The great pumpkin.

I scanned the aisles of Target, looking for a last-minute Halloween costume . . . for my dog.  The selection was sparse.  There was an abundance of ‘wiener dog,’ outfits – essentially a hot dog suit for dogs – complete with ketchup and mustard and relish.  Kind of funny, but they were only available in small dog sizes.  Leo, a 45-pound Chow mix, was definitely a size large.


After rejecting a paramedic outfit and a gunslinging cowboy, I finally settled on the only thing left that would fit him:  a giant stuffed orange pumpkin suit.

Leo hated it.  Hated.  Especially when we put it on him and paraded him down Pacific Coast Highway on Halloween afternoon,  a day that was too hot in the way that late October days in Southern California can still feel unnaturally like summer.  He dragged his feet, stopping to smell things, refusing to come along, all in his own quiet rebellion.  Even when passersby gushed about how cute he was – this 45 lb., fluffy, golden haired lion dressed in a pumpkin suit – Leo feigned indifference, as if to say, ‘How dare you humiliate me, humans.  I am a dignified creature, and in case you haven’t noticed, I already have a fur coat.’

Pumpkin 3

Happy Halloween, friends!

The best laid plans.

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

– To a Mouse,  by Robert Burns (paraphrased from the original Scottish text)

My Dad used to quote that line.  He quoted it a lot.  My Dad used to quote a lot of things – literature, poetry, Shakespeare.  He was well-read, intellectual, with a flair for the dramatic.  All of those things I’ve just said are a complete understatement.

It’s funny the way that his favorite words find me, now that he’s gone.  How they grab me.  How a piece of text will pop into my head out of nowhere and I’ll hear it echoing in my brain, always in his voice, deep and tinged with a hint of laughter, a dash of Irish mischief.

I used to roll my eyes when Dad would quote some famous piece of text, theatrically, in that way that he did.  It would verge on melodrama, but he really meant it.  Or at least, he sold it well.  During his court-mandated stint in rehab after a drunk driving incident, Mom would tell me stories of how Dad charmed everyone, how he brought other rehab patients to tears with his eloquent quotations of some of Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets.  He impressed everyone, even the addiction  counselors.  But Dad was never serious about getting sober.  He just wanted to win the room.

It’s so strange the way that our subconscious mind puts things together, so weird and wonderful the way long forgotten memories come flooding back when we least expect them to.  Now, when one of Dad’s favorite quotes pops into my head, I figure  it must be because I needed to hear it; it’s some lesson I’m still learning.

Just like the line, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.  If ever there was a line reverberating in my brain lately, it’s that one.  Because my life these days is nothing like I thought it would be ten years ago, or five years ago, or even a few months ago.  I’ve learned (or am learning) that nothing is certain, except uncertainty.  As I try to hold on to the hopeful optimism that’s been a constant companion throughout my life (when I was a girl, Dad used to call me ‘Polyanna’), I find myself in a frequent tug of war between long-held dreams and current, inescapable realities.  And as much as I know that the surest path to freedom is to release my expectations, let go of the past, embrace the moment, and move the F on, it is a heck of a lot harder to do that than the Buddhists would have you believe.

In fact, I’m not even sure that letting go of expectations is entirely possible.  How can you?  If you do something, anything, in your life – take a job, make a plan, start a relationship, a friendship, a project,  you buy tickets to a concert on Saturday night – you have a picture in your mind of how it’s going to go, don’t you?  You anticipate.  You dream.  You imagine the outcome.  It’s what we do as human beings.

So here I am, with all of the best laid plans I made for my life gone completely awry, wondering what now?  And so I take comfort in those words.  Because I’m not the only one to make big, grand plans that just don’t work out.  I’m not the only one to build a dream and then watch it crumble.  I’m not the only one to feel like I’m too old, too lost, too hopeless to start over, and yet start over I must.

Thanks for that reminder, Dad.  Thanks for allowing those words to come to me – via you – just when I needed them the most.

Until next time, friends.

This blog.

I need to spend less time on this blog. It pains me to say that, but it’s true. It doesn’t mean abandoning it, it just means giving a little less of myself here, so that I have a little more of myself to give somewhere else.


I am so grateful for Extra Dry Martini. I’m grateful for what it began as, and I’m grateful for what it has become. I started blogging just a few short months before my entire life hit the skids. As events shifted and spun around me, what started as an experiment to indulge my love of the written word rapidly became a lifeline. It became a vehicle to help me process overwhelming grief and loss, and was often my only avenue to connect with the outside world when I felt desperately alone. I know that writing is no substitute for therapy, but this blog became therapeutic because it enabled me to articulate my thoughts and feelings, to write them down, to look at them, and to realize that they didn’t have to define me. This blog has helped me gain clarity about who I am and who I want to be in a deep and profound way. It’s simply impossible to imagine my journey over the last two years without it.

Publishing a weekly blog post is intensely satisfying. It makes me feel a sense of accomplishment because in a relatively short amount of time, I can find a beginning, middle and end, and when I’m done, I get to share my post with the world. Writing is a lonely process and I’ve been very lonely as of late. Publishing regular blog posts assuages that loneliness and makes me feel a sense of connection and purpose. It allows me to dialogue with friends and fellow bloggers and to receive their feedback and validation.

But feeding the instant gratification that I crave has also allowed me to forestall bigger dreams. If I can feel validated as a writer in this space, why should I bother to tackle a larger, lengthier, more challenging piece? If I can share little bits of my soul each week, why should I bother to write the whole thing out, to map out my entire past, present and hopeful future? I love writing this blog, but it’s time to admit it: I have been using it to procrastinate. I have been using it to resist the pull of my bigger, more all-encompassing story. I have been using it to avoid what really scares me: to tell the truth, all of it, in long form.


I’ve just returned from an intensive writing workshop on Orcas Island in northern Washington State. The workshop was actually less about writing and more about unlocking creativity and giving yourself permission to live the life you dream of. At least, that’s what it was about for me. Over the course of three and a half days, I listened to the stories of other writers from all walks of life and all different types of backgrounds. I focused inward. I asked myself some big questions. And what I came away with was this: I need to make a change.

This blog is intensely personal to me. It has formed the core of my heart over the last couple of years and has, at many times, served as my best friend over a difficult and tumultuous 2014. I don’t have any plans to abandon it. But the reality is, my life is full. I have too many things I want to do – admittedly, a good problem to have – and not enough time to do them all. And if I want to tackle some of the bigger writing projects that have been tugging at my heartstrings – projects like finishing my semi-autobiographical screenplay and writing my memoir – I have to make time and space in my life for them. Starting now.

I’m not exactly sure what that’s going to look like. Maybe it means enforcing a time limit on garbage activities like surfing Facebook or watching TV. Maybe it means that my posts here become a little shorter and a little less polished. Or maybe it means that not much of anything will change for the people who have been faithfully reading this blog, but the change will simply be an internal shift that only I’ll notice. I’m not sure yet. What I do know is that that the change needs to happen, and l’m approaching it in the same way I approach every topic I write about on Extra Dry Martini: with as much openness and honesty as possible.

Thank you for supporting me on my journey. You have no idea what it has meant to me. You have no idea what it will continue to mean as I move forward and throw my arms around the big, scary, what’s next question. So thank you. Thank you for reading. Thank you for helping me along the way.

And here I go.

Until next time, friends.




The Other Side of Fear.

Over the last couple of years, several of my friends have called me brave. I’ve sat with them over meals, over coffee, over wine, in cafes, in restaurants, in bars, in movie theaters and on park benches. These gatherings – to catch up, to check in, to touch base – have more often than not involved them asking how I’m doing, and me, trying to spin things toward the positive, trying to portray life in the best possible light, trying to smile because I’ve grown so weary of all the tears.


Inevitably, the ‘brave’ word comes up. But I don’t believe it. It doesn’t feel like me.

Why brave, exactly? Because I watched both of my parents die at a relatively young age? Because I weathered a year of incredibly hard things? Because I’m still weathering hard things? Because through it all, I’ve kept going, rather than falling apart?

But really, what choice did I have? Life is a surprise, unfolding events over which I’ve had no control; over which none of us has any control. Like it or not, the truth is that I’ve had little choice but to accept everything that life has thrown at me, and try to move forward. So how exactly, does that make me brave?

I suppose the realization of just how little control I have should make me feel a certain amount of freedom, right? After all, since nothing can be done, what’s the point of worrying about the outcome, or of feeling afraid?

But it hasn’t worked that way. In fact the opposite is true. The certainty that nothing is certain has, ironically, only amped up the control freak in me, has only elevated my every anxiety. My fear of heights? Worse. My fear of flying? Worse. My fear of just about everything? Worse.

photo 1

So when people call me brave, I want to laugh out loud. I’m afraid of my own shadow, people. I’m like a little kid all over again, except not, because when I was a little kid I wasn’t afraid of things like I am now. Call it a lack of awareness of my own mortality, call it blissful ignorance about the fragility of human life, call it the magic of childhood wonder and amazement, call it the ability to create with reckless abandon without fear of judgment. Call it all of those things. But whatever you call it, I wish I still had it, instead of this pervasive, paralyzing certainty that danger is everywhere and that nothing is safe.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a passive person. I’m hyper aware of the fact that I’m afraid of everything, and it pisses me off. I hate it. One of my best – and worst – qualities is that I’m stubborn as an ox, and when I feel the fear snaking its icy fingers around my neck, I fight. I realize the irrationality, the pointlessness of my fear, and I struggle to put myself in situations that scare me. I fight my impulse to stay home, hiding under the covers. Over the last few months, I’ve forced myself out of the house to meet new people, to join new groups and organizations, to try to stand on my own two feet as this different person I’ve become. I’ve tried to be braver with my writing, recounting personal things that are difficult to talk about. I’ve tried to be braver with my art. I’ve started projects that I’m worried will fail. I’m worried that, ultimately, I will fail.

Most of the time, I feel like a fraud, because I’m not brave at all. But I want to be. I’ve pinned the Jack Canfield quote ‘Everything you want is on the other side of fear,’ to my bulletin board and I read it so often that the words echo in my brain. And I resolve to keep fighting the icy fingers snaking around my neck.


Tomorrow, I’m leaving on one such fear-fighting mission. I’m heading to a writers’ retreat on a remote island in northern Washington State. A whole day of travel to get there – planes and shuttles and cars and ferry boats – and then 3 ½ days spent sharing a cabin with strangers, delving into things I can’t even imagine, but that I can only assume will be personal, vulnerable, and hopefully life-affirming. It’s like summer camp meets the first day of school on steroids. I’m terrified. And I can’t wait.

I am not brave. I am about 100 miles from brave. I am fragile. I am easily broken. I am afraid most of the time. But I am also angry. I am fighting. And I am doing everything I can think of to get to the other side of fear. I hope this weekend helps. I hope I find something on that island, in those Washington woods, that I didn’t have before. I hope it teaches me something I didn’t already know. I hope it makes me just a little bit braver.

Wish me luck.

Until next time, friends.


Time Out.

A gentle breeze blows across the outdoor terrace as I sit underneath large stone columns, sipping iced coffee, scribbling in my journal, occasionally looking up from my writing to stare out and scan the hazy blue L.A. skyline, reminding myself where I am. It’s a Tuesday afternoon, the first day of fall, and I’ve reserved these few hours as a much-needed time out. To be with myself, to write, to wander and to daydream. It’s something I rarely do, but today, it seemed important.


It’s amazing how protective I am of this time. How annoyed I am that the Getty Center should be as busy as it is on a weekday afternoon well past Labor Day. I have to restrain myself from glaring daggers at the woman who plops down at the table right next to me – really? There are at least two dozen other tables scattered across this expansive patio. Why choose that one? I flinch at the shrill shriek of a child, and then scowl at his parents. I cringe at the clusters of people who hover for a time right next to my chair, talking loudly, oblivious to any concerns about personal space.

I shouldn’t be annoyed. After all, I chose to come here, to this public place. If I wanted solitude, I should have stayed at home. But solitude is something I’ve had too much of lately. My one-bedroom bungalow is fine for privacy and quiet concentration, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of inspiration. It doesn’t offer many opportunities to fill the well, to stimulate the senses, to let in new experiences, to promote new ideas. I can work and work and work, but the well of creativity quickly runs dry without new images, new life, to draw from.


I suppose that’s why I’m here. It’s why I rose early to get my work done so that I could take the afternoon off. So that I could ascend to this beautiful place high upon a hill, so that I could browse artwork and gardens, so that I could look down and marvel at this massive metropolis that I call home.

I didn’t really come here to write. I knew I wouldn’t get much done, though I made a valiant attempt at it. I came here to be. Because on this beautiful September day, the first day of fall, a day which also happens to be the second anniversary of the death of my mother, I told her that I would. I told her that I would try harder to reconnect to my life. To allow myself to gaze with wonder at beautiful things that she would have enjoyed, like the texture of the paint on Van Gogh’s Irises, and the lush vegetation and tranquil streams in the Japanese garden, and the stunning stone architecture that’s everywhere in this place.

I told her that I would, and so I did. Or at least, I tried. I wandered the West Pavilion and lingered for an inordinately long time among the small but stellar collection of Impressionist paintings. I walked to a lookout point and stared down at the city, at the suckers stuck in gridlock on the 405 freeway, grateful that at this moment, I wasn’t one of them. I put away my phone, taking a hiatus from the emails and the texts and the Facebook messages, recognizing all the while how difficult it was for me to do this, and that was exactly the reason why I should.


I find it nearly impossible to take time outs like this. Time outs just to be with myself and to think and to reflect and to not have to do anything. Chalk it up to my OCD, but relaxing is almost guilt-inducing for me. I always feel like I should be accomplishing something, not just sitting around. Even when I watch a movie, it’s something I’m studying for acting class. Or when I really need to do some deep thinking, I’ll go for a run, because at least I’m getting a workout in at the same time.

But all of this compulsive doing hasn’t done much to help me out of the lost space I’ve inhabited these last couple of years. Checking things off the to-do list – while satisfying – hasn’t done much to help the cavernous, nagging hole in the pit of my stomach. Productivity hasn’t cheered my flagging spirits or healed my persistent heartache. I have been doing a lot, but clearly I have been doing something wrong.

So, on this day, I made a promise to my mom that I would take some time out – even just these few hours – and I would soul search. And I would listen to what my soul said, and I would act.


I suppose I can’t expect one afternoon to solve all of my problems. After a few hours of taking in beauty, of soaking in the sunshine, of trying just to be, I didn’t feel any clearer than I did before. I didn’t experience any profound epiphanies, and I didn’t feel any closer to knowing ‘what’s next’ for me. But I’m still glad I did it. I’m glad that I allowed myself this time. Mostly because it made me recognize that I need to do more of it; to make space in my life for time like this. To relax. To be still. To imagine. To dream. To take in the world and to wonder about it. And to breathe.

Perhaps knowing that – and doing it – is a start. At least, for now.

Until next time, friends.

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