Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

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

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

Posted on August 21, 2017

Hi Everyone,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a terrific week!!

much love, Danielle

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

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

8/14/17, Filling the Void

Posted on August 14, 2017

Hi Everyone,

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great week!!! love, Danielle

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

8/7/17, God Bless America!

Posted on August 7, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I’m still a little dazed from travelling, moving around a lot in the last few weeks, and a vacation with my kids, and now getting back to work. I’ve been doing re-writes (on books) all week. And I had a REALLY lovely experience I want to share with you.

One of my employees, a wonderful woman, became an American citizen this week, and I was honored to be invited to the ceremony. I’ve never been to one before, and I was thrilled to go. I knew it was an important moment for her. She is Italian, and grew up in England, and has been in the US for more than 30 years, with a green card, and decided to become a citizen. And the ceremony was beautifully organized, and very touching. It was held in really lovely theater from the 1930’s, there were 1,014 people naturalized, from 92 countries. And everything was perfectly planned from the moment we got there.

While we waited for the ceremony to start there were films of various beautiful parts of the US, and some wonderful film clips of Ellis Island, which is a fascinating place, which I’ve researched in the past for several books. The stories of immigrants there in the early days are very touching, and they have remarkable records, where you can find your ancestors in the ledgers of immigrants going back over 100 years. We were greeted by various Federal employees, a chorus sang, and there was a mounting sense of excitement as we waited for the new citizens to take the oath. It’s a long, long process for many, until they get to the final event. We saw a wonderful film clip from Madeleine Albright, the previous ambassador to the UN, and Secretary of State (under Clinton). who was apparently Czechoslovakian, and came to the US at eleven. She gave a very moving talk of what it meant to her then and now. There were a few more speeches, we sang the Star Spangled Banner, pledged allegiance to the flag, and then finally the oath was administered and 1,014 people became Americans. What touched me profoundly was how excited and thrilled they were, and how much it obviously meant to them. To those of us born here, we take our citizenship and freedoms for granted much of the time, and then you see how much it means to others, how they have struggled for it, and wished for it, it really makes you realize how precious those freedoms are, and what a gift.

After the ceremony, people milled around outside with a festive feeling and atmosphere, then a group of us went to lunch to celebrate with her. It was a fun day, and a very special moment I was proud to share!!

The other excitement of my week was official, but less patriotic, and a lot less fun—Upon renewal of a drivers’ license in California now, you have to take the written test, every five years. The booklet of questions to prepare you for it is 80 pages long, with sooo MUCH to remember. I passed, but was terrified I wouldn’t.

So I’m keeping busy and having fun. It was a very ‘official’ week for me!!! I hope you’re having a great summer!!!

lots of love, Danielle

5/22/17, Reese!!

Posted on May 22, 2017

Hi Everyone,

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

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

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

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

love, Danielle

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

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

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

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

5/15/17, Another House Story

Posted on May 15, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I hope that last week went well, and that Mother’s Day was a good day for you, even if you spent it in some unusual non-traditional way. There are so many ways to be a mother these days, and to have a mother. Some of the most loving mothers in my life have been women I was not related to, and have been wonderful mothers to me. I cherish those relationships.

I was so touched by the many, many responses to my blog (on April 10, I think, “Random Acts of Kindness)—-we all need to remember at times that miracles DO happen, and sometimes the littlest blessing can turn out to be a big one, and just what we needed.

It touches me too to hear of the challenges you’re facing. Children you have lost, which I’ve experienced too, as you know, relationships you’ve lost, men who have abandoned you, difficult family relationships, and job challenges, one lady wrote that she still has to work at 63, and another one wrote that she is still obliged to work at 75. I do believe that even if working is hard at times, I think it keeps us alive and engaged in life, and busy. I can’t even imagine what I would do if I weren’t working. Particularly with my children grown up now, I need the challenge of work, and I’m lucky that I love my work—most of the time!!!.(I have a magnet on my fridge that I love, it says “I’ve done the calculation and I’ll be able to retire 5 years after I die”. That’s true for a lot of us, particularly if we have a lot of responsibilities to others!!) I really admire (much) older people who are still working, I hope I can continue writing until I’m very, very old!!!

The challenges you mentioned in your responses to my blog are the things I write about, because they are the challenges we all face—-and the things that frighten, sadden, and discourage us at times, whether the loss of a loved one, or a disappointment of some kind. And I write about them because I’ve experienced them too, so I can relate to what you said.

Your responses remind me of another house story that impressed me when I read it. It didn’t happen to me, but to someone else, and it was written in a little book that I still keep in a suitcase I travel with, because it’s a good reminder when something gets me down, and it’s a true story, written by an inspirational writer. She wrote about needing a new home, and not being able to afford a nice one. She was able to buy a very small house, in terrible condition. She said that it was truly ugly, and once she was in it, she absolutely hated the house, everything was shabby or broken, and she didn’t have the money to fix it up. She said that every night for a year, she just sat in the ugly house and cried, hating it, and the fact that she couldn’t have anything better. After a year, she said that she got tired of crying about the house, and she saved up and bought some fabric and made curtains, but the rest of the house was still a mess, she then bought some tools, and fixed the woodwork in the kitchen, she lived alone, and had to learn how to do it (I think she’d gone through a bad divorce). She said her kitchen looked amazing after she worked on the woodwork. She was so busy, working on her house at night, she stopped crying, and started enjoying it, and little by little, her ugly little house got better and better. She said it took her a year, but at the end of it, she had come to love the place, and she loved the way it looked. She redid the floors, and regrouted the bathroom, and did it all herself, and painted all the rooms. She saved up to buy inexpensive second hand furniture and fixed that up too. After a while, she really enjoyed it, and eventually she planted a garden in the tiny backyard. And AFTER she worked her tail off on the house, and loved the way it looked, and it felt like a cozy home, something changed in her fortunes, she got a great opportunity and a better job, she sold the house, and was able to buy a much better one that she loved. But the lesson that hit me from her story was that, she had to embrace the ugly house first, and really work to improve it, and once she did, everything changed—not immediately, but in a reasonable time. I think it took her a year to fix up the house, and then everything got better after that.

We ALL find ourselves in situations we hate, a home we don’t really like, a job we hate (I had a number of those before I was able to write full time), a boss who makes our life a living hell—-and most of the time, those situations don’t improve by magic. Sometimes, often, we have to embrace the situation we’ve got, and work on improving it, and only then, when our attitude changes toward it, are we shifted to a much better place or situation—but first we have to do OUR part. The bad boss doesn’t just quit and make your life easier, and no one walks up to the front door and hands you the keys to a better house, or gives you a check to improve it. But once you do your part, the miracles start to happen.

That story has been a great reminder to me that we have to work on improving a situation, and not just sit and cry about it, and we can’t give up until we make the ‘ugly houses’ and situations in our lives more livable, and THEN the blessings and miracles happen. A friend may help you, or a lucky break, or some unexpected money, or someone may give you what you need—-but we have to do our part of the work too. I hadn’t thought about that little book in a while, and you reminded me of it when I read your responses to my blog, so I’m sharing it with you.

Have a terrific week—–an AMAZING week, not just a good one!!!

much love, Danielle

Filed Under Family, Friends, homes | 3 Comments