Life. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on it, the plot changes. And always, in the thick of it, there are messages (if you’re paying attention), and lessons to be learned.
I had deluded myself into thinking I’d already paid my dues. In the early years of our marriage we had lost our home and everything we owned in a fire, we had been bankrupted, betrayed, estranged from my family. You’d think that would be enough. At least I did. I’d done my hard work in therapy. I finally had a grip on life, an understanding of the ways of the world. Smooth sailing from here on out, I thought. But in 2010, life threw us one curve ball after the next and there we were knocked on our asses again, a sickeningly familiar feeling.
One of the twists in the plot was Stitch. I’ve adopted rescues and strays all my life, but I had a feeling of trepidation when we adopted this little dog. I remember I kept asking my husband “Are you sure? Are you up to adopting this little guy?”  He said he was. Still I had this unsure feeling. Somewhere deep inside I sensed I was signing up for an unimaginable journey.
To anyone who thinks animals don’t have souls…I can only imagine you’ve never lived with a furry family member. I suggest you read my friend Monica Holloway’s book “Cowboy and Wills”, about how a golden retriever came into the life of her autistic son and changed him forever.  Similarly, our Stitch has been a messenger. He brought huge drama to our lives (no fault of his own) and through it has taught us how to stand up to bullies, how to keep ourselves centered in the middle of insanity, how to navigate the justice system (which can sometimes feel like an injustice system). But the most important lesson has been humility. We fought on our own as long as we could, and then, when we were losing the battle, we had to reach out for help – which was really, really hard. But then we learned more lessons, about true kindness and compassion, and how much of it there is in the world. We learned that there are a few bad apples out there, but the good and generous people far outweigh them. We learned that there are hundreds of people all over the country, both friends and strangers, who care deeply about the plight of one little dog.
Because of Stitch and our fight, I’ve connected with people all over the country. I’ve strengthened bonds with friends. We’ve been able to share a part of ourselves, our music, our art. We’ve been able to connect with others through our stories. And one Sunday evening in April, under beautiful Spring skies, we were able to gather with friends for a perfect evening, drinking good wine, sharing music, stories and laughter to raise money for the Stitch trial. Who ever could have imagined.
The week of the trial was truly awful. Troy and I were stressed out all day, buried in testimony, being cross examined on the stand, contacting witnesses and preparing briefs, passing each other in the halls as we struggled to handle our daily responsibilities. One night that week we both woke up at about 3 am.
“Hi” I said. “You up?”
“Yeah. Can’t sleep.”
“Well, how are you? I mean, we haven’t really talked in a while.”
“I know.” He said, “I miss talking to you.”
With that, I got a bottle of red wine and some dark chocolate, and we sat there in the dim glow of the nightlight, talking, laughing, drinking wine, and just enjoying that peaceful, precious moment while it lasted. We knew the morning would bring another grueling day in court, so we clutched that little bit of happiness while we could. I will never forget it.
Through this ugly battle, many beautiful things have come, and we have been forever changed. I have learned that no matter what dark times may come in the future, there is always a jewel to be unearthed. We had no control over the crazy things that have transpired over the last year and a half, but we did have a choice as to how we would react, and how we would receive the lesson. We chose to focus on the positive gifts.

No matter what the judge’s final decision will be, Troy and I feel great knowing that we did the right thing, we stood up for what we believed, and made it through this drama with our integrity intact. What better gift could there be?
Today I’ll sign off by sharing a beautiful poem by Rumi that has given me courage through the rough times in my life:

The Guest House 

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
~ Rumi ~

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  1. Anonymous

    Thanks for posting your writing, Hollye. I love the Rumi quote. I am almost finished reading a book titled "Broken Open" which pivots on much of the same idea of using all experiences, especially the tough, and more difficult ones, as ways to set ourselves free and become more aware and wholly human. Storm clouds come and go, behind them blue skies. One of my Mom's favorite quotes (which was eventually printed on her memorial program and on my Father's when he died…both served in WWII and my Mom's only sibling was killed in that war) of all time was this:

    "I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining,
    I believe in Love, even when I cannot feel it,
    I believe in God, even when God is silent."

    This writing found on a cellar wall in Cologne, Germany where a family of Jews was hidden from the Nazis.

    xoxox all love to you,

  2. Anonymous

    Hollye, your story today was wonderful. I have absolute certainty that you did your best as did Troy. The trial was exhausting and I was just a visitor for it. But the after parties were amazingly terrific getting to know these special people and how much you are loved by all of us. I use your story as an example of doing the right and moral thing whether you win or lose. You stuck up for your beliefs and nothing deterred you. Asking for relief from troubles comes in the most surprising ways from friends and strangers. I love you Hollye Dexter (Troy too) and am so glad we are friends. We met online but turned it into a real life friendship which I know will continue for years to come. I just wish you lived closer so I could see you more.

  3. Hollye Dexter

    Thank you for sharing that Karen! That is beautiful.
    and Madge- how can I ever repay you for all of your support and generosity? How about by having a lot of FUN together in the next couple months? You are a treasure! xo

  4. Anonymous

    Just having the friendship Hollye is good enough. Yes, I plan on visiting you and having some fun.

  5. Deb and Barbara

    This was such a beautiful post, Hollye. And that Rumi poem is perfect beyond words. Aren't they all?! (fingers crossed and lots of love xoxo)

  6. Hannah Kozak

    Stitch has been a remarkable teacher and on some level, you knew this going in.Your beautiful intuition! So many gifts from this critter being in your lives. I love your choice of the treasure chest. Always a jewel that comes from all of the battles. Thank you for this beautiful post. xoxoxo


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