Saturday, July 28, 2012

Who's Afraid of Gun Control?


Every day in America, thirty-three people are murdered with guns.

In Japan (where there are gun control laws) there were seven gun-related deaths in 2010. Seven. In a YEAR.

Here’s a quip floating around on bumper stickers (and facebook), “Guns don’t’ kill people. People kill people.” 

Here’s a new bumper sticker: people with assault weapons mass murder people. No one stands a chance against a maniac with an assault rifle.

I have two thoughts on this whole thing. First of all, reinstate the ban on assault weapons. Why should it be legal in this country for citizens to out-gun the police? Doesn’t make any kind of sense.

Second, and this is a very simple thing- make it as difficult to get a weapon as it is to get a drivers license. A person who intends to buy a gun should have to take a course in gun safety, then take a test. If they don’t pass, just as we don’t get a license, they don’t get the gun. And as we have our eyes tested, they should have their sanity tested, and a doctors note stating that they are of sound mind wouldn’t hurt. They should then have their fingerprints registered and their picture taken, height, weight, color of eyes all on record, to obtain a gun license.

Nobody screams “socialism” about our process to obtain drivers licenses, or contracter’s licenses, or scuba certification or anything else, so is this really such an outrageous idea? No one is lobbying congress over standing in line at the DMV.

We’ve let the NRA run rampant with freedom for far too long, and look where it's gotten us. We need to stand up and make our voices heard, so that our children can safely go to the movies, or go to meet a congresswoman without fear of being gunned down.

To sign the petition to reinstate a ban on assault weapons, click here.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

How To Be Happy (For No Good Reason)

On Thursday, as many of you know, we lost a second round of court battles for custody of our dog Stitch. After three years of fighting, fundraising, campaigning…you could say I was depressed. Extremely depressed, in fact.

The next morning, as I was driving to yoga, I was running the whole thing over in my mind. Why is this happening? What am I going to do? And there in front of me, a car had a bumper sticker which read, “Be persistent. PRESS ON.”  I knew it was the truth, but that truth was daunting to me. More fight. More legal bills. More court appearances. Add to that that we are simultaneously trying to figure out how to get our two-year old grandson (who was taken by his mother to Japan) back into our lives. I could barely hold my head up with the weight of all my worries.

That night, too exhausted to cook, Troy, Evan and I went out to dinner at a little hole in the wall Mexican joint we frequent. Our posture was slumped, our faces drawn, but our busboy cheerfully delivered water and greeted us with such exuberance we couldn’t help but smile back. In fact, all through our meal, Jose would breeze through with a big smile, refilling our waters, bringing us chips and salsa with a few kind words thrown in.

I was perplexed. In my mind I assessed (judged) his situation. I mean, here is this grey-haired guy in his sixties, working as a busboy at a Mexican restaurant in the Valley. How happy could he be? But he was, and just being around him throughout the meal, I felt my spirits lift a little.

As we were about to leave, I told him, “I’ve really enjoyed being around your happy attitude tonight. You’ve made our meal very pleasant.”

 “I’m olways heppy!” he said in a heavy accent.

“How?” I heard myself say, “I mean, how do you do it?”

He smiled, pointed to his head and said, “Jou decide.”
Troy shot me a knowing look.

In the Dalai Lama’s book, The Art of Happiness, he says more or less the same thing. Happiness is an attitude you cultivate. Challenges will come in life, but you can decide to be happy, anyway. The Dalai Lama says in order to achieve happiness: focus on the things that make you happy, and do those things. (Conversely, find the things that bring you unhappiness, and avoid those things.)

Simple enough, right? Ridiculously simple.

And yet how often I spend time lamenting over things that have happened in the past (like losing an appeal) or worrying about things that may happen in the future (like losing another appeal), when I could refocus my energy onto all I have to be grateful for right now. I can focus on the things that make me happy and do those things, no matter what other challenges come.
As Jose, our Dalai-Busboy said, “Every morning, jou wake up, you poot jour feet on the floor, say Gracias! Jou are alive!”

Wisdom is most often delivered when I least expect it. It can be in the form of a bumper sticker, or a cheerful busboy in Canoga Park. When I’m paying attention, the answers are there.

I’ve got a load of challenges on my plate right now, and at times they appear to be insurmountable, but I’ve also got choices in how I want to live.

I want to be happy.

I know that happiness, like a garden, must be cultivated. If my garden is choked with weeds, happiness can not thrive. It is my choice to weed out unhappiness, worry, negativity, and to nurture and water happiness.

Like my friend Jose said, “Jou decide…”

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

If We Win...

Here we are, at what we believe will be our final ruling in appeals court (but who knows with this case) in our fight to keep custody of our dog Stitch. We should be issued a preliminary ruling by 4pm today. If it is in our favor, all we have to do is show up tomorrow in court and happily accept. If it is not, we go to court with our attorney tomorrow to present oral arguments against the ruling. If we are ordered to turn Stitch over to the person who neglected and abandoned him years ago, we will fight.

We lost this case last year due to the Lost Property Statute, a law written 200 years ago, when even people were considered property. The judge who ruled against us referred repeatedly to Stitch as “it”, comparing Stitch to a bicycle. Our pets save lives, work alongside our police and military, visit sick children in hospitals, rehabilitate prisoners, guide the blind and disabled, benefit our health and longevity. They can not be left in hot cars, or abused, or used in fighting rings. Can you say the same about a bicycle? The Lost Property Statute of California is antiquated and must be overturned.

If we win tomorrow, not only do we get to keep Stitch in our happy home, ours will be a precedent-setting case which will show that pets are not property, they are sentient beings who deserve to be protected and loved. Our victory will be a step in the direction of compassion toward animals, which will benefit all pet owners.

But win or lose, through this long battle, I have gained more than I ever imagined. I have learned that the world is full of kind and gentle people who will reach out and help a total stranger. I have learned that I am much stronger than I knew. I have learned how to stand up for what I believe in. And I have learned to have faith.

Although I struggle with my faith, I do pray. Years ago, during a particularly dark time, I prayed and prayed for God to restore my faith in humanity. I believe Stitch was sent to us to show us how good people can be. Because of him, we have been flooded with compassion from all corners of the globe. How rare a gift we have been given. I do not take it for granted. Through all of the heartache, grief and expense, I consider Stitch an answered prayer.

In many ways, we have already won. We’ve been fortunate to work with our attorneys Jill Ryther and Shannon Keith, two of the world’s biggest animal advocates and finest people. We’ve met so many wonderful animal-loving folks. We’ve made new friends all over the globe. And most importantly, we have had the joy of sharing our lives with Stitch for the past three years. In every way we have been enriched by this long and crazy journey.

In these last few hours, I can only ask, if you are a praying person, that you pray the honorable judges of LA Superior court -Patti Jo McKay and Gregory Keosian- are guided by compassion as they make their final decision. Pray for Stitchy, that he is forever in his safe and loving home. If you aren’t a praying person, that’s okay, too. Just think good thoughts and believe in the best outcome.

I will update you all the MOMENT I have any news.

We want to thank the Los Angeles Times for getting behind us (will post the story when it runs) and Robin Sax at Fox 11 News for reaching out and supporting. Also the good people at the Ellen Show for contributing to the Save Stitch legal defense fund.

But above all we want to thank all of you, friends, family and strangers alike, for your words of support, your encouragement, your donations and your help. Thank you for sticking with us on this long journey. We never would have made it without you.

Keep the faith! Save Stitchy!

UPDATE 4:45 pm Wednesday:
FRUSTRATING COURT SYSTEM! The Superior court just filed their preliminary ruling. They are upholding the lower court ruling ( meaning we LOST) due to a technicality in paperwork  (the fact that there is no court reporter record, because in lower jurisdiction hearings- there is no court reporter!)

They refuse to hear our case tomorrow. BUT- now our attorney is going to file a writ to the higher court- the Federal Appeals Court. We are taking this fight to the top! We are not giving up!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Someday Is Today...

The Emerson Resort and Spa

I always had visions in my head of the things I would do “someday”. I would travel. I would write a book. I would quit my lousy job. I would find my purpose in life. But one morning I woke up and was stunned to discover I was middle-aged. I realized, to my shock and horror, that someday was now, and I hadn’t done so many of the things I’d pined for.

Most of us have spent the majority of our youth living up to our obligations, taking care of others, giving very little thought to what makes us happy. But if we aren’t happy, how can we bring happiness to anyone else? Now we’re at an age where we’ve raised our kids, slaved away in our careers, paid our dues. This is our time to take care of ourselves - to live a rich life, filled with passion. The time for musing and daydreams is over. This is the time for doing.  

What are the things you said you’d do someday?
Start a new career?
Learn new skills?
Manage your money better?
Travel or live in another country?
Write your life story?
Start your own business?
Try your hand at acting, painting, public speaking?
Find spiritual meaning in your life?
Be happy?

I want all those things! That is why I’m so happy to be part of Women at Woodstock, where we will be gathering at the Emerson Spa and Retreat  for three glorious days, basking in inspiration and new ways of thinking. Imagine beautiful Woodstock in the Fall-  the vibrant color, the leaves turning with change of the season, a perfect time for a new you to emerge…Imagine three days to exhale, replenish your spirit, walk in the woods, get massages and facials, see a play, and attend inspiring workshops and lectures that will teach you what it is to be a fully empowered woman at midlife. Imagine…and then do it.

Amy Ferris and I will be leading the workshop, “Righting Your Life by Writing Your Life.” 
You don’t need to be a writer to participate. Everyone has a life story to share. This is a workshop that will lead us from story to our own inner truth, the pathway to our truest heart’s desires. It will be inspiring, uplifting and (so we’ve been told) life-changing.

Some of the many inspiring women you will meet at WAW are:
Suzanne Levine, first editor at Ms. Magazine, author of How We Love Now, and Fifty is the New Fifty
Barbara Hannah Grufferman, author of The Best of Everything Over Fifty
Amy Ferris, author of Marrying George Clooney- Confessions from a Midlife Crisis, co-editor (with me!) of Dancing at the Shame Prom
Kristine Van Raden and Molly Davis, editors of Letters to our Daughters, founders of the Matters That Matter workshops
Jody Kobak Feagan, world traveler and founder of several international literary festivals including San Miguel Writer’s Conference
Robyn Hatcher, actress, writer, motivational speaker, founder of Speak, Etc
Elizabeth Geitz, Episcopal priest and author of I Am That Child, Changing Hearts and Changing the World
And many, many more!

Remember in “Imagine” when John Lennon sang, “I hope someday you will join us…”
Today is that “someday” you’ve always talked about…NOW begins your life. JOIN US!

Women at Woodstock  October 7-10, Woodstock, New York
Discounts are available if you register early.
If you can’t afford it, please apply for our scholarship program. You deserve to be here! 
If you are a financially blessed person, please consider contributing to the scholarship and help another woman achieve her dreams. 

I hope, truly hope, to share this magical experience with you.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Week Without Negativity- Did I Survive?

I’ve just completed a week-long Negativity-cleanse, in which I tuned out the news, didn’t watch any negative TV (no cable news or politics), didn’t listen to news on the radio.

All week I read positive, uplifting books and listened to music. I did yoga four times this week, kept my mind in a healthy place, ate healthy foods (no junk!) and didn’t participate in negative conversations. I slipped a few times, especially in the area of inner conversations in my own head. This was a great opportunity for me to see where I create my own negativity. But, I didn’t let it get me down. Each time I faltered, I got back on the horse and read my Dalai Lama book. I started every day by writing what I was grateful for, and then read several “good news stories” for inspiration. I took my laptop and worked outside in my yard, under the trees, rather than being hunched over a desk. I listened to music that inspired and uplifted me.

And I felt great!

This week, I felt at peace with everyone around me. I was more patient, even when Evan got squirelly. I slept sound every night. I felt happy, peaceful, centered.

I’ve decided I’m going to continue the negativity-fast. I know I can’t block out all news, but I don’t really need to know most of what the media blasts at me. I plan to be selective as to what I let inside my head. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to know any more about Jerry Sandusky or Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. I would rather read about new galaxies being discovered in the universe, cures being found for illnesses, people reaching out to help each other.

An interesting side note this week: since I started blogging about ridding negativity from my life, my blog readership dropped by about 70%. When I look at my blog statistics, my most popular blogs of all time are about the Northridge earthquake, my miscarriage, losing my trial, my grandson being taken to Japan, and posts about friends who have passed away. My many blog posts about miracles, lessons learned in crisis, finding hope in the darkness, etc…are the least popular. Hmmmm…

This may further prove my theory that we, as a society, are in fact addicted to negativity.

As with any kind of addiction, the first step is recognizing that we have a problem.

Here is some good news to help break the cycle:

Good news all over the world:

Have a wonderful Sunday, everyone!