Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

8/27/18, Fun Movie

Posted on August 27, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’re enjoying these last days of the summer

I went to a fun movie last night with one of my daughters—-another daughter had read the book and loved it. I had seen a trailer for the movie, which didn’t seem too exciting, and didn’t do it justice, but I went to the movie anyway, to enjoy an evening with a daughter. I rarely get time to go to the movies with them, they work hard and are busy, and when I travel to their cities to see them, I want to spend the evening talking to them, and catching up on their news, not sit in a dark theater—-besides which, we’re all often so tired from working that we fall asleep in a movie theater!! Last year, a whole group of us went to a show when we were in Las Vegas together—–and the entire row of us fell asleep!!! It must be a family trait!! But we didn’t fall asleep at the movie last night—-we loved it!!!

      

We went to one of the fancy new movie houses with reclining seats (and we were joking about how fast we’d fall asleep in big comfortable seats in the dark!!!) We got popcorn, candy, a pretzel, soda, and all the snacks we could carry, and I was quite startled to see that by state law, all the food sold at the concession states how many calories they are!!! Ugh, if I’m going to indulge myself at a movie, I’d rather not know, but I can see the value of warning people of their calorie intake as a precaution for their health. Since I don’t get to the movies very often since I write at night, the calorie listing was new to me.

The movie we saw was “Crazy Rich Asians”, and I loved it. Lots of fun, good dialogue, good characters, the movie took place in Singapore, Shanghai, and was a romantic story. I won’t tell you how it turned out, but I had a great time, loved the movie, and would see it again in a flash. Since I see most movies on planes when I travel, I hope it turns up on the airplanes soon so I can see it again. So if you are looking for a fun movie to celebrate the end of summer, go see it before life gets busier again after Labor Day. Have a great week!!

love, Danielle

       

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8/13/18, “Nostalgia”

Posted on August 13, 2018

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope that all is well with you, in these final weeks of summer, which as always has sped by too fast. Whooosh!!! And it’s over!!! Although it’s still boiling hot everywhere I’ve been. I’m ready for fall.

 

I used to love the months of my children’s summer vacation, and I never used to work/write during the months of their vacation from school. Now our time together in the summer is short but very sweet, as they lead their busy lives in other cities, and none of them have the long French/European style summer vacations, so we seize the time together when we can. Typically, I have a week together with my kids every summer in July and a long weekend with ALL of my kids together in August, so we start and end the summer together. We wait for that time together with great anticipation every year, and like all good things it goes by too fast, but that time is very precious to me, and to them.

 

We just had our end of summer weekend together, and we were a small group this year for the first time. One was away, in Texas, one recently moved to Austria, another had a wedding to go to so he came a little late to the weekend, another had another party to go to in another city so left early, and yet another was unable to come, so there was a lot of coming and going, and late arrivals and early departures, and we were a ‘normal’ sized family for once, and some of the children arrived staunchly for the whole weekend, even from far away, and we had a great time, although we missed those who were absent.

 

Many, many years ago, when I was first married, my husband loved the Napa Valley, had spent a lot of time there, and he wanted to find a home there for us to spend summers and weekends when we could. I’m more of a beach person, so I wasn’t as crazy about the location as he was. I’m also not a drinker, so the charm of the vineyards was lost on me. We looked at some houses, rented for a couple of years, and finally found an old farm that was a quaint funny old place, built in 1857, with a number of farm buildings on it, and an old house. It was a working farm, run by a 95 year old woman, who had kept the place running and in good shape, whose heirs were several nieces and nephews who didn’t want the property so they were willing to sell it. By coincidence, I met the heirs through our church. The property had buildings for the animals, and we didn’t know then how many children we’d have, and that we’d eventually have 9 of them. It had vineyards on either side, but none on the property, which didn’t matter, and it was quiet farm and wine growing country then, about an hour and a half out of the city. I wasn’t crazy about the place, but it had ‘possibilities’, and my husband had a vision (a lot of them!!) for it. We bought it (despite my misgivings) and turned all the farm buildings into living spaces. A small horse barn (big enough for 2 horses) became a small and very cute guest house, a milking shed for the cow became a playhouse for our kids. We built a tree house for them too and a play area. We turned a water tower into a tiny 3 story, 3 bedroom house with a bathroom and no kitchen. We kept chickens in the chicken coop (and bought a pig who wandered around, and loved the orchard where she could eat all the fruit she wanted). And a small shed that housed rabbits became another small guest house, which we still call “the rabbit house”, the ranch manager’s house became a small house with two bunk rooms and two other bedrooms and a kitchen. And the main house, also with 3 small bedrooms became our main house, for my husband and myself. It became a family compound with all the buildings close together. And there was a big Victorian barn for farm equipment. The first thing we did was add an old fashioned porch on the main house, which was my husband’s idea and gave the place a lot of charm, and is still today the favorite gathering place for the whole family, with the main kitchen, and we put a long, long table on the porch for dinners on warm nights. We put a swimming pool where there had been a planted field, and years later a tennis court for by then our many kids to use. A bike shed, vegetable gardens, and my husband planted vineyards on every inch he could, which proved to be a wise move in later years. Our children, who own the property now, since their father passed away, support the property now with the grapes they sell for wine. And I put picket fences everywhere to keep the kids from wandering off when they were little, and keep our many dogs safe too. For years, it was a happy, healthy place of freedom and happy summers for the kids, and weekends through the winter. I grumbled about it at times, and we worked hard ourselves to improve the place and keep it up. Our weekends were as much work as play, or more work, as we continued to work on it. It still looks like the working farm it once was, and is wonderfully old fashioned and quaint—and very much unlike the fancy homes that have sprung up in the area over the years. Now there are restaurants and shops, tourists, and city dwellers that spend weekends there. And our place still has the look of a granny’s house and old farm. We bought two small neighboring homes bordering on it, and the old farm has grown, but it hasn’t changed. And as our family grew, it became the perfect place for them to bring their friends when they were teen agers, and spend their summers barefoot, in the country setting, for their entire youth and now as adults. The property had some very old trees on it, to provide shade, and we planted some more, which have grown into beautiful old trees while our kids grew up.

 

Fast forward the film, and we still have our funny old farm, it’s a wonderful place for our children to gather now as adults, and bring their friends. The ones who live nearby use it more frequently, and those who live across the country, come once or twice a year, and always come on our August weekend. There are hundreds of family photos framed on the walls in all the buildings, of all the good times we have shared there. And it is the perfect counterpoint to our busy city lives, our stressful jobs, and all the pressures in our lives. Going to the old farm is like a trip back in time, to their childhood, and also to all the history on the farm before us. We have so many memories there. The kids have kept everything just as it was when they were very young, their rooms are the same, their childhood treasures and mementoes are still there, so many of our family memories, and the main house that my husband and I lived in is unchanged. Whereas once I complained about ‘boring summer months there’, it touches my heart to go there now, and revives precious memories. I realized this weekend that I was younger than some of my children now when we bought the place and started working on it. We’ve owned it for well over half my life now, and I’ve finally come to love it. It took a while!!! For a long time, it was a muddy, dusty, old farm with blazing heat in summer, and some very wet cold winters, while I wished we had a beach house, and missed my own childhood haunts in Europe, which seemed so far away, although the Napa Valley does look a lot like parts of France and Italy. It remains a major grape growing/wine making area, and it became ‘fashionable’ and popular along the way. But our old farm doesn’t look fashionable, it has charm and warmth and is quaint, and shines with the love lavished on it for so many years.  I realized this weekend that we’ve had our summer reunions there now for more than half my life, and somewhere along the way, love for that old place snuck into my heart. It was my husband’s favorite place on earth, and he eventually retired there, and in the many years that passed, he imparted his love for the old farm to all our children, and I’m so glad he did. He was right all along (and I remember now how my heart sank when I first saw the place. It was not on my dream wish list at the time to own an old farm!!! I missed Paris and my life in Europe—but that came back into my life much later anyway) He would be so proud to see what good care his kids take of the farm now, how well they run it, how much they love it, and how well they use it, share it, and enjoy it, and what good shape it’s in. His dream has been preserved.

 

It was a huge trauma for all of us last fall when the fires raging in the Napa Valley came within 500 feet of the buildings on the farm, all entirely wood Victorian structures. All their childhood memories and mementoes of their father are there, and one of my sons heroically drove up and rescued hundreds of photographs from the houses and drove them to the city. I have since had them copied for all the kids. And miraculously the property was spared by a last minute shift of the winds, and the flames stopped just short of the houses.

 

I only go there twice a year now myself, once in the Spring with one of my daughters, who runs it with her younger brother, and I take a crew of men and women to help us repair, refresh, replace, repaint, and do everything we need to, to keep it fresh, looking good and running smoothly. They keep it up all year, but I am the very willing head of the janitorial committee to help keep the place looking beautiful and loved. They use it all year, but once a year I run the energetic spring cleaning. I end on a Friday, and they spend the weekend there with their friends to start the summer. And I only stay there once a year myself for our August long weekend reunion. It is always very nostalgic for me to go there, hundreds of memories crowd into my mind, of them as little kids, and their father, and our life there. It was his vision and his dream which brought the farm into our lives. What an incredible gift and legacy for all of us, especially our children. I walk the same paths as I did then, walk into rooms which still look the same, and remember all the love and laughter and warm times we shared there. He was very artful about it, which amused me less then and makes me laugh now: the flatbed truck he gave me one year for my birthday, because he needed it on the farm—-the vintage trucks he collected, and occasionally pretended to give me, although he used them and I didn’t….the flock of goats (that I did NOT appreciate at all), and the tractor I gave him. There was no glamour there, just wonderful family life with a lot of barefoot children running in the grass, free of their city life for a whole summer. It was a fantastic experience for us all.

 

It amazes me to realize how many years have passed, the children have grown up, and we still have the farm. It has been a lasting blessing in our lives, for more than half my life. I eventually got the beach house I had dreamed of, and sold it after 15 years, the charm of that wore thin, and the children preferred their farm life, and the freedom to run around there, instead of the beach. So the farm won hands down in the end, and now I cherish my days there at the end of every summer, as we follow our old traditions, and make new memories there every year. It is a piece of our history which I cherish and am profoundly grateful for. It makes our long weekend together there every summer extra special, and where once the children were in our home, now I am a grateful guest in theirs.

 

I hope the end of your summer will have special moments for you, and will brace you for the long winter months ahead.

 

Happy end of summer!! Have a great week!!!

love, Danielle

 

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8/6/18, Late night thoughts…..

Posted on August 6, 2018

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope that August is off to a good start, and that you are managing to have some vacation time off from work. In France, and a lot of Europe, EVERYONE takes the month of August off….or the month of July. But in August, shops and restaurants are closed, businesses close, and just about everything shuts down. In the US, many people take their vacations at other times of year too, but not in Europe. In some ways, it makes things easier, because everything closes down at once—but forget trying to get any business done in August. And my month of August is usually quiet too. I’m moving around a fair amount this summer, meeting up with and visiting my children, and getting some work done in between. But the pace slows down, even for me—-getting ready for September and renewed activity as life speeds up again.

 

I still keep the same late hours even when I’m not writing, habit, I guess, I’ve been a late night person all my life.

 

As I sit at my computer, three signs meet my eye, that I usually see first thing in the morning, when I answer the emails that arrived during the night:  “Wake up every morning as if something wonderful is going to happen.”  “Do More of What Makes YOU Happy”, and “Miracles DO Happen”. They get my day off to a good start, and my thought in the right direction. And then there are two other signs next to the desk where I write: One says “There are no miracles, there is only discipline”, and the other says “What hath night to do with sleep?” And a tiny one “Courage is not the absence of fear or despair, but the strength to conquer them”. And some others that I love on my office walls: “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile” attributed to Albert Einstein, “It is the history of our kindness that alone makes this world tolerable”, Robert Louis Stevenson, “Courage is the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good.” And “We cannot do big things, but only small things with an immense amount of love”, Mother Teresa. And one of my favorites “Nothing is impossible to God.”

 

The late night hours are always a good time for reflection, about what you’ve done, are doing, are planning to do, wish you’d done, and wish you hadn’t done. Late, silent nights are also a time when fear sometimes runs rampant in our heads, as we worry about what could happen. I can whip some of those thoughts into a real terror, with no one to talk me down and reassure me. I am a worrier, not a warrior!! I take things too much to heart, and sometimes people’s unkind words or acts cut through me like a knife, and at other times I worry that I may have been thoughtless with others and hurt them. I have a hard time understanding and dealing with people who are intentionally mean and hurtful. And we all run into people like that at times, or work with them, or know them. I am always shocked by people who intend to be mean, it’s like having someone throw sand in your eyes, it makes no sense and is hard to understand. I detest cruel people, and abuse, and those who want to hurt you, but those people do exist and it’s best to steer a wide berth around them, and avoid them at all costs, as best we can. It’s particularly unfortunate if you have a mean boss, or someone at work that you have to deal with every day who is determined to hurt and torture you, and make your life miserable, someone who abuses their power that you have to put up with. As a writer, I lead a fairly isolated life, so gratuitous meanness and injustice always come as a shock to me. It’s always a surprise. But then the kind people we meet make up for it and make our lives a better place. And fortunately, there are many good and kind people in the world. And good is more powerful than evil.

 

I have a nice one on my walls in Paris too (many of them in fact since I collect sayings and quotes I love). “A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers”. Forgiveness is so important in life, when deserved, and sometimes even if not. And bad, unkind people are to be avoided. Sometimes people we know, even good friends, become sour about life, or bitter, and are out to hurt others, and sad as it is, it is best to let those people go. Jealousy is so often the cause of people’s meanness to others, and is at the root of some very unpleasant actions.

 

I particularly love the quote of Anne Frank’s, the young girl who was taken by the Nazis in Holland in World War II as a teen ager. “I still believe in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.” Powerful words to live by and hang onto.

 

I hope that all is going well for you, and I hope you’ll have a wonderful, extra special week, with good things happening to you!! You deserve it!!

 

With so much love, Danielle

 

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7/30/18, Dog Days

Posted on July 30, 2018

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’ve had a good week, and the summer has been fun for you so far. I feel like it’s speeding past, and the bulk of my summer is over, after this I’ll be visiting family and getting back to work, with one long weekend to spend with my children. But June and July sped by with lightning speed. And as I write this, I am sitting in a blistering heat wave, with temperatures over a hundred all week, and no relief in sight. Ugh. That’s a little too summery for me!!!

 

Since only my youngest child still lives at home (and is very busy and independent, so I hardly see her, and most of the time she is too busy to spend time with me) and the others are grown up and most of them live in other cities, in order not to be alone, my dogs are my constant companions, and provide endless joy, and some very sweet moments with them. Dogs can be wonderful company. I have three that I take everywhere with me, all 3 teacup Chihuahuas: Minnie is The Princess, a long haired white, she’s 6 years old and I wrote the Pretty Minnie children’s books about her. Blue is a blue gray short hair, shy and gentle and delicate, she turned 5 last week—-and was the bane of Minnie’s existence when she arrived, but now they are best friends, and inseparable. And Lili is the baby, totally wild, a little bigger than the other two, and she’s not quite two years old yet, and defines the ‘terrible twos’. She is always into mischief, if she can be, and collapses at the end of the day, exhausted by all the things she got into. If I leave my purse open for even a minute, she dives into it, looking for whatever she can find, preferably chocolate (which is lethal for dogs, so I’m very careful with it). Minnie and Blue weigh three pounds, I think Lili is creeping up on five, but I haven’t weighed her lately. And when she has the opportunity, she eats everyone’s food. Minnie has a very funny quirk about her food when we travel. She has her own travel bag, with a little bowl of kibble in it, and she gives me a furtive look of false innocence, and carefully pulls her blanket over her food bowl to hide it, and then puts a toy on it, to scare anyone off who might want to steal her food. She is really funny when she does it. Maybe she thinks I’ll get hungry on the trip and steal her kibble. Until now, her travel bag was the only place she did that, but recently, she did it with Lili’s bowl of food at breakfast, covered it up, and then went and ate her own bowl of food, and when Lili came to eat her breakfast and couldn’t find it at first, Minnie gave her that innocent look again as though to say “Gee, I don’t know….I guess she forgot your breakfast, and only gave me mine today. Lili figured it out pretty quickly.

 

Blue gave me a terrible scare this summer. She and Lili play rough occasionally, and chase each other around at full speed. When they do, Minnie stands back and lets them run like maniacs, but stays out of it. After Lili and Blue went crazy together playing in June, afterwards Blue looked as though she might have injured herself, she cried when I picked her up, didn’t want to walk much, and it got worse day by day. We had four trips to the vet, who said she had pulled a muscle in her neck, or something similar, that it was only muscular, and not to worry. They are so small and fragile that I was afraid she might have broken something. My vet was only available once, and the other times I got fobbed off on assistants in his office, who were nice but I didn’t know. And all of them insisted it wasn’t serious. Two weeks after it happened, she was slightly better but not much, and we left on vacation, with the dogs, and she started really crying, didn’t want to be touched and could hardly walk. I took her to a local vet, and he said to take her home immediately and get her to a neurologist and get her an MRI—which was impossible where we were vacationing, they had no MRI machine locally. He said if we didn’t get her help immediately, she might become paralyzed. I don’t know who cried more, me or the dog. So I found someone to take her home (so I didn’t have to leave my kids on our only week of vacation together all year), she went to a neurologist my vet recommended, and spent 3 days in the hospital, for an MRI, spinal tap, and treatment for the pain. I was worried sick, and she looked so pathetic when she left. It turned out that she had injured a vertebra in her neck, it got inflamed, and she got an infection of the bone marrow. Once they knew what it was, they gave her the right drugs, and when I picked her up 3 days later, she was her old self, miraculously. She’ll have to take medicine for a while, but she is back to her old bouncy self now. But for those weeks, she looked so pathetic, was in so much pain, and I felt so helpless, with no idea what was wrong. I’m sooo grateful that she’s better. I also learned another lesson. It’s really important to have a vet whom you trust and is available, like a good doctor for yourself or your kids. None of these had ever been sick before, and I like my vet a lot, but with Blue screaming in pain and getting sicker by the minute, I discovered that the vet I loved and trusted was almost completely unavailable. Like a rejected lover, or crazed ex-wife, I was leaving him desperate messages begging him to call me, sending texts and emails, begging his assistants to give him messages. He missed all our appointments, stood me up by phone repeatedly or didn’t call at all, and I had a VERY sick dog (the MRI is also very dangerous for a dog that small). In the past few years since I started using this very likable and probably competent vet, he has become completely unavailable, and you never know what will happen, as we just proved—-you need a vet who will call you back and be available in an emergency. Mine wasn’t, at all. Afterwards, I called around to 5 or 6 of my passionate dog lover friends, and amazingly, four of them go to the same vet, and said how available he is. So I made an appointment with him, went to meet him, and loved what I heard and saw. Just in the past week, he has called me twice, after going over all of Blue’s tests for a few weeks ago, and assess what happened. So I have a new vet I am really happy with, AND Blue is acting like a brand new dog she is so bouncy and happy again. I am SOOOO GRATEFUL!!!

 

So, as you can see, and knew anyway, I am a dog-nut. I love my dogs, have a wonderful time with them, and really appreciate them. And I’m very grateful to have found a new vet. It’s important to have a good one. The old one was very nice, but is just no longer available to his patients (other people I spoke to, who went to him as well, confirmed having the same experience with him in the last year or two. It made everything in an already bad situation even more stressful. Apparently he has other interests.)

 

So all is well that ends well. It was a bumpy road, and scary at times, figuring out what was wrong with Blue, and getting help for her. But she’s happy and so am I. Our little friends are so important to us, and those of us who have dogs we love, love them sooo much!!

 

A friend of mine has been waiting for the birth of a Golden Retriever puppy, she has waited months for. It was born today, and she already sent out pictures of the newborn puppy. As Charles Schulz of ‘Peanuts” fame said so well, “Happiness is a warm puppy”—-it sure is in my life anyway.

 

Have a great week!!! We’ve got one month of summer left. Enjoy it to the fullest!!!

 

lots of love, Danielle

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7/16/18, On Vacation…

Posted on July 16, 2018

On vacation. See you next week, Love, Danielle

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6/25/18, Great, so far!

Posted on June 25, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,

 

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,

 

love, Danielle

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6/18/18, “Mother Love”

Posted on June 18, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,

 

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

 

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6/11/18, In Loving Memory

Posted on June 11, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,

 

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,

 

love, Danielle

 

 

6/4/18, Philanthropy

Posted on June 4, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,
 

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

4/30/18, Mom The Magician

Posted on April 30, 2018

 

Hi Everyone,
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