Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

1/6/20, Family

Posted on January 6, 2020

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope the last week has been peaceful and that you got through New Year’s Eve and Day safely and happily. I have to admit, as much as I love Christmas, I don’t like New Year’s.  New Year’s Eve is always heavy with expectation and often fraught with disappointment. Plans don’t work out quite the way we want them to, parties aren’t as much fun as we hope. We don’t have the right date or the right dress or the right plan. And although New Year’s Day is supposed to be a fresh beginning and the start of a whole New Year and clean slate, it’s often also a reminder of what didn’t work out last year. It’s just not a holiday I love!!! Having said that, my New Year’s Eve was surprisingly nice this year. For several years now, I have been alone on New Year’s eve, my kids have left after Christmas by then, so to avoid being sad and missing them too much (after the joys of a full house over Christmas!!), I start a new book every year when they leave, around December 27th—-and by New Year’s eve, I’m deep in the book and forget everything else. This year, one my daughters decided at the last minute to stay until New Year’s Day. She cooked all day on New Year’s Eve, set a beautiful table, with decorations, and provided a really festive happy New Year’s Eve for me, one of my sons and his fiancée, and another friend, and we had a really great time together, unexpectedly, on the spur of the moment. It was the best New Year’s Eve I’ve had in years. None of us had high expectations or elaborate plans, and we had a great time together!!!

 

I was mulling over what to write about today, in the blog, and read a reader’s comment to the last blog, about a minor family argument that turned into a big fight during holiday cookie baking and spoiled everything. And I thought I’d write about that. I’m an only child, so I’ve never had the problems or the blessings of siblings, and my family was tiny (just my father and I, while I grew up). In contrast, with nine children, I’ve been blessed with a big family and have had a front row seat to the closeness of siblings, what a joy it can be, and what a challenge at times. I do find that in big families, kids seem to get along better than in small ones, because it’s such a big group that there are always other options if they’re not getting along with someone. It’s kind of a moveable feast!!!

 

Families are a work in progress. They move, they change, they shift, like the sea or the tides, or the shells on the beach. We’re a close knit family, and are all very close, and spend holidays together, and I think we get along surprisingly well, but in any family, storms can come up, and blow over, or hang around for a while. Someone can make a careless comment and upset someone else without even intending to, or people dig their heels in and disagree over something trivial. I think it happens in all families. There are a lot of personalities involved, spouses and in laws, or siblings, and things get bumpy for a while. What I do find though is that as fast as something can come up and turn into a storm, it can calm down just as fast and hours or days later, it just doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore. I think ALL families go through it, just like no marriage is without the occasional argument. It’s just the nature of humans, and life. And hopefully, love carries the day in the end, and we all forgive each other. So I hope that the cookie baking argument was or will be short lived, and has been forgotten by now.

 

Families have a life force of their own. And the things that drive us nuts at one moment, seem silly a short while later. (And too much alcohol sometimes consumed during the holidays can turn small fights into big ones too)

 

But a little rain falls in the life of every family. And I envy my children the fact that they have siblings. It looks like having a best friend, only better!!!

 

I hope your new year is starting out peacefully, and that the holidays were happy. But if your holidays were a little stormy, I hope the storms clear up soon, and everything will be happy again!!!

 

My new book, Moral Compass, is coming out tomorrow, on Tuesday. I’m REALLY excited about it, and I hope you love it!! I worked really hard to get it right. It’s about how an act committed by high school seniors can escalate into a life changing event and touch everyone around them, parents, teachers, students, friends, even police and a judge.  I think it deals with an important subject, and I really hope you enjoy it and it’s meaningful to you too!!!  And I’m hard at work on new books at the moment. I’m working on a new book, and an outline!! That will keep me out of mischief for a while!!!

 

 

Be well and happy, and I hope that everything is smooth around you!!! Have a great week!!

 

 

love, Danielle

 

12/30/19, Happy New Year

Posted on December 30, 2019

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope that the holidays went smoothly for you, and that you had some wonderful heartwarming, happy times. And if for some reason, the holidays fell short, at least they are behind you now. Some years are just harder than we expect, or don’t turn out quite the way we hope.  My holidays were very busy with a full house, lots of details to see to, to make sure that everything went as planned and everyone was happy, and I was very grateful to have my children at home. We were only missing one on Christmas Day, who had to visit his in laws in another state. But everyone else was home, and there were 27 people at our dinner table on Christmas night, with extended family as well. It was a big, noisy, chatty, happy group. And my children spoiled me this year, as they always do, with some really lovely thoughtful gifts. I got some great sweaters (a happy face one, and one with hearts!! and one in gorgeous bubble gum pink, and a beige one with black polka dots), and very cute shoes (including a pair of bubblegum pink high top sneakers I wanted!! some shoes with hearts on them, and a pair of pale blue satin high heels), a beautiful bracelet with a red enamel heart, and two beautiful bead bracelets, and the print of a painting I have wanted for years!!! And the best gift of all was being with my children!!!  As always, the time flew by, and now I’m back at work.

 

The holidays are a real challenge for some people, or even for everyone at times. And the next hurdle is New Year’s eve, a night full of expectation and hopes that are hard to live up to in real life. It’s a night I’ve never liked, although I’ve dealt with it in many different ways. When my kids were young and I was happily married, we watched old movies on TV and went to bed early, which I still think is the best way to spend it, with someone you love. Out in the world, people try so hard to have fun, and expect so much of that night that it rarely is fun. Everywhere I am, it’s cold on that night. Driving is dangerous with some people drunk on the road, and I don’t like to go out. I’m much happier at home.

 

At another time in my life, I gave elegant black tie dinner parties with dancing on New Year’s Eve. It was very pretty, and seemed elegant and glamorous at the time—but the evening I enjoyed most was once during a bad storm, when the bridges of San Francisco were closed, and my caterer couldn’t come to cook dinner and cancelled at the last minute, so in desperation, we ran around to all the fast food places we could think of, and had burgers hot dogs, corn dogs, pizza and curly fries for my guests in evening clothes. And it turned out to be much more fun than our fancy dinner!!! Once divorced, without a partner, I gave poker parties on New Year’s Eve for several years, which made who to kiss at midnight no longer a problem. I had about 20 people over to play poker and we had a ball, and I think I made $20.00 that was so much fun that I did it for several years, and then eventually the poker parties got tiresome. And a few years ago, I figured out that the best way for me to spend New Year’s eve was writing/working, so that’s how I spend New Year’s eve now. When I write, I don’t know what day it is, or where I am. I don’t feel alone when I write….I don’t get dressed up, I’m at home, and don’t have to drive anywhere. It’s not glamorous but for now it works for me. There is a time for everything, and New Year’s Eve is such a challenge and is so often disappointing that I don’t want to have to struggle to make it fun. I think a lot of people feel that way and prefer to stay home.  So that’s what I do!!! It’s one of those nights which underlines what you don’t have in your life, rather than what you do.

 

However you spend it, I wish you a wonderful, productive, happy, healthy new year—-and I hope that all your wishes come true in the coming year!!! I hope it will be your best year ever. And I hope that you have a plan for New Year’s Eve that appeal to you and sounds like fun to you. But above all, I hope that 2020 is your very best year, and that “The best is yet to come” describes it perfectly.

 

I wish you a very, very VERY Happy New Year, and lots of fun times and good people up ahead in 2020!!!

 

love, Danielle

 

12/23/19, Christmas Wishes

Posted on December 23, 2019

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope that the preparations for the holidays have gone smoothly for you so far, and that in spite of last minute rushing around, that everything is falling into place as you want it to, and you are looking forward to your plans. Some years are easier than others.

 

With Christmas Eve tomorrow, or Hanukkah today, I hope that you have plans to spend the holiday with people you love and who appreciate you and will make you happy. Or maybe this year, you’re devoting yourself to those around you to make it a special holiday for them, even if it’s not exactly as you wanted it to be. Some years the holidays seem so perfect, and other years they fall short in unexpected ways. On harder years for me, being grateful for what is right, rather than focusing on what is wrong, has really helped me. What I hope most for you, and for all of us, is that the holidays will be easy this year, and full of joy—-that the right people thought of you and remembered you, that the right kids came home (or ALL your kids!!!), that you had a few private special moments to just feel good about these special days, and can enjoy the warmth of friends and loved ones, and good times.

 

I wish you beautiful holidays this year, and always, easy, satisfying, fulfilling days throughout the year. I hope that the year ahead will be a great one for you—-and that however you spend the holidays, with family, or friends, or at work this year, or even alone, I hope that it turns out to be a precious moment for you, one that warms your heart, and brings you joy.

 

May these holidays bring you many, many blessings, and peace, joy, and love, with all my love,

 

Danielle

 

12/16/19, Miracles Large and Small

Posted on December 16, 2019

 

 

Hi Everyone,

 

Wow….the countdown has begun in earnest, Nine days until Christmas, as of today. I hope that your preparations are going well, and that you have plans you like for the holidays, with friends or family, and the people who are meaningful to you. I still have to buy a gift for the “elephant game” we play on Christmas Eve. Other than that, I think I’m set, with things I hope my friends and family will enjoy. We will have new future in laws at Christmas Dinner with us this year, so it should be a big happy group with some new faces.

 

I thought of a holiday tradition today which is very meaningful to me, although it’s not of my own religious traditions. It’s the children’s tops called Dreidels that they play with on Hanukkah, in the Jewish faith. When my son Nick passed away, it was a very hard time for me, and for our whole family, as you can imagine. He was barely more than a kid, in his teens, and shortly after he died, I got a terrible cold (as one does sometimes after emotional traumas), and it was getting steadily worse, so I went to see our family doctor, who startled me by taking one of those tops, a Dreidel, out of a drawer and handed it to me. The top has four sides, and has a Hebrew letter on each side, and our doctor explained that it says “A great miracle happened here”. At the time, I thought he was crazy—-a great miracle? My son’s death? He said that in time, we would find that a great miracle had happened. I kept the Dreidel, and always remembered what he said, and years later, I realized what he said was true. Although a loss for all of us, we established two foundations in his honor, to help the mentally ill, the homeless, and to support suicide prevention. In the years since Nick’s death, our foundations to honor Nick have supported dozens of organizations that assist the mentally ill in solid, concrete ways, and through those organizations have helped thousands of people. Surviving a hard blow like that brought us closer together as a family, and has helped others as well. The lessons we learned from him, and after him have been cherished lessons, and miracles of love. It is comforting to know that indirectly Nick helped so many people, and that it truly is a kind of miracle. Do we still miss him terribly? Of course, and there is always a bittersweet edge to holidays when we miss him even more (he was the family clown, and always made us laugh with his antics!!! he had a great sense of humor). But Nick’s life was a miracle, a miracle of love. I have always had a tender affection for Dreidels when I see them, and remember what the doctor said. ‘A great miracle happened here’. Nick was a miracle, love is always a miracle, family is a miracle even if they aren’t our birth families, and are friends who have become families to us. Love in all forms is a miracle.

 

I’m so grateful for those miracles, and the reminder that the Dreidels provide. I have several on my desk, and collect them. No matter how hard our paths have been, we all have had miracles in our lives, some are obvious and easy to see, and other challenges you have to look at more closely to see the miracles in them more clearly.

 

May your holidays be touched by miracles, large and small, easy ones that are easy to embrace and identify. And even if these holidays are challenging for you in some way, looking back at them, you may see miracles that you haven’t noticed yet.

 

I wish you miracles for these holidays. And above all, I wish you holidays filled with joy, peace, and love.

 

Have a great week!!!

 

love, Danielle

 

11/25/19, Bittersweet

Posted on November 25, 2019

 

 

Hi Everyone,

 

As the holidays approach, most people are busy right now, and we’ll get busier. I worked hard on some editing (of a book) this week, adding and correcting research. I’m always very meticulous about the research in my books, and it’s a challenge to weave research, real history, and technical facts, into the story. It gives a book substance, and adds reality to fiction. In addition to that, I was getting ready for my children to come home for Thanksgiving. And a board meeting this week of the foundation established in my son Nick’s name to deal with mental health issues and suicide prevention. So I’ve been busy. And probably you too!!!

 

As the holidays roll around, they always make me think. On the surface, the feeling is one of excitement, happy times to share both on Thanksgiving and Christmas, traditions we love, and the people we love gathered around us, good times to share. Hopefully happy days that will make fond memories. But there’s a lot more to the holidays than that, and a darker side to them that I never forget. For every happy gathering and bright group of friends and families, there are people for whom the holidays are a challenge and not a happy occasion. People alone, or out of a job, or who have just lost a loved one, or have no families, families that struggle, and thousands of homeless people in all of our cities. For some, the holidays are an agony others can’t even imagine. I think of those people. And my heart goes out to them. I have had some hard holidays too, most of us have. And even the happiest families have their challenging times. The Thanksgiving two months after my son died was brutal, and Christmas that same year. I struggled to make it as best I could for my other children, but it was hard for us all, and the year their father died. Those things happen to us all, or the bad timing when something bad happens, like losing a job right before the holidays. None of us are exempt from the rough spots in life.

 

I remember a Thanksgiving when I was alone in a new city a long time ago, before I had my family. And I came across a quote from the Bible which touched me, “God places the solitary in families”. It was true for me, some kind people I hardly knew invited me to join them for Thanksgiving, and I was deeply grateful. I always remember that every year. If we have a joyful gathering and a full table, it’s nice to remember those who are alone and try to include them, or even to work with people in dire need on our streets and reach out to them. For every happy gathering, there is a lonely person somewhere, alone and perhaps in despair, whom we can make a real difference to.

 

I wish you all a joyful abundant truly happy Thanksgiving, with the people you love, and the friends you enjoy, and for those who are alone or struggling, they are not forgotten. I hope that each of us can make a difference to someone in need this Thanksgiving, with some large or small gesture that will warm them and give them hope.

 

With all my love and warmest thoughts, may it be a blessed holiday for all of you, and everyone you reach out to. Have a wonderful holiday and a terrific week.

 

love, Danielle

 

 

Filed Under Family, Friends, Holidays | 4 Comments

11/11/19, No Excuses

Posted on November 11, 2019

 

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you had a good week last week. I had a good one with interesting meetings, some rewarding work, some nice conversations with my kids, a friend I love whom I got to see which warmed my heart. And a manuscript I was waiting to edit was delayed in the mail, so I actually got a few days off, and even got to read someone else’s books for a change!!!

 

Among the books I particularly love are those by Joel Osteen, whom I am lucky enough to know and consider a friend, with his wonderful family, whom I’ve also met (mother, brother, sister, wife, kids, they’re a terrific bunch!!). Joel is a truly extraordinary person, warm, humble, incredibly bright, modest, kind, compassionate, he’s a minister and delivers his powerful positive message in a palatable, accessible way, even for people who don’t consider themselves religious. He’s written about a dozen books (#1 bestsellers on the NY Times list), and his books ALWAYS open my thought to new ideas, and leave me feeling stronger, better, more hopeful, happier and more positive about life. He has a tremendous gift. And the one thing I think our books have in common is that we try to share hope with our readers. I think hope is one of the most important things in life, as important as love, and sometimes even more so. We cannot live without hope. Many times, Joel’s books have given me hope when I thought things were looking pretty dark. And there is always some major thought or theme in his books that wakes me up to see things around me in a new light. They are like a burst of sunshine and fresh air for me.

 

On the back of one of his recent books, that I read last week, is an excerpt from the book: “Nothing will change until you make up your mind that you are not going to accept mediocrity. Why don’t you take the limitations off yourself? You have so much potential. Break out of that box and try something new…You are not limited by your education, by how you were raised, or your current situation. You are destined to rise higher.” He not only gives his readers hope, he shares his faith-driven energy with them. It works for me. What resonated for me in that excerpt was not being limited by our history and circumstances. Inside the book, he talks about “Getting rid of the excuses” and “remove the shame.” Wow!!! Those two thoughts really stopped me and made me think.

 

We all have ‘excuses’ for why we aren’t doing something or moving ahead, why we’re not pushing ourselves harder than we are: an accident, health, an injury, a terrible divorce, the loss of someone we love, a bad break up, losing a job, or as Joel said, a limited education, an abusive childhood, or maybe a bad relationship we allow to continue and don’t feel strong enough to get out of. At different times, we put up with some terrible situations and extreme emotional pain—-sometimes leaving the bad situation and being alone seems worse (which most of the time is not the case. Alone is better than abuse!!! Sometimes we get used to some really awful situations, and settle for them rather than risking the unknown). (I was in a therapy group once where a woman shared the incredible abuse her boyfriend was inflicting on her, cheating on her, beating her, taking her money, being nasty to her. It was a list an arm long, and someone asked why she didn’t leave him, and she said “But how do I know who I’d meet if I leave him, I might meet a really bad guy”. A REALLY bad guy? Are you kidding, Frankenstein, Dracula, or Adolf Hitler would have been better than the guy she had. It took a long time, but she did eventually leave him, and was a LOT happier.) Fear of the unknown paralyzes a lot of us, and keeps us in a bad spot. We also feel unworthy at times of anything, which is where Joel’s message is so strong: Remove the Shame. We all feel ashamed of things we’ve done, and where we’ve fallen short, which sometimes leads us to believe that we deserve to be punished and treated badly. If you take away the shame, and give it up (and figure you’ve already paid enough penance for it), it opens up a whole new vista of positive opportunities, and even happiness. Getting rid of the shame, and letting it go opens the door to a wealth of possibilities we ALL deserve. (Nobody is perfect!!!)

 

What resonated for me in his recent book was ‘Getting rid of the excuses’. Some of the excuses are buried deep, where others don’t see or hear them, but we use them for ourselves, the passes we give ourselves for why we can’t reach a better life (or attitude). When I read that line in his book, it woke me up, with a real jolt. I think the greatest (usually unspoken) excuse in my own life is that my mother left when I was 6, and I grew up alone with my father. (Which has its convenient sides—-I know more about cars than I do about makeup, which I wear very little of). I missed out on all those mother-daughter moments that most people have. It is also a brutally powerful message when your own mother leaves you. What does that say about you if your own mother rejects you? I know others it has happened to, men and women now, and it is a big deal to overcome. A HUGE deal. If you let it, it can set you up to be rejected, abandoned, or treated badly forever by others. It has been my excuse for being overprotective of my own children, too dependent on the men in my life, the message being “my mother left me, so please don’t you”. That’s a hell of a burden for another person to live with, and to put on them—it’s not their fault my mother left—nor mine. That’s the point. I wasn’t responsible for her leaving, so I shouldn’t have to carry the weight of that forever. And it SHOULDN’T be my excuse for being a burden on someone else, nor should I expect others to abandon me because she did. And if they do, it’s a brand new account, and NOT a replay of the past. But in seriously  introspective moments, I realize that privately I have used that as an ‘excuse’ for not trusting people, hanging on too tightly, or accepting bad behaviours from them that I shouldn’t (so they don’t leave too). Today is a whole new day. A new life. EVERY day.

 

The other excuse I could use, but don’t usually, or as much, is that I lost a son (to suicide). Losing anyone you love is agonizing, and losing a child is a special kind of excruciating pain——–but it’s still not an excuse to stop living yourself, to pay less attention to your other children, or be depressed for the rest of your life.  It was a terrible blow, there is no question, but I have fought hard not to let it be an ‘excuse’ in my life for sitting in a corner and feeling sorry for myself. I still have tough times with it at times, but I have tried not to let it define me or my life. (“oh the poor thing, she lost a son”. Yes, I did, and it’s a terrible loss, but I don’t want to be a poor thing or have it be my ‘excuse’ for staying frozen in that place. My son Nick would have hated that, he expected more of me than that, and so do I). I think I was lucky that a woman I’ve never liked came up to me at his funeral, looked me in the eye and said “You will NEVER recover from this.” Holy Sh**#@@”, what an awful thing to say to someone, like a life sentence. When she said the words to me, even in my fog of grief, I thought “Oh NO!!!” I’m not going to let that happen, and I fought hard not to let that happen (We started two foundations in his name to help the mentally ill, I worked on the streets with the homeless actively for 11 years with one of our foundations, I wrote more books than ever, was closer than ever to my kids, and 5 years later I started an art gallery which gave me endless joy for almost 6 years. I did everything I could not to let his loss crush me and destroy me. I did NOT want that to be an excuse for no longer living a full life.

 

A bad divorce can be an excuse for no longer living a full life, or a limited education—-there are so many people now who have done outstanding things, and even made fortunes with poor educations, or have had bad lives before that. (In another therapy group I was in, dealing with grief and loss, a woman talked sobbing about how her husband had left her, and she had stopped her life completely. Gently, I asked how long it had been since he left, assuming it had been weeks or maybe months. She answered “26 years”…..that’s a long time to grieve a bad marriage and not move on.

 

 

I am not dismissing or minimizing the terrible things that can and have happened to all of us. But it seems as though we have two choices, to let it beat us, or not let it beat us. And we sometimes do use excuses to give ourselves a pass to not lead a full life after something hard happens. Reading Joel’s book made me want to throw those excuses away. Yes, my mother left me at 6. But I don’t want to let that rule my life or affect me today. And I was ashamed then and later that my own mother had left me. That shame is someone else’s and doesn’t belong to me. Ashamed too that I got divorced, which I saw as a failure on my part that I couldn’t convince two husbands to stay. But I’ve had a very good life in spite of that. I don’t want to use those excuses. I don’t want excuses to limit my life.

 

I don’t like age as an excuse either. I want to cheer every time I hear about old people who are working fully, or doing something remarkable, and there are many, many, many older people leading full, productive lives. I heard about a woman yesterday who just got married at 99, she married a 73 year old man, and I thought Good For Her!!! (And Bravo to him, for seeing her value as a human being and her beauty). And I know of two 107 year old women, in Italy and Japan, who are in remarkably good shape. These days, it happens.

 

I always find Joel Osteen’s books life changing. Those two simple phrases, among some very very valid points throughout the book, about “Get rid of the excuses” and “Remove the shame” really spoke to me, and maybe to you as well reading it here.

 

In any case, I don’t want any excuses Not to lead a full and happy life, and I’m all for getting rid of anything that stops us, or blocks us, or brings us down!!!

 

Have a great week, and I hope WONDERFUL things happen to you!!! You deserve it!! We all do!!!

 

love, Danielle

 

 

11/4/19, Forgiveness Before Thanks

Posted on November 4, 2019

 

Hello Everyone,

 

I hope you had a good week, and maybe even some fun on Halloween, with or without children. My children have always dressed up on Halloween, even into their young adulthood, and gone to parties, but they all work so hard at their jobs now, that I think most of them stayed home that night. My youngest son sent me a photo of a very elaborate pumpkin he carved, so he paid tribute to Halloween after all. And I gave a dinner for my God Children, with black cats, a black owl, and glittery green rats on the table, and lots of candy. It’s a fun day. And now my thoughts are turning to Thanksgiving, which is a holiday that always makes me think. It’s really all about friendship, gathering friends around you, and being grateful for whatever you can think of. On hard years, that can be a real challenge, but it’s an important thought. Being Grateful, giving thanks. Sometimes being grateful for even the smallest things can make a huge difference. It’s a lot easier to complain about what you don’t have, than to be grateful for what you do. But being grateful, even for a minute is so important.

 

When I have time, I like reading the Bible at times. I know that sounds corny, but I often find some thought that helps me. I get lost in the ‘Begats’, about who is related to who. But there are simple phrases that jump out at me that have meant a lot to me. “Love never fails”, I love that one. “Nothing is impossible” has brought me a lot of comfort, and there is a phrase that meant a lot to me one very lonely Thanksgiving when I was alone years ago, “God places the solitary in families”. It proved to be true that year, I was invited to spend the holiday with friends, and years later, surrounded by my own big family, I remembered that phrase and it touched me. I also find guidelines sometimes about rules of life and ethics that make sense, and I’d either forgotten or tried to ignore. One of those was about forgiveness. A big subject.

 

Somewhere in the Bible it says about how many times you’re supposed to forgive—-and the answer is 70 Times 7. Holy Moley!! That’s 490. I’m supposed to forgive someone 490 Times??!!! Arrghkkkkk….I was thinking more like maybe 2 or 3. Okay, maybe 4. But 490? THAT is a VERY tall order. I guess that’s an ideal, and I’ll never get even remotely close to that. And somewhere else it says (loosely translated) not to show up all cheery and dressed up, when you haven’t forgiven the people in your life. Forgive them first, and THEN show up. Hmm, that’s also a good point. And not always easy to do. So it seems like before Thanksgiving comes forgiveness, which actually seems like good advice, —how can you be really grateful, if you have a long list in your heart of people you’re mad at and don’t want to forgive? That is a real philosophical challenge, and a human one. Forgiveness is important, the weight on one’s heart if one doesn’t forgive is heavy. And some things are very hard to forgive. Big betrayals, big hurts, really bad things people have done to you.

 

I’ve had my share of big things to forgive, and I’m sure you have too. If you live a full life, at some point, people are going to hurt you. And then it’s your decision how you feel about it. One of the biggest in my life was an embezzlement I experienced, it went on for 16 years before I discovered it. It was very cleverly done, and took an enormous toll on me, for a lot of money. Once discovered, I had to sell a beach house I loved, close my art gallery which I really loved, and close down the street outreach program I had for the homeless, which nearly broke my heart (we served 4,000 people a year, and gave them direly needed supplies). I had to do all those things to ‘right the ship’ again financially, and I have a family to support. It was a terrible blow. And because of the statute of limitations, the embezzler was only punished for the last 3 years of the crime, and couldn’t be prosecuted for the other 13 years of embezzled money. It was a terrible experience for me, and everyone affected by it (like the people who worked at the gallery who lost their jobs when I had to close, and the homeless we could no longer serve). The embezzler went to prison, but not for long. How do you deal with something like that? Do you stay mad forever, do you hate someone for what they did? (Someone I knew well, trusted, and saw every day for 16 years, a trusted employee). You can’t stay mad and hate them, or it poisons you. At some point you have to let it go. That was one of my greatest challenges for forgiveness, and I still think about it at times. And there have been others, not embezzlements, but people who have hurt me. And surely people who have hurt you too, maybe even in your family, at work, or among your friends. I had very unkind parents, which is a lot to forgive too. This year,  “friends” (a couple) set me up, invited me to a dinner party, and exposed me to 2 journalists (without warning me), one of them apparently famous for writing vicious untrue things about famous people in the press. I never met them at the party, didn’t talk to them, and didn’t know they were there—–until a very nasty false “interview” appeared in the press, which was hurtful. And I was very angry at the ‘friends’ who set me up, and I’m still wrestling with it in my head. (The article was withdrawn, because it was proven that there had never been an interview, and what was said wasn’t true). I probably won’t see the ‘friends’ again, but I don’t want to carry that around with me, so sooner or later, I will have to forgive them, even if I don’t see them again. Forgiveness can be a MAJOR challenge. And 490 times??? Wow!!! You’ve got to be kidding!!! How about 489? or 2?

 

But it’s a good point, how grateful can you be, if you are lugging a heavy sack of anger around, at the people you haven’t forgiven.

 

Forgiveness is a work in progress for most of us. Sometimes it comes easily, especially some small slight, but sometimes it’s really hard to forgive.  So before I show up for pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, and delicious stuffing (my favorite!!!), I know I’ll have work to do, to forgive the people who have hurt me past and present. And the more I can forgive, the better the pie and the stuffing will taste, and the more joyful the occasion will be, being with the people I love, and not dragging the ‘unforgiven’ people with me like a weight on my heart.

 

It’s something to think about, and it is a big subject. We all have people we need to forgive, for big and small hurts and ‘crimes’ against us. And when we are finally able to forgive them, and set that burden down, the thanks and the gratitude are that much sweeter…..and I’m VERY grateful that there is no one on my list that I need to forgive 490 times!!!! Once or twice will do me just fine,thanks!!!

 

Have a wonderful week, full of peace and joy, and happy things. Lots of happy things, and may all your burdens be light!!!

 

love, Danielle

 

 

10/28/19, Trick or Treat

Posted on October 28, 2019

 

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’ve had a good week, and some good things happened. I actually had a very good week. I finished a new book I’m REALLY happy with, it was challenging to write and one of those books that just flowed (which you can never predict!! The ones I think will be easy nearly kill me, and the ones I dread just roll out like a red carpet sometimes). This one really spoke to me, so it went well and I really enjoyed it. (And if you want to see me typing, check out the short video on my Instagram (at ‘officialdaniellesteel’). It’s a funny little video of me pounding away on my vintage typewriter). So the book went well, I spent a really lovely evening with a friend after I finished the book, and I treated myself to a day off on Saturday. It was a beautiful sunny day, I went for a walk, and then did some Christmas shopping I was happy with, then went to my favorite restaurant with an outdoor terrace, had a virgin Mojito and a snack, and enjoyed the people watching. It’s a busy restaurant, very trendy, with amazing people coming and going, in either very chic or very far out outfits. There was a very good looking Dutch couple on my right, we chatted for a little while, and two Russian girls to my left. The restaurant draws a very international crowd, and I love the outdoor terrace, dogs, people, sexy young women, tall beautiful models, the men they’re with. Lots to see. And then inevitably, I went home that night and did a little more work on the book I finished. It was a fun day.

 

On a more serious note, I am disturbed and worried and sad about the fires in Sonoma in California. The area was ravaged only last year, with so many homes lost and thousands of acres burned In Napa and Sonoma, and now there they are again. I hope the fires are contained soon. It’s becoming a yearly occurrence at this time of year, and tragic for so many.

 

And today begins one of my family’s favorite weeks—-not in a serious, meaningful holiday way like Thanksgiving or Christmas. But—it’s Halloween this week!!! And my family has always thrown themselves into it with delight and great creativity!!! We’ve had the usual witches with green faces, all the SuperHeroes, dogs, bears, bunnies, ghosts, they’ve gone as Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator, Prince, Michael Jackson, rock and rap stars, Spiderman, Smurfs—–there’s no limit to what they’ve come up with, all the way into their teens and adulthood. Their Halloween costumes were a Major Topic of conversation for at least a month before. My favorite costume of mine was a Whoopee cushion costume (which will be on my Instagram this week). And one of my daughters really made me laugh a year or two ago when she dressed up as me for Halloween—-and she looked more like me than I do, in black turtle neck sweater, jeans, bracelets on both arms and two pairs of glasses on her head, her hair in a ponytail like mine, except hers is blonde not red. I thought it was very funny (and I’ll put that on my Instagram this week too—-as well as my Chihuahuas in costumes!!!)

 

I used to let each of my kids bring some friends (when you multiply that by 9 kids, that’s a LOT of kids), we had dinner first with “eyeballs” and glow sticks, and all the scary decorations, and then we headed out with their trick or treat bags, and walked our neighborhood, with all of them in their costumes, and then they would finally come home with their trick or treat bags full. And of course we did a haunted house in one room of our house every year, and they loved screaming their way through it. Really fun times!!  I’m not sure if any of them will dress up this year, or if they’re going to Halloween parties, they all have grown up jobs now and may not have the time for it. But we really had fun with it.

 

 

I hope you have a fun week—-that’s all treat and no trick!!! Have a great week!

 

 

love, Danielle

 

10/21/19, Healthy Living and Remodeled Cars

Posted on October 21, 2019

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’ve had a good week, and you’ve had some happy surprises, whatever they may be.

 

This has been one of my long travel weeks, involving several long plane trips, the usual delayed flights, long waits in security, and time on my hands, so I’ve had time to read magazines, and catch up on movies to help pass the time. I usually learn something new from the magazines, which this time led to some serious thought and musing about the times, and how things have changed. The most obvious change from my childhood and youth is that now everyone has a cell phone in their hand (my children literally sleep with their phones), and everyone texts instead of talking on the phone. Those who do talk on the phone do so with ear buds in their ears, talking loudly to themselves (or so it seems) walking down the street, and looking crazy. Personally, I hate texting, and miss the sound of a human voice. No one actually answers their phone, it all goes to voice mail, and they screen their calls.

 

Aside from the lightning speed of technology, the word one hears constantly now is ‘healthy’. And obviously, being aware of good health is a good thing. Everyone exercises, people count their steps, people look better, live longer, and it’s a good change—-within reason. I also find though that the word ‘healthy’ hides many things. I grew up on Hostess Twinkies (my favorite food at one time), cookies that had enough chemicals in them to preserve them into eternity, Wonder Bread (It still makes great French toast), and when I taught Sunday school, I bribed the children with candy until their parents picked them up. (And in Europe, I ate the equivalents, and ate and handed out lollipops) And I gave my children eventually chocolate flavored breakfast cereal, and sugar was considered okay. Children today get popsicles made of brussel sprouts and broccoli (I’m sorry…yerghk!!!), and fashionable young women live on Kale, which I admit that I hate. And most children in ultra-health conscious homes have never tasted sugar. I agree that my generation went overboard with the less healthy treats, but this one goes overboard too. And I find that ‘healthy’ is often a word used to hide ultra-low calorie, or no calorie foods for young women obsessed with their weight and are much too thin. What they mean is non-fattening and call it ‘healthy’. I’ve never had a problem with my weight, so it’s one battle I didn’t have to fight, and could even occasionally eat a donut (I wouldn’t dare today!!). And yes, we did and ate unhealthy things, and I’ve always been lazy about exercise except right after a baby, to get back to my normal weight. And I was lucky, I always bounced back pretty quickly. In contrast, all of my daughters go to the gym pretty much every day, and some get up at 4 am to go to the gym at 5 am, so they can exercise and be ready for work. I don’t think there is enough money in the world to get me to a gym at 5 am, or at any hour. I pay slight homage to the times with an exercise coach once in a while, not very often though. I’m lazy, and lucky, because my weight, on the low side, has stayed the same. And I try not to eat too much chocolate cake!!! I’m careful.

 

I find that not only do we eat better now, and exercise more in the US, but our exterior looks have become an obsession too. I was shocked to discover that young women in their 20’s are getting Botox shots now to get rid of signs of age—what age? At 22?? And assorted other shots and surgeries. In big cities, among sophisticated young women who can afford it, they are having countless shots, surgeries, electrical procedures, and treatments to improve their looks and combat the signs of age long before aging starts. They’re barely out of their teen age years when they start. I’m stunned by how much they do, and how early they do it. None of my daughters do, fortunately, but they do eat healthy and exercise a lot—–and I haven’t done anything in that vein (of surgery and shots), because not only am I lazy, but I’m a major coward. Having plastic surgery scares me to death!!! So I live with what nature hands out. I throw cold water on my face, and don’t look in the mirror too hard, and hope for the best.

 

And on my recent flight, I will confess to buying a magazine that told me how to look better naked. Not that I’m planning to walk down the street naked or have an audience, but for about 1 week a year I go to the beach, and don’t want to frighten the children (my own or other people’s). I expected to read about a few exercises I could do (maybe the week before my annual vacation), and found myself reading of surgical procedures I’d never heard of and couldn’t dream of. And by the time I finished reading the issue, I had lost all hope of ever looking decent in a bathing suit again, but somehow realizing how much people do, and the lengths they go to (not to mention the expense), I found it depressing that one has to fight THAT hard to look decent, and go to such extreme lengths to combat any sign of age and time on one’s body. I have to do ALL that? Wow, that is depressing, because I’m never going to have all that surgery. I’m just too chicken. It’s okay, I’ll wear a sweater or a coat to the beach next year. How far do we take this? How far are we willing to go? And what if it goes wrong? What if you don’t like your new face or body? I’ve kind of made friends with the old one, we’ve been together for quite a while. It just seems like we have to do SOOOOO MUCH now to stay in the game and look attractive, be healthy, and get all our steps in!!! Wow….it sounds like so much work, and what’s real in the end? What’s left of the original model? Not much in many cases. While claiming to be more genuine and more real and more honest and even liberated today, are we becoming Barbie dolls, by replacing all the moving parts, and attacking every inch of ourselves, with a shot, an electrical jolt, or the knife?? Is this really better?? Maybe I’m making excuses for my own cowardice, but suddenly it all seems so false. And at a certain point, gravity gets us all. Things are a little less extreme in Europe, but it’s happening there too. I suspect that every woman I know even in Europe gets shots of some kind in their face, from their early 20’s on. And many do a lot to their bodies too. It started with liposuction, and has gone way, way beyond that.

 

It somehow reminded me old cars that are being restored. I’ll bet that I don’t know a single woman of any age who isn’t doing something, at least shots if not surgery, and many of them surgery, to alter their looks. I don’t like getting older either, and no one hates birthdays more than I do, but somehow I think it’s sad if we have to have surgery, shots, and all those treatments to ‘stay in the game’, whatever the game is. I’ll bet there are damn few natural women left in the world. What about feeling good about who we are, where we are (within reason), without surgery?? It’s a novel idea these days. And something to think about. The Millennials have a firm grip on the world these days, and are getting a jump start on fighting age. Healthy is good, but I don’t want to have a year of surgery for my one week at the beach every year. It’s all pretty scary, and a mass panic (anti-age creams by big name brands cost $600. and $700. I’m probably ridiculous, but I’d rather buy shoes).

 

Anyway, you won’t be seeing me run down the street naked anytime soon. I refuse to eat Kale (it tastes like rubber to me), and I’ll do some exercise, but I have no idea how many steps I take. I can still make it to my typewriter, and chase after my millennial children, and 5 dogs, and publish 7 books a year. Do I really have to have shots and surgery too, or will I look older than King Tut because I don’t? So far, I’ve avoided the knife and the shots(out of pure cowardice more than moral strength), and people aren’t screaming when they see me. I just think it would be nice if we could preserve some of the original model, and not trade it all in for new parts, like an old car being turned into a new one. So far I’m holding out for the original me, and I may wind up being the last woman on the planet to do so.

 

Stay tuned…..and have a great week!!!

 

love, Danielle

 

 

9/16/19, Nick

Posted on September 16, 2019

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’ve had a fun week, or an interesting one. I’ve been busy with my usual September buzz and burst of energy after the summer, enjoying doing Instagram, writing the blog to you, working on new books, with a new book that just came out in hardcover 2 weeks ago, The Dark Side, which is a thriller, and an exciting book. I hope you love it!!! And have time to read it!!!

 

On the personal side, this is always a serious, quiet week for me, full of memories, introspection, quiet moments and tender thoughts of my son Nick.

 

Most of you know that he suffered from bi polar disease, which I suspected when he was two, was certain of by the time he was four, and at the time, the standard in psychiatry was not to diagnose the disease until someone was in their twenties. It was considered “early” when he was finally diagnosed at 15, and medicated at 16. Within weeks of medication, he said he felt normal for the first time in his life, and acted accordingly. Lithium was a miracle drug for him, and is often still prescribed today. Things are very different now, many years later, children are diagnosed and medicated as young as three. It’s believed now that if you are medicated later, the brain is affected from not being medicated sooner, and it is much harder to keep the disease in control than if you’re medicated as a young child. But no one knew that then, and I went from doctor to doctor, begging for help, which came too late for him. As with any disease, whatever it is, some people have wonderful results and survive and live well even with the disease, and others aren’t as lucky. There is an element of luck and destiny, as well as treatment.

 

Nick was an extraordinary person, all his life. He walked at 8 months, at a year he spoke in sentences in 2 languages. He was funny, charming, brilliant, talented in writing and music, he had an outrageous sense of humor, a remarkable mind. People with bi polar disease are often very talented, and so he was. At 16 and 17, he became the lead singer in a band which was on its way to success, toured nationally, had a following of young people (reggae and punk), had done several CD’s, and wrote the lyrics to his songs. He made an enormous impression on everyone he met, had a kind heart (did free concerts in homeless shelters), and was adored by his eight siblings, his father, and me. There are some people who are just very special, and he was one, he crammed an entire lifetime into 19 years, and his light burned so brightly that I suppose he wasn’t destined to live long.

 

He came home from a rigorous national tour, exhausted, and hit a low in his disease. His bi polar illness had been harder and harder to control with medication for the past year. At eighteen, he stopped taking his medication, thinking he was fine then, and made three suicide attempts, and at 19, he made the final one, and lost his lifelong battle with his illness. He really fought a noble fight to overcome it—–and many many people do survive with bi polar illness and lead good lives with treatment and medication. But we lost him at 19, by suicide, on September 20. His whole life was such a gift to us, and I am so grateful for every moment we shared. As someone said at the time, if love could have kept him alive, he would have lived 100 years. He was not destined to live a long life, but he lived a very productive one, and was happy much of the time, and spread joy everywhere. And he was immensely loved.

 

Losing a child is an enormous challenge, and my heart goes out to anyone who has lost a child. But we must also remember that every moment with them is a gift. And not everyone is destined to live a long life, unfortunately. I wrote a book about him, to honor him, and share our experience with other people dealing with the disease, “His Bright Light”, the story of Nick Traina. We established a foundation in his name The Nick Traina Foundation to support organizations that offer hands on treatment to mentally ill people, both young people and adults, and we support organizations involved in suicide prevention. And a year after he died, I started a street outreach team to help the homeless, also in his name, because it was a cause he cared about a great deal too.

 

He was a wonderful person, an adorable boy, a great gift to all those who knew him (I still get letters from people who met him, even once, and said their lives were changed forever by him), and he was certainly a gift to his whole family, and to me.

 

The anniversary of the day he died is hard, but the overview of all of it is how blessed we were, how wonderful he was, and how lucky I was to know and love him and be loved by him. We were remarkably close because we went through so much together, and tried so hard to save him. He wrote me a wonderful letter before he left that made me laugh through my tears. He was unforgettable in so many ways.

 

So the 20th will be a bittersweet day, but I can only remember him now with love, joy and gratitude.

 

May his memory live forever, in my heart and yours.   Godspeed…..I love you, Nick, always and forever, “bigger than the sky”, as Nick used to say.  And may you be blessed, my faithful friends, who share these moments and memories with me.

 

I wish you a peaceful week,

 

love, Danielle