coffee talk: part 2

What resonates for people about my books. I think the fact that they are about the real issues we deal with, and the things that affect us all. the things that happen in my books happen to all of us: death, divorce, accidents, illness, the loss of a child, or a job, or challenges in a relationship, or handicaps (blindness, deafness). I try to write about modern issues and challenges too: women with weight issues, body image/anorexia, computer dating (and its risks), bringing up our children, losing our parents, struggling with work or money, loneliness, homelessness. I write about the  things that we all have to face every day, or exceptionally. I try to share with people interesting times, during wars, or times of crisis (earthquakes). Human failings and foibles, betrayals, marriage, infidelities, mental illness, rape. I think there are many things in my books that people can relate to. And despite the hard times that we all face, at every socio-economic level, and at every age, under it all I try to give people hope that they will come through it and survive, that life can be kind as well as cruel. I think people relate to experiences similar to theirs, and they pick up on the theme of hope and integrity, that seems to give them the courage to go on. I write the stories that come to me, and that are in my head. There is no recipe for them, but I think the books are meaningful to people because they can relate to similar experiences in their own lives.

 It’s hard to say what inspires my stories. Sometimes, but very rarely, real life. Once in a while a news item, or a historical event, or something I hear about that happened. But more often than not, the stories just fall out of the sky. I start thinking about an idea, and it grows on me, and then I have to come up with the characters to go with it, and little by little it builds. I never know what will inspire a story, and sometimes I am surprised myself by what comes to mind, and appeals to me. And I don’t know where the stories come from, they just happen. (And I’m very grateful that they do). I never let people “tell me their real life stories,” that never works for me. I need to invent my own.

How men and women approach relationships. I saw a cartoon drawing once, of a pie with one slice marked in it. The single slice was labelled “how much men think of relationships,” and the huge rest of the pie was “How much women think of relationships” And I think that may be true. I think we put a lot of time and energy into thinking about our relationships. I think men think a lot less about it, and just cruise along.

Interesting question if women can have it all. I married and began having children very young. And I started my writing career young too. (Both marriage and career in my teens). And people always told me you couldn’t have, or do, both. You had to pick a lane. I was always doggedly determined to do both, to have a husband and kids—-even a lot of them (7 of my own, and two wonderful stepchildren who came into my life when they were very young and I love as my own, so in my heart I have 9 kids)—-and I needed to write too. It was something I ‘had’ to do. And I was willing to do whatever I had to do to make it work, even if that meant only sleeping 2 or 3 hours some nights, and running myself ragged all day. The answer to the first part of the question is  yes, I think you can have both: a marriage/family and career. It’s a monumental juggling act, and you always feel like the last skater in the Ice Follies, and you never quite catch up, but you can do it if you want to, and I did. And some days it works smoothly, and at other times it is a zoo. I was also very lucky once I wrote full-time because I worked at home, and I could work at night when they were asleep.

BUT the second part of the question is the hook here. “while taking care of her own needs.” That is an entirely different story. I think marriage/family/kids/career is very different today. When I was young, people married very young, and fewer women had serious careers. And let’s face it, how many needs did I have when I married at 17 and had kids at 18? I didn’t worry about it at that age, and really didn’t have a lot of needs myself. Most women married and had kids in their early and mid twenties then. Very, very few women do that today. They wait. They build their lives and careers, and most marry in their 30′s, many in their late 30′s in a more sophisticated but unstable (economically) world. And women that age have opinions, habits, lifestyles they are used to, and needs. They are used to taking care of themselves, long before they have kids. Honestly, I think having kids is about being willing to sacrifice yourself, and maybe to some extent being married is about that too. How much of yourself and your own time are you willing to give up, or do you really NEED your down time, your massages, your time to yourself, your sleep, your manicures, your time with girlfriends, your quiet moment with your husband over a glass of wine at the end of the day?

For at least 20 years, I had no time to read a magazine, never had a manicure, never had lunch with a friend (seriously), I hardly had time to dress before I started chasing the kids around and I looked a mess at the end of the day. I didn’t get quiet moments, the luxury of time to myself, and even with people to help me, I was talking to my husband while helping one kid to do homework, carrying another on my hip, while two kids were crying, one had an ear ache and another one needed to be changed. Admittedly, I had more kids than most people, but to be brutally honest, if you are looking to ‘taking care of your own needs,” it’s going to be tough having a husband, kids and a career, because your husband will want your attention, your kids will have ear aches, a fever and runny noses, and your boss is going to want you to produce whatever he is paying you to do. Can you manage the husband, the kids, and the boss? Yes, definitely. You may be tired on some days, but you can do it, if it’s important to you. But for me, the only way to do it, was to put my own needs last, I just didn’t have the time to do whatever I wanted to do. I grew up that way, having kids so young, which was an advantage. And I think this generation of older mothers is concerned about their needs, understandably, because they’re old enough to know what they need. But to answer the question, no, I don’t think you can take care of your own needs if you want a husband, kids, and a career. Something is going to have to bite the dust, and more than likely it will be you and your needs. I always thought it was worth it, but it’s a personal decision we all have to make, about priorities. That’s just my opinion, but it’s what I think.

I’m not sure who the modern day hero is. I haven’t met one in a while. I think lives are different now, men have to be more helpful than they used to be. Women expect it of them, and women are busy too. So I think relationships are more partnerships today than they used to be. And roles are much less clearly defined. Often women today are more successful, or make more money, which is a real challenge for most men. Their role is not as clearly defined as it used to be. To me a hero is a good person, with integrity, decent and kind, who tries as hard as you do to make things work, is reliable and trustworthy, and a good guy, someone you can count on. I think we are all looking for the same things we always did, it’s just packaged a little differently now. Relationships are always challenging, and you have to work at them. A hero is a guy who will (work at it with you). It’s not enough to just be handsome and have a good job. Women today expect more, and the heat is on men too. To me a ‘hero’ is a good person, a good human being, who is trustworthy, loving and kind to the people in his life.

Are men the luckier gender? I’m not sure I know the answer to that. Sometimes, I think they are. As women, we have a double job, if we work. We have to do our jobs in the day time, and then come home and be mother and wife, or partner, take care of everyone’s needs and get the Christmas cards out. We are tutor, mentor, secretary, family shrink, sometimes provider, fashion coordinator, social secretary, and a whole lot of roles most men don’t bother with. And I’ve always noticed that when we’re sick, we still drive car pool and take care of the kids, and when a man is sick the whole world stops.

But men, particularly in today’s world, are under a lot of pressure too. They have to be a lot more sensitive and aware and ‘real’ than they used to be.  They do a lot more with the kids. They have to be sensitive AND strong, and reassure us. There is a lot of pressure on men to be ‘brave’, and they can’t be brave all the time. And being sensitive AND strong is a juggling act that can’t be easy to manage. I think both roles are difficult in today’s world. We’re expected to act more like men now, to be tougher and stronger in the work place, and maybe bring home the bacon, but be loving and gentle at home (not always an easy shift to make if you’re in a tough job as a woman and have to fight in the workplace all day). And men have to be more sensitive today than ever before. On the surface, I always thought men were luckier because they get to call all the shots. And they don’t have to sit around waiting for some cute guy to call them, because we’re not supposed to call them (I don’t think those rules still apply).

Bottom line, no matter how important our jobs, or how much we earn, men still expect us to be women, and act like women, when we come home. And we expect them to act like men, take care of us, and protect us, and fight off a bear if one should come to the door. I’m not sure which one is the luckier gender. Both have their upsides and downsides, and that’s just the way it is. I think I’m happy with my gender, lucky or not. And I like it when a man acts like a man, and makes me feel protected, loved and safe. So maybe we’re the luckier gender after all. (Besides, we get to wear cuter shoes).

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2 Responses to coffee talk: part 2

  1. Mary M Heafey says:

    This is wonderful! People want to hear more personal things about Danielle, and all her incredible accomplishments…Keep up the great
    writing! Love to you and your family

  2. alexis traina says:

    Mary, TYTYTY!! hope our paths cross sooon– it has been a long while!

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