Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays to YOU!

Dear friends and readers,

Thank you so much for reading my musings all through the year, for your support through my trial, and your love and kindness always!

Here is a gift, from my family to yours.


Download our Family Christmas album for free! Eight holiday songs performed by our family:
Yours truly on vocals and backgrounds
My husband Troy on all guitars, keyboards and vocals
Our daughter Cristen on bass and vocals
Our son Taylor on drums and vocals
and even Evan has a solo on Feliz Navidad.
(Listen for our Japanese daughter-in-law's holiday greeting at the end of Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays.)

We hope you enjoy, and again, THANK YOU and Happy Holidays!
The Dexter Family Holiday Album

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Aging is NOT for sissies

While I was in Pennsylvania, Amy and I went out for a nice dinner after a productive day of work. We were all dolled up, out on the town looking pretty cute, I thought. We were enjoying a glass of wine and some great conversation when the waitress stopped by the table to check on us.
We told her we were visiting from out of town and loved Bethlehem.
“So what brings you to our town?” she asked.
“Her husband is the guitar player in Wilson Phillips…” Amy began to say when the girl gasped and turned to me wide-eyed, “Oh my God, are you Michelle Phillips?”
I laughed but then realized she was serious. “No! Michelle is Chynna Phillips mother.” I said indignantly, certain she mixed up their names. But her expression didn’t change. 
I continued, “I’m Chynna’s age!” (okay, full disclosure, I’m five years older but still…), “Michelle is almost 70 years old…”
To which she replied, ‘Oh I know, she’s an old hag now!” (which she is not- she's still beautiful) 
My mouth hung open for a moment. “…and yet, you just mistook me for her.”
She shrugged, apparently oblivious to the fact that she had just insulted us on a myriad of levels. “You really do look like her, though.” She smiled and walked away.
I turned to look at Amy, who was equally horrified, “Oh. My. God.” she said.
I put my head in my hands, “Time for botox.”

Michelle Phillips - still gorgeous.
Aging is not fun, and like Bette Davis said, it’s not for sissies. Gone are the days when people expressed shock that I have a grandchild. I blame 2010. For a good ten years I looked 35, and then 2010 hit me upside the head. The stress levels were off the chart and my body took the hit. I tried my best to combat it; ate healthy, did yoga and ran on my treadmill, tried to meditate, used my Dior skincare religiously…but still, stress is one bas-ass mofo. The wrinkles and gray hairs attacked me at a dizzying pace.

So I had to suck it up that night, and take the punch. I’m getting older. People may sometimes mistake me for a seventy-year old woman. It happens.

I’ve never done anything to my face- no botox or fillers or surgery. I hope I don’t feel the need to as time goes on, but I don’t judge it. Mostly, I just want to stick to my guns about living honestly, and that includes my face. My face tells my story. I have lived forty eight years, raised three kids, a grandkid, survived the ups and downs of a passionate but at times tumultuous marriage, and had my share of hard knocks in life. It’s all here, in these lines…in the circles under my eyes, in the gray around my temples. I have four scars on my face from basal cell skin cancer, a reminder of the teen years I spent baking in the sun because I wanted to look like someone else.

The truth. Me- no make up, under terribly unflattering light.
I’m aging, and I think it’s nature’s way of saying, “Oh get over yourself.” So that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m still exercising and using good skincare, because I want to be healthy and take care of what I’ve got, but not because I’m fighting what is. I’m accepting the journey I’m on now. (Some days are better than others.)

You may think we stiffed that waitress. Nope. We gave her a really generous tip. We figured anyone that stupid is going to need all the help she can get. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Yes Virginia, There is Justice in the World

Perhaps one of the greatest gifts I received this Holiday season was a letter I received from the twelve-year-old daughter of a friend. This little girl, Emma, is unbelievably bright and has had to grow up fast, losing her father Scott, our friend, at only five years old. Her mother Denise has done a beautiful job of raising her, and this letter she sent shows how thoughtful and articulate she is. Her words have given me the push I needed to trudge into year three of this ridiculous fight for our Stitch.

Dear Hollye,

I was given a project by my Leadership teacher to write a letter to someone I admire and who I believe possesses courage. I immediately thought of you.

My mom told me the unbelievable fight you have been going through for over three years since you adopted your family dog Stitch….and the lawsuit against you demanding the dog back, asking over $25,000 for the dog they neglected.

Instead of returning Stitch to this horrible person, you chose to fight to keep this little dog that had become part of your family. You could have given Stitch to them and avoided the harassment, police and lawsuit, but you stood courageously beside your furry family member and became his voice.

My mom told me that your legal bills are very expensive and that you have had to have fundraisers, turn to your family and friends for help, set up an online store, and most recently have a garage sale to raise money for Stitch’s defense.

The saddest part is that you lost the trial because the judge decided that Stitch is property, like a bicycle, and had to be returned to the original owner. I think comparing an animal to a bike is just disgusting!

After all this, you could have thrown your hands up in the air and walked away. But you didn’t! You chose to fight for what is right for Stitch, no matter how much time or money it takes. To me, that is the definition of courage – having the mental and physical strength to fight for what is right and not just throw in the towel.

I will keep my fingers crossed and pray you win the appeal to keep Stitch. I will also continue to tell your story. I hope Stitch’s story will inspire others to have courage in life, find strength, and FIGHT ON!

I have three questions for you: (1) Where do you find the courage to keep fighting for Stitch, after everything that has happened?  (2) What is your definition of courage?  (3) Lastly, who do you admire most for their courage?

Thanks for being a leader and answering my letter!



Darling Emma,

In the beginning of this case, I was encouraged by friends and family to fight for Stitch. Everyone, including my attorney, thought that ours was a slam dunk case that would never make it to trial. The judge would take one look at the ridiculous charges against us and throw it out. An abandoned and neglected dog who was adopted by a loving family would surely stay with the loving family, right? But that’s when we found out that life isn’t always fair.

After a grueling trial, over $10,000, and a year of fighting, we lost and were told to turn Stitch over to the plaintiff (who, incidentally never proved ownership). My friends tearfully advised me to let go at that point. We had been through so much stress, money, tears, they didn’t want to see us get hurt any more.

Our attorney said we could appeal, but even she, an animal rights advocate, wouldn’t blame us if we didn’t. Troy and I talked this over for days. We had always been law- abiding citizens, but sometimes laws are wrong. Slavery used to be legal. Not long ago, women weren’t allowed to vote or own property. And then there were Jim Crow laws, Prop 8…The only way to change things is to rise up and fight injustice. Troy and I wanted to face ourselves in the mirror every day without regrets. Turning Stitch over would have left us feeling cowardly and disheartened. So we decided to fight on.

We took the first steps into this appeal not knowing if anyone would have our backs, but thankfully, many have. Some have helped with money, some have offered kindness and encouragement, and prayers, all which has strengthened us. And then we get a letter like this from you, dear Emma, that makes it all worth it.

My definition of courage is doing what you know is right, even when it scares you, standing up against a bully, speaking up when it’s unpopular. Courage is feeling the fear and walking through it.

Who do I admire for their courage? I would say Nelson Mandela demonstrated the greatest courage, standing up against racial apartheid, being imprisoned for it, never backing down from what he knew was right. He changed his country and affected the world.

We are in a fight against the Property Statute Law, which states that animals are property, with no regard for their treatment or care, or even their lives. It’s a huge battle that many animal rights advocates have been fighting for years and years. There is a very strong possibility that we will lose, but we are staying positive and focusing on the end result. If we win, it would be a great victory for animal rights advocates and pet owners everywhere.

Emma, your letter has given us tremendous encouragement, and by sharing it here, you will be helping to open others’ eyes to the importance of animal rights.

Thank you for being such a thoughtful and caring girl, and good luck on your project.



* to read more and see how you can help our case: SAVE STITCH
Friend us on facebook at Stitchy the Wonder Dog

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Grace in Bethlehem

December brings my birthday and the holidays. As a child, it was my favorite time of year, but these last ten years, being estranged from my family, I tend to get the blues. My sweet husband hangs Christmas lights and wears a Santa hat to cheer me up, and I do my best…focusing on the kids, playing Christmas music, making ornaments, baking cookies, watching my favorite holiday movies.

This year on my birthday, I would receive the greatest and most unexpected of gifts. I had just gotten back from a day of volunteer work, wrapping gifts for needy families. (I’ve found that the best cure for the blues is to get out of my own head and help someone else, so you see, I did this for completely selfish reasons.) I was unwinding after a long day when my brother Ted, who had flown in from Seattle, came walking up my stairs with a big red bow wrapped around him. My best friends Erin and Beth had picked him up from the airport and smuggled him in. Ted and I only found each other six years ago. We had lived a whole lifetime apart, and this was the first time I’d ever spent my birthday with him. We had dinner with my children that night, all of us together, laughing, celebrating. Six years ago, this was a scene I never could have imagined.

Several days later I was fortunate to tag along with Troy for a leg of the Wilson Phillips tour that took us to Pennsylvania, where my angel-friend and writing partner Amy Ferris lives. With our deadline looming, it was a perfect opportunity for Amy and I to buckle down and get some work done on our book “Dancing At The Shame Prom”.

I had my sleeves rolled up, ready to work. But what I didn’t expect was for those five days to be so inspired and spirit-filled. Walking in the brisk cold through Bethlehem at Christmas time was magical. Each street was lined with historic brick buildings, cobblestone churches, and graveyards dating back to the 1700s. Vendors sold handmade wares in their tiny Christmas Village. At night, candles glowed in every window of every house. And Bethlehem is where Amy and I sat together in an ancient haunted hotel, by a roaring fire and a glittering fifteen-foot Christmas tree, reading these heart-stopping, beautiful, honest, raw essays sent by our brave writers.

When someone chooses to open their heart and let you in, it is nothing short of a miracle. That’s what each writer has done for this book, and soon we will be able to share them with you. I felt so blessed to be midwifing this project, to be trusted with these intimate, courageous, hope-filled stories. How perfect that this book should be birthed in Bethlehem, during a time of hope and lovingkindness, by the sparkle of holiday lights.

I know it wasn’t the actual Bethlehem - just an old abandoned steel town in Pennsylvania - but I felt something magic there. Maybe I’m making too much of the connection – but I don’t think so. A blessing is a blessing, no matter where you find it. I found mine in the arms of my brother, and my friends, dancing and laughing with Troy, holding hands with Amy. And I experienced my true Christmas miracle through a bevy of beautiful writers, in the heart of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.