Saturday, August 25, 2012

My Sideways Anniversary in Wine Country.

This week marks our 23rd anniversary (25 years together). Since Troy had a gig with Wilson Phillips in the Santa Ynez wine valley (where the movie Sideways was shot), we decided I'd tag along and make a mini-vacay out of it. We were to leave early Wednesday morning, but Tuesday night Evan developed a fever. After a bit of scrambling, and almost canceling the trip, thankfully our friends and our son Taylor stepped up to cover so we could go- and Evan's fever miraculously disappeared. 

From the moment we got to Santa Ynez, every morsel of food we put in our mouths was eye-rolling delicious…every wine we tasted was the best we’d ever had. I felt like Albert Brooks in Defending Your Life.

We stayed at the beautiful Hotel Corque in Solvang- a quaint little Danish town in the mountains above Santa Barbara. The next morning, we had the best Danish pancakes we’d ever tasted at Paula’s Pancakes, took a morning Jacuzzi, then spent the afternoon wine-tasting in Los Olivos, where we filled our senses sampling Danish cheeses, locally grown olives, organic local fruits and the most incredible wines we’d ever tasted (some of them over $100 a bottle)  ….I was in Heaven.

The Wilson Phillips gig Thursday night was fantastic. Several thousand people filled the venue. I was seated between Chynna’s hubby, Billy Baldwin, and Owen Elliott- Cass Elliott’s daughter. (I was ONE DEGREE OF SEPERATION away from Alec Baldwin, people. ONE DEGREE) During the Mama’s and Papa’s song “Dedicated”, Owen got up and sang her mother’s part and from the moment she opened her mouth, it was as if Mama Cass was alive again. Everyone had the chills. It was pretty special to see Chynna and Owen, daughters of the Mamas and Papas, singing their parents songs with Carnie and Wendy, daughters of the Beach Boys. The audience went nuts.

I was having the time of my life, dancing, cheering. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, I was woozy. I hadn’t had more than a glass of wine all day, but I felt lightheaded and nauseous. I headed for the exit to get some air, but before I could get out of the arena, I flat out fainted. The last thing I heard was the audience gasp. The next thing I knew the ushers were picking me up off the floor, my knees were bloody, and a team of EMT’s was whisking me away to a medical room in the casino, where I spent the rest of the show. It was one of the most bizarre things that’s ever happened to me and I still have no idea why it did. I mean it was a good show and all but...

Billy Baldwin was hosting a private party for the band and friends after the show (at a very swanky restaurant), and I was so bummed to miss it. Troy rushed me back to the hotel where I fell into a comatose 10-hour sleep. Anyhoo, I woke the next day feeling completely like my old self, so off to wine country we went!

“We are NOT drinking Merlot”
We just had to stop at the vineyard where the movie Sideways was shot, where we bought several bottles and YES, we did drink Merlot! While there, we were talking and joking with another couple, and lo and behold we find out the guy is Rex Smith- teen pop idol of the 70s. We had a great time swapping music biz stories with Rex and his wife Tracy, and drinking MERLOT, amongst other things. Troy and Rex talked about starting their own radio show, called “Rex and Dex in the Morning”. Whaddya think?

"What more can I saaaaayy, you take my breath awaaaay"
Rex Smith todaaaayyy
After another gorgeous sunny day eating and drinking in wine country, we headed home, spotting a herd of about thirty deer on the side of the highway, California condors circling overhead. Then as the 101 led us along the Pacific Ocean, we saw Pacific bottlenose dolphins breaching and playing in the waves.

All in all a pretty wild and wacky journey- and just like our marriage-  a few miracles, kismet moments and a little drama and mystery thrown in for good measure. Never a dull moment around here, I tell ya. I love my life with Troy- all 25 years of it. It’s been a rollercoaster ride and I couldn’t imagine it any other way. And at least there’s been Merlot.
Toasting the love of my life. 

And I'll leave you all with this...dedicated to my hubby. I couldn't say it any better so I'll hand this one over to Rex Smith. Rex- take it awaaaayyyy:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Stitchy, the LA Times and the painful lesson learned.

So the L.A. Times has run an article on our Stitch story, and I have learned a huge lesson. When you open yourself to the press, you’re also open to the risk of things being misinterpreted – which can really hurt you-  and that is what happened here. While I understand that a journalist must present both sides of an issue, this journalist left out the most important parts of the story- the ones where Daveigh Chase locked Stitch in a room for days and eventually abandoned him, and where Soleil Brown admitted to losing him at least five times, didn’t go looking for him for days because he “figured he’d turn up”. Also the fact that Stitch was found in the middle of a highway, weak and sick, with a cigarette burn on his neck. Because she didn’t include those facts (all that were admitted in court- and I have numerous witnesses) it just looks like Brown is this poor guy whose dog was taken away. In the comments section of the story, we are being called “spiteful”, “selfish” and “disgusting”.

What this article neglects to mention is the reason we can’t turn Stitch over to Soleil Brown. I told this journalist, several times, I would never keep a dog away from an owner who loved and cared for him. That would be cruel. But we could not in good conscience, turn Stitch over into the hands of these people. In their care, he almost ended up dead.

Before we adopted Stitch in 2007, he had been passed around between a group of kids: Aaron Carter, Daveigh Chase, and Soleil Brown. This is a group of privileged Hollywood kids who spend their time partying and in nightclubs. Aaron Carter, who used to date Lindsay Lohan and has been in and out of rehab, was the original owner of Stitch, but he gave him away to Daveigh Chase, (the voice of Lilo in Lilo and Stitch, thus Stitch’s name). Daveigh was then a teenager, spending all her time in nightclubs. She locked Stitch in her room for days at a time without sunshine or exercise while she was out partying. Then she ran away from home at 16 with her adult boyfriend, Soleil Brown, abandoning Stitch. This is why her mother was looking for someone to adopt Stitch. Any of this can be googled. There is a paparazzi video of Daveigh saying Stitch is her dog. (google “Daveigh Chase is adopting a puppy”)  If you want to see pictures of Daviegh Chase guzzling tequila straight out of a bottle and various other nasty things, just check out her tumblr page (Daveigh Chase in your face). Or Soleil Brown’s online profile where his About Me sections says that he “hates everyone this good world has to offer”. These are the people who passed Stitch around like he was a toy. Daveigh’s mother told us that Stitch had been taken to wild parties where he was so distressed he jumped through a window and ran away.

After we adopted Stitch and had him licensed and microchipped, Brown falsely claimed the dog was his (because Daveigh was a minor and had no recourse) and filed a theft report against us with the police department, and although he had no proof or documentation that Stitch belonged to him, we were forced to return Stitch to Cathy Chase (Daveigh’s mother). Two years later, Stitch was found abandoned in the middle of a highway, sick, and with a cigarette burn on his neck. Because he was still microchipped to us and had no current tag, we were contacted. We made a ten hour trip to rescue him for a second time.

Brown didn’t put missing signs up for Stitch until eleven days after he went missing. I believe this is because Brown lives in Hawaii, and only comes to L.A. for some months out of the year. My question is – how can he own a dog in California, when he LIVES IN HAWAII?

I wondered if, when we went to court, we would learn something about Brown – that maybe we’d find out we were wrong, and he really was a good guy who loved Stitch. But that didn’t happen. Brown admitted in court that he had lost Stitch at least five times, that he let Stitch, a small French bulldog, run loose daily in the wilderness in Tahoe, where there are coyotes and bears. Even after losing Stitch numerous times, he never gave him a proper tag, never licensed nor microchipped him. Do those sound like the actions of someone who “loves their dog like a child”?  If a parent had “lost” a child five times, CPS would take the child away.

And in response to Brown’s former attorney JT Fox (in the article) saying he loved the dog? JT Fox dropped Brown as a client. I was there when he went to court to ask the judge to release him from the case. He told my attorney that Brown was an idiot who didn’t care about the dog. This whole thing was only about money. Brown was originally suing us in unlimited court for up to $50,000.

Again, everything we’ve done in this case has been what we believe is Stitch’s best interest. Stitch has lived with us for years, where he is safe and loved and has never once tried to run away. For those who have called us selfish and disgusting, I can only say this. We have spent thousands and thousands of dollars, and endured years of grief over this. Would a selfish person do that? We are doing what we believe is right, whether the court agrees or not. We aren’t concerned with anyone’s judgment. We only want to do what is right. Stitch deserves to live a happy and safe life. 

AUGUST 2013 UPDATE: It has been a year since I posted this blog, a year since our appeals were thrown out of court, 2 years since the plaintiff "won" custody of Stitch. He has not once tried to contact us or our attorney to retain custody. I think at this point, any judge in his or her right mind could plainly see that this never was about Stitch. It always was about money.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Navigating Disaster

It's election time, everybody, and you know what that means. The politicians and media are going to pump you full of fear;  Unemployment is soaring, Facebook stock just dropped by half. The pundits are screaming and yelling, people are losing their jobs and homes. Everyone is throwing the blame, but no one knows what to do. Forget red states and blue states, a state of fear is the worst state to live in. Decisions made from a place of fear are always the wrong ones. So let’s pull ourselves together, shall we?

First, let me assure you of this fact: All will be well.

How do I know?  I consider myself a connoisseur of disaster. I’ve been trapped in a burning house, bankrupted, abandoned by my family, betrayed, destitute, mugged, sued, threatened with violence, homeless. (And don’t even get me started on my childhood!) But guess what?  I’m happy.

I’ve had a lot of therapy over the years to get me through the panic attacks that used to plague me, and these are the tools I’ve learned for navigating disaster.

This world has existed for billions of years. All kinds of catastrophes have occurred and yet – the world still turns. The talking heads called JFK a socialist and communist and said he was destroying America, and guess what? We're still here. Yes, life will change and evolve.  Everything is impermanent - the bad phases, and even the good. The more we try to clutch onto something to keep it the way it was, the more pain we cause ourselves. Accepting life as it is will bring you peace. 

Think of it this way: Life is a river, ever flowing, ever changing, a force all its own. You never step into the same river twice, and so it is with life. We can’t control the river, but we can learn how to navigate it. We can be dragged through it kicking and screaming, or follow the flow. Whatever is happening to cause you stress, remember: the tide will rise and fall, the sun will continue to rise every day, new life will spring up from devastation- that is the way of the world. Find your flow, and when it changes, find it again. 

Wayne Dyer said that if we stay in the present, 99% of the time, there is no problem. I mean, unless you are in this moment hanging from a cliff by your fingernails, which is unlikely. Most of our problems are in our heads, where we either lament about the past, or worry about what may possibly happen in the future. The majority of the time the things we worry about never come to pass. If we could stay in the right here, right now, we’d realize we are okay. Ask yourself this, right now at this very moment, are you in danger? If not, feel free to relax, and enjoy your day.

The world is a place full of beauty and art and music and nature and heart-stopping wonder, and it’s all available to you. So how bad could it be?  Step out of fear, and make a list of the good things in your life. If you can’t see the good, spend a day volunteering on Skid Row, serving the homeless. That’ll put things in perspective. Or try playing this game:  If I were alone on a desert island, what are all the things I would miss?  Write it down. You’ll realize just how much you have to be thankful for.

No matter what is happening in the stock market, in politics, at your job, don’t let it rob you of JOY. Find what brings you happiness, even the little things, and do that. If you can afford a spa day, go for it, but joy doesn’t cost money. Take a bubble bath with candles, take a long walk in a beautiful place, sit under a tree and read an inspiring book, buy yourself a 64-pack of brand new Crayolas- lay on the floor and color, play your all-time favorite album, go to the beach. Even little things can bring great joy.

If you can possibly afford it, get out of town for a few days. Albert Einstein said, “You can not solve a problem with the same mind that created it.”   I know personally that I need to get out of my every day routine and environment to look at things differently. If I can’t get away, even a day of walking on the beach can bring that perspective.

And finally, if you still can’t get out of your place of fear, try this…

After our house burned down, I had anxiety attacks. My therapist used to play this game with me:
He’d say, “Okay, what’s the worst that could happen?”
“I will lose everything, be penniless and homeless and have no credit.” (All of which did eventually happen, by the way)
“And then what?” he’d say.
“I guess I’ll…have to find a good job, and find a place to live.”
“And then what?”
“Well, I guess little by little…I’ll pay off my debt.”
“And then what?”
“I guess I’ll be okay.”
( I was, and I am.)

Play this game with a friend, with every possible worst-case scenario, and keep going until you’ve sorted it all out. The reality is never as bad as you make it out in your head.

Look at the people of Japan. After the tsunami and earthquake, they were out there in the trenches with shovels, starting at square one, rebuilding their lives. The world is resilient, and so are we. Leave fear behind. Embrace your life.

And finally, I’ll leave you with this quote:

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”
-author unknown

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. As for me- I'm getting out of Dodge!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Judge Judy goes to Yoga

So I’m sitting in yoga the other day, during opening meditation. Lotus position, palms facing upward, breathing slowly…OM.
But the woman in front of me was texting. TEXTING during our OM time.

I couldn’t believe it…I thought, why would she even come to yoga if she’s going to waste this time on her phone? She's supposed to be centering herself. Just wait till we got to balance poses, she’s gonna tumble over like a stack of blocks. And I was feeling just little bit spiritually superior to her…until I realized that instead of centering myself, I had spent my meditation time thinking about what she was doing and judging her. Ha!

Years ago, I went to a Deepak Chopra lecture, and was particularly inspired by his calm and rational petition for us to let go of judgment. In nature, there is no judgment, he said. Everything is as it should be. The rain is the rain. A cloudy day is a cloudy day. It’s not good or bad, but necessary to the natural order of things. Even forest fires serve a purpose. But we humans put judgment on everything (and everyone) without seeing the full picture. We make assumptions about a situation, who someone is, what their motivations are. We decide whether a rainy day is a good or bad thing. This is an absolute waste of time. On that day I decided to do my best to stop judging (note: do my best).

They say that every person in our lives is a teacher, and I learned something about myself from the yoga-fail girl. In spite of my attempts to practice being nonjudgmental, it still creeps up in my monkey mind. Normally, when the thoughts start, I’ve learned to notice them, observe them, then let them go. But sometimes they are a runaway train, and by the time you realize what’s going on, you’re in Topeka with no return ticket.

I don’t know yoga-fail girl. I have no idea why she may have been texting. Maybe she had a loved one in the hospital, or a sick child at home. For all I know she runs a suicide hotline. Same with the guy who was tailgating me the other day (who I labeled an asshole) - maybe his wife is in labor, or he’s an undercover cop on his way to foil some evildoer’s plan. What I have learned, as a writer and an observer of life, is that every human being has a rich and complicated story, and to make a judgment call or assumption about another person is a foolish mistake.

So once again, I recommit myself to letting go of judgment. I can still make judgments based on what’s good for me, like “I wouldn’t text in yoga” or “ I wouldn’t tailgate someone” – but it isn’t my place to judge someone else in the choices they’ve made. We all have our own unique path in life. There’s no way I could possibly know what is right for another.

I didn’t get my OM time that day, but I got the message loud and clear, and of course, that was the meditation I needed. It’s time for me to put the gavel to rest, and put the focus back on my own inner peace.