Extra Dry Martini.

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My name is Sarah, and this is my blog. I’ve been quite a few things in my life – an actress, a producer, a director, a publicist, a sports fanatic (go Hawks), a photo stylist, an amateur vocalist, a lover of fine wine and strong coffee, a world traveler with a serious case of wanderlust – but through it all, I’ve always, always been a writer.

Coming of age in the 1990s, I grew up watching the Today Show, and my greatest ambition was to be the next Katie Couric. After writing articles for my school paper and a brief stint anchoring my high school news show (if that footage is lurking out there somewhere, someone for the love of god, burn it), I entered USC as a Broadcast Journalism major. But getting cast in student plays and a semester in London immersing myself in the world of West End theatre ignited the spark of my performance bug, and I set off on a different path.

Yet through it all, writing has remained a vital part of my life. Whether for artistic purposes – penning plays, solo performance monologues, sketches, short screenplays – or to make money – copywriting, branded social media content, press releases – the pen, the notepad and the keyboard and I have never spent very much time apart.

When I began this blog in early 2012, I didn’t have a clear direction of where I wanted to go with it. I only knew that I’d lived through some incredible moments and I wanted to share my stories in a way that was funny, entertaining, and (hopefully), moving. I started with the name, Extra Dry Martini, and its tagline, Straight Up With a Twist: a cheeky take on my favorite cocktail, a tip of the hat to my blunt Sagittarian nature and my edgy, sarcastic sense of humor, and a thinly-veiled attempt to position myself as a female 007.

But life, as it’s wont to do, had other plans. Shortly after launching this blog, life took me on an unexpected and – frequently – painful journey. I now have more material than I know what to do with, but in a case of be careful what you wish for, I’ve discovered that my best writing has been born from my greatest challenges and the most crushing heartbreak I’ve ever known.

This blog has been my platform as I’ve struggled through grief and loss. It has been my attempt to make sense of the senseless, to shine a light in the darkness, and to refine and reclaim my voice. Through it all, I’ve realized that my only safety net is found on the page, my only sanctuary the warm blanket of the written word. If a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor, then consider this blog my attempt to navigate my own perfect storm, compass in hand, ever aiming for my true north.

I don’t know where this road will lead, but I thank you for joining me on it. Thank you for venturing with me into the great unknown. Welcome into my world, my life, my heart. This is, has been, and will be, incredibly personal. This is the thing itself.

Until next time, friends.

Love,

Sarah

Trouble.

Noir Lemon Melon

I like to fight. I can’t help it. My Irish father used to delight in telling his kids that our surname Kelly meant ‘troublesome’ in Gaelic. He’d laugh as he said it, a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

Dad was a trial lawyer, and by nature, he liked to argue. At family gatherings, my older siblings would often refuse to take the bait, preferring to pursue the path of diplomacy. Not me. I gave as good as I got. Frequent sparring became a central part of Dad’s and my relationship, and he’d pick fights with me on purpose, knowing that more often than not, I’d rise to the occasion.

When Dad was sick and living alone in his home in Olympia, he became even more stubborn and set in his ways. He was maddening, impossible. Everything was a negotiation. We wanted him to be in hospice care, he wanted to die alone at home. We tried to get him a live-in caretaker; he absolutely refused to have a stranger – no matter how qualified or permissive or kind – in his house.

And so it went, the battles. As Dad’s health declined, he labeled me the ‘aggressive’ one. My sisters were much sweeter, nicer, more patient, while I still fought Dad at nearly every turn. And I’m pretty sure he enjoyed it.

One of my last visits to Olympia coincided with an epic football match up between our alma maters: Dad’s beloved Oregon Ducks against my USC Trojans. Dad not only refused to watch the game with me because I wasn’t rooting for his team, he went so far as to banish me to another room, where I watched the game, sequestered away from him where he couldn’t hear me cheer if USC scored a touchdown. While my sister Deirdre shuttled back and forth between the two rooms, Dad and I watched and rooted against each other in our separate corners. At halftime, he abruptly shuffled into the kitchen to make himself a drink, barked ‘exciting game,’ and then retreated back to his den.

It’s no wonder I take sports so seriously. It’s no wonder I’m so competitive. I learned it from my Dad. I learned how to hold my own in fiery, contentious arguments. I learned that fighting with style and eloquence and passion is more effective than fighting fair. And I learned that the person who gets the last word usually wins, and so I always, always try to get the last word. A quality that not everyone finds endearing.

There’s a reason I’m drawn to the film noir genre and co-produce a noir play festival: I love to play bitches. The acting roles I get the most excited about are damaged, edgy, tough, dark and twisted dames who like to break the rules and who will claw and scrape for what they want. I may look like the girl next door, but I’d much rather be Lady Macbeth. After all, it’s a lot more fun to step into someone else’s skin if you’re able to take bolder risks and bigger chances than you’re allowed to in real life, and you’re not bound by the societal expectation to play nice.

There’s a part of me that understands that I have to follow the rules, and there’s a part of me that wants to break stuff, just to watch it shatter. I want to light things on fire and watch them burn. I want to crash the car, to jump off the cliff, to push the limits of what I can get away with.

I like to fight. I like to win. It’s why I’m still here. It’s why I won’t give up. And it’s why, sometimes, I live up to my last name.

Until next time, friends.

Eleven.

Today, I have a familiar craving for rocky road ice cream.  The same craving I have had every year, on this day, for the last eleven years.  On September 11, 2001 – and the days following – I ate a lot of it.  So did my roommate, Rachel.  We were college students, just beginning our junior year at the University of Southern California, when the planes hit the towers.  We were in shock, depressed, hopeless, and we couldn’t tear ourselves away from the news.  So other than attending the occasional class (which, in the days following 9/11, were really more like group therapy sessions than anything academic), we holed up in our apartment and ate ice cream.

I’m hard-pressed to remember a lot of specifics from that stretch of time 11 years ago.  I remember on the morning of 9/11, I called in sick to my PR internship on the 25th floor of a tower on L.A.’s Miracle Mile – only to find out they sent everyone home anyway for fear that Los Angeles would soon be under attack.  I remember Rachel waking me up, crying, telling me to turn on the news and not to leave the house.  I remember, dizzy with a head cold, turning on the T.V. and thinking I was dreaming.  I remember calling our best friend, Kate, who was on a study abroad program in Australia and desperate to come home.  I remember sleepwalking through my classes, and getting into a fight with my theater professor because I couldn’t bring myself to read plays that I was supposed to.  I remember lighting candles, and buying an American flag from a vendor on a freeway off ramp and putting it on my car.  I remember attending a vigil in front of City Hall in downtown Los Angeles among thousands of other people who were just like us:  helpless, confused, struggling to come to terms with what had happened, but desperate to connect and to find a sense of community in our grief.

My story isn’t like a lot of the stories you hear about September 11th.  It’s not a story of survival or a story of incredible loss.  In a lot of ways, it’s pretty unremarkable.  When 9/11 happened, I was just a girl in the process of becoming a woman, when the world got turned upside down.

In the years since that terrible day, there have been many defining moments that have carved our young millennium and have shaped and shaken my adult life:  the Iraq war; Hurricane Katrina; the global financial meltdown and the Great Recession; the explosion of social media; the Arab Spring; the election of Barack Obama.

But before all of these things, there was 9/11.  An event, that, for all of its horror, also left upon me an indelible impression of the magic that can happen when good comes out of bad, when hope comes out of tragedy.  In the days that followed 9/11, I will never, ever forget the overwhelming sense of community, the sense of national pride, the compassion, the kindness I experienced from complete strangers.  I haven’t seen anything like it before or since in my lifetime, and I fear I never will again.

How is it that we end up here – eleven short years later – so terribly polarized, so contentious, so bitter and full of hate, so unwilling to empathize with each other and unwilling to work together and compromise to solve the problems that our nation faces?  How quickly we forget that we were once all in this together.

Today, as we mark another anniversary of the terrible tragedy of 9/11, I hope, I pray, that we are also reminded of this simple truth:  that life is fragile, that it’s beautiful, and that our worlds can be turned upside down in an instant.  Why not spend the time we have left being a little bit kinder to one another?

And eating plenty of ice cream.

Until next time, friends.

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