Archive for the ‘Kids’ Category

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

Posted on December 25, 2017

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas!! love, Danielle

12/19/17, Busy Days

Posted on December 19, 2017

Hi Everyone,

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

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

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

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

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

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

With much love, Danielle

12/11/17, “A Christmas Story”

Posted on December 11, 2017

Hi Everyone,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

much love, Danielle

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

Posted on October 31, 2017

 

Hi Everyone,

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

Happy Halloween, love, Danielle

Filed Under Family, Holidays, Kids | 2 Comments

9/18/17, Sweet Nick

Posted on September 18, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’re having a good week, as we all adjust to fall. I just finished a book and have hit the deck running into September, as I always do. We have two family birthdays in September, which provides some fun and levity. But this week is always a serious one for me, particularly so this year.

As most or all of you know my son Nick suffered from bi polar disease all his life. In those days, doctors absolutely refused to diagnose patients with bi polar disease as children. It was considered unthinkable to diagnose them before their early twenties. Today, it’s entirely different, children as young as 3 are diagnosed, treated and medicated. It’s thought now that not treating the disease as early as possible can cause irreversible changes in the brain that can’t be reversed later, due to lack of treatment early on. So doctors are quick to diagnose bi polar now. And I’m sure, as with anything, there may be some premature diagnoses, that turn out not to be accurate later. But on the whole, I think lives are changed, improved, and even saved by today’s early diagnoses. And maybe it’s better to early-medicate than not medicate at all until too late. It was clear to me by the time he was 4 that Nick had a serious disorder of some kind, and by the time he was seven, I was sure he was bi polar. I first suspected it when he was two. And no doctor agreed with me until he was 15, and he was first medicated at 16, which was considered shockingly early. The appropriate medication changed his life within weeks, and was definitely the right thing for him. Once on medication (lithium), he said he felt normal for the first time in his life. (Before that, when he was very young, doctors would explain his ‘off’ unusual behaviors by his near genius IQ, his too bright mind, and the fact that he was possibly spoiled, and had a famous mother. And yes, I probably did spoil him, but that didn’t account for his too exuberant, too bright, precocious behaviors. To most people, he just seemed like an extremely bright kid, but I thought there was more to it than that. He was too smart, too fast, too old for his age).

Despite his illness, Nick led an amazingly full life. As many bi polars are, he was brilliant, talented, charming, funny, incredibly endearing. I got a long letter a few months ago, from a girl who met him 21 years ago in a parking lot while he was on tour, and a half hour encounter and conversation with him, she claims, changed her life forever. She was a drugged out 15 year old at the time, and he tried to talk her out of doing drugs. He was what they called straight edge, although on the racy music scene, he did no drugs and didn’t drink at the time. She said his words came back to haunt her as she grew up, and she eventually gave up drugs, and has a solid life with two kids now, and decided to share the story with me. I’ve had many letters like that. He touched many people in his short life, and made a lasting impression.

In his short time, Nick performed (sang as lead singer, wrote music and lyrics) with two bands, one of which became relatively famous and is still around. There are CDs and videos of Nick performing with them. He toured the country, performing night after night, which wore him out, but he loved the tours, which were grueling. He had an incredible musical talent, and huge stage presence and personality. I think he would have been famous if he’d lived. And he was just a knock out person, and an incredible kid. He was ridiculously funny with a great sense of humor, a huge heart, he was compassionate. And very, very smart. He was bright and funny and talented and greatly loved. And 20 years ago this Wednesday, September 20th, he took his life at 19. He made three attempts before that, and finally succeeded on the fourth one, although we kept careful watch over him and he was never alone. But with that kind of determination, we couldn’t stop him from succeeding at suicide in the end. The weight of his illness was finally just too much for him.

Many, many, many people with bi polar manage the disease well, get good treatment, and lead full, productive lives, just as some people survive cancer. Nick just wasn’t destined to be one of them. That’s hard to accept, but it was true for him. Someone wrote a song about him after he died that said “If love could have kept him alive, he would have lived two hundred years.” He was loved by just about everyone who knew him, and incredibly so by his eight siblings, his father and me. But sometimes love isn’t enough. With bi polar every day was a battle, and a victory. When I read his journals after he died, I read with great sadness that he had begun talking about suicide with great determination at eleven. We were able to give him another 8 years. I wish it could have been more. We tried every kind of treatment. But I can say with certainty that in spite of his illness, he REALLY enjoyed much of his life, LOVED his music with a passion, did more than many people by the time they’re sixty, and accomplished a great deal in 19 short years.

This week is the anniversary of his death. Always a tough day for us as a family. We each have our special memories of him. He had a special relationship with each of us, and was very close to me. He was a great blessing in our lives, and a gift. I don’t think he was meant to live a long life, and I don’t think he could have done it. He put a huge amount of energy into surviving for nineteen years, and so did we, in helping him do it.

This year the anniversary is particularly poignant. It has been 20 years. It doesn’t seem possible, but it is. His younger siblings have grown up, have good lives, and his older ones, and he comes with us every day in our hearts. Sadly, his two best friends are gone now too, and also died very young, one also by suicide although unlike Nick, he showed no warning signs before, and the other tragically in a fire, saving his room mates, he helped them all get out, and got trapped himself and died a hero’s death. So Nick and his pals are up there somewhere now, up to mischief, I’m sure!!

We all think we could never survive the death of a child, and it’s certainly not an easy thing. We have tried to balance his death by a foundation in his name, to help the mentally ill, and have helped thousands of people in his name. I used to dread too when he would have been gone for a long time, when his life among us would seem so far away…. twenty years…. but it isn’t far away, he still seems right here with us, and stories of some of the really funny or outrageous things he did still surface all the time, and we end up laughing all over again. There was a lot of laughter in Nick’s life, and love, and joy. He was a gorgeous boy and a wonderful person. And is constantly and forever loved and missed.

I’ll spend the day quietly with some of my children, as I do every year. The anniversary of that date is a tough one, and doesn’t bring back happy memories, but then the happy memories flood in. Nick was all about joy! He constantly made us laugh and smile, and even now he still does. Sometimes I just grin or laugh out loud when I’m alone and remember something ridiculous he did. He did ridiculous so well!!!

As someone said so simply afterwards, “Too bright, too brief”. It was too brief, but he was a very, very bright star, and lives on in our hearts forever, shining brightly.  The brightest stars remain with us forever, and he surely will.  My love to all of you, I hope you have a peaceful week.

love, Danielle

Filed Under Family, Kids | 7 Comments

8/21/17, 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

6/5/17, Foundation

Posted on June 5, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I hope you had a nice holiday last week, and a good week after that. I got to do something that I do anywhere between two and four times a year, that is always rewarding, touching, and fascinating. When my son Nick died, I wanted to find something meaningful to do in his name. I also wrote a book about him, to honor him, and share my experience with other parents. Nick suffered from Bipolar Disorder, it became evident by the time he was 4 years old, although at the time, they did not diagnose the disease in young people until they were 18 or 20, and medicated and treated them only then. Today, they diagnose children as young as three years old, and begin therapy and treatment then, which is now believed to help the disease become more manageable. The longer it goes untreated, the more it has lasting effects on the brain. And although, there was plain evidence that he was bi-polar, and I was begging for help, he wasn’t diagnosed until he was 16, which was even considered early then. He was started on lithium immediately, and within a month, he said he felt normal for the first time in his life. It was wonderful to watch him thrive and flourish, it had been a hard road for him, and for us until then. Once treated, he had a rewarding career in music, was an avid student, and a charming, funny, bright talented person, who enjoyed many things about his life. Until he had treatment, things were pretty bleak, and we tried everything we could to help him. People who suffer from bi polar have severe ups and downs, deep paralyzing depressions, which alternate with euphoric highs. He tried getting off his medication, because he felt so ‘normal’ on it, and ultimately he attempted suicide four times, succeeded on the fourth try, and died at nineteen. It’s amazing how you can squeeze a whole person, their life history, and the course of an illness into one paragraph!! He was an absolutely remarkable, incredible boy, vastly loved by his family, and we miss him every day. But he also brought us immeasurable joy, he enjoyed big parts of his life, loved his music career, became successful at it—–and after his life, he has helped thousands of people through the foundation we set up in his name, not to provide individual help which we aren’t trained to do—but the Nick Traina Foundation funds organizations providing hands on treatment and therapy to mentally ill people. We also donate to organizations involved with the victims of child abuse, and other organizations engaged in suicide prevention. So many, many people have been helped in Nick’s name.

When I wrote the book about him, to share his life with others in similar situations, to help other parents, and sufferers of the disease—-I didn’t want to profit from the success of the book, so I assigned some of the proceeds to the foundation. The book, “His Bright Light” continues to fund the foundation, along with private donations.

Two to four times a year, the Board of the Foundation meets, and we go over grant requests from organizations in our area, who are working with and helping the mentally ill. We do on site visits to see the organizations in action and better understand what they do, and together the Board considers the requests, and decides who to give the foundation’s money to. It’s hard to believe, but we’ve been doing it for 20 years now—it’s even harder to believe that my son Nick has been gone for that long, but he seems ever present in our lives, with the wonderful memories we have of him, the love we shared, and the work we do in his name.

So we met last week with a stack of grant requests—-we take them very seriously. There are three doctors on our board, two of them psychiatrists, and all of whom knew Nick. We have a lawyer, a finance man, one of my daughters, myself, and the foundation secretary, and we all put a lot of time and thought into who we give the grants to. And we contribute to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, to assist musicians who need our help, since Nick was a talented singer, lyricist, and musician. It is incredibly touching to read the material sent to us, and to learn more about the organizations we contribute to, all of them set up to assist the mentally ill, and people, often young people, who have suffered as Nick did. I wish we could give to all the organizations that apply, but we can’t, and we give to as many as we can. The Board Meetings are lively, dedicated, and serious, and we try to donate in the best possible ways we can.

So Nick has been responsible for some very good work, even after he left us. There have been free beds in youth shelters and some hospitals, treatment, therapy, hot lines for suicide prevention, emergency mobile units, and assistance to the mentally ill among the homeless, and a scholarship in his name. It always warms my heart to be at the board meetings, and know that Nick is responsible for helping literally thousands of people over the years. It’s a lovely way to honor, remember, and continue to cherish him.

Have a great week ahead!!

much love, Danielle

Filed Under Family, Kids | 6 Comments

5/8/17, Happy Mother’s Day

Posted on May 8, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’ve had a great week since I last wrote to you!! My favorite holiday is coming up this week, on Sunday, Mother’s Day. I always say I love it, because I get presents and don’t have to get a year older!! Definitely a plus!! And I think I have every Mother’s Day gift my kids ever gave me: I still use a slightly battered Kleenex box my kids decorated for me, all the usual soup can pen and pencil holders. Several decorated jewelry boxes. One of my sons made me a terrific table in woodshop when he was ten or eleven, which I still use in my office, for my computer when I send emails. He made it and painted it himself. I have drawings and paintings they made me, and ceramic hand prints they made in Kindergarten, and some ceramic fruits and vegetables that are so pretty I still have them in our family sitting room, mixed in with some antique Chinese ceramic objects (and they look great together!!). I have lots of needlepoint cushions the girls made for me, and some wonderful more sophisticated gifts they’ve given me as they got older. One of my favorites is an Italian sweater, black with gold and pearl letters on it that says “Mamma”—-I wear it every chance I get when I think I need to be identified as The Mom at a special occasion!!! So I have been utterly spoiled by my kids.

When I was married to their father, and the kids were younger, we made a BIG deal of mother’s day—but they still do, we have brunch together at home, and usually meet up again in the evening and go out to dinner. And I do it in two ‘sessions’ now, in two cities, so I can meet up with as many of them as possible, for those who live far away now. It’s a very, very special day for me.

I realize too that it’s not always an easy day. If your own mother is no longer around, it can be a hard day, or if the relationship with your mother is not an easy one (I’ve had that experience too). There have been some very important ‘adopted mothers’ in my life, growing up and as an adult, women who became extraordinary friends and role models for me, and whom I love and admire still to this day. Even if we don’t have a present mother, or an easy one, other sometimes older women can come into our lives and be an important force in our lives for love and support. And I’m very, very grateful to the women who did that for me and some who still do.

So whether you celebrate with your own mother, or a stand-in mother, or a favorite aunt, whether you are a mother yourself or not, it’s an important day to celebrate some of the relationships we have with other women who are important to us, or to be motherly ourselves for someone who needs us in that role, whether we are related by blood or not.

I hope this Mother’s Day will be wonderful for you, and that the special relationships in your lives that celebrate mothering in some way, will nurture you, or that you will be nurturing someone else.

Have a great day!!! And a wonderful week ahead, much love, Danielle

5/1/17, “Against All Odds”

Posted on May 1, 2017

Hi Everyone,

Today is a special day, for a couple of reasons. I hope you’ve had a good week with lots of good things happening. I always love May Day, it was a wonderful holiday when I was a little girl, and I still love it as an adult. As I’ve mentioned to you before, in France (where May Day is Labor Day), the custom is to give those you care about (friends, family, or loves) a sprig of lily of the valley. It’s my favorite flower and the smell is heavenly!! And in Paris, on every street corner, vendors are selling sprigs of lily of the valley for people to give to friends or loved ones. And when you get a little sprig of lily of the valley from someone, it is supposed to bring you luck!! I always give a dinner party on May 1st, with close friends, and give each of them a little vase of lily of the valley to take home with them.

May 1st is particularly special to me because it’s also my son Nick’s birthday. The day always reminds me of all the wonderful birthday parties we had for him. An almost life size cake, shaped like a whole person, of his favorite singer at the time: Prince. (He was also Prince for Halloween when he was 5 or 6—-he had very advanced taste in music for his age, and later became a musician, singer, and composer. When he dressed up as Prince, he wore a black wig, boots, and wore a lavender and red lame sparkly disco outfit of mine, from my younger days!! One year we had a cake that was a life size cake version of his favorite skateboard. We went all out for birthdays and holidays!! He LOVED his birthdays!! So although it is always bittersweet that he is no longer here, it’s the anniversary of a happy day, and I invite 10 or 12 of my closest friends, and I celebrate him in my heart, and it’s nice being with friends on that night.

Tomorrow is going to be a special day too. My newest Book, “Against All Odds”, is coming out tomorrow. It’s about a widowed woman, single Mom of four adult children in their 20’s and 30’s—-and the disastrous relationships they get into, thinking that they can “beat the odds”. It’s hard or even impossible to beat the odds (someone wins the lottery, but no one I know!!)—-if it looks like it’s going to be a disaster, more than likely it will be. It’s about each of the four children’s relationships, and how challenging it is for parents to watch their kids make dangerous choices—-and there’s nothing you can do about it. The situations they get into are very varied, and how they face their challenges is exciting. I hope you love it, and maybe you can relate to it as a parent. We’ve all been there in one form or another, watching our kids grow up!! Have a GREAT week!!

love, Danielle

Filed Under Family, Kids, Paris, Writing | 4 Comments