Sunday, March 17, 2013

People...Who Needs 'Em?

Leave it to my seven-year-old to ask questions that plunge me into an existential crisis.

Lately, Evan has developed a fear of bees. To quell this fear, I take him hiking, and let him observe the bees at work. I tell him to notice how the bees aren’t interested in harming him, only in doing their own important work. When he asks why their work is important, I launch into a big explanation of bees importance in the cycle of life, how they pollenate the plants other species need to survive, and how, if they didn’t exist, humanity as we know it could virtually be wiped out.

“So now you know how important bees are, and why the world needs them.”
He seems to accept this answer, and is slightly less afraid of bees.

Days later, we’re out on a hike, and he asks, “Why are we important?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean like…bees make honey and pollenate the flowers and all that. But what do people do?”
“Well, we make art and build beautiful cities and …”
“No, I mean, what do we do that’s important to keep the planet alive?”
And every answer I come up with….(we feed the homeless, we save animals from extinction, we plant trees…) is something we humans do as a result of some disaster we’ve created (poverty, extinction, deforestation).

Later, still struggling for a good answer for my kid, I go online and find nothing, save for a few philosophical discussions on message boards, and a YouTube video of Barbra Streisand singing, People…people who need people. But here’s a question. Does any other species, does the planet, in fact, need people?  One message-board-person hypothesizes that we are driven to create and build, and therefore perhaps we can one day save the planet from destruction by an asteroid. Well…it’s a stretch but. Maybe.

I’m not an anthropologist. I’m sure there are a lot of great reasons humans are needed in the circle of life, but I am currently stumped for an answer.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Update on the Stitch Case

Many of you have been asking for an update on Stitch, while we have been lying low over here. First let me assure you, Stitch is still happily with us, and is healthy and thriving. He and Evan are growing up strong together.

When this legal battle for Stitch began, I had hoped ours would be the precedent-setting case - the tipping point for overturning the Lost Property Statute in relation to family pets. But it wasn’t. As most of you know, in June of 2011, the judge awarded custody of Stitch to the plaintiff because of Lost Property Statute. (He also slapped the plaintiff with monetary damages, which we never asked for, and never collected). We immediately filed for an appeal. Our appeal was thrown out last July, 2012 (due to budget cuts in California courts). But we never gave Stitch up, and we continue to file motions. At this point, we will file motion after motion until the case burns itself out.

The interesting thing is that, although the plaintiff won custody of Stitch, he never attempted to claim him. He never contacted us, neither after the first or the second trial.

Stitchy on the news!
So Stitch is still with us and the case goes on and on in perpetuity. Limbo was not exactly the happily-ever-after ending I wanted. I wanted to change the law – for Stitch, for you, for all our pets. We didn’t change the law. But, at least we started a national conversation. We were on the news, front page of L.A. Times and many national newspapers, we were even on NPR. We got America buzzing about the issue of pet’s rights, verses “owner’s” rights. We made the point that our pets are loving sentient beings - guide dogs for the blind, therapy dogs for the sick, companions for our veterans.  I hope America’s eyes have been opened to the fact that pets are not property.

I guess at the end of the day, we do have our own version of a happy ending. The case drags on but we have Stitch and he is happy, healthy and loved. We thank all of you for your ongoing support and kindness through this long three-year battle. We never would have made it this far without you.

For backstory on the Stitch case, read: "Stitchy, the L.A. Times and the Painful Lesson Learned." 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Funny Dark Squiggles

"A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic." - Carl Sagan 

Books are what have saved me through out my life. During my tumultuous childhood they were my escape.  In my darkest times, they've guided me. When I was lost, mentors appeared in the form of authors.

I never imagined I would be one of those voices,  never thought my ideas or stories would be of interest to anyone but me. But now I know that every human being has a rich and important story that needs to be shared, and that through sharing our truth, we liberate each other. This is the goal Amy and I have with Dancing at the Shame Prom- that every person who reads it will walk away feeling lighter, feeling connected to others, and less alone in the world.

When I began writing decades ago, it was purely therapeutic. I never intended to publish or share with anyone. Eventually I was nudged by friends, teachers, and my husband to put my work out into the world. There have been countless times during my writing years where I felt my work was pointless.But in the past month, I've had a couple experiences that have shown me how important it is for me, and for all of us, to share our stories.

In January I received a letter from a gentleman in Saudi Arabia referring to a story I wrote in The Power of Positive. The story is about Evan, then four years old, who taught me the importance of perseverance. This gentleman, Hamsa, who has a daughter the same age as Evan, was so inspired by the story, he translated it into Arabic and emailed it to all his friends. This is one of the reasons I like to write for the Chicken Soup series. First, they are a group of positive, kind people, and with their incredible circulation, an un-famous author like me can connect with people all over the world that I wouldn't normally reach.

The second nod from the universe came when I attended my first gun regulation meeting with Moms Demand Action. The L.A. Chapter leader got up and introduced herself, and then told us that she'd been faced with so many challenges in trying to start the L.A. group  she was going to quit. But then she said she'd read my blog A Single Bullet, and knew she had to keep going.  I had no idea she'd read my blog. I'd never even met her before.

This is the magic that Carl Sagan spoke of. That one person's story could give another the hope they need to push on. That in spite of thousands of miles and oceans and the cultural differences that divide us, a writer in Los Angeles can find common ground with a father in Saudi Arabia through a series of funny dark squiggles on paper.

A few weeks ago, I was at the San Miguel Writer's Conference, where Amy and I moderated the Women Write Their Lives panel, encouraging others to write their truth. Truth resonates...and as each woman on our panel spoke hers, you could see people in the audience with tears in their eyes. They needed to hear these women's stories, and we need to hear theirs.
Women Write Their Lives Panel: Samantha Dunn, Brooke Elise Axtell, Sarah Stonich, Laura Davis,Amy Ferris, Hollye Dexter, Suzanne Braun LevineTracy J. Thomas, Brooke Warner

Our stories connect us at the most human place. Your stories, my stories, every story matters. You don't have to be a writer to share your stories, but please share them. Tell them, sing them, paint them, pass them down. You never have any idea how another person might be transformed by your truth.

So go on - put some funny dark squiggles on paper. Work some magic....