Archive | April, 2014

Nick Hornby and Recommitting to the Concept of Love

23 Apr


Recently the question of “favorite living author” was batted around my little nine-person program.  By this, I mean that recently I posed the question, “Who is your favorite living author” to my little nine-person program.

Batted around sounds so much more romantic and less forced, though, doesn’t it?

Several authors were thrown out—Donna Tart, Laurie Hals Anderson, John Green.  Lively discussion was had.  Opinions were justified.  Lives were changed.

I decided on Nick Hornby.

Well Helen Fielding first, then Nick Hornby.

But I’m sticking with Nick.

With Helen Fielding/Bridget Jones as the queen of everything including life.

For my adaptation class this semester, I had to compare a movie to the original book, and in a non-shock move, I chose Bridget Jones.  In fact, had you lined up the nine students in my program and the nine adaptations we chose, all of us could have made a direct line from person to adaptation.


While watching a Tarantino film.

And eating sushi.

With chopsticks.

The point is, when you spend two years with nine people, you almost become a parody of yourself, and and when you spend two years with nine people your adaptation choice most definitely becomes a parody of yourself.

The Bridget adaptation paper was one of those assignments that should be the poster child for “do what you would do even if you weren’t being paid” idea because writing a comparison of the Bridget Jones movie and book sounds like a thrilling Saturday night activity I would do of my own accord.

I joke in no way.

Then again, maybe this assignment should be the poster child for “do what you would do even if you are paying a million dollars to go to grad school” idea because no one’s paying me for that paper, I am instead selling my soul to student loans for the opportunity to complete that paper.

Sob. Sob. Sob.

On a happier note, I was able to sneak in the sentence, “The audience swoons and recommits to the concept of love” after describing Bridget and Mark’s first kiss, so maybe all those loans were worth it in the end!

Sobbing.  Sobbing. Sobbing.

One fun Bridget movie fact: Richard Curtis was the mastermind behind the infamous Mark/Daniel fight scene and said it came about simply as a wish fulfillment, “Wouldn’t it be fun to see Hugh Grant and Colin Firth having a punch-up?”

I’m sticking to my theory that marrying Freud’s descendant really affected Richard’s psyche for the good of all mankind.

These are the type of wish fulfillments that need to come to pass, people!

Firth and Grant wish fulfillments are the only type of wish fulfillments!

(This post started as a way for me to list my favorite Nick Hornby novels to the world. Let’s see if I can get it back there.)

All right, so I’m off track.  This post started as a way for me to list my favorite Nick Hornby novels to the world, and I’ll be doggoned with a dachshund if I don’t do that!

(Nailed it.)

(Also managed to use my dachshund line from a script earlier this year.)

(Grad school is really working out for me.)

Jillian Denning’s favorite Nick Hornby novels, ranked

*as Nick Hornby is her favorite living author*

  1. High Fidelity
  2. About a Boy (may be biased by Hugh Grant?)
  3. Fever Pitch
  4. A Long Way Down
  5. Juliet, Naked
  6. How to be Good
  7. Slam

Also, I don’t know a graceful way to slip this in anywhere, but I just finished my roundup of John Green and I do believe the opening paragraph for Paper Towns is the best YA opening paragraph of all time.

I’m not willing to debate this.

The way I figure it, everyone gets a miracle.  Like, I will probably never be struck by lightning, or win a Nobel Prize, or become the dictator of a small nation in the Pacific Islands, or contract terminal ear cancer, or spontaneously combust.  But if you consider all the unlikely things together, at least one of them will probably happen to each of us.  I could have seen it rain frogs.  I could have stepped foot on Mars.  I could have been eaten by a whale.  I could have married the queen of England or survived months at sea.  But my miracle was different.  My miracle was this: out of all the houses in all the subdivisions in all of Florida, I ended up living next door to Margo Roth Spiegelman.







Firth and Grant!

You’ll have to excuse me.

I’m off to swoon and recommit to the concept of love.

Midnight Nachos

22 Apr


When I told Michael I was doing the A-Z challenge, he respectfully requested that “M” be for Midnight Nachos.

Since I’m nothing but an accommodating, even-tempered individual who writes on command, I said, “OK.”

And look.  We made it!  I made it to M!

There were some dark days there where we wondered if that would even happen, but now on the other side it’s hard to remember a time before this sweet, sweet victory.

Michael, I hope you are enjoying this.

I can’t really pinpoint when the Michael midnight nachos tradition began.  It seems like it’s always been happening, or rather, should always have been happening.  Michael and I both grew up in South Jordan, UT, a town where most everyone sleeps at normal hours, and yet neither of us sleep at normal hours.

Midnight hangouts were the natural next to step in our relationship.  Midnight nachos shortly followed.

There’s only one place in the Salt Lake Valley that makes nachos after midnight, and it’s a bit of a drive, so midnight nachos always includes a lot of One Direction, a very specific order (no sour cream, half the amount of guac, this is a weird nacho place, people) and then a drive back to SoJo for our drinks.

Some time around 1:00AM we end up in an empty parking lot with a whole lot of cheese.

The nachos are generally as bad as you would think they would be, which is part of the charm.  Michael glares at me and says, “What is this?” and I say ,“Don’t look!  Let me add the 25th green salsa to it!” and then Michael scoops up the meat and says, “No really what is this” and then I shove nachos in his face.

Hilary recently said she met the male version of herself and I said, “I have no idea who that even would be for me! What is life?” and then 30 seconds later I said, “Oh wait.  It’s obviously Michael.”


PS in the middle of a post: Last month Michael was Bruce Jenner for a costume party, and it still pains me every day that I was unable to accompany him as Kris.

Should I have used frequent flier miles and dramatically met him in Salt Lake wearing a leopard print dress?

Should I have cashed out my 401K for this dream?

Should I get a 401K so I can cash it out next time he dons a tracksuit?


(PS over.)

Somewhere along the way, these midnight nacho trips turned into “tell all our secrets” trips.  It’s to the point where every time Michael pulls into my parents’ house and I sneak out feeling like I’m 16, I wonder what life-shattering reveal will happen that night.

Also, I never really snuck out at 16, and I’m clearly not sneaking out now as an adult, but something about standing in my parents’ driveway barefoot, at midnight, with a Sesame Street blanket wrapped around me feels very 16-and-sneaking.

Maybe it’s the One Direction.

I don’t often imagine living in Utah these days.  Utah doesn’t match up well with my current life and career goals and California stole my heart and refuses to let go.  But every once in a while,when I’m home visiting and Michael pulls into my driveway and I say, “OK so I’m in the craziest mood.  Also, where are your silk pajamas?” I consider it.

I consider investing in Utah real estate.

Because if you have someone in your life who understands the importance of a regular midnight nachos trip…

Well, that’s just not something to be taken lightly, is it?

Libraries And Daydreams

20 Apr


When I was 17 years old, I lived in a tiny little box of a dorm room with my best friend in the entire world.  The room surely shouldn’t have fit one individual, unless that person were a toddler who liked feeling claustrophobic, but yet somehow we crammed two girls with considerable closets and a whole lot of hair products into that space.


It’s only for the young!

And even then!

Our dorm room was so small that it was basically impossible to keep it clean, and so we just kind of accepted the inevitable.  Our room/lives would always be a bit on the exploding side, and over time this became something of a game for me and Ashley.

Ashley being my roommate/best friend in the entire world/owner of lots of hair products.


Sorry, I know obvi is annoying, but it’s also how I talk right now.  I’m just keeping this as real as possible for my great-great-granddaughter Jillian Scarlett O’ Hara Zelda Edith Sylvia Jane Woolf who will one day read this and roll her eyes at my vernacular and then fly off to London on a broomstick.

I guess in the future we’re magic?

And my offspring are named after my literary heroines?


When our dorm room got particularly bad, Ashley and I would jump on our beds, wildly pointing her camera around the room.  We would then load the camera to her computer and see what mysteries our dorm room had in store for us in those pockets we couldn’t/wouldn’t see with our normal eyes.

These pictures then turned into a rather large slideshow of messy room photos that we showed people who came to our dorm, “I really like how that tan bra serves as a juxtaposition to the black blow-dryer.  And the shadows of that PacSun belt really give the photo a certain depth, don’t you think?”

No one liked our messy room slideshows.


Also, while we’re on the topic, at this point in our lives, Ashley and I decided when we went to bed we were too lazy to actually turn off the light, so we would throw whatever we had on hand at the light switch on the wall until we finally succeeded/our roommates came and turned off the light for us.

What delightful girls we were.


I don’t know, really.  I like to believe I’ve moved beyond throwing things at light switches stage, but I’m hesitant to make a statement like that.

Lately I’ve been daydreaming about having my own place.  I suppose it’s the natural order of things, or so psychologists would tell me.  I’m ready for a place of my own that I can decorate just so with a fussiness and precision that will be both delightful and exhausting.

I’m ready for a studio apartment that’s light and airy and at the same time bursting with books.  I’m ready for this studio apartment to be in San Francisco because I want bay windows and sourdough bread and I also don’t want to leave California, DANG IT.

Sometimes I even let myself dream of the future beyond the studio apartment.  The future in the fairytale cottage with all the plants and all the charm and all the library I’ve always wanted.

The library really is the key to all of my house daydreams.  I’m convinced I could live without most anything in a home, but I can’t live without a library.

And I’d really like to not live without a clawfoot tub.

But it’s mainly about the library.

I don’t often go too deep into the library daydreams/nightdreams/mid-afternoondreams because without the cottage it’s hard to tell what the set-up will be.  There will be a Beauty and the Beast ladder, of course.  And it will be bright  and have the comfiest blankets the world has ever seen, of course of course.  But other than that, all I know is it will be full, and it will be open to whoever wants to borrow books, and it will be a dream come true.

For my birthday this year, Rob got me a stamp that says “From the Library of Jillian Denning” and I’ve had a blast with it.  Every book I lend out contains this stamp now, and it makes me feel like an amateur librarian. Whenever I lend out a book with that stamp and someone falls in love with a story, my heart fills in this way I can’t even really describe.  I got so giddy when Rob loved High Fidelity I wondered if I was having some sort of mental break because I wanted to talk about it for several hours and no one else seemed nearly as enthusiastic.

There really is a thrill to sharing a good story.

There really is a thrill to words.  The thrill of my life so far, actually.

I will, I will, I will share this thrill with the world through The Library of Jillian Denning: The Actual Space.

One day.

But next up?

A studio apartment.

Katie, Hilary and Milkmaid Braids

17 Apr


All right.  So.  This braid then.

I’ve been jonesing for a good milkmaid braid for a while now, but I’m one of those people who simultaneously likes pretty things and refuses to learn how to make pretty things on principle because I’m not crafty and I’m not domestic and DON’T EVEN TRY TO MAKE ME CHANGE, PINTEREST.

This post is feeling a lot more vehement than I thought it would, seeing as how the topic is milkmaid braids.

All right.  So.  This braid round two.

I don’t braid on principle, but luckily, I have myself a Hilary and Hilary loves to braid.  Hilary lives to braid.

When Hilary braids she adopts a “braiding voice” something along the lines of a mix between your second grade teacher talking about cookies and your mother showering you with kisses.  “Do you have a sensitive head, Jilly?”  “Now don’t you go and move, not one single drop.” “Oh my, your hair is just going to be so pretty today, all the other little girls will be jealous.”

Exaggeration: 2%.

Last weekend was the LA Times Festival of Books and I felt like such a momentous occasion called for braids. All of my friends really went all out—Katie theme dressing as herself/a YA dystopian heroine.  Hilary rocking the slightly-batty-second-grade-teacher look.  Me and the braids.

I had a realization recently about how often in friendships you become more like each other, but somehow in my friendship/writing groupship with Katie and Hilary we’ve become more fiercely like ourselves.

I kind of, sort of, really love that.

I’m now going to admit something that’s going to make me sound silly, so just know I am a self-aware silly person.

Over the weekend, my friends and I each had one twinkling moment that filled our souls with joy and redefined our life goals.

Katie’s was meeting Laurie Hals Anderson, who was just sitting under a tree during a panel, knitting all fabulous-like.  We pushed Katie to talk to Laurie and Laurie was simply the greatest—calling Katie “baby” and giving her writing advice and generally taking over the world, with knitting needles in hand, no less.

Hilary’s moment came with a tearful introduction to Jennifer Holm, which she obviously wrote about with her usual Hilary charm.

My life moment came when a random man asked to take a picture of my hair because he loved it so much.

Hilary was like, “I didn’t know things like this happened” and I was like, “Me neither” and then I vowed to wear milkmaid braids until the day I die and told Hilary she should go into the professional braiding field.

And, look, I’m aware.  Their life moments were with award-winning authors and mine was with my hair.

I’m aware.

That’s why I prefaced this whole thing.

But, here’s the thing with my hair.  Practically my entire adult life I’ve been messing around with it, trying to figure out what was really me.

I’ve tried blonde and black.  Bronze and red.  Straight.  Curly.  Bangs.  No bangs.

I’ve tried it all and then tried it again.

And then had my heart broken and tried everything one more time, just in case.

But it wasn’t until this weekend, with a flower child braid wrapped around my head, that my hair really felt 100% me.

And maybe, just maybe, it’s possible that life moments happen with hair, too?  In fleeting instances where what you feel like matches what you look like?  When you’ve found something that makes you feel so you even other people can tell?

Or maybe it’s late and it’s finals week and I’m reading too much into the milkmaid braids.

I’ll let you know what I decide.

I plan on wearing them from now until the day I die.

I should have lots of data.

J Names And Such

13 Apr


There are five Denning children in my family and five Denning children with J names in my family.


That’s us.

Sometimes people call us the J5s.  We know.  Thanks for pointing it out.  Perhaps you could share your baby name opinions with us?

My parents claim they did not start their journeys into motherhood and fatherhood with this J plan in mind.  Their favorite boy name was a J, so that was that.

Then came me.  If I were a boy I would have been named Ross. But  I wasn’t a boy, or a future paleontologist, and so I got their favorite girl name–also a J.


You know my name.

I just thought about that, and is the whole name thing a bit unfair to younger siblings?  Like, you know that you got the second favorite girl name when you’re the second girl?  And third favorite with the third girl?  I’m suddenly feeling slightly more special here about my name.


Number one girl name in the Family Denning!


My parents had a third baby and they thought, “Well what if we only have three kids, he’ll be the odd one out if he’s not a J,” plus they liked another J name, and well you get the point.

It wasn’t a plan, but it is a thing now.

Js for the win!


J-j-j-Jillian number one girl name in the Family Denning!

All right.  I’m not sure where my mood is here, so let’s bring it back around to the more ridiculous.

I was going to try to walk you through my whole thought process for this next step, but it’s feeling impossible, so just know somehow my brain went, “Hey, what are the J names your parents didn’t use?  What would the siblings with these names be like in the Denning household?  Why don’t you write a post about this?”

And so I went there, because sometimes I let myself go to these weird places and maybe it’s time to share this on my blog.

Here are my six J-named non-siblings and their made-up personalities and roles in the Denning family.

(What has this blog come to?!)

Jocelyn is a sister I’m glad I never had because I’m already intimidated just thinking about her.  She’s ethereal and barefoot, the type of beauty that seems so natural and wholesome you can’t even begrudge her for it.  Jocelyn would spend her time wandering the woods in long silky robes and speaking to animals and making herbal teas from bark and thank goodness she’s not real because how would I even get out of bed knowing she was out there being that?

Jonathon would only go by Jonathon, thank you very much, and he would be the Percy Weasley of the family, all uptight and rule-following and REALLY REALLY political in a REALLY REALLY bad way and praise the heavens above Jonathon isn’t with us.  Does a family ever need a Percy, or do families just have to put up with Percys?

Jade would be the Denning girl who was a bit evil. Like if you met her in an alley she might just kick the crap out of you, maybe for no reason at all.  Maybe for rage issues, who knows.   Us Denning girls, we’re fairly tame, with me taking the attitude cake, but Jade would dye her hair a deep red and wear combat boots and go shoot arrows in the forest to save our family from the Quarter Quell and make me look like freaking Cinderella. I would try to joke with Jade like, “Hey, so archery” and we would not connect on any level.  Sorry Jade.  I think you’re cool, though!  I promise!

Joshua would be the douche, and maybe I’m just projecting knowing certain Joshs in real life, but it feels like he’s a douche and he tans and he wears neon clothing of some sort, but not in a good way, and my two nerdy, skinny brothers would not know what to do with him.  Also, he rides a bullet bike and can’t talk Star Wars.  We’re glad Josh didn’t come into our lives.

Josephine aka Josie would be the drama student the Dennings never had and not just because she’s named after Josephine March.   I’m the resident drama queen in the Denning household, but Josephine isn’t a drama queen.  She’s simply a thespian.  Serious about her art.  Bouncy and bubbly and outgoing like none of us Dennings really are.  Plus she can dance.  Yep!  She would be the Denning who got the very, very latent dancing gene and we would all not quite know what to do with her in the very best of ways except stand back and let her dance like a crazy.  Go Josie!  Go Josie!  We love you!  You are not grossie!

Jonah would be the missing Deninng artist.  Sensitive, perhaps to a fault, Jonah is an introvert who likes time alone with just his paintbrush and his battered Morrissey record. The real world would be a bit harsh for our Jonah, but we would love him anyway and we would love his art forever and always and anyway even when it was terrible.

Jonah is my secret favorite non-sibling, but don’t tell the others, especially not Jade!  Jade, I love you! You’re my favorite!


Hey, so archery!

Inspiration is for Amateurs And Other Advice I Should Take

12 Apr


Once every month or so I have this crazy burst of writing energy and stay up all night thinking and creating and FEELING ALIVE and the next day I let everyone know about it.

“Oh my gosh, last night the writing muse came.  Life is good!  Love is everywhere!  I’m a champion, my friend!  I’ll keep on fighting til the end!  Joshua Jackson!”

What follows is approximately 30 days of nothing.  Blah.  Writing to reach deadlines.  Writing because I’ve signed up for some crazy blogging challenge that I knew I could never meet.  Writing because this is the life I chose.  This is the life I choose.

“Oh my gosh, I’m the worst writer in the world.  Can one thing go right in my life please?  I give up. I’ll never write again. James Van Der Beek.”

(Seemed only appropriate to contrast Dawson and Pacey there, as always.)

Someone recently commented that it seems there’s always a lot of emotion at stake in my life.  Every second of every day, emotion is at stake.  I feel the ups and the downs and the in betweens times and I feel them big and I think writing only amplifies this.

Writing adds emotional stakes to my life.

Last week, Janet Scott Batchler came to Pepperdine for one of our lovely little panels and talked about her career as a writer.  I always get all starry-eyed when I meet successful female writers (my class with Robin Swicord  goes down as possibly the most inspirational hour of my life) and Janet was no exception.  She’s no-nonsense.  Talented.  Aware of her capabilities and unapologetic in her greatness.

I loved her.

Janet had a lot of things to say, and I could have listened to her all night, but the number one thing that stuck out to me was when someone asked about her writing routine.

You have to understand that at these writing panels, the question “What’s your writing routine?” comes up every. single. time.

I get it.  I do.  I think it’s fascinating that JK Rowling wrote in coffee shops. I love to hear Stephen King’s strong theories on writing spaces.  And when Ransom Riggs told the LA Times Book Festival Panel today that he writes on a bench with his wife, overlooking their yard and drinking tea I super sighed a bit.

I get it.

But I’ll be honest, sometimes these questions and answers get a little bland.

Enter Janet.


When asked about her writing routine, Janet just said, matter-of-factly, “Writing is my career. I don’t wait for a muse.  I get up every morning and I write.  Inspiration is for amateurs.”

I think I gasped a little when she said that. (I don’t know, really, I had a possible inspiration black out.) (Wait can I say that?) (I can say that.  I’m an amateur.  Inspiration is for me.)  I do know that I wrote that phrase down in my phone and then talked to her about it after the panel.

Inspiration is for amateurs.

Inspiration is for amateurs.

Inspiration is for amateurs!

(OK, I’m done being inspired.)

Janet went on to say that a Starbucks barista doesn’t wake up in the morning and go, “Did the coffee gods speak to me?  Am I sufficiently spiritually prepared for making this cappuccino?” They get up, put on their apron and go to work because that’s what they do.

Janet wakes up and puts words on paper because she’s a writer and that’s what she does.

My friend Koseli recently said something along the same lines. She wrote a beautiful piece on leaving New York and when I complimented her she said, “It’s something.  Better to write something than nothing right?  Abiding by that rule now.”

Of course something is better than nothing.  Of course we can’t be inspired every single day as writers.

Of course, of course, of course.

I’m a bit of a perfectionist (perfectionist perhaps being a euphemism for a bigger problem here) and this concept is hard for me.  Oh goodness this month of trying to blog all the time has been hard for me.

I like to plan my posts.  I like to really think about every word.  Edit.  Drop a post if I’m not feeling it.  Edit again.

And to blog this much and still go to school and go to work and be a person and a friend and a daughter…I feel like these April word posts are getting maybe 50% of what they should and I hate that.

This is the first time in my life I did not give 110% on the job and I hate that feeling!

(Name that movie.)

(Fun fact, I once watched that movie so often, Ashley’s mother took it away from the two of us because we no longer left the house, just sat in a daze watching and rewatching Hugh.)


After listening to Janet and swirling with these thoughts for awhile, I’ve decided that perhaps this month of blogging is a good exercise for me, after all.  That my anxiety over the posts I don’t love is maybe even helping me.

I’m writing.  I’m writing whether or not the muse comes.  I’m writing every day, sometimes very crappy posts I will never want to look at again.

But at least I am writing.

It’s better to write something than nothing.

Inspiration is for amateurs.

Inspiration is for amateurs.

Inspiration is for freaking amateurs.

H is for Compression Hugs

11 Apr


I don’t remember the first time I had a compression hug.

I just remember I was crying, and Caitlin came to me and held out her arms and said “compression.”  Knowing us, I’ll assume Cait was dressed like a homeless person (read: not wearing pants) and I was upset (read: sobbing uncontrollably).

We’ll also assume I ate McDonald’s that day, because these are 100% safe assumptions and I feel really solid in them.

Compression hugs have proved to be a life saver on more than one occasion.  When things are particularly bad, Cait just turns to me and says, “compression.”  Sometimes we get together after an absence and no words are even spoken, we just hug and hug again.

A compression hug is a real, true hug.  None of that half-assed, sort of poke-you-on-the-shoulder business that my siblings and I do every time we say goodbye.  No, compression hugs are solid, and heavy, and take your breath away for a minute because you need your breath taken away.  You need human touch because, even though it sounds dramatic, you’re losing it.  You need to be brought back to reality.

And sometimes no words, no Joni Mitchell, no extra mustard on your Hot Dog on a Stick will fix things.

These are the times for compression hugs.

Last week, there was one such compression hug day.  This is an odd time of life, this little window where things are so uncertain and stressful and the future looks bright and also incredibly limited and all is possible and nothing is possible.

I’ve actually never really experienced this.  After my undergrad I went straight to my MSW program, overlapping schools for one, manic week.  When I finished my MSW I was hired at my internship and nothing changed in my life, really.  I just spent a few more hours at work than before.  I didn’t move.  I didn’t apply for jobs.  Life chugged along as usual.

And then London, without skipping a beat or a day of work.

And then I quit that life, and sometimes that still blows my mind when I think of it.  A few years ago I was in London working as a social worker and now I’m here in California as a writer, and I’m so, so much happier for it.  I don’t often consider myself a brave person, I even say that in the Divergent world I’m most certainly factionless as there’s no place for divas, but when I quit my life and started over–that was brave.  I can point to that specific moment and say, I’m proud of that.  I’m strong.  I can remake my life.

At the time, it felt so bold.  And it was.  But as I’ve gone on, I’ve realized that life is going to ask me to remake myself again and again.  That was a particularly startling shake up, but the truth is Madonna isn’t the only person who has to learn the art of reinvention.

We all do.

Madonna’s just really, really good at it.

And so, last week, in the middle of a slightly crazed day where it seemed the future had a lot less possibility than it had slammed doors and basement living, I turned to Hilary  and gave her a compression hug.

We were walking to our cars after class in a group of people and the other people stopped and stared and I just said “Do you need another hug?” and Hilary nodded.  And then I gave her one more hug before we parted ways.  And I explained the compression hug theory to our onlookers.

And the next day we applied for more jobs, and thought of new stories and the world was a bit brighter.

And I remembered, and she remembered, that we can reinvent ourselves.  That this little window is a time for patience with ourselves.  That we may not land dream jobs now, or for years and years, and that is OK.  We are OK.

I am OK.

I can do this.

And if I decide I do want to anymore, I can reinvent myself.

And strap on a cone bra.

Because the next Jill iteration best be wearing a cone bra.

Otherwise, what’s the point?

G is for Grandmothers

9 Apr


My mother and I had a conversation recently about grandmothers.  My mom maintains her grandmothers are two of the greatest women to ever walk the earth, icons in the field of human beings, angels amongst mortals.

I feel the same way about my grandmothers.

Does everyone?

Grandmothers are unique in that by the time they are ours, we get the benefit of all their years of experience.  We get the wisdom and the calm that comes with age.  I didn’t know my Grandma Lynda at 25 or 18 or 14 or whenever when she was making her big, impulsive mistakes and showing off a big, impulsive attitude.  I’ve only known her as adult who appreciates life.  Who’s figured out what makes her happy.  Who loves to quilt and texts like a teenager and goes to Del Taco every single day.

Sometimes people ask me which parent I’m like and I don’t really know what to say.  From my mother I get my passionate feminism and my love of books.  My father passed on his never-ending need to be alone.  But honestly?  I’m probably the child they would say is most different.  The one that no one quite knows where I came from.

Whenever I get confused or wonder where I fit in, though, I remember my Grandma Lynda.

When I was about 10 years old I spent a few life-changing days with my grandma.  We went to the grocery store and read celebrity gossip together, my first real bout in the world of superficial news, and I remember thinking, “This is the best thing in the world, why don’t I do this every day?”  We got Egg McMuffins for breakfast and watched soaps in the afternoon and took a lot of naps and somewhere along the way I realized that this was me.

Those little things?  I loved them.

I love them still.  The McDonald’s.  The dramatic plot lines.  The celebrity make ups and break ups.

And when I remember this I breathe a little easier.  Because I know where I come from.  My grandmother showed me.

How much do personalities get handed down?

How much do they skip generations?

One day I will write the stories of the women in my family–the truth and the fiction, the good and the bad and all of the beautiful ugly.  I will write the stories of the women who never met me, but shaped the women who shaped me.

I’ll write about my great-grandma who snuck out of her house at 15 and eloped just because the guy had a great car.

I’ll write about my grandma who collects lovely things and lovely people.

I’ll write about my mother who went from tomboy to mother extraordinaire in a teenage whirlwind and never looked back.

I’ll write and write and write and write because these women’s stories deserve to be told.

The other day after I published my celebrity encounter blog post, I got a text from my Grandma Lynda, bringing all of these thoughts full circle.

Grandma: Just read your blog post.  Who was the celebrity? I’m dying to know.  What are your chances he will call?  He wanted your number?? I’m so impressed and excited and scared for you etc etc etc.  I have fun living my life through your eyes.  Haha?

Jill: Hahaha his name is —-.  He was on Mad Men.  Look him up, he’s cute.

Grandma: Ohhhhh my heck!  A little bit of Utah coming through.  —- is breathtaking.  Of course Google showed him shirtless.  I need to catch my breath.  Hope he calls??  Good for the soul to be noticed by a hunk.

And then I laughed.

Yes, whenever I wonder where I fit in, I only need to look at my grandma.

My 70-something grandma who needs to catch her breath after looking up the hunk I met the other day.

She’s where I should look.

F is for La Bella Figura

7 Apr


Last week I had an afternoon that made me a bit sad about all of the out-of-LA job applications I’m turning in.

I met a friend at a British pub right on the water in Santa Monica and we ate fish and chips and argued over our favorite UK pastries and picked our ultimate London living location. (Notting Hill, obvi, and only 10% to do with the Beckhams.)

We then made our way to Intelligenstia in Venice where we drank peony tea in the sunlight and talked about love.

Drinking peony tea in the sunlight is exactly the sort of blogging sentence that makes the world seem a bit rosier and romantic than it actually is.  Did I drink peony tea in the sunlight and discuss love? Yes.  Was it so hot I had sweat rolling down my leg? Yes, yes. Did I discover drinking peony tea feels like eating my Urban Outfitters candle?  Yes, yes, yes.

Blogging, I tell you.

The conversation made its way towards “types” and falling in love, and in a direct roundabout way we concluded there is no such thing as a “type” and only such thing as “chemistry.”

And then we patted ourselves on the back for our great revelation that we already knew and the rest of the world already knew.

You can’t help who you fall for.

Or in the words of Fleetwood Mac, “How can I ever change things that I feel?”

For a long time I thought I had a very specific “type” of boy.  The Jill Type was a manly man, a guy who hated emotion as much as he loved cars.  The Jill Type understood me 0%, but understood Lebron James 100% and that dichotomy, that constant wanting to be understood, well that’s the space I knew how to live in.  And because I knew how to live there, and because I loved one boy like this, it meant it was my type, surely.

It took me a long time to recognize that this wasn’t a type, this was simply a boy I dated.  In fact, when I left that little dating bubble I discovered this boy was very much unusual, and that I’m actually drawn to men with much different qualities.

Men with impeccable style.  Men who appreciate the beauty in art and music and a really great suit.  Men who can discuss books with me, who can laugh as I gush over a particularly beautiful passage of writing.  Men who may not understand me, but very much want to.

That’s my type.

If people had types, that is.

I told my friend this whole theory, with much more detail and much more heartache, and he said, “Ah, Jill. La bella figura.” Which of course, I needed more explanation to understand.  “La bella figura is an Italian phrase, a way of living that means all the world’s a stage so you might as well dress the part.”

“Oh,” I said. “Yes.  I get that.  I really get that.”

For I am a girl who wears a tutu out and about.  Of course the world is a stage.

I went home that night and stewed about la bella figura.  And did some more research.  And while I certainly am no expert here, from what I can tell, la bella figura boils down to an overall appreciation of the beauty and art and color in life.

La bella figura is a way of living passionately, and with an emphasis on the finer things in life.

La bella figura is really how I try to live and behave in my life.

And so, as I’ve read and researched and thought about what I’m looking for in life and what I’m looking for in love, I’ve realized that it really just comes down to that. I’m looking for a man with a bit of la bella figura in him so we can appreciate all that is colorful and beautiful in this world together.

That’s my type of man.

The la bella figura type.

If people had types, that is.

E is for Everyday Beliefs

5 Apr


Laura does an ongoing series on her blog called “Today I Believe” where she lists things on her mind at the moment, little truths about her life.  It’s simple and lovely and I very much adore it, and so today, I believe…

1. A day I don’t read an actual in-my-hands-book is a bad day indeed

2. Fresh flowers go a long way

3. So does a good bra

4. Seriously, always, always try on the bra before buying it

5. Baths are great, but only for about five minutes

6. Mariah Carey solves most problems

7. Fiona Apple solves most others

8. “Eternal Flame” belongs on every playlist I ever make

9. So does “Always Be My Baby”

10. Rollerblades, yep

11. Leisurely, very late night swims, yep yep

12. McDonald’s when I’m craving McDonald’s is important

13. The less social media I have in a day, the better

14. Scales do nothing for my mental health

15. Filling in my eyebrows is the only makeup I need to feel OK

16. Sunsets are wonderful and social media rules about them are stupid

17. Hats are not my thing

18. Nor are blazers

19. Or red lipstick for that matter

20. Ankle boots are my thing

21. And mini dresses are REALLY my thing

22. I will always miss angry ‘90s female artists in a deep, emotional way

23.  Letting things go is a lot harder than letting things in

24. More Malibu.  Always, always more Malibu.