Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

11/13/17, Bad for Good

Posted on November 13, 2017

Hi Everyone,

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

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

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

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

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

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

much love, Danielle

10/31/17, Trick or Treat!!!

Posted on October 31, 2017

 

Hi Everyone,

My apologies, I’m a day late getting my blog up, which doesn’t happen often. I’ve been swamped and traveling and moving around. After the sorrow and the terrors and trauma of the Napa fires, I’m relieved to say that our old family property survived, but there are soooo many sad stories around, of people we know who lost their homes, and some their lives. Truly tragic.
Other than that, I’ve just been busy. Writing, editing, travelling, visiting my children, doing some big projects. And mostly, just trying to be organized, and keep a lot of balls in the air at once.
And here it is, Halloween tomorrow. My children’s favorite day of the year (other than April Fool, when they LOVE to torture me, and call to tell me that either they’re pregnant or in jail, or both)—-but they have a definite love of costumes!!! Their father was incredibly creative when we got invited to costume parties (He went as a Smurf once, and Picasso’s Blue Boy, and was painted blue for both), and almost all my children have inherited that gene (costumes always seem like a lot of work to me, and somewhat embarassing), but my kids have come up with years of great ideas, as dragons, witches, the Little Mermaid, Ursula the nasty octopus, my little pony, Heidi, the Sound of Music, the witch in the Wizard of OZ with the green face. One daughter’s boyfriend dressed up as her dog, and about 2 years ago, one of my daughters dressed up as me for Halloween—-and actually looked like me!!! One of my other daughters was a great matador/bullfighter a few years ago, they have limitless imagination when it comes to Halloween. And we still set a holiday table with tons of candy, and a big cake at the end. I used to love taking my children trick or treating, and some of their friends, and we would drive up and down the streets in our neighbourhood in San Francisco, the children would roll out of the car, squirt Silly String everywhere, march up to someone’s doorstep, and come back with a massive haul of candy, which they would then eat for weeks. Favorite candies were traded. My kids are real pros at Halloween!!!
So I hope you have a great Halloween this week!!! Whether you collect trick or treat goodies, or hand them out, and whether in costume or not—-have a fabulous time!!!

Happy Halloween, love, Danielle

Filed Under Family, Holidays, Kids | 2 Comments

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

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 | 7 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