Archive | October, 2014

A Plea To My Siblings: Don’t Take Christmas From Me

21 Oct

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Christmas is far and away my favorite holiday.

I’ve often worried I would fall in love with someone who had strong family Christmas traditions and our dueling alliances would tear us apart.  I will give my partner any other holiday, ANY holiday he wants, as long as he gives me Christmas.

My family does Christmas right.

There’s the neighbor gifts–salsa.  We all have our jobs, I write the labels because mah handwriting is da bomb, yo, also because I’m terrible with a blender. There’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, the novel we read every year growing up.  There’s the Disney Christmas Album and a box full of handmade ornaments, and a yearly Nativity pageant where I am always, always the angel and plan to be such until my own daughter rips the role from my hands.

And then there’s Christmas Eve.

Long ago when my four siblings and I were but young children, curly of hair, extreme of height, Christmas Eve meant the Nativity and Christmas morning meant presents.  These were the days of Barbies and video games and sleepless, giddy nights.  These were also the days when the cheap gifts we bought our siblings got lost in the fray of Barbies and video games and sleepless, giddy nights.

Enter Christmas Eve.

One year it was decided us children would exchange our gifts on Christmas Eve, allowing us to fully enjoy our simple sibling gifts for one night, and then on Christmas Day we would have our parent gifts.

This solution worked like a charm.

Suddenly sibling gifts were a thing.

A very, very important thing.

Back in the early, early days, sibling gifts consisted of our parents handing us $6 as we entered the Dollar Store, $1 per person per gift.   We would walk through the aisles, looking for the best crappy soap possible, furiously hiding our baskets from snooping siblings, and furiously trying to track down what our snooping siblings were getting us.

When money grew a bit more sophisticated, it was all of us at Target, trying hard not to/to run into each other in the aisles.

We would obsess over the gifts we got each other. “Just read the first three letters on the receipt,” we would say.  ”What are the first three letters?  That’s all I need to know.” We would shake hidden gifts and give hints and then, once we all went shopping together, we would all wrap our presents together.

This is my favorite part of all of Christmas.

My siblings and I gather in one big room and wrap our gifts to each other.

It’s exactly the sort of madness you would hope it would be.  We furtively show each other our grand surprises.  ”Ooooh Jessie,” we say, “you’re going to love this!” and Jessica, who has her back turned NO PEEKING groans in anticipation.

We build forts to wrap presents underneath.  We use love seats as dividers, employ the honor system, and loudly speculate as we wrap a gift.  ”Hear that?” we say, “That’s your gift Joel,” and then Joel will be off predicting based on the first three letters of the receipt.

A lot of things have changed since the Dollar Store days, but this Christmas Eve gift giving and wrapping has (mostly) stayed with us.  When Jeff flies in from Austin he brings a bag of unwrapped gifts.  When I return from California my sibling presents are bare, ready for wrapping day.  Ready for this, my favorite family tradition.

And then, one day, without warning, we grew  up.

We added people to the familia.

Hi Lindsey! Yo Andrew! Hello my little nephew/Pride Of The Family Denning!

And suddenly the task seemed bigger.  The gift giving for each, individual person more unlikely.

Last year we tried to end the sibling gift tradition, or I should say a majority tried to end the tradition, and a vocal minority (me) (I’m always the family’s vocal minority) opposed the motion.  Drawing a single sibling name for a single sibling Christmas gift was heartbreaking and painful and every draw I cried out, “I can’t do this!  I feel terrible!”

So our tradition continued another year.

Just one year, it appears.

For recently it was casually mentioned we would draw names and buy one sibling a gift this Christmas.

One sibling gift!

What about all of the other people I love who share my family ties!

How will we wrap nine presents in the same room if we are only wrapping one!

It doesn’t make any sense!

And so here is my plea.

My siblings read my blog.  So do you, great people of the world.  And I am imploring both my siblings and you to make this madness stop.

Comment on this post.  Use that emotion stored in your heart of hearts and convince my siblings they are wrong.

LET’S SAVE DENNING SIBLING CHRISTMAS GIFTS.

Together we can do it.

Selfies: The Agony And The Ecstasy

17 Oct

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I have a couple of items of important business for you on this fine Friday afternoon.

1. I only have one smelly armpit.  Lena Dunham mentioned this same condition in her book, and it made me feel a bit more normal, but it also made me wonder, do we all only have one smelly armpit?  Is this just something we never talk about because we are trying to be polite and appropriate? (Please check your pits and report back in the comments, thank you.)

2. Other things people don’t talk about: female facial hair.

3. Other things I want to talk about: Scandal.  Why am I only so-so about this show?  I enjoy it.  But I don’t ENJOY IT WANT TO SCREAM IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS ENJOY IT and it’s weird for me because what does enjoy it with a lowercase e even mean?  I’m not that person.

OK then.

Last thing.

Most important thing.

Self Magazine.

I’m working with Self Magazine this year!  Do you see that button to your right? The pink and black little banner thing that says Self Made Collective when you scrolllllll up? That banner proclaims to the world that I’m working with Self Magazine this year.

This means you’ll be seeing my articles on their website and various other fun things.  It also means you get this blog post with my selfie outtakes! And this Instagram with me talking about why I’m #SelfMade.  Let’s pull it up, shall we?

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Hey! My first ever Instagram selfie and it’s all thanks to the new @selfmagazine. I am #SELFMade because I have crazy big dreams and I (rather dramatically) pursue them. Also because I made Rice Krispie Treats by myself today.

Whew.  Seeing that again brings up a lot of anxiety.  I don’t know how you do it, people who just take casual selfies, but the morning I took this selfie I had a panic attack, paced around my roommate’s bed, and questioned all of which I know in this world.  Why do people take selfies? Should I go with duck face?  Do I need professional acne help?

WHAT’S WITH THE LIGHTING IN THIS ROOM?

Is my discomfort taking selfies a feminist issue?

Why can other people just take easy, breezy, beautiful selfies?

It was agony, I tell you.

And then it was ecstasy.

Because after I posted the selfie people were kind.  And supportive.  And that was nice.

It was a very confusing time for me.

Almost as confusing as my armpit situation.

Armpit sitch.

So!  Bringing it back, bringing it back, SCREAMING IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS THAT I’M BRINGING IT BACK, here’s the deal. There’s an Instagram contest going on right now with Self.  Share how you’re #SELFMade on Instagram and you could win a trip to Hawaii from Self Magazine.  (More details here.)

(I’ve never been to Hawaii and this suddenly seems dreadfully unfair.)

(Do we think I will win the contest?)

(Unrelated but crucial, when is the appropriate time for me to reenact Olivia Pope’s monologue, “THAT IS WHAT I DO AND THERE IS NO ONE BETTER IN THE ENTIRE WORLD AT IT THAN I AM”?)

Questions, questions.

Thoughts, thoughts.

I’m signing off now and getting some pasta salad. I suggest you do the same.

May your weekend be bright and full of selfies (or not) and Scandal (or not).  Either way, I’m here for you.

PS: Girlfriend selfies, aka the only selfies I know how to take.

Quitting My Job In Seven Stories

14 Oct

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#1

From an unpublished blog post August 11, 2014:

I have two personalities these days.

Personality #1 is Work Week Jill.

Personality #2 is Weekend Jill.

Work Week Jill is a bit of a disaster, but what were you really expecting from a girl named Work Week?

She’s very tired, this Work Week girl, and always a bit behind.  She gives herself exactly eight minutes to get ready in the mornings and has been considering shaving this down to four minutes.

Four minutes seems like a solid amount of time to really prepare for a successful day, right?

Work Week Jill is also pretty crabby.  She’s gone approximately 11 hours a day, fights traffic in and out of downtown LA at rush hour, and she rarely gets to do the things she loves.  Like Writing.  And Reading.   And Malibu.

Work Week Jill is known for her frighteningly low level of patience and random bouts of exhausted tears.

She’s rather scary if you ask me.

And not just because she’s named Work Week.

Then there’s Weekend Jill.

Oh Weekend Jill.

The world really likes Weekend Jill and Weekend Jill really likes the world.

Weekend Jill shows up every Friday night around 8:00 ready to take on everything.  She’s a big dreamer, this one, and wants to see and do and be everything at once.  She also wants to watch a season of Gilmore Girls a night.

It’s a little confusing to be a Weekend Jill.

But fun.  Very fun.

Weekend Jill plans weekend events.  Day trips to Topanga.  Afternoons at the OC Fair.  Ice cream runs in Malibu.

She giggles a lot and imagines the future a lot and tries a whole lot of new food, which is the key to happiness for Weekend Jill (and Work Week Jill) (and me).  (Am I separate from these two identities?) (How creepy has this become?)

By Sunday night, Weekend Jill is fully formed, and fully happy and when she says “I just feel so happy and full of love today” to her boyfriend Luke (who incidentally only has one, rather neurotic personality) he says, “I’ll try to remember this Weekend You fondly when I speak to Manic Monday You.”

And Weekend Jill laughs, feeling like nothing can take away her bliss.  That she’s finally rid of Work Week Jill once and for all.  That life is grand and will always be so!

And then Monday night hits.

And Work Week Jill and her issues are back.

And it all gets terribly confusing again.

Especially for me.

As you can imagine.

#2

We planned to meet up after work and bike to the beach.  It was part of our midweek routine, seeing each other on Wednesdays, maintaining the relationship while I was in the pit of the Deep Dark Evil. (Work.)

I got home late.  There was, of course, a last minute event I was thrown on, due by end of day.  My nerves were frazzled and the LA commute didn’t help.  By the time I walked in my door, eyes drooping, I was barely in the mood to exist, let alone leave the house.

“I’m fine,” I said, walking to the bike rack.  “Let’s just do this thing.”

He didn’t take the bike trail, likely because of time, but it seemed unsafe.  This pissed me off.

The traffic was bad.  This pissed my off.

My bike was slow, dragging, impossible to manage.  This pissed me off.

We lazily pedaled for a few minutes, though it was clear we were never making it to the pier for sunset.  “Stop here,” I said at the library.  “Let’s just watch it from here.”

We propped our bikes against the fence and I reached into my basket for a can of Diet Coke.  I took a sip and set it down on the ground.  He held my shoulders while I cried.

“I need to quit my job,” I said between tears.

“Yes,” he said.

“I hate everything right now,” I said.

He knocked over my Diet Coke.

 

#3

My last day of work I woke up 10 minutes early, giving myself a total of 12 minutes to get ready.  I curled my Farrah Fawcett’s, mascaraed my eyelashes, and in a fit of excitement, threw on a bra.

An hour later, settling into my desk, all smiles and “see ya l8ers h8ers” my work BFF looked across the cubicle at me.

“Whoa, she said,” I didn’t recognize you.”

“You didn’t recognize me without a greasy ponytail and a long-lost look of despair?” I said.

“Basically,” she said.

#4

I learned one great lesson in London.  Well, two great lessons, I suppose.

The first is just because an extra large pizza is the same price as a small pizza you shouldn’t always get the extra large.  (Or if you do, you shouldn’t always eat it all in one night.)

The second was quitting is not failing.

Quitting can be empowering, when it’s something you need to quit.

Quitting can be brave.

 

#5

Hilary gave me a “goobye to work” playlist that looped through my last week.  The songs were carefully curated to inspire me, to make me love my decision.

I already loved my decision.

I loved the playlist too.

#6

Goodbye Work Playlist

1. Death On Two Legs — Queen

2. Sabotage — Beastie Boys

3. Royals — Lorde

4. We’re Not Going To Take It — Twisted Sister

5. I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction) — Rolling Stones

6. Shake It Off — Taylor Swift

7. Nice To Know You — Incubus

8. Dear Marie — John Mayer

9. Wind Beneath My Wings — Bette Midler

10. Somewhere Over The Rainbow — Israel

11. Breakway — Kelly Clarkson

12. Butterfly — Mariah Carey

13. I Have Confidence — Julie Andrews

14. Roar — Katy Perry

15. That’s What Friends Are For — Dione Warwick

16. Everybody’s Free — Quindon Tarver

17. Spice Up Your Life — Spice Girls

18. Defying Gravity — Idina Menezl

#7

Weekend Jill is Malibu Jill.

Silver Lake Is For Hipsters (And Lovers) (And Cats On Leashes)

13 Oct

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I’m sitting here eating a caramel-chocolate-mini-m&m-pretzel rod and that’s really the beginning and the end of everything, isn’t it?

Whenever I sit down to compose a blog post, my first impulse is to start with a detailed description of what I’m consuming at the moment.  It’s a terrible habit, and a terribly boring habit in terms of writing, and yet I’m drawn to it.  Every time I put my fingers to the keyboard to spill something profound all I can think is, “Wow, I really love this pretzel rod.  And that pop of salt?!”

I’ll try to spare you all.

The other evening I decided I was going to try one of my all night writing sessions.  These late nights have been known to be effective in the past, my most effective, in fact, and so on the way home from Luke’s at 1:00AM I stopped at Jack in the Box and I got a Munchie Meal.

I congratulated myself on this choice.  Two types of fries!  Possibly-soy tacos!  Something smothered in cheese!

A friend said she saw the Munchie Meal advertised and wondered who on earth consumed such a thing.  Well, the answer is me, and the answer is, in the cold light of morning with no writing done and a pit in my stomach the size of two potentially-vegan tacos I had regrets.

All the regrets.

The other day Luke and I drove by Joni Mitchell’s Laurel Canyon home.  It was a special trip, one to fulfill my heart’s deepest desires.  As we climbed the Hollywood Hills my lungs filled with anticipation.   My eyes widened, ready to take it all in. This was it!  This was where all the magic happened, where Joni became Joni!  I waited for the traffic to thin, the houses to grow sparse, the air to turn crisp and medicinal.

It never happened.

Joni’s home was right off a busy thoroughfare, covered by shrubbery.

It was nothing to look at it, nothing to see.

My soul wasn’t healed, or even touched, really.

I tend to have this problem with anything I’ve imagined.  The reality is just…reality.  I remember seeing the Pantheon in Rome and being completely let down.  I had envisioned the famous building on the top of a quaint hill surrounded by lush greenery and faint breezes. I had imagined my ascent–treacherous and possibly involving a donkey, but worth it when I finally got to the top and soaked in its majesty.

Instead I nearly had my chest crushed and my purse stolen by unruly, smelly crowds in the center of Rome.

Que sara sara.

(A boy once put this que sara sara song on a playlist for me after we broke up.  That’s all I can ever think when I say that phrase.)

Que sara sara, Joni.

I read an article about Joni Mitchell’s current Bel Air home and the best part of the whole thing was when Joni called the interviewer at 8:00AM and said, “I just wanted to talk to you before I went to bed,” and the interviewer is like, “Joni, it’s 8:00AM.”

I get that.  I’m a little sad I’ve lost that to an extent, the world has stolen my all-nighters from me, and I’m trying to get them back.

Jack in the Box Munchie Meals are not the way to go, it seems.

The day of the Joni Mitchell Laurel Canyon thingamabob, Luke, myself, and my new leather fall boots spent the morning in Silver Lake.  Luke and myself quite enjoyed the morning, but my boots, let me tell you.  They were none to happy.

As I sat in the car, using Luke’s entire Band-Aid supply on my feet and wincing at the memory of the boots I wondered when I will learn.  New shoes are not to be had for day trips!

But they were soooo cute.  I tell myself.  But they were fall and went with the flannel and….oh there’s no excuse because it was so unbelievably hot and the flannel was too much to begin with.

It’s been so boiling toasty here. I’ve done my best not to only fill this blog with tales of the weather, though maybe that’s an idea right there.  A weather blog!  With a side of what I’m eating right now!

But really, Instagram and the news, and the sweat barreling down my leg midday are all screaming about the heat and I seem to be ignoring everything and wearing flannel and boots.

(I’m going to Utah in two weeks.  I’m going to Utah in two weeks.  I’m going to Utah in two weeks.)

Silver Lake was everything I had hoped it would be all in one hipster morning.  It was coffee shops with almond butter muffins and coconut kale smoothies and fresh, local, organic everything.

It was grown men with cats on leashes, and handmade flavored luxury marshmallows and a store that sold (and rented) VHS tapes.

It was the purchasing of Raising Arizona on VHS as a gag gift and the constant compliments on “such a find.”  It was an hour in a record store with a perpetual disaffected 80s youth and vintage stores galore, and one ill-fated attempted walk around the lake in which I winced from the car and wished the whole thing were prettier.

It was a spice shop stuffed with things I’ve never heard of and smoky cajun powder for Luke and mint tea for me.

It was an episode of Portlandia, right here in LA.

I quite loved it.

I quite love this pretzel rod, too.  Did I mention the pretzel rod?

Adventures In Decorating: The Lily Allen Article

8 Oct

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Moments after finishing the article, I rip the pages out of Vogue and search for a frame.

These words deserve a frame.

I’ve never done this before, put magazine clippings into something beautiful, but after reading about Lily Allen’s country home, I know I have no choice.  This feeling needs to be preserved forever.

I make my way through my jumble of a room.  I am still in the unpacking phase, the “olive green suitcase sporting half a dry shampoo bottle phase.”  It’s this phase that feels like the forever phase.  The phase of the rest of my life.

I find two white frames currently boasting sketches from Alice in Wonderland.  I bought them during a day trip to Oxford.  I felt like I couldn’t pass them up—when would I be able to buy sketches from the very place Caroll wrote his twisted tale?

When would I be able to buy other things I didn’t want or need, but felt like a good idea?

I open the back of the frames and carefully slide in the glossy pages.  They take some adjusting and the thick, unyielding Tweedle Dum paper doesn’t help anything, but eventually they are in place.

My first, real decorating endeavor complete, or so it feels.

I smile and reread the article, pausing on the important bits.

Lily Allen’s country house, hidden away down a deliciously long drive in the depths of the English Cotswolds is the sort of place Mrs. Tigglewinkle might have lived.  The ancient front door, reached through a charming cobbled courtyard dripping with white hydrangeas, has the date 1660 carved in stone above it.  The only indication that this is home to a 29-year-old singer-songwriter rather than a fictional hedgehog is a welcome mat that reads CHANEL. 

The older girl appears, dressed in a multicolored baby-djellba-type garment, “Shall we go and pick some flowers?” asks Lily, gathering a basket and secateurs in one hand, child in another.

 The rooms have been given nicknames—the best guest bedroom, with beautiful vintage curtains and a crewelwork bedspread is Claridges.

I brace myself for the article’s improbably fabulous end, a scene as fantastical as any Harry Potter battle.

When I return a couple of hours later, Lily is arranging a huge bunch of blooms in a giant cream-colored earthenware jug.  Somehow she also manages to simultaneously pour champagne for her guests, roast two chickens, make delicious fresh salads, and entertain the group with her tales from the road.  As we eat, the late summer sun sets through a tiny round window facing west, a rash of reds, golds, and oranges. “The light! Look at the light here!” sighs one guest rapturously. “It’s perfect.”

I smile to myself.

“It is possible,” I sigh rapturously.  It is possible to live the exact life I want.

 

PS: Lily’s best song ever (something I don’t take lightly because it’s really hard out here for a bitch), yes?

The Paralyzing Fear Of Pursuing Your Dreams

7 Oct

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This evening, following an early dinner of fish tacos and enough Diet Coke for three, maybe four years, Hilary and I took a walk on the beach.

“We should do this more often,” she said, and I agreed.  We both live five minutes from the water, a gift that is not lost on either of us.  I can actually see the waves crash on the shore from my pillow on a clear morning.

How incredibly lucky I am.

How incredibly lucky I am, I remind myself, when I start to obsess over how incredibly scared I am.

I do this thing with writing. It’s called “apologize for my work so I never have to face the realities of my failings.”

It’s called hiding.

There are always a plethora of excuses at my disposal for why my writing isn’t top notch.

I didn’t try that hard.

I’m too stressed.

I really didn’t have time to give it my all.  I hate that, you know?  One of these days I’m going to have the space to really devote to my work and I’m just going to kill it.  WRITING WILL BE MINE.

But until then…

I’m busy.

I couldn’t try my hardest.

These are comforting phrases.  They mean when I present my script to classmates I can say, “I didn’t give it my all this time” and sit back in my chair, resting easier.

They mean nothing, really.

At the moment I have time to write.  Hell, I quit my normal 9:00-6:00, soul-sucking corporate job so I could have time to write.

I’m not overly stressed.

I didn’t have an off day with a possible headache and clear, growing signs of mono, maybe.

I can give writing my all right now, and I should.

And yet…

I’m scared.

I’m scared to say, plainly and boldly, “Here I am.  Here is my best.”

On our walk, Hilary and I talked through a lot of things.  Homesickness, for one.  We’ve concluded that homesickness is a lot like running.  The pain never really goes away, but over time you grow accustomed to the hurt.

We talked about our dreams and wishes.  About the birds that were on the beach, all congregated as if to watch the sunset.

We talked Emma Thompson.

The tide grew higher, surprising us with its urgency, soaking us with salt and sand.  A golden glow topped Malibu, and my hair grew to comic book proportions.

“We’ve got this,” Hilary said.

“We’ve got this,” I replied, half meaning it.

 

(I’m scared.)

Luke Danes v. Luke Boyfriend: An Analysis

5 Oct

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Long before he was Luke on this blog, I referred to my boyfriend as Luke in whispered girl-talk code-name-necessary conversations.

I chose the name Luke because of Luke Danes on Gilmore Girls, the gruff diner owner with a secret heart of gold.  My Luke is so very Luke.  He is so very stoic and he is so very good at making bacon and he, in the scheme of my life loves, is so very much a Luke.

I had a Christopher.  Amy Sherman Palladino was right about those Christophers.

She was also right about those Lukes.

She was right about everything, really, just as I should have always known she would be.

Luke Danes v. My Luke

An informal analysis

                      LUKE DANES                                           MY LUKE

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