Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

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

8/19/19, Mixed Bag

Posted on August 19, 2019

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you had a good, even a great week!!! A nice easy one. The last of the summer is upon us. I’m ready for cool weather, new projects, hard work, good times and hopefully a Fall that will inspire me. I worked on about 5 different books this summer, which is crazy, but was productive. I worked on most of them in massive heat waves wherever I was. My poor dogs look totally fed up with the heat. Every time we are in a new place with a new heat wave, they look at me as if to say “Really??? Again??? You’ve GOT to be kidding!!!!” I kind of feel the same way about it by now, after two months in and out of record breaking temperatures (the hottest on record ever in the history of France—-in both June and July. With No Air Conditioning). I promise not to complain when I’m freezing somewhere this winter….I am READY for snow, thank you!!!!

 

Working on my books always leads to some serious/deep thoughts, as I try to resolve the problems of the characters in the books as they face various challenges. I try to think how I would solve the same problems—I usually figure it out better for my characters than I would for myself!!! I get to control the story when I’m writing and guide it in a direction that makes sense, seems fair, and is uplifting, while still remaining real. Real Life isn’t quite as easy to direct!! I learn new things when I write the books, both in the research and the themes. And sometimes, life follows art. It led me to thoughts about completeness, which I shared with you in my last blog. And I was thinking about the irony of ‘doubt’ the other day, and ‘pride’. Have you ever noticed that whatever area you take the most pride in—is usually where Doubt or disappointment will hit you right between the eyes not long after. Coincidence maybe, or just the irony of life, or a reminder not to be TOO proud of ourselves, or too sure of ourselves. Congratulate yourself on how smoothly your job is going, and the next thing you know, you hit a real bump at work or with someone at work. Tell yourself how great your family is, and the next thing you know, you’re arguing with one of them, or how loyal your friends are, and one of them does something lousy and really disappoints you. Maybe that keeps us on our toes, and striving to be and do better, and teaches us not to take anything for granted (or be too proud of ourselves. It keeps me humble!!). And whatever philosophical things I think eventually turns up in the books, to share with you, because I figure that we all go through the same problems, and you deal with the same issues I do.

 

Another annoying thing is that I never like to have my photograph taken. I never like the way I look. And these days, it’s a major challenge. Used to be, people would pose you for a photograph, and you could kind of sneak out of it by the time they got everyone to stand still. Today everyone has a cell phone in their hand during every waking hour, and before you can blink, they take your picture, with your mouth full, your eyes crossed, making a bad face, or on the worst bad hair day you’ve had in 20 years. Ugh. And cell phone pictures are SOOOOO unflattering. But what’s really annoying is that at any given time, when I don’t like the way I look, I grumble and groan, and then 5 years later, the photograph turns up, you look at it and think, “Wow I looked pretty good then, not so old, and relatively okay”, but I didn’t feel that way at the time. What was I complaining about? And I think now I look so much worse….and five years from now, today’s photos will look pretty good. It would be nice if I didn’t cringe at the photos of today!!!! I laughed when I saw a painting recently by a fun artist whose work I really like, Ashley Longshore. She does some really funny stuff, and I have a painting of hers I love. All of my daughters are very weight conscious, particularly the 3 who work in fashion (and are all 3 much too thin!!), and one of them is particularly conscious of weight, and always asks “Do I look fat in this?” whatever she is wearing. The painting I saw said “No, you don’t look fat, you look crazy”. It struck me funny, the daughter in question is not crazy, but she sure isn’t fat either!!!! I have a bracelet that says “Do I look fat in this bracelet?” which makes me laugh too!!! Most of us worry too much about our weight, and fashion sets a standard most humans just can’t live by and shouldn’t!!! Most women who look at fashion magazines don’t realize that the girls they’re seeing in the photos are 17 years old, and sometimes younger, starve themselves, and haven’t had a decent meal in years. It’s not a healthy standard to set your sights on!!! Or even an attractive one!!!

 

I have a new book coming out in hardcover in about 10 days, “The Dark Side” that’s exciting and a little different for me. It’s about the psychiatric illness “Munchhausen by Proxy”, where some very sick mothers either fake severe illnesses in their very young kids, or make them sick. It’s very hard to catch them at it, and they put their children’s lives at risk. The book is something of a thriller as we watch one of these mothers with her child. It’s an exciting book, with a fascinating theme, and I hope you love it!!!! The research I did for it was terrifying, watching interviews with some of these mothers.

 

Have a good week!!! I have a busy one ahead, some fun stuff and some not so fun. (Hmmm….sounds like real life). I had a wonderful time a few days ago, having lunch and spending the afternoon with my youngest son. His fiancée was away, and he took me to lunch, and we spent the afternoon shopping and doing errands together. He is such good company, and I had a really terrific time!!! And the next day, I went to Ikea with another of my kids. Ikea is always an adventure, and I love it and always find some fun stuff!!! (Along with a lot of other great stuff, they have great stuffed toys, and my dogs love them. I came home with a giant shopping bag of toys for my dogs!!! They loved them!!)

 

So have a great week, and I hope some wonderful things happen to you!!! You deserve it!!!

 

 

love, Danielle

 

 

8/12/19, “Complete”

Posted on August 12, 2019

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’re having some really good weeks, and hopefully still some vacation, as the summer starts to wind down. It’s been a long hot summer, and I’ve had some lovely time with my kids, and also did a lot of work this summer, working on several books at different stages.

 

I like to keep busy, and am happier when I am. I race around meeting deadlines, trying to get time with my children, love puttering around my house fixing things and adding things or getting rid of things (my famous closet purges when I get rid of lots of stuff), I travel a lot, mostly between my two homes, and only take one brief vacation a year for a week, and I am always on the move. But between the visits with the kids, the deadlines, the work on the books, seeing friends when I can, running two homes, and the fashion shows I report to you a few times a year, I do have moments of introspection, which helps give me direction, and even insights for the books.

 

In that vein, I was thinking about the notion of “completeness” the other day, and how easily we all, or most of us, feel ‘incomplete’. There is always, or often, something missing in our lives. A partner, the right partner or any partner, children/a child, a job that makes us feel important, the right home. We’re always striving for something, or missing something. It’s the nature of humans. Early in life, we’re striving to have it all. And later in life, we are trying to fill the voids. For women (and men) who have children, the kids eventually grow up and leave, and we are left with the void that leaves in our lives (with 9 kids, believe me that was a big hole to fill when all but one (so far) left home), for men and women who have important jobs, when they retire they feel as though they’ve lost their identity, another big void to fill. We look at others and think they have it all, a partner, a great job, a beautiful home—-but even those people must feel incomplete at times. It’s rare for any of us to have it all, all at the same time. There is so often something missing and we are left feeling incomplete as people, inadequate, and not whole.

 

Like Noah’s Ark, we are led to believe that we are incomplete, and we feel that way, without a partner. And yes, as Winnie the Pooh said to Piglet, “life is so much friendlier with two”. I have always been irked by the old song “You’re nobody until somebody loves you”. We believe that, we feel it, it so often seems to be true. Being solitary can be so lonely. Being with the wrong partner is even more so. Very few people seem to be truly happy alone, and most of us feel left out and ‘incomplete’ without someone to love and who loves us. We see others with partners and wish we had one too (and we forget that that’s not always easy either). Or we have a job that doesn’t fulfill us, or a home/house/apartment that is less than what we want and feel we deserve. And when we feel that something is missing, we feel incomplete. That’s not a good feeling, and can really make us deeply unhappy. When we’re feeling incomplete, we forget to look around at what we DO have, a home that’s nicer than we believe, a job that isn’t as bad as we think at times, we forget that the right person can walk into your life tomorrow and you won’t always be alone.

 

It’s also worth mentioning that if you feel incomplete and not ‘whole’, what are you really offering that new partner you want to come along? Half a person? A sense of desperation that a new person should make up for everything you don’t have in your life? That’s a heavy burden to put on someone else, and not very attractive or appealing, that they have to save you from your own incompleteness and dissatisfaction and provide everything you don’t have in your life and make your life exciting. And that new person may take a while to show up (or maybe not, they may come along faster). But you want to bring a whole person to the table (yourself), and offer them the riches of your own life and your wholeness, and then you can be two whole people together with much to share and offer each other. If you are desperate to have someone fill your empty life, that’s pretty scary for them!!! And you’ll be bored while you wait for them!! We need to fill our lives to the brim on our own, not count on someone else to do it, and then we really have something to offer someone new who walks into our life. You just can’t and shouldn’t count on someone else to “make you whole”. (It’s more likely to make them run like hell, in the opposite direction!! And who can blame them?)

 

I think it’s a life’s work feeling complete, and not focusing on what we don’t have. And it’s so easy to look at the down sides. When I moved into my California home, I was thrilled that my bedroom was on the same floor as all my kids, except one who lived in private grandeur on the floor above. Now, I walk past all those empty bedrooms on the way to my own room when I’m in California, a reminder that my kids have moved on. It’s like a neon sign reminding me that they’ve moved on and I live alone (except for one ‘child’ still at home, and I’m grateful for that). And without all those kids underfoot, it’s easy to feel ‘incomplete’. When I sat and thought about it the other day, I realized how full my life is, and reminded myself of how ‘complete’ I really am, that I am a whole/complete person with or without a partner, with or without kids living at home, no matter what my job, or my home. I think the trick is to feel complete with what we have, and who we are. It’s a real trap, and an easy one to fall into, to feel incomplete, and I know so many people who do—–and marry the wrong people as a result just so they’re not alone, or stay in situations or jobs that don’t fulfill them (we all need our jobs, but if you really hate your job, maybe it’s time to look for one you like better).

 

Each of us is complete and whole. It’s something we all need to remember and focus on (or do something about). It’s not the partner, the kids, your job, or the size of your apartment that makes you whole, or complete. It comes from within us, and remembering, appreciating, and focusing on what we DO have, and not what’s missing.  Now I can go back to cleaning out closets, grateful that I am in fact complete, I don’t need anyone or anything to make me complete, I am a whole person as I am…..and whatever is added to it will be an added gift!!!!

 

Have a great week!!!

 

love, Danielle

 

7/29/19, Strong Drink

Posted on July 29, 2019

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope that July lived up to your expectations, and you got some time off, and even some beach time!!! I’m plugging away at work, but have made a discovery I absolutely LOVE. I don’t drink alcohol, I’ve never liked it, and it always made me feel sick when I tried it, so it’s one vice I don’t have. But I was introduced to a ‘cocktail’ this summer by an eleven year old!!! And I will confess, I am totally addicted. It’s the perfect drink for a hot summer day!!! It’s a Virgin Mojito. I don’t know how to make it, but it has lime juice, some fizzy water, lots of crushed ice, and fresh mint in it.  It’s fantastic, and has been the perfect antidote to some blazing hot summer days this summer.  I order it everywhere and double check that it’s ‘Virgin’, so it has no alcohol in it. I even had a strawberry one a few days ago, which was delicious too (I think they substituted the limes with strawberries). So that’s my hot tip of the summer…..and if you’re wondering what I’m doing—–I’m sipping Virgin Mojitos while I work…..have a great August, with lots of vacation time, I hope. I’ll be meeting up with all my children for a long weekend in the coming month. It’s always the highlight of my summer.

 

So cheers to you…..with a Virgin Mojito, have a great week!!!

 

love, Danielle

7/22/19, Summer Clean Up

Posted on July 22, 2019

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’ve had a good week, and are getting some real vacation time in. I had my one week holiday with my kids, and as soon as they left, I went back to work. It’s been a week since they left, and the vacation already seems like years ago, I’ve been wading through my work, and I’ve taken a few breaks to clean out my closets……again!! My last big clean out was two years ago when I moved to a new apartment, and I always feel virtuous and victorious when I purge my closets. I get rid of the fashion mistakes, the things that really don’t fit right and never did, the things I’m sorry I bought, and some old favorites that are long past their expiration date. I always give up the things I think I’m going to lose five pounds to wear, even if I lose 5 lbs., it never comes off the places that will make that piece of clothing fit, so I finally get rid of it!!! I’m not really an impulse buyer, but sometimes I do buy some silly stuff. I’m a less conservative shopper than my daughters, and they warn me when I’m about to commit a huge fashion mistake, and most of the time, I don’t listen to them, and go right ahead and buy something they warn me I’ll be sorry I bought….and most of the time they’re right.

 

It’s a terrific feeling pulling things out, and getting rid of the dead wood in your closets, and occasionally I wonder what I was thinking when I bought something (and I DO keep some of the outrageous stuff even in a clean out!!!) It’s not too outrageous, but I’m reminded of a ‘mature’ quite a bit older friend whose mother was visiting her, and my friend was rushing out to go somewhere, while her mother watched her dress. My friend looks great, has a great figure and particularly great legs, and loves wearing miniskirts (that’s one sin I’m not guilty of—-I don’t have the legs or the courage for miniskirts. I commit other fashion sins!!). As she was about to rush out the door, she looked at her mother and said “I have the feeling I’ve forgotten something…” Her mother looked at her and said, “Yes, your age.” That happens to me occasionally too, something looks like so much fun (and I do love fashion, and have a sense of humor about it), but when I get it home, I think “What was I thinking? I can’t wear that!!!”—–and if I do, my daughters are quick to scold me.

 

I find that when I’m feeling swamped by life, and not in control of all the challenging situations in my life, I dive into my closets and start getting rid of things and putting everything in good order, my closets are one thing I can always control and do something about. It’s therapeutic for me.

 

So right in the middle of summer, my closets are looking impeccably neat, all the old stuff I don’t want is weeded out, and now I can see what I have, and wear the right stuff, and not fight my way through old stuff that doesn’t fit, or fashion mistakes. I always learn something about myself too, of what I really like and works well for me. I find that the stuff I get rid of is usually the same brands, that aren’t comfortable, don’t suit me, or never fit right, eventually I get rid of them, and shouldn’t have bought them in the first place. Some brands of shoes always hurt (too stiff, heels too high, and just not wearable), and if they’re pretty I buy them anyway, and of course they don’t fit— they hurt, and they go out in the next big clean out. The truth is that I am not going to get taller, even thinner than I am, or younger when I bring a piece of clothing home, so it had better look good when I buy it, because it won’t look any better later by some miracle.

 

I find that if I have to ask the salesgirl, a friend, or one of my daughters “Do you think I’ll wear this??”—–that’s the kiss of death and I never will. When I hear myself say that now, I think “uhhh oh”, no, I won’t wear it, and I try not to buy it.

 

My closet is looking great now, and not only am I enjoying it, but it’s going to make it so much easier now for my daughters to cruise my closets and find what they want to ‘borrow’!!!!….have a great week,

 

love, Danielle

 

 

7/15/19, Precious Days

Posted on July 15, 2019

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’re having a good summer so far, not too hot, not too busy, with some real time off to relax and take a break. I had my annual week’s holiday with my kids, and now it’s back to work for me. I’m working on three outlines, have a book to edit, and will start a new book soon. So the real vacation is over for me, except for a long weekend in August with my kids. I spend a week with my five youngest children in July every year, which I look forward to all year, and is the only real vacation I take. I have to admit that I miss the days when I spent the whole summer with my children, not working at all, but with their jobs and busy lives that’s not possible anymore, and I am grateful for the one precious week we share now. This was the first year that one of them couldn’t come, and it was an adjustment and we all missed her. I even take my three dogs, Minnie, Blue and Lili on holiday with us!!!

 

We spend the vacation in France every year, and the days pass too quickly. One of the things I love on our vacation every year is that I go to a tiny beautiful little 11th century church, tucked away, on top of a hill, with an incredible view of the sea. It’s a very special place, and miracles are said to happen there, or as a result of prayer there. It has a wonderful peaceful feeling, and I make sure to visit it every year.

 

Everyone swims a lot, relaxes, and meals are an important part of the day, where we get together and talk and laugh (and eat too much!!!). We play lots of Scrabble, liar’s dice sometimes, cards, and added dominoes this year, which was really fun. It’s interesting to share thoughts and opinions and different points of view, they keep me up to date on a Millennial perspective on life, and we all make suggestions that are sometimes very helpful with whatever we’re dealing with at the time. My children are ALL very different from each other, so it’s a whole range of thoughts and philosophies on life. Those who have them, bring their partners, which broadens the perspective too, on everything from health to politics, to the wishes and dreams we all cherish, or the disappointments they’ve recently gone through, or challenges in their jobs. They are all very generous with their opinions and advice, which is sometimes challenging, but always well meant, and most of the time helpful. The week we spend together is a wonderful break from the pressures of “Real Life”. Their jobs are as different as they are, so we all learn something about the fields in which they work (fashion, startups, sports, finance, and my writing).

 

I’ve mentioned before that I collect favorite quotations, and have since I was in my teens. I’m currently thinking of putting together a book of my favorite quotes (some from famous people, others anonymous, and even some by children). If I do it, it will come out for Christmas this year. It’s fun going through my favorites, trying to decide which to share. They inspire me in my life, and I thought it would be fun to share them with you!!!

 

Whatever you’re doing this summer, I hope you have a break for some relaxation and fun, on your own or with favorite people, travelling, or even close to home.  We all need a break from whatever we do, although I’m always excited to get back to work even after a short break. It energizes me to take a little time off. I miss my kids like crazy after our vacation is over…..but back to work, which keeps me busy!!  Have a great week, and I hope your summer is off to a wonderful start!!!

 

love, Danielle