Archive for the ‘Paris’ Category

10/18/21, Nose to the Grindstone

Posted on October 18, 2021

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you had a good week last week. I am crazy busy, writing. Just finished a set of galleys, then worked hard on a new outline. Now I’m doing a rewrite for a second draft, after which I’m going to write a first draft for another book. All back to back. It is a LOT of work. But I love doing it, which helps!!!

 

Yesterday, was the Paris marathon, with thousands of people crowding the streets, no one wearing masks. It was unnerving seeing them, and wondering if an event like that will start a new wave of Covid. It seemed so incredibly irresponsible, despite their enthusiasm. It just seems too soon for a huge crowd like that with no precautions.  And one of the big art shows in Paris opened today. I would love to go, I go every year, but I don’t think that’s sensible either, so I’m not going. I still think we need to be careful, and big crowds still don’t feel smart.

 

I’m not taking time to play right now, with so much work to do. It’s nose to the grindstone time, and I hope that by next week I’ll have lots of work done. Have a terrific week, and I hope you’ll have some fun this week.

 

love, Danielle

10/4/21, Fun is Back!!!!

Posted on October 4, 2021

 

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you had a great week, and you’re feeling alive and energized after the summer (although I hear it’s still warm in New York, and I’m slightly jealous, since it’s already chilly in my other cities, but the cool air does wake one up, and makes the pace faster).

 

I had a great week, and had visits from three of my daughters, it was absolutely wonderful to see them, and we had a terrific time, with some quiet down time, and some running around, and many meals out (at outdoor restaurants). After the lockdowns due to Covid last year, after being separated from my family for 15 months, every moment with them is even more precious than before, AND after sitting around at home for months, during the worst of Covid (with 6pm curfews, and restaurants closed for 9 months in France), the three major spikes, the whole year before vaccines made things somewhat safer, and 6 or 7 months of lockdowns, with solitude and isolation—-just going out to dinner now, feels like a major fiesta!!! I really missed my family, and seeing friends during Covid, so dinner out with a friend, or one or two of my daughters (which I did this week, but still with Covid precautions, at outdoor restaurants) felt fantastic!!!

 

Last week and this is Fashion Week in Paris, which I have told you about before. It is a week of fashion shows by French designers (for Paris fashion week, at New York fashion week it’s American designers, in Milan it’s Italian Fashion designers, and London….it is actually Fashion Month!!! in 4 different cities). Each designer gives a fashion show of next season’s fashions (so we just saw Spring clothes). It is a super busy vibrant busy event, with several fashion shows a day, by invitation, and big parties at night. Fashion shows have been virtual during the pandemic, and this is the first Fashion Week in a year and a half with live spectators. I will confess that I personally am not ready to attend live fashion shows in crowded locations, with thousands of people attending in many cases. But many people feel comfortable going, so there are many, many spectators, and parties afterwards. (Which I’m not doing yet either. Next year!!) But with all of those fashion shows happening, international press everywhere, and spectators from the fashion world (editors, buyers, etc.), the atmosphere in the city is electric and jubilant, and the ‘In’ trendy restaurants are full to the rafters. After 18 months of a VERY quiet life, going to a restaurant now has become super exciting. I went to 4 of the most popular restaurants with my daughters, and it is definitely alive and fun, designers are there, big editors, celebrities, movie stars. I saw Yoji Yamamoto in a restaurant, and many celebrities. Actors, supermodels, handsome men, beautiful women, big celebrities, wannabes galore, women in tiny sequined shorts with 7-inch heels, or towering platforms, in a few chic outfits, and some seriously inappropriate ones. The trendy restaurants were exploding with humanity. I kept my mask on until I ate, and put it back on when I was finished eating. My children kept telling me I was staring—but who wouldn’t??!!! And it was so much fun to be out in a place where there were good looking people are wearing some very far out clothes, some gorgeous outfits, some crazy ones. It was way more fun people watching than in my apartment for the last 18 months!!!

 

And in the spirit of it, I wore a new pair of jeans with sequins and beads on them, and a pair of shoes entirely covered with little pieces of mirrors. Way jazzier than I usually wear, but why not?? And afterwards, when I went home, I felt like Cinderella after the ball, minus one glass slipper. It was just me and the dogs, another quiet night with a stack of work on my desk.  Blue was under the weather for 2 days with a stomach upset, so after the fun dinners out, babysitting a sick dog is considerably less fun, making sure she eats her rice, and a stack of work waiting on my desk.

 

The other fun thing this week was the art installation by the late artist Christo.  They wrapped the Arc de Triomphe in shimmery fabric and tied it with red cords, like a giant package. It’s interesting to see!!!

 

We’re still wearing masks. and eating at outdoor restaurants, but eating at an outdoor restaurant is definitely more exciting with fun people to watch while you’re dining. Covid is not over, but it’s better, and that’s a start, and I was getting blasé about Fashion Week for a while. But nothing is blasé now, it all feels new and fresh after Covid.

 

It’s not a highly intellectual activity, but it sure was fun to have a rest from all the grim seriousness of the past eighteen months, Fashion Week was a joy, and people watching was fun And getting to wear my sparkly rhinestone and beaded jeans, with mirrored high heel shoes was an event!!!

 

Have a great week, and I hope you have some fun!!!

 

lots of love, Danielle

 

8/23/21, “A call to Victory!”

Posted on August 23, 2021

 

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’ve had a good week, and are enjoying the last of the summer. The weather has been chilly in Europe this summer, and on the East Coast of the US, where I just spent some time with my kids, and San Francisco is gray and enveloped in smoke again, fighting fires again. And the East Coast is braced for a hurricane. So, we haven’t been spoiled with the weather. But it’s still great to have some down time!!! And kids are already going back to school in some areas, so this is the last of summer. And it’s been a challenging one, still battling Covid. We’re discovering that even vaccinated people can catch it, less severely, and the vaccinations supposedly prevent death and severe cases that wind up in the ICU, which is a big plus, but people are getting sick nonetheless and can be carriers, so we ALL have to be careful, and all of those who aren’t vaccinated are at high risk, and have to be doubly careful.

And cities and governments are taking a firm stand. In Paris, you have to show official proof of vaccination to get into stores, restaurants, or anything public. They will accept a negative PCR Covid test if you’re not vaccinated. San Francisco (being the other city I know best) will only accept proof of vaccination, and not a PCR test. So, if you’re not vaccinated, you’re pretty well stuck in San Francisco. And increasingly, masks are being required, even outdoors. We’re all trying to do everything we can to beat Covid, especially faced with the highly contagious Delta variant, which cancelled rapidly many of our new found freedoms, and made daily life and any semblance of normalcy more dangerous again.

I have on my desk, a stacked filing box, which I refer to as my Outbox, where I pile things that are important to keep where they can be easily found, or things that I particularly love, letters, poems, a few photographs. It is usually a towering stack of papers, which threatens to cause an avalanche of papers onto my desk if someone bumps it. In order to avoid the avalanche, I woke up early last weekend, and decide to go through it, which I do from time to time, and I’m always surprised to find what I’ve buried there. There are some buried treasures there, and I found a copy of a poster that I always keep and really love. It dates back to June 18th, 1940, the day after the Germans occupied Paris during the last war. I wasn’t born then, but it’s a letter that is dear to most French people’s hearts, and has survived for more than eighty years. When the Germans occupied France, a French general, General Charles de Gaulle was the head of the Free French Forces and the Resistance, fighting to free France again from the occupying enemy forces. The day after the Occupation by German troops, that poster appeared all over France, to encourage people to hang on, not to give up, and to do all they could to regain their freedom and save their country. (It always makes me cry when I read it). You can imagine how people must have felt to have their cities and country taken, and being subjected to their enemy governing their country.  When I came across it, I read it and thought that it applies to our battle against Covid too. Our fight against Covid is like a war against an unseen enemy, which has taken over our lives, robbed us of our freedom in so many ways, and puts us in danger every hour of the day. And so much of General de Gaulle’s poster to rally the French seemed to apply to us now. These are the parts that made me think of our ongoing battle for health, safety and freedom from Covid:

It is written to the citizens of France at the time, but applies to all citizens of the world now.

 

“We have lost a battle!! But we have not lost the war!!!

Opportunistic rulers have taken over, giving way to panic, delivering us to slavery. Yet nothing is lost!  Nothing is lost because this is a world war. In the free universe, immense forces have not yet been brought into play. Some day we will crush the enemy. On that day, we must be present at the Victory. We will then regain our freedom and our greatness.

That is my goal, my only goal!!

That is why I ask all citizens, wherever they may be, to unite in action, in sacrifice, and in hope.

Our world is in danger of death. Let us fight to save it!”.   It’s signed General de Gaulle.

 

It is a rousing call to freedom, a branch to hang onto and not give up hope. So often those words have encouraged me to hang on in threatening situations, and it did so again when I read it.

Covid won’t win in the end. We WILL regain our freedom. We have to hang on and do all we can to reach the end of this rocky road, together, and each of us has to do all that we can to beat this enemy. I hope these words help you feel stronger, and give you hope.

 

Have a great week, and stay safe.

 

with all my love, Danielle

 

7/19/21, Storm Warning

Posted on July 19, 2021

 

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope all is well with you, and you are enjoying the summer and getting some time off to relax.

 

I’m in both France and the US this summer, and I am growing concerned. When recently in New York in June, there was a vast fiesta atmosphere, with everyone immensely relieved that the restrictions were literally gone, and due to vaccines, the Covid numbers were lower. I found myself in stores, outdoor restaurants, and elevators, in huge crowds, body to body, people shouting, talking, drinking, no masks, no distancing as though Covid had never existed. It made me nervous.

 

When I got back to France, the numbers were greatly improved from before, although the vaccine rate was low, and people were still being careful. Outdoor dining, masks, there was an atmosphere of cautious enthusiasm, but still awareness. And among young people, total freedom and no caution at all, crowded restaurants and bars, lots of kissing and hugging, a party atmosphere in the streets. Last year, before the vaccine, the complete disregard of rules caused a huge surge of the Covid numbers and landed us back in Confinement, with high numbers and a lot of people sick, which was definitely not fun.

 

In the last week, due to the Delta variant, the numbers are sharply on the rise in every country globally. The UK which was the most vaccinated now has a huge surge and the worst numbers in Europe. Spain and Portugal are right behind them. Israel who vaccinated everyone has high numbers again. Australia. The numbers in the US have gone up, and in France, Italy, Germany. It is discouraging without question. We thought we were well out of it, and it turns out that we aren’t. Medical advice is that even vaccinated people need to be careful, even if the risk of death is lower for them. Even vaccinated people can still get Covid, though hopefully less severely. And neither the US nor France have achieved herd immunity, although heavily vaxed.

 

The French president, Emanuel Macron made a televised plea to citizens this week, to be more careful, to still follow rules, wear masks, distance. It is not over yet. The medical experts in the US have said the same. The numbers in Europe have doubled daily for the past week. The Delta variant is said to be 3 to 6 times more contagious. The President said that if we don’t stop this sudden surge by our behaviours, we are going to be in a worse place a month from now than in the entire pandemic. It’s a wake up call, for all of us. To be careful. We are not out of the woods yet. We still have to walk before we can run, and be careful.

 

I know that in the US, the wearing of masks has strong political connotations, which doesn’t make sense to me.

 

Whether or not people get vaccinated is a personal decision, dependent on their health, their pathologies, or even allergies. But whether or not people are vaccinated, we can all be careful, and mindful that Covid is not gone yet, in fact is getting stronger again with this variant.

 

The very simple bottom line for me is that I don’t want to get sick, I don’t want my kids to get sick. I don’t want YOU to get sick. And I would like all of us to reach a point of health and safety, where going to the grocery store, or a restaurant, or walking down the street is no longer a life-threatening risk. It may mean not being as close to others on the beach this summer, or not being in a crowded bar, or not going to a nightclub. But I would love all of us to be careful enough, and sensible enough that in time, we can do whatever we want, and live normally again without risk.   And I really don’t want to spend another year in and out of lockdown.

 

I just hope we will all be safe and sensible this summer, for just a little longer.  Have a great week!!!

 

love, Danielle

 

7/12/21, Lost and Found

Posted on July 12, 2021

 

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’re having a relaxing time somewhere, and taking time off for a real vacation this summer. I hope everything is going well for you.

 

We’ve had three remarkable incidents in recent months of valued objects lost, and found in nearly miraculous circumstances, which I thought I’d share in case you’ve lost anything lately too. It’s amazing how things turn up sometimes. When I was a child, my mother was always hiding valuable objects, and then losing them, or forgetting where she put them, and she prayed to Saint Anthony. I don’t know if he is still the appropriate saint for lost and found. And so often what we lose is not necessarily of great monetary value, but something we really cherish, or need. All three of these incidents were unusual enough that I wanted to share them with you, in case you’ve recently lost something too. And they really were amazing events!!.

 

1) As I shared with you on Instagram, for the first time in my life, I had a handbag stolen right from under the table while I was having lunch at a very nice restaurant with my family. I never felt it go, and as it turned out it was stolen by a real pro. It was a beautiful black leather Hermes handbag that I really love, quite large, with red leather lining, and I wear it a lot. I bought it second hand at a vintage store in New York about 10 years ago. it was very expensive originally, and I paid a fairly high price for it. it was one of a kind and it had been made to order. The bag was under the table, next to my feet, it was stolen while I had lunch, by a well-dressed man who dropped his raincoat near my table, scooped it up, and my bag with it, and I discovered it with dismay at the end of lunch. I never noticed the man who took it. Fortunately, the police have cameras strategically placed around Paris, and they got the whole thing on film. I spent the afternoon at the police station to file a report, and was told that valuable bags like that are resold very quickly in other foreign markets, and it was ‘certain’, I would never see my bag again, which would be on its way to Africa, Asia, or another European country within a day. I was really sad. Even though it was just an ‘object’, I really loved it, and was sad to lose it. Because it was a custom order, and worth some money, I knew I couldn’t replace it. A few days later, an enterprising police detective called me, and had seen the report of my stolen bag. They had recognized the thief on their video, and he’d been in prison before for stealing items of high value. The detective promised to do his best. Paris went into their second lockdown two days after my bag was stolen, so travel was limited, but the bag could still have been shipped out of the country to be sold. Less than two weeks later, I got an early morning call from the same detective. They had been able to track down the thief, surprised him at his home, and the bag was sitting in his bedroom, since he couldn’t travel to sell it. In less than 2 weeks they returned my bag which they told me I would never see again!! It seemed like a miracle to me, and I am grateful all over again every time I wear the bag, and now I love it even more!! And the thief is back in prison serving a 2 year sentence as a recidivist. He threw away all the contents of the bag, my phone, my address book, favorite vintage sunglasses, regular glasses, tried to use my credit cards and failed. And I am SOOO HAPPY to have my bag back. It still feels like a miracle that they found it and gave it back to me. The detective who tracked it down was amazing!!

 

2) My assistant in Paris is Italian, has an Italian passport, and a 10 year visa to enter the US when he accompanies me when I travel to the States. Those visas are very hard to get, are not being renewed during the pandemic, and can’t be replaced if you lose them, they are put into the passport of the person who has the visa. And my assistant needs it to do his job for me, to accompany me back to the States (with a heavy briefcase, a mountain of suitcases and 3 dogs). He works for me in Paris, not the States. On his day off, he drove about an hour outside Paris on his Vespa, and had his passport in his jeans pocket. When he got back that night, he discovered that he had lost his passport, somewhere during the day, no idea where. He called all the places where he’d been, no one had found it, it was gone. Those visas can’t be replaced, and if you lose them, you have to reapply, and they aren’t being replaced or renewed right now in the pandemic. The next day, he decided to retrace his route of the day, on his Vespa, and see if he found it on a street or in a ditch or a gutter somewhere, he didn’t find it where he’d been, and would have to report it lost, and the visa would be cancelled once he did. he was dejected and upset on his way home, his passport and visa were gone. Halfway back to Paris, he saw a truck drive over something small and red. It was a main freeway, with heavy traffic, and it seemed impossible that it could be his passport, on the on the highway he’d travelled the day before, with traffic rolling over it. He pulled off the road, just in case, waited for traffic to slow down, dashed into the middle of the highway, narrowly escaping being hit by several cars, grabbed the small red object and ran back to the side of the road. It was his passport, with the visa, he had found it and it had survived 24 hours of heavy traffic rolling over it. He was beaming when he got back!!! And it seemed like a miracle!!!

 

3) My daughter wears several bracelets on her arm (like I do!!), all of them sentimental to her. One of them is a special bracelet that you put on with a little screwdriver and 2 screws and you can’t take off, except with the special screwdriver. She loves that bracelet. We met in New York for lunch, and her sister commented on it. After that, my daughter travelled to San Francisco, and then to Colorado, and two weeks after that lunch, my daughter looked at her arm and saw that it was gone. Normally it can’t fall off, except if for some reason both screws had failed and fallen out and the bracelet fell off. She had no idea when it had fallen off in the past two weeks, or where. New York? San Francisco? Colorado? She made a list of everywhere she’d been, restaurants, airplanes, everyplace she could think of. The likelihood of finding it seemed nil. To make matters worse, the bracelet is made in two separate parts, so if the screws had failed, the bracelet would be in two parts, and even harder to find them both. She was really sad about it, and I suggested she call hotels, restaurants, airlines in all 3 cities, asked her neighbors. She had gone biking and had hiked up a mountain in Colorado. It was hard to imagine she’d ever find it. She asked a neighbor in Colorado, who was stunned. Several days before, his teen age son had found half a bracelet on a bridge with a bike path she had travelled on. She ran to his house to see it, and there it was: half a miracle, half her lost bracelet was in his hand, and she was thrilled to find at least half of it. A few minutes later, the son who had found it came home, and she thanked him, and he held the bracelet in his hand for a minute, and commented that it was heavy, so it might get lodged somewhere. They went back to the bridge where he’d found it, with a river flowing below it, and he went down to the riverbank, which was edged in mud along the shores, and he dug for a few minutes in the mud—-and the rest of the miracle appeared, the other half of her bracelet was lodged in the mud, covered by a thin layer of mud. The miracle was complete!!! She has her bracelet back and is thrilled!!!

 

All three of these instances seemed miraculous and so unlikely. What were the odds in each case of ever seeing the lost object again? A bag stolen by a practiced professional to sell on a foreign market anywhere in the world? a passport lost along fifty miles of highway in a high traffic area 24 hours later, so small you could barely see it under the speeding wheels of cars and trucks? a bracelet broken in two parts, lost on a mountain road over a swiftly moving river lined with mud—to find both parts days later, in the mud on the riverbank?   These incidents reminded me that miracles do happen, against the fiercest odds. Some things are in fact lost forever, but others turn up in the most mysterious ways, with the help of strangers, sometimes by prayer—-but sometimes you really do find what you lost, even when it seems impossible. So, if you’re looking for something you lost or misplaced, do your best to find it, don’t give up, and it may come back to you!!! If you’ve lost some treasured sentimental object, I hope you find it!!! Have a great week!!! full of good surprises!!!

 

love, Danielle

 

7/5/21, Coming back to Life

Posted on July 5, 2021

 

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’ve had a good week and lots of fun on the Fourth of July, went to a parade, had a picnic, lay on a beach, met up with friends, had a great time with your kids and family, and had some yummy traditional 4th of July food, and even saw fireworks.

In recent weeks, I’ve been in three cities and had a chance to see the easing of Covid restrictions in San Francisco, New York and Paris. Except in the major ‘hot spots’, in the countries that are still struggling with the crisis, and the variant strains of the virus, things are easing up in most places, the rules have been relaxed, although caution is still advised, and masks are an ongoing debate. In most places, the number of cases has dropped sharply (at last), due to vaccinations. Most people are rushing to get them, while others hesitate, and some staunchly believe that the vaccinations could prove to be dangerous and aren’t comfortable about them and have decided not to get vaccinated. As a result, herd immunity, which would protect us all and eventually end the Coronavirus crisis, has not yet been achieved. But on the whole, the vaccines have reduced the number of new cases, severe ones, and deaths, drastically, which is encouraging, and a great relief. But we still have to remember that it’s not over yet, and common sense and the medical authorities tell us to be careful.

On the purely human side, it is both unnerving to see people throw themselves back into ‘normal’ life exuberantly, and at the same time, it is a huge relief to be able to enjoy simple pleasures and do normal happy things again, just going to dinner with friends at a restaurant has become a treasured gift, and every meal shared has become a special occasion. After months of confinement in France, 6pm curfews, gatherings of more than 4 people forbidden, restaurants closed for 9 months, and seeing family and friends strongly discouraged, it is thrilling to go to a restaurant with friends. I’m not comfortable eating indoors yet, I still wear a mask when I am around people, for their protection and my own, even vaccinated people can get sick, even if less severely, I’m not kissing friends when we meet, or even shaking hands, and I am cautious about who I see, and am even cautious about hugging my own (vaccinated) children. I’m not ready to throw the doors open yet, but I am venturing back into the world.

When I went back to France a few weeks ago, after visiting my children, I had lunch or dinner, one by one, with the friends I had missed most. I will go into a store, with a mask, but don’t feel comfortable yet going to a department store. I have been through airports, which are already crowded, and flown on both US and foreign airlines, there are still rules, and masks are worn. But planes have been crowded, and once you’re in the airport, it appears to be a free for all, which did unnerve me. How safe are we? How far can we go? States and countries differ, with every city, state and country having its own rules, which is confusing at best. And the variants remain ominous. Countries which had been particularly strict and seemed to have achieved real safety (Australia, Israel and the UK) are in trouble again, seemingly due to the variants. Their borders are closed again. France opened to Americans (vaccinated or with a PCR test)a few weeks ago, and the US has not reciprocated. Foreigners still can’t get into the US, unless they are married to Americans, and Europeans are desperate to get into the US again for business and pleasure. It is incredible that countries around the world have had closed borders for 17 months. Who could ever have imagined what we have lived through for nearly a year and a half?? Things are definitely better, I just hope that people don’t abuse their newly retrieved liberties, and don’t go crazy over the summer, and land us in the soup again. Having lived through three long lockdowns in France, I hope that never happens to us again. I want to continue seeing my children, have them able to visit me, I want to spend holidays with my big family, have lunch and dinner with my friends, and have them to my home for a meal, and I hope we never have to endure again the reign of terror we have lived through for the last year and a half, and never have to worry again about losing loved ones to Covid 19, or about getting sick or dying ourselves from the virus that has terrified us for the past l7 months. It is so sweet just sitting in an open air restaurant, eating with a friend, and watching life take off around us again. It has been a very long year and a half. And I hope we all use our new freedoms well!!!

On a more immediate front, my heart goes out to the relatives and friends of the people who disappeared as the result of the horrendous building collapse in a suburb of Miami. I can only imagine the agony of waiting for news of their loved ones.

On a frivolous note, it is Couture week in Paris, usually a fun time, with fashion shows put on by the fashion houses who still produce haute couture clothes. Paris is usually crammed with people and full of life during those weeks, which came to a halt for the last year and a half, and the fashion shows are happening again, and although I enjoy them immensely, I’m not ready to sit in a crowded hall yet, elbow to elbow with celebrities and fashion fans to see the shows. I’ll let another season go by before I go back, just to be on the safe side. And I’m excited to be able to go on vacation with my children again, for the first time in two years!!!

And on an impressive family note, my niece who was a victim of the terrorist attack at the Brussels airport five years ago, lost both legs at 17, and was hoping for the Olympics one day then, is leaving for Tokyo shortly, for the Paralympics games, as part of the US Equestrian team. She is one of the most inspiring, courageous people I have ever known.

I hope you have a fantastic week, are safe and well, and that you enjoy and appreciate every minute of our newly restored lives, as we head toward normal at full speed.

love, Danielle

PS. I am REALLY enjoying the TV series on Netflix “New Amsterdam”, Season 1. It is so much fun and gripping. I whipped through all 22 episodes in record time, and loved it, lots of human drama—-if you’re looking for something to watch!!

5/11/21, Together Again

Posted on May 11, 2021

 

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’ve had a good week. I’ve had a couple of really busy weeks, and I didn’t have the time or the calm to write to you peacefully. After more than fourteen months, a huge moment happened in my life. The Covid numbers came down just enough in France, and in the US, and with many people vaccinated, I decided to brave the trip I have put off for fourteen months: I was scared of the health risks, but I took the bull by the horns, and was reminded of one of the sayings on my office wall: Courage is not the absence of fear or despair, but the strength to conquer them. So, with great trepidation, and real fear, I packed up fourteen months of papers and things to bring my children, and unsure until the very last minute, I made a run for it, with my French nephew to help me with ten suitcases and three dogs on the trip from Paris, where I have been for fourteen and a half months, back to the US.

 

People had told me that airports were empty, and planes less than half full, and travel was easier than I feared. (I feared most of all catching the dreaded virus on the way. After all those months in safety and seclusion in Paris, it seemed insanely stupid to catch it on the way home. But I couldn’t stay away from my children any longer. I felt that I was letting them down, and owed it to them to be brave, and as careful as possible and go to see them in California and New York. And the numbers had not been good recently. But when would they be? And how much longer could I wait?)

 

The reports I’d had weren’t entirely true. The airport wasn’t jammed but it was full, and busy with international travelers, leaving Paris for other countries. There are only two flights a week from Paris to San Francisco, but people are moving around. The airport was not deserted, although the flight was one third full. Equipped by one of my children, I had plastic covers to put in the security bins (a really good idea), which made me feel a little safer. I wore an N95 mask, which was too big so it floated around on my face, but I had been told it was the best. I brought a visor, but didn’t wear it, and used a seat cover, and disinfected my hands frequently. And once on the plane, I began to relax. The crew was attentive, and the air supposedly well filtered and pure. It was the same worry we have all had for more than a year: an invisible killer virus is lurking, but you can’t see it, and don’t know if you do the wrong thing, or stand next to the wrong person. A PCR Covid test was required for the trip.

 

It was a very long flight, one I never take. I prefer to break my trip to the West Coast with a stop in New York, which avoids jet lag. I was too tense on the flight to watch a movie or sleep, so I read, and talked to my nephew, and the eleven-hour flight went surprisingly fast, and we landed an hour early. And I had a strange sensation on arrival, that I was suddenly back in the US, had travelled halfway across the world, and was allegedly home, but it didn’t feel like it, everything felt strange and foreign and unfamiliar. And I kept reminding myself that I had made the trip to see my kids, which made any degree of fear worthwhile. I had a reason, a purpose, and a need of my own, to see the children I had missed so much. We had never been apart for more than a few weeks in their entire lives, and I hadn’t seen them in more than a year. Unimaginable, and yet the time had flown. There were some hard, lonely times, but always a sense that we were doing the right thing, staying where I was. it was a sacrifice for them and for me, and it hadn’t all been painful. There had been some wonderful moments in France in the year, and often a sense of peace, and some lovely moments with friends. Some of my friendships had deepened, others had faded away when friends disappointed me, which happens to us all.There were frightened times, and peaceful times. But my family is a vital part of my life, and was always missing. It took enormous strength and faith to be away from them for so long.

 

I made my way through immigration and customs, and trumpets didn’t go off. A brass band didn’t play. No one congratulated me for coming home. And we drove into the city, and got home. San Francisco looked bright and shiny, the sun was shining, people had told me the city looked grim, but I saw no sign of it on the way. And at last, I was home. I have led a divided life for a long time, as a child between France and the US, and again as an adult once my children grew up. For the past 16 years, my life, and my year, and my friendships and my heart have once again been divided between France and the US, with homes in both places, but the ‘mother house’, the family house my children grew up in, and my children, are all in the United States, so like a homing pigeon I always come back, even though eventually I fly back to France again. But my return to the US is always sure, my kids are here. My worst fear for years, or one of them, is that there would be a war, and I would be separated from my children particularly if I had a different nationality from them—-which is exactly what happened in Covid. It exploded while I was in France, rapidly became too dangerous to come back, and my kids were in the US. They were incredibly brave and tolerant and supportive of my remaining safe there, in fact frequently they advised me not to come back yet, and to wait, so I did. But a year? How could that be?

 

I walked through my front door and nothing had changed, the house looked the same. it was as though I had never left, and yet I had, and we had been separated for a year. We had faced hard times alone, holidays and important life moments. But we had survived, no one had died. We had made it. Four of my children were in San Francisco, the others in other cities, and I will visit them soon. The elderly dogs I had left in San Francisco, too old to travel, had died during the year, and the house seemed empty without them. But I felt as though I had been either thrown back a year, or air lifted ahead. It was like flying through space. And within hours I saw the children I had missed so much—cautiously, we kept our distance, wore masks, some of them are vaccinated, some not, and I’m not, due to severe allergies that make it questionable, so even more caution and wisdom is required. We didn’t hug, but we glowed with joy and relief when we saw each other, and got as close as we dared. I had another Covid test several days later, which was negative. They had tests before they saw me. The distance of six feet didn’t matter, we had been six thousand miles apart for more than fourteen months, and we had survived it, we had come through it, Love had fueled us and kept us going, and there were many dark hours in the year apart, but bright ones too. They had grown more independent, and I had to fill my time without them, although I had been surrounded by my children since I was nineteen. It was a learning experience, and an act of faith for us all. And somehow, I’m not even sure how, we did it. I don’t think we will ever be as affected by being apart for a while. We did it, and it was hard at times. Christmas alone, without them was the hardest of all for me. But even that painful memory faded once I saw them in front of me.

 

I felt like a ghost in my own life for a while. I had come back, and their lives had gone on without me, and my life had moved forward too. I was eternally grateful to the people, a precious few, who had gotten me through it. Strong bonds had formed during the pandemic, like in wartime, which will stay with us forever and last, never to be forgotten.

 

For several days, I woke up in the morning, or at night, unsure where I was. Paris or the States? Where was I? Which country? Which home? And then I remembered.

 

So often I was overwhelmed with fear during that year, that I would die and never see them again, or that something would happen to them. Miraculously, nothing terrible did, and we came through it unscathed. Our worst fears never happened, and we are together again. And I will see the others soon. I will always remember that time apart, and be grateful for the love that carried us through, along with the people we love and who love us, who helped us along the way. it was a remarkable journey, and living proof of what I believe, as trite as it sounds, that Love conquers all, distance and fear and darkness and anxiety, and no matter how many miles we are away from our loved ones, we can never really be separated from those we love. Love truly does conquer all, and transforms us on the way. And no matter how difficult or frightening the experience, there are blessings in every situation that carry us through. And wherever we find ourselves, we are where we are meant to be. I am grateful for every moment of the last fourteen months, and to be with my children again. Home is wherever we are, with the people we love. And I am so grateful for the people who gave me comfort, support and love for the past fourteen months. It has been a blessing and a miracle, and even though so hard at times, an incredible gift to be together again.

Have a great week!

Love, Danielle

 

4/12/21, Finding Ashley

Posted on April 12, 2021

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you had a good week, things are a bit dreary in Paris, another cold rainy day. I don’t know what’s wrong with the weather this year, last year at this time, I was perched on my little balcony, getting a suntan in the spring sunshine. It made the long lockdown a bit more tolerable. Last year, in the lockdown we weren’t allowed to go outside, except for an hour a day with a permission form filled out (for medical reasons, groceries, an hour of exercise or to walk a dog). This year we can go out all day until 7 pm, but go where? It’s too cold and rainy to want to go out, and cozier at home. It feels like December, not April. It was supposed to snow last week, but it didn’t in the city, only in the country around it, and in London. So, it’s reading, writing, getting work done, and watching series. And I think most people are pretty much series and zoomed-out. Human contact would be ever so nice, a walk with a friend on a sunny day, lunch at a restaurant, on a terrace (no stores or restaurants open). Spring will come, and Covid will get better and eventually disappear. We just have to be patient, I guess.

 

I remember one year, I was on my way to the Caribbean, and changed flights in New York for 2 hours, and in those brief two hours on April 15, there was such a huge blizzard that they closed the airport. So I guess cold weather happens in April.

 

The vaccine roll out is still slow in Europe, and impressively efficient in the US. I heard yesterday that 25% of the population is fully vaccinated in the US, and 50% have had one shot and are waiting for the next one. That really is amazing.

 

Otherwise, the world seems a bit slow at the moment, I have a new book coming out two weeks from tomorrow, which is always exciting. “Finding Ashley”, about a reclusive writer who lost her son to cancer, and her marriage, and is quite solitary, and estranged from her only sister, who is a nun. The writer gave up a baby at a Mother and Baby Home in Ireland when she was fifteen. And when the two sisters meet again, the one who is a nun takes a leave from the convent, to try and find the baby girl that her sister gave up. The writer has regretted it all her life, and her sister wants to help her find peace about it.  All the convent records were intentionally destroyed, so none of the mothers and adult children can find each other now. The search for the little girl her sister gave up becomes a journey of self-discovery, revealing truths and long hidden secrets in both their lives, and it renews the bond between the two sisters, and what they discover during the search for the baby the one sister gave up. It’s about mothers and daughters and sisters, and the bond between women in one family, no matter how different they are. It’s about looking for someone you loved and lost, and finding yourself. I hope you love it!!! And because of the subject, it will make a wonderful Mother’s Day book!!!

 

I hope you have a wonderful week, with lots of happy surprises—–and warm weather, and a hint of spring!!

 

lots of love, Danielle

 

4/7/21, Stolen year

Posted on April 7, 2021

 

Hi Everyone,

 

I hope you’re well. Saying that has new meaning these days, doesn’t it? It’s such a relief to know that our loved ones are well, and that we are. And how often we have heard of people we know catching the virus in the past year, or have been in contact with it and didn’t catch it. It is such an unpredictable disease. Whole families I know have caught it, while one single person in their midst doesn’t. Or one person gets it, and no one else in the family does. In most of the couples I know, if one got it, the other didn’t. And who gets it and who doesn’t seem to be entirely unpredictable. And we all have to be careful.

 

And I think most or all of us feel that we have lived with constant anxiety for the past year, worrying about getting it, getting tested, waiting for results, worrying about jobs, losing loved ones, or salaries, and constantly guarding ourselves with masks, and gel and distance. Every time you feel an ordinary twinge, have a headache or a runny nose, you think “OMG, do I have it?” I’ve had a few nights myself when I convinced myself I was sick and was terrified, only to feel foolish in the morning when I was fine. I’ve had some long anxious nights myself, or lonely ones away from my family, and our fears inflate like balloons at night. So many people I know have complained that they’re not sleeping well. How can we, with the anxiety we cope with every day, while still trying to lead normal lives, and sacrifice ourselves to keep our loved ones safe if they are particularly vulnerable. No one knows who will catch it and who won’t, why some catch it and others don’t. Our social lives have suffered (and are a thing of the past for most of us), in Europe we’ve had no restaurants in France for nearly six months, with no idea when they will open again. We’ve lived with 6pm curfews, or total lockdowns, for five months out of the last thirteen. It takes a lot of fortitude to come through all that unaffected. And young people and old people are the most sequestered and are battling depression, relationships are impacted, kids aren’t in school and get on their parents’ nerves and are missing their friends. We have been running a marathon of stress for the past year. Personally, I miss seeing people freely, and going to a restaurant for a relaxed meal with friends. Wow, wouldn’t that be a nice change!!! I’ve seen more of the inside of my apartment than I want to see for a long time. Some days it’s okay, and some days it’s not. And that’s hard to predict too. I lost twelve pounds in the first 3-month confinement, others have gained.  And now, in many places, it’s a struggle to get the vaccine. And which one do you get? Will there be a reaction? How bad? Stress, stress, stress, stress.

 

I was speaking to someone the other day who was complaining that we have lost a year out of our lives, that it was ‘stolen’ from us. And perhaps it was. And I know blessings from it too, parents who have come to know their children as they never did before, bonds that have formed, relationships that have flourished, while others have ended in divorce. Some people have gotten married, and babies have been born. Good things have happened too, but the noisier things are louder.

 

I don’t like the ‘stolen from us’ theories. We haven’t been robbed. And although on the surface we can easily see the losses, but there were beautiful things that emerged too, for each of us. If you are reading this, you are probably healthy. I think we need to take this year and use it well, use it like balm on the wounds we suffered, turn it to good use, treat it as a learning resource, sift out the precious moments, like gold in a pan. Because there have been precious moments and good times. We have to hold those moments high, like a banner to wave to encourage others.

 

The year wasn’t stolen, we still have it in our memory bank and always will. I would like to view it as a valuable learning experience, a historical moment, a gift of some kind, a valuable lesson, and a blessing that first appeared to be a punishment, but then the winners emerged. We have been part of history, we have proven theories, we are still standing, which is a victory in itself. Personally, I have written almost incessantly all year. No one stole my year, it is here in my memory box, it wasn’t easy, but that makes the victory all the more impressive. You should get a stripe on your clothes, epaulets, a badge, a medal, a symbol to show that you were there, we all were, whatever country you were in.

 

I salute you all. Thank you for being there, for sharing the experience, for the kindnesses you did, for the gestures you made toward others, for the respect we showed each other, thank you for being part of this year. I stand proudly beside you. We did it, we made it, we’re still struggling, but we will come through it in the end.

 

Have a great week!!!

 

love, Danielle

 

3/22/21, Confined Again, Round 3

Posted on March 22, 2021

 

Hi Everyone,

 

So, how was your week last week? Mine was busy doing the usual errands, writing, and trying to catch up on my desk after a book, which takes a while. And the big news in Paris this week is that we’re in confinement again, which is definitely an odd confinement. The reason for it is that the hospital beds are full up, because unfortunately they have not added more beds in the past year, so with rising numbers of new cases again, there is a shortage of hospital beds and the Paris area and the South of France have been put on lockdown, while the rest of France has not. The confinement from March to May last year was of the strictest regime in all of France. Total lockdown, you could only leave your house for an hour a day, for an essential reason, within a short distance of one’s home. Offices and businesses, restaurants and schools were closed. The entire country was shut down for two months, with disastrous economic consequences to the country. The President has become determined to avoid lockdown as much as possible. And in spite of that, we were back in lockdown from the end of October until the end of November, and that time restaurants were closed (and still are since then), but shops were open for business, but you had to order and pick up outside, schools stayed open, and offices, and eventually a 6pm curfew was set in place. The idea was that you could work or go to school, but there were to be no social gatherings, no going out in the evening, and nowhere to go. And now here we are again, Round 3, with restaurants still closed (till May or June, they have taken a brutal hit, being closed since October), offices open with people urged to work remotely where possible, shops open for order and pick up but not shopping in store, schools are open, hairdressers are open and have been deemed ‘essential’ (I second that), and the new twist this time is that everyone can go outside as much as they want and are encouraged to, until curfew at 7pm. The weak spot there is, that encouraged to go outside, suddenly there are big groups of people picnicking together in the parks, (without masks while they eat and drink), playing sports, lining the river, filling the streets on the weekends. It is hard to believe that those rules will bring the numbers down. Vaccination continues at a snail’s pace, after a 3 day hiatus (with concerns about blood clotting possibly being related to the Astra Zeneca vaccine,from Britain). And in all forms, modified, local, or general, people are generally fed up with the confinements and regulations, lack of a social life, no restaurants. It has definitely been a long year, and everyone is hoping that the vaccines will return life to a semblance of normalcy. I hope too that things get more normal soon. People are worn out by the hardships, the risks, the uncertainties, the lack of ability to plan anything, the lack of a social life. It WILL get better, and the virus will eventually go away, but it’s a long road getting there, a lot longer than anyone knew a year ago. I hope that we see the last of it soon.

 

Meanwhile, I am writing and talking to my kids. It’s still wintry cold, with many rainy days. We need a big dose of good cheer, and good news, and hopefully the vaccines will be part of that, and with Spring will come new freedoms, and fewer people getting sick, and the hospitals less crowded than they are now.

 

I am reading and writing, and I hope you’ve had time to read my new book “The Affair”.

 

We just have to keep going until we reach the end of this long road. The current confinement will be under review in a month. And let’s hope this will be the last one. We will certainly remember this past year, and I hope the months ahead are a vast improvement. Hang in!! And have a great week!!!

love, Danielle