Archive for the ‘Kids’ Category

2/10/20, The Big V

Posted on February 10, 2020

 

Hello Everyone,

 

I hope you had a good week, and a busy one, and this is a big week for some people, for many people: Valentine’s Day!!! My week is off to a great start: today, Monday, is the birthday of my youngest son, Maxx. He was the best Valentine’s Day gift, EVER!!! So Happy Birthday, Maxx!! We’ll be having dinner together tonight, with our family. And Friday will be a very big day for some people, and a lucky one. Valentine’s Day can go either way, it can be memorable and heartwarming, a non-event, or even heart-wrenching and disappointing.  That all depends on who you love, and whether they come through and make an effort or not. This is a particularly interesting year for Valentine’s Day since it’s Leap Year, and according to tradition, a woman can propose to a man on Leap Day, February 29th (which only happens once every four years), so hang onto your hat, here comes Valentine’s Day.

 

I have always believed, particularly in my writing, that people haven’t changed in centuries, nor the issues that really matter to us: concern for our kids, the importance of our loves, our relationships, our worries about jobs, money, friends, family, health, the loss of loved ones, etc. The costumes may change over time, but the things we care about haven’t changed, although more complicated in modern times. It’s what makes my books timeless, because we care about all those same things, just as our ancestors did.

 

A couple of things have changed noticeably in very recent times, which make love, or relationships, challenging to find.  It’s more about how we meet each other than how much we love each other.  Most people today, especially ‘Millennials’ (in their twenties and thirties) want jobs with ‘flexible hours’, which means working all or mostly from home, which sounds cool at first, and has its definite downsides. It used to be when you went to school or university, you met and saw lots of people every day, the influx of people in your life was constant, lots of people in and out, and lots of opportunities to make new friends and fall in love. The same was true at work, depending on your job, there was a constant flow of new faces, new people, new opportunities. Today, many people get an education on line, and many, many people work from home. It’s considered desirable. No fuss, no muss, no bother, you don’t have to wear makeup, look nice or even comb your hair. You can work at home in your pajamas with your computer, but the downside to that is huge: you are isolated and alone, no new people in your life, or very few. And most communication happens by text now: so not even a human voice all day. The result is that many more people are depressed because of that isolation. And I know how challenging working like that is. Because I work at home in my pajamas too. It’s certainly convenient, and I get a lot of work done, but the isolation can be very challenging. And it’s not necessarily good for us when the only person we see all day is the Fed EX or UPS delivery person to sign for a package!!! And a big source of new people (and potential loves) is removed when you work at home. And there is no one there, not even a friend of the same sex or semi-stranger to say that you look great today, or even ask you how you are. We all need an influx of humans and human contact in our lives.

 

The second big change of style is again very typical of Millennials, but has spread to many/all generations. Since the traditional ways to meet people have changed (school and work), and computers and the Internet have taken over our lives, a LOT of people meet now on line. That is a HUGE change in our habits and mores now, for everything!!! You don’t have to go to a store, you can buy anything you want on line, from groceries to cars. You can find a new home, do all your shopping, meet a new person and fall in love, all on the Internet. I have personally always thought internet meeting and dating extremely dangerous—-there are some seriously terrifying, dangerous and even criminal people out there, and there is no screening process, you can meet an axe murderer—but you can meet scary people at a dinner party too, or on a bus. But what internet shopping and dating has changed is how we view the selection process. And I do know several people, at every age, who have met and married as a result of on line dating, and are very happy. But I’ve also watched people, again at every age, swipe their way through the process at full speed. This is a visual generation that moves fast, look, check out, like, don’t like, move on at lightning speed. It’s kind of a merciless unforgiving process….”Ugh….don’t like his/her ears….chin…nose….too fat…tooo short….too tall….looks dumb…yuk, bald….or weird hair….wrong neighborhood….” It sucks the humanity right out of human contact, I can’t even focus fast enough to make decisions that fast at the speed they do. You don’t hear a voice, you don’t see them move, you don’t feel that incredible flutter in your stomach when someone different and special walks into a room. If they don’t pass muster in a fraction of a second before you swipe on to the next one with better hair and a better chin, they’re dead in the water, and gone forever off your screen. I find that scary and incredibly limiting. It’s like shopping for fruit in the produce section….too soft, too hard, too green, too ripe….gone. Wow!!! You will never know who they really are at that kind of speed. While not wasting a second, we are losing life-altering opportunities. We learn to forgive people their funny ears, or thinning hair because they have qualities we learn to love, that just don’t show up between swipes in an 80th of a second.  The three men I have loved, and was married to for a relatively long time in each case (9, 8, and 18 years) stopped me in my tracks when I met them, they each had something very special, an ephemeral quality, an unseen chemistry, and I knew each of them for a long time (years) before anything happened between us (but there was always that chemistry, that feeling that they were important and special to me, which eventually proved to be true, and I loved them deeply).

 

Relationships happen so fast now, they start while you’re internet shopping for them between swipes, begin by text, and often end by text just as quickly. In this case, I like the old style better, it’s way more romantic. And I’m sure people would swipe by me just as fast.  Too fast for all of us. It eliminates that chemistry when you see them, meet them, and hear the sound of their voice, and everything depends on their nose, their chin, or the tee shirt they’re wearing in the picture (ugh, I hate that band!!), so you miss a great opportunity. Personally, I need human contact, chemistry, and lots of time to really get to know them before I love someone.

 

So that’s what you’re up against this Valentine’s Day, a lot more isolation these days, thus fewer opportunities, and you have to hope someone doesn’t swipe past your picture at full speed because you were having a bad hair day in the picture or wearing that sweater you knew you shouldn’t have bought but you did anyway. Or because the details about you don’t sound so great on paper (or on a screen), but you’re a fantastic love-worthy person!!!

 

I hope you get LOTS of chocolates and flowers—-I was proposed to twice on Valentine’s Day, and my youngest son proposed to his fiancée on Valentine’s Day. Those were the best ones ever for me, romantic and wonderful. And I’ve had my share of disappointing, lonely Valentine’s Days too, most of us have. I hope that this is your best one ever, that the person you love loves you equally, and is thoughtful and kind, and I hope all your dreams come true!!!

This Valentine’s Day and always, With lots of Valentine love to you,   Danielle

 

12/30/19, Happy New Year

Posted on December 30, 2019

 

Hi Everyone,

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

love, Danielle

 

12/2/19, Juggling Act

Posted on December 2, 2019

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope that everything is going smoothly in your life, getting ready for the holidays.

 

With Christmas only three weeks away, I was sitting quietly last night, thinking about all the things I have to do. I try very hard to be organized, which is the only way I managed with nine children, when they were younger, more than one house to run even now, and many books to write. I’m not as busy as I was when my kids were little, but things have a way of evening out. I write more books now, and Christmas shopping for my kids is more complicated and more of a challenge than spending an afternoon at Toys R Us, as I did then. (Not to mention putting all the toys together, which took hours—-and an engineering degree I didn’t have!!!). But Christmas and the holidays aren’t just about Christmas shopping. It’s about entertaining friends, preparing certain traditional foods. We used to bake brownies for all the kids’ friends and teachers, put them in pretty tins and deliver them. Writing the Christmas cards, going to school performances if you have young children. The list is endless of what many people do before the holidays. When I look back at all I did when my children were really young, I have no idea how I did it. Especially times Nine!!!

 

I think domestic tasks are more evenly divided now between men and women than they used to be, or at least I like to think so. With a husband who was of another generation then, he was not an active participant in household chores or Christmas preparations, although he loved Christmas. Sometimes I wonder if people realize all that women do by the time the turkey is on the table and the tree is decorated,  all the gifts are wrapped, and the Christmas music is playing. I was lucky in two things, or many things, but one is that I worked at home, on my own schedule, so I could work at night when the kids were asleep, and I was also lucky in that I don’t need a lot of sleep. I still do many things at night, because there are fewer interruptions, and I love to write at night, for the same reason, few interruptions. But as a working woman, the bulk of holiday tasks still falls to us, and somehow it’s expected. We shop for the gifts, and wrap them, if there’s cooking to be done, we do it (lucky for my family, I don’t, but I used to. I am not an outstanding chef, and never was). I did the Christmas cards, the baking (I’m a fairly decent baker). I went to every Christmas school performance, AND auditions, sports games, and all activities, not to mention the orthodontist, doctors’ appointments, and less exciting tasks even right before the holidays. And when the dogs had to go to the vet, I took them. My point is that women have always done an incredible number of ‘unofficial’ jobs, while holding down a real job, and taking care of children.

 

It’s true all year, not just during the holidays. My generation was told that we could “have it all”, an active satisfying, challenging career, AND a family. Women in earlier generations had to make a choice between family and career. We decided, and I did too, that we could have both, and succeed at both. And many women did. What no one told you were the sacrifices you’d have to make, the things you would simply not have time to do if you chose to “have it all”. I used my kids’ school hours to write my books, as well as writing at night. I don’t think I had lunch with a single friend for twenty years, until my kids grew up, and even now I rarely do. (It cuts right into the middle of the day and interrupts my work, to take the time to dress nicely, go somewhere, eat lunch, and get back. it takes 3 or 4 hours out of my work day, even if I enjoy it). I never had time to read a magazine when they were little, and fewer books than I liked. I had worked in advertising as a copywriter, and as a high school teacher, and was able to give that up and work at home on the books before I was thirty. But working at home meant juggling all the household and family tasks, AND doing my job of writing. I wore my hair long and pulled back because I rarely had time to get to the hairdresser. I loved to go shopping, but had little time for that. I think most men, and women who have opted for careers and not kids, don’t realize all the things you don’t have time to do for yourself if you have a family and a job. And they still ask “Have you done the Christmas cards yet?” I don’t know a single man who does them. There’s a lot you can do on the Internet now, but I think as women we take pride in doing the things that are supposedly part of our ‘job’, as mothers and partners. Most of us like doing those things, even if it means that we skip doing something for ourselves. I am amazed at all that I see women do, for their partners and families, and the sacrifices they make without a whimper. They really are the unsung heroes of our busy times.

 

I recently spoke to a female friend who is the head of a conglomerate of 5 publishing houses in France. She works incredibly hard, is married, and has two young children in lower school. It was midnight when we were speaking. She had been to three different book fairs that week in other cities. And while we were talking, she was making lasagna for a class event at her daughter’s school, and had a breakfast meeting with an author the next day.

 

I salute these brave busy women who do so much that no one even notices, and rarely thanks them for. No one realizes all the personal time they give up to do something for themselves that they might enjoy. Most of them don’t complain, they don’t remind us of all they do, whether during the holidays or during the rest of the year. Sometimes women really are heroes, for what they give up, for all they do, and for the incredible juggling acts they manage, to make their families and friends happy. My own life is a lot easier now, but I remember so well the many nights I fell into bed exhausted, or wanted to, but I still had a Halloween costume to make, or a doll house to decorate with tiny little rugs and miniature furniture, so it would be ready on Christmas.

 

So for those of you racing around madly, with no time for yourselves, doing everything—–I salute you with the greatest respect and endless admiration. It really is a juggling act, and in the end, even with little or no praise for it, it is well worth it. There is an enormous satisfaction that comes from it in the long run, and precious memories. I don’t regret a single lunch with a friend that I gave up, and the memories of the baking, making, and running around to make the holidays a success are a tender memory now.

 

Have a wonderful week, and even if you are racing at full speed, doing things for everyone else—take just a minute to do something for yourself!!!

 

much 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

 

 

9/30/19, Deadliest Summer

Posted on September 30, 2019

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’ve had a good week, I’ve been busy, with fall projects in full swing, and deep in writing mode.

 

I was in New York to see my daughters last weekend, and was shocked to read a cover story on the New York Times, written by Mitch Smith. Whatever one’s beliefs, religious convictions, or none, or political interests or not, or affiliations, from a purely human point of view, the article was shocking in the simplicity and direct hit of facts it listed. It stunned me into silence, no morning chit chat is possible with an article like that in hand. The list of tragic facts was chilling, and has weighed on me since I read it. The subject is not new to any of us, but the increase in violence this summer is heart breaking, and deserves a great deal of thought, and some comment.

 

The article informed us that between Memorial Day and Labor Day, almost exactly 3 months, there were 26 mass shootings in the US. 126 people died and dozens more were injured. If you average it out, that’s approximately one mass shooting every three days. The victims ranged in age from 3 to 90 years old. And I read somewhere else that the shooters ranged from 14 to someone in their 60’s. The article also stated that “in three out of four of the deadliest killings, military style weapons were used.” And “all of the suspects were male”, in each case the authorities identified a suspect. (And I believe that in several cases, the killers killed themselves after shooting their victims, and in more than half the mass killings, the shooter killed a family member or previous love interest, so there was a personal element as well, while innocent victims got caught in the cross fire and were killed too).

 

Twenty six mass shootings this summer. One every three days. The shootings are unpredictable, they happen in churches, in schools, on the street, in public places, in homes. Some seem meticulously planned, others appear to be an instantaneous loss of control or sanity, and they then kill innocent victims. Terrorism entered our lives with 9/11, political in goal and intent, the American public became the victims of a previously unseen enemy on their own turf. Eighteen years later, buying groceries has become high risk, going to a sports event or a concert perhaps unwise, just walking down the street, or going shopping can lead to one’s death. There is no way to predict who is safe and who isn’t. We’ve heard teenagers address us after their schools were attacked, we’ve seen the bodies of kindergartners covered with tarps after a rampage at their school. The weapons are an issue, but there is so much more involved here. In fact, none of us are safe. It could happen to you or me, or our children, or any of our loved ones, today, or three days from now, in the next killing spree. What has happened to us—-both to the shooters and the rest of us? As we stand by, and watch disturbed individuals shatter lives and families. How have we degenerated to such a degree that 26 mass shootings in a 3 month summer is something we live with, accept, and know will happen again tomorrow and the next day.

 

There is indeed terrorism in Europe, it’s almost always political. But what’s happening in the US has a different feel to it—there is a random quality to it, it is expected and almost casual. We go on after each killing and nothing changes. And we know it will happen again. People in Europe talk about how dangerous the US has become, and living in both places, I have to agree. I try to stay out of the obviously dangerous places where terrorists might strike in Europe, big gathering places: sports stadiums, movie houses, night clubs, I stopped going to big churches for a while, and only went to small neighbourhood ones. Terrorism has impacted all of us when we travel, as we stand on long security lines at the airport waiting to be searched. But the violence we live with now is more of an everyday occurrence. We are in danger when we walk down the street, when we buy a loaf of bread, when we stop in a supermarket to buy a magazine, in a small store or a big one, we can be killed anywhere, or the child we love whose hand we are holding. Children have drills now to prepare them if someone enters their school to kill them. We’ve all seen it and read about it.

 

The reality of the situation is overwhelming. Truly. The faces of the dead in the newspapers are all too real. Religious people pray about it, politicians talk about it, frightened parents talk to each other and hope their children won’t be the next victims. New laws are discussed, and old ones are supported. Both sides of the political argument cancel each other’s voices out, and no solution comes. What are we going to DO about it? Are we going to do anything? Will we and our children ever be safe again on our streets and in our grocery stores, at the post office, or in an airport. Where are we safe now? And will we ever be again?

 

In Smith’s article, Rev Renard D. Allen jr, a pastor in Dayton Ohio is quoted as saying, “The world we live in now is one in which no place is safe, no lives really matter, when it comes to violence.” that’s a damning statement for and about all of us.

 

I think we all have some serious thinking to do about how to change our world, how to be safe, how to protect ourselves and our loved ones, how to change what has become so commonplace and made it the deadliest summer. We will need wisdom, courage, patience and strength to make the changes that will make us safe again. We need to be fully awake to the dangers we live with now every single day. And I pray that a summer like this will never happen again.

 

 

Have a safe week,

 

 

love, Danielle

 

Filed Under Current Events, Kids | 3 Comments

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

 

 

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

 

 

7/8/19, Summer Vacation

Posted on July 9, 2019

 

Hello Everyone,

 

I hope you’re well, happy, busy, and maybe already enjoying some time off on vacation. And I hope you had a great 4th of July!!!

 

I have been in and out of some breathtaking heat waves in the last couple of weeks. Some record breaking temperatures (without air conditioning!!!), and I was working on a book in dizzying heat, but managed to get through it, though slower than usual!!!

 

I’ve been enjoying a series on Netflix, “The Bletchely Circle”, about a group of women spies in England, right after World War II, solving mysteries for the police. Really a fun show. And I have a stack of books to read when I take a break, although I’ll be starting another book soon. And my new hardcover has been out for 2 weeks, “Lost and Found”, about a road trip to revisit old loves—it seems like just the right book for summer.  I hope you read it soon when you have time!!!

 

I’m currently on vacation with four of my children (that’s half my kids), my youngest ones, with their partners, which is really fun. Good meals and some lazy hot summer days. Just a brief week, which is all we can manage together now, between their demanding jobs and mine. But I’m grateful for every day I get with them. I look forward to this time with them all year. This week and a long weekend in August will be my only time off all summer/all year. Not a lot of time together, but wonderful. Lunch and dinner together every day, some swimming and sunning, lots of good conversations. I feel very lucky, and very grateful to have this time with them.

 

I hope that you’re doing something fun too, and get some time off for vacation soon!!!

 

I’ll be back at work soon, and the vacation will be a dim memory. It does make me long for the days when I took the whole summer off with my kids, and we had more time together. But I’m grateful for whatever time I get!!!

 

Take good care!! and have a great week, love, Danielle