On vacation. See you next week, Love, Danielle
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Posted on June 25, 2018
I hope you’ve had a good week. I had another busy one, with three of my children visiting in one week, one after the other, and lots to do with them. All daughters, so we did a lot of fun shopping. I have to admit, shopping always relaxes me!! And it’s so nice sharing adult time with one’s children, talking about life, and what’s going on in their lives.
Thank you for your wonderful responses to my blog last week. Motherhood is certainly the best job in the world, and sometimes the hardest—-while you try to do the right thing, hear their needs and what they have to say, and set a good example, which isn’t always easy because even as parents, we’re human too, and inevitably make our share of mistakes, no matter how hard we try not to!!
My new silly pet peeves while shopping: it has become fashionable in fancy stores to offer you coffee, water, and sometimes even wine while you’re shopping, which always annoys me. I cannot juggle a cup of coffee while I’m trying to shop, I don’t drink (alcohol), and if I’m thirsty, I can have a bottle of water before I shop. Why would I want to juggle coffee while trying to look at clothes or try them on? If I want to eat or drink, I go to a restaurant, and if I want to shop, I go to a store. They mean well, but it seems silly to me. My youngest daughter is outspoken at times, and when they offered us wine in a store once on a hot day, she thought about it and then said, “no, thanks, but do you have a beer?” They looked very surprised, and did not have a beer on hand!!
But my biggest pet peeve in stores now is that they have pat phrases that they use to make you feel welcome, and make you feel at ease in the store. The most popular one these days seems to be “How’s your day so far?” That somehow suggests to me that they’re going to check in with you again later, and is meant to give you the impression that they really care and want to know. Let’s face it, I’ll probably never see them again, or go back to that store for another year or more, they’ve never seen me before, and won’t again, and don’t know me from Adam. So how’s my day so far? Am I supposed to tell the truth, and tell them it sucked, that the plumbing repair bill was way higher than I thought it should be, the roof estimate I got was ridiculous, I had an argument with one of my kids over something stupid, I had a flat tire this morning, I have to go to the dentist in 2 hours, I have a writing deadline, and the dog threw up on the rug. There’s a lot that can go wrong in a day’s time, and some days are more challenging than others. So am I really supposed to tell a stranger how my day was “so far”? I just nod dumbly, and say “fine”, which seems like the appropriate answer. I think what annoys me about that question is that it’s supposed to give me the impression that the sales person really cares, and we are now buddies, so I’ll want to buy more. It doesn’t, it just seems silly to me, and I buy (or don’t buy) what I would have anyway, so it seems pointless to me.
Other than minor pet peeves like the above, I’ve had a good time with my kids. I enjoy spending time alone with each of them when I can, so I get to hear what’s really going on with them, and we share a few laughs, some meals, and a good time. It’s really nice having down time with them.
I’m going to spend the week relaxing, and catching up on a few things, maybe doing some reading—before the next wave of my children, four of them, arrive in a week to spend time with me. It will be busy, but really nice for me. I’m in a lull between books, which is great so I can read other people’s books for a change.
I hope good things are happening for you. Take good care…..And I hope your day, and your week have been “great so far!!” and will continue to be,
Posted on June 18, 2018
I’ve had a very busy week, with some of my children visiting me, and running around with them, doing lots of things, spending time together,—and still trying to keep track of my work, and not falling behind.
I hope you’ve had a good and productive week!!!
I was very moved by the responses to my last blog, about the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Mr. Bourdain in particular must have been a remarkable person. My children were deeply upset by his loss, and all week I have heard people talk about what he meant to them, and how inspiring he was. He was a public figure and celebrity who really meant a great deal to people, and he will be very, very much missed by his many admirers and fans. Suicide is always a terrible loss, and a tragic event. It is always far reaching, and saddens and affects us all.
One of the people, who responded to the blog, is a frequent ‘responder’, with thoughtful and kind comments about the issues I raise in the blog. This person shared his own grief about his grandfather’s suicide, and his subsequent estrangement from his mother. He talked about how deeply affected he has been by both of those events, and no question, those are both events which would shake anyone to their foundations. It led me to think about, and want to share some circumstances in my own life, that I rarely talk about.
My mother was an extremely beautiful woman, it was probably her most striking feature. She was a model when she was young, and beautiful and naturally youthful looking until she died at 80. Great beauty sometimes seems to be more of a burden than a blessing, and I don’t think she was ever a happy person (She was solitary and dissatisfied, and even bitter in later years). She married very young, at nineteen, to a much older man (my father), and had me when she was twenty. And like some very physically beautiful people, she was very self-centered, and she was accustomed to having her world revolve around her. People spoke of her beauty til the end of her days. It taught me at an early age that beauty is not enough, and no guarantee of happiness. Having children was never part of her life plan, and I think it must have rocked her world when she had me. She was never good at sharing center stage, I only knew her to have one woman friend during her entire life, and my mother offended her early on, and the friendship ended. She was always and easily surrounded by men who admired her, and were dazzled by her (including my father, who never quite got over her). I think she considered women a threat, and didn’t seek their friendship. So having a child, a daughter, was not a welcome event in her life. My relationship with her was tenuous from my earliest memories of her, and she left my father, and me, when I was 6 years old, and moved on. Like the man who responded to my blog, and spoke of how devastated he was by his mother’s rejection of him—-for any child to be abandoned by their mother is a shocking event, one that can take years to recover from, and certainly takes time and a great deal of thought and introspection to even begin to understand. Once I had children of my own, I understood even less how my mother could walk away from a child of six, or any child, at any age. When my children were very young, I would feel literally physically sick if I left them for more than a few hours. There is an almost physical bond between mother and child, where a mother NEEDS to be with her child. We see it in nature, with animals, and in people. And because I was abandoned by my mother so young, I have always been extremely devoted to my own children, present for every event, there for every moment I could be when they were children, and very close to them as adults. If anything, my mother leaving me probably made me a better mother, and perhaps made me love my children more. I knew what it was like to feel ‘unloved’ by my mother, and never, ever wanted my children to experience that. She was more present in my life again once I was an adult, but in all honesty, we were never close. I was attentive and dutiful, as an only child, but we never overcame the enormous tear in our relationship, which occurred from her leaving me when I was so young, and the time, years and experiences we missed with each other.
We all have preconceived ideas about what a mother should be, and most of us expect too much of our mothers, and expect them to be superhuman human beings, able to understand and meet all our needs, wanting them to be warm, loving, compassionate, all forgiving, and never let us down. But mothers are as human as anyone else, I don’t think motherhood ‘improves’ us, I think it magnifies what is already there, both the good and the bad. And some people simply shouldn’t have children, and cause a great deal of harm and pain when they do. Not having children by choice always seems a somewhat sad decision to me, but for those who know they don’t have what’s needed within them, they make a wise decision to follow their instincts and not have children.
We expect our mothers to love us more than anyone on earth, to accept us unconditionally—-and when they don’t, we are secretly convinced that it is some terrible flaw or failing in us which causes a rejecting mother to behave that way. It must be our fault if our own mother doesn’t love us, and those who have been rejected by their mothers carry that weight for many years, sure that something terrible must be wrong with them. It took me many, many, many years (and therapy) to understand that whatever my failings, the flaw was not in me, but ‘simply’ in a mother who didn’t have a mother’s love to give. Understanding that is an enormous relief when it finally dawns….’oh Wow, it wasn’t me’. Not having a present mother is a loss, but in some cases it is the loss of someone who just has nothing to give us. Their tanks are empty, and their heart. I share that piece of my history with you because being abandoned by a parent is a terrible blow, and we feel it reflects on us, and being abandoned by a mother seems even worse somehow—your mother is supposed to love you no matter what. But not all mothers can do that. Mine couldn’t, and apparently neither could the mother of the person who responded to my blog. It’s worth saying too that because you were unloved by your mother does not mean that you are Unlovable—-there’s a big difference between the two. That person, a mother, who didn’t love you, clearly wasn’t able to—but that doesn’t mean that others won’t love you in your lifetime. You ARE lovable!!! We all are!!! And deserve to be loved.
It made my life infinitely easier once I understood that it had nothing to do with me. She was just fatally flawed, and didn’t feel able to be a mother, unfortunate to be sure—-but what crime could I have committed by the age of 6 to make her not love me? None at all.
Interesting things happen too when you don’t have a mother. Throughout my life, much older women have appeared in my life who were wise, loving and compassionate, and took me under their wing for a time, and gave me a kind of love and approval that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Much kinder and more intelligent and wiser women than my mother, a friend’s aunt when I was in my 20’s, just an extraordinary woman, a friend I met when I moved to California/ a Superior Court judge who had no children of her own. Both of those women were loving mentors to me and cherished friends until they passed away. And a third one, whom I had known as a child, a friend of my parents who lost track of them early on, and reappeared about 20 years ago, and she is an extraordinary woman, still active and brilliant and engaged in life in her 80’s, unfailingly loving to me, and always a source of love and encouragement in just the way I would have hoped from my mother as a child, or later on, and never had from her. I feel very fortunate to have had these women in my life, each of whom has made an enormous difference, and gave me enormous gifts of love. So my needs were met, despite my own mother leaving me as a child.
What I wanted to share is that the turning point comes, and the healing, when you realize that a child is never abandoned because THEY are insufficient in some way—but because the parent is insufficient and incapable. It’s not about you/the child, it’s about the parent who lacks the ability to love a child adequately, enough to be a loving mother. Being a mother, especially a good one, is not an easy job, and not everyone is equal to it. Once you understand that, all the heat goes out of the loss, or most of it. And our needs are met in different ways in life, not always from the sources we expect, but sometimes from more unusual ones. Losing my mother for all intents and purposes so young wasn’t easy, but once I understood who she was, and saw her with compassion, the loss was no longer a tragedy, but simply a fact of my life. And yes, I did hope for better from her right to the end, but it never happened. She died quite suddenly, still in very good form, still beautiful, and leading a very independent life. She died of a bad flu, within a week of catching it, when it turned to pneumonia. I was able to see her before she died, and I hoped for a minute that she would suddenly say everything I had hoped to hear for all of my life, but she didn’t. She was who she was, true to herself and true to form until her last breath. Quite amazingly, about a week before she died, she said in passing “You were the best thing that ever happened to me.” I was stunned, had never heard anything like it from her in my entire life, and jokingly said to a friend “she must be dying to say something like that”. It was a final gift, and the best she could do. And between my children, and the kind women who have mentored and befriended me over the years, I don’t feel cheated, I feel blessed. And the best I can wish for those who had a similar experience to mine—I hope that you realize in your heart of hearts that there is nothing wrong with you if you feel that your mother didn’t love you—if so, it was her burden to carry, and her failing, not yours. And the sense of loss and lack falls away when you realize that. Our best mothers are not always the women we were born to, which was just an accident of fate. And Don’t forget that YOU ARE LOVABLE, whether your mother loved you or not.
On a lighter note, I’ve told you about the White Dinner in Paris before—-it’s a very special event that happens once a year and originated in Paris, where thousands of people are invited to dress elegantly all in white, and meet in front of one of the spectacular monuments of Paris, for a moonlit dinner on a June night, and to bring with them a table, chairs, white table linens, china, silverware, candles, dinner, and enjoy a magical evening together, and then disappear like mice at 1am, leaving not a shred of mess or evidence that anything took place in the location. There is an incredible Cinderella feeling to it, and it’s a prize to receive an invitation (the dinner is free, by invitation only and meticulously organized. And the location is revealed an hour before the dinner). With my children visiting, I didn’t attend the event this year, and was driving with my children that night, and lo and behold, we drove into the Place Vendome, and there was The White Dinner, I saw friends there, all the gorgeous candlelit merriment, and the long rows of elegant white tables, gleaming with silver and chrystal. I chatted with friends there for a few minutes, and then drove on. What a gorgeous event the White Dinner is!!! It is truly magical (I wrote a book about it called “Magic”).
So have a wonderful week, full of beautiful surprises, good people, and happy times.
Much love, Danielle
Posted on June 11, 2018
I’m on one my usual three city/two country treks, with 10 suitcases and three Chihuahuas, visiting two daughters midway, and meeting another when I arrive at my destination. So I was going to take a week off from the blog, since I’m traveling, and send you a “Gone Fishing” message. But recent events are too serious to ignore, so I’m sitting down to write to you. The events I am referring to are the suicides of Kate Spade, the fashion designer, and Anthony Bourdain, the famous chef and TV personality, in the last week. Ms. Spade was 55, and Mr. Bourdain was 61, both much too young to have left this world, both immensely talented and greatly admired and respected.
As most of you know, I lost my son Nick to suicide (resulting from bi polar disease all his life) at 19, so I have lived the fall out of suicide at close range. Several of Nick’s friends followed that same path, and his very best friend, a wonderful boy, with everything going for him, great family, nice girlfriend, successful career, bright, charming, intelligent, kind, an incredibly decent person, and he committed suicide in his 30’s. It came as a shock to everyone who knew him—more so than when my son Nick died, since he had battled with bi polar/manic depression all his life. Others among Nick’s friends have done so as well. Each of my children has had friends who have committed suicide. And tragically, I have been to more funerals for young people than for my own contemporaries.
I did not know Kate Spade, although several of my children knew her and her husband, and one of my sons is/was very close to them, and crushed by her death. Nor did I know Mr. Bourdain personally, but several of my children are his ardent fans. Many years ago, one of my children’s friends was on vacation with us, when he saw on television the news that his famous actress mother had committed suicide, and then not long after, his father. He was 14 at the time, and we shared his grief with him. And I knew Robin Williams for 16 years when he died. We met through our children, because one of my daughters and his son were boyfriend/girlfriend devotedly all through high school. I came to know Robin then, and was always impressed by what a wonderful father he was, and how much he loved his children. At his funeral, his friends were devastated, and his three children were absolutely crushed. Knowing what a dedicated and loving father he was, all I could think was how devastated he would have been if he could have seen how broken hearted his children were. It takes an immense driving force for someone to commit suicide, and I suppose it blinds one to all reason—-in their own agony, they don’t realize how their death by suicide will affect those who love them. We had a wonderful caretaker and advisor on psychiatric issues for the last 5 years of my son Nick’s life—she was a talented, brilliant, warm, sensible woman, and a wonderful mother to her three children, with a loving husband. She was so depressed by my son Nick’s suicide, that she never recovered herself, sank into a terrible depression, and three years later, she committed suicide too, at 36, with three young children, who were the ones to find her, given the circumstances in which she did it. We were all heartbroken by her suicide too.
I don’t know of Mr. Bourdain’s family circumstances, but Ms. Spade had a 13 year old daughter, who is left to survive her mother’s death, and our hearts go out to her.
Some people believe that people commit suicide out of weakness. I doubt that, and I suspect it must take enormous strength to commit such a devastating act. Most often it is the result of severe depression and some form of mental illness. I hear terrible circumstances through our foundations every day, stories which break your heart. Children as young as 5 or 6 commit suicide, some have left suicide notes for their parents in crayon. (I heard a speech on the subject in the Senate that tore my heart out, when I was asked to address the Senate on the subject too). Children who have been bullied commit suicide, or abused. In many states it is against the law to list a child’s death as a suicide, if they are younger than 13 (to avoid the stigma)—-so our public statistics and records are not always accurate. In spite of that, we do know that suicide is the 2nd most frequent killer of young people up to the age of 25, the 1st one being road accidents. I don’t have the statistics for adults at hand, but I have been told that suicide is on the rise among adults. We donate considerable money through our foundations to organizations dealing with suicide prevention, with hot lines, and therapy.
There has always been stigma attached to suicide, religiously, and just in the public. We are aware of it now, but do we do enough to stop it, to improve the statistics? Most people seriously bent on suicide are very intent, often secretive, and many give no warning. My own son attempted suicide three times before his final ‘successful’ 4th attempt. And after one of them, he looked at me sadly after we had saved him, and he said “Mom, if I want to do this, you won’t be able to stop me”. Sadly, he was right. He picked a slim window of time, when we thought he was safely sound asleep in bed, and instead he took his own life. He was determined—-from the time he was 11 years old, until he finally died at 19. It was a race against time, trying to stop him, and to manage his bi polar disease so the worst didn’t happen. We got him 8 years longer than he intended, but not long enough.
As an aside in all this, I have a personal war against texting. It eliminates real human contact and exchange. Young people ALL prefer texting to phone calls these days. It’s their primary form of communication. Relationships start and end by text. Too much happens by text. At the funeral of my son’s best friend, at least a dozen young people around me said “But I texted with him today….this morning…last night”. My thought was that if they had talked on the phone and not texted, they might have heard something in his voice, or some sign of how depressed he was, and could have talked to him about it, maybe even gone to see him. Maybe that little bit of human contact would have made a difference. I have done a lot of volunteer work with young people with mental illness, and I once spent a night talking to a 16 year old boy, after his 3rd suicide attempt. He received excellent treatment after that night, and he is one of the success stories. That was 15 or 20 years ago, and he is now a healthy, well-adjusted, productive young man, who writes books and gives lectures. I think people who are truly suffering need human contact, compassion and caring. You don’t get that by text.
These very public suicides are something to think about, or any suicide, or even an attempted suicide, by a child or an adult. This is a warning bell to all of us, to look around us, to listen, to hear, to be aware of our fellow man, to reach out when we can, to encourage people to seek treatment, and to seek treatment ourselves if we are at risk.
Suicide is a heart breaker, it leaves children who will be marked forever by the loss, and families shaken to their roots and forever altered. Those who commit suicide do not go gentle into the night, they rip out our hearts, and take a piece of us with them. We are all affected by the loss, even when we don’t know them. My heartfelt condolences to the Bourdain and Spade families, my heart aches for them, and for all of us, for these terrible losses, and a world that has become so hardened, lonely, and stressful for some that they see no other way out. I hope that in future we find better ways to help these people who are in so much pain. May they rest in peace at last, and may those they left behind heal as soon as they can, with our love, help, and compassion.
Have a peaceful week,
Posted on June 4, 2018
I hope you had a wonderful week. I’ve been working hard and writing, and I did something fun and different last week—-which was a learning experience for me.
I was invited to participate in the annual Forbes Foundation Symposium on philanthropy. They invited 140 philanthropists for a day of talks, information, and brain storming. As you probably know, I established two charitable foundations to honor my late son, about 20 years ago. One of them is the most active, focused on mental illness and suicide prevention. We fund organizations that provide hands on treatment, but don’t provide any services ourselves, and we are very careful who we give money to, to be sure that the organizations are responsible and doing good work. The board of the foundation meets 4 times a year to give relatively small grants too small to medium sized organizations in the Bay Area (of San Francisco). The second foundation funds supplies (sleeping bags, clothing, etc.) for the homeless through a street outreach program, and that foundation is less active at the moment, and our main focus is on the one for mental illness, which gets into the area of homelessness too, so we are putting all of our efforts into the first foundation. But as foundations go, we are very small. We have given a steady stream of funds for 20 years, but on a relatively small human scale. The philanthropists invited to the symposium were mostly from foundations that give literally billions of dollars for massive programs (like food and water for entire villages in Africa, dealing with world hunger, and poverty on a huge scale) way way WAY beyond our means. So I was very surprised to be invited. What I do is tiny compared to most of the other participants, but I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to learn something new, which I could apply on a smaller scale to our foundation. It was way out of my comfort zone, and experience, and most of the people running those foundations are heads of corporations. What we do at our foundation is tiny/microscopic compared to them. But hopefully we do some good on our small scale.
The instigator, inspiration, and guest speaker of the symposium, was Warren Buffett, who was absolutely remarkable. He is 88 years old, vital and active, brilliant and very interesting, and at the same time very human, and seemed like a very nice person. He has given billions of dollars to charitable causes and projects, and it was fascinating listening to him.
I have to admit, I felt both very small, and at the same time very grown up being at that event, listening to the projects that the various philanthropists spearhead—-a few on a small scale, but most of them on a very, VERY large scale. But in some cases, the same principles apply. Mr. Buffett suggested that we think outside the box, and think BIG, that one needs moral courage and energy to effect a change in the world, all of which is so true. We, as the audience, were seated at round tables, with 6 people at each table, with random seating, and guest speakers all day. The meeting began with breakfast at 9 am, and the serious talks and speeches by guest speakers started at 10 am. Their talks were kept short, and there was a new speaker about every half hour for the entire day. It was a wealth of information on a variety of subjects: poverty, education, social philanthropy. The man who wrote “Moneyball”, an ex-baseball player, who applied new principles to investing in sports and apparently made sports history doing so (with the Oakland A’s) gave a very interesting talk. I met and heard people I would never have met otherwise, and each of them had something to say which was useful, not only for our foundation, but about life.
Writing is a very solitary activity, and since I write pretty much all the time, I don’t get out much, and live in my own little bubble, writing books. So for me, it was a big dose of information, and the opportunity to learn from many people all at once. It felt like going back to school for a day!! I’m very glad I went, and did something so different. It’s a great feeling to learn new things.
And for our small foundation, I always find that Mother Teresa said something which applies to us, and our theory on giving. She said “We can’t do big things, but only small things with an immense amount of love”. We haven’t given billions, but we have given to many organizations in 20 years, and through those organizations we’ve helped thousands of people who suffer from mental illness. Going to the symposium was a good experience and great learning experience for me, to be willing to be the small person at an event, to learn from bigger people with bigger budgets and bigger ideas. And there is always more to learn.
And then I came home, and got back to my typewriter, and went back to work!!!
Have a great week!!! love, Danielle
Posted on April 30, 2018
I hope you had a happy, busy week, and that good things happened or are about to!!!
I had a roller coaster week, non-stop calls, dilemmas, and crises. All of them resolving now, but what a week!! Things always happen at once, to most of us. I had one child with a severe allergic reaction (first to an insect bite, then to the medication for it), feeling absolutely awful in one city, not a fatal situation, but I hate it when my kids are sick. Another child whose dog was very sick, and needed surgery, so lots of calls with the dog owner, and the vet. Another of my children lost her beloved dog to cancer 6 months ago, which was a terrible heartbreak, and I’ve been looking for a new puppy for her, we found one with the help of a wonderful person who finally located one for us, and I had to figure out how to get the puppy from Arizona to California to New York this week. It finally arrived on Friday, with a LOT of organizing, and understandably, the puppy was jangled by the trip, and cried all the first night. So lots of calls on that, as I followed the puppy’s progress across the country into my daughter’s arms, with me in Europe. To add a little more chaos to the week, I had house painters, and my apartment was a mess (but with great results when they finished. They painted a sky on my entrance hall ceiling, and I LOVE it!!), and I had a mountain of editing work on my desk, while fielding phone calls about sick and arriving puppies, and sick ‘children’, even though adults.
I find that the hardest part of being the parent of adults is that you can’t solve all their problems, kiss all their boo boos away, or protect them from hard life events or bad people. Motherhood is a lifetime job, and just as I once watched and protected them in the playground, or on the swings, and kept them safe, I wish I could still do that in real/adult life. A mother is expected to be a magician, and you should always be able to pull the rabbit out of the hat. It turns out that although motherhood comes with that expectation, in fact it does not come with a magic wand, a top hat, or a satin cape with secret pockets. I think fathers are often better at letting them solve their own problems, and stepping back while they do. I hear from friends, and know from myself, we as mothers want to ‘fix’ their problems, while not depriving them of the ability and satisfaction of doing it for themselves. We are by nature protectors once we have children. But there is so much to protect them from, as adults in the real world, none of it controllable, including their own mistakes, or things that just happen. It’s damn hard to cut the cord, and I don’t think I ever really have, and probably never will. If I live to be 100, I’ll still be there, wanting to protect my 80 year old kids from something!!! And crying children, in crisis, and suffering life’s blows (like losing a beloved dog, or a relationship, or job, or suffering some form of illness or injustice) just breaks my heart.
So I have to be content with being available, resourceful, creative, patient (not always my strong suit), and help solve the problems I can, or come up with a puppy, help find an apartment, or just listen when they’re upset even if there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it. The latter is the hard part. The ‘nothing I can do about it’ problems are agonizing.
In the end, on balance, it was a good week, the sick dog is better and came through the surgery and the dog’s owner is feeling calmer and went to a baseball game yesterday, so he’s okay. The sick daughter is feeling better after a miserable week. And the puppy arrived in another daughter’s arms, and is settling in after an understandably bumpy first night. I didn’t solve any problems, but I listened and did what I could, with some advice. And a puppy to love is a wonderful thing. The calls came fast and furious all week, but things are quiet today. Somehow, I got my editing done, and the painters left, the furniture is back in place, and I have a really pretty blue sky overhead—-to remind me that eventually most storms calm down, and blue skies return. It’s a quiet Sunday and I’m enjoying the peace and quiet, for as long as it lasts, until the phone starts ringing again. And what would I do without that? I’m grateful that they call me, even if they’re grown up.
I didn’t make any great magic this week, I rarely do these days. I can’t produce a much wanted doll, find a lost teddy bear, or glue something back together. (I once went to the park at midnight to find a teddy bear one of my kids had left in the playground, and went through trucks of a hotel’s laundry, looking for one son’s beloved sleep monkey, and I found him, and came back from the park at midnight with the teddy bear. That was all a lot easier than grown up life today. I really shone as a magician when they were little kids!!!). It’s easier to make magic for little kids than for big ones. But most Moms try to make magic where they can, even if it’s only to produce a favorite meal, babysit for a sick dog, or offer advice when appropriate (rarely!!! Who listens to their mother? And as one friend says, “My advice is worth what you paid for it.”)
So I’m no longer the most efficient magician, but I sure try. I think most mothers do—-and when you actually get lucky and pull a rabbit out of a hat for your kids, whatever their age—-it feels SOOOO GOOD!!!!
Have a magical week!! I hope wonderful things happen to you!!!
much love, Danielle
Posted on April 23, 2018
I hope you had a good week last week. I’ve been doing lots of spring cleaning. I cleaned out my children’s old playroom, full of things they haven’t looked at, or played with in fifteen years (a million high school papers!!). It was a lot more work than I expected, but it looks as good as new now, and can be used as a bedroom. That kept me busy. And I’ve been sorting and cleaning in other parts of the house too. Manual labor is always relaxing, and very rewarding to see a project completed at the end of the day—instead of waiting months for things to happen in business, or years to finish a book!!!
AND my reward to myself for my labors is that I binge watched the new season of Call The Midwife, my currently favorite show. I received it as a gift from England, and nearly ripped it out of the mailman’s hands, and rushed to a computer so I could watch it. I LOVE binge watching a whole season of a series I love, instead of waiting to see what happens week by week. The characters are wonderful in the show, the casting is perfect, the actors lovable and believable, the script and various stories beautifully done and intertwined. I think Downton Abbey is still my favorite, I loved The Crown on Netflix. And I love Victoria too, about the young Queen Victoria. And now I’ve fallen in love with Call The Midwife. So that was my treat this week, and after I watched all of this season’s episodes, I watched it again!!! It’s very relaxing to watch a favorite show on TV or a computer.
So that’s what I did this past week, and the coming week will be a busy one. I’m on the road again, to visit my kids, and do some writing, in search of spring somewhere along the way!!! This has been the longest winter ever. I love snow, but have seen a little too much of it this year, and freezing weather. And of course, I have my DVD’s of my favorite shows with me, and will watch some of them on Netflix, so I can binge watch wherever I am!!!
I hope you have a great week, and take a few minutes to relax—–and maybe binge watch a favorite show too!!!
Posted on April 16, 2018
I hope all is well with you, and that you’re having some peaceful, happy days, some fun, and productive times doing something you enjoy.
I was reading the new Joel Osteen book this weekend, “Blessed In The Darkness”. I always love what he writes, it makes me think, and feel hopeful about life. We all have daily challenges, and it’s nice to have ‘tools’ to help us deal with all the things that come up in all of our lives.
It brought to mind an experience I had several years ago. You may have read about it, or not. I was embezzled for a large amount of money, by my most trusted employee at the time, a person who had worked for me for nearly twenty years. (That doesn’t make me special, the FBI said at the time that most embezzlements are committed by the person closest to you, whom you know well, has worked for you the longest or for a very long time, and whom you trust most. And that’s how it was for me). It was an enormous financial and emotional challenge, ENORMOUS, and involved a huge amount of money. I discovered it by accident, which is usually how it happens, some small thing exposes it, and it all unravels after that. And it turned out that the person who embezzled from me had been doing it almost from the day they started working for me (nearly 20 years before), and the embezzler admitted that they had been jealous of everything I had from the moment they started working for me. Jealousy is a VERY dangerous thing!!! I work very hard for what I do have, and always have worked very hard, and I’m not careless with money, no one has the power to sign checks on my account except me. And it wasn’t done in huge shocking amounts that would catch attention, so that I would say “OMG, where did that money go?” It was done in small steady amounts, sometimes several times a day, usually under a thousand dollars,’only’ several hundred dollars at a time, and rarely over a thousand, so that eventually at the end of the month, I had less money in my account than I thought I should, but I couldn’t figure it out and thought that maybe I was spending more than I realized. The full amount if you added it up over nearly 20 years was a staggering figure. Embezzling from me was a full time job, more so than their actual job with me. You feel stupid when it happens, and shocked and betrayed, and hurt and heart broken, and feel you should have noticed it, but it was very, very cleverly and simply done, which is also typical of many embezzlements. The person who did it figured out the 3 areas that I didn’t watch closely, they also lied to me constantly and I believed them. They also figured out the one or two areas that the accounting firm we used to verify things didn’t watch as closely so they didn’t spot it either, and also what the bank didn’t watch closely. Those three factors made it possible to steal literally millions from me over the years. And life events happen which distract you—-I got divorced—-I had a very sick son, who died during that time, and those distractions also provided fertile times for someone to take advantage of me.
Interestingly, there is a statute of limitations on what people embezzle from you. That limit is 3 years, so even once we knew how much more it was, with some very frightening ballpark and accurate figures, the embezzler could only be prosecuted for 3 years of what they stole—-the 12 or 13 or 15 years before that could not be claimed because of the statute of limitations. I got some money back for the last 3 years, but the bulk of what was stolen couldn’t be claimed because of that statute of limitations, which was shocking too. Embezzling is in fact a psychological pathology, and probably a form of compulsion or obsession. I doubt that there was ever a day that some amount wasn’t stolen from me by the embezzler. Many lies were told, each lie tailored to the person they were lying to, the bank, the overseeing accountant, other employees, or me. And we all believed the lies. Looking back, there are signs that could have been red flags, but I’m a trusting person, I’m honest and assume that others are too. The person bought a big house and spent a lot of money on it, landscaping, decorating, etc., and I was told that a relative had left this person money, I believed it and never questioned it, and I was happy for them. It never occurred to me that I was the ‘relative’, and paid for that house. The court awarded me the house and the proceeds from selling it, but once caught, it was mortgaged to the hilt, and I got only a small fraction of what it was worth, and very little for the contents.
There is no question, it was a very, very ugly, frightening, shocking time. It took a team of forensic accountants recommended by the FBI eight months to figure out what I had lost, and it was mind boggling. Some days I would be panicked by losing so much money, other days I was heartbroken by being so badly betrayed by someone I trusted completely. And it took time to get over it emotionally. One of my daughters, in her teens at the time, summed it up for me one night when I was in despair over it, and she said “We’re not starving, we’re not in the street, you’re still working, we’re going to be okay, Mom”, and she was right. It was as simple as that.
Because of the huge financial loss, I lost some things that really mattered to me. In order to try and regain our financial balance—-losing any amount of money hurts, but when you get hit big, it’s a struggle to get things on an even keel again, unless you have vast amounts of money—-in order to try and equalize what I lost, I had to sell a beach house I loved, I had to close my art gallery which I’d had for 6 years, and REALLY loved, as a wonderful 2nd occupation, I represented 21 unknown struggling artists, so they got hurt by the loss too, and we were all very sad to close but I had no other choice, I couldn’t afford to support the gallery anymore. And worst of all, I had run a street outreach program to help the homeless for 11 years, working on the streets and providing supplies they desperately needed. I poured a lot of money into it, and could no longer afford it after the embezzlement, and had to shut down our operations on the street. That hurt the most, it was work I loved for people in dire need. The judge was most upset by that, and added many, many hours of community service to the embezzler’s sentence, to acknowledge that. I was very sad to lose those three things, the homeless outreach program, my art gallery, and the beach house. I just couldn’t afford them after the loss.
It doesn’t help much, but I realized then how common this is. If you own a small (or large) business, you are vulnerable to someone doing something similar to you. A household employee can steal from you. If you have caretakers for elderly parents, those caretakers can steal money from you too, and that happens often, I hear it from friends. It can happen on a large scale or a small one. Before it happened to me, it happened to my agent, with an employee he treated like a son—-he embezzled a huge amount of money from my agent, and bought himself 2 houses, just like what happened to me, and the embezzler claimed he had inherited money. It all unraveled with a $125. withdrawal, and everything was exposed after that. At the same time it happened to me, it happened to art dealers I knew, in similar amounts and shocking circumstances by their most trusted employee. And recently it happened to two friends who own a small jewelry store, again by their most trusted employee of many years. I’m not suggesting that you become suspicious of everyone around you, or who works for you. But these things do happen, to smart careful responsible people, if you have a dishonest employee who knows you well and what your vulnerabilities are. If you’re an honest person, it never occurs to you that a dishonest person is taking advantage of you. I never dreamed that it could happen to me, that someone would do that to me. But it does, and it’s smart to be aware, and very careful (I thought I was).
In my case, the embezzler went to prison, though not for very long. To be honest, I wasn’t angry (I think I was too shocked to be angry), I was deeply hurt by it, practically and emotionally. I wrote a book inspired by it although a different story since it’s fiction, which helped a little, (“Betrayal”). It takes time to get over a shocking event like that. And I never recouped the money that I lost. Maybe one day I will, but probably not. But my daughter’s early assessment was right, we had our house, we weren’t starving, I still had my job, and we’re okay.
I did the only thing I knew how to do to recover from it. I rolled up my sleeves and worked even harder than before—hard to believe since I have worked hard on my books all my life. I worked extra time and over time, and wrote more than ever. The feelings and the hurt fueled me, and I was determined to protect my family and provide for them. And I realize now that blessings came from it. There are hard things that happen in life, but they often come with a blessing you don’t realize until later. The raw emotions and drive and determination made me work even harder on the books, and it showed in the writing. Is it an event I count as a blessing? No, but there have been definite benefits from it. Seeing my work, my publisher moved me up from four books to six a year, and now seven. If it had never happened, I probably wouldn’t be publishing 7 books a year, or even 6. But my fan base grew, my publishers recognized it, and little by little my career has grown ever since. My determination to work harder grew my career. I still miss my gallery, but no longer having it, I began spending more time in France, and am very happy there. That might not have happened, if the embezzlement hadn’t happened. And I will always miss my street work with the homeless, but in fact it was a very dangerous project, and I always worried about someone in my 12 man team getting hurt on the streets. We had some dicey moments, and it was a very high risk project, working hand to hand and face to face with people who were often mentally ill. Anything could have happened, and luckily no one got hurt in 11 years, but I always knew that at some point the risks would be too great, so maybe we stopped at the right time, and maybe by now we couldn’t do it anymore. Maybe we stopped at the right time, without knowing it. And I raise my voice whenever possible for the homeless, which I couldn’t do when I did the street work, since we did it anonymously. There is no question that blessings did come from the embezzlement, over time, and not always visibly at first. But needing to counterbalance the loss drove my career forward in ways I couldn’t have foreseen, and maybe I wouldn’t have done otherwise, and I’m very grateful for that. I love publishing more and writing more, and enjoy it thoroughly.
It was a hard lesson, and probably one of the hardest things that has happened to me. Losing my son was much worse, and getting divorced, but this was one of those shocking, brutal practical lessons you just don’t expect to happen to you. But it can happen to anyone. No one is exempt from jealousy, and the dishonesty of people you just don’t expect, whether it’s getting mugged on the street and having your purse stolen, or your house burglarized and possessions you love taken, or as in this case, someone you trust stealing from you. I was pretty careful, even very careful before, but I was trusting too. The other embezzlements I’ve heard of, of people I know, are incredibly similar to mine, always by a very, very trusted employee, and usually someone who worked for them for a very long time and has greater access than other employees, and the benefit of your trust. One thinks of innocent naive movie stars being ripped off by their shady managers—you just don’t think about it happening to responsible people who run their lives well. But it can happen to all of us in some form.
Reading Joel Osteen’s book reminded me of the blessings that can come from a shocking upsetting event. And as he says, you don’t stop there. You go on, you make the best of it, you use it to grow and become more as a person, which is the real victory after an event like that. The focus is on the money lost in an embezzlement, and the broken trust. But if you look harder you see the good that comes from it eventually too. And I realized, when I thought about it, that publishing 7 books a year now is one of those big blessings that might never have happened otherwise, and that’s a great thing for me, my family and my career. I’m working harder than ever, and my career has grown exponentially since that unhappy event. You can’t stop at the unhappy events in your life, you have to make the best of them, learn from them, and go on to better days…..and the blessings will come in abundance over time. I am very, very grateful for that!!!
much love, Danielle
Posted on April 9, 2018
I hope that all is well with you. I’ve been on the road again, to visit one of my daughters and celebrate her birthday, in LA. I do that every year. LA always seems like a fun city to me, and there’s lots to do. And usually the weather is warm and balmy in Southern California, but it was chilly this time (but it was snowing in NY while I was there, so I can’t complain too much!!).
My means of transportation to get LA is a little bit unusual. I have——a rock star bus!!! That sounds crazy, I know, but it has been a VERY useful and fun vehicle in my life. Years ago, when my kids were really little, we took them to a dude ranch in Wyoming, and rented the bus and driver to get there. It is a very long drive, but the bus was supremely comfortable. We didn’t sleep on the bus, but it made it much easier to travel all day and into the evening (without stopping to eat). And we all liked it so much, that we rented the bus again the following year, when we went to Wyoming again. Then we took it skiing a couple of times in the winter, and drove to LA. Eventually, it became an important means of transportation, when I began doing TV movies first for ABC, then NBC, and we were doing miniseries. I had to go to LA frequently to consult on them, but didn’t want to leave my kids at home repeatedly, so I took all 9 children along!!! Travelling with 9 children, all very young and close in age (at one point I had 4 children under 4, and 4 car seats in my car), 2 people to help me, my husband and myself, was like moving an army, with all the equipment—cribs, strollers, a pram for the youngest baby, toys, clothes, playpens, high chairs—-trying to put all that on a plane was an absolute nightmare, and the ‘rock star bus’ was so easy, and still is. From San Francisco to LA by plane takes about 5 hours, door to door, without delays—–and there are ALWAYS delays to and from San Francisco, because they only use one runway in bad weather, so short distance flights are either very delayed or cancelled. I’ve spent as long as 8 hours in the SF Airport, waiting to get a flight to LA, or on the way back. And it takes only ONE hour longer to take the bus from door to door. And that little extra hour is well worth it.
The beauty of the bus is that you can do whatever you want, sit around barefoot, lie down, sleep, read, eat, make phone calls, watch a movie, talk on the phone, answer emails, you can take as much luggage as you want, or bring home shopping in shopping bags, without having to pack it in a suitcase. It’s a totally relaxing easy way to travel, and I still use the bus whenever I go to LA. No airport stress, no delays, I can sleep, or talk on the phone, or do whatever.
Eventually, after renting the bus every year, we decided to buy it, about 25 years ago, after renting it for 5 years—so the bus isn’t new today, but runs like clockwork, we maintain it well. We had the same bus driver each time we rented it, and he still drives us today. I redecorated it when I bought it, and it’s all done in durable navy velvety fabrics and brown leathers, dark wood paneling, and navy carpeting, with a beige fabric ceiling. All the seating is very comfortable. There are 2 main rooms. The front room seats 16 people, with two long couches (where even a tall man can stretch out to sleep), two big brown leather club chairs with a round table between them (to eat or play cards), a dining table with two banquettes (perfect for Scrabble, other games, or a meal—or homework, or editing!!), and a big comfortable chair at the front of the bus where you can watch the scenery go by. There is a bathroom (with a shower in it too), and a full kitchen. And in the ‘back room’, a big round dining table, with comfortable banquettes all around it, and 4 comfortable club chairs. There are 2 TV’s to watch 2 separate movies in back or front room. You can eat, sleep, shower, dress and get where you’re going, without ever leaving the bus, with big luggage compartments below. The bus is the same size as a Greyhound bus, about 44 feet long. There is no sleeping accommodation, because we didn’t want it. The back dining room used to be the bedroom, but we did away with that in the beginning. There are too many of us, or there were, to camp out on the bus. But you can travel very comfortably for long distances for many hours, with everything you could possibly need on board—-even Internet access now, stereo system, etc.
I used to get teased a lot about my ‘rock star bus’, but it’s one of those luxuries and self-indulgences that I really love, and have hung onto, even when the kids grew up. My children still love it. It’s an incredibly comfortable way to travel. I don’t have an airplane—but I have a bus!! With long security lines, and the stress of travelling, delays so much of the time, and crowded conditions on the plane, going by bus sure is easy. I just spent a wonderful 3 days with one of my daughters in LA, had a smooth easy trip down, read and slept for part of the trip. I had a ball in LA with my daughter, and we did some shopping, and I brought my bags back to SF, without worry about how heavy my suitcases were, or how many I had. I chatted on the phone for part of it, and enjoyed the peace and quiet as we drove through the agricultural heart of California, with miles and miles of corn, nuts, and all kinds of crops growing. It’s way more comfortable than a plane!!!
It’s one of my famous means of travel, and I’m sure it makes me look a little eccentric as I pull up in my bus—but it’s cozy and warm in a snowstorm (and has the bathroom and kitchen, so you never need to stop). It’s just plain fun…..so if you see a bus whiz past you somewhere, it may not be a Greyhound—it may just be me on my magic bus!!!
Have a great week!!
Posted on April 2, 2018
I hope all is well with you, and that you had a lovely Easter, or Passover, if you celebrated either of them. I had Easter brunch with three of my children and their significant others, with chocolate bunnies on the table, bunny ears for all to wear, little chocolate eggs, jelly beans, and the little wind up chicks and bunnies that were fun when they were children.
I was spared April Fool this year, with Easter on the same day. My children are notorious for April Fool jokes and I always fall for them!!
The big excitement for me is that my new book “Accidental Heroes” will be #1 on the New York Times list this week—-it is always a thrill when that happens, and it never gets old. I hope you read the book too and love it!!! I really love that book, it’s suspenseful and exciting and was challenging to write!!!
I was thinking of something the other day that I wanted to share with you. Twice recently, I’ve had a similar (almost identical) conversation with two very close good friends, one a man, the other a woman, both of them people I respect enormously. Both are people that everyone admires, on many fronts. Both are deep, serious, people with strong personal values. Both have impressive, very successful careers, in businesses they have built themselves. Both have studied hard, and by all normal standards, are high achievers who have accomplished a great deal professionally, and are highly successful. Additionally, both are in long marriages, with the same partners they started out with (not many people can claim that anymore), both have what would be considered today ‘large’ families, several children, and their children are all really lovely ‘kids’, some of them grown up now, and starting on their own lives and careers. Both of them are family people, and have strong family and personal values. I consider both honest, honorable people. Both are good, loving spouses, whom I admire in their marriages. And interestingly, both are religious, and attend religious services regularly. And both are people I truly admire, and many of us would consider role models. What was remarkable about my conversations with them was that both were deeply questioning themselves, and really undervaluing themselves, questioning if they were good parents, were getting really good results with their kids, were they successful enough in their marriages, were they good spouses, and questioning their success and careers. Both had serious doubts about themselves, which would stun me, and did, given everything I know about them. But what didn’t stun me is that I have heard the same things from other people at various times, and have questioned myself in very similar ways at times.
I have wonderful kids whom I love dearly, more than anything on earth, and who love me. They are healthy, normal, upstanding, wholesome, honest, loving hard working young people, and yet I always question if I have done and given enough for them and to them. Have I been enough for them, and been a good parent? I much more easily see my flaws and failings than what I’ve done right. And I heard the same thing from those 2 friends in the last week, and others before them. I have been so blessed in my career, and have had a long successful career I work hard at—-and I work very hard—but do I work hard enough? Am I a good enough friend, person, human being, parent, writer?
What is so remarkable is that good people, who really strive hard to do well and do the right thing, and are really doing a great job on many fronts, so often doubt themselves and think they aren’t good enough. Other people look so much more ‘together’ to all of us. They seem to have all the answers, make the right decisions, look so much ‘cooler’, smarter, better than we look to ourselves.
The best advice I ever got on this subject was from the woman who helped me take care of my son Nicky when he was very sick. She said “Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides”. And it is SOOOO TRUE. Everyone else looks like they have their ‘sh–‘ together, that they know all the answers, and don’t make the dumb mistakes we all do. We don’t see them snap at their kids when they’re tired or had a bad day, or argue with their partner/spouse over something really dumb “you always leave the kitchen a mess….you Never take out the garbage….you never pick up your own stuff, why do I have to do it?….” We see other people’s outer perfection and smooth presentation—-and we look just as smooth, but we know the lumps and bumps of ourselves inside. I question myself a thousand times late at night in the dark hours when I finish work/writing and am alone, and I see everything I’ve done wrong, the mistakes I make again and again, big and small, the times I have failed to go the extra mile for someone and think I should have.
Even people whom we think are so ‘perfect’, are so hard on themselves. Why do we do it? Why aren’t we better at celebrating what we do right??? And all the good things we’ve done!!!
Listening to my 2 friends doubt themselves reminded me of that piece of advice. I’ve heard my kids doubt themselves when they have so much to be proud of in themselves, and I’m proud of them. And I’m sure (or hope) that I’m a better person than I think I am.
I thought I would share that with you, because I’ll bet that many of you do it too—–compare the private you to other people’s ‘outsides’, which look so great.
We are all frail beings, unsure of ourselves, painfully aware of our weaknesses and flaws, and all the times when we think we could have done better. It’s good to remember sometimes that others are no more sure of themselves than we are (no matter how great they appear to us). So if this applies to you too, Don’t Compare Your Insides to Other people’s outsides!!! It’s such good advice!!!
Have a great week!!! love, Danielle