Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"I've been rich, and I've been poor..."

Troy and Hollye, making music together.
(photo: Alex Sears)

The opening scene in Slumdog Millionaire is a montage shot in Calcutta: the scenery rich with color and filth, young people marrying in traditional silken dress draped in chrysanthemums, barely clothed children running in packs, laughing and playing, oblivious to the poverty around them, beggars lying in the street while old women sell their wares and prepare food in roadside carts. I welled up watching this montage, because that is life. Calcutta is a perfect example of the heartbeat of humanity in all its beauty and tragedy.

Maybe this scene touched me so deeply because all my life I’ve walked the line between extravagance and poverty. Even though I grew up poor with a single mom who worked nights, I still had opportunities to dine in French restaurants, mingle with the elite and ride in limos. And today, though we ride the financial rollercoaster being artists and raising a family, we’ve traveled the world, been treated like royalty, hung out with celebrities, performed in top venues, slept on three million-thread count sheets in the finest hotels.

Straddling both worlds, what I’ve noticed is this. When I am in a five-star hotel, or lush resort or country club, I feel safe. I am lulled into a feeling of serenity by the trio playing live jazz in the background, the fine foods, the impeccable service. And I realize that this false sense of security comes from the fact that the rich use their money to keep themselves immune to the real world, and when I am in their world, I share the immunity. If only for those moments, I can exhale and forget about the pain and struggle. They live in gated communities sealed off by walls, they spend their time in private country clubs and resorts where the other 98% can’t get in, or the finest restaurants where only their kind can get a table. When they have problems, they pay other people to handle it. Their money is a buffer that keeps them at a distance from the everyday squalor, the heartbeat of humanity. So maybe they can avoid suffering, but they also avoid the richness and depth that comes from it.

Although I have always been a performer, my dream was never to be famous. I grew up around celebrities whose fame sealed them off from the world, isolating them from reality. But I always wanted to dive into reality, to understand life and people. I was not born to be a princess in an Ivory castle, protected from the world. I was meant to dig in with both hands, and to get those hands dirty, to feel, taste, experience it all.

Had I grown up a child of privilege, I would have missed so much. Take right now, for instance. If we were rich, we could have called our maintenance man or gardener when there was a five-foot snake in our yard, but instead, my husband wrangled the thing with his bare hands and relocated it himself. Or when the sink backed up last week, we would have called someone instead of having my husband under the sink with wrenches and pipes. And we could just throw money at an attorney to handle our case, rather than me having to practically become one myself. But…on the other hand, now I know a lot about the legal system and how to protect myself, and my husband can wrangle snakes, pipes, threatening neighbors and washing machines readily. We’ve also learned that you can lose everything you own in a fire, be bankrupt and homeless, and not only survive, but thrive.

Like a funeral pyre on the banks of the Ganges, we’ve risen from the ashes, literally, and figuratively, several times over. But now I say this to life….enough with the lessons. I’ve got my PhD in hard knocks. I’d like to rest on my laurels for a while. After all, I’ve earned it.

Gertrude Stein once said, “I’ve been rich, and I’ve been poor. Rich was better.” Yes, I’d have to agree that’s true. But then again, if you were stranded on a desert island, who would you want there with you? The guy with the trust fund and pockets full of useless, green paper? Or the guy who can wrangle a five-foot snake?

Personally I’m glad I picked the snake wrangler, who can also write me a song and serenade me to sleep. He makes me feel like a millionaire.
Troy Vs. Snake

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Bully Story

When I started the seventh grade all the other kids seemed to tower over me in the halls. The girls had women’s bodies, and the ninth grade boys had peach fuzz moustaches. But me?  I was just a skinny little kid with the unfortunate nickname of Hollye Smally.
I was a friendly girl, well-liked by most of the kids. I made friends with the nerds, stoners, surfers, black kids, white kids, everyone. It was my outgoing nature, and also a good survival tactic. So I kept smiling and waving, smiling and waving…But there was one girl, Liz Baker, who just hated me. I mean, hated. And the strange thing was, I didn’t even know her.
Liz was a tough, mean, athletic girl, and a ninth grader – which meant she was untouchable to a scrub like me. She also happened to be twice my size. Whenever she was hanging out with her friends from the softball team and I walked by, I was sure to get thumped on the head followed by a stream of insults. She went on relentlessly about my prissy ways, my long hair, my walk, my skinny ass, you name it. She always called me stuck up, which was almost laughable, since she didn't have a clue about my life: my single mother worked nights in a bar, my dad was in prison, and we were on food stamps.
One day I saw her writing “BITCH” on my locker. I waited until she was done, then tried unsuccessfully to scrub it off with wet paper towels. After that I stopped using my locker and carried my books all that year even though my back ached from the weight of them. There wasn’t much I could do but endure the year, and try to avoid running into her around campus. Oh, how I rejoiced on the day she graduated, knowing I’d never have to see her again! Finally, freedom was mine!

Fast forward to thirty years later. I was at a party - a reunion of my Junior High friends. I walked in, no longer Hollye Smally, but an average sized woman with a full life. We were having a great time telling stories from the old days, when I mentioned mean-girl Liz Baker.
“Oh, you mean Larry?” said my friend Kenny, and everyone laughed, but I didn’t get it.
“Are you kidding- you didn’t know?” he howled.
“Know what?”
“Liz had a sex change operation. She’s Larry now!”
Everyone whooped and hollered as the jokes flew around the room.

This was my big moment – my chance to finally laugh at Liz and feel victorious. But I didn’t laugh. I felt sad, because in that moment I realized that Liz was just a tortured soul, trapped in the wrong body. She must have really hated herself. And there I was, the embodiment of everything she rejected in herself, with my “prissy” ways, my “long hair” and all my girly-ness. I was a walking bulls-eye. But hearing this news did give me a sense of peace, because I finally got it. It never was about me. It was always her problem.
As an adult, I’ve learned how to tolerate bullies. I never engage in conflict with them nor do I let their taunts and insults settle under my skin, because they aren’t mine to own. I simply won’t swallow the poison they dole out. That ugliness belongs to them alone.
It saddens me these days to read about girls bullying one another. When you’re young, you don’t yet know that one day you will desperately need other women to survive. Whether your relationships are falling apart, you’re raising children, you have health scares, or times of terrifying self-doubt, you’ll need the wisdom of women who’ve been there before you. My sister-friends help me to understand my own heart and mind. I need them like I need the air I breathe. Liz Baker never understood that. The sad irony is I’m a person who would have empathized with her. I have two gay brothers. I’m a huge supporter of the LGBT community. I could have been her ally, had she ever taken the time to know me, but she never did.
I later did a search for Liz-Larry but could never find him. But if I could talk to him today, I would tell him this:
I hope you realize now that there is room for each of us to stand tall, unique in who we are, in this vibrant, diverse garden of humanity. Surround yourself with others in bloom, and when bullies creep up like weeds, even the ones in your own heart, rise above, always keeping your face turned toward the sun.
And finally, I forgive you Liz-Larry Baker, and hope you’ve forgiven yourself. I wish you nothing but peaceful days in your garden.

*(name was changed to protect his identity)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sunday In My Father's House

Me, Dad and my brothers in Dad's house. Texas

The thwack of the daily paper on the front porch announces the start of a new day in my father’s house. Slivers of morning sun squeeze through the blinds, always shut tight. A caged bird screeches against the drip and hiss of morning coffee brewing, while a candy-apple cardinal feeds freely outside the window. The shuffling of slippers, TV news and gospel music is our cacophonous morning song. A fog of cigarettes and something frying in the kitchen settles over me like a blanket. Glenn Beck rants from car radio speakers as we head out for Sunday church services where my family, two gay and one ex-con, will all be Baptists for an hour and ten minutes.

At midday, the Texan sun overthrows the clouds, summoning youngsters outdoors to ride bikes and catch balls and tattle on each other while cicadas and jaybirds compete to be heard and dogs meander then curl around our feet. Dad and I sit in lawn chairs talking, as we always do, about God, politics and prison. Ru Pauls’ Drag Race blasts from the TV inside where my brother gives haircuts on the kitchen linoleum.

Humidity rolls in from Galveston as the sun fades in a blood-orange sky. Phones ring, dogs bark, the back door swings opens and shut as kin stop by bearing Texas-sized  pecan pies and Bluebell ice cream. Dad’s Jambalaya simmers on the stove. We siblings sneak margaritas then hide the tequila from him. Harsh words and tender exchanges will take place in this kitchen before we hug goodnight, accepting the way it is, and who we are.

All is still but for the blare of five televisions tuned to different channels. I am lulled to sleep by the low hum of factories steadily pumping their toxins into the night sky. A lonesome train whistle punctuates the stillness, reminding me that soon I, too, will be leaving. Jesus hangs solemnly over the kitchen sink, eyes closed, expressionless.

To read the story of how I found my father, click here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Michelle Obama’s Arms

Michelle Obama- ten feet away from me!

With all the unpleasant things going on this week, I haven’t had a chance to write about my UNBELIEVABLE EXPERIENCE on Monday. I was Monica Holloway’s guest (thank you Areva Martin, CEO of Special Needs Network) at a fundraising luncheon for Obama 2012, featuring keynote speaker: Michelle Obama! Yes, folks. On Monday I was just ten feet away from greatness, and GREAT ARMS. Holy moly, those arms… I am not kidding.

As Michelle walked out, gorgeous and poised, the Inner City Kids Orchestra started to play, and Monica and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes. It was truly a surreal and magic moment, and suddenly all the things Monica and I had stressed about up until that moment were forgotten.

What did we stress about, you ask? How ‘bout this: WHAT DO YOU WEAR WHEN YOU ARE GOING TO SEE THE FIRST LADY OF THE MOST POWERFUL COUNTRY IN THE WORLD? I mean, really. Monica and I were on the phone until well past midnight the night before (and we had to be on the road by 8:30 in the morning) talking each other off the ledge. We both tore through our closets, describing in detail each garment we owned, while simultaneously looking at pictures of each other on facebook.

“Oh, how about the dress you’re wearing here at this gig in 2009, Hollye? That looks cute.”
“I can’t wear that! It’s sleeveless! I can’t bare my arms around HER! And anyway I got that dress at Ross…EVERYONE WILL KNOW!”
“Google Michelle Obama right now- there’s a picture of her in a GAP dress- I swear!”

And this is how the conversation went until we exhausted ourselves, nearing 1a.m., neither of us closer to a decision.

At 7 a.m. I decided to wear a blazer and dress pants with a nice blouse. It had been probably ten years since I had worn these “corporate” clothes. I took the blazer out of the closet and there was literally a quarter inch of dust on the shoulders, which I frantically cleaned. Then after trying it on, I noticed the sleeves were an inch too long. Had I always worn it like that? Or had my arms shrunk with age? I could not let Michelle Obama see me this way. So I rushed to my junk drawer to find the old “Stitch Witchery” I bought years ago, because I don’t sew. Remember Stitch Witchery? It’s like a white tape that you iron inside of a hem and it sort of glues the hem in. So there I am…the clock is ticking, my hair is wet, and I’m ironing Stitch Witchery into my ten-year old dusty blazer as my sweet husband is in the driveway in his Pjs washing the bird poop off my car. Ugh.

I finally put myself together and flew out the door. Late, of course. I used every stop sign and traffic light as an opportunity to apply mascara and eyebrows. After missing my exit and having to turn around, I finally arrive in Pasadena to meet Monica, who had spent the morning bedside with her sick son, feverish and vomiting. I met her on the side of the road, where I parked, then jumped into her car, anxious to see what she was wearing.

Monica was looking fabulous in a slip, hot rollers strewn about the car, no makeup and a pile of clothes in the backseat.

HELP! She implored.

“I’m here. Let’s do this.”

We rifled through the clothing choices in the backseat and chose a great outfit. It, too, was an outfit she had not worn in about 8 years, as the designer dress she had just purchased had been ruined at the drycleaners. Of course.

Monica managed to contort her 5”9” frame over and around the steering wheel as she dressed in the front seat of her car, then put her lipstick on while I simultaneously penciled in her eyebrows. Somehow…we pulled ourselves together and drove up the hill to the big event.

The night before, Monica had flown in from San Francisco, where she had attended a memorial service for an old friend. After missing her return flight, she returned to find that someone had attempted to break into her car at LAX and in the process had broken the handle off her door. Monica, in one of her Lucille Ball moments (she has many) had to crawl through the window.

So we pull up in front of this mansion, flustered, insecure, the valet comes to the door and looks at us, cocking her head…Monica picks the door handle up off the floor, “Oh, are you looking for this?”
We laugh, and we know…this is it. Ready or not, here we come.
Monica in her fabulous designer 8-year old outfit
Me - "What Not To Wear"

We spent the next hour in a long line waiting for our pat-down by the Secret Service (woot woot!). While in line with a hundred other women, I blurted out, "Did anyone else here completely stress over what to wear today?” All heads whipped around in my direction. Uh-oh.

“Oh my Lord, YES!” was the overwhelming response. Then one by one women began to tell us their tales of woe…the shopping and not finding, the frantic search, the clothes now lying in piles all over their bedrooms. Every one of us, it seemed, had that Universal feeling that somehow we weren’t “enough” to be in front of the First Lady, that somehow we didn’t belong here. And yet, each of us were invited. (Another universal “Shame” theme…so glad Amy Ferris and I are doing this book on shame. Lordy, it is pervasive).

Anyhoo….back to Michelle Obama’s arms. So we take our seats at our reserved table, next to Star Jones and Eva Marcille- winner of America’s Next Top Model, who says to Monica “Oh I LOVE your outfit!” And I winked at her…TOLD YA. Star Jones was quite lovely, not like that woman she plays on reality shows. She got a bottle of wine from the bar and came back to refill all our glasses. Just as I confidently reach for my mug of wine ( yes, just as Monica and I arrived, they run out of wine glasses so we take our seat next to Star and crew with mugs of wine)  and with horror I notice a long white tape of Stitch Witchery hanging out of my sleeve. Oh screw it!  It was hotter than HADES anyway so I took the damn jacket off and forgot about it for the rest of the day. Which meant I was now free to concentrate on what really mattered - Michelle Obama’s arms.
Eva Marcille, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Areva Martin, Star Jones

Monica and Star:
"Did you see that Stitch Witchery hanging
out of that poor girl's sleeve?"
But as she took the podium and began to speak, all my self- involved worries melted away. What I heard was a woman just like me, who had doubts, who did her best to be brave and stand up for what she believed in, who was striving to be a good mom, a loving and supportive wife, and to do the right thing even when it’s the hardest thing. I learned that the president of the United States calls his wife “Meesh” - I loved that. And I learned something about Michelle Obama’s arms. That they, like mine, comfort her husband at night when it’s been an impossible day, and 
hold her children close to her, just as I do. I learned that we all belonged there on that day and that we are all, as “Meesh” said, in this together.

I learned that clothes do not make the woman (although they help), and that Prada shoes are torturously uncomfortable so who needs 'em (ask Monica) and that what counts is who we are and how we live our lives. 

I also learned that 20 pushups a day are not going to cut it. I gotta get crack-a-lackin’.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Injustice System

This is a painting that hangs above my bed - of a statue I saw in front of a Memphis courthouse years ago, when I was just moseying around being a tourist. Little did I know what future meaning it held, and how it would become the battle cry of my life.

This morning, as I was getting ready to appear in court again, my husband asked how I slept last night. As I stopped to think about it, I literally could not remember the last time I slept well. I can’t remember what it’s like to NOT wake up at 4 am and toss and turn for hours with my mind full of worry.

I want justice, but the court system has not delivered. And what does justice look like anyway?

Every day through this trial, I have asked myself if we’re doing the right thing. What is the deeper, spiritual reason for all of this? Why is this guy suing us for a dog that he didn’t even realize was missing until a day later, a dog he left with others for months at a time while he went off to live in his other home in Hawaii…Why? At first, since he was suing us in unlimited court (up to $50,000) I thought it was merely for money. But now the judge has awarded him Stitch, but no money, and in fact he ordered the plaintiff to pay us for all the care we gave Stitch in the past year and a half (over a thousand dollars), and still he’s fighting. So why does he want Stitch? Why this fight?

In court, he proved himself to be negligent. In his own words, he let Stitch run free on a 50 acre property, and Stitch would sometimes go missing for a day or so, and that was no big deal to him. By his own admission, he’d lost him in L.A. twice, too. After losing him on numerous occasions, he never licensed nor microchipped Stitch. So why the sudden interest? Ego? A sense of entitlement? Or just a simple power struggle?

Why this fight?

I would never withhold a dog from someone I believed owned, and truly loved him. But in this case, I don’t believe either to be true. Even the judge wrote in his final ruling that the plaintiff’s case “lacked credibility” and that there was “no physical proof” of ownership. (I know…unbelieveable, right?) So I’m fighting. I’m fighting for Stitch because I fear what would happen to him in this guy’s care.

Driving to court this morning, I was feeling disheartened so I turned on the radio, hoping music would lift my spirits. There was Neil Young, sorrowfully droning on…helpless, helpless, helpless….I became more depressed. Yes, I feel helpless. Totally and completely helpless. What does it all mean? Am I to surrender? But what about Stitch- maybe that song is really about him. He is completely helpless. He has no voice but ours.

I have prayed and prayed for resolve with this trial, and gotten nothing but murky, fuzzy situations in response. So I decided to pray for a specific sign. I asked the following:

“If I’m supposed to fight, show me a white feather. If I’m supposed to retreat, show me a black feather.” But there were no feathers…

So I went to court, and because of a freeking clerical error, we have to go back next week. What a waste of a sleepless night! And then…when I got home, there was a small peacock feather on my porch: gray with blue tips.

Yesterday, the opposing attorney said to our attorney, “I’m bringing in the big guns to take the Dexters down.” And all because we adopted an abandoned dog. This is insanity. How the hell did we get to this point?

I’m an anti-war girl, and yet here I am smack dab in the middle of one, and as Troy said we’re “out of bullets.” How are we going to pay for this? Where will we find the strength to keep going? But what choice do we have but to fight for Stitch? Do we turn our backs on him because it’s too hard?

I remember hearing President Obama say in the midst of his own struggles, “Power concedes nothing without a fight.” So true. No true change has ever come about because all of a sudden one day someone said Hey, this isn’t fair and then wham-o, the scales of justice were balanced. Women who fought for the right to vote were imprisoned and starved, civil right activists were beaten and sprayed with hoses, and don’t even get me started on Prop 8 (and wow…suddenly this idea of fighting is becoming very unappealing). But if we just stay silent, or back down when there is injustice, then what do we stand for?
my "writing partners" in my "office".
We are really taking a leap with this appeal, hoping the net will appear. For now, I will walk through each day as it comes. My writing partners and I will continue working on the case, and promise to keep you updated.

I hope and pray we are doing the right thing.

Oh Gray feather, how you taunt me.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Damned If We Do…Damned if We Don't.

Evan sick with fever, and Stitch helping him to feel better. 
This drawn out lawsuit over Stitch has been so stressful and taken a toll not only on our finances but on our lives and emotional well being. I feel like I just crawled across the Sahara for a year and a half thinking when I finally got the verdict I’d get my first drink of water. Instead, no water. I have to crawl back across, and then maybe I’ll get that drink of water. And maybe not. So do I crawl…or collapse?

On Tuesday Troy and I were on a long conference call with our attorney, and as my little son lied beside me with 103 fever, he looked up with tears in his eyes and said “Mommy, please don’t answer the phone any more. I need you to take care of me.”

I just cried. This fight has taken so much time and energy away from my own family and career. Aside from the fact that, because I couldn’t afford to pay full attorney fees, I served as my attorney’s assistant - doing research, running documents back and forth to the court, helping to write the brief, I also had to build a website, organize a fundraiser, ship merchandise from the Save Stitch store, etc . It was beyond a full time job. But I thought it would soon be over. If I appeal, I’ve got to get up and fight harder than I did before. And I have no resources left. My finances are wiped out. I’ve seen too many of my friends lose their homes this past year, and I can’t risk that. I’m emotionally wiped out. My closest friends who’ve seen me go through hell are telling me to just let go- I’ve done all I could, that it’s not my job to be the lone fighter of the world. My child needs me.


If I gave up, I would lose Stitch, and that is unbearable. I’d have to turn him over to people I know to be neglectful and irresponsible.

If we gave up, we would have to live with ourselves. For the rest of our lives, we will know…we gave up on Stitch. If god forbid anything happened to Stitch (again) in their care, I will feel responsible. I can not even imagine taking Stitch from Evan. Every day at kindergarten he draws pictures of Stitch, and writes stories about him. Everyone in his kindergarten class knows and loves Stitch.

So basically I have to choose between two situations which, either way, will bring us enormous pain and grief.

It’s like…would you like to drink poison, or walk the plank? Which horrible choice would you prefer?

Last night my son lied in bed with a high fever, asking only for Stitch. Stitch cuddled up beside him, snoring away. Evan said, “If I didn’t have Stitch, I would be sick every day.”
And yet, my debt is piling up, and I need to focus on finding a job.

Late last night Troy and I sat by Evan as he slept, and asked ourselves- what is the right thing to do? We decided we will file the appeal today, which will cost hundreds just to file, not to mention attorney fees. I am desperately afraid of what this will do to my family, and yet, both Troy and I feel it’s the right thing, and we have seen throughout our lives that doing the right thing is never the easy thing. Are we setting my family up for more grief? We hope, and pray, not. But I remember Maya Angelou saying, “Sometimes, Sister, you just gotta step out on the Word.”  I guess this is what they call blind faith. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Although my life is sweet, fate has handed us some bitter the past two years. And as much as we try to shield our children from the stresses of life, we know our five-year old Evan feels it.  So we cling to every bit of “happy” and “normal” that we can. Not that I’m in denial, but I want to show my kids that when life is kicking your ass, you still can choose to celebrate the good parts.

Last Wednesday was my grandson’s first birthday, so after rushing Stitch to the vet with some mystery illness, and finding out Anita was in the hospital, we still threw a little party for him. I could tell Evan was feeling pushed aside. I’ve been so buried in trial prep and phone calls,  then I’m bustling around throwing a party first for Ayumu, then two days later a birthday dinner for our daughter Cristen.

So yesterday morning, still reeling after losing our trial, I was on the phone with one person after the next trying to figure out our next step, when Evan tapped me on the shoulder.
“Excuse me Mommy, excuse me Mommy….I have something very important to tell you.”
I cupped my hand over the phone. “What is it Honey? I’m on the phone.”
“Mommy, did you know that it’s Tom’s birthday?”
I put down the phone.
 Oh- in case you didn’t know, Tom is Evan’s sock monkey. Yes, apparently it was Tom’s third birthday. Tom had been feeling a little left out, and it was very important to Evan that he was given a proper party. Of course, this was not on my priority list yesterday, and yet there was nothing more important.

So while Evan was at school, Tom and a few of his fuzzy friends set up a little soiree. Evan was delighted. “Did they come alive while I was at school?” he asked. I just shrugged, wide-eyed. Evan and his friend Olivia made decorations and cards, ate cupcakes and sang happy birthday. It was quite the shindig, and Evan said Tom was very pleased.

Later that night my girlfriends called to see if I was too upset to host our usual Monday night painting group. Quite the contrary, I said. I can’t think of a better time for us all to be together. So they came, and we talked a lot about the trial, and injustice and other things. We drank wine, painted, commiserated, and even laughed. And then we stood in a circle, held hands and prayed for Anita.

Those simple sweet moments are what I strive for. We don’t get to choose the things that happen to us, but we do get to choose how we react. In spite of what life has handed me, I can still choose to love my husband and kids, to cherish my friends, to eat good food and drink good wine, to laugh, to celebrate a sunny day, and to take a half hour out of my busy life to throw a sock monkey party.

I have no idea what is going to happen next, and yes, I am afraid and sad.  I don't know if I can win this appeal- or if the judge will deny it and I will lose Stitch. I can only give my best and live in today.
But while life is bitter, I choose to cherish every sweet moment while I have it, for it’s those sweet moments that make the worst ones survivable. 
"Your Assome".  Evan's sign for Tom, with an unfortunate spelling mishap.

Monday, June 6, 2011

When the Unthinkable Happens

Tears are hitting my keyboard as I write this. I don’t even know how to begin, because I don’t want to break all your hearts the way mine has been broken. 

What we thought was impossible has happened. We lost the trial. We have ten days to turn Stitch over to the people who neglected and abandoned him.

I know you are all in shock upon hearing this, as we have been all weekend.

The “plaintiff” never proved in court that Stitch ever belonged to him. He presented falsified documents that my lawyer readily struck down. His documents were for the purchase of a French bulldog with an ID number that was not related to Stitch, and didn’t have the guy’s name nor a date anywhere on the paperwork. All his witnesses, (one who sported a bleach blonde four-inch high Mohawk, another that seemed obviously high on the stand, another who came in weak and emaciated with a hospital bracelet on his wrist) lied on the stand and contradicted each other. The original owner of Stitch who “supposedly” gave Stitch to the plaintiff, didn’t come to court because he was just out of rehab.

The teenage girl whose mother adopted Stitch to us, lied on the stand and said Stitch was never hers. Here is the video of her admitting Stitch is her dog- the video we were not permitted to show in court:

This is the group of people the judge ordered me to turn our Stitch over to.

When Stitch was found abandoned in the middle of the highway in Nevada City, he had a cigarette burn on his neck. The guy admitted on the stand to losing Stitch as many as five times. He admitted that the last time Stitch went missing he didn’t go looking for him until a couple days later, because he “figured he’d turn up”, and because he lets Stitch run loose on the five acre property where he stays in a guest house. He said Stitch often ran off chasing bears and such. Okay, my dog is a French bulldog, not a hunting dog. They aren’t supposed to be outdoors for long periods because they have breathing problems and can overheat, leading to asphyxiation. Never in our care did Stitch even attempt to run off. In fact, he is such a loyal companion, he follows me from room to room.

The “plaintiff” had never given Stitch his puppy shots, never licensed him, never microchipped him even though he lost him numerous times and went on and on about what an “expensive” dog Stitch is (although he never paid a dime for Stitch or his care).

Meanwhile, everyone said our case was a slam dunk. We adopted Stitch and did all the right things legally. We microchipped and licensed him. We gave him all the proper vaccinations. He received regular vet care. We wipe the folds under his eyes every day with special medicated cloth. We give him oatmeal baths for his sensitive skin. We fed him expensive, organic food for his sensitive digestive system.

The judge based his decision on the “Lost Property Statute” which basically applies to material goods. In other words, as the opposing attorney used in his argument against us, if you leave your bicycle at the beach, and three weeks later you see someone else riding your bicycle, they are obligated to give it back to you. And we said the obvious “Stitch is not a bicycle. He is a living thing who needs love and care, and he was abandoned.”

But the judge ruled as though Stitch were a bicycle.


So what the hell do you do when the unthinkable happens?
You do what you can.
You show up.
You love the best you can.
You give what you have.
You fight when you have to.
And you pray.

This fight has been a year and a half of my life. It has consumed my time, my attention, my energy, my creativity, my bank account… I am beyond depleted. But if I don’t fight, what will happen to Stitch?

So today I meet again with my attorney and we will discuss the possibility of an appeal.

I said in court that I have always, and would always abide by the law. But now that I think of it, that’s not really true. I protested Prop 8 when it became law in California, and I stood by my best friends as they broke the law and got married. The law has often been wrong. Slavery, segregation, Jim Crow laws, laws that kept women from voting, and this law….”Lost Property Statute”.

A dog is not a bicycle. They are living breathing beings who need love and care. They are our family members.

And so the fight continues.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sometimes You Gotta Wave the White Flag

Stitchy and Taylor taking a power nap.

For days now we’ve been anxiously awaiting the judge’s ruling on my dog Stitch, and with each day that passes I am more on edge, still reeling from the insanity of it. How did this thing go to trial? How did the trial last a whole damn week? And why didn’t we get a ruling at the end? Every time I think we’re at the end of it, it gets dragged out further. Here we are a year and a half later. My nerves are a jangled mess. For the love of God let’s just get this over already! How much can one person take? And as if that weren’t enough, Stitch has some sudden mystery ailment. He’s listless, depressed and moving slowly, and for the past two days he won’t  eat. I took him to the vet yesterday and $200 later, they have no idea what’s wrong with him. I’ve lost two dogs to terrible illness in the past three years so to say I’m a bit paranoid….uh, yeah.

On top of that- one of my best friends, Anita, was rushed to the hospital yesterday to have a second heart transplant. How can a person as gentle and good as Anita go through this twice in a lifetime? When she made it through the first transplant nine years ago, we all breathed a sigh of relief. Until her second heart gave out.

Since the surgery yesterday, Anita has spent the last 24 hours in an induced coma, and I have spent that time basically flogging myself. I haven’t been a good enough friend! I haven’t visited enough.  Called enough.  Done enough. I’ve visited or chatted on the phone with her maybe once or twice a month. Yes my life has been insane with trials and tribulations, not to mention I’ve got little ones in my care, but if I am completely honest about it…the truth is that I haven’t seen her more because I can’t stand to watch my friend slipping away. It is so painful that I can only take it in small doses. If Anita can face all she has, then dammit I need to be stronger and face things I’m afraid of, like the possibility of losing her. 
Cindy, Beth, Me, Anita and Erin 

So here I am today, just a ball of stress, even though I know worry and stress (and self-flogging) serve nothing and no one. It is a complete waste of energy that should be invested into positive channels, like prayer, and faith, and positive action.

But what positive action can I take? Anita is in ICU. I can’t visit her, they don’t allow flowers. The trial is over, and it’s out of my hands. Vets don’t know what’s wrong with Stitch and he can’t talk.

Life is making it very clear that I have no control over anything right now. I’ve done what I could, and though I’m holding on by my fingernails to the illusion of control, my only real option is to sit here like a lump and wait.


So I do what I can. I write. I pray. I lament about it to you.

And when I’ve exhausted every other possibility, I surrender.

Que sera, sera.

(All prayers for Anita happily accepted! Keep 'em coming, people...)