ones who are tied down by kids now—-and they should be considerate about not forcing their children on you. But there is no question, their time is short with young kids, running to do everything, work, be a parent, and taking care of kids who just take up a lot of one’s time.

The other question the same person asked is once your kids grow up and leave home, how do you deal with the loneliness? Oh WOW!!! that is a big question, and a tall order, with a longggg answer. My whole life revolved around my kids for many, many years. I wrote at night when they were asleep, and eventually when they went to school, and the rest of the time, I was fully with them. They were my whole day, my life, and filled my life, usually in a good way, and sometimes in worrisome ways, when they had a problem or were sick. And as they left home, one by one, I felt a terrible void. I’m lucky to still have one daughter who lives at home, my youngest, but she is so busy and has such a full life that I barely see her, we kind of fly by each other in the hall, and most of the time when I’d love to have dinner with her, she’s busy. She’s in her 20’s, and having dinner with her mother is not her idea of fabulous entertainment. I didn’t want to spend time with my parents at her age either. I think the ’empty nest’ is a huge issue for most women, and even some fathers (most men seem to handle it better than women, and aren’t quite as devastated and bereft as we are). It is a huge gaping hole when your kids leave, and you suddenly realize that all those happy years of living with your children is behind you. And it whizzes by at jet speed. What did I do? I cried a lot, but I also tried to figure out what to do to fill some of the void. And I also made a big effort to see my kids whenever they could, and I still do. I fly around to see them every few weeks, but I’m lucky, I can take my work with me. Not everyone can, if you have a job that ties you to an office. My strongest suggestion to keep your life on the upswing is: get a job if you don’t have one. My work has always saved me from being seriously depressed, because it keeps me so busy. I started an art gallery when my kids started leaving for college, it was a fun, exciting project, and I loved it. The artists I represented became my children, and needed me. And art is one of my passions. But any kind of job will keep you busy. You need to fill the time you used to spend on them!! If you don’t need a job financially, do volunteer work in a field that interests you. Take up a hobby (I am terrible at that and don’t have any!! I either write or see my kids, no hobbies). Learn something: a language, cooking, photography, something. Take up a sport. My point is DO something. I don’t do well when I’m not busy, and my kids kept me so busy, that I get sad if I’m not busy. Get a dog. I now have 3, and I love them, ridiculous little Chihuahuas, but when I’m sad or feel lonely they cuddle up to me and make me laugh. Nothing will ever take the place of those happy years with your kids around full time—-but it’s also a chance to take care of yourself, to do things you haven’t had time to do for 20 years (like get a manicure or read a magazine, or a book!! Seriously), or paint your kitchen, or plant a garden, or see friends. I never had lunch with friends when my kids were young, no time. Now I do occasionally. You can travel (not my forte either, I don’t like to travel alone, and all my friends are married). But the key, I find, and it’s vital for me, is to keep myself busy. Writing fills my life wonderfully, but nothing replaces having kids still at home—-and I make a real effort to keep my time filled, or I would get really sad thinking about the kids no longer living at home. So that’s my advice. And work always does it for me!!! Once your kids leave, it’s much harder than most people give credit for. We all need to be needed, and suddenly no one needs you to cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner, don’t need to be picked up at school, or taken to soccer practice, or help with homework. It’s tough, but it IS survivable, if you keep busy!!! Do what YOU want to do. You have that opportunity now, it can be a really fun time in your life—indulge yourself, you gave to your kids for many many years, now give yourself some fun too!!

Have a great week!!! love, Danielle

Filed Under Age, Family, Friends, Kids | 7 Comments

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

7/3/17, Happy 4th

Posted on July 3, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’re enjoying a long weekend, and in the midst of barbecues, picnics, lots of celebrations, some down time, and time off work!!!

I had a really exciting experience yesterday. As you know, three of my daughters work in fashion, and regularly put on fashion shows for the designers they work for, to show the next season’s collection. Ready to wear fashion shows are a big deal these days, a lot of money is spent on them, and they really are spectacular and exciting to go to. I’ve never been able to see the shows done by one of my daughters. I’m never in the right city at the right time. And yesterday, I had a fabulous treat and saw her show for the first time. She is the collection consultant, which means she does the research before the collection is designed, coming up with ideas, suggestions, and directions for the next season’s collection. Then there are lots of design meetings, as the ideas take shape, fabric meetings, more research, and at the very end of all that, the samples of the collection are made, meticulous fittings, the models are hired, and on the day of the show, my daughter is back stage watching every look, every accessory, and watching the girls go out on the runway to wow the audience. I know what kind of work goes into it, she works till all hours at night preparing the show, and the night before the show, she is up all night, watching the sewers finish, and checking every detail till the very last minute. It is meticulous, grueling, exacting work—-exciting for us to see, but a HUGE amount goes into it behind the scenes. And after the show, they are involved in how it’s sold, the look book, photography, etc.

Just as a spectator, people worry for weeks about what they will wear just to SEE a show—there’s lots of press there from all over the world, usually famous people, and all the important editors from fashion magazines. Dame Anna Wintour (recently knighted by Queen Elizabeth II), the publisher in chief of Vogue, goes to all the shows, and was there yesterday, looking very glamourous as always.

The weather played tricks on us all. A week ago it was 100 degrees in Paris. For the past few days it was in the 50’s….brrrr…..freezing for July. And the day of the show it was pouring rain. The Proenza Schouler show was held in the courtyard of a beautiful old school in Pigalle, under the overhang of the stone building, so we were dry. And the clothes were absolutely spectacular!! I want all of it!!! Glamourous, beautiful, feminine, just gorgeous clothes. It was a very special event, because it was a ready to wear show during the Haute Couture week (of all handmade clothes). There was lots of embroidery and handmade details, a gorgeous evening jacket made all of feathers. Even the shoes were fun!! They make beautiful clothes. I was sooo proud as a mother to be there, knowing that my daughter was part of the whole creative team that put it together. It was a beautiful event—-and a HUGE treat for me!!! And right after the show, the whole creative team went off for a meeting, after being up all night!!! They work VERY hard in fashion!!!

And now tomorrow is the 4th of July. Have a fantastic one!! I will be spending it with 2 of my daughters. I hope you have a fabulous day, and see fireworks at night!!! Happy 4th, and please be careful on the roads, it’s a busy holiday!!!

lots of love, Danielle

6/19/17, A Perfect Life

Posted on June 19, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I hope your life is running smoothly, and that you’re looking forward to summer plans that will be fun for you. I’m looking forward to a vacation with my children in July, and a long week end with them in August when they’ll all come home. The time with them is always precious—-and always feels too brief.

I’ve been dashing around a lot lately, writing, finishing some projects, trying to clear the decks a little to relax (not my strong suit) in the summer, and just keeping on top of all the unexpected things that crop up on a daily basis that we all deal with (disgruntled employees, kids with a problem to solve, things that break and have to be repaired, plans that change). I was running from one meeting to another the other day, when a little dish I have caught my eye. A Christmas or two ago, or maybe it was a birthday, my youngest son gave me a little dish with a saying on it “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful”. I loved it when I got it, and it resonated for me. I notice it occasionally, but the other day it really struck me again, for the profound wisdom of it. Recently, I answered a Q and A for a magazine where they asked me to describe myself (gorgeous, young, tall, fabulous figure, thin, wise, genius, charming, patient, adorable at all times, wonderful cook…..oh? what? is there a problem? you mean, that’s not me?? damn….). It was a short list, and I wrote “perfectionist”, which is, unfortunately, true.

All my life, I have striven to make everything in my life (and the life of those I love) perfect. Since the birth of my first child at nineteen, I have wanted to give my many children a perfect life, safe and secure, shielded from all problems, happy all the time, wise, sensible, making good decisions, with none of the heartbreaks or disappointments in life. And we all know that just can’t happen. They’ve lived through two (of my) divorces, one from their father, which was sad for us all. One of their siblings died when most of them were very young, a tragedy. And despite a wonderful life, they have experienced in their own lives, all the challenges that everyone faces of failed relationships, difficult jobs, losses, and the betrayal of friends. No matter how much I love them, I can’t make their life perfect, but wish I could. And even now, I do all I can to try to help them solve their problems, or avoid them, and make their life as smooth as possible. But their lives are not perfect, nor is mine. I work hard, very hard, to make my books as perfect as I can. I want my homes to look perfect—-when I return to either of my cities, I unpack the night I arrive, and by morning, I want it to look as though I never left (stupid, I know). I rarely go to bed at night before finishing all the work I had to do, and try to clear my desk. I write lists, by week and day, of all the things I ‘have’ to do, and once on the list, I think it’s set in stone. I can’t stand mess, in my life, in my house. I want my employees to behave, do their jobs well, and be happy in their jobs. I want things to look nice, and for life to be perfect—-good luck with that!! Perfection is elusive, and there is always something out of whack….a child whose life isn’t going well, a colleague (or boss) who creates a problem, something that falls through, the car breaks down, you crack a tooth, a vacation doesn’t go as planned, a flight gets cancelled….something comes up almost daily in all our lives that interferes with the smooth sailing of our lives, and we all think that when a relationship improves, or a romance begins, or ends, when our kids behave better, when a legal problem is solved, or we find the right home, or can sell the house we need to, or buy the one we dream of, or meet the right man or woman…..then life will be perfect And then, what do you know, just when we get it all on track, a new problem crops up, or a bunch of them. Perfection just isn’t going to happen. Life is messy. But just as unexpected problems land on us—-so do unexpected joys, blessings, and wonderful things do happen, even miracles sometimes.

That little dish with that profound message really is true. Life can be wonderful EVEN if it’s not perfect. It’s a great reminder for me, and maybe for you too. Life can really be wonderful, even if the airline misplaced your suitcase, your vacation plans fall through, the dog is sick, your partner is being a jerk this week, you didn’t get the raise you wanted, or the new apartment, or you haven’t met the man or woman of your dreams yet, or you had an argument with a child (oh? you too??)—–life is and can be really wonderful. Something great may happen to you today, the house may be a mess, or your desk, or even your life at times, but if you stop waiting for EVERYTHING to go right and all the problems to be solved, life really can be so wonderful!!! with so many things to be grateful for.

It’s a great reminder for me, not to chase the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (and the resolution of all problems, striving for perfection), and to look up and enjoy the rainbow overhead. And there are so many rainbows along with the problems!!! Life isn’t perfect, but it sure can be terrific.

That same son also gave me a dish that says “Cocoa is a plant, so chocolate is salad” (YESSS!!!) and another one that says: “Calories are little creatures that live in your closet and sew your clothes tighter every night”. He’s such a smart boy!!!

I hope your life is wonderful today, and to hell with perfect. And for all you fathers, I hope that Father’s Day was great yesterday and that you had a lovely Father’s Day and were properly celebrated.

much love, Danielle

Filed Under Family | 6 Comments

6/5/17, Foundation

Posted on June 5, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I hope you had a nice holiday last week, and a good week after that. I got to do something that I do anywhere between two and four times a year, that is always rewarding, touching, and fascinating. When my son Nick died, I wanted to find something meaningful to do in his name. I also wrote a book about him, to honor him, and share my experience with other parents. Nick suffered from Bipolar Disorder, it became evident by the time he was 4 years old, although at the time, they did not diagnose the disease in young people until they were 18 or 20, and medicated and treated them only then. Today, they diagnose children as young as three years old, and begin therapy and treatment then, which is now believed to help the disease become more manageable. The longer it goes untreated, the more it has lasting effects on the brain. And although, there was plain evidence that he was bi-polar, and I was begging for help, he wasn’t diagnosed until he was 16, which was even considered early then. He was started on lithium immediately, and within a month, he said he felt normal for the first time in his life. It was wonderful to watch him thrive and flourish, it had been a hard road for him, and for us until then. Once treated, he had a rewarding career in music, was an avid student, and a charming, funny, bright talented person, who enjoyed many things about his life. Until he had treatment, things were pretty bleak, and we tried everything we could to help him. People who suffer from bi polar have severe ups and downs, deep paralyzing depressions, which alternate with euphoric highs. He tried getting off his medication, because he felt so ‘normal’ on it, and ultimately he attempted suicide four times, succeeded on the fourth try, and died at nineteen. It’s amazing how you can squeeze a whole person, their life history, and the course of an illness into one paragraph!! He was an absolutely remarkable, incredible boy, vastly loved by his family, and we miss him every day. But he also brought us immeasurable joy, he enjoyed big parts of his life, loved his music career, became successful at it—–and after his life, he has helped thousands of people through the foundation we set up in his name, not to provide individual help which we aren’t trained to do—but the Nick Traina Foundation funds organizations providing hands on treatment and therapy to mentally ill people. We also donate to organizations involved with the victims of child abuse, and other organizations engaged in suicide prevention. So many, many people have been helped in Nick’s name.

When I wrote the book about him, to share his life with others in similar situations, to help other parents, and sufferers of the disease—-I didn’t want to profit from the success of the book, so I assigned some of the proceeds to the foundation. The book, “His Bright Light” continues to fund the foundation, along with private donations.

Two to four times a year, the Board of the Foundation meets, and we go over grant requests from organizations in our area, who are working with and helping the mentally ill. We do on site visits to see the organizations in action and better understand what they do, and together the Board considers the requests, and decides who to give the foundation’s money to. It’s hard to believe, but we’ve been doing it for 20 years now—it’s even harder to believe that my son Nick has been gone for that long, but he seems ever present in our lives, with the wonderful memories we have of him, the love we shared, and the work we do in his name.

So we met last week with a stack of grant requests—-we take them very seriously. There are three doctors on our board, two of them psychiatrists, and all of whom knew Nick. We have a lawyer, a finance man, one of my daughters, myself, and the foundation secretary, and we all put a lot of time and thought into who we give the grants to. And we contribute to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, to assist musicians who need our help, since Nick was a talented singer, lyricist, and musician. It is incredibly touching to read the material sent to us, and to learn more about the organizations we contribute to, all of them set up to assist the mentally ill, and people, often young people, who have suffered as Nick did. I wish we could give to all the organizations that apply, but we can’t, and we give to as many as we can. The Board Meetings are lively, dedicated, and serious, and we try to donate in the best possible ways we can.

So Nick has been responsible for some very good work, even after he left us. There have been free beds in youth shelters and some hospitals, treatment, therapy, hot lines for suicide prevention, emergency mobile units, and assistance to the mentally ill among the homeless, and a scholarship in his name. It always warms my heart to be at the board meetings, and know that Nick is responsible for helping literally thousands of people over the years. It’s a lovely way to honor, remember, and continue to cherish him.

Have a great week ahead!!

much love, Danielle

Filed Under Family, Kids | 6 Comments

5/30/17, “The summer begins…”

Posted on May 30, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I hope you had a wonderful Memorial Day, and had a long weekend!!!

Memorial Day is when we remember those fallen in combat and war, a serious holiday, but it is also the very beginning of summer. It’s not hot everywhere yet, but the weather is warmer, and for many people it’s their first weekend away, to mark the beginning of summer. Every year we scrubbed and cleaned and painted and organized our country house for the summer, and I helped my children do that two weeks ago. It’s fun to get everything ready for the summer. I spent the weekend writing, but I love knowing that summer is just around the corner and I’ll take some time off soon—not quite yet though. I took a few days off last week to read a book and enjoyed it, but I’m back at work now. So my summer hasn’t quite started yet, but I’m looking forward to it!!

I hope you got to enjoy the three day weekend. Children will be out of school soon, and parents will be busy keeping them entertained all summer, and I hope you’ll be able to take some vacation time this summer, to sleep late, go to the beach, or lie in a hammock and read. What a heavenly thought!!!

I’m looking forward to some downtime this summer, and hope you are too!!! I worked hard writing books all winter!!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the victims of the attack at the concert in Manchester, England. So troubling and so heart breaking to think of young people being targeted for an attack like that, or anyone. So cruel. I hope we see the end of events like that soon. And my thoughts are with the victims, and their families, and the injured who will have a long road to recover. My prayers are with them. This is an unseen war, which explodes periodically, attacking the innocent, in this case, young people, teenagers and children. Our Memorial Day should include them too. May our troubled world come to a place of peace soon.

Have a terrific, peaceful, safe, happy week!!!

love, Danielle

5/22/17, Reese!!

Posted on May 22, 2017

Hi Everyone,

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

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

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

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

love, Danielle

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

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

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

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