Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

10/29/18, Trick or Treat

Posted on October 29, 2018

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you had a good week last week, and that this week will be more treat than trick for you!!! (Treat being lots of dark chocolate or whatever makes you happy!!!)

 

I worked REALLY hard last week, writing 20 hours a day, so I am definitely back up to fall speed and my winter writing schedule. And I finished what I was writing on Friday, so I treated myself to a fun day on Saturday (after Xeroxing everything I’d been writing, since I type it on a typewriter and don’t use a computer). After the Xeroxing, I did some Christmas shopping….and of course a few treats for me!!! I’m having my Godchildren for a Halloween dinner, and they’re still young enough to really enjoy it!!

 

After Christmas shopping on Saturday (I went to a really cool store that is ALL men’s socks in a million different rainbow colors—–great stocking stuffers for the men on my list!!)—after that, I did something I never do. I NEVER go to restaurants alone, I’m not a big eater, wouldn’t enjoy being in a restaurant alone, it always looks weird to me when I see women alone in a restaurant, or people alone generally, and it’s no fun without someone to talk to. If I’m out doing errands, I just plow through until I get home, and I always have a bar of dark chocolate in my handbag if I get hungry, and it doesn’t hurt to skip a meal. I’d rather do that than go to a restaurant alone. And I’ve only done that once in my life. But Saturday, I decided to spoil myself a little after a week of hard work, and spotty meals. I tend to eat food that’s easy to eat and I don’t have to pay attention to when I’m working. Like hard boiled or scrambled eggs, the occasional sandwich, and waaayyyyy too many cookies!!! But Saturday I stopped for a late lunch, I had truffle risotto and calf’s liver (I love liver—-I know, no one else does). It was yummy, I was on an outdoor terrace, having a ball watching the people go by, sitting in the sun, feeling lazy and spoiled and enjoying it thoroughly. It was a fun restaurant I go to a lot, so they know me, and the kind of place where families and couples go, and all kinds of people so I didn’t stand out alone. And the people watching is superb there. Lots of foreigners, on my right were two Chinese women who looked like they were having a good time. They took photos of each other with their phones. to my left were two young Americans, maybe about 18 or 19, a boy and a girl, talking about college and exams, and how awful their parents are (I tried not to laugh at that. The boy said he had to take a trip with his father and said “Erghk!! How Sinister is That!!”) And beyond them was a beautiful Russian woman with what seemed to be her boyfriend. Lots of people came and went in some wild outfits. It’s a restaurant where a lot of people go in the fashion business, and some models, actors and actresses sometimes, and people who want to see and be seen. There was a Chinese actress posing for photographs in front of me, and some crazy outfits: one couple had on matching suits with Bermuda shorts, and she was wearing Mickey Mouse ears. It was a fun interlude for an hour, and at least I had a decent meal after a week of eating snacks nonstop.  I did some more errands after that, and went home and listened to some music and answered some emails.

 

I still haven’t figured out a Halloween costume, I have a pink sweatshirt with Miss Piggy on it, and may settle for that this year. I hope you have a GREAT HALLOWEEN!!! Whether in costume or not, and I hope you get lots of treats!!!

 

I learned something VERY unusual this week by the way—At least I think it is, a social event popular with the Millennial generation (late 20’s to early 30’s) Apparently the big trend is for “Gender Reveal” Parties. Clearly, I’m from the Dark Ages because I’d never heard of it before, although all my children knew about it when I checked. It sounded extremely sexy, but apparently isn’t. Here’s how it works if you don’t know about it either. When a Millennial is having a baby, instead of having the doctor tell her and her partner or spouse the sex of the baby, the doctor writes the baby’s sex down on a piece of paper, seals the paper in an envelope and the future Mom takes it to a party planner and a baker, and they throw a party, which will either have a pink or a blue theme, they invite all their friends, and when they go to the party, they discover the sex of their baby, along with all their friends, from the pink or blue balloons. I have to admit, I was stunned, I can’t imagine wanting to share that discovery with 50 or 100 friends or even two. In my generation, it was a very private moment to share with my husband and not discover at a party. But apparently, Gender Reveal Parties are a big deal now. You learn something new every day!!!

 

 

Trick or Treat!!!

 

love, Danielle

 

10/8/18, Let your light shine!!!

Posted on October 8, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’ve had a good week, a productive one, some fun times, and accomplished whatever you wanted to. The fall is here, and it’s a great time to rev up our engines, start new projects, finish old ones, —-even as adults, many of us still have a ‘school year’ mentality, and the fall feels like the beginning of a new year. I’ve been busy too, and working on new books for you!!!

 

In a serious vein, I’ve lost three friends and a family member recently. It’s a sobering experience and leads one to some introspection about life in general, and the people specifically. Three lived to a great age (2 at 89, and one at 90), and one died very young. And three of them made a strong mark on the broader world. Two in artistic fields, in which they were well known, one high up in federal law enforcement, and one of them was ‘unknown’ except to family and friends. But whether ‘famous’ or not, we all leave a powerful mark on our world. All of them were people I greatly admired, and their passing was publicly mourned. The last of them was an absolutely remarkable woman, an award winning French documentary filmmaker and writer, who had survived five concentration camps as a young girl in her teens, including Auschwitz, and was a dynamo of strength, courage and talent, and right up until her last day she was fascinating to talk to, full of energy, always working on a new book or documentary film. She could outstay anyone at a party, smoked, drank, and lived a full life till the end. Interestingly, only one of them had children, the other 3 did not (the three famous ones didn’t, an interesting statistic), all had major careers, and all four lived their lives as shining examples to the rest of us. Three of them were in great form and productive until their last day. They were inspiring to know, and I feel blessed and honored to have known them.

 

In doing some reading to come to terms with these losses, I came across a Bible quote from Matthew which I have always loved. “Let your light so shine before men that they see your good works…..”. All four of the people I mentioned were brilliant examples of that. And in a world filled with social media, and rapidly reported news, we are constantly, daily, hourly assaulted with shocking news and bad events. It’s not so easy to shine in a world filled with the distracting smoke of bad behaviour, and bad news. And yet, these people did. Every day, we have a choice about what we see and what we do, what our standards and values are, and how we treat our fellow man. Do we focus on the bad events? Do we sacrifice our own values, and take the easy road, or the high road? Do we make excuses when we fall short, or keep going on our own road toward higher goals, and lend a helping hand to others on the way? Years ago, when I started writing books in my late teens, my good friend and mentor as a young writer was Alex Haley, the writer of Roots. Famous, successful, he always had time to help others, was always encouraging to young people, and I don’t think I have ever known a nicer, kinder, more extraordinary human being. I marveled at his kindness. (His personal motto was “Find the good and praise it”—-not so easily done in today’s world)

 

In the scheme of life, being famous doesn’t really mean much, except that it helps you to reach out to more people, and it can be exciting to see your name on a list of some kind, or the cover of a magazine. But what really matters is what we Do. When all is said and done, I think who we are is determined by what we have done, how much good we have done during our time here on earth. That’s not always an easy goal, the low road is so much easier. But the people we stand back and admire at the end of their lives are invariably kind, and have lived a lifetime of small gestures to others that make a difference. It can happen in a moment, in a smile, in a gesture to a friend, or a stranger, an act of kindness that makes a difference to just one person. We all fall short at times, and wish we had done better, given more, tried harder, or been more patient. We don’t always realize what a difference we make to someone else. We don’t have to be internationally known or enormously talented to do good works. We each have the chance to let our light shine every day in the smallest of ways. It’s a nice thing to remember when we are tempted to be short with someone, growl instead of smile, and don’t reach out a hand to someone else.

 

I liked finding the reminder of that Bible quote, it’s a wake up call, to let our light shine so brightly that it lights up the darkness that surrounds us at times in the world.

 

The people I knew whose lives ended in the past few weeks were all shining examples of that…..their light shone so brightly, their good works to others (not just their talent) will be long remembered, and blessed everyone on their path.

 

There is another quote that I love too, by Robert Louis Stevenson, “It is the history of our kindness that alone makes this world tolerable.” And what I remember most about the three lost friends and one family member is not how famous they were, or how much they accomplished, but how kind they were. Maybe in the end, it is the only mark worth leaving on the world.

 

Have a happy week, and Let your light shine, even in the smallest of ways…..and I will try to do the same.

 

With much love,  Danielle

 

 

10/1/18, The Rose and the Thorns

Posted on October 1, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’ve had a good week. I’ve had a long crazy one, travelling again, and my travel day this time consisted of TWO, not one but TWO cancelled flights, and 7 hours in the airport between them (with my 3 dogs), only to go nowhere and go back home that night, unable to get a seat out for another 2 days. It’s fairly typical travel hell nowadays, but it sure isn’t fun when it’s happening. And I think cancelled and delayed flights happen a lot now. In the end it took me 4 days to get home, instead of one. It’s all part of the complicated landscape of travelling now, and challenging at best. I was exhausted by the time I got home.

 

Two hours after I got home, I celebrated my daughter’s birthday with her, and some friends. It was a really fun evening, and her birthday was the reason I came home. I would have swum home if I had to, not to disappoint her.

 

And the next day, I had some sad, bad news. A friend had gotten sick a few weeks ago, seemed to be coming out of it and recovering, and this morning at barely 60, he had cardiac arrest and died. I was stunned when I got the call. It just didn’t seem reasonable or possible. We had spoken only a few days ago, and emailed regularly. He was a wise, intelligent, extremely kind person who had been very helpful to me, always willing and quick to go the extra mile to help. He was a truly lovely man, with strong protective instincts. I always felt safe when in his presence, as though nothing could harm me when he was around, which is a rare feeling. I met him many years ago, and our paths crossed again earlier this year. The friendship picked up then for the past several months. I saw him twice this summer, and as usual, he was wonderful to me. We exchanged some emails, just chatting, and three weeks ago, I learned through one of my children, he was ill in the hospital, and wanted to hear from me. So I sent him an email, and we began talking. He was suffering from the illness he had, but he was determined to beat it. And he assured me only days ago that he would. While he was ill for the past few weeks, our correspondence became voluminous and intense, as I tried to encourage him, and hoped he would get well soon. I sent him some prayer cards, and some religious things, including a medal from a convent near my childhood home in Paris, and some books. And our email exchanges were fun too. I was always happy to hear from him, and he was grateful for the support. The thought that he might not get well seemed remote and unlikely, and he said that he was confident that he would. We spoke a few days ago, and he was “confident that he was getting better”. And then one morning a few days ago, that terrible call, that he had died suddenly, and was gone. It left an instant void, and an overwhelming feeling of sadness, and I was stunned all day after hearing about it.

 

The concept of birth and death has always been a mystery to me. It always struck me when I was having a baby. One moment you are X number of people in the delivery room, and minutes later, there is one more person in the room. How did they get here? It is utterly remarkable to me that a person can be added or subtracted at a moment’s notice. And similarly, death makes no sense to me at all. People you love and care about and know, see regularly or once in a while, and suddenly that person no longer exists. Game over. The person you loved or knew is nowhere to be found on this planet, you can’t talk to them or see them, and never will again. Vanished. Gone. Whatever they were doing before, and in all the places where you used to see them, they are no longer there, and you will never hear their voice or see their face again. It seems incredibly cruel, especially with our loved ones. Now you see me, now you don’t. And we are left with the memories of time shared with them.

 

I’ve often said that some books are shorter than others, and it applies to people too. Some lives are shorter, and they are not meant to go the whole long distance. But for those of us left with our memories, and not with the person we loved, it’s hard to understand why this happened, and what it means to us.  I will miss talking to my friend, and reading emails from him, the exchange of laughter, the comfort and the reassurance of his emails. Why destiny chose to make our paths cross again this summer for these few months, I don’t know. And I know even less how such a lovely person, anxious to help anyone he could, should die so young. I’m grateful to have known him, I will cherish the memories of who he was and what he shared, and the example he set for kindness in this world. He always went the extra mile for anyone.  I will miss his smiling face, and so much about him.  He said to me the last time we spoke, that he preferred to focus on the roses in life than the thorns. He was certainly a rose in many lives, and I will long remember and cherish his friendship.

 

Have a great week!!

 

love, Danielle

 

Filed Under Family, Friends, Paris | 7 Comments

9/17/18, Hard Day, Hard Week

Posted on September 17, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’ve had a good week, even a great week, as the Fall gets off to a busy start. For those of you with children, they’re all back in school by now, which keeps parents busier than ever, until the new routine is established, and things settle down. And with after school activities, and sports teams, kids keep us running. Mine are all working now, and I miss those school days (which will sound crazy to you if you’re dashing all over the place with your kids, and wish they’d hurry up and grow up. Beware of what you wish for!!! They grow up all too soon!!). I still have one child living at home, and am grateful that I do!!! Every time she leaves her laundry stacked up in the front hall, or borrows something and forgets to return it, or loses something, or scrambles my schedule, or uses enough towels to stock a hotel, I remind myself of how lucky I am to still have her at home!! Any time I spend with her is precious.

 

I had a busy, mostly fun week last week, doing errands, catching up, seeing friends for lunch and dinner. I love having friends in for dinner after the summer, to catch up with how everyone’s summer was. I worked, and finished an outline I love, for a future book, and can’t wait to get to work on it. And I’ll see a few friends this week too, and visit two of my daughters, and see 2 more of my kids by the end of the week. Seeing my children will be the best part of the week. And I have a bunch of real life stuff to do too. A visit from the plumber to solve a (lack of) hot water problem, a trip to the vet to check the dog who was sick this summer (Blue, with a disk problem), put away summer clothes, call to complain about the kitchen chairs I ordered 5 months ago and haven’t received yet. Ordinary real life housewifely stuff, which I enjoy. I got a new TV for my bedroom, after 14 years, which is fun. I like the rhythm and routine of ordinary life, I find it comforting and relaxing to get small things done. Last week had its serious moments too, I went to the memorial service for a dear friend, and unfortunately will go the memorial service of a beloved brother in law this week. The friend was 91, a famous fashion designer (Hubert de Givenchy, an extraordinary really lovely man). My brother in law was in his late 80s, and like a real big brother to me since I was 16. Both men led good, full, long productive lives. I will miss them both, but it is in the order of things for people to leave, and both lived well lived complete lives to a great age, which makes their leaving easier to accept.

 

But all in all, I know this will be a hard week for me. However well I fill the time, whatever I do, there is a date that I cannot escape every year, the anniversary of my son Nick’s death, by suicide at 19. He was greatly, great loved, and still is, and I miss him always. Talented (in writing and music), brilliant, funny, loving, compassionate, he was a wonderful boy, suffered from bi polar disease all his life (I first noticed it before he was 2, and knew it for sure by the time he was 4 years old). We did everything we could to help him, but he finally just couldn’t live with the pain anymore. He led a remarkably full life in his short time, he already had a successful career in music (writing lyrics and music, and lead singer in a successful band). And even after his death, his life has been a blessing to many people. We established two foundations in his honor, to help mentally ill people, and the homeless. Thousands of people have been helped in his name. There is a blessing in even the hardest events in our lives.

 

Anniversary dates are always something of a mystery to me. The person we loved, and still love, is just as gone the day or the week or month before and after the anniversary. But there is a power to the anniversary date that is like the sound of a gong that reverberates through you, shattering the silence and any sense of peace. It’s as though your body knows what day it is as well as your heart. Life stops for me on that day, as I try to remember him without remembering how terrible that day was. Birthdays are easier because there are happy memories of that day. There are no happy memories of the day someone you love dies, and it pierces your heart like a spear. The memory of that stops you in your tracks. I try to keep it as gentle as possible, but there is no easy way. This will be the first year that I won’t be with some of my children on that date, but I will see them the next day. There is something particularly terrible about losing a child, at any age, because it is not in the correct order of life, and a child is part of you from the moment they are born until you die, and they take with them a part of you that belonged to them.   So it will be a hard day. It always is. Some years are harder than others, and some years are a little better, and gentler. You never really escape it, but some years whatever you do to soothe the pain seems to work, distraction, seeing friends, whatever you do, and you get through it. Other years you barely crawl through it. The pain begins to dim the next day and gets back to something you can live with, but you hit a wall on those days, time stops, and you are catapulted into the past to a day you wish had never happened. In a way, the agony of that day doesn’t make sense, because they are just as gone before and after the day, and you learn to live with it…..but the actual anniversary date is particularly tough. I dread it, but one gets through it. It comes at you like a heat seeking missile, headed straight for your heart.

 

He was an incredibly sweet boy with a huge heart. Forever missed, forever loved, for the rest of time.

 

Have a great week!!! I hope it is a gentle week for you, with lots of happy moments in it.

 

all my love, Danielle

 

8/20/18, Bea, an Amazing girl!!!!

Posted on August 20, 2018

Hi Everyone,

 

Well, here we are, the last week in August, Labor Day is just around the corner, and we have ‘done’ the summer. It has whizzed past us, I hope you had lots of fun, some time off and vacation, and I hope you’ll look back on this summer with a smile. And now we have all the excitement of the fall to look forward to, and our winter plans and projects, in some cases moving at high speed after the summer. I am definitely back at work, and working on new books.

 

I wanted to bring you up to date on something I have mentioned to you before, that happened in my family two years ago. My nephew’s daughter Bea, my great niece, was 17 years old then, a beautiful, happy normal high school girl. She grew up in France, her father is French, her mother American, and they had just moved to Brussels, Belgium from Paris a few months before. Her passion was, and is horseback riding, her dream was to ride in the Olympics. And her great love was, and is, her beloved white horse Deedee. She has two older brothers, lots of friends, and lots of dogs. A very normal high school girl. And in March of 2016, her whole world changed. The family went to Florida for Spring vacation, she stayed back a day, and set out to join them in Florida a day later. She went to the Brussels airport for her flight, and Fate intervened in a very major way. It was the morning that terrorists blew up the Brussels Airport, right as Bea was in line to check in. We know now that she was standing roughly 3 or 4 feet from one of the bombs when it exploded, and was one of very few survivors in the terminal. It is a total miracle that she survived at all. Seven months in the hospital of fighting for her life, dozens of surgeries ensued. Hundreds of people were killed and injured. She was in a military hospital along with the other survivors, because the wounds inflicted were so extreme that they were only comparable to wartime military injuries, not civilian ones. She was burned over much of her body, was paralyzed in the days and months after the explosion, her body was full of shrapnel, pieces of metal in the bomb designed to do the most damage possible to a human body, and she lost both legs. It’s the kind of horrifying event you read about in a newspaper, but doesn’t happen to anyone you know. But it did, to this very wonderful 17 year old girl. And the future looked dark indeed for a while.

 

We don’t have any idea how any of us would respond to catastrophic events in our lives. Something like that is beyond imagining. She was in a medically induced coma for a while, to alleviate her suffering. And what not only survived but flourished and grew to incredible proportions was her extraordinary spirit, her strength and determination, not only to survive, but to have an amazing life in future anyway. She has a family who adores her, and a remarkable mother who exhibited strength and courage that kept Bea fighting for her life at the darkest times—and fighting for the quality of her life.

 

One of the most touching moments in her early recovery was when she was finally well enough to sit in a wheel chair and be rolled outside for some air. Her horse trainer had arranged with Bea’s mother and the hospital to bring Bea’s beloved horse Deedee to visit her. The video of it reduced me to sobs, and still does. Bea was sitting in her wheel chair, not expecting a visit, as Deedee was led out of the trailer, was instantly alert, and literally raced across the parking lot to where Bea was sitting, found her, licked her face adoringly, and then rested her head on Bea’s shoulder. It was pure love between those two. It was a turning point for Bea in her recovery. A day or two later, she was cautiously lifted into the saddle on Deedee, and held there so she wouldn’t lose her balance and fall, and thus began the next chapters of Bea’s life, with courage, love and hope, and a fierce determination not to be beaten or destroyed by what had happened.

 

Fast forward the long arduous film of what came after: 7 months after the attack she left the hospital, and went back to school for her last year—-she was greeted at school by a standing ovation by the entire school. People around the world, who didn’t even know her, had been praying for her. In June, 15 months after the attack, she graduated, and walked across the stage in braces to accept her diploma. She went to rehab at a Naval Facility in San Diego and is still there. Next month, she will start college. And for many months now, she has been training for the next Paralympics in Tokyo. Three countries invited her to ride for them. They first contacted her after someone had seen the first meeting with Deedee at the hospital. She is hard at work now training for the Paralympics, and getting ready for college. Her determination, and extraordinary spirit are astounding—-how can any of us complain about the problems and disappointments and minor inconveniences in our lives when you see someone like her, determined, strong, never lagging, never giving up, absolutely passionately determined to have an amazing life, and not be robbed of her youth and spirit and courage about life. After college, she wants to start a company for sports equipment adapted for people with physical impairments. She has feeling in her legs and back now, and her hope is to continue to improve. She has worked incredibly hard in the most grueling way at her recovery, and is continuing to do so.

 

Bea is a remarkable girl. Extraordinary, remarkable, incredible, courageous, amazing, don’t even begin to describe her. And her remarkable mother has fought alongside her every inch of the way. Her whole family cheers her on. I am stunned by her courage and spirit. It’s breathtaking.

 

What she has done and is continuing to do is an inspiration to anyone who knows her or hears about her. She didn’t quit, she didn’t give up, she didn’t complain about her losses, she held on tight and celebrated what she did have, and reached out toward all the good things and good times and victories that lay ahead. Her whole life is a victory, a shining example to others, an inspiration to us all. She is the best of what a human being can be faced with incredible challenges, and she has met them all.

 

I am in awe of this brave nineteen year old girl who has faced the unthinkable and is turning it into a victory every single day. And this is only the beginning of what I know will be a shining life that will continue to dazzle and inspire us all.

 

Have a great week!!!

 

love, Danielle

 

 

Filed Under Family, Friends, Kids, Paris | 30 Comments

5/7/18, May Day

Posted on May 7, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,
 

I had a sweet day last week, which was a double header for me. May Day. When I was a little girl in French schools, we used to wear a little wreath of flowers around our heads, and dance around a Maypole. It sounds pretty silly, but I thought it was fun. May Day is Labor Day in France, so it’s a National Holiday. And lily of the valley, the flower, are the symbol of May Day, and happen to be my favorite flower. I love their delicate scent. In France, everyone exchanges sprigs of lily of the valley on May Day, as a symbol of friendship and good luck. There are street vendors everywhere selling lily of the valley, for people to give to friends, coworkers, children, grandmothers. It’s such a pretty holiday, and a lovely thought.
 

May Day also happens to be my late son Nick’s birthday. I loved that he was born on May Day. So it’s a bit of a double edged sword for me now, with happy and bittersweet memories that flood into my mind. Memories of him as a little boy, and when he was born, and as he grew up. He was an amazing person, and passed away at nineteen. So I love the day, but I also miss him enormously on that holiday. I usually invite friends to dinner that night, so as not to be alone, and I did the same this year. Twelve friends joined me for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. Before that, I spent a quiet day, reading, and thinking of Nick.
 

So Happy May Day to you, and I hope that Spring is now officially here. And soon it will be full-on summer!!! Get ready for it!!

 

 

love, Danielle

3/26/18, Inside/Outside

Posted on April 2, 2018

Hi Everyone,

I hope all is well with you, and that you had a lovely Easter, or Passover, if you celebrated either of them. I had Easter brunch with three of my children and their significant others, with chocolate bunnies on the table, bunny ears for all to wear, little chocolate eggs, jelly beans, and the little wind up chicks and bunnies that were fun when they were children.
I was spared April Fool this year, with Easter on the same day. My children are notorious for April Fool jokes and I always fall for them!!

The big excitement for me is that my new book “Accidental Heroes” will be #1 on the New York Times list this week—-it is always a thrill when that happens, and it never gets old.  I hope you read the book too and love it!!! I really love that book, it’s suspenseful and exciting and was challenging to write!!!

I was thinking of something the other day that I wanted to share with you. Twice recently, I’ve had a similar (almost identical) conversation with two very close good friends, one a man, the other a woman, both of them people I respect enormously. Both are people that everyone admires, on many fronts. Both are deep, serious, people with strong personal values. Both have impressive, very successful careers, in businesses they have built themselves. Both have studied hard, and by all normal standards, are high achievers who have accomplished a great deal professionally, and are highly successful. Additionally, both are in long marriages, with the same partners they started out with (not many people can claim that anymore), both have what would be considered today ‘large’ families, several children, and their children are all really lovely ‘kids’, some of them grown up now, and starting on their own lives and careers. Both of them are family people, and have strong family and personal values. I consider both honest, honorable people. Both are good, loving spouses, whom I admire in their marriages. And interestingly, both are religious, and attend religious services regularly. And both are people I truly admire, and many of us would consider role models. What was remarkable about my conversations with them was that both were deeply questioning themselves, and really undervaluing themselves, questioning if they were good parents, were getting really good results with their kids, were they successful enough in their marriages, were they good spouses, and questioning their success and careers. Both had serious doubts about themselves, which would stun me, and did, given everything I know about them. But what didn’t stun me is that I have heard the same things from other people at various times, and have questioned myself in very similar ways at times.

I have wonderful kids whom I love dearly, more than anything on earth, and who love me. They are healthy, normal, upstanding, wholesome, honest, loving hard working young people, and yet I always question if I have done and given enough for them and to them. Have I been enough for them, and been a good parent? I much more easily see my flaws and failings than what I’ve done right. And I heard the same thing from those 2 friends in the last week, and others before them. I have been so blessed in my career, and have had a long successful career I work hard at—-and I work very hard—but do I work hard enough? Am I a good enough friend, person, human being, parent, writer?

What is so remarkable is that good people, who really strive hard to do well and do the right thing, and are really doing a great job on many fronts, so often doubt themselves and think they aren’t good enough. Other people look so much more ‘together’ to all of us. They seem to have all the answers, make the right decisions, look so much ‘cooler’, smarter, better than we look to ourselves.

The best advice I ever got on this subject was from the woman who helped me take care of my son Nicky when he was very sick. She said “Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides”. And it is SOOOO TRUE. Everyone else looks like they have their ‘sh–‘ together, that they know all the answers, and don’t make the dumb mistakes we all do. We don’t see them snap at their kids when they’re tired or had a bad day, or argue with their partner/spouse over something really dumb “you always leave the kitchen a mess….you Never take out the garbage….you never pick up your own stuff, why do I have to do it?….” We see other people’s outer perfection and smooth presentation—-and we look just as smooth, but we know the lumps and bumps of ourselves inside. I question myself a thousand times late at night in the dark hours when I finish work/writing and am alone, and I see everything I’ve done wrong, the mistakes I make again and again, big and small, the times I have failed to go the extra mile for someone and think I should have.

Even people whom we think are so ‘perfect’, are so hard on themselves. Why do we do it? Why aren’t we better at celebrating what we do right??? And all the good things we’ve done!!!

Listening to my 2 friends doubt themselves reminded me of that piece of advice. I’ve heard my kids doubt themselves when they have so much to be proud of in themselves, and I’m proud of them. And I’m sure (or hope) that I’m a better person than I think I am.
I thought I would share that with you, because I’ll bet that many of you do it too—–compare the private you to other people’s ‘outsides’, which look so great.

We are all frail beings, unsure of ourselves, painfully aware of our weaknesses and flaws, and all the times when we think we could have done better. It’s good to remember sometimes that others are no more sure of themselves than we are (no matter how great they appear to us). So if this applies to you too, Don’t Compare Your Insides to Other people’s outsides!!! It’s such good advice!!!

 

Have a great week!!! love, Danielle

3/19/18, Extraordinary Gentleman

Posted on March 19, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,
 

I’m in snow again, what a long cold winter this is!! I hope you’re all tucked up and warm. I’ve been super busy writing, so you’ll have plenty to read soon. And this week, on Tuesday, my new book “Accidental Heroes” comes out in hard cover, which is VERY EXCITING for me, and I hope for you too!!! It’s a book about averting disaster, and the heroic qualities a crisis brings out in people. I am always fascinated and impressed by the strength and courage of the human spirit.
 

And speaking of heroes, one of my heroes passed away last week, an extraordinary, really wonderful, gracious, lovely, supremely talented man, the famous French fashion designer, Hubert de Givenchy. He died at 91, which is a reasonable lifetime, but it’s always sad to lose those we love. And in this case, a truly legendary talent. And I was incredibly lucky and blessed to have been his friend for the last 35 years.
 

Very, very tall, elegant and handsome to the very end, he was one of the legendary great fashion legends and icons of all time, among the truly greats like Christian Dior, Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Cristobal Balenciaga and Pierre Balmain. Hubert de Givenchy was a fashion giant in both Haute Couture and Ready to Wear, his enormous talent indisputable. I was lucky enough to wear some of his clothes.
 

But to those who knew him, he was remarkable not only for his talent, but for what a ‘gentle man’ he was, as well as a gentleman. He had a soft, gentle kind voice, always said something kind, had a personal elegance of spirit and a kindness that is rare in this world. I don’t think I’ve ever known or met anyone as gracious as he was. Beauty came naturally to him, and he brought it with him and was surrounded by it like a rare perfume. His home in Paris is without a doubt the most beautiful I have EVER seen, an 18th century house on the fashionable Left Bank, with antique wood paneling, exquisite furnishings, fabulous antiques and a breath taking garden. He loved white roses. He loved children and dogs (he always had a black lab), and was very much a family person, and very close and interested in his nieces and nephews. He was truly admired and loved by all. Anyone who met him felt touched by grace and magic. Meeting him once was a gift, knowing him as a friend an unforgettable blessing.
 

One of his very closest friends for most of her life and a big part of his was the actress Audrey Hepburn. She wore his clothes on and off stage for her entire career, in every film, and he accounted for her incredible elegance. He was deeply fond of her and admired her, and loved her as a friend. I cherish a photograph he sent me of the 2 of them together. He sent the people he loved, loving notes, never forgot an event or a holiday, and was the soul of discretion in every way.
 

His life partner was also an haute couture designer, Philippe Venet, they were together for over sixty years.
 

It was a somber announcement when Hubert de Givenchy’s passing was announced in Paris last week, and around the world. His leaving is a loss to us all.
 

I am so grateful to have known and loved him, and to have been his friend. Knowing him was one of the great gifts of my life.
 

Have a great week, and I hope you have time to read “Accidental Heroes”, and I hope you love it, it’s an exciting book!!!

 

much love, Danielle

 

 

Filed Under Fashion, Friends, Paris | 2 Comments

2/19/18, Night of Hope

Posted on February 19, 2018

Hi Everyone,

I hope that all is well with you, and you’re enjoying a holiday, and had a great Valentine’s Day!! I had a truly wonderful experience last week, which meant a great deal to me.
 

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a great fan of Joel Osteen, the minister from Houston, Texas, whose quiet, modest way has slowly brought him to the forefront of people’s attention. His books, which are basically inspirational practical messages of hope have all been #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers list, and his message is simple and pure and uncomplicated, you don’t even have to be deeply religious to be touched by it. I have mentioned him to friends of varied religions, and some not even that religious, and his message is direct, practical, warm, common sense for today’s often complicated world. He gives me hope and strength when I need it.
 

I first became aware of Joel when I was in a hotel room in New York years ago. Bored, late at night, I was flipping through channels with the remote, and when I got to Joel’s show, something stopped me. I watched and was touched and impressed, and assumed no one had ever heard of him. A few weeks later, running through an airport to catch a flight, I saw his book, bought it, read it, and loved it, and gave it to friends. I have remained a huge fan of his message, his mission, and his work ever since. He has written many books, and I’ve loved them all!!
 

Two years ago, I mentioned him to my PR people, just in a passing conversation, and one of them “knew someone who…knew someone….who knew someone…who knew him.”, and he was coming to San Francisco. I bought tickets to see his service, at the baseball stadium, and the person who knew him very kindly made an introduction. I invited Joel and his wife to come to my home for a visit, and to be honest, it was a major thrill for me. I was also very nervous about it, afraid that the man behind the message might be different, or commercial, or slick, or not what he seemed to be in his books and on TV. And he was different—-he was even better!! A little shy perhaps, quiet, gentle, funny, kind, natural, “normal”, a real person, a very big person in a VERY humble way (most truly great people are humble). I gobbled up the time talking to him, and his equally lovely wife. When I went to the service at the ballpark, with a friend, we were invited backstage to meet his sister, his brother, his mother and his children. They are strong family people, and all work together. His brother does medical missionary work in Africa half the year, his mother is amazing, his children are really nice kids. They exude love, and friendship, kindness and grace, and are fun to talk to. Meeting him two years ago was one of the great thrills of my life. And I recently discovered that he was coming back to San Francisco, and luckily I was going to be in town briefly for my son’s birthday, the day before. I got tickets again, and was invited backstage again. Joel touches my heart profoundly. Religion of any kind isn’t for everyone, but Joel is truly a very, very special person. I find him to be a remarkable person, and I’d say he is one of the few people in my life who impresses me most. He lives his message, he breathes it, he shares it, and gives generously of himself, without forcing his ideas on you. He offers them like precious gifts, and what you do with them, how you interpret and live them, is up to you.
 

When he does these tours around the country, the events are called “A Night of Hope”. It was that for me, and I was floating after seeing him again. He is just the nicest person, and once again his family embraced me. We were just hard working people, sharing the thoughts that warm us and give us strength, and enjoying a night off with a great friend. I feel soooo lucky to know him, and to have met him. Knowing him, and meeting him, and reading his work, has been life changing for me.

I cannot help but comment too on the absolutely heartbreaking events that happened in Florida last week. Having lost a teen aged child, to suicide, not violence, my heart aches for the parents, the families, the lives lost, the people who loved them. I am profoundly moved by the teacher who stood in a doorway to take the bullets meant for the children, and died in the process. It is love and heroism beyond measure. Apparently, a mother, distressed beyond belief, understandably, said they don’t want our “thoughts and prayers”, they want change. The statistics are absolutely horrifying. Over 200 school shootings since Sandy Hook, 65 last year, 17 since the first of this year. A friend of mine with a four year old, trying to pick a school for her child, wants a school that offers the most security against events like this. People are no longer picking a school for their math skills, their language program, the experience of the teachers—-they are picking schools for how well the children are protected from lethal incidents. People talk about the politics involved, which are complicated. For me, as a mother who lost a beloved son, all I hear and all I see and all I know are these grieving people who have lost precious children. My heart goes out to them. Their lives will never be the same again. they do have my heart and my prayers, my sympathy and compassion. It is a tragedy beyond measure. May it stop soon, and may their souls be blessed, and their memories cherished forever, and in time may those who love them find peace.
 

with all my 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