Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

5/12/22, “Gone Fishing”

Posted on May 12, 2022

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you had a nice Mother’s Day, either as the recipient of your children’s attention, or as the giver of joy to your real mother, or a mother figure in your life. It’s a very special day, when one gets to show admiration and gratitude to the important women in your life—-it’s one of the few days of the year when mothers get to hear words of praise and thanks, instead of the usual laundry list of what one failed to do, or somehow managed to do wrong. I LOVE mother’s day, and my children have never disappointed me. They go all out, for which I am deeply grateful. I celebrated Mother’s Day in two cities this year, as I have for a long time,—twice as much fun!!!

 

I recently took 3 weeks “off” to visit all my children, now living in 4 cities in the US, while I’m in Paris much of the time. Until the pandemic I visited them every 3 or 4 weeks, since the pandemic and the ongoing risk of Covid, I visit them less often, but for longer and only see them every few months. They are all allegedly grown up (are any of us ever REALLY grown up?? Not always, no matter how old we are, we have our childish moments, and I do too.) But in any case, they all have lives and jobs, and some of them are recently married. And no one wants their mother hanging around at those ages, so the challenge for the mother of adult children is to keep it light, not stay too long, keep the critical comments to a minimum if at all, and don’t be a pain in the neck. I did not enjoy time with my parents at their ages. My kids are amazingly tolerant of me, and I try hard not to be a nuisance, but probably am anyway. And the criticism, if any, is mutual at those ages, they also tell me if they think the new curtains I picked are butt ugly, or if my daughters hate what I’m wearing. As I’ve often heard, motherhood is not for sissies, at any age. But for the most part it is an immense amount of joy. I am crazy about my kids.

 

To be a little more precise, when I say I took time off to visit them, in my case, it still means that I am working when I’m not with them during my visits, with conference calls with agents, and lawyers, dozens of emails I answer daily late at night, and I always have a manuscript near at hand to work on when I’m not with my kids, after I leave them after dinner,  or when they’re busy in the day time. I edit then, which is easy work to pick up and put down for an hour or two. Not like the actual writing of a book which is intense work I cant interrupt.  In fact, I take very little vacation. Usually less than 2 weeks a year, or about that. 1 week in July to be with my 5 youngest children on holiday somewhere with a beach, 5 days at Christmas at home, and about 3 days for my birthday, when all my kids come home. And my kids are VERY generous to spend a week of their vacations with me in July, a long weekend for my birthday, and Christmas week with me. And it’s very very very rare for me to take a weekend off, most of the time, I write on weekends too. I like staying busy, and filling my time, and I write a lot.

 

A comment on my Instagram caught my attention this week, which startled me. It said “It must be nice to be able to fly around all the time”. Hmm….fly around all the time? Do I? I did before Covid, but much less so now, given the risks of travel, airports, etc. And then I realized that the comment isn’t wrong. It’s not easy once children have grown up and gone, and being alone without a partner—-a double whammy. Both of my homes are full of empty bedrooms where my children used to live, and I’m happy to say I still have one daughter at home, although she leads a full busy life of her own. But I realized that the comment is true. There are more downsides than upsides to being alone, but the fact is that the only schedule I have to check is my own (and my kids if I want to visit them). If I am longing to see my children, I can get on a plane and go to see them. If one of them has a problem, I can be there as fast as air travel will allow. If I wanted to take a vacation alone, I could—though that has no appeal to me at all. I work hard, which allows me the luxury to travel, even if I have books to write and deadlines, and I work hard, and only take two weeks off a year. In France, people get five weeks of vacation a year by law, and if they have school aged children, they take school vacations too, which gives them months of vacation every year, not weeks. the French have more paid vacation than any country in the world, although I don’t. But the fact is that I don’t have to consult anyone’s schedule but my own and my kids, and my writing deadlines, and I can fly to see them when I want to. And because I work incredibly hard, I can afford to get on a plane and go when I want to. So the comment wasn’t wrong, and it is nice to fly around when you want to. There is no boss or partner to stop me or tell me I cant go. My natural innate work ethic and discipline make me feel guilty whenever I take time off—but the truth is that I’ve earned it, I deserve it. I publish 7 books a year, and I have always been a full time presence in my children’s lives. But I always feel somewhat guilty when I take “time off”, and think I should be working when I’m having fun. But yes, it is nice to be able to pick up and go whenever I want. It’s one of the advantages of being my own boss, although I am a hard taskmaster with myself, and don’t give myself a lot of free time. There is always something I think I should be doing. I’m not good at just sitting around, or even relaxing. And I love my work and my kids, so time with either one always seems well spent.

 

So “Gone Fishing” doesn’t really apply to me. And for now, I’ll stick to my two weeks of vacation per year. And the rest of the time, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, writing and visiting my kids, wherever they are, and flying around to see them. I don’t like travelling or vacationing alone. I’m not adventurous about exotic travel, and it’s not fun taking vacations alone. But yes, it IS nice being able to fly around whenever you want. and maybe one day, I’ll take more than just two weeks off per year. But not just yet!!!

 

Have a great week, doing fun things, and whatever you love to do. For now, I’ll try to take a few more days off during the year, just for fun….I’m working on it….

 

 

love, Danielle

 

4/26/22, Be Alert: Young People at Risk

Posted on April 26, 2022

 

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope the weeks are rolling smoothly for you as we approach spring. I hope this is a good time for you, in every way that’s important to you.  I read a quote recently of Robin Williams, which really touched my heart. To paraphrase it, “Everyone you have contact with is dealing with something you know nothing about.” It reminded me of how true that is. We are taught early on not to share our griefs, to “keep a stiff upper lip”, and many people feel private about their problems, relationship and family issues, and the standard response to “How are you?” is ‘Fine’. We usually don’t respond to mere acquaintances or even good friends with the truth when things aren’t going well, as in “My life really sucks”. We are often private and discreet while carrying a heavy load. It helps to share and to talk to someone, and out of pride and discretion, good manners or shyness, we don’t always reach out when we need help. It really does help to talk to someone who cares about you and wants to help.

 

My son Nick had bi polar disease for his entire life. I first noticed the signs before he was two years old. No psychiatrist or doctor would listen to me until much later, when he was sixteen. it was a long lonely road trying to get help for him between two and sixteen, when he was finally medicated. The medication helped a lot, so much so that he thought he was cured, which led him to try stopping the medication at 18. The end result was that he committed suicide at 19. He was severely impacted by the disease, and even once medicated, it had gone untreated for too long, and we tried everything but we could not save him. I was open about his illness, and not ashamed, but mental illness comes with a lot of stigma, and particularly at the time, many people hid the fact that they or a loved one suffered from mental illness and spoke about it in whispers, or not at all. Today, people are more open about it, which is a vast improvement.

 

Suicide has long been the second highest cause of death in the US in young people under the age of 25, after car accidents, which is #1. And today it’s on the rise at a rapid rate. I personally feel that young people and adolescents of high school, and particularly college age, have paid the highest price of pandemic survivors, more so than any other age group. They have missed out on two years of their college experiences that they worked so hard for, instead of enjoying campus life, and building the social foundation for their adult lives, they are locked up at home studying alone, and going to school on computer, meeting no one, making no friends, and have lived with lockdowns, curfews, restaurants and bars and meeting places closed for a year, no access to sports experiences, making new friends, and learning in a group setting. The future looks dim to them, they are uncertain about jobs, finances and their future. MUCH too often I am hearing now about suicides among late teens and young people in their early twenties. I don’t know the current statistics, but successful suicides tended to be more heavily male in the past, and more and more I am hearing about young women taking their own lives as well.

 

In the past two weeks, two star athletes and star students took their own lives at Stanford University and the University of Wisconsin, both young women with outstanding achievements, and no warning signs to their family and friends. And this weekend I learned of a fifteen year old high school student, who took her own life, also with no warning. None of these three had a history of depression or mental illness, and those who loved them are shocked by the path they took, clearly in desperation.

 

Young children also commit suicide more often than we think. Out of compassion for their families, many states forbid listing the cause of death as suicide before the age of 13, which skews the statistics. The tragic fact is that children as young as 6 commit suicide. When I spoke to the Senate sub Committee about suicide, at their request, after my son’s death, a famous very learned psychiatrist said that she is well aware of children’s suicides from the age of 6 on, and some have left suicide notes written in crayon. (When I read my son’s journals after his death, I discovered that he had written about suicide almost daily, from the time he was 11. We kept him alive 8 years longer than he intended).

 

Suicide is on the rise, children, adolescents and young adults are at grave risk. We need to be more alert and aware than ever. Covid has hit their world even harder than it has ours, as adults, or at least as hard. They feel that they are missing their youth, the future looks uncertain to them, and the challenges and hardships of today are liable to impact all of us into the future. Young people are sad and uncertain, and feel cheated of their youth, and for some, it’s a challenge they don’t know how to face, and need help and support doing so.

 

Sunday May 1st is my late son Nick’s birthday. In his honor, and in his name, I reach out to you. If you, reading this, feel at risk, or if you love someone who is, there is help out there. Call a friend, tell a parent, call one of the hotlines and talk to someone. The future is never as dark or as bleak as we think it is when we are at a low point. And as parents, we need to keep an eye on our young adults, those with the most serious leanings in that direction often give no warning before they act. Watch, listen, talk, reach out, follow your instincts. My son gave many warnings, he suffered from bi polar disease all his life, he made three unsuccessful suicide attempts before the final one. All the warning signs were there, and we did our very best to change his course. But so many young people give no overt warnings, but the behaviour and the intentions and the despair are there. Be aware and alert, and if you are the one feeling drawn to harming yourself or taking your life, there are people around you who want to help you. Let them in, reach out. There is help, there is a future, maybe even a very good one. And there is hope.

 

These young people need our help and our protection. The future is waiting for them, after these hard times in Covid.  Not a single young life should be lost in this battle, no matter how dark these times seem to them.

 

Let’s all be as aware as we can be, and as brave as we can be to help them get through these times. These young people are our future, let’s help them get there safely and be the safety net under them for as long as they need one, until better, easier times come again. The future belongs to them. Let’s help to get them there safely, and help turn the tides of these treacherous waters they are navigating now. Their support system can start with us, if we reach out to them.

 

Have a safe, happy week,  with much love,  Danielle.

 

2/28/22, Peace Please!!!

Posted on February 28, 2022

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’ve had a good week, and that all is well with you.

 

I’ve been very lucky to have two of my daughters visit me for a few days, which is always a special gift, and a time I cherish. I have a little sign on my desk which says “Cherish Every Moment”, which is good advice.

 

I don’t know what to say, given the state of the world at this hour. On the frivolous side, today is the beginning of fashion week in Paris, with the ready to wear shows by mostly French designers. Last week it was Fashion week in Milan. And before that, in New York. Two of my daughters worked on fashion shows for the brands they work for. I used to report to you on the fashion shows I went to, mostly Chanel, and sometimes Hermes, but because of the pandemic, I haven’t been to a fashion show in two years, and don’t feel quite ready to start attending them again yet. I want to wait until Covid is a little further behind us, before I go to live shows, attended by spectators and big crowds.

 

But much as I love fashion, I cant wrap my mind around it just now. After two years of agony over Covid, fear and contagion, masks and vaccines, working remotely, and loved ones lost, and the whole world at a dead stop and on its ear for two years, and just as we are beginning to breathe a little easier and see a light at the end of the Covid tunnel, with a ray of hope…..suddenly our world is rocked again by the war that has erupted between Russia and Ukraine, as we sit glued to our TV’s and hang on every word of the leaders involved, and those who analyze the situation, with the word ‘nuclear’ peppered here and there, and we are terrified all over again. How is it possible that we have to face TWO such life threatening events back to back, over which we, as private citizens, have no control, and our lives are suddenly in other people’s hands?

 

The images of those fleeing Ukraine (nearly 400,000 people) fearing for their lives, while others are willing to fight to the death against an invading army, in a war that is threatening everything they hold dear, country, family, children, freedom. Sanctions are imposed against the invaders, who in turn retaliate with nuclear threats. How is it possible that while we were just beginning to recover from Covid and a brutally hard pandemic for two years, now terror has landed on our doorstep again wearing a different mask: this time war—-in an era when nuclear attack is a potential reality if the leaders involved lose their heads and don’t back down. I have never been to Russia or Ukraine, but what unimaginable terror to leave your home with only a few possessions, taking your children and pets, grabbing the essentials for survival as you leave—-fearing your home will be bombed, or after it was. it is everyone’s worst nightmare, as the world waits with bated breath to see what comes next.

 

It’s hard, actually impossible to focus on anything else. We are battle weary from the pandemic, and now some of us must face real battles with bombs and threats and tanks in the street. And what will that mean for the rest of us, if a peaceful resolution isn’t reached?. Our lives are once again on the line, in hands other than our own. It was destiny as to who got sick and who died of Covid—-and now our fate is in human hands.

 

We need peace, on every front, a time to heal, all around the globe, a time to live and breathe again, a time to put fear behind us, not clutch it with both hands, and hope that we and our loved ones survive.

 

Please, please, please give us peace. We need it so desperately. May you be strong and safe, and may all the leaders of every country be wise, and do everything necessary to grant us peace.

 

May God bless you and keep you safe, and all of us, with my most fervent prayers and all my love and hope,

 

Danielle

 

 

2/22/22, Shoes!!!

Posted on February 22, 2022

 

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you had a lovely Valentine’s Day last week. I had an unexpectedly lovely one with a friend who came to lunch. And I got to use the heart plates that one of my daughters gave me for Christmas, and new napkins I had just bought with embroidered hearts on them—-and the glasses with hearts on them that two of my daughters gave me last year. It was an unexpectedly day. And three of my daughters sent me roses and anemones.

 

I have been working non stop for the last two months and have hardly taken any days off. I finished one book in the morning, and started the next one that night. I don’t usually work quite that intensely and normally take a few days or a week off between books, but the weather has been lousy, cold and rainy, and the Covid numbers high, so I decided to stay home and really dig into my work after the holidays. I can go from one book to the next like that (although it is exhausting, because the writing is physically demanding because I work such long hours day after day so as not to interrupt a book) because I spend months working on the outline, and by the time I’m ready to start a book I have all the details lined up, the plot worked out, have written pages and pages about each character, and I outline each chapter in detail. So when I start the book, everything is lined up, although I adjust some details as I go along, and add a few things. So I have been working hard.

 

And one of my favorite things to do when I’m not working, for fun, to unwind and relax, or if I’m down, is to go shopping. I love fashion and pretty clothes, and fun things to wear (when my youngest son was little, he loved little cars (now he likes real cars!!) and I bought a jacket to wear when I went out with him, that had little match book cars sewn all over it. I still have the jacket, it’s amazing). Shopping is not a deep intellectual pursuit, but I really have fun shopping. I try not to buy impulse buys and buy things I will really wear—particularly when Covid is over. I have lived in jeans (particularly my favorite ones with the hole in one knee) and the cashmere nightgowns I wear when I write (with the holes in the elbows) since Covid started. And more so with each lockdown. I feel like I haven’t gotten dressed up in two years. When the first lockdown happened, I tried to look ‘cute’ every day to keep my spirits up. And I didn’t see anyone for 3 months. By the 4th lockdown. I was no longer looking cute, and dressing for myself and my dogs had lost its charm. (My dogs really don’t care what I wear). I haven’t been to a restaurant in two and a half months, in the recent Omicron surge where the numbers were terrifyingly high and the contagion extreme, so I haven’t had a chance to get dressed up since Christmas—but today I went shopping, and my favorite thing to shop for are shoes. My father said that my first word was ‘shoe’. I don’t know if that’s true, but I certainly enjoy them. There are rumors that I have thousands of pairs of shoes. I don’t, but I do have a lot of them, and have so much fun shopping for them.

 

Last week, I bought a super fun pair of summer sandals, and the heel is a bottle of red nail polish. Soooo fun!!! Sometimes I like silly shoes, and sometimes I just like really pretty shoes. I like loafers and ballerinas for comfort. I’m not a huge sneaker fan, although I have a few. I bought some cute red clogs last year and am afraid to wear them, because I’m afraid to step on my dogs’ tiny feet in them. I like heels when I get dressed up, but not crazy high. And I like simple pumps. And I will confess, today I went wild. I bought a pair of loafers, a pair of black patent leather short boots, I bought a pair of dressy black suede flats, and the same ones in white for the summer, and a pair of simple black patent leather high heels. (for some reason, I love black patent leather, maybe because it reminds me of when I was a kid and I loved wearing my black patent leather mary janes, and getting a new pair was always exciting!!) Last week, I had a bad day, and bought the nail polish sandals to cheer myself up, and today I was just celebrating the end of a book, and rewarding myself for working hard. It’s a harmless past time and I work hard…and if it makes me happy, why not??  And shoes are a pretty harmless vice to have!!

 

So that’s my guilty secret—-and I don’t even feel guilty about it. I came home with my loot, and was happy as can be. Sometimes it’s good to indulge yourself, and spoil yourself when you can.

 

I have a sign in my office in California that says “Do what makes you happy”—-I’m a dutiful person and always do my “homework” before I let myself do something fun. I did my homework, and now I had some fun!!

 

Do what makes YOU happy, whatever that is. getting your hair or your nails done, going on a hike, or to the beach. Seeing a friend, reading a book, or spoiling yourself, a hot fudge sundae, shopping. Whatever it is, we all need to spoil ourselves once in a while, when we can. Today was a big treat!!!  Have a great week!!

 

love, Danielle

 

 

2/14/22, Raise the Hearts!!!

Posted on February 14, 2022

 

Hello Everyone,

 

I hope you had a good week last week. I was working full tilt on three books in different stages, which was intense. Sometimes I work that way when the ideas are flowing. A few weeks ago, I finished the second draft of one book in the morning, and moved on to another book in first draft that night. I’ve always found that when I’m working, more ideas come, sometimes in a flood, and when I’m not working (and being lazy), nothing comes. I prefer the flood of ideas to the drought. And inspiration is harder to come by these days while staying home a lot, not going out much, and having little or no social life because of Covid. The Covid worries provide a backdrop of anxiety, and staying home keeps one from seeing the little and big things that spark a book when you have a full life out in the world. So in these sparser times, I grab the inspiration when it grabs me and go with it, gratefully!!

 

So I’ve had a very busy month writing, with a third book percolating on the back burner as I work on the outline. And today is one of those days that can be wonderful or disappointing, Valentine’s Day. I’ve had some great ones and some real lemons in my lifetime. I’ve had two marriage proposals on Valentine’s Day, and both came as a (wonderful)surprise!! One led to eighteen mostly happy years and 8 children, and the other resulted in 8 years together, stormy but exciting, to a fascinating person, and no children. Both husbands were much older than I (decades) and were very interesting men, and both are gone now, I stayed close to both of them until the end of their lives. And I do miss them and having them to talk to. My husband John, the father of 8 of my 9 children was incredibly elegant, gracious, handsome, and the other, Tom, was brilliant and a genius, with an extraordinary mind. Both marriages ended in divorce before they died, we had a good run, and stayed close. Both were father figures for me since they were so much older. And both Valentine’s Day proposals were very romantic. (My first marriage was in my teens–my teens were a busy time. I went to college at 15, married in my teens, became a mother for the first time in my teens, and wrote my first book in my teens, at 19—-I started life early!!!)

 

And in contrast to my two Valentine’s Day proposals, I’ve had some really dreary, disappointing Valentine’s Days—haven’t we all!!!—-when nothing at all seemed to be happening. Some years, romance in one’s life is just not happening. And it can be REALLY discouraging if you haven’t met “The One” yet, or you’re between relationships, or if a relationship didn’t work out. I’ve found that (some) men aren’t very good about dates, not as good as women are about them, and some holidays mean a lot to us as women, and just don’t mean as much to them. So a man who really loves you may not come through on Valentine’s day with chocolates, flowers, or a great piece of jewelry, or a proposal, or even remember what day it is!!! (My husband Tom hated most holidays, and particularly didn’t like Christmas (and I LOVE Christmas) and won the prize one year when he asked me on December 23rd—“When is Christmas this year??”—Soon!!!) So your true love may not make the brilliant showing you hope for on Valentine’s Day, although I hope he (or she) does!!! Some men aren’t dazzlers on birthdays either….there is something about dates that eludes them. And if you have the perfect love who showers you with kisses and gifts on Valentine’s Day—–Lucky You!!! Hang on to him (or her).

 

I came across something in the writings of Joel Osteen this week. It is religious, so won’t appeal to those who aren’t, and I love his writings. They always give me hope and strength:  “God has prepared a set time for His promises to come to pass in your life. While you wait, you can trust that behind the scenes, He is working all things in your favor”. I really like that.

 

And there is a lovely saying in French, “Haut les coeurs!!” when you need encouragement, the rough translation is “Raise the Hearts!!!”

 

So, whether religious or not, I hope you have a lovely Valentine’s Day, and a great week. And May Love be showered on you abundantly by those you love today and every day. You deserve it!!!

 

with so much love, Danielle

 

 

1/31/22, Still Hibernating

Posted on January 31, 2022

 

Hi Everyone,

 

Well, I hope you’ve had a good week, maybe even a great one, with good news or some fun.

 

January is always a hard working month for me, I always use the dreary winter months to hibernate and write a lot. I’m working on three books right now, in first draft, final draft, and outline. It makes the cold winter days pass more quickly.  January has drifted by, and tomorrow it will be February.

 

Covid is still forefront in our thought, and the number of daily cases has been pretty terrible everywhere. And while we all try to make the best of this long playing situation, I notice that it does take a toll. With fewer social contacts, and most people being more careful, we don’t have the social lives we used to, the distractions, or opportunities for relaxed encounters with family and friends. I miss seeing my friends, and seeing my children as often and as easily as I did before the Pandemic. Travel is really challenging, and even dangerous. My airport experiences have been harrowing recently, with all the conditions I try to avoid: crowds, people squeezed in together, long lines, and on domestic flights people don’t have to test, so the plane could be full of sick people and you don’t know how much risk you’re taking, or if the person you’re sitting next to has Covid (and they may not even know it either if they’re asymptomatic). International flights require a test, which is more reassuring. International flights seem safer and are more likely to be Covid-free, but airports are scary everywhere, more so in recent months as more people are travelling.   I’m also finding people crabbier, more impatient and short tempered. As we approach the two year mark of the pandemic, I think everyone is tired of the stresses of the pandemic. It has lasted a lot longer than anyone guessed. They say that the variants are a sign that the end of the pandemic could be growing near, but in the meantime, contagion is sky high. In my own family, five of my eight children have had it, even though several of them are extremely careful. Some countries are reducing their barrier measures, which seems premature to me. The experts keep saying that we’re not out of the woods yet, and I believe them. And the rules about contagion, and exposure, periods of incubation, and isolation keep changing which is VERY confusing. And the endless back and forth about masks, no masks, etc.

 

Last week was Haute Couture week in Paris. Where the Haute Couture (made to order, not ready to wear) designers show their collections. This is the third year I haven’t gone. Once again, sitting in crowds and arriving and leaving in crushing masses of people just seems too soon to me. I haven’t had the courage to go back yet, and watch the shows afterwards on line, since I still enjoy them. Although as much as I love clothes and fashion, I don’t have much opportunity to wear anything exciting at the moment, since I’m not going anywhere all dressed up. You see a lot of ‘comfort clothes’ in public now. I think all of California is wearing yoga pants at the moment. I’m living in jeans and old sweaters, when I’m not at home writing in one of my old cashmere nightgowns. And I miss getting dressed up, and having a reason to!!!

 

I think we’ll all feel better when Spring rolls around, the sun is shining, and the weather warms up. Somehow life always seems better on a sunny day. We have a way to go until then!!!

 

I think most of us are still hibernating, winter isn’t over yet. And hopefully by Spring, Covid will be receding, and life will be more fun again. I think we have to seize the happy moments now, the fun, enjoy them to the fullest, see our friends and family when we can, be as careful as we can, and the good times will come again!!!

 

Have a wonderful week, stay as safe as you can, and I’ll keep writing the books to distract and entertain you in the meantime!!!

 

love, Danielle

 

1/17/22, Lonely

Posted on January 17, 2022

 

Hi Everyone,

 

Well, we’re two weeks into the new year, and hopefully you’re off to a great start, and good things are already unfolding. I’ve already had one terrific surprise, in the past week. I learned that my new book “Invisible”, in hardcover, determined after only five days of sales, will be Number 1 on the New York Times Bestseller list this coming Sunday, and my new paperback “Neighbors” will be Number 1 on their paperback list. And I have another paperback still on that list, “All That Glitters.” That definitely gets my year off to a VERY happy start!! I hope you’ll have time to read it, and will love it.

 

Today is a very important day, Martin Luther King Day, one of the great historical figures of our times, and an extraordinary man, a great and inspiring religious leader who had a tremendous political and historical impact on the battle for desegregation in the United States at the time. He was an inspiration to all, and left the world a better place for having been here, and his murder was a tragedy for the world. He will be remembered and admired forever in our history.

 

I find that January is always kind of a bleak, dreary month. The weather is bad almost everywhere. Life is always slower after the holidays. And this year, we’ve begun the year at the height of the peak of another wave of Covid that has hit the world hard, with the Omicron variant. There are a myriad theories about it, that it’s less severe than earlier variants, but more contagious, that it’s a good sign that the virus is weakening, and then contradictory opinions. We are all eager to see the end of the virus altogether and the sky high numbers of new cases around the world are discouraging and frightening. I long for the time when this is all behind us, and life returns to normal again, and every day is no longer a challenge of testing, masking, distancing, vaccinating, boosting, and worrying about Covid. Let’s hope that this year it will finally disappear from our lives, or at the very least become no more dangerous than the common cold. Wouldn’t that be nice!!!

 

In the holiday letters I received, and conversations I’ve had, two words have caught my attention. Words that people don’t speak often or admit to, and are now talking about openly. The two words are ‘lonely’ and ‘disconnected’. I can’t remember a time when people said to me openly, or wrote in a letter, “I’m so lonely” or “I feel so disconnected.” In a way, I think it’s actually a good thing that people are actually saying it now, if that’s what they’re feeling. In the past, I think people were embarrassed to admit it, but it’s out in the open now. It has been one of the great impacts of Covid: isolation, solitude, either from quarantines, from being sick, out of fear of getting sick, from working at home remotely, or not being in school, millions of people have been affected, separated from their loved ones. Adult children have not seen their elderly parents in order to protect them, College kids haven’t seen their friends or been able to make new ones. Curfews, lockdowns, fear, and good judgement have isolated all of us from each other. I spent fifteen months of the last two years separated from my children, which was unimaginable to me before Covid. And even now, travelling to visit them, which I did once a month before is much more challenging and travel is often dangerous, or just before you’re about to see someone, they have been exposed to someone with Covid and are in quarantine and isolating. It is MUCH harder to see people now, and nearly impossible to have a social life. Going to parties isn’t wise, even if vaccinated, you think twice about inviting anyone to your home, and people are just tired of the cautions, restrictions and dangers, and it all becomes too complicated, so people wind up staying home alone.  It takes real effort and consideration to maintain connections with people. I think we’re all beginning to realize that solitude does take a tremendous toll, and we do need to make that effort to stay connected to others, we need to see our family and friends, those connections are important to all of us and our wellbeing, and I think we all need to make that extra effort so we aren’t lonely. The emotional and psychological effects of the pandemic are just as dangerous as the physical ones. It’s something to think about and be aware of as we start a new year. A promise to ourselves to stay connected to other people, so that the word lonely is no longer the first word we think of to describe ourselves and how we’re feeling.

 

I’m starting the year off working on two books, which is usually how I start every year: writing. It’s a good month to stay home and write. Writing is always isolating because you have to stay home alone to do it. But I am going to make more effort now to see people between books, as part of my own commitment to stay connected!!

 

My daughter Beatrix sent me a terrific quote today of Robin Williams. He was a lovely man, and I was lucky to know him. His son and my daughter dated all through high school, and my family has remained friends with his ever since. Robin was as funny in private as he was on screen, but the side of him I loved and always impressed me was that he was an absolutely wonderful father and adored his children. The quote my daughter sent me was “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always”/Robin Williams. It’s a good thing to keep in mind. Life is a daily battle to stay on course and keep your ahead above water, and in the pandemic, you have to fight that much harder.

 

I hope you have a wonderful, easy week, full of good news, good surprises, good times, and blessings.

 

Take Care. love, Danielle

12/31/21, Bye bye 2021 and Auld Lang Syne

Posted on December 31, 2021

 

Hi Everyone,

 

Well, we made it through another year, a challenging one—not quite as terrifying and devastating as 2020, but anxiety causing and pretty damn scary at times nonetheless.

 

2020 was a lonely year for me, locked down in France, far from my family for every holiday, in confinement most of the time, and isolation. I was alone for 10 months of 2020 and another 5 months into 2021. It was a huge challenge for me, having always been very close to my children, and away from them for a long time for the first time.

 

2021 was a lot happier, I got to see my kids again, and travelled to the States to see them four times, and was able to spend nearly five months with them, in the midst of their busy lives. I wrote more books in 2020, since I had nothing else to do, and was in solitary confinement for most of the year. But 2021 was less stressful and happier since I got to see my kids, and I did plenty of writing too.

 

And now here we are, we made it all the way through the year, with ups and downs, a year of vaccines for many, and hope for the world in this crazy unbelievable pandemic that has brought the entire world to a shrieking stop for nearly two years. How lucky we were not to live with this constant menace before. I believe that we will reach normalcy again, and it will have been hard won. But it has brought its share of blessings too.

 

I have never been a big fan of New Year’s Eve, people try too hard, expect too much, it’s dangerous on the roads, it’s usually rainy and cold and no fun to go out. I’ve always spent New Year’s Eves at home, either quietly with my husband and kids, or having friends in to dinner, a few years of poker parties I gave, which were a lot of fun, and in recent years, I’m always working on a book, after my kids leave after Christmas. I forget what day (and year) it is and get lost in the book.

 

And this year, I’ll be home with two of my daughters, enjoying a quiet evening at home. We can’t give big gatherings, and dont want to go to any, worrying about Covid, and rushing to get a test the next day.

 

The world is definitely in fragile shape, and we are living history that people will talk about for centuries. With the Covid numbers soaring beyond belief, it rattles me when I read them, and it scares all of us. But somehow, as we move on to a new year, I am grateful for the blessings that have happened to me in these turbulent years, the special friendships I have made in these two years, the people who have come into my life, and I have come to love, who have supported me through the lonely, scary times, and made me laugh and brought me comfort when I needed it most. I’m grateful for my old friends, my family, my homes. I am grateful for the hope buried deep in all of us that even dark times can’t extinguish. I am grateful for the good times that will come again, the happy days that lie ahead, and the healing of body and soul.

 

May this new year be an exceptionally great one for you, full of new adventures, unexpected blessings, true happiness, great good fortune, and good health. May this year make up to you for the pain and fear of the pandemic, and bring you solace, and enormous joy.

 

Wherever you are, whatever you do on New Year’s Eve, be safe, be warm, I hope you feel blessed and at peace. I’m grateful for my faithful readers, my children, my friends, all those I love—-thank you for the joy you have given me this year, and I look forward to the good times we will share in the year ahead. I feel certain that we will, and that good surprises are in store for all of us. Take good care and cherish the happy times!!!

 

Happy New Year, and all my love,

 

Danielle

 

12/21/21, Happy Christmas!!!

Posted on December 21, 2021

 

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’re doing well in these frantic last few days before Christmas, and today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. (I prefer the longest day of the year in June), but long winter nights can be cozy.

 

The new variant Omicron is causing lots of concern around the globe. The hope seems to be that although it’s possibly more contagious, hopefully it will be less deadly, and that the virus is getting weaker. It’s rotten luck that it’s gotten underway and is gaining speed right around the holidays. I was in New York a few days ago, where the numbers are high, and there was a feeling of panic in the air. It was extremely unnerving, my daughters and I cancelled all our plans, including a birthday celebration and dinner for one of them, but it just didn’t feel safe to any of us, even eating outdoors. Since then, I’ve cancelled my office Christmas party, and we have reduced our family Christmas day dinner to a gift exchange with masks and no meal, in order to be as safe as we can be.

 

But whatever the circumstances, I wish you a healthy, peaceful safe Christmas, with people you love and who love you. I wish you the warmth of friends, and the closeness of all whom you hold dear. I hope you have a very, VERY happy Christmas wherever you are, and whoever you spend it with!!!

 

with all my love,  Danielle

 

12/13/21, “Twas the week before Christmas…”

Posted on December 13, 2021

 

Hi Everyone,

 

The big countdown to the holidays is here, with all the stress of finding the right gifts, wrapping them (I lost a pair of scissors, wrapped into a gift this year), getting everything done, decorating a tree, trying to bring family together, see friends, and sometimes having to come face to face with family members you have old or new grievances with.  Even as adults, with all our childlike hopes, wishes, and needs laid bare, The holidays, whether Christmas or Hanukkah, can really put the heat on us, fray tempers and make some people dread the holidays. And while we fret or complain about our families, others are facing the holidays alone, which is infinitely harder.

 

With nine children, most of my holidays have been busy, love-filled, warm and loving, magical and fun. But not every Christmas looks like a Norman Rockwell Christmas card, and I easily remember the three hardest Christmases in my life. The first one came after my divorce. I had one child, moved to a distant, foreign city, and was alone with my five year old daughter, and on that first Christmas, I had to put her on a plane to spend our first Christmas post-divorce with her father, and I found myself in a new city, without friends or family, alone. It was lonely and tough. I spent the day reaching out to people I knew would be alone, mostly older people without families. The day ended with a warm feeling of community and having reached out to people who were deeply grateful that someone had remembered them.

 

Many years later, remarried, with nine children, the worst Christmas without question was three months after my son Nick had died. It was a brutally bleak time for us, but brought us even closer in the end. I organized a skating party for our family, and all of our friends with young children. It wasn’t easy but it remains a tender memory of a bittersweet time. And it came to me that Christmas to reach out to the homeless, cold and alone during Christmas. I filled a van with new sleeping bags and warm clothes and the night before Christmas eve, I drove around handing them out. that night changed my life, and reminded me how many people were in much worse shape than we were. I worked on the streets with the homeless for eleven years after that, which gave new meaning to my life, having lost a beloved son.

 

And Covid has added another layer of anxiety to our lives, many families have not seen each other for nearly two years now, and in some cases, beloved family members and friends have died. Last year was a deep learning experience for me. I married at 18, had my first child at 19, and went straight from my father’s home to my husband’s, and have never been alone again, even now I still have one daughter at home. But during the long lockdowns last year, I stayed in France and it was too dangerous to travel, and I found myself on Christmas last year, totally alone, 6,000 miles from my children, in an empty apartment. There was no voice, no sound, no Christmas carols, no shouts of delight on Christmas morning. I cant remember a lonelier day in my life than last Christmas, and with the time difference, I couldn’t even speak to my kids until 6 o’clock that night. But it was a deep lesson in gratitude and strength, in realizing how blessed I was in so many ways, and I survived Christmas and many months after far from my family. It will make me grateful for holidays with my family for many years. And it reminded me how many people spend the holidays alone for many, many years.

 

I read something recently that said “Christmas isn’t always what people expect, but it proves to be what we need.” I think that was so true. Spending Christmas entirely alone last year, without my children with me was a sharp reminder of how blessed I am.

 

So if Christmas is a challenge for you, not what you wish it were, and if your dreams aren’t shaping up quite right this year, there is always something to learn, and give and do for someone else. The lessons are hard sometimes, and solitude can be so painful, but the hard years are sometimes more meaningful than the easy ones. And the family members who are sometimes irritating, are a lesson and a blessing too. Christmas is a time for forgiveness, gratitude, and doing for others when we can. How many people do we all know who are sad and alone, and lonely, how many homeless people do we walk past every day?. And a touch, a smile, a moment spent, a call, a visit can make all the difference to someone alone, or even a stranger who may be desperate and in need. After my lockdown Christmas in France last year, I have deep respect for people who get through the holidays alone. It was one of the hardest days I have ever spent.

 

And even on the good years, we begin the holidays at -1, with my son Nick missing from our Christmas celebrations every year. But there is so much warmth and love and good will at our table and in our hearts, that in a way he has deepened Christmas for all of us, and made us grateful for the bond we share. Families are not always easy, but they are a great gift.

 

I read an article about Christmas after divorce, which is also a challenge. But even when a family has been divided, there is great love to share, and one is still a family whether separated or together. It is a time to be gentle if one can be, demonstrate as much forgiveness as one is able, and to cherish what we have.

 

Whether during the holidays, or at any other time, love is always the answer, whether your Great Aunt Tillie annoys you, or your Uncle Wilfred gets drunk at the table every year and is obnoxious, or your parents or children criticize you unfairly, or you’re in a marriage you hope to escape eventually, or have a disappointing girlfriend or boyfriend, or if you are entirely alone, —there is always some part of that that will bless you, if you can pour even a drop of love on the flames of what upsets you, it will surprise you and bless you in some way in the end. Kindness and gratitude go a long way, especially on the holidays, even if the turkey isn’t perfect, or if you are spending the day with the ‘turkeys’ who annoy you!!!

 

“When Love fills our hearts, we are regenerated and reborn. Our old life history with its twists and turns, happy and unhappy events, fades in the beauty of unconditional love.” And “We cannot find love, without unselfishness, meekness and integrity.  Our love will be a bright flame to others, to warm cold hearts, brighten hope, renew faith, and be transformed and newborn ourselves.”

 

Love is always the answer, as much as we can muster, and if we can love enough, and be generous enough in heart and spirit, it will change and brighten our holidays, and those of everyone around us.

 

It’s a big challenge to meet, and a life lesson to learn. It’s a learning process for all of us, to remember that Christmas isn’t just about the gifts we give, but about the gift we are to someone else, which in turn transforms them into a gift to us. I always discover Christmas surprises, from people who touch me, when I least expect it.

 

I wish you such wonderful holidays, and that the days leading up to them will be stress and anxiety-free. I hope that there is something you can be grateful for, and that you feel loved and not alone. I wish you so many blessings and the gift of love in your heart. Have a wonderful week full of happy moments and surprises.

 

With so much love, Danielle