Thirty days.


Today begins day one of my thirty-day booze-free detox. I haven’t done one of these in over two years – not since before all the very sad things started happening. To be honest, I’ve been afraid to. Throughout it all – the sickness, the never-ending stream of bad news, the deaths, the impossibly hard jobs, the rain-soaked and depressing Olympia visits – the wine or the whiskey or the martini was my reward at the end of another long day, to take the edge off, to help numb the pain. I gave myself permission to drink more than I knew I should, because my emotions were so very intense and I just needed something, anything, to feel better.

But now it’s time to take a break. I’ve come to a safer place in my life, a healthier place, and so it’s time to take away my most reliable crutch and stand on my own two feet. I need to do this for many reasons: to get healthier, to sleep better, to be more productive, to save money. And most importantly, to prove that I can.

I’m very nervous about how this is going to go. For the first time since my Mother’s death and all the deaths that followed, I’m actually sitting in my grief and processing it, rather than running from it. I’ve accepted – or more accurately, I am working toward acceptance of – my new reality, and I am actively taking steps to take charge of and improve my life. But I’m still fragile, and I’m scared that with nothing to help dull the pain, my emotions will overwhelm me. I’m feeling so much these days that the thought of sitting in these feelings alone, raw, unaided, is really frightening. What if I can’t cope? What if I fall apart? What if I cry for thirty days straight?

These fears are exactly the reason why I need to do this. This will be my opportunity to turn away from what’s easy and develop other, healthier coping mechanisms like exercise and meditation and writing. And as much as I’m fearful, I’m excited about it too.  My past alcohol-free detoxes have given way to periods of intense creativity and intense clarity, and the timing couldn’t be better because I have at least three projects in the works that demand my focus, including a very autobiographical partially-written screenplay.

To help keep me honest, I’ll be chronicling my progress over on Extra Dry Martini’s Facebook page. Just a short check in each day to let you know how the month is going.

So here’s to thirty days. Here’s to a healthier me. Here’s to taking away the crutch. And here’s to the fact that the next time I raise a glass, it will be to toast my dear friends at their wedding reception in late June, wearing a new dress paid for with money that didn’t go toward whiskey or Pinot Noir or the occasional pack of Marlboro Lights (yes, I’m giving those up too).

Here we go.

Until next time, friends.


Broken Doll B & W

It’s hard to believe it has been two years since the bottom fell out. Two years since I lost my faith in permanence. Two years since I stopped believing that all things that were good would stay good.

Two years (and a handful of days) ago, James and I said goodbye to our beloved Chow mix rescue dog Leo. He was 14 years old, blind, rail thin, his poor doggie body ravaged by cancer. It was heartbreaking to watch him waste away, and even more heartbreaking to make the decision to inject him with the syringe that would induce eternal sleep. Little did I know two years ago that was only the beginning.

A week after that sad day at the vet’s office, an innocent phone call home to wish my Mom a happy birthday – a milestone, her 60th – quickly turned strange. Mom was tense, angry, unfamiliar. She didn’t want to tell me, but I pried it out of her. Dad had cancer. It was aggressive, inoperable, terminal. Dad was going to die.

And from there, it only got worse. Bad news kept coming faster than I could absorb it. The horrifying summer in Olympia where I realized that my Mom, who’d been slipping away, was already gone. Suddenly it seemed that everyone I knew was sick. My Mom, my Dad, my Grandmother, my dear friend Rory, and of course, Leo. One by one, they all left. Died. I started calling this time in my life ‘the vortex,’ referring to the whirlpool that kept sucking me down, down, down, underwater, with no end in sight, with no hope of resurfacing.

But end it did. Finally. People stopped leaving, stopped dying. (I feel compelled to knock on every piece of wood in my house.) For a while, I just surveyed the damage, a witness to it all. Shocked, shaken, yet still standing. For a while, I was paralyzed. I’d always been a writer, but I couldn’t write. I’d always been an actress, but I couldn’t act. Words sounded funny coming out of my mouth. I couldn’t string sentences together. All the creative ways that I’d normally express myself stopped working. I was completely and utterly stuck.

Eventually, I started to get angry. Angry about what had happened, the unfairness of it all. But also, angry about my inability to do anything about it. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the psychiatrist whose groundbreaking book On Death and Dying introduced her theory of the five stages of grief, said, ‘Anger surfaces once you are feeling safe enough to know you will probably survive whatever comes.’ I had survived, and as I surveyed what remained of my life, I became angry. I realized I’d been living a life that was smaller than what I wanted, that I wasn’t living up to my potential, that I was making my choices out of fear. And so I started to change.

I could say that life changed me. But I don’t think that’s true. I think what’s actually true is that through painful experience, life held a mirror up to my face, to show me the person that I was supposed to be. Peering into that unyielding looking glass has, at times, been brutal. But it has also been necessary.

Two years after it all started to unravel, the pain is still fresh. Sometimes it’s too intense for words. Sometimes I hate it. But it also drives me. It drives me to write and to create and to work harder than I ever have before. With my faith in permanence gone, the urgency to say it now and do it now and feel it now is unceasing.

Two years later, I could say I’m doing better. And in many ways, that’s true. Living through and dwelling inside the most intense emotions I’ve ever experienced has made me a better writer, a better actor, and a better me. I’m sadder and I’m less sure, true. But I’m also more alive.  I’m more awake.

Two years later, I still try. I still hope. I still dream. I still experience joy. But it’s different now. It’s tougher. But so am I. And so is my resolve. My resolve to never give up.

Two years later, I wonder if I’ll ever truly feel better. And sometimes, I wonder if I’d even want to.

Until next time, friends.

Mother’s Day.

photo 2

This past Sunday was the first Mother’s Day that I actively celebrated since my Mother’s death. It feels weird to say ‘celebrated.’ I certainly didn’t feel like celebrating. But I also felt that it was important not to feel sorry for myself or wallow in my Mom’s absence, but rather to observe the day doing things she would have enjoyed, and to be as happy as possible and as grateful as I could be for all that I still have.

Last year I ignored Mother’s Day altogether – or at least, I tried. It was a pretty loaded and impossible day. Not only was it the first Mother’s Day since my Mom’s passing, it was a mere three months after losing my Dad to cancer, and just a few weeks after my maternal Grandmother succumbed to aggressive Alzheimer’s disease. From the fall of 2012 through the spring of 2013, the hits came hard and fast. So I threw myself into work and felt grateful that when Mother’s Day arrived, I was in the midst of the six week run of a play. We had a performance on Mother’s Day, and that, combined with producing duties, gave me plenty to focus on. I stayed busy, I stayed distracted, and I pretended the ‘holiday’ didn’t exist.

Feeling more proactive and better prepared this year, I made a Mother’s Day plan with Zoe, one of my best girlfriends who had lost her own Mom way too young. We went big. We reserved a table at the fancy pants Ivy at the Shore in Santa Monica – the exact type of place my Mom would have loved. Covered in fragrant florals, it’s a large, bright, breezy space with windows overlooking Ocean Ave. and the Pacific. Everything is overpriced, and obsequious servers in pressed pink shirts and flowery ties abound. Oh so Mother’s Day. Oh so perfect.

Just two days earlier, Zoe had accompanied me to see a friend’s play that was unexpectedly, a sort of emotional primer for the upcoming holiday. The story revolved around a family’s attempts to cope when the matriarch is suddenly afflicted with a debilitating neurological disease. She goes from a vibrant, highly capable and driven career woman to someone rapidly losing control of her speech and body. In one particularly heartbreaking scene, the family’s oldest daughter – who is halfway across the world – places a desperate phone call home on Thanksgiving. She doesn’t want to speak to her grandmother, or father, or sister. Only her Mom. And the Mom, who can barely move or speak, doesn’t think she can do it. But with the grandmother holding the phone to her ear, she manages to stammer through the conversation, finding strength she didn’t know she had to shakily get out the exact words of comfort that her daughter needed to hear.

That scene killed me. And at the end of the play, when Zoe and I both emerged from the theater with red, puffy eyes, I knew it had affected her as much – if not more – than me. Because as much as the fictional circumstances of the play were different than the real events of our lives, there’s something so identifiable about being sick, or sad, or in trouble, and the only person you want to talk to – the first phone call – is to Mom, because you know that no matter what, she’ll be able to make it better. And there’s something so final, so devastating, about no longer being able to make that call.

photo 1

I take comfort in the fact that even though she’s no longer physically here, my Mom is still with me. After all, our parents made us, so how could they not be part of us, inextricably linked? I believe there’s a love there that transcends our physical being, and that’s something that death can’t take away. But I’ll tell you what I miss. I miss the care packages on Valentine’s Day and Easter; care packages that were sent to me long after I was too old to receive them, filled with candy and stickers and silly things. I miss the phone calls on my birthday, when every year without fail, my Mom would sing me a slightly off-key version of Happy Birthday, always ending it by telling me that the day I was born was the happiest day of her life. I used to roll my eyes when she said it, thinking it was so cheesy. Now I’d give anything to hear her say it again. I’d even give anything to have her berate me for not getting enough sleep, or to dismiss a bad mood I’m in by telling me that I’m simply ‘not eating enough protein.’ Isn’t it ironic how all the stuff that used to drive you crazy about a person becomes the stuff you miss desperately once they’re gone?

All things considered, the first Mother’s Day I observed sans Mom was a pretty good one. I shared a lovely and indulgent brunch with one of my dearest friends. The weather could not have been more sunny, warm and Southern California perfect. In the afternoon, I struck the right balance between productivity and relaxation (I’ve always been a work hard, play hard, sort of girl). I was doing great, I really was. And then, leaving the Trader Joe’s parking garage, the friendlier than usual attendant wished me a Happy Mother’s Day, and then– off my face – followed it up quickly with, ‘Are you OK?’ “Yes!” I replied, a little too enthusiastically. He smiled. “I like the flower in your hair,” he said. Ah, bless you, kind stranger, for providing me that small victory. I thanked him and drove off, trying not to cry.

Grief is so funny. It’s rarely what you think will get you – the big stuff – that does it. More often than not, it’s something silly, like the off-handed comment from a well-meaning stranger. Or the restaurant getting your lunch order wrong. Or receiving a piece of news that’s so exciting you can’t wait to pick up the phone and call Mom and then realizing . . . you can’t.

In a way, it’s sort of like every day is Mother’s Day to me since I lost my Mom. I’m never not thinking about her, I’m never not appreciating all the wonderful things she gave me, and I’m never not wishing that she was still here. If you’re lucky enough to still have your Mom, don’t wait for Mother’s Day to hug her, or to send her flowers, or to tell her you love her. Please. Do it for me. Because I really wish that I still could.

Until next time, friends.

usc grad hug


You’re on the road

But you’ve got no destination

You’re in the mud

In the maze of her imagination

You love this town

Even if that doesn’t ring true

You’ve been all over

And it’s been all over you

It’s a beautiful day

Don’t let it get away


As an ‘80s baby who came of age in the 90’s, I’ve never known life without the music of U2. And I’m OK with that. A lifelong fan of the band – especially their magnetic front man, Bono – their songs are forever entwined with countless formative moments in my life. Whether it was the history teacher that used Sunday, Bloody Sunday to teach us about ‘the troubles,’ in Northern Ireland, the awkwardly sweet high school slow dance to With or Without You, the hostel café in Berlin where strangers from different parts of the world became friends while singing an acoustic version of Running to Stand Still, or driving around the neighborhoods of USC in my friend Ryan’s Volkswagen Jetta, belting the lyrics to Beautiful Day out of the car windows – just because we could – their songs are forever linked to my happy and hopeful past.

And while I’ve been to numerous U2 concerts over the years – each one its own spellbinding– almost spiritual – experience, there is one U2-related event in my life that has eclipsed all the others. It was the time I worked at the Grammy Awards and met Bono – if only for a nanosecond – backstage.

During my sophomore year of college, I interned for an entertainment PR firm in Beverly Hills that shared an office building with the event company in charge of producing the Grammy Awards. The Grammy producer became friendly with my boss, and asked if any of her interns wanted to work the awards ceremony, their main job being to escort the talent through the various backstage pressrooms. Umm, yes. Yes, I did.

This was 2001 – the year that U2 was nominated for a whole slew of awards for their album All That You Can’t Leave Behind, and in particular, their single Beautiful Day. I knew there would be a ton of security around the band, I knew they’d be hard to get to, but I also knew that this was my chance. I was going to meet them, or at least, Bono, if it was the last thing I did.

The week of the Grammys came. At a volunteer orientation, I let the powers that be know what a huge fan I was. Unfortunately, a high profile band like U2 already had ‘people’ to take them through the pressrooms. But, U2 would be doing a sound check at Staples Center the day before the awards ceremony. Would I like to attend that? Oh.My.God. YES.

I’ll never forget walking into that stripped down, empty arena, press pass swinging around my neck, my roommate Kate in tow, both of our eyes wide as saucers as Bono, short in stature but big as life, took the stage and started cracking jokes with the band and the crew. No big deal, just business as usual. The band played Beautiful Day a couple times to make sure everything sounded alright. It did. I could have died right then, one of only a handful of people witnessing a private U2 concert. All in all – it probably only lasted about twenty minutes. But it. Was. Magic.


The actual Grammy ceremony and the nanosecond in which I met Bono, wished him congratulations and shook his hand when the band came backstage after winning the Record of the Year award for Beautiful Day was so impactful that I wrote a performance piece about it. It was a ten-minute monologue that I performed as part of a solo performance workshop during my senior year at USC. I called the piece Moxie, in which I recounted the night of the Grammy Awards through two dueling characters: Sarah (me) and Moxie, my braver, bolder, sassier alter ego who, rather than stammering like some idiot groupie, would have ever so coolly finagled an invite to the after party, hung out with the band, and become Bono’s bestie for life.

Thirteen years after that magical Grammy week, I still battle with the duality that I wrote about in Moxie. There’s the person that I show the world, and there’s the person that I know that I am, deep down inside. Though the disconnect between the two is shrinking as I get older and more confident, my ongoing struggle continues to be to challenge myself to be braver, to take more risks, and to live life on a larger scale. Essentially, to be more like Moxie.

Tomorrow – May 10th – is Bono’s 54th birthday (and perhaps coincidentally – or not – it is also the birthday of my friend and sound check buddy, Kate). So, in tribute to one of my musical idols and to a band that I’ve loved my whole life, I want to publicly say thank you. Thank you for the music. Thank you for providing the soundtrack that has helped shaped my life. Thank you for reminding me that even if I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, that’s OK. And thank you for the following lyric from that award-winning song; a song that’s all about keeping the faith in the face of despair, that no matter how bad things may seem, we are blessed with so much beauty all around us. A song that whenever I’m feeling a bit down, I return to:

See the world in green and blue

See China right in front of you

See the canyons broken by cloud

See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out

See the Bedouin fires at night

See the oil fields at first light

And see the bird with a leaf in her mouth

After the flood all the colors came out

It was a beautiful day

Don’t let it get away

Beautiful day

Touch me

Take me to that other place

Reach me

I know I’m not a hopeless case

What you don’t have you don’t need it now

What you don’t know you can feel it somehow

What you don’t have you don’t need it now

It was a beautiful day

Until next time, friends.




I’m writing a screenplay that’s loosely (OK, maybe not so loosely) based upon my life. The lead character is, essentially, me. Except she’s cooler than I am, she’s more screwed up, she’s funnier than I am and she’s more of a bad ass. She’s me, but she’s more. She’s the me I wish that I could be.

As I’ve been writing, I’ve realized something: penning a story about a character that’s a hyper-realized version of myself is my attempt to re-write my life. I’m writing my girl into scenes that are thisclose to some of my actual life experiences, but I’m making them more exciting, more dangerous, sexier, and flat out more interesting than real life. This screenplay is becoming my own revisionist history, where my life is made more compelling (at least, that’s the goal) through added conflict and drama.

The opportunity to step into different shoes and experience lives that are more adventurous, bolder, and more on the edge than my own is why I like acting and it’s why I like writing. But sometimes I wonder if I’m spending so much time living in other people’s heads that I’ve lost sight of what’s really in front of me. I put my earphones in and daydream movies in my mind as I listen to music. I make up stories about people – both complete strangers and people that I know – because making up stories is fun. But am I so attracted to the fantasy version of life that it has eclipsed actual reality? And if that were the case, would I even know it?

The roots of this behavior began when I was very young. As a child, I spent a lot of time alone. Dad traveled a lot, drank a lot, and Mom was often sad and difficult to reach out to. My parents were loving, but – if I’m honest – they were emotionally distant and wrapped up in their own worlds and problems. I didn’t have siblings my own age so I grew up essentially as an only child, daydreaming up fantasy worlds and entertaining myself through songs, games and stories. If I felt like psychoanalyzing myself, I’d say that my early isolation is probably the very reason I became attracted to showbiz and the arts in the first place. My stories and my imagination were a coping mechanism, they were a form of self-protection, and they became my world.

I wonder about the fantasy/reality distinction in my non-fiction blogging as well. While the events I write about are all true and have all really happened, I wonder if I don’t make them sharper, more interesting, and somehow different than they actually are simply in the act of retelling them? It’s quite impossible for a storyteller to divorce an experience from their unique perspective on it. But if every single event, every single human interaction is filtered through experience, then is everything subjective and somehow, shaded?

Pablo Picasso famously said, ‘Art is not the truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.’ By telling stories about my real life and turning them into art, am I somehow getting closer to my truth? Or have I simply become entranced by my own fiction?

Until next time, friends.

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