Archive for the ‘Kids’ Category

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 | 6 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

4/3/17, April Fool

Posted on April 3, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’ve had a good week, it’s been crazy busy and a full week. And by the time you read this, I’ll have survived another April Fool’s Day at the mercy of my children. Although usually reasonable and sensible people, they take full advantage of April Fool’s day, and have since they were kids. And they haven’t given it up yet. Since I’m usually running around busy, or deep in a book, I never remember what day it is, until the third call to bail one of my kid’s out of jail. JAIL???!!!!! Or the third call from one of my single daughters telling me that they’re pregnant. They’ve told me some lulus over the years, and I always believe them—until by sheer numbers, I realize what day it is. After all, they can’t ALL be in jail!!! They’ve pretended that they eloped to Las Vegas, or broken up with a girlfriend. Have announced that they got fired, and every time I try to be sympathetic, and then of course realize that I’ve been had. One of my daughters played an April Fool’s joke on her boss and nearly got fired years ago. And they trick each other too, no one is exempt in this group!!! They’ve gotten milder as they grow up, but they still can’t resist the temptation to start my day off with startling news!!! I should do the same to them, but never do.

Other than that, I’m really happy about how well my new book Dangerous Games is doing.  I’m soooo happy people are loving it!! I hope you’ve read it, or will soon!!!

And I’ve had a house guest for 3 days, one of my closest friends, so that has been wonderful!!!

I hope that all is going well for you, and that if you had any bad news, it was all April Fool’s jokes, and nothing more than that!!!! I’ll be travelling again this week…..I am definitely leading a nomadic life!!! Have a great week.

love, Danielle

8/29/16, Sweet Visit

Posted on August 29, 2016

Hi Everyone,

I hope these last days of summer are nice for you, and that you’re still enjoying it.
Summer is definitely over for me, I’m back to work, working hard. I don’t know where the summer went, it went so fast, and now a few days this week and then Labor Day, and then it’s officially over. Boo Hoo!!! Just about everywhere, kids are going back to school this week, so that’s it. We’ll have to wait til next year for hot weather and summer vacations. It seems a long time away.

I had a really sweet week until I went back to work (although that’s sweet too!!). The 12 year old daughter of a very close friend in Paris came to visit me, and it was a real treat. She is the sweetest kid, and it was so much fun. With grown up children I forget just how easy and nice that age can be, everything is straightforward and simple, you know where you stand, communication is easy, in most cases, problems are small. Kids that age are happy to be with you, don’t have conflicting plans, and two hours in a swimming pool is super fun!! They are thrilled with everything at that age. And she is an exceptionally nice, well behaved child. I had a wonderful time with her, a little shopping, 2 movies, some swimming, bowling, buying new books, we visited the sea lions (too smelly), a manicure (bright orange!!) pasta dinners, pizza, we were supposed to go to a museum, but never did. Her big thrill was buying candy. And as I solemnly promised her parents, we did 2 hours of her remaining summer homework every day, and finished it!! And it’s a really brave thing to do, for a kid that age to visit a grown up, she must have been worried that she’d be bored, but it was an adventure for both of us, and a real gift to me!!! On the day she left, we both woke up sad that she was leaving, suddenly the easy fun was over, and it went too quickly. I took her to the plane, and waited until it took off, and before it did, she was sending me frantic text messages about how much she already missed me (I did too), and texts with hearts on them. I was really sad to see her leave (and started a new book that night). It was such a simple pleasure, so innocent and pure, and she’s such a sweet kid, it really was a wonderful visit. She starts school on Friday. It was a perfect end to my summer. (The one funny note was that she bought so much candy, for herself, her brother and sister, that I had to lend her an extra suitcase to take it home.)

And by the way, it was my Chihuahua Minnie’s birthday this week. I hope you remembered!!!

I hope the end of your summer is sweet too!!! Have a great last week of summer!!!

all my love, Danielle

7/25/16, The heart of summer

Posted on July 25, 2016

Hi Everyone,

I hope the summer is rolling out well, and you’re having fun, taking some time off, and enjoying family and friends. Hot weather, good times, maybe some swimming and sunning, fishing, whatever seems like fun to you. I love reading in the summer, when I take time off from writing for a few weeks.

I’ve just had my annual one week vacation with my 5 younger kids (the older 3 are married and have their own plans, the younger 5 are single and still join me for their vacations. And I’m well aware that I’m very lucky that they do, it’s generous of them to give up vacation time to be with me!!), and the time is always infinitely precious to me. For a brief week, I get to wake up every morning and know I will see them, we can have breakfast together, lunch, and dinner, laugh at old stories, share what’s going on, we can slouch around, be lazy, sleep in the sun, share gossip, or hopes and dreams, or admit to disappointments or mistakes, and for that one week, we have the luxury of time, we don’t need to rush or go anywhere, we just hang out. It’s especially precious to me, and reminds me of when they were younger and were at home. Precious days, which fly by too fast. While we’re busy driving car pool, doing school pick ups, and mountains of laundry, getting them to soccer practice, the orthodontist, or ballet class, we don’t realize how fast it will go, and be precious memories one day. I cherish each moment that they’re around. And then suddenly, the week is over and they’re gone, back to their busy lives, and I go back to the typewriter, to fill the silence in the house. I don’t think our kids ever realize how much we miss them when they’re not around. And living in separate cities now, makes the time together that much more meaningful, since we can’t just drop in on each other, or go to the hardware store or a movie together. We plan it months ahead. I’ll get a second round later this summer, and get to spend a long weekend together for my birthday, but the annual summer vacation together is very sweet and a real gift for me.

We spent our week together in France, and there is no denying that it is very tense there now after another recent attack. My kids were even more aware of it than I am, since I live here and am getting used to the changes we live with now. It was sobering to be at the airport, with soldiers every 3 or 4 feet, each one holding a machine gun with their finger on the trigger, ready to shoot into the crowd at the first sign of an attack, their captains watchful, each one holding a pistol, also at the ready. The ease of the most recent attack, with a rented truck used as a weapon to drive into a crowd and ruin more than 300 lives, has made people nervous and wary. We stayed at our hotel, didn’t wander around nearby towns as we always do, and we always go to a nightclub and go dancing once during the trip, and we didn’t this year. It just didn’t seem smart in the circumstances. The country will recover, but for now people are justifiably worried and frightened. For us, and for me, it’s home for part of the year, so it made sense to be here, but I worried about my kids flying in and out, and they were brave to come, and concerned.

But in spite of that, they swam, and we lay in the sun, we ate too much, laughed and kidded each other, played Scrabble and cards, ate dinner late and talked for many hours, and shared news about our lives, and of course I always give unwanted advice, and forget at times that they’re not kids anymore, a failing that most parents are guilty of. We’re a big family so there’s always a lot to talk about.

Now it’s back to work for me, and for them. But even a week together puts new life into all of us, and brings us closer, and reminds us of how much we enjoy each other……the house is much too quiet today……I’d better get back to work and start typing again!!

Take good care, have some fun….we all need it, and you deserve it!!!

much love, Danielle

6/6/16, Spring Cleaning

Posted on June 3, 2016

Hi Everyone,

I hope that all is well with you, and that things are going well. I have had a bussssyyyyyy month, jam packed with projects, things on my ‘to do’ list, and writing. I feel like I haven’t stopped.

As I shared with you recently, I ‘attacked’ a big storage unit we had filled with years of old stuff, right down to my children’s art projects and baby clothes from years ago, one of my daughters saved every homework assignment from first grade through college. I kept all of that. But we also had A LOT of ‘stuff’, furniture of my mother’s that no one wanted, some REALLY ugly chairs of my grandmother’s, and some pretty things too, mostly furniture. For years anytime someone had something they didn’t know what to do with, the battle cry was ‘send it to storage’. They did, and for years I have wanted to weed it down, and get rid of what no one wanted, and never will again. I managed to reduce it to about half, and it was a HUGE job. I felt very virtuous for finally doing it. I set a date, and stuck to it, and did it. And I set a trend for the month: cleaning house and spring cleaning. I’ve been on a roll all month!!

Every year, I help one of my daughters get the family vacation home that they share, ready for summer. I don’t know how, but things just gather all year, and that turns into a huge cleanup project too before every summer, hosing things down, setting out cushions, repainting patio furniture. The place is very old, but has a lot of charm and they love it. They spent their childhood summers there, so they really love it. And having just cleared out a lot of the storage unit, I was much ‘tougher’ this year. If it was broken, we fixed it, if it couldn’t be fixed, we replaced it (at Ikea—–one of my favorite stores at very reasonable prices, and you can find everything for the home!!), if it was ugly, we finally faced that and dumped it, if no one wanted it and it was decent we sold it, and if it was less terrific, we donated it. We cleared the decks, and worked like dogs!!! With great results. They’re starting the summer free of cobwebs, and the junk that collected all year.

They also have a really small house they rent out, and that needed spring cleaning too for a new tenant, and we did the same thing there. I feel like I have spent the month moving furniture, cleaning everything, buying clean potholders, throwing out old ones. I have definitely done my spring cleaning for the year. Let me loose in your house right now, and I can strip it in an hour, dump all that stuff you don’t want, and convince you to go to Ikea to buy something (cheaper) and new!!! I’m a menace right now. After three major cleaning sessions—by the end of it, my battle cry was ‘get rid of it!! And we got some really cute stuff at Ikea, some new plates, pots and pans, some rugs, 2 benches. We had a ball!!! I love shopping there!!

So the illusion that I have a glamourous life is dispelled. I wore combat boots for most of the month, hauling a lot of broken old stuff to the trash. I love projects where you start out with a mess, and can see real results in a short time. It takes a long time to finish a book, and to solve most problems. Spring Cleaning has fast results, and you’re all proud of yourself when it’s done.

And after all that, I got to work on a new book. So it has been a busy month, now we can enjoy the summer—-and spend the rest of the year making a mess again!!! And as summer begins now, I hope you have some wonderful plans, to relax and take some time off (and read of course!!) Have a wonderful week!!

love, Danielle