Archive for the ‘Kids’ Category

12/27/22, Ring out the Old, bring in The New

Posted on December 29, 2022

Hello Everyone,

I hope that your holidays were happy and fulfilling, and at least came close to what you hoped they would be. Mine were wonderful because I spent them with many of my children. I saw ALL of my children just before the holidays, and visited them in their home cities. And we were only missing two at our Christmas table, which is not bad at all since 6 were there, and I had seen the other two just before. As I’ve been saying for the last 6 weeks, I toured around the country visiting my children before the holidays, and twelve family members stayed with me for Christmas, so the holidays were very merry this year. Compared to the only Christmas in my life I ever spent alone during the worst of the pandemic, six thousand miles from my children, this year was a real celebration, for which I am deeply grateful.

And considering that we spend months planning and preparing for them, the holidays fly by all too quickly. And a day or two after they end, the silence in the house is deafening, after a week of laughter and music, and having my children all around me. And now just a few days after Christmas I am back at work. I realized recently that my life has always been a merry go round of wearing different hats. The life of the mother of many children, and all the worrying, excitement, occasional drama, and errands that go with it. It has been my full time day and night job for all of my adult life, since I had my first child at nineteen (the same year I wrote my first book). So I have been a mother above all, with my kids and my family as my priority and where I spent the lion’s share of my time, running from one activity to another. And then there was always my ‘secret life’, the writing I did and loved, while everyone was asleep at night. I ran around with my kids by day, and once everyone was in bed, I wrote the books. it gave an additional adult dimension to my life, I had an additional occupation, to add to my life as a carpool/soccer Mom. And between books, I was an ordinary housewife, a role I’ve always really enjoyed. There is great satisfaction in having a list of tasks to do, and accomplishing most or all of them in the course of a day. You can actually SEE the results of what you planned to do—whereas it is years before you hold a finished book in your hand. My children gave me the greatest joy, my work has given me a sense of accomplishment, and my home gives me great satisfaction, making it a welcome place for all who come through our doors. And now once in a while, for a very short time, the magic dust of ‘stardom’ catches my attention for a moment, and always surprises me. It is the role I am least familiar with, and very quickly, with just a small dose of it, I skibble back to my role as a mother, or to my typewriter. The stardust of celebrity always feels unfamiliar to me and is a mystery, although I’m grateful that people like my books, and for my success.

And now, having come through Christmas, it will be New Year’s in a few days, which is always a time of taking stock, or where one’s life is, and if you’ve lived up to your expectations of yourself in the past year. It’s a time when one can promise oneself a better attitude, or better results, or being kinder, or braver. New Year’s is a time of introspection, and not just partying. With my children grown up and busy, I used to give New Year’s eve parties, and in recent years, I find it a great time to work. It’s cold outside, the weather is bad, everyone is tired after the holidays, and I have to admit, I’d rather be at home, working on a book than out partying and trudging through the snow to get there.

So ring out the old, and bring in the New….a new outlook, a new year, new hopes and expectations and dreams, and projects and plans. A new year is exciting, and it’s a way to turn the page, and start a new chapter—which I will literally be doing on new year’s eve!!!

I wish you a New Year’s eve that meets your expectations and is the way you want to spend it, out or at home, in a ballgown or pajamas. And I wish you a magnificent new year, bright shiny or new. Don’t give up your dreams, hang on to them, or dust them off and revive them, and may the new year fulfill all your hopes and expectations!!! May be it be a healthy, happy, fun, productive, exciting year for you, in the best possible way, and may the magic of a new year touch you and fill your heart with hope for the coming year.

May it be a year filled with joy, good luck, and happy times, surrounded by the people you love and who love you!!!

with all my love, Danielle

Filed Under Holidays, homes, Kids | 4 Comments

11/23/22, Thankful

Posted on November 23, 2022

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’re having a good Thanksgiving week, and have plans you are looking forward to on Thanksgiving, either hosting people at home, or going to someone else’s turkey dinner, with all the fixings.

What I like best about Thanksgiving (other than the stuffing, my favorite part of the meal) is that it is a holiday dedicated to being grateful for our blessings, and about reaching out to family and friends, and including them in our plans. But stopping to think about who and what we are grateful for always warms my heart and changes my perspective. I love the Melody Beattie quote “Gratitude can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, and a stranger into a friend.” It is precisely what Thanksgiving is about. And in the Bible it says that “God places the solitary in families”. I have found both of those quotes to be true.

The holidays can be challenging, but gratitude can put a whole different spin on things, and changes plans we are not so keen on, into very special times of joy and peace.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to reach out to people who may be lonely and alone, and include them in our plans, which is as much a blessing for us as it is for them.

I hope that your Thanksgiving will be filled with joy and special moments with family or friends.

Have a beautiful Thanksgiving Day, with an abundance of happiness and gratitude,

love, Danielle

9/19/22, A week of goodbyes

Posted on September 19, 2022

Hi Everyone,

I hope that the week has gone smoothly for you. In the UK, US, Europe, and countries around the world, the news is full of the ceremonies and tributes to the late Queen Elizabeth the II. Her seventy year reign has left her subjects deeply saddened to lose her, and she has touched hearts around the world with her deep devotion to her duty and her subjects. She began as one of the youngest queens at twenty five, and ended as one of the oldest still working queens at ninety six. And whatever one’s politics, her humanity touched millions as much as her majesty. And all of the ceremonies paying tribute to her are deeply touching, as Queen, mother, grandmother, great grandmother. Beyond the pomp and ceremony and traditions is the love of her country and the admiration of the entire world, and the loved ones she left behind who are moving through the proceedings with dignity and grace.

The world will be watching her funeral today, and it must be exhausting and emotionally draining for her family to share their grief so publicly, while honoring her.

I have an odd tie to the date, which is emotional for me as well. On Tuesday, the day after the Queen’s funeral is the anniversary of the death of my son Nick. It’s a hard day for my family every year. He died at nineteen, by suicide, after a lifetime of bi polar disease. He was a brave, wonderful, brilliant, talented, funny adorable boy, and although we miss him every day, these anniversary days are always particularly hard. You never get used to them. There is no easy way to spend these days. I usually try to spend part of the day with some of my children, but on some years that’s complicated, and I will be alone on his anniversary date this year, the day after the Queen’s funeral. And tuesday will be a quiet day for me, with thoughts of Nick, and memories of a very challenging day. We have honored his memory with a foundation dedicated to funding organizations that provide hands on treatment to people who suffer from mental illness. And all we can do is remember those we have lost on these anniversaries, cherish their memories, remember the wonderful times we shared and go forward into the future, doing good for others in their name.

Whether as public as the Queen’s funeral, or as private as my son Nick’s anniversary, they are days filled with the love that we shared with them in their lifetimes, may they be long remembered for the joy they gave us and the love and blessings we shared.

I hope it will be a peaceful week for you, with much love, Danielle

5/25/22, AGAIN?

Posted on May 25, 2022

 

Hi Everyone,

 

Serious times. Tragic Times. Columbine….Sandy Hook….and now Uvalde….so many other schools….so many children…..so many others, in grocery stores, in churches, in subways, in parks, on the streets….gunned down, because the weapons were available. It’s about inadequate mental health care, about greed and commerce, about a highly profitable lethal industry, and those who defend it. I don’t care about politics. I care about children and other humans, whatever their color or nationality. I ache for the grieving parents whose worst nightmare just happened. I have buried a son. I know their pain, I’ve lived it.

 

When did children become expendable, when did we stop protecting them, and why? Why wasn’t more done after Sandy Hook, as those parents live with a weight on their hearts forever. In Ukraine children are being bombed and mowed down, infants have been killed, and in schools all around this country. Children used to have fire drills, now they have drills about what to do when a gunman enters their school. They live with fear and survive trauma. Will they be the lucky ones who survive, or the tragedy of those who don’t. Why are the shooters not singled out and stopped sooner. Why are the weapons so readily available? The tragedies are too numerous now to remember…Las Vegas….the school shooting years ago in an Amish school, committed on peaceful unarmed people. Parents drop their children off at school now not knowing if their precious babies will be coming home. What world are they growing up in where violence is commonplace?. And some of our braver lawmakers have said “What are we doing? Why is this happening? Why is no one acting to stop it?” Questions we have to ask ourselves. High school students blame us for not doing more to protect them, and they’re right. These very young children at Uvalde, and at Sandy Hook had no voice to accuse us with, to ask the hard questions. It is OUR job to protect them, and we are failing abysmally. If we go to the grocery store, or the hardware store, or to church on Sunday, we don’t know if we will be gunned down while buying a loaf of bread.

 

We MUST protect the children and each other….We nurture our children and love them and teach them, and guard their health and get them vaccines against diseases…..and this scourge, this plague is far worse than any other and more destructive. And we will go to bed tonight, knowing that a mother’s heart is aching in Texas after the worst day of her life. Twenty one of them. We must do more than mourn them. We need to change things, to make a difference, to not just roll the dice every morning and hope that our kids will come home from school today. We need action and commitment and courage. When our children were born, we vowed to protect them. And then one deranged person changes everything….with a gun, and bullets. There aren’t enough tears in the world to wash our consciences clean, of all that we haven’t done to change it.

 

A tragedy like this cant happen again.  Those children deserved to grow old, to have children and grandchildren one day. We are all responsible for their deaths, because we have done nothing to stop it. May all of the children who have died as victims of these tragedies live forever in our hearts, and it’s up to us to save their sisters and brothers, protect them, and make it a safe world.

 

with all my love, Danielle

 

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

 

5/5/22, Mothers

Posted on May 5, 2022

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope that all is well with you, and that things are returning to normal after the pandemic. I keep hearing about how things have changed, familiar businesses have disappeared, new employees are hard to come by, many people have changed jobs, or haven’t found new jobs yet to replace their old ones. Every time I need something repaired, at home, or with my car, I’m told how difficult it is to get parts. (I have been waiting for a replacement refrigerator since last August, and I’ve now been told that I wont have it before September. Over a year to get a new fridge). My florist can no longer get certain flowers. Caterers that were easy to come by and ready to take on any event, no longer have the staff they did before and turn down parties because they just don’t have the experienced servers to staff them, and new staff no longer want to work the same demanding hours, and wont work on holidays.  I have been helping one of my children refurbish a house, and shopping recently at popular furniture brands, half the merchandise had been discontinued and the rest was back ordered for many months. What should have been easy to accomplish was much harder than expected, and before the pandemic. I was stunned, and imports are sitting in containers on long delayed ships. And my publishers, one of the largest in the world, are still not back in their offices, and all their employees are working from home. And in spite of less service, and very delayed deliveries, prices seem to have gone up across the board. Everything is more expensive than before. So other than our concerns about our health, whether consumer, vendor, or employer, the ripple effect of the aftermath of Covid is affecting us all.

 

This Sunday is Mother’s Day—-with nine (adult) children, it is still one of my favorite holidays!!! I love it. My mother left when I was 7 years old, and I grew up alone with my father, so there were many instances in my own childhood, when I was without a mother. But it’s interesting how life provides what we need. Throughout my life, there have always been older women who filled parts of that role for me. A truly wonderful stepmother from the time I was sixteen, and a one time friend of my mother’s whom I connected with later in life and was also an extraordinary mother figure for me. And throughout my life, there was always one or several women who fulfilled a motherly role for me, and one or two who still do even now and have served as role models in my life.

 

Being a mother is an extraordinary honor and privilege, and has been the greatest joy in the world for me, more powerful than any other. It is a special bond, which doesn’t always go smoothly, but can be one of the sweetest relationships in the world and an incredible blessing. Motherhood is not for everyone, and for some it is a form of bondage that weighs heavily. Too often one hears that things will change someone for the better when they have children. I don’t believe in that theory. Some women know that they are not cut out to be mothers, and I respect that point of view entirely. Some women live to become mothers and thrive once they are, others dread it and see it as an intolerable burden. Those women are wise not to have children, going counter to one’s nature about something so important rarely has a happy result for mother or child. And many women also grieve and feel incomplete if they can’t have children. But having benefitted so richly from generous women who took me into their hearts to fulfill a motherly role for me, I can say with certainty that even women who are not biological mothers can play a hugely important part in someone’s life in a motherly role that is mutually fulfilling for both and can be as close, or even closer at times, as ‘real’ motherhood.

 

So I celebrate all kinds of mothers on Mother’s Day, whether biological or adopted, or a warm affectionate relationship that can change someone’s life forever for the better. you can make an enormous difference in someone’s life in a motherly role, whether you gave birth to them or not, and whether official or not. It was certainly true for me growing up, and even now.

 

So happy Mother’s Day to Mothers of all kinds and natures. Being a mother is not an easy role, although to some it comes more naturally than others. And sometimes the closest of mothers and daughters can encounter bumps and challenges and friction in their relationships. Love is always the answer, even at the hardest times. And a child who appears to hate you at one time in your relationship may be the child you will be closest to one day.’ Motherhood is not for sissies’, whether real or adopted. And even if it doesn’t always feel that way, and there may be disappointing times, it is always a blessing and a learning process that benefits everyone. No one can humble us or hurt us like our children, or give us as much joy.

 

I hope you have a wonderful mother’s day, and can celebrate it with the mothers and daughters in your life, whether ‘official’ children or not. I hope it will be a happy day for you!!!

 

Have a great week, 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.

 

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

 

 

11/22/21, Thanksgiving

Posted on November 22, 2021

 

Hi Everyone,

 

It’s a big week this week. The beginning of the holidays, and things are liable to get hectic from now until the end of the year. Tomorrow is an exciting day for me with my new hardcover coming out, “Flying Angels”, it’s a carefully researched historical novel, about the nurses who flew military missions in World War II, to rescue wounded soldiers from the front lines. The missions were extremely dangerous, and many of the brave women who flew those missions gave their lives to rescue the wounded men. The nurses on those flight missions were among the unsung heroes of World War II, and it took the military and the government another two decades to recognize them as the courageous heroes they were, and finally acknowledge and decorate them. It was a wonderful, exciting book to write, and I hope you love it as much as I do. I fell in love with the characters in the book, and I hope you will too.

 

Although holidays can be challenging for everyone for a variety of reasons, either being alone, not having a family, or being far from home. I got a taste of that last year myself, in spite of having a big family. I was alone in France during the pandemic, and it was too dangerous to come home, so for the first time in my life, I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas entirely alone, and it was incredibly hard, which makes me all the more grateful to be with my family for the holidays this year and it gave me a first hand view of how hard it is to be alone for the holidays.

 

Even surrounded by family, the holidays can be dicey and stressful for everyone, if things don’t work out as we plan, or if old problems have not been resolved and surface at family gatherings. But I find Thanksgiving very special, it’s a holiday meant to celebrate gratitude for the food on our table, the people around us, the blessings we have. It’s a time to quietly take stock, and be grateful for as much as we can. Sometimes we don’t even realize how blessed we are, and if we can be grateful for even the smallest thing, it gives the holiday real meaning. And reaching out to family and friends, and including people at our table is part of it. With the vaccines that have become part of our lives, we are able to share our holidays with family and friends again, while still respecting the safety measures that are still important, in order to protect all of us, whether testing before gathering, or wearing masks until we eat, and being careful not to expose anyone unduly, and being vaccinated if we can be.

 

I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving, and a wonderful day. And I hope that you will be able to gather with the people you care about and who care about you.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!!

 

love, Danielle

 

11/15/21, Gratitude

Posted on November 15, 2021

 

Hi Everyone,

 

Last week was a busy one, as the holidays approach, editing a book, and travelling, and just keeping up with work, doing big and small projects. I find many people tense and anxious, maybe with pre-holiday anxieties, holidays can be emotionally charged for many (most?) people, and many people seem to have shorter fuses than usual. It’s a good reminder to stop and take a deep breath, appreciate beauty and kindness where you find it, and to remember that everyone is stressed at this time of year. I was dealing with an inexplicably undelivered package by Fed Ex, which I am still fighting to retrieve (unsuccessfully so far), and the same petty aggravations and worries we all deal with, which can make daily life a challenge and eat up our time, and can spoil a day. The challenge is to remember our blessings, and be grateful for the things that go right, instead of wrong.

 

I watched my favorite series, New Amsterdam, wrote my Christmas cards, and was lucky enough to share in a wonderful spiritual meeting I participate in every year, which gets me back on the right track. And I was able to spend a few minutes with two daughters and one son, and two days with my two daughters in New York. They all have full, busy lives, and it’s a gift to share whatever time they can spare. At their ages, the last thing I wanted to do was spend time with my parents, so it’s a gift that they spend time with me at all.

 

The Covid numbers seem to be rising steadily all over the world, which is worrisome, and it’s a reminder to us all to still be careful, wear masks when it is wise to do so, or required. The vaccines appear to have lowered the number of deaths, but the number of cases is rising nonetheless. Let’s hope the number of cases doesn’t continue to increase. Our family will gather for Thanksgiving for the first time in two years, with all members of the family vaxxed, and Covid tests taken beforehand, with masks worn when appropriate, and social distancing respected. Our gatherings cant be as carefree as they used to be, but for the last 20 months we have shared no holidays at all, so it will be a huge blessing to be together. It still shocks me to realize that we have lost nearly two years out of our lives, focused intensely on staying healthy, and trying to avoid Covid. And the effects of the last two years have impacted us all.

 

What I like best about Thanksgiving is that aside from the traditional food everyone loves, the turkey, the stuffing, the mince, apple, pecan and pumpkin pies—–it is a holiday dedicated to being thankful, to gratitude for our blessings, large and small. We can’t always be with the people we love on the holidays, and families don’t always get along, but it is a day, and a time when it’s good to remember all the things we all have to be grateful for. It’s a great thing to remember. Gratitude changes one’s outlook about everything, it shifts the perspective to thinking about the people we are grateful for in our lives. It’s a time to reach out to family, friends, and people who are alone, and hold out a hand to them, a time for forgiveness, compassion, and gratitude.

 

I hope this week leading up to Thanksgiving will be a peaceful one for you, and you’ll have time to enjoy the holiday the week after, with whoever you spend it with. And even if things don’t go exactly as you hope, maybe this year it will be your turn to be a blessing to someone else.

 

Have a great week!!! full of unexpected blessings and happy moments,

 

love, Danielle