Archive | February, 2013

Enjoy Malibu

18 Feb


I’m kind of infamous for my rapidly changing life plans.

One minute I’m a social worker living in London.

One minute I’m a writer living in Malibu.

One minute I’m moving across the country for love.

You get it.

Your 20s are just the hardest, aren’t they?

You have so many possibilities available how do you even begin to choose?  How on earth do you steer your life?  What happens when your carefully laid plans go up in flames?

It’s a day-to-day thing for me, honestly.

For a long time I thought by making drastic changes to my life I would find whatever it was that I was missing.  That if I just moved, or just found a different career path or if this relationship WOULD JUST WORK, then I’d have it all solved.

This isn’t the case.  It never, never is.  But sometimes I have to remind myself.

Over Thanksgiving last year I was having another one of my “I must change my life!” moments.  This particular one revolved around my recent career change. “Making it as a writer is such a long shot, I need something more practical.”  In this panic mode I contacted the head of the University of Utah’s PhD in Creative Writing program and set up a time to meet with him.

I was confident that I would attend this meeting and come out of it hyped up on academia and ready to apply to the program within two weeks.  Yes, I was considering this all two weeks before applications were due.  It’s the “rapidly changing” part of the process.

I went to the meeting.  I considered five more years of academia.  I talked to much-wiser friends.

Amy said, “Jill, you are happy in Malibu.  I don’t want to see you shortchange yourself of a great experience because you’re afraid.”

Mandee said, “Jill, you are always moving around, never settled.  Just give the current plan time to pan out.  You’ve worked hard to get to this point. Enjoy it.  Do it.”

They were right, of course.  I wasn’t pursuing the PhD out of passion or excitement. It was out of fear.  It was a safety net.  A way for me to never even try at this writing thing, never give myself a chance to fail.

Every day I’m glad I stayed in Malibu.

Now, if I can make it a whole two years without changing countries, careers, or life paths I might be on to something.

abyss, n.

17 Feb

abyss, n.

There are times when I doubt everything. When I regret everything you’ve taken from me, everything I’ve given you, and the waste of all the time I’ve spent on us.

David Levithan, The Lover’s Dictionary

Salt Water

15 Feb


“The cure for anything is salt water–tears, sweat, or the sea.” Isak Dinesen

At Least The Eyebrows Are Right

15 Feb


We’ve all done this now like ten times, right?  Why is the mouth NEVER right?  Why do I think it’s funny to text people this with captions like “Cheers!” and “He!!o”?

Why do I only like 50% want to stop?

First Love

14 Feb



The first time I raced the 400 meters I had no idea what I was doing.

I was a sophomore in high school and had just switched to the 400 meters from distance running.  I was young, overconfident, and excited.  When they fired the gunshot I took off at 300%.  I sprinted my guts out.

As I rounded the last turn I was shocked to see I was neck and neck with the reigning state champion.  I had no idea I was so talented!  I was on fire!

And then at 350 meters it all fell apart.  My arms started to windmill, and before I knew it I collapsed right there on the track.

The rest is a bit of a daze.  I remember the crowd gasping.  I remember picking myself up and walking across the finish line.

I also remember that I never again ran a race like I ran that first 400 meters.

I spent two track seasons running that same distance, but from that moment on I didn’t give it my all.  Sure, I sprinted.  Sure, I even made it to the state finals that year.  But I never ran with the same reckless abandon.

I never passed out again.

When we’re young, overconfident and excited I think we often approach things like I approached my first 400 meters.  We don’t realize how hard we’re going . We don’t know to be cautious.  We just go all in because it doesn’t occur to us to do it any other way.

That was me and my first love.  I didn’t think.  I just sprinted my guts out at 300% until I collapsed.

I’ve never passed out again.

The Lover’s Dictionary

14 Feb



There are a lot of people on Valentine’s Day who don’t really want the construction-paper heart version of love to share with the lover, boyfriend, husband, girlfriend, wife or whomever. They actually want to share something real with them–David Levithan

Last month Caitlin let me borrow her copy of The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan.

I’ve never read anything like it.

The book is a love story told using only dictionary entries.  The entries are arranged alphabetically rather than chronologically which means as a reader you are bouncing between happy and sad, before and after, high and low.  But isn’t that love? Isn’t that love “in all its messy, complicated reality”?

Read it.  Read it again.  Read it with a box of tissues.

I imagine I’ll be posting random definitions from this book from now until kingdom come, but I’ll start with just one today.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.

Ineffible, adj.
Trying to write about love is ultimately like trying to have a dictionary represent life. No matter how many words there are, there will never be enough.

Mother Dearest

13 Feb


The Denning girls circa 2010.

The other night I called my mother to get her advice on some baking I was doing.  I had bold plans of making my own chocolate cookies complete with frosting and then raving about their success for the next month.

These are the types of plans I make for myself.

My mom didn’t answer the phone and I went ahead without her help.  I told myself this wasn’t a big deal.  I’m a 25-year-old girl!  I moved abroad on my own!  I have a master’s degree! I assembled my own Ikea…okay I can’t finish that one.

The point is, I’m an adult and I don’t need my mother’s help to read a recipe and make cookies.

An hour, half cup of butter/half cup of crisco, and the-biggest-mess-the-kitchen-has-ever-seen later I called it quits.  The cookies were a bust.  The kind of bust you can’t even clean up right away because your spirit is so defeated by the whole process and you need to just go lay down and watch Gilmore Girls to rejuvenate.  And then eat McDonald’s.

My mom called me back later that night and I told her the story.  In a few seconds she was able to diagnose my cookie problem, tell me a few stories of when she had done the same thing, and assure me how I could fix it in the future.  I guarantee had I been able to talk to her while making the cookies I could have eaten more than three that night.

(Yes, I still ate three of the bad cookies.  Go ahead and judge.)

I was thinking about this.  I’m 25 years old and still cannot make a batch of cookies without consulting my mother. Does this ever end?  Do I ever become a grown up who can do basic things without the help of her mother?  Or will I be 55 calling her about what type of medication I should take for my cold?

I started scrolling through my texts to my mother and have come up with a partial list of Things I Can’t Do Without Consulting My Mother:

Make cookies

Make waffles

Make rolls

Okay, cook

Solve laundry crises

Purchase refrigerator light bulbs

Diagnose my illnesses

Treat my illnesses

Buy a KitchenAid

Buy a hand mixer

Buy a rice cooker

Okay, buy kitchen appliances

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

And the point is this: My mom is the best.  She doesn’t mind calling me back late and night and talking me down from the cookies-were-a-bust ledge.  She doesn’t mind helping me with laundry crises I literally brought home with me over Christmas break.  I’m sure she will take my calls even when I’m 55 and am wondering for the umpteenth time what to do with unsalted butter.

Yes, I’m 25 years old and still have to call my mother for basic things.  But I’m lucky enough I have a mom who can help me with the basics.

Happy Heart

12 Feb



I’ve had a lot of travel advice over the years.  “Pack light!”  “Use your own pillow!”  “Bring along two weeks of food so you don’t have to spend any money at all!”

These are all valid tips, some of which were more fun to execute than others. (Ahem, bringing your own food.)

However, the best travel advice I’ve ever received comes from my friend Koseli.  She told me to pack a perfume.

This may not seem as practical as say eating trail mix for lunch in Trafalgar Square or wearing 14 layers of clothing on the plane to get around luggage requirements, but I can tell you, it’s my favorite.  Choosing a special perfume for a trip creates a memory, a scent to go with a place.

I have an Australia scent.  A London scent.  A Fiji scent.  Anytime I wear those perfumes again I am overcome with nostalgia.  It’s lovely.

I love the idea of perfume memories so much I’ve taken to assigning scents for certain times in my life.

My scent for the month of February is Clinique Happy Heart.

Can a perfume become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

I hope so.

DJ Kitty Cat: February

11 Feb



My roommate Caitlin aka DJ Kitty Cat is ridiculously knowledgable and amazing when it comes to music and playlists and angst.  I asked her to be my music correspondent on this oh-so-popular blog and she agreed.  You’re in for a treat.  DJ Kitty Cat is something else.  She’s also a psych major, as you will see.  Follow Caitlin on Twitter here.

As Single Awareness Day looms around the corner, I have prepared an arsenal of poignant tunes to get you through these perilous times. These songs are a few of my favorites, just a sample of my extensive library of dead heart tunes, aptly named “Sob fest 2013.”

Listen to the entirety at your own risk; if you are unsure of your emotional stability then you can contact me for a free SAD PERSONS evaluation, assessing your ability to recover from extended exposure to the accumulated Major Depressive Disorder of these artists.

1. Hurt- Johnny Cash [NIN cover]
Favorite Lyrics- You are someone else. I am still right here. //You can have it all, my empire of dirt. I will let you down. I will make you hurt

2. Both Sides Now- Joni Mitchell
Favorite Lyrics- It’s love’s illusions I recall; I really don’t know love at all.

3. You Were A Kindness- The National
Favorite Lyrics- Why would you shatter somebody like me? It doesn’t work that way. Wanting not to want you wont make it so. Don’t leave me here alone.

4. She’s Always A Woman- Billy Joel
Favorite Lyrics- She can ask for the truth but she’ll never believe you. She’ll only reveal what she wants you to see. She steals like a thief but she’s always a woman to me.

5. I Know It’s Over- The Smiths
Favorite Lyrics- Love is natural and real, but not for such as you and I, my love.

6. Edge Of Desire- John Mayer
Favorite Lyrics- I want you so bad I’ll go back on the things I believe. There I just said it, I’m scared you’ll forget about me.

7. Jesus Christ- Brand New
Favorite Lyrics- My bright is too slight to hold back all my dark.

8. Graceland- The Tallest Man On Earth (Paul Simon cover)
Favorite Lyrics- She comes back to tell me she’s gone. As if I didn’t know that. And she said losing love is like a window in your heart: everybody sees you’re blown apart, everybody sees the wind blow.

9. Take It All- ADELE
Favorite Lyrics: You’ve given up so easily; I thought you loved me more than this.

10. Guess I’m Doing Fine- Beck
Favorite lyrics: It’s only lies that I’m living. It’s only tears that I’m crying. It’s only you that I’m losing. Guess I’m doing fine.

What are your favorite Single Awareness Day tracks?

Happy Groundhog Month

10 Feb


Okay, I know I’m over a week late to the Groundhog Day thing, but it’s all right because I’ve decided that Groundhog Day is a month-long holiday.  Groundhog Month, if you will.

You know how October gets Halloween and December gets Christmas? I declare that February gets Groundhog Day.  I will not listen to those who say February already has Valentine’s Day so don’t try.

Now that we’ve established that…

One of the movies I studied in my screenwriting class was Groundhog Day.  Along with this we read How to Write Groundhog Day by Danny Rubin.  Excellent movie, excellent book.   I love the section where Rubin talks about the messages in Groundhog Day:

I think the most emotionally compelling argument made by the movie, the one that seems the most inspirational and optimistic and inspiring of all, is this: The absolutely worst day of Phil’s life took place under the exact same conditions as the absolutely best day of Phil’s life.  The best day and the worst day were the same day.  In fact, a whole universe of experiences proved to be possible on this single day.  The only difference was Phil himself, what he noticed, how he interpreted his surroundings, and what he chose to do.

This is an extremely empowering message.  It suggests that, like Phil, we need not be the victims of our own lives, and that the power to change our fate, to change our experience of a single day, rests within ourselves.  No matter what cycle we are stuck inside, the power to escape is already present in us.

The world changed because Phil changed.  That means the difference to us between a bad day and a good day may not be the day but may be the way we approach the day.

Happy Groundhog Month to you and yours.