Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

6/28/21, Apologies

Posted on June 28, 2021

 

 

Hello Everyone,

 

I owe you a profound apology. For the last few weeks, time got away from me, as never before. As you know, I didn’t see any of my children for nearly 15 months while staying in France, to be as safe as possible from Covid, and living three long lockdowns where I was. As a result, I didn’t see my children, and was finally able to visit them for the last seven weeks. I was able to spend time with each of them, my children who live on the West Coast and the East Coast. I’ve been travelling now for nearly two months to see them, and spend time with them. I put just about everything else aside to do so, and I owed them that focus after being away from them for so long.

 

There was a certain degree of culture shock being back in the States, it seemed very different than when I left, right before the pandemic, and like every other country in the world, there was a sense of still recovering from an intense crisis, and nearly a year and a half of anxiety and trauma. I think it has marked us all, kind of a feeling of shock that this could happen at all. While making history, we were living it, and it takes a toll. I think I was suffering from a certain degree of Post Trauma myself, after being isolated and confined so often and for so long. It seemed safer not to travel, but one pays a high price from being away from one’s family for so long. I am relieved and proud to say that my children handled it responsibly and well.

 

It was also interesting to be in the States as cities opened and were declared no longer on emergency status. There was a feeling of jubilation and celebration that I wasn’t fully ready for yet. It seems still soon to eat at indoor restaurants, and I stuck to outdoor restaurants with open air terraces, which felt safer to me. The atmosphere was jubilant in New York, where I spent three weeks. It’s a busy crowded city in normal times and seemed even more so as the pandemic winds down. But even though the risks are dwindling, the dangerous variants are still among us, many people are not vaccinated, and it feels a little early to me to be so fast to put it behind us. I still wore a mask indoors and outdoors, and one visit to a crowded department store worried me so I left. I still want to be cautious for a while.

 

Once back in Europe, things are opening rapidly there too, though it’s not quite as free as the States, and approaching total freedom gradually, as the number of people vaccinated increases.

 

I met all of my children’s new puppies, and enjoyed visiting their busy lives. I felt like the Ghost of Christmas Past for a while, and then I adjusted. It was the greatest gift in the world to be with them again. And we will meet again for a vacation this summer. This was just a much needed prelude to that.

 

So I am very, VERY sorry that I’ve been ‘off’ for four weeks. I’m back, and I hope you’ll forgive me for being a no-show while I was catching up with my kids. I hope you’re all well, and that your lives are returning to normal too. I’ll be back at my blog again next week, and in the meantime, I have some writing to do. Have a great week!!

 

with much love, Danielle

5/31/21, Self Portraits

Posted on May 31, 2021

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’ve had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, which marks the unofficial beginning of summer—although the weather has been pretty chilly in some places, but summer is summer and warm weather should be here soon. On the day to remember our lost loved ones, Memorial Day, it seems a fitting time to honor all the people who have lost their lives to Covid.

 

And on the Covid front, there seems to be good news, the numbers are down in the States and in Europe, mass vaccination finally has Covid on the run, and far fewer lives are being lost in many places (although we still mourn all the current losses in India, as they struggle with Covid). In California children all the way down to the age of 12 are being vaccinated. In France, vaccination opened up to ALL ages today, which will speed things up immeasurably. And California has started an amazing lottery to encourage California residents to get vaccinated: 10 people will win 1.5 million $ each, 30 will win $50,000., two million can win $50 gift cards, and another million people will win free beer and baseball tickets. Whatever works to encourage people to get vaccinated, so we can all be safer from the virus in future, and reach ‘herd immunity’.

 

Something struck me this week about the way we view ourselves. I have always admired people who are humble, and it seems as though the more talented and exceptional they are, the more humble they are. I’ve never much liked people who are puffed up, full of themselves, and brag about their talents and abilities, and I’ve admired greatly those who are more modest. One of the most humble men I have ever known was Alex Haley, who was a dear friend, and my mentor at the beginning of my career (the author of “Roots”). No one was warmer, kinder, more compassionate, and more humble than he. It was one of his many traits I admired greatly.

 

I was speaking this week to a man whom I love and admire, exceptionally talented, brilliantly smart, a wonderful human being, and he is so modest that he has no idea how extraordinary and unusual he is. He sees himself as an ordinary person, with nothing special to recommend him, he sees his flaws and mistakes as no one else does—-while other people with little to recommend them can’t wait to tell you how fabulous they are (and usually aren’t).

 

There is a fine line between modesty and humility, and being blind to our own virtues. I dont usually see myself as a special person. I see my flaws, my weaknesses and my failures and all the areas where I could be better, my mistakes glare at me like headlights, blinding me to all else. Long ago, I was friends with the head of my publishing house, quite an impressive very capable man much respected in the field. And he said to me, “Every day I sit in my office, at my enormous desk, and I wait for someone to walk through the door and say ‘Donny, what are you doing in this office, in that chair—-go back to where you belong immediately’. I think we all feel that way at times. In publishing circles, I am often treated as a star, people see and are sometimes impressed by my fame—–and in my own mind’s eye, I am somewhere between 15 and 35, on a ‘grown up’ day, and I see all the ineptitude, the things I can’t and dont know how to do, the awkwardness, my shyness, and I feel almost like a fraud when they treat me as a star, and I wonder when they will discover that I’m just as unsure of myself as I was at fifteen. A wise woman once said to me “Dont compare your insides to other people’s outsides”. Other people always appear to be more competent and talented than we feel.

 

It’s a good trait not to be showing off and bragging, but maybe for the more modest among us, we need to take stock occasionally, and realize and notice the things that we do well, and where we shine—instead of focusing on our flaws and beating ourselves up for what we’re not or what we dont know, or can’t do well (yet).

 

When I do interviews on TV, it always feels surreal. I try not to think of millions of viewers watching, or I’d faint on the spot. People do my hair and make-up, I’m lucky enough to be interviewed by Robin Roberts, who is a fantastic, wonderful person, on Good Morning America.  And for five minutes, I feel like a star. And then I go home, or back to a hotel where I’m staying, take off my clothes for TV, put on jeans and a sweater, call my kids, play with my dogs—-the make-up and hair look good for the rest of the day, but underneath all that I’m still me, the same person I was at 15, and 25 and 30, with the same talents, and the same ineptitudes, just as shy, and often unsure of myself, wishing I could be more, or better, or more capable in many ways. I think most of us feel that way.

 

I see your talents and beauty, and you see mine—but do we see our own? Do we ever give ourselves a pat on the back for a job well done, or do we see the one mistake we made? I tend to be hard on myself, always striving to do better and be more. And maybe that’s not a bad thing, but now and then we should probably all take stock, and realize where our strengths lie, and how many things we have done well.  Fame always seems a little fraudulent to me. Without the make-up (that I could never do myself) and the perfect hair for TV, I’m still the same girl I was at fifteen, and you probably feel that way too.

 

Take stock of the many things you do really well, and I’m sure there are many!!! Recognize your talents, be proud of yourself.  And I’ll bet you have a lot to be proud of, even if you still feel like you’re just a kid and winging it most of the time. Your own personal way of ‘winging it’ may be pretty fabulous and you dont even know it!!! Hurray for you!!! You have a right to be proud of yourself, and not to be too critical and hard on yourself. And make sure you hang out with people who appreciate you, and praise you for who you really are!!! Try to see what they see in you, and you’ll get a whole new view of yourself!!

 

Have a great week, and I hope wonderful things happen for you!!!

 

 

love, Danielle

 

 

5/25/21, Re-Entry, the challenges of Good Change

Posted on May 25, 2021

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you had a good week, and are getting ready for the Memorial Day weekend, which is always the unofficial beginning of summer in the US, a kind of warm up for the Fourth of July. Although holidays have been celebrated worldwide during the nearly year and a half of the pandemic, nothing has had the same atmosphere or mood during that anxious time. And in most cases, holidays that were too enthusiastically celebrated had disastrous after-effects with lethal spikes in the numbers of new Covid cases, with a high price to pay for holidays. With vaccines available now around the world, and more readily in some countries, it will actually be possible for people to celebrate holidays with far less risk, and in some places none at all, although caution is still advised (masks, social distancing, and common sense, with Covid still part of our daily lives, although rendered less lethal now due to the vaccines.)

 

I’m reminded of the wise words of a friend several years ago, a psychologist, who said that good change can sometimes be harder to adjust to than bad change, which several times in my life I have found to be true (like the arrival of a new baby, which is such a joyous event, but can certainly alter your daily life dramatically, and be a bumpy adjustment, and for some even lead to postpartum depression). We’re not suffering from post-partum now, but for many, the adjustment to many changes post-Covid can be stressful and anxiety provoking. I read somewhere recently that some people are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the aftermath of Covid, even as things begin to ease up. I notice changes in my life too. My sleep patterns (and I don’t sleep much in the best of times) have been altered, and haven’t settled down yet to what they were pre-Covid, with sleep more elusive, nights shorter, or waking in the middle of the night, unable to get back to sleep. (I just get up and go to work, rather than lying in bed and stewing about why I can’t sleep). I hear that from people a lot, that they’re having trouble sleeping. We’ve all been through some harrowing times, and need to acknowledge that.

 

For myself, although I was safer in France at times, and felt more secure there when the numbers of daily cases and deaths were terrifyingly high in the US, which kept me where I was, and Paris is certainly not a hardship post even in the midst of Covid—-three long lockdowns, and the rigors and forced solitude of confinement were an unfamiliar stress, and being separated from my family for more than a year was a challenge every day. Birthdays, holidays, and happy events missed, family gatherings cancelled, weddings and other events being cancelled and postponed sank everyone’s spirits for more than a year, and was a common occurrence in everyone’s lives. The restoration of normal life is an enormous comfort, and being reunited with loved ones a special gift, it still feels somewhat tenuous, and we have all been reminded of how radically and how suddenly life can be changed dramatically. The whole world became a dangerous place, and in many cases came to a dead stop for more than a year. And people are still mourning lost loved ones, and financial stresses are affecting people all across the globe. And ‘normal’ feels suddenly unfamiliar and a challenge to achieve. Unable to be vaccinated myself, and with some members of my family not vaccinated yet for a variety of reasons, I have still not been able to hug my children, but just the sight of them with masks and social distancing warms my heart. We’re ‘back’, but none of us are quite home free yet. But we’re getting there, and well on our way.

 

As with any hard event, even a war, blessings have resulted from it too, family relationships that have become closer, romantic ones that started in the pandemic, people who got to know their children better than ever before, new past times we never had time for before, and helped soothe some of the stresses of the pandemic, a lot of my friends took up gardening and really enjoyed it, or discovered new hobbies, and made new friends. And it seems as though everyone who could got a dog, and are crazy about them now. So we’re left with pluses and minuses. The minuses were heavy, jobs and businesses lost, and lost loved ones, but the pluses are noticeable, worthwhile, and real too.

 

Even happy events in life are not always 100% smooth. And the return to normalcy doesn’t always happen in a straight line or as fast as we wish. Switching from one country to another always has with it an element of culture shock. At the end of a flight, you’re suddenly in another world, another life, with a whole new set of challenges and rules. I had a lot to catch up on coming back to the States, and I jam packed all the long overdue appointments into my first weeks back, medical appointments and exams, the dentist, accountants, lawyers, government papers I needed for international travel, all of the appointments stressful, and I faced two and three a day, so I didn’t have much time to savor my return, and none of the required appointments were pleasant, but I wanted to get through them quickly. My daily role as parent and employer made demands on me too. And all of it after a year of anxiety and worry, and even business negotiations that dragged on far longer than usual. I think we were all stretched to the maximum of our tolerance for stress for more than a year. I worked hard during the entire pandemic every single day, but nothing was as easy or stress-free as it usually is. And winding down from that kind of stress is a challenge too. I missed important family events for more than a year. We won’t get the time back, and we can’t mourn the time we lost forever, we just have to move forward now with fresh energy, and look ahead to the many things we can enjoy now and will in future, and hang onto the blessings we did have in the past year, and there were many of those too. I am really grateful for the good people who came into my life in the past year, and the relationships that developed and strengthened as a result.

 

I only take one vacation a year, in the summer with my kids. There was no way we could do it last year, so I haven’t had a vacation in almost two years. And I almost never take a day off from writing. I keep my nose to the grindstone all year long, and my hands on my typewriter keys!!! My writing schedule is grueling, but I love what I do, which makes it possible. And although time off was inevitable for people during the lockdowns, I was able to work then too, even if not as easily as usual, but I still worked. But I’ve been reminded of the benefits, and necessity sometimes, of time off too.

 

I did something in the past week that I rarely do, I took a day off during the week to drive out of the city with my youngest daughter, to the places she has enjoyed during the pandemic. We drove out to the country, had a wonderful lunch together, and spent a terrific day. I came back to the city at the end of the day, feeling happy, relaxed and renewed. The time together was a special gift. And although the pandemic was isolating in many ways, physically and mentally, I cherish the time to see friends now, or talk to them, and didn’t take much time off to do that before. I think that people who take the time to do that now will make a healthier, happy re-entry back to normal life. We can see more people now, are freer to move around, and do the things we enjoyed before, and hang onto the new past times we’ve discovered in this very unusual year.

 

I think in the long run, the pandemic will have taught us many positive lessons, and much about ourselves and what matters most to us. But don’t be too surprised if your re-entry is a little bumpy, and you feel different than before. We won’t all suffer from Post-traumatic stress, but the reality is that we have all been through a lot, in one way or another, and it will take some time to hit our stride again, but we are well on our way now. The memory of the hard times will leave their mark, but so will the blessings we derived from it too. Take some time to catch your breath, get back to ‘normal’, and be gentle with yourself.

 

Have a great week and a wonderful holiday weekend!!!

 

 

love, Danielle

 

5/17/21, To Mask or Not To Mask

Posted on May 17, 2021

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you had a good week last week. I’ve been adjusting to re-entry into a previously familiar world, and a certain degree of culture shock after being away for a long time. And to make matters more confusing, there have been differences for the past year between what Covid protocols should be followed, between Europe and the US, between European countries, and between states and cities in the US. There are differences of opinions about what is safe and what isn’t, and sometimes contradictions between suggestions, rules and laws. At first we were all told that masks were unnecessary, don’t bother with them, (both in the US and in Europe) and then country by country, scientists and governments decided that masks were essential, and one of the most most important tools we had to stay safe and stop the spread of the virus, particularly now with a multitude of variants from around the world. Masks even became a political issue in the US. Most of us have been wearing them for a year, surgical masks, cloth masks, decorated masks, colorful ones, adult and children’s masks.

 

Last week, new pronouncements were made, saying that vaccinated people no longer needed to wear them, indoors or out. The news was met with a huge collective sigh of liberation by many people. No one is thrilled by having to wear a mask, but if it keeps us safe (and people around us), why not? Particularly if it keeps high risk people safe, it seems important to wear one. And doctors have said that wearing one is still crucial. But with many people vaccinated now, the rules are changing, and it sounds like vaccinated people will be able to live free of masks now. It sounds like a plus if it is truly safe.

 

I’m a little confused about it myself, and since I can’t get vaccinated (due to potentially fatal allergies), I do pay attention to the recommendations about masks, to protect myself, and others, whether loved ones or strangers. Doctors seem to agree that there are many things we don’t know both about the vaccine and the virus itself, and they continue to learn more every day. And possibly it won’t be until after the pandemic is over that we will really be able to figure out what helped and what didn’t. But from everything we know now, masks are still very important, particularly in crowded public places, like airports, public transportation, and even stadiums. As things open up more and more, and we get back normal life, it’s important to know if masks are still important. It sounds like they are, for now.

 

From what I understand, among ALL vaccinated people, they can start to put away their masks now. And for people who haven’t had the vaccine, masks are VERY important to protect themselves and others. And to a certain degree, among the vaccinated, it will become a matter of choice, as to how comfortable they feel now not wearing a mask. But it is a small step to freedom, and an important one.

 

We’ve all gotten used to wearing masks now. It isn’t a lot to ask. And since I’m not vaccinated, I will continue wearing mine, except when I’m outdoors, with reasonable social distancing and precautions. According to everything the scientists say, masks make a BIG difference. So, with people I don’t know well, or at all, or people whose ideas about safety are different than mine, or in an airport, or on a plane, for now I will continue to wear a mask. And with those of my children who are not vaccinated, I will continue to wear a mask and social distance. Just to be on the safe side. And with friends and family who are vaccinated, and careful, I feel comfortable taking off my mask, especially outdoors or with fresh air circulating.

 

I guess things will get clearer and clearer as time goes on!!!

 

Have a GREAT week, with lots of good news, and some fun.

 

love, Danielle

5/11/21, Together Again

Posted on May 11, 2021

 

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’ve had a good week. I’ve had a couple of really busy weeks, and I didn’t have the time or the calm to write to you peacefully. After more than fourteen months, a huge moment happened in my life. The Covid numbers came down just enough in France, and in the US, and with many people vaccinated, I decided to brave the trip I have put off for fourteen months: I was scared of the health risks, but I took the bull by the horns, and was reminded of one of the sayings on my office wall: Courage is not the absence of fear or despair, but the strength to conquer them. So, with great trepidation, and real fear, I packed up fourteen months of papers and things to bring my children, and unsure until the very last minute, I made a run for it, with my French nephew to help me with ten suitcases and three dogs on the trip from Paris, where I have been for fourteen and a half months, back to the US.

 

People had told me that airports were empty, and planes less than half full, and travel was easier than I feared. (I feared most of all catching the dreaded virus on the way. After all those months in safety and seclusion in Paris, it seemed insanely stupid to catch it on the way home. But I couldn’t stay away from my children any longer. I felt that I was letting them down, and owed it to them to be brave, and as careful as possible and go to see them in California and New York. And the numbers had not been good recently. But when would they be? And how much longer could I wait?)

 

The reports I’d had weren’t entirely true. The airport wasn’t jammed but it was full, and busy with international travelers, leaving Paris for other countries. There are only two flights a week from Paris to San Francisco, but people are moving around. The airport was not deserted, although the flight was one third full. Equipped by one of my children, I had plastic covers to put in the security bins (a really good idea), which made me feel a little safer. I wore an N95 mask, which was too big so it floated around on my face, but I had been told it was the best. I brought a visor, but didn’t wear it, and used a seat cover, and disinfected my hands frequently. And once on the plane, I began to relax. The crew was attentive, and the air supposedly well filtered and pure. It was the same worry we have all had for more than a year: an invisible killer virus is lurking, but you can’t see it, and don’t know if you do the wrong thing, or stand next to the wrong person. A PCR Covid test was required for the trip.

 

It was a very long flight, one I never take. I prefer to break my trip to the West Coast with a stop in New York, which avoids jet lag. I was too tense on the flight to watch a movie or sleep, so I read, and talked to my nephew, and the eleven-hour flight went surprisingly fast, and we landed an hour early. And I had a strange sensation on arrival, that I was suddenly back in the US, had travelled halfway across the world, and was allegedly home, but it didn’t feel like it, everything felt strange and foreign and unfamiliar. And I kept reminding myself that I had made the trip to see my kids, which made any degree of fear worthwhile. I had a reason, a purpose, and a need of my own, to see the children I had missed so much. We had never been apart for more than a few weeks in their entire lives, and I hadn’t seen them in more than a year. Unimaginable, and yet the time had flown. There were some hard, lonely times, but always a sense that we were doing the right thing, staying where I was. it was a sacrifice for them and for me, and it hadn’t all been painful. There had been some wonderful moments in France in the year, and often a sense of peace, and some lovely moments with friends. Some of my friendships had deepened, others had faded away when friends disappointed me, which happens to us all.There were frightened times, and peaceful times. But my family is a vital part of my life, and was always missing. It took enormous strength and faith to be away from them for so long.

 

I made my way through immigration and customs, and trumpets didn’t go off. A brass band didn’t play. No one congratulated me for coming home. And we drove into the city, and got home. San Francisco looked bright and shiny, the sun was shining, people had told me the city looked grim, but I saw no sign of it on the way. And at last, I was home. I have led a divided life for a long time, as a child between France and the US, and again as an adult once my children grew up. For the past 16 years, my life, and my year, and my friendships and my heart have once again been divided between France and the US, with homes in both places, but the ‘mother house’, the family house my children grew up in, and my children, are all in the United States, so like a homing pigeon I always come back, even though eventually I fly back to France again. But my return to the US is always sure, my kids are here. My worst fear for years, or one of them, is that there would be a war, and I would be separated from my children particularly if I had a different nationality from them—-which is exactly what happened in Covid. It exploded while I was in France, rapidly became too dangerous to come back, and my kids were in the US. They were incredibly brave and tolerant and supportive of my remaining safe there, in fact frequently they advised me not to come back yet, and to wait, so I did. But a year? How could that be?

 

I walked through my front door and nothing had changed, the house looked the same. it was as though I had never left, and yet I had, and we had been separated for a year. We had faced hard times alone, holidays and important life moments. But we had survived, no one had died. We had made it. Four of my children were in San Francisco, the others in other cities, and I will visit them soon. The elderly dogs I had left in San Francisco, too old to travel, had died during the year, and the house seemed empty without them. But I felt as though I had been either thrown back a year, or air lifted ahead. It was like flying through space. And within hours I saw the children I had missed so much—cautiously, we kept our distance, wore masks, some of them are vaccinated, some not, and I’m not, due to severe allergies that make it questionable, so even more caution and wisdom is required. We didn’t hug, but we glowed with joy and relief when we saw each other, and got as close as we dared. I had another Covid test several days later, which was negative. They had tests before they saw me. The distance of six feet didn’t matter, we had been six thousand miles apart for more than fourteen months, and we had survived it, we had come through it, Love had fueled us and kept us going, and there were many dark hours in the year apart, but bright ones too. They had grown more independent, and I had to fill my time without them, although I had been surrounded by my children since I was nineteen. It was a learning experience, and an act of faith for us all. And somehow, I’m not even sure how, we did it. I don’t think we will ever be as affected by being apart for a while. We did it, and it was hard at times. Christmas alone, without them was the hardest of all for me. But even that painful memory faded once I saw them in front of me.

 

I felt like a ghost in my own life for a while. I had come back, and their lives had gone on without me, and my life had moved forward too. I was eternally grateful to the people, a precious few, who had gotten me through it. Strong bonds had formed during the pandemic, like in wartime, which will stay with us forever and last, never to be forgotten.

 

For several days, I woke up in the morning, or at night, unsure where I was. Paris or the States? Where was I? Which country? Which home? And then I remembered.

 

So often I was overwhelmed with fear during that year, that I would die and never see them again, or that something would happen to them. Miraculously, nothing terrible did, and we came through it unscathed. Our worst fears never happened, and we are together again. And I will see the others soon. I will always remember that time apart, and be grateful for the love that carried us through, along with the people we love and who love us, who helped us along the way. it was a remarkable journey, and living proof of what I believe, as trite as it sounds, that Love conquers all, distance and fear and darkness and anxiety, and no matter how many miles we are away from our loved ones, we can never really be separated from those we love. Love truly does conquer all, and transforms us on the way. And no matter how difficult or frightening the experience, there are blessings in every situation that carry us through. And wherever we find ourselves, we are where we are meant to be. I am grateful for every moment of the last fourteen months, and to be with my children again. Home is wherever we are, with the people we love. And I am so grateful for the people who gave me comfort, support and love for the past fourteen months. It has been a blessing and a miracle, and even though so hard at times, an incredible gift to be together again.

Have a great week!

Love, Danielle

 

4/19/21, “No More Fear”

Posted on April 19, 2021

 

Hi Everyone,

 

How was your week last week? I hope it was a good one, and you had at least one good surprise, or some really happy moments. Some nice things happened for me last week, we are planning a wedding for one of my daughters late in the summer and are looking forward to it, a celebratory moment and a happy event. We’ve all had a hard year and deserve to have some fun when things are safer. The vaccine roll out seems to be happening in the US but the daily Covid numbers are still high and rising, and we still have to be careful and keep our defenses up. It’s too soon to relax our guard with Covid, the experts say, although I think we are all tired of the strain and stress, and how hard it is to make plans more than a few days away.

 

I finished correcting a set of galleys yesterday for one of my books, and really loved the story, and I am excited about the books I have coming out this year, we’ve been working on the cover for the holiday book, both in the US and the UK, and it’s a book I’m really excited about. And I’m very excited about the book coming out next week in hardcover, “Finding Ashley”, and I really hope you love it too, and the mothers and mother figures in your life. There is an important sister relationship in the book too. As an only child, I have always been deeply touched by the relationships I see among my children, among siblings. It is a very precious relationship, not always easy, because siblings can be very different, but it is a very powerful bond, stronger than friendship. My kids are all very close and I think they treasure their relationships with their siblings.

 

I read something I found helpful yesterday, and will share it with you. I ALWAYS find the writings of Joel Osteen helpful and inspiring. Many of them are written in a way that is useful even for people who aren’t religious, they are so strongly positive. I love Joel’s books, and he recently came out with a small one, on the subject of Fear.

 

I have always been a worrier, even as a child. I had a bumpy childhood, my mother left when I was very young, and I grew up alone with my father. Losing a parent at an early age kind of sets you up to worry about how things are going to turn out—and what if the other parent leaves too, or dies?—then what? Children are sensitive to changes and instability in their lives. And much later, as an adult, I lost my son Nick—which again is a harsh reminder that bad things can happen and you can lose someone you love. So, I do worry, some of my children are worriers too, though not all. On the practical side, if you’re a worrier by nature, things usually go pretty smoothly, because you try to anticipate what could go wrong, and plan accordingly (like what if it rains the day you are hosting a big picnic or an outdoor event—do you have an alternate rain plan??) I also envy the people who just figure they’ll wing it and invent the alternatives as they go along—I would lie awake at night worrying about it, if I didn’t have a backup plan. Like if I’m travelling for some big event, I always take an alternate outfit, because what if the zipper gets stuck, or you spill a bowl of soup on yourself, or someone else does. Travelling with 9 children taught me that little trick early on!!!

 

Being a worrier is a burden too, because you’re always trying to anticipate what could or might go wrong. And some of the events in our lives (like lost loved ones) make us fearful. And Joel’s books are the perfect antidote for that, they are kind of handbooks to life, how to deal with life’s crises. His books have always helped and reassured me immensely. The ones I’ve read are normal length books, with many chapters, and I have loved them all. He also has a great sense of humor which comes through in his writing. (I have been lucky enough to meet him and his family, and he is an amazing person!!)  He recently came out with a very small book called “No More Fear”. There are 30 chapters. Each chapter is a single page. It’s a fast read, and touches on a multitude of subjects, there are photographs in it, it’s a pretty book. But it is once again kind of a fast handbook to life, and this book focuses on fear obviously.

 

It is a warm, kind, reassuring reminder that we don’t need to be scared, that life works better if we aren’t scared, don’t panic, or assume the worst, and keep a positive attitude and trust that things will work out. Let’s face it, we’ve all had a tough year, worrying about our health, the health and safety of the people we love, terrified by the horror stories we’ve heard of Covid. For people with their own small businesses, in most cases it has been a challenging year. For people with jobs, they’ve worried that the company they work for could go under. In cities that have been under heavy lockdown, hairdressers, restaurant owners, waiters, even gardeners have been out of work for months. It’s been hard to make plans, nearly impossible to travel, kids have been out of school a lot, weddings and graduations have been cancelled. Celebrations have been few and far between, social gatherings have been forbidden. All the fallout of Covid has set the stage for us to be worried, even afraid, it has been an anxiety-producing time, and even with the vaccines now, the end isn’t clearly in sight yet. Fear has been with us ever since Covid arrived.

 

I sat down with Joel Osteen’s new book, read it carefully, and as with all his books, when I finished, I gave a sigh of relief. It reminded me that we don’t have to be ruled by fear, that we don’t need to be afraid all the time. Some things are good to be afraid of: an alligator in your backyard, an intruder with a gun, an airplane in trouble, a rattlesnake at your feet—-a pandemic!!! But we can’t live with fear all the time, we have to be able to unplug sometimes, we can’t live in a constant crisis. Joel helps one cope with the ordinary situations in life which frighten us—-that may not even turn out badly, they may turn out wonderfully in the end, but we worry about them until they do. I loved his book, and will read it again many times. It also reminded me of one of my favorite Bible passages, that I have clung to often:

 

“God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of Love and of a sound mind” Timothy II:7 There are various versions of it in more modern translations of the Bible. Most of the time, fear is not a good thing (except in the case of the alligator I mentioned, or the rattlesnake)—-we can’t live in fear all the time. And we’ve had a lot of it in these 13 months of the pandemic. We need to be able to unplug from that fear, to breathe, to relax, to laugh, to have a good time, to see friends and family when it’s safe to do so.

 

I just thought I’d mention Joel’s book in case it would comfort you as it did me. And we all have our own way to seek relief from stress and fear, jogging, other forms of exercise, talking to a friend, a good meal, a glass of wine, religious beliefs. There are many ways to deal with fear, and Joel’s book is just one of them. But I loved it, it helped me, and I wanted to share it with you.

 

And one day, hopefully not too far from now, this whole scary time will be behind us, and a distant memory. But for now, it helps to find something encouraging that makes you feel better and gives you hope again. Joel’s book did that for me. Take good care, and be good to yourself this week, you deserve it!! Have a great week, and I hope wonderful things happen to you!!

 

love, Danielle

4/12/21, Finding Ashley

Posted on April 12, 2021

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you had a good week, things are a bit dreary in Paris, another cold rainy day. I don’t know what’s wrong with the weather this year, last year at this time, I was perched on my little balcony, getting a suntan in the spring sunshine. It made the long lockdown a bit more tolerable. Last year, in the lockdown we weren’t allowed to go outside, except for an hour a day with a permission form filled out (for medical reasons, groceries, an hour of exercise or to walk a dog). This year we can go out all day until 7 pm, but go where? It’s too cold and rainy to want to go out, and cozier at home. It feels like December, not April. It was supposed to snow last week, but it didn’t in the city, only in the country around it, and in London. So, it’s reading, writing, getting work done, and watching series. And I think most people are pretty much series and zoomed-out. Human contact would be ever so nice, a walk with a friend on a sunny day, lunch at a restaurant, on a terrace (no stores or restaurants open). Spring will come, and Covid will get better and eventually disappear. We just have to be patient, I guess.

 

I remember one year, I was on my way to the Caribbean, and changed flights in New York for 2 hours, and in those brief two hours on April 15, there was such a huge blizzard that they closed the airport. So I guess cold weather happens in April.

 

The vaccine roll out is still slow in Europe, and impressively efficient in the US. I heard yesterday that 25% of the population is fully vaccinated in the US, and 50% have had one shot and are waiting for the next one. That really is amazing.

 

Otherwise, the world seems a bit slow at the moment, I have a new book coming out two weeks from tomorrow, which is always exciting. “Finding Ashley”, about a reclusive writer who lost her son to cancer, and her marriage, and is quite solitary, and estranged from her only sister, who is a nun. The writer gave up a baby at a Mother and Baby Home in Ireland when she was fifteen. And when the two sisters meet again, the one who is a nun takes a leave from the convent, to try and find the baby girl that her sister gave up. The writer has regretted it all her life, and her sister wants to help her find peace about it.  All the convent records were intentionally destroyed, so none of the mothers and adult children can find each other now. The search for the little girl her sister gave up becomes a journey of self-discovery, revealing truths and long hidden secrets in both their lives, and it renews the bond between the two sisters, and what they discover during the search for the baby the one sister gave up. It’s about mothers and daughters and sisters, and the bond between women in one family, no matter how different they are. It’s about looking for someone you loved and lost, and finding yourself. I hope you love it!!! And because of the subject, it will make a wonderful Mother’s Day book!!!

 

I hope you have a wonderful week, with lots of happy surprises—–and warm weather, and a hint of spring!!

 

lots of love, Danielle

 

4/7/21, Stolen year

Posted on April 7, 2021

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’re well. Saying that has new meaning these days, doesn’t it? It’s such a relief to know that our loved ones are well, and that we are. And how often we have heard of people we know catching the virus in the past year, or have been in contact with it and didn’t catch it. It is such an unpredictable disease. Whole families I know have caught it, while one single person in their midst doesn’t. Or one person gets it, and no one else in the family does. In most of the couples I know, if one got it, the other didn’t. And who gets it and who doesn’t seem to be entirely unpredictable. And we all have to be careful.

 

And I think most or all of us feel that we have lived with constant anxiety for the past year, worrying about getting it, getting tested, waiting for results, worrying about jobs, losing loved ones, or salaries, and constantly guarding ourselves with masks, and gel and distance. Every time you feel an ordinary twinge, have a headache or a runny nose, you think “OMG, do I have it?” I’ve had a few nights myself when I convinced myself I was sick and was terrified, only to feel foolish in the morning when I was fine. I’ve had some long anxious nights myself, or lonely ones away from my family, and our fears inflate like balloons at night. So many people I know have complained that they’re not sleeping well. How can we, with the anxiety we cope with every day, while still trying to lead normal lives, and sacrifice ourselves to keep our loved ones safe if they are particularly vulnerable. No one knows who will catch it and who won’t, why some catch it and others don’t. Our social lives have suffered (and are a thing of the past for most of us), in Europe we’ve had no restaurants in France for nearly six months, with no idea when they will open again. We’ve lived with 6pm curfews, or total lockdowns, for five months out of the last thirteen. It takes a lot of fortitude to come through all that unaffected. And young people and old people are the most sequestered and are battling depression, relationships are impacted, kids aren’t in school and get on their parents’ nerves and are missing their friends. We have been running a marathon of stress for the past year. Personally, I miss seeing people freely, and going to a restaurant for a relaxed meal with friends. Wow, wouldn’t that be a nice change!!! I’ve seen more of the inside of my apartment than I want to see for a long time. Some days it’s okay, and some days it’s not. And that’s hard to predict too. I lost twelve pounds in the first 3-month confinement, others have gained.  And now, in many places, it’s a struggle to get the vaccine. And which one do you get? Will there be a reaction? How bad? Stress, stress, stress, stress.

 

I was speaking to someone the other day who was complaining that we have lost a year out of our lives, that it was ‘stolen’ from us. And perhaps it was. And I know blessings from it too, parents who have come to know their children as they never did before, bonds that have formed, relationships that have flourished, while others have ended in divorce. Some people have gotten married, and babies have been born. Good things have happened too, but the noisier things are louder.

 

I don’t like the ‘stolen from us’ theories. We haven’t been robbed. And although on the surface we can easily see the losses, but there were beautiful things that emerged too, for each of us. If you are reading this, you are probably healthy. I think we need to take this year and use it well, use it like balm on the wounds we suffered, turn it to good use, treat it as a learning resource, sift out the precious moments, like gold in a pan. Because there have been precious moments and good times. We have to hold those moments high, like a banner to wave to encourage others.

 

The year wasn’t stolen, we still have it in our memory bank and always will. I would like to view it as a valuable learning experience, a historical moment, a gift of some kind, a valuable lesson, and a blessing that first appeared to be a punishment, but then the winners emerged. We have been part of history, we have proven theories, we are still standing, which is a victory in itself. Personally, I have written almost incessantly all year. No one stole my year, it is here in my memory box, it wasn’t easy, but that makes the victory all the more impressive. You should get a stripe on your clothes, epaulets, a badge, a medal, a symbol to show that you were there, we all were, whatever country you were in.

 

I salute you all. Thank you for being there, for sharing the experience, for the kindnesses you did, for the gestures you made toward others, for the respect we showed each other, thank you for being part of this year. I stand proudly beside you. We did it, we made it, we’re still struggling, but we will come through it in the end.

 

Have a great week!!!

 

love, Danielle

 

3/29/21, Resurrection

Posted on March 29, 2021

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope last week was a good one for you. These are certainly challenging times, from week to week. Now that we’ve passed the one-year mark from when everything shut down and Covid exploded into our lives, I think we are all more eager than ever for life to return to normal. The vaccine gives us hope of more protection, but the distribution of it seems pretty bumpy and erratic in most countries. And not everyone wants to be vaccinated. It’s very new, and many people are daunted by the pros and cons and the speed with which it was developed. There is no question, we have been part of a historical event, a year that no one will forget. It cast us back a century to a situation so similar to the Spanish flu which decimated the world in a very similar way a hundred years ago. But there is a glimmer of light on the horizon now, and sometime in the next months, we will win this silent war that we have fought so bravely. It’s a war with very real casualties. And for the survivors, we have been very brave and paid a high price for the loss of peace, the risk of illness or worse, and the threat to us and our loved ones. One day we will celebrate our victory, while honoring those who did not survive. I hope that day of peace, recovery, and victory will come soon.

 

Of all the holidays, I LOVE Christmas. I love everything about it, the hope, the joy, families coming together, the sound of carols and happy laughter, the smell of Christmas trees and cookies baking. Happy faces, warm hearts. Like all holidays, there can be challenging moments, or family tensions, or some terrible sadness for those who are alone. But on the whole, it’s my favorite holiday. And as I spent it alone last year, in Paris, during Covid, with no family member nearby and none of the sounds of joy, it was a humbling experience and reminded me of just how hard lonely holidays can be. It was a good reminder that Christmas is not joyful for everyone, and it is an agony for some. It was for me last year, alone.

 

Whether one is religious or not, there are lots of non-religious aspects of Christmas that are fun for everyone. You don’t have to be religious to enjoy Christmas, there is something for everyone, if you’re willing to be festive. And some people enjoy the holiday more than others. Christmas is always a warm happy family time for me.

 

But the holiday which has the greatest religious symbolism for me is Easter. As happens at some other times a year, it is not just a time for Christian holidays, but Passover too, and this year Ramadan, all within two weeks of each other. In the Christian faith, the entire religious symbolism centers around the idea of Resurrection, rebirth, new beginnings, recovery, refreshing our lives and renewing hope, and even faith. If ever there was a year when we need renewal and recovery, this year is it. Last year, it was only weeks into the beginning of the pandemic, and we were dazed, shocked, the full impact of it hadn’t hit us yet, the shock, the losses, the fear, the people who got sick, and those who didn’t make it. This year, we have endured the hardships for a year, survived the challenges, lived with anxiety and tension for a full year. The notion of Resurrection is beginning again, rising from the ashes and rebuilding our lives, repairing the damage, renewing our energy, and finding the courage to start over, to feel new again, to rise from the darkness into the light of love and joy and hope. I can’t think of another holiday or theory that is more appropriate for what we’ve all been through.

 

And I wish all of you the strength and the courage to reach out and feel new again, in small ways, and big ones. I celebrate the Resurrection with you, and may you feel the strength of that renewal in every fiber of your being, whatever your religion or if you have none at all.

 

May the idea of resurrection, renewal and new beginnings fill your heart, put balm on your wounds and bring you joy and peace.

 

with all my love, Danielle

 

3/22/21, Confined Again, Round 3

Posted on March 22, 2021

 

Hi Everyone,

 

So, how was your week last week? Mine was busy doing the usual errands, writing, and trying to catch up on my desk after a book, which takes a while. And the big news in Paris this week is that we’re in confinement again, which is definitely an odd confinement. The reason for it is that the hospital beds are full up, because unfortunately they have not added more beds in the past year, so with rising numbers of new cases again, there is a shortage of hospital beds and the Paris area and the South of France have been put on lockdown, while the rest of France has not. The confinement from March to May last year was of the strictest regime in all of France. Total lockdown, you could only leave your house for an hour a day, for an essential reason, within a short distance of one’s home. Offices and businesses, restaurants and schools were closed. The entire country was shut down for two months, with disastrous economic consequences to the country. The President has become determined to avoid lockdown as much as possible. And in spite of that, we were back in lockdown from the end of October until the end of November, and that time restaurants were closed (and still are since then), but shops were open for business, but you had to order and pick up outside, schools stayed open, and offices, and eventually a 6pm curfew was set in place. The idea was that you could work or go to school, but there were to be no social gatherings, no going out in the evening, and nowhere to go. And now here we are again, Round 3, with restaurants still closed (till May or June, they have taken a brutal hit, being closed since October), offices open with people urged to work remotely where possible, shops open for order and pick up but not shopping in store, schools are open, hairdressers are open and have been deemed ‘essential’ (I second that), and the new twist this time is that everyone can go outside as much as they want and are encouraged to, until curfew at 7pm. The weak spot there is, that encouraged to go outside, suddenly there are big groups of people picnicking together in the parks, (without masks while they eat and drink), playing sports, lining the river, filling the streets on the weekends. It is hard to believe that those rules will bring the numbers down. Vaccination continues at a snail’s pace, after a 3 day hiatus (with concerns about blood clotting possibly being related to the Astra Zeneca vaccine,from Britain). And in all forms, modified, local, or general, people are generally fed up with the confinements and regulations, lack of a social life, no restaurants. It has definitely been a long year, and everyone is hoping that the vaccines will return life to a semblance of normalcy. I hope too that things get more normal soon. People are worn out by the hardships, the risks, the uncertainties, the lack of ability to plan anything, the lack of a social life. It WILL get better, and the virus will eventually go away, but it’s a long road getting there, a lot longer than anyone knew a year ago. I hope that we see the last of it soon.

 

Meanwhile, I am writing and talking to my kids. It’s still wintry cold, with many rainy days. We need a big dose of good cheer, and good news, and hopefully the vaccines will be part of that, and with Spring will come new freedoms, and fewer people getting sick, and the hospitals less crowded than they are now.

 

I am reading and writing, and I hope you’ve had time to read my new book “The Affair”.

 

We just have to keep going until we reach the end of this long road. The current confinement will be under review in a month. And let’s hope this will be the last one. We will certainly remember this past year, and I hope the months ahead are a vast improvement. Hang in!! And have a great week!!!

love, Danielle