Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

1/1/18, Clean Slate

Posted on January 1, 2018

Hi Everyone,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy 2018 !!! and all my love, Danielle

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

Posted on December 25, 2017

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas!! love, Danielle

12/19/17, Busy Days

Posted on December 19, 2017

Hi Everyone,

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

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

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

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

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

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

With much love, Danielle

12/11/17, “A Christmas Story”

Posted on December 11, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’re holding up okay 2 weeks before Christmas, and not too stressed or tired, or worried about how the holidays will shake out. I hope they will be beautiful in wonderful, unexpected ways!!!

I remembered a story today that touched my heart greatly one Christmas, and wanted to share it with you. (I wrote about it in the little book I wrote about our family dogs, “Pure Joy”.)

I had a very dear friend, a woman who was a great deal older than I was, and became something of an adopted mother and beloved friend when I moved to San Francisco in my early twenties. I was very fortunate that in the course of my lifetime, I have met several older women who took me under their wing, gave me good advice, and kind of mentored me. Isabella was one of them. She was of another era when women who chose careers, usually didn’t marry and have families too. She never married and had no children, and was the only woman in her graduating class at Columbia Law School. She became an attorney, specialized in family law, and eventually became a judge. She was a truly wonderful person, and was the godmother of one of my children. And although she was in her mid-eighties, she had an absolutely terrific mother herself, whom I loved to visit with. Isabella’s mother was clear as a bell and lived to be 103.

My friend Isabella came to Thanksgiving with my family every year, and was a great addition. Well into her eighties she fell ill, but was managing to get through it, and that Thanksgiving, she mentioned at the table that she wished she had a dog. She said it with such longing that it really touched my heart. My children and I discussed it afterwards, and they ALL said, “You should get Isabella a dog”. I wasn’t sure about it, it’s a lot of work to have a puppy, you have to walk it and take care of it, and she’d been sick. I hesitated, and my kids (in their late teens and early 20’s) insisted, “She wants one, Mom….get her a dog.” And somehow, by the end of the night, they convinced me. She had mentioned Maltese as her preferred breed. So I started looking, and a few weeks later, I found an adorable little 5 month old Maltese puppy, and fell in love with it when I went to see it. So I jumped in with both feet, bought everything the puppy was going to need, sweaters and a collar and leash, bowls and toys, food, a bed, and a playpen if she needed to confine it safely. My kids were all home for Christmas by then, and with a sense of total accomplishment, I announced to them, “I got a dog for Isabella!!” They all stared at me as though I’d grown a palm tree on my head. YOU WHAT??….”I got Isabella a dog”, I repeated,”you know, like you told me to”….Their response was unanimous and immediate, “Are you crazy?? She’s too old for a dog…don’t be ridiculous!!!” Don’t be ridiculous??? What happened to their talking me into it after Thanksgiving dinner after she said she wanted one? I reminded all of them of that, and they looked at me as though I was nuts. Was I hallucinating? They insisted I couldn’t give her a dog, and reminded me that she’d been sick recently. Meanwhile, the dog was at our house, with every possible piece of equipment, and what was I going to do with it??? My kids are usually very nice about things, but they had total denial and wanted nothing to do with it. In my fantasies, the whole family would go to Isabella’s house and play Santa Claus and hand her the puppy. No such luck. I was in it on my own. They were all meeting up with friends, had other plans since they’d just gotten home, and no one would go to Isabella’s house with me, with the puppy. Panic set in by then, as I realized that I had gotten talked into something really stupid. What was Isabella going to do with a dog? She probably didn’t mean it anyway. I felt as stupid and as crazy as my kids said I was, and that night, feeling like an idiot, I loaded up my car with all the dog equipment, and drove the puppy to my friend’s house. I was sure she would refuse it and give it right back to me. And then what? I didn’t need a puppy either. I felt like a total idiot, the euphoria of getting the puppy had dissipated, and I was sure my playing Santa Claus with a puppy would be a disaster. And it had seemed like such a good idea….for a minute.

The puppy and I arrived at Isabella’s home, and I had it bundled in a blanket in my arms. I looked at it before I rang the doorbell, and nearly apologized to the dog. It was giving me suspicious looks as if to say “What have you gotten me into?” And finally, I rang the doorbell, and Isabella answered and looked at the bundle in my arms. “What’s that?” she said, as the puppy stuck her head out of the blanket on cue, looking extremely sweet. “It’s a puppy….for you…”I said, in a nervous embarrassed voice, and as I said it, I handed it to her, and the look on Isabella’s face was priceless. She really looked like a kid at Christmas. She took the puppy from me, and went to sit down holding it, as the puppy gave me one backward glance as if it say, “You’re done now, you can leave.” That puppy looked as though she knew she was home and was meant to be there. She didn’t move an inch off Isabella’s lap the whole time I was there, and Isabella lit up like a Christmas tree, as she held the little dog and beamed at me. She named her Trixie, which she said was the name of her first childhood dog. I brought all the equipment in, and set it up, and Isabella and Trixie were thrilled with each other. I’ve never seen so much love in one room, they fell in love immediately, and were inseparable from then on. A few minutes later, Isabella said “thank you for the visit, and the puppy!!” And that was it, they escorted me to the door, and my mission was accomplished. It was love at first sight between the two of them!!

I will admit that I smiled and laughed and cried on the way home, so relieved that it had gone well, so thrilled that Isabella was so happy, and the puppy was in just the right home. I didn’t hear anything from her for a few days afterwards and got worried that Isabella might not admit it if the puppy was too much for her, so I called to check on them, and got a glowing report of how happy they were. The love affair between Isabella and Trixie was just what Christmas should be, and it went on for many years, for the rest of Isabella’s life. They were crazy about each other. They had a good long run, and after Isabella was gone, Trixie went to live with Isabella’s brother and his family, and remained the most adored, pampered dog in the world.

I will never ever forget the sight of Isabella falling in love with the puppy, and the little dog’s look of adoration. And the sheer joy of seeing them together. It was everything that Christmas is supposed to be and made my Christmas that year. Of all the gifts I have ever given anyone, that moment of giving Trixie to Isabella, and seeing the total happiness and love on Isabella’s face was the greatest gift anyone has ever given me. And whenever I think of Isabella, which I still do often, I think of Trixie with her on that very special night a few days before Christmas. It was a beautiful Christmas for me because of it, and it still warms my heart when I think of it.

I hope there are wonderful surprises ahead for you in the coming days, or that you can surprise someone in a big or small way. It’s what Christmas is all about (though it was a daring thing I did—-and I really got lucky that it turned out so well.) I hope the days ahead go smoothly for you, and lead up to a VERY happy Christmas!!!

much love, Danielle

11/20/17, Thanksgiving

Posted on November 20, 2017

Hi Everyone,

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving and all my love, Danielle

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

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

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

love, Danielle

11/13/17, Bad for Good

Posted on November 13, 2017

Hi Everyone,

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

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

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

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

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

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

much love, Danielle

10/31/17, 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