Father’s Day.

King Salmon copy

Father’s Day has never been a holiday that I’ve gotten super mushy about. Throughout most of my life, my relationship with my Dad has been layered, challenging, complicated. (Everything you’d want to know about our relationship can be read on my blog titled, Dad.) While my Mom was always the emotional center of my life, my Dad was more like a loving antagonist, egging me on from the sidelines. Year after year, the task of choosing a Father’s Day card was a formidable challenge. So much of the cheesy, cookie cutter sentiment simply didn’t fit.

As I got older, and Dad got frail (and ultimately, sick), I started to see him differently, and I began to appreciate qualities that I couldn’t as a young girl. I started to realize that the reason Dad antagonized me so much and was so brilliant at pushing my buttons was actually because we were way more alike than I cared to admit.

Now that my Dad is no longer here, I remain grateful for every quality – both positive and negative – that I inherited from him. I learned so much from him, mostly from the way that he lived his life. In honor of Father’s Day, here are the most important life lessons I take away from my Dad:

Dad, D, Nora and I

Life is a gamble. As much as we’d like to believe that we can control the outcome of events, the reality is we have no control. Life throws what it will at us, and more often than not, we have to make the best decision we can with the information that we have at the time, and forge ahead. Risk is part of being a human being, so you might as well embrace it. And if the worst thing that could happen happens – you risk it all and lose everything – you must rebuild. If you can do that, and come out on the other side of it, you’ll not only learn what you’re made of, but you’ll also realize that worrying about things you can’t control is a terrible waste of time.

Risk taking is good, but some risks are just stupid. As a personal injury lawyer, one of Dad’s favorite phrases was, ‘That’s an accident waiting to happen.’ There’s a reason I’ve never been in a helicopter or a racecar: because they’re both death traps. For all those thrill seekers out there, more power to you. Skydive or bungee jump or race fast cars to your heart’s content. But any activity where my odds of dying increase exponentially is not one you’ll catch me doing. I’d rather take my risks in other ways, like creative ones.

Keep your sense of humor, even when it gets dark. Especially when it gets dark. No matter how grim things got, Dad always found a way to laugh. When I was little, I used to be a bit horrified at Dad’s macabre sense of humor and his ability to find the funny in stuff that really shouldn’t be funny. Years later, my ability to laugh through cancer, through death, through just about anything, has kept me sane through some trying times. If you can keep your sense of humor throughout the darkest of the dark, odds are, you’ll always be OK.

Dad and Nora Cat in the Hat

Stick to your guns. If you believe in something with all of your heart, then stand up for it, and don’t flinch. You may end up making enemies, but at least you’ll be able to look at yourself in the mirror. This doesn’t mean being dogmatic, unyielding, or unwilling to listen to the other side. It does mean to thine own self be true. Nobody respects a flip flopper.

Sports are life, and who you root for says a lot about you. I watched Dad suffer for years as a devoted Portland Trailblazers fan, a Seattle Seahawks fan, and a Boston Red Sox fan. I saw Dad’s loyalty rewarded when the Sox finally broke Babe Ruth’s curse. I saw my own rewarded last February when the Seahawks finally won the Super Bowl. Sure, it feels good to root for a team that wins, but it feels even better after hanging with that team through years and years of losing and knowing you were there through it all. It can be demoralizing to support a team that loses year after year (the Seattle Mariners, anyone?), but for the loyal fan, hope really does spring eternal. Dad taught me to have no patience or respect for fair weather fans, or fair weather people. And on that note: when in doubt, always, always root for the underdog.

Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right. Dad moved through life with an air of confidence, and an unwavering belief that no matter what, things would work out in his favor. And you know what? He was almost always right. Now, whenever someone tells me something can’t be done, I can’t wait to set out proving them wrong. Even if it’s something as simple as getting a table at a popular restaurant that won’t take reservations. If you believe you can do it and act accordingly, more often than not, you’ll win. Attitude plus perseverance is a powerful combination.

Mom and Dad at M's law school grad copy

Eloquence is important. If you want to sway someone to your cause, make them feel something. Dad loved to quote Shakespeare and recite poetry, often to the point of sappiness. No matter. He knew how to affect people, and how to move them. He also understood this: if you don’t believe it, then nobody else will either.

Life is a great adventure, or nothing at all. So many people spend their lives being afraid, playing it safe, living a life that’s smaller than what’s in their hearts. Why? We’re all going to end up in the ground or scattered to the wind anyway. There is so much in this world that’s thrilling, that’s beautiful, that’s worth savoring. Grab it while you can. Dad lived with a sort of big picture perspective and a zest for life that is more rare than it should be. And I’m pretty sure he went to his eternal rest with no regrets. He many not have been the perfect man, or the perfect father, and he probably made a few enemies throughout his life. But he also understood that ‘you can’t win ‘em all.’ Stop working so hard to get other people to like you. They will or they won’t, and what other people think of you is really none of your business anyway. To thine own self be true.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thanks for all that you taught me.

Until next time, friends

Young Dad

U2.

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

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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.

u2-in-concert

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.

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Mame.

Today, I’m introducing a new category of post.  It’s what I like to call the Extra Dry Martini Hero.  An Extra Dry Martini Hero can be a lot of things, including a person living or dead, or a fictional character that exemplifies Extra Dry Martini qualities.  They must have smarts, sass, and not be afraid to speak their mind.  Above all, he or she must be a true original, often imitated, never equaled.

To kick off the series, I’d like to nominate the fictional character Auntie Mame (of the film of the same title) as the inaugural EDM hero.  Ever since I was young, I’ve loved Mame, and her spot-on portrayal by the incomparable Rosalind Russell.  In later years, I discovered the book that the film is based on (penned by Patrick Dennis), and found it just as enjoyable.

Bold, brash, and impulsive, Mame’s sharp tongue is matched only by her big heart.  When the death of her brother deposits her ‘only living relative’ – her young nephew Patrick – on the front doorstep of her New York penthouse, Mame quickly instructs him on the finer points of life, including how to make the perfect martini:  ‘Always stir, never shake.  Bruises the gin.’

Thumbing her nose at convention, Mame gleefully throws a string of outlandish cocktail parties at her Beekman place penthouse, hiring bootleggers during the height of Prohibition, and entertaining foreign dignitaries, famed artists and intellectuals alike.

Her most loathsome adversary is always the insufferable snob, and whether it’s Patrick’s stuffy trustee at the Knickerbocker Bank, or his awful, empty-headed (but thankfully short-lived), fiancée Gloria, Mame always outsmarts the people we love to hate, doing it with such cleverness and grace that those who oppose her don’t have the faintest clue they’ve been outfoxed.

While her Extra Dry Martini stock is certainly helped by the fact that she enjoys a good martini – as young Patrick tells the Knickerbocker Bank trustee, ‘My Auntie Mame says olives take up too much room in such a little drink’ – what really sets Mame apart is her fierce wit and her unflappable joie de vivre.  Life is meant to be lived, by God, and as long as she’s around, she’s going to make sure she’s having a grand time.  While many of her antics – including redecorating her penthouse as often as she changes her glamorous couture – may be a bit over the top to use as a guidepost for everyday living, she does everything with style and heart, always looking out for the best interests of her ‘little lamb,’ Patrick, and reminding us to ‘live, live, live,’ because ‘life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!’

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