Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

2/25/19, Extraordinary Karl Lagerfeld

Posted on February 25, 2019

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you had a great week since we last “met” here on my blog a week ago. I look forward to reading your comments at the end of my blogs. And I try to share with you things that matter to me, I discover, or that I’m doing or care about, or people that I meet whom I find interesting. It’s a peaceful moment in my week when I chat with you.

 

I will confess to you as I write to you this week that I am very sad. The world lost a true genius last week, a truly extraordinary man of immense talent.  Four weeks ago, I wrote to you about the Chanel Haute Couture fashion show in Paris, which I’ve often written to you about before. I go to that show twice a year faithfully, and to the Chanel ready to wear show once a year. It’s usually the only fashion show I go to, and it’s always a thrill. I mentioned to you in my blog afterwards that Karl Lagerfeld the designer for Chanel of the past 35 or so years, always appeared after the show to take a bow, and this time, for the first time, an announcer said after the show that Mr. Lagerfeld was “tired’, and sent us all his greetings. He was of a considerable age (85), somewhat frail by now, and frankly, his schedule would have left any of us not just tired, but exhausted. He designed all the Chanel ready to wear collections, which are larger than any other brand, and the Haute Couture collection—-all of that would be work for ten men, not just one. At the same time, he was the designer for Fendi, had his own brand, was an avid and talented photographer, produced some films, wrote some books. He lived life to the fullest, and expressed his HUGE talent in countless ways, right to the very end. He wore a white pony tail with a black ribbon as in the ‘Olden days”, high starched collars, tail coats, he was a legend, a Huge Persona, a genius, and truly an icon of the fashion world. His not appearing for his bow after the show seemed worrisome and even ominous to everyone at the show when they made the announcement, and everyone filed out in total silence, saying not a word, as it occurred to each of us that one day Karl would no longer be here. It seemed unimaginable, and we all hoped that he would be back in good form soon. And now, four weeks later, he is gone.

 

As an aside, it has been a hard, odd winter. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of so many people I know who died as in the past few months, people of all ages, which makes you stop and think. I had a huge loss last summer when my beloved friend Hubert de Givenchy, the famous fashion designer, passed away at 91. As sad as I was, and I was very sad, he was a wonderful friend and also an immense talent and a truly lovely, lovely person, a great and noble man—–somehow at 91, I can almost accept that that is the way of life and the world, and if they led a full life, it’s almost tolerable. Shortly after, last summer, I lost a beloved brother in law, who had been my big brother since I was 16, but he was much older than I, well into his eighties, so again, I accepted the hand fate dealt. In September, a really lovely friend, full of life and vital, and also a remarkable human being, fell ill for a short time, and was given a medication which gave him cardiac arrest from a reaction and he died at 62. Shocking. I was reeling from that. And as winter came, a friend lost her father, another friend lost his amazingly perky adorable 107 year old grandmother—-again at that age, it’s hard to argue about it.  And I heard of others whom I knew, but not that well. And then suddenly over Christmas a great friend passed away, also in his 80’s, and then a couple I know died in a tragic accident at Christmas—-one of those dreadful things you read about that should never happen, their Christmas tree caught fire 2 days before Christmas, they were trapped in the blaze, and died in the fire, a true tragedy. And then only weeks later, I was told that two of my San Francisco neighbors had died, one at 64, the other at 76. In today’s world of modern medicine and great health care, people live so much longer that a death at 60 shocks us, and in someone’s 70’s seems premature. And so many people are vital and still involved in life in their 80’s (I know so many creative people still working full steam ahead in their 80’s), that that shocks me a bit too. And I was notified last week that Lee Radziwill, Jacqueline Kennedy’s sister, died too. Too many people. And now Karl, which is a huge blow to the world of fashion, and the world.

 

Karl Lagerfeld was truly one of the most talented people I have ever known. He had a genius for fashion, a great eye, a touch of humor, he didn’t take it too seriously, he was a commercial genius, an artist, an icon, a legend. Truly, he was a HUGE persona, he left a mark on fashion that will last forever, like Coco Chanel, and Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent and Cristobal Balenciaga.

 

What always impressed me about him was his enormous energy. Designers groan at cranking out 2 to 4 collections a year. He did 6 or 7 a year, or even 8, AND another brand, Fendi, and his own brand, was a serious photographer, active, busy, always creating. I cannot believe that that incredible life force and creative tornado is gone. It can’t be.

 

I have met a few legendary people in my time, and he is truly one of them. He was always kind to me whenever I met him, though he could be funny and ironic. I admire his genius with fashion, and his wit about it, along with his huge talent. He had fun with it, and made it fun for those who wore it. I don’t think there will ever be another designer like him. And along with his talent, I admired his work ethic. He was going 200 mph right to the end. What an extraordinary life, and extraordinary man.

 

Although whatever talent I have does not compare to his, I work hard too. Too hard sometimes. As he did, I work all the time. The result so far is 176 books. Now that my kids are grown up, I write constantly. When my kids were younger, I always took their school vacations off work, and never worked on weekends. Now that they’re grown up and I’m alone, I work constantly. And I will share with you that I think working is wonderful, (I don’t believe in retirement for anyone!!), but Karl’s passing reminded me that you have to live life too. No matter how hard working or talented, one day it is all over. And one has to LIVE life to the fullest, and enjoy each second.

 

I will include a link here to a very good article about him, but when I heard the sad news about him, it really made me think, and reminded me that we need to work, and we also need to LIVE.

 

So my message to you today is Do. Be. Think. Act. Give. Love. Work. Try. And live life to the fullest.

 

And I love this quote of Karl’s, it kind of says it all about him. “There is no secret to life. The only secret is work. Get your act together, and also perhaps, have a decent life.”  My promise to myself is to continue to work hard, create, write books, love my children, spend as much time with them as they have to give me, and remember to have fun. It matters.

 

Karl will be remembered forever as the giant he was, and I am blessed to have known him. We weren’t close friends, but I was honored to have met him many times, to have seen so many of his shows, and to have known a genius. And I love the example that he set with a full, creative, productive life, working hard to the end. What a legacy he left us.

 

Have a great week, do fun things, work hard, and enjoy every minute!!!

 

love, Danielle

1/28/19, Rainy Sunday: Boundaries

Posted on February 4, 2019

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope January went by pleasantly and productively, and now we’re off to February—-and Valentine’s Day—-don’t get me started on that. If you’re madly in love, or even moderately in love, New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day can be terrific—-if not, and love is not big on your agenda at the moment, watch out for those two nights. Alone, and in the wrong frame of mind, they can really suck. So much for that (I solve both by working if Love is not on the horizon. It works for me. I forget where I am and what I’m doing, and what day it is. Kisses and romance are certainly more fun, but work is okay too).

 

The riots are continuing in France, after three months now. The violence is not as extreme as in the early months and weeks, but the destruction and a certain degree of violence continues, it’s more contained, but stores are still being burned and looted, even if to a lesser degree. (In the first month, the rioters broke into a jewelry store, destroyed the brand new store, stole a million dollars’ worth of jewelry and vandalized and set fire to the place. They are a little more moderate now, but have caused billions of dollars of damage. It’s heartbreaking to see, in a city as beautiful as Paris). And just last week, one of the rioters clashed with police, lost an eye, and is still in a coma. No political opinion or cause seems worth that to me (other than a real war where you are defending your family and your home). Several people have died, both rioters and police. And it continues. An American friend commented to me the other day that it is hard to understand how the riots can happen once a week, by appointment on Saturday, with real savagery, and even loss of life and injury, and then go about their business like civilized people the other 6 days of the week. It makes no sense to me either. I was thinking today , as I have for these 3 months, and have seen some REALLY frightening days with entire streets on fire, whole blocks of cars burning, and stores and homes—–no matter what the cause or the reason, I abhor when it turns to violence and wanton destruction. (Some people even came from other countries (Spain, Italy, Belgium, Germany) to join in the ‘fun’, when they have nothing to protest about daily life in France, or government positions. It’s not their country. The reasons for the protests/riots have shifted and grown, it started with gas prices, went on to taxes, retirement pensions, complaints about the rich, the minimum wage, and like water it spread and became more free form. Anyone who had something to complain about, even if they had valid points on certain issues, put on a yellow jacket, and got busy. Not all the protestors were violent, but too many were. I hate violence, we all do. It just seems to me that once people lose control to that extent, they not only lose their effectiveness, and sympathy, but it just seems profoundly wrong to me. Even on a tiny personal level, when I lose my temper and get really angry, which is rare for me, I always feel diminished and as though I have lost something important of myself. One should be able to solve problems without losing one’s temper, saying hurtful things, and certainly without violence. Among the many shocking statistics floating around are that the electronic monitors on the highway, to monitor speed and send tickets later, were ALL destroyed in many areas around Paris. To replace those machines now will cost half a Billion dollars. And what about the rest? The stores, streets, houses, monuments, bus stops, and private and public property that were destroyed. Inevitably, taxes will be raised to cover the expense of repairs, which defeats the purpose of the protests. They wanted lower taxes, and did so much damage, that now taxes will be raised to pay for it. Everyone loses once violence happens, and even more so on a personal level.

 

After mulling all that over (with no conclusion) on this rainy Sunday, it made me think of boundaries and how important they are. I’ve been in relationships without them, which eventually bit the dust and died, for lack of them and other problems—-but EVERY relationship, whether parental, familial, boss and employee, mother and child, or between lovers, friends or spouses, and even between roommates—-EVERY relationship needs good boundaries, or regrettable things are going to happen. Someone younger than I asked my advice this week about a blow out that had happened in their romantic relationship, where one of the partners went off the deep end, said and did things they shouldn’t have, and wanted my advice about it. (People always assume that if you’re older than they are, you’re smarter, which isn’t always true. Older people can be just as confused as younger ones, they just look more grown up!!). But the incident related to me was clearly a terrible lack of boundaries. Some people assume that you can do or say anything in an argument, no holds barred and say “Sorry” later and it will all go away. That just isn’t true. Some words and some actions should never happen and can never be undone. My suggestion in this case, which is one I’ve tried to use myself, with good advice from a therapist, is to sit down at a good time on a good day (not at 2 am in the midst of an argument), and agree to some mutual rules of fair fighting, based on what’s important to each person, and stick to them meticulously in future—-No breaking the rules. Because the horrible things you say or may do (breaking something precious to the other person, insulting them so deeply you can never take it back, saying awful things about their families or kids (if their kids aren’t yours), frightening them or threatening to abandon them, threatening to end the relationship if you don’t really mean it—–those things just can’t be taken back are never forgotten and ultimately destroy the relationship, and do irreparable damage to the other person and the relationship. None of us can afford to let loose like that, nor should we allow ourselves that liberty or want to. I first heard about ‘boundaries’ in a group therapy session I went to….and I left it thinking “what was that B word again?…barnacles….beautiful? Uh, what was that?” it was boundaries, and I have learned the importance of that since.  I see it all the time when people don’t have good boundaries and let loose on others in ways they never should, and may not even mean (and even worse if they do mean it). But once you say it, it’s out there, or do something awful to the other person (not even physically, but emotionally). And watch out for people who DO intend to hurt you, and go as deep as they can to hurt you. Run like hell when you run into one of those!!! I find that I never feel really emotionally safe with people with bad boundaries, you don’t know what they’ll do or say, or how much they’ll hurt you.

 

So that’s my thought for the day: Boundaries. They really are important. Laws are a form of boundaries imposed on us, and we respect them so we don’t get in trouble and break those laws. Boundaries are just as important so we don’t break someone’s heart!!!

 

Have a great week!!!

 

much love, Danielle

 

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