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Things I love about my life right now

28 Jun

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My life is shifting in remarkable ways right now. The tectonic plates are in action and everything is moving, loudly and quickly.

And so, before it all slips away, before I enter this new stage fully, I wanted to record some things I love about the current one:

Monday date days

Thursday yin yoga with Lisa

Married at First Sight

Friday afternoon post-work naps

Carnitas wet burritos for every celebration

Walking to Point Dume

Walking to Zuma

Lasagna soup from Vintage

Drives through the canyon

Hot tub nights

Hiking days

Coming home to a completely mine apartment

Trips to Santa Barbara for my favorite meal

Trips to Santa Barbara for any reason

Walking the Pepperdine track late at night

Checking Malibu Yogurt for its latest flavors

Freedom

Freedom

Freedom

4 Minutes (Not The Madonna Song)

27 Apr

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It took about four minutes. Four minutes and 20 posts before I was utterly depressed.

I don’t follow certain types of bloggers for this reason. They are not aspirational to me, they are depressing.

Suddenly I’m looking at their tiny bodies in tiny bikinis, on everlasting vacations paid for by others. Suddenly their luscious locks and free clothing make my life feel like one giant slog towards death.

Suddenly the questions I ask myself are

Where did everything go so wrong

Should I make mac and cheese

Wouldn’t that be coping with food

You’re not even hungry

But it will make me feel better

Fine, you have no self control look at that tiny body

Suddenly I’m there.

The thing that bothers me most about these bloggers is that they are selling this as real life. It’s different than a fashion ad in a magazine where you know it is a model posed to sell the clothing. These girls are posing to sell clothing, but also under the guise of “sharing their life.” Here we are on vacation. Again. Best husband, best sunset, best life.

And when you make it personal like that, when you take away hey this just an ad designed to sell clothing and instead say hey look my life is so out-of-this-world, if you bought these things yours would be too, then it becomes dangerous.

No one gets a free pass in life, an existence smooth and wrinkle-less. We all have things.

Christine Amorose, a writer I follow, posted recently about travel bloggers. She said:

I’m friends with a lot of travel bloggers (both online and in real life), and there’s often this very obvious (or sometimes sneakily subtle) feeling of superiority because they travel regularly and make a living from it. Sometimes they even want to teach you how to do it too (!), as if the world needs fewer accountants and engineers and secretaries and is instead calling out for more people to get paid to take photos of waterfalls and post them on Instagram. Even as someone with her toes dipped in the industry, I have the very real sense that this whole travel influencer thing is all a huge bubble that might very well burst. And I see all of the ebooks and guides on “how you can do it too!” and headlines screaming about six-figure salaries while thinking: but is the behind-the-scenes as desirable as the highlight reel? Is that flashy salary paying for health insurance and 401Ks? Are you really as content as the life that you’re trying to sell?

Because within this narrative of exotic travel equaling the dream life, there’s a latent disdain for a life of commutes and offices and mortgages and “the real world” in which many of us live. Speaking as someone who regularly deals with train delays and arbitrary work hours and exorbitant rent payments, I can say quite honestly that there are certainly days in which I would prefer to be sipping a margarita while staring at a turquoise sea instead of dealing with “real life.” But as someone who travels fairly regularly for work and for play, I can also say that real life has a way of catching up with you, no matter where in the world you are. There can be joy and heartache and arguments and the feeling as if everything is finally clicking together at home or the office or while stuck in traffic on your way home just as much as it can happen on vacation.

I so appreciated this, and I so appreciate this writer. She is someone who gets paid to travel, she’s always honest about it, and she never makes her life into something it’s not. I never stare at her and think why not me?

The truth of the matter is, I’ve never wanted to switch lives with someone I know. As soon as you know someone, you see their struggles and realize, oh, ok, no thanks. But it’s the allure, the illusion of perfection of someone you don’t know who convinces you that others out there. They are experiencing a smooth, wrinkle-free life!

Another writer I love says it this way:

Chances are, if you are reading this, you’re noticing a bit of a chasm between the life you lead and the life you want to lead, and here’s a secret: we all have this chasm. We all have this gap. There is nothing broken in you that is not broken in everyone. We are each conditioned to want something different than what we have been given. And so, you have two options: (1) Chase someday, or (2) Accept today. I recommend the latter. Remind yourself that you are here, breathing, alive and well(ish). For now, let that be enough.

I think what’s missing for me in (many) of these types of bloggers is the “we all have this gap” aspect. I read stories and write stories to assure myself that what I feel is normal, that we’re all in this together. We have chasms, we chase after things we shouldn’t. But there is nothing broken in me that isn’t broken in everyone.

I spent four minutes of my beautiful, flawed life looking at someone’s fake, flawed life and it was not a good use of my time.

But I am here, breathing, alive and well(ish). For now, that’s enough.

(And one day, I’ll forget to look.)

The Good Things Text

19 Feb

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A couple years ago a friend and I started a daily “here’s what went right” text. At the time, she was going through some really difficult things and naturally, a lot of our conversations revolved around everything challenging and frustrating.

It got exhausting, though. For both of us. It’s exhausting to live life focusing on all that is bad, all that is wrong, all we are upset with. I do it very naturally, with or without difficult things going on.

And so we started the text.

It was hard at first. Some days I would announce that I had combed my hair and that was all I could come up with. Other days she would say she took a shower. Sometimes it felt stupid or ridiculous trying to come up with fake good things when all I wanted to say was TODAY WAS HORRIBLE, FEEL BAD FOR ME.

Eventually though, like any muscle that’s exercised, finding the good things got easier.

My friend confessed that she was doing things just so she could share them. I started to look for what was going right, even the small, fake things.

Over time our lives utterly transformed.

Today that friend is a Buddhist monk, who travels the world sharing how she found inner peace. She’s a multimillionaire self-help author…

Oh wait! Wrong friend!

In truth, that friend and I are still bumbling through life.

We continue to do the “good things” text every day, now with a few more people involved.  It isn’t as urgent as it once was, or as difficult as it once was. She’s in a much better place, as am I. I think the text helped her. I know it helped me. And we may not be Buddhist monk level of acceptance, but my goodness are we closer.

Desmond Tutu talks about this in The Book of Joy with the Dalai Lama. He was asked how he stays positive, even during difficult times like his cancer treatments. He says,

I think we ought not to make people feel guilty when it is painful. It is painful, and you have to acknowledge that it is painful. But actually, even in the midst of that pain, you can recognize the gentleness of the nurse who is looking after you. You can see the skill of the surgeon who is going to be performing the operation on you.

It is put another way in the wonderful, wonderful children’s book All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook. Perry was raised in a minimum-security prison and there learned tricks for surviving any experience with a measure of grace and optimism. One such trick is the “Win-Win.” 

The first ‘win’ means you count all small good things that happen to you every day. The second ‘win’ means you do things that bring victories to others. I’ve heard Big Ed say that at least a hundred times, ‘No matter where you live, you have a community of some kind. And you can be a contributor.’ New intakes sometimes roll their eyes at all of this. But the ones that try to follow his advice, well, it just goes better for them. I’ve seen it a hundred times.

“It just goes better for them.” Isn’t that what it all boils down to?

Life, prison, cancer treatments, it just goes better if you notice and count those small victories even when they seem stupid and fake AND FEEL PITY FOR MY TERRIBLE LIFE.

Tonight I’ll get off of work and likely get Jack in the Box tacos for dinner. I’ll come home and crawl into bed and text my friend all the good things that happened today.

“I wrote a blog post!” I’ll say.

I wrote a blog post and I helped someone choose out a great book and hey, guess what

Today I combed my hair.

Some Words In 2016

30 Dec

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I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.

Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things

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As people are wont to say, this is not like coal mining or anything, but why do people qualify what they find difficult in terms of extremes? Why is it so uncomfortable just owning that sometimes, life is difficult, and books are difficult and exposing yourself is difficult even if it is something you have chosen to do, with sound mind and body.

Roxane Gay

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Last night I wept. I wept because the process by which I have become woman was painful. I wept because I was no longer a child with a child’s blind faith. I wept because my eyes were opened to reality….I wept because I could not believe anymore and I love to believe. I can still love passionately without believing. That means I love humanly. I wept because I have lost my pain and I am not yet accustomed to its absence.

Anaïs Nin

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‘If you’re teasing me, Westley, I’m just going to kill you.’
‘How can you even dream I might be teasing?’
‘Well, you haven’t once said you loved me.’
‘That’s all you need? Easy. I love you. Okay? Want it louder? I love you. Spell it out, should I? I ell-oh-vee-ee why-oh-you. Want it backward? You love I.’
‘You are teasing now; aren’t you?’
‘A little maybe; I’ve been saying it so long to you, you just wouldn’t listen.“

William Goldman, The Princess Bride

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Time is a great deadener; people forget, get bored, grow old, go away.  She said that not much had happened between us anyway, historically speaking.  But history is a string full of knots, the best you can do is admire it, and maybe knot it up a bit more.  History is a hammock for swinging and a game for playing.  A cat’s cradle.  She said those sorts of feelings were dead, the feelings she once had for me.  There is a certain seductiveness about dead things.  You can ill treat, alter and recoiler what’s dead.  It won’t complain.

Jeanette Winterson, Oranges are not the only Fruit

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This isn’t the part of the story when the woman overcomes her challenges and is rewarded with new love. It’s not the part when the rain washes away her fear or rinses off her grief.

This is the part when the clouds part so briefly she might have imagined it, when the promise of light is made and then brutally withheld, when restoration begins to seem possible but is not yet realized.

This isn’t the happy part of the story, but that’s O.K. This story isn’t finished.

Lily Brooks-Dalton, New York Times Modern Love

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No subsequent love of mine has ever felt as innocently sure and safe as the one I left behind that summer, and some part of me still mourns that loss. But each new love has expanded my sense of what I might encounter, what I might claim. It seems to me that freedom is both its own lesson and reward, and I have come to accept and even to welcome the rawness that change brings, the sting of new skin meeting the world.

Amy Bonnaffons, New York Times Modern Love

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Maybe because we live in an age of so many choices, most of them meaningless, we romanticize the notion that falling in love isn’t a choice but something that happens to us. That love tells us what to do, not the other way around. Love is the authority figure, and if love tells us wrongly, then we can’t be held fully responsible.

Justin Tyler Clark, New York Times Modern Love

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The thing is, you don’t really have to believe what you write in a blog for more than the moment when you’re writing it. You don’t bring the same solemnity that you would bring to an actual essay. You don’t think, is this what I really want to say? You think, This is what I feel like saying at this moment.

Nora Ephron, The Last Interview and Other Conversations

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If I’d stayed there, would I always have been happy? No, I suppose not. People move away, grow older, die-hard and the bright belief that there will be another marvelous thing around each corner fades. It is now or never; we must snatch at happiness as it flies.

J. L. Carr, A Month in the Country

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Nostalgia is so certain: the sense of familiarity it instills makes us feel like we know ourselves, like we’ve lived.  To get a sense that we have already journeyed through something–survived it, experienced it–is often so much easier and less messy than the task of currently living through something.  Though hard to grasp, nostalgia is elating to bask in–temporarily restoring color to the past.  It creates a sense memory that momentarily stimulates context.  Nostalgia is recall without the criticism of the present day, all the good parts, memory without the pain.  Finally, nostalgia asks so little of us, just to be noticed and revisited; it doesn’t require the difficult task of negotiation, the heartache and uncertainty that the present does.

Carrie Brownstein, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl

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I mean “God” as shorthand for the Good, for the animating energy of love; for Life, for the light that radiates from within people and from above; in the energies of nature, even in our rough, messy selves.

Anne Lamott

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Maturity is the ability to live with unsolved problems.

Anne Lamott

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Remembering birthdays doesn’t photograph. Being the first up to make a brew and wrestle the papers from the letterbox doesn’t have a checkbox on the dating site. There’s no app for “partners who just want to tell you that you’re enough.” I marvel at the marriages of my friends and their parents, too, how accepting they are, how full of compromise and trying, and I think, I don’t know if I can do that. But the point is, surely, that with the gentle ones, the ones who will chat to your mum on the phone when she calls and buy the book you commented on at the weekend as a surprise and save the ripest avocado for you, tomorrow, because you like avocado for breakfast, it doesn’t much seem like compromise at all.

Laura Jane Williams

 

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Travel by foot.  There is so much you can’t identify at top speed.

Cheryl Strayed

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We die to each other daily. What we know of other people is only our memory of the moments during which we knew them. And they have changed since then. To pretend that they and we are the same is a useful and convenient social convention which must sometimes be broken. We must also remember that at every meeting we are meeting a stranger.
T.S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party

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No one got the instructions. That is the secret to life. Everyone is flailing around, winging it most of the time, trying to find the way back out, or through, or up, without a map. This lack of instruction manual is how most people develop compassion, and got they figure out how to show up, care, help and serve, as the only way of filling up and being free. Otherwise, you grow up to be someone who needs to dominate and shame others, so no one will know that you weren’t there the day the instructions were passed out.

Anne Lamott

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“Don’t you think saying goodbye to your child will make death more painful?”

“Wouldn’t it be great if it did?”

Paul Kalinthi, When Breath Becomes Air

 

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Grace means you’re in a different universe from where you had been stuck, when you had absolutely no way to get there on your own.

Anne Lamott

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Unbearable suffering awaits us all. A brief glimpse through history can confirm: none of us are guaranteed a happy life. If we want meaning we have to create it. If we want to find peace, we need to know there’s a purpose for suffering.

Brianna West, Soul Anatomy 

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We all have to start somewhere if us want to do better, and our own self is what us have to hand.

Alice Walker, The Color Purple

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I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

Portia Nelson

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We’re not born with unlimited choices.  We can’t be anything we want to be.  We come into this world with a specific, personal destiny.  We have a job to do, a calling to enact, a self to become.  We are who we are from the cradle, and we’re stuck with it.  Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.

Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

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The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation. The artist must be like the Marine. He has to know how to be miserable. He has to love being miserable. He has to take pride in being more miserable than any soldier or swabbie or jet jockey. Because this is war, baby. And war is hell.

Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

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You can do it

Do you understand how amazing it is to hear that from an adult?  Do you know how amazing it is to hear that from anybody?  It’s one of the simplest sentences in thew world, just four words, but they’re the four hugest words in the world when they’re put together.

You can do it.

I can do it.

Let’s do it.

Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

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Is fake love better than real love? Real love is responsibility, compromise, selflessness, being present and all that shit. Fake love is magic, excitement, false hope, infatuation, and getting high off the potential that another person is going to save you from yourself.

Melissa Broder, So Sad Today

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We frequently long for things not because they are actually missing, but because the state of longing gives us the illusion of movement — something always out of reach to strive for. This can be a romantic experience, poignant or full of feelings, which places us in the center of what we think it means to “really feel alive.” If, however, the feelings should become too much, remember that there is also a romance in learning to want what we have.

October horoscope–Melissa Broder for Lenny Letter

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There are a few people out there with whom you fit just so, and, amazingly, you keep fitting just so even after you have growth spurts or lose weight or stop wearing heels. You keep fitting after you have children or change religions or stop dyeing your hair or quit your job at Goldman Sachs to take up farming. Somehow, God is gracious enough to give us a few of those people, people you can stretch into, people who don’t go away, and whom you wouldn’t want to go away even if they offered to.

Lauren Winner, Girl meets God

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Whenever I saw her, I felt like I had been living in another country, doing moderately well in another language, and then she showed up speaking English and suddenly I could speak with all the complexity and nuance that I hadn’t even realized was gone. With Lucy I was a native speaker.

Ann Patchett, Truth and Beauty

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It must be hard to be a mother. All those years of knowing everything about your daughter, of dressing her and bearing her and being intimately acquainted with her every need and want, and then one day you wake up and realize you don’t even know what kind of dress to buy her at Clery’s.

Jessie Ann Foley, The Carnival at Bray

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You can never have too much sky. You can fall asleep and wake up drunk on sky, and sky can keep you safe when you are sad. Here there is too much sadness and not enough sky. Butterflies are too few and so are flowers and most things that are beautiful. Still, we take what we can get and make the best of it.

Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

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In my expertise have, there’s no secret to accomplishing almost any goal worth having.

Lauren Graham, Talking as Fast as I Can

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Life is never predictable. Life is never really manageable. If your mindset is always “i’m just surviving,” it seems to me that would wind up being your mindset for the rest if your life. You’d just get stuck in it.

Joanna Gaines, The Magnolia Story

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You can love someone down to their core and they can love you right back just as hard, and if you traded diaries you’d learn things you never suspected. There’s a part of everyone deep down inside of them not meant for you.

Mindy McGinnis, The Female of the Species

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Having to fight for the thing you want doesn’t mean you deserve it any less.

Anna Kendrick, Scrappy Little Nobody

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See: 2015, and 2014  in words

A State of the Sickness

30 Nov

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For three days it was my mom, my sister and me, on the couches in the living room talking about personal things a little too personally.

Let’s have a state of the sickness, my mother would say and we would go around sharing our latest symptoms and what the internet had told us. You see, we had independently researched our illness online and come up with independent conclusions. None of them matched.

It was a strange bonding experience. My mom realized she loves Hallmark Christmas movies which is weird that it took this long because in the words of Rob, she is a Hallmark Christmas movie.

Jessica tried KUTWK for the first time.

I got emotional when Sabrina the Teenage Witch delivered one of those great nuggets of wisdom as Sabrina was forced to fight to prove her love for Harvey or risk life as a frog. When asked why Zelda would allow Sabrina to risk her future for this task Zelda said, “It was never a risk. It’s always true love at 16.

It’s always true love at 16.

This blog is one of my proudest accomplishments in the past few years, probably of this past life as Jillian Lorraine Denning. I’m proud I’ve kept it up. I’m proud of things I’ve written. I’m proud of my growth.

I have the nicest, most supportive blog readers. A friend of mine commented on that. She said, “Do you know this person?” about some comment or another. “No,” I said. “She’s great though, isn’t she?”

I love whenever I get a thoughtful comment. Like this one. It made me laugh because it’s so accurate.

I love whenever I get an email from someone and my words meant something to them. I’ve had people reach out when I don’t write in a while making sure I’m OK. I’ve been invited to coffee dates in various cities around the country. Real people who appreciate my words and I appreciate their words, and somehow, some way, we are helping each other through life a bit. That’s the dream.

I remind myself. I am living the dream!

Would I want that other dream? The one where mean people on the internet dissect everything I wear and say and do? Where I force sponsored items into half-hearted posts so mean people on the internet could dissect everything I wear and say and do?

I grind my teeth, remember?

I know my limits.

I’m living the dream.

Lena Dunham wrote this piece about Lil Miquela and I read it on Tuesday morning and really wanted to speak to someone about it. I had so many thoughts–they ventured into Kanye and the blurring of social media and life and What Is Art Now Anyway.

My go-to texters were MIA so I mentioned it on Instagram.

Very quickly thereafter Lil Miquela liked the post!

And then I got some random people commenting asking me how I’m related to Lena and Lil Miquela!

And then I shut the whole thing down!

It was so stressful, my one second of non-internet fame.

I’ve removed the Twitter app from my phone again, by the way.

It’s too overwhelming. I need to find that balance, that once a day news sweep/action balance. I worry so much for this country, this world.

 

Also Lil Miquela. My guess is she’s this woman’s SIM/Avatar/graphic design/social experiment type thing and honestly the more I look at her the more I’m a bit scared.

I think that was sort of the point.

If there is a point to art, anyway

What Is Art Anyway?

I promised myself I would blog three times this week. Three whole whopping times like a Whopper Jr. with three sides of CrissCut fries and a Coke.

Does this one count?

Do Unto Yourself

23 Oct

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Anne Lamott, in her yearly essay urging us all to stop dieting, says something I think about often.

One of the ways she talks about food is to encourage people to prepare every meal like their pastor is coming to dinner.

You wouldn’t say, “Here Pastor–let’s eat standing up in the kitchen. This tube of Pringles is ALL for you.” And then stand there gobbling from your own tubular container.

No, you’d get out pretty dishes, and arrange wonderful foods on the plates, and set one plate before your pastor at the table, filled with happiness, love, pride and connection. That’s what we have longed for, our whole lives, and get to create, now. Wow!

Prepare every meal like it’s for someone you love and admire.

The phrase do unto others as you would have done to you is a good one, especially if you’re an out-of-control narcissit who needs help treating others like human beings.  But I think the reverse is equally powerful.

Do unto yourself as you would have others do to you

Or even

Do unto yourself as you would have done unto others

Hilary came to stay last week. It was a week full of chili cheese fries and laughter, nostalgia and moving forward. It was a good week.

Before she came, I cleaned my apartment top to bottom. I organized my pantry. I swept and mopped the floors. I washed every single item that could possibly need to be washed. I filled my life with fresh flowers and fresh cookies.

The night she arrived I made big bowls of steaming pasta topped with arugula. We sat on my barstools and ate on y placemats.

Two days after she left I ate expired mac and cheese and a box of Fruit by the Foot on my bed.

Do unto yourself as you would have done unto others.

Maybe that’s what it’s all about.

Maybe when a friend shows up at my house and does my dishes and feeds my plant and generally looks after my well-being she is doing to me what she would like done to her and I am doing to Hilary what I would like done to me and we teach other. Through our actions and examples we show each other how we should treat ourselves.

Do unto yourself as you would have done unto others

That’s what we’ve longed for our whole lives, and get to create now.

 

Wow.

There’s Something About Podcasts

19 Sep

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Several months ago I jumped into the shallow end of the podcast pool and injured my knees on the ground. All scraped up, I jumped again and again, downloading every podcast on every list of people’s favorite podcasts, feeling stressed and behind and obsessive when I couldn’t keep up with them, or worse, didn’t like them. It became a burden in my life, one I kept adding to.

Soon I was that woman with 50 seashells necklaces around her neck, barely limping around town from the weight of it all.

But they are seashells!

They are supposed to be great!

I don’t know this woman, but it’s a nice visual.

Today I’m pleased to say I am in a healthy relationship with podcasts. I’ve deleted the ones I don’t listen to. I don’t feel I have to listen to the entire archives or nothing. I’m here and I’m ready and let’s talk about the best ones.

1. This American Life

We all already listen to this, yes? It’s the best because it’s the best. And because we all have sexual tension with Ira Glass.

Length: 1 hour. Love the episode Tell Me I’m Fat.

 

 2. Modern Love

A celebrity reads a New York Times Modern Love column. They are interesting and charming and a quick listen. Thirty minutes or less podcasts are great and there should be so many more of them.

Length: 30 minutes or less (see above). Love the episode Friends Without Benefits.

 

3. Magic Lessons

A podcast where Elizabeth Gilbert takes on a regular person’s creativity problem, gets advice from another creative, and gives out homework assignments. Always leaves me pumped on c-r-e-a-t-i-v-i-t-y. (Did you see that? I was getting creative with how I even wrote creativity. That’s power.)

Current season has hour-long episodes. The Action is Here inspired this blog post of mine.

 

4. Scholastic Reads

I get really Zen and at peace with the world every time this one is on. I love hearing about the woman who physically transported the Harry Potter manuscripts on an airplane because they didn’t trust the internet with edits. I genuinely celebrate along with 30 years of Baby-Sitters Club. It’s a blast to hear about the behind the scenes of the Scholastic Reading Club.  Are you ready to hang out with me on a Friday night yet?

Length: 30 minutes. Here’s that Baby-Sitters Club one.

 

5. The RobCast

I usually listen to this one on Sundays. Rob Bell is a Christian pastor now…podcaster? Inspirational speaker? I’m not sure. He talks about some Christian things and spiritual things but mainly really human things. How to be a better human being in a world where it can be really hard to be a good human being. Excellent, always always always always always.

Length: 30 minutes – 1 hour. Listen to this one on seasons.

 

6. Strangerville

I went to high school with the guy who writes It Just Gets Stranger and his blog is great and so is his podcast.

Length: 1 hour. Listen to Episode 5 about a man who grew up in the same church as Warren Jeffs and the importance of choice.

 

 7. Dear Sugar

Cheryl Strayed’s rightfully acclaimed advice podcast where she and Steve Almond tackle really honest, brave questions with really honest, brave answers. I’m always excited to see it in my queue.

Length: 30-45 minute. Listen to I’m falling in love with my ex-husband. What a soapy title!

 

8. Monocycle with Leandra Medine

Leandra is the girl behind Man Repeller and she’s funny and real and great and these are like 11 minutes of her thoughts on a subject and sometimes I pretend I have her life, because doesn’t that sound like the life? People caring about your 11 minute thought processes?

Length: 10 minutes. Listen to Not Pregnant. I love what Leandra says about it, “It’s important to share what I’m going through while I’m in it as opposed to sharing once I’ve overcome it — after I’ve been able to put the experience in a box and wrap it in fancy words and call it a first person essay, because this is real life, right? And between the inspiring stories of victory and triumph that emerge out of despair and the road blocks that life throws in our tracks in an attempt to derail us, there is the very real question of, “But what do I do NOW? To make myself feel better in the present? While I’m still going through it?”

 

9. Bachelorette Party with Juliet Litman

On Bill Simmons’s podcast channel (Channel 33) this GEM discusses The Bachelor/Bachelorette/Bachelor in Paradise and the host is hilarious and gives just the right amount of reverence to irreverence ratio to the Bachelor world. It’s a must-listen for people who say must-listen and watch The Bachelor.

Listen to this episode with Nick Viall our new Bachelor*

Length: 45 minutes – 1 hour. Listen to this episode with Nick Viall our new Bachelor.*

*Feelings

 

10. Keepin’ it 1600

Another Channel 33 Great, this is a podcast about the election run by two former Obama advisers.. They are smart and witty and have great guests, but mainly I feel like I’m listening in on a big secret. These are the people they talk about on Scandal and Veep and House of Cards. The Washington People Who Know Things. I love it and also really hate this election.

Length: 1 hour. Are you ready to hear about Clinton’s pneumonia and Trump’s Foundation?

 

11. StoryCorps

Another hit NPR podcast, this one is brief and collects little snippets of stories from people around America. It’s an easy on-the-way-to-the-grocery-store listen that sometimes gets it all right.

Length: 15 minutes. Listen to this one on Sissy Goodwin, a man who likes to wear women’s clothing, and his wife Vickie. They live in Wyoming.

 

12. The Librarian Is In

Maybe my current favorite podcast, this one is run by two librarians from the New York Public Library. Every week the hosts give book recommendations (I just read The One and Only Ivan via their recommendation and now I trust them with my whole heart and library card.) They have guests who talk about if audiobooks count as reading and the gender politics of picture books and the Winnie the Pooh exhibit and it’s really delightful and well done and all of my interests in rolled into one hour a week.

Length: 1 hour. Here’s that Winnie the Pooh one.

 

13. The New Yorker: The Writer’s Voice—New Fiction from The New Yorker

I really needed to specify which podcast this is because apparently The New Yorker has 12 billion podcasts and once I told Rob to listen to a story that reminded me of him and he wound up listening to a podcast about a priest who bought a chair and was like why did you think of me?

This podcast (the right podcast) has short stories from Lauren Groff and Zadie Smith, and The New Yorker still does short stories so we should all celebrate it.

Length: 30 minutes or so. Here’s Zadie’s. (Not the one that reminded me of Rob.)

14. Lady Lovin’

With Lo Bosworth and Jilly Hendrix!! I’ll love The Hills forever and part of me realizes I am probably a Lo on some level, so it’s fun. It’s like gabbing with girlfriends who spotlight important issues and silly things and always celebrate women and are DJs.

Length: 1 hour. Here’s their one year episode.

 

Other podcasts I listen to on occasion:

Dear Hank and John, with the Green Brothers. It’s fun just to hear their back and forth, these two brothers who love each other and are nerdy and ruling the internet.

Gilmore Guys, mainly for the interviews with the cast members, though I got in a (minor) (not my fault) car wreck while listening to Scott Patterson’s very lengthy podcast so I think I’m subconsciously turned off by this one on some level. Also I think they could use better a) questions and b) editing.

Anna Faris is Unqualified. She had Tavi Gavinsen on and Tavi is just so interesting and thoughtful so maybe I should list all podcasts with Tavi.

Desert Island Discs, the classic British podcast asking famous people their favorite songs of all time. Fun when you care about the celebrity like the impossibly sexy Bill Nighy, not so fun when you don’t.

Ctrl Alt Delete by Emma Gannon, a British blogger I follow. She interviews people about their relationship to the internet and social media. She’s had people like Mara Wilson and Melissa Broder on and I’ll tune in for the greats.

Women of the Hour by Lena Dunham. Not currently on, but a nice 12 episodes if you want to dive back in history (2015).

 

And…whew.

That’s it folks, did you even make it here?

I love Nick Viall.

OK, just checking that you’re still here. I don’t really love Nick.

I do love Wells, though I’m concerned about his social media presence.

Really, if I’m being honest, JP Rosenbaum was my one true Bachelor Love and I’ll never get over him.

 

And now I’m really done.

Bye.

 

PS: What are your favorite podcasts? What did I miss?

Jillian Denning: By the Book

21 Aug

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Based on the recent interview with Amy Schumer

What books are currently on your nightstand?

According to the LA County Library app I currently have 21 books out of the library with 6 on hold. Of those, I’m curious about the poetry and essays of So Sad Today, by the Twitter vixen Melissa Broder.  My friend who never gets it wrong recommended Truth and Beauty and Girl Meets God. And then there’s Valley of the Dolls. I have a feeling now is the right time for me and Valley of the Dolls since it seems like the type of book I would have read and fell into a melancholia/feminist rage at just years ago and can now approach as a rational human being.

I expect to pull myself out of the melancholia/feminist rage in three months minimum.

 

Which writers—novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets—working today do you admire most?

Nick Hornby, obviously. Warsan Shire. (When Lemonade came out and suddenly everyone was about Warsan I was childishly like BUT ME FIRST, PLEASE PROVE YOUR CREDENTIALS I HAVE SEVERAL.) Elena Ferrante is also on there, mainly due to the mystique and I really need someone to talk to about her hello is it you.

What genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?

In the last two years I’ve become a way bigger nonfiction/memoir person. I credit Anne Lamott with that, but in general I’m a fiction girl, usually adult, sometimes young adult. I avoid: dystopian YA with the same female lead I’ve read 40 billion times who has exactly one personality trait, anything that begins with a sentence like “Elascador bowed before his king, the sword of Roandresibe by his side” and 50 Shades of Grey.

 

What’s your favorite self-help book?

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up hello it’s me.

 

 

I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet.

 

How and when do you read/ electronic or paper/ bath or bed?

For a brief period in London I used a Kindle as it was easier than carrying a book with me everywhere, but I really hated it. I read All the Light We Cannot See on a Kindle and I think it ruined the experience for me because I just didn’t love it as much as everyone else and there was a weird page turning/date thing.

I do not have a bathtub but I fancy myself a bath reader.

Truly I just read in bed like I do everything in my life.

It’s a comfortable bed, though.

 

How do you organize your books?

I used to organize them using the “shove in communal bookshelves wherever they fit” method but now that I have my own place I’m thinking about this seriously. Color is trendy, pretty and impractical–many things I enjoy.

Maybe I’ll figure out the Dewey Decimal system for fun on a long Wednesday evening and then explain it to you all in depth.

Most likely I’ll do author all boring like.

 

What do you like to read on the plane?

I just bring whatever book I’m reading at the moment. I want to be into magazines, but I truly only buy them if Stevie Nicks is on the cover.

I will Google articles if Bachelor stars are involved.

Would you like to hear more about my article reading habits yes or no?

 

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

Three copies of The Corrections by Jonathon Franzen. One because I’ve never read it and two because Franzen is the ultimate douche writer whom my entire Twitter feed hates, though is apparently great?

 

What’s your favorite book by a comedian?

It’s got to be a Nora. Maybe I Feel Bad about My Neck?

What’s the last book that made you laugh out loud?

I just read Diary of a Wimpy Kid for the first time and there were lots of laughs there and not just because Rob looks a bit like the lead on the cover. Oh! And The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian! Read it now!! If I only do one thing for your life!

 

What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?

A blog reader turned friend Bailey told me to read Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott and that really kickstarted a huge era of my life that now leads to me liking and sharing each individual Instagram post Anne deigns to give us unworthy mortals.

Tell us your favorite TV, film, or theater adaptation of a book.

Bridget Jones was a wonderful film and I think that book is truly perfect do not change a word perfect so this is a big statement.

Lord of the Rings surely surpassed the books as I’ve never finished them.

 

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

I was a voracious reader. I would max out my library card and sit with a stack of books next to me on a Sunday afternoon. I played librarian.  I was grounded from books at several points.

Once, in a fit of mania, I printed off a divorce decree and used a quill pen to fill it out for Alana of Trebond after she chose the wrong man in the Lioness Quartet. “I married the wrong man, I was always in love with someone else,” I wrote, in my earnest handwriting.

Narnia, Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women and Ender’s Game were all wildly influential to my childhood and my current self.

Scarlett O’Hara made me the selfish, determined drama queen I am today.

I lived for Sweet Valley.

 

If you could be friends with any author, dead or alive, who would it be?

Nora Ephron. I want her dinner parties and her wisdom and her food and her dinner parties and her wisdom and her food and wait what.

 

Disappointed, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you were supposed to like and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

I finally read Ballet Shoes, of You’ve Got Mail fame and it was only OK for me.

I was devastated by this. I mean, clearly it meant something to Nora. Clearly I should have named my future daughter Posy.

I wonder if this is an age thing, like those people who go to Disneyland for the first time as adults and then find it only OK?

I started a book about Rosaline following Romeo and Juliet, recommended by a Twitter librarian I’m all about and had to return it to the library before I finished. It was a bit of a relief.

 

Whom would you want to write your life story?

Myself obviously.  If that were impossible, I would like Hilary and Rob to collaborate with notes from the following:

 

Mariah Carey lyrics

Mother

My wannabe Sylvia Plath poetry

I’m In Love With Chip Gaines And I Don’t Care Who Knows It

13 May

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Today I found myself on a Reddit thread about Chip Gaines, one half of HGTV’s golden couple on Fixer Upper.  One woman on the thread declared, “If I was Joanna, he could get it.  If I’m me?  Still no.  I respect Joanna that much.  I feel the same way about Obama.  I can understand his appeal but I also respect Michelle entirely too much to think about him in a sexual manner.”

This is the place I’m at in my life.

I fell in love with Chip the way John Green tells us we fall in love–slowly and then all at once.

He’s not my usual type, so I wasn’t expecting it.  Chip is a redhead cowboy with a Texas accent and a goofy heart.  He wears tool belts and acts like a child and my type tends to be more of the frighteningly thin boys with skinny jeans, a library card and neuroses.

But Chip.

Well, I guess this is why they say you should be careful who you spend your time with.  You spend enough time with someone and you fall in love them.

My marriage to Chip Gaines is evidence of this.

I referred to my love for Chip as a marriage when I was first writing notes for this post.  “In the process of watching HGTV shows I’ve gotten married and aged 20 years.  Not for Chip–I would never change for a man.”

I read this snippet to a friend on Sunday night and we laughed and laughed and then got serious.

I’m in deep.  I’m in “I respect Joanna too much” deep except I don’t.   I love Chip.  In some universe I live in Waco, TX and we are married and it’s OK because in this universe Joanna is somewhere else with someone else and the world has spun a little bit off its axis.

I think it’s something to do with the tool belt.  Chip is just so…handy.  Does that seem sexual?  Now it’s seeming sexual.

It is what it is.

Chip can tear out an entire bathroom. He can lay tile and fix foundations and rewire the plumbing on a house.  Chip could take the condemned sea green beach home that I’ve had my eye on and make it a masterpiece.

Chip is a masterpiece.

He loves Joanna.  He worships Joanna.  He knows, full well, exactly how lucky a man he is to be with freaking Joanna Stevens Gaines.

He made her Joanna Stevens Gaines with some charm and some smiles and some fireworks shows.

Chip is that hands-on, wonderful dad that puts all sitcom dads to shame.  He chops wood and adopts pets and suddenly I think I could want to adopt pets.

To have wood in my home.

Chip is changing things.

I am changing.

My descent into the HGTV home shows was also like falling in love.  A House Hunters episode here.  A Love it or List it there.

Suddenly I’m on Reddit threads.

Suddenly I’m talking marriage.

The truth is I don’t want Chip Gaines.  Well I do want Chip Gaines.  It’s confusing.

The appeal of Chip lies in how much he loves the people he loves and how he isn’t afraid to show that.  It lies in his devotion to his wife and family and work.  It lies in his tool belt.

OK, I can’t get away from the sexual.

I don’t know if I want to.

Tonight I’ll watch another episode of Fixer Upper.

Or two.

There’s no telling.

I’ll await a picture my friend is sending me of a Ken doll she found who looks just like Chip.

I’ll pen my Chip and Joanna fan fiction.

I’ve never written fan fiction before, but this seems as good a starting point as any.

Chip Carter Gaines loved wood paneling and pheasant decorations and tearing up kitchens.

I will make sure to include at some point, my own rendering of the Reddit thread.

If I was Joanna he could get it.

If I’m me– 

Well.

It’s complicated.

I Really Shouldn’t Bring My Phone Into The Bathroom With Me

8 Mar

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I really shouldn’t bring my phone into the bathroom with me

It might do that tricky audio recording thing and send my flushing out to the universe

Or worse

 

The before flushing thing…

 

Oh gosh

Oh gosh

Oh gosh

 

Now my mind is going to the top 10 people I don’t want my before flushing audio recording going to.

Come to think of it, do I have 10 relationships that could recover from that?

 

Bringing it back, bringing it back.

 

Germs!

That’s why I shouldn’t bring my phone with me.

Phones are already loaded with germs and this is certainly not helping the matter.

Speaking of, I should wash my phone.

The case too.

And my pillows.

Did you know you should dry clean your pillows?

Not just your pillowcases, your actual pillows.

I’ve never done this in my life.

What illnesses do I now have?

Why didn’t anyone tell me?

 

I’m gross.

I can’t do anything now, I’m so gross.

I’ll just go lay in bed.

But not on any pillow.

 

That’s fun.

 

Wait!

I don’t have Cheetos.

Maybe I can get someone to deliver them to me?

Puffy Cheetos, I mean.

There’s that one Malibu delivery service, what was it called?

Merry Maids Malibu?

That doesn’t sound right

Is that the topless maid service?

WHY AM I REMEMBERING THIS AT A TIME LIKE THIS!

 

It’s all OK.

I’ll just look it up the delivery service name on my phone.

 

The FOOD delivery service, you nasty.

 

Wait! But my phone is infected with bathroom and life germs!

Probably pillow germs, too.

We KNOW pillowcase germs.

 

BuDelivery!  That was it.

 

I’ll just email a friend and have her use her phone to have BuDelivery bring me some Cheetos.

 

Do you think they deliver pillows too?

BuDelivery.

But maybe my friend as well.

 

OK, first cleaning the laptop keyboard, though.

 

Oh gosh

Oh gosh

Oh gosh

 

 

Inspired by this inspired post