Archive | Family RSS feed for this section

55 Years And Counting

16 Jul

DSC_0167 DSC_0166 DSC_0163 DSC_0160

When my grandma was 16 years old, she moved next door to an angry, rebel-without-a-cause type named Allen Denning. He had big brown eyes and the first time she saw him smile, that was it. She was a goner.

My grandma was a tall, quiet, girl next-door type from the tiniest of towns. She had never met anyone like this big city bad boy and even though she moved again three months later, she never quite could get him out of her head.

When I asked her about falling in love she said, “No one ever compared to him. My heart was always his. Is that romantic enough? It’s true.”

Yes, that’s romantic enough, grandma.

Last month this boy and girl next door celebrated 55 years of marriage.

My grandpa still believes himself to be an angry, rebel without a cause, but half a century with my grandma has shown him to really be an old softie.

My grandma is still tall, gentle and girl-nextdoory. Thankfully she never lost that impulsive romantic streak that she had at 18, eloping with her first love.

Last month, as these two cut their first wedding cake, my grandma looked around at her big, happy, buzzing family and said, “I wish we could have had a glimpse of this. I wish we could have seen where this would all lead, 55 years ago.”

Isn’t love everything?

Happy Anniversary, Grandma and Grandpa.

I couldn’t write a cuter love story if I tried my whole life.

The boy and girl next door thing is just the prologue.

The Great Outdoors, Or Something Like It

2 Jul


Let’s talk for a minute about that time my extended family rode ATVs and side-by-sides through the Heber mountains.

First, I think it’s necessary to point out that while my extended family may often ride motorcycles in the dirt, my immediate family, aka the”J5s,”  is not used to this sort of activity.  The J5s’ idea of a rip-roaring time is a brisk walk or perhaps a tight Wimbledon bracket challenge.  If we’re feeling really rebellious we might try a new word game!  ATV riding, the great outdoors…not so much in our vocabulary.

My mother once famously said that the only reason she would ever camp would be if she no longer owned a car.

It should be noted this is not an attitude problem. My mother enjoys all sorts of activities. For instance, she and I love to engage in heated, all-night discussions on gender roles in Gone With the Wind.

Some people like the outdoors.  Some people like Rhett Butler.

Moving along.

My father was given the (unenviable) task of driving me, Mam, and Jess in this dune buggy thing, straight out of the Indiana Jones Adventure. We were a loud dune buggy. A  screaming dune buggy.  An “I feel like I’m on a Disney ride!” dune buggy.

Bless him.

And now for a few pictures to explain our journey.


My mom, usually the first woman to weasel her way out of a picture with an, “I’ll take this one!” kept saying, “I look so good dirty!” and jumping into random pictures, all smiles and poses.  It’s like I’d never met her.


My Paps was apparently unfamiliar with the faux-candid photo. When told to “pretend you’re driving” he smiled for the camera.   This, the man who claims he cannot smile on cue.  We’ll save the all-night conversation about gender roles and pictures for another time, but know it’s there and it’s real.


Even though I rode with my face covered as shown in this beautiful shot, I still managed to be so dirty at the end of the whole ordeal that people lined up to take pictures with me.  It was like I was a prop, one of the princesses at Disneyland or a dressed-up gladiator outside the Colosseum, making money as the entertainment.

This last shower I finally felt like the dirt was out of my hair.

Until we meet again, Great Outdoors. Until we meet again.

God Save The Queen!

25 Jun


This week the annual Denning family Wimbledon bracket challenge began.

Tennis is serious business in my home and the Wimbledon bracket challenge is the most intense of the intense.  The past two days have already included group text messages about Rafael Nadal, Grandmama’s guesses, daily point tallies, and my everlasting devotion to Andy Murray/Great Britain.

God save the Queen!

Last year I won the family US Open bracket challenge (AndyMurrayGreatBritainGodSaveTheQueen!) and have yet to receive the expensive reward I recently decided should have been allocated to me.  When I told my family that I would like a cash prize this year, my dad choked on his water.

It’s like my family isn’t even trying to play by my rules.

My little brother aka Official Denning Officiator In All Things Tennis sent out a group email earlier this week outlining the rules of the bracket challenge.  He ended with the following:

The prizes for this year’s bracket challenge will be either (1) a not-too-expensive book of your choosing or (2) a 15 minute one-on-one session of alone time with your choice of parent. If you win against the rest of the world, you also receive $50 (2nd place is $25).

The “Not-too-expensive” part of the book prize came after I announced I would like the complete works of Shakespeare in hardback.

The 15-minute session with my parents is a joke alluding to my childhood days.

The $50 cash prize is mine.

God save the Queen!

One Of Those Photos

24 Jun


Do you ever see a candid photo of yourself and go, “Surely this can’t be what I really look like!  Surely one of my supposed-to-be-my-soul-mate friends would have stepped in years ago and confronted me about the problem that is this facial expression!  Surely the camera was on the fritz!  Surely so many things!”

Sadly, this is not one of those photos for me.

This photo is all Jill.  Classic J. Lo.  Jillian 101.

The hand in the air, the furrowed brow…if you’ve ever wondered what I look like telling a story, look no further.

I’ll have to save my surelys for another shocking picture.

On another note, my hair color is one of my favorite things going on in my life at the moment.  This may sound very shallow, but this time last year I was recovering from a bout of wannabe-Addison-Shepherd hair and that sort of experience does things to a girl.

I’ve made a vow to not change my color from now until forever, and it is your responsibility as a reader of my blog to hold me to that.  Talk me off the ledge.  Remind me I’m not Isla Fisher.  This is really for the good of everyone as I can get quite emotional about poor hair decisions and you really don’t want to read my hair-color-inspired poetry, I’m warning you now.

As a final note in this incredibly insightful and thought-provoking blog post, I’d like to point out that I don’t think the facial expressions of those around me in this picture accurately depict how people respond to my stories.

I’m sticking to that.

Father’s Day

18 Jun


My dad is not an overly romantic man. He is solid, logical, practical, frugal. He always orders water, prefers unbuttered popcorn, and will pass on a fancy restaurant for a good omelet at home. My dad is the dictionary definition of “low maintenance.”

He is the opposite of words people use to describe me, his emotional, impulsive, can-we-eat-out-every-day-until-forever? daughter. Sometimes I wonder if he sits back and goes, “Where did my daughter come from, this girl who prefers vacation to real life and spends her money so very freely?”

Then again, my dad is excellent at accepting things for what they are, so those thoughts probably never even cross his mind.

Have I mentioned that we are opposites?

My parents were married on January 4th. On the 4th of every month, without fail, my Dad buys my mother a Butterfinger candy bar as a reminder of their anniversary.

If my dad goes out of town, he makes sure to buy a Butterfinger in advance and pass it off to my little sister for delivery. If the 4th falls on a Sunday, Saturday night you will find my dad at the grocery store, candy in hand. Hundreds of times I’ve seen my dad kiss my mom, say “Happy Anniversary Laurie,” and hand her a candy bar.

It’s simple. It doesn’t sweep my mom off her feet. It’s part of the Denning routine, as regular as dental checkups or taxes.

Yet, the 341-and-counting Butterfinger bars have had such a huge, life-altering effect on his children, particularly his daughters.

My little sister got married in December, and now every 28th of the month, without fail, her husband brings her Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Somewhere along the way she decided that’s what she wanted. We never spoke about it. It was just a given.

One day I will have an anniversary and I, too, will ask for a monthly candy bar. It probably won’t be the same candy, because the idea of sticking to anything for 28 years, let alone a certain kind of chocolate, just seems daunting. So, yes, my husband will have the slightly more difficult task of monitoring my ever-changing candy moods. But in the end, I hope I have that. I want the Butterfinger bar.

341 Butterfinger bars. That. Right there. That’s what makes my dad such a great man.

Happy Father’s Day, Paps.

I Am Lindsay Bluth

25 May


Naturally, I’ve assigned every member of my immediate family a character from Arrested Development complete with side-by-side photos and personality analyses.

Yes, this is what I do with my time, thank you for asking.

The other day I was talking to my brother Jeff about our assignments, specifically why I am the Lindsay Bluth Funke of the family:

Jill: What are the ways I’m like Lindsay?

Jeff: This feels like a trap.

I assured Jeff that this was not a trap and he should feel free to speak his mind.  Moments later I received a barrage of texts outlining the (eerily accurate and not-always-flattering) ways I am similar to Lindsay Bluth.

It’s like he didn’t even have to reach for these comparisons.

Don’t worry Jeff, I won’t hold it against you. In a decade or so, I’ll probably only remember the hurtful/truthful things you said to me like twice an hour.  I expect the sobbing will have stopped by then as well.  And under no circumstances will I tell anyone you are the BUSTER of the family.


With that over with, here are Jeff’s reasons I Am the Lindsay of the Denning family:

1. We both…struggle…in the kitchen

Watch Lindsay’s face as she says, “Hot ham water!” It’s the same expression I get when I tell everyone, “I just googled how to slice tomatoes!”

2. We enjoy the finer things in life

For more on my expensive tastes, read this post.

3. We have the same sleep habits


I’ll give him this one.

4. We date the same men

Jeff specifically mentioned Lindsay’s date with Uncle Jack as a parallel to my romantic life.  Sadly, I couldn’t argue.

5. We both wear our dead sister-in-law’s engagement ring as a toe ring

Wait, what??


As an added twist, because there are not enough members of our family to cover every character some people had to fulfill two roles.

I am also called upon to be the family’s Tobias because I was once a therapist and quit the profession to write for actors.

So I am actually a Lindsay/Tobias combo.

Heaven help me.

Heaven help us all.

Which Arrested Development character are you?

The Denning Twins

16 May


And now for a post you will most likely only enjoy if your name is Laurie Denning.

A few years ago, a friend I had known for quite some time, a friend who had rapped Will Smith with me and been to MY FAMILY HOME, casually mentioned my twin.

“My twin?”

“Your twin brother, Jeff.”

“Oh! THAT twin…Wait!  I’m not a twin!”

My older brother Jeff and I are 22 months apart, and the twin thing has haunted us since…forever.  Even, apparently, to the point where close acquaintances are confused.

Memorably, when we were teenagers, someone cracked, “Put a wig on Jeff and it’s Jill.”

I still don’t know how to take this.

Was 2003 a really bad year for me?

This week as I was looking through some family photo albums for Mother’s Day I came across The Denning Twins, The Early Years.  These pictures helped me realize how maybe, sort of, possibly under the right circumstances people might have once thought Jeff and I were, you know…related. (Did I use enough qualifiers in that sentence?  I did my best.)

There are a few obvious reasons for this.

1. Our mother had a penchant for dressing us in homemade outfits like this:


2. And this:


3. We wore matching hats:


4. And had matching poses:


5. We were always holding hands:


6. We had the same haircut:


7. And never went anywhere without the other:


7. We liked to show off our huge smiles:


8. And then mainly, most of all, THIS:


You’d better believe those Raggedy Ann and Andy costumes will be recreated as soon as I have my own children.  Thank you for that, mother.

And a happy very late Mother’s Day to the best of the best.

The Many Stages Of The Google+ Hangout

16 Apr

Stage One: In Which It Awkwardly Begins

Screen Shot 2013-04-14 at 7.10.32 PM

My parents inform us via two dozen group text messages that they cannot get the audio on their computer to work.

Joel’s computer science skills are put to the test as he locates the unmute button for them.


Stage Two: In Which We Go A Little Crazy With The Special Effects


I wear a crown, obviously.


Stage Three: In Which Problems Arise


What is Jenna so upset about?

Where did I go?

Is my dad really 25 years old?

All valid questions.


Stage Four: In Which My Mother Shines


Enough said.


Until next time, family.  Until next time.