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Friendship, Utah, And Doris

4 Apr


I’ve been in Utah for the past few days, eating fry sauce and grasshopper shakes, seeing friends and family.  Utah, Utah, Utah.

I have such a complicated relationship with this state.  I wonder if everyone does with their home?  Is Utah especially fraught?

It seems all of Utah is a small town.  I know this can’t be true, and yet, while in line at Cafe Rio today, there were four separate conversations with four separate groups of people who knew someone I was with.  We are all interconnected.  Probably related, too.

It was such a needed day.  I MISS THIS.  I miss my friends who are really my sisters at this point.  How we can sit down and cheer on the big meal.  How we can share our deepest fears and hopes and ugliness, how we can support each other anyway.

There’s a thing with old friends that can’t be replicated elsewhere and every day I wonder if California is worth that.  How can I replace Amy, the girl who reads my mind, the girl whose twisted heart turns in the same way as mine?  My sister, after 16 years.

How can I replace Breanne? My friend whose knowledge on every subject baffles me, whose opinion I want on everything?  How can I replace her humor, her resourcefulness, her absolute Bre-ness?

Or what about Mandee?  The most gentle, kind, graceful soul in every room.  The girl who tries so hard, who never gives up, who loves our friendship like I’ve always wanted a friendship to be loved.

And then there’s Caitlan.  With her way of bringing spirituality into all conversations.  With her intense passion for EVERYTHING, with her concern for random celebrities, and her pet causes and her desire to save the world.

These girls are part of my soul, the people I choose to surround myself with because they understand me and accept me in ways I can’t find anywhere else.

I miss them every day.  In an ideal world we all live next door, watching TV together, playing Rock Band through the night, living and laughing and just being with each other.

I recently saw the movie Hello My Name is Doris which is wonderful and you should see it right away.  It’s a character study executed flawlessly by Sally Field, not Sally Fields as I always have to look up.

It’s the story of a woman with my perfect fashion, a woman who wonders what she’s done with her life.  Who daydreams and hoards and falls in love with a coworker.

My favorite scene in the movie, though, doesn’t have to do with any of those things.

It takes place after Thanksgiving when Sally (Doris) is quite upset.  Her best friend Roz hurries over with a bag full of Thanksgiving leftovers.  Sally sobs into her arms and says she’s a joke to everyone and she has nothing to look forward to.  Roz simply says, “You have two kinds of stuffing.”

There’s no judgement in this scene, though there could have been.  Roz shows up.  She doesn’t berate Doris for any of her actions.  She just gives her two kinds of stuffing and tells her it’s all right.

There’s another scene, later, where it’s Sally and Roz and some other girlfriends helping Sally address a lifelong problem she’s never tackled.  Sally surrounded by those who love her.

I’ve been thinking about female friendships lately and always.

The advice they give you when you’re young, how boys come and go but friendship is forever, that advice is solid.  That advice, I’m learning applies even to adulthood when we think we know the boys we will always have.  When even long-term commitments and we-think-forevers are called into question, it’s Roz at the door with two kinds of stuffing and no judgement.

It’s your girlfriends who come help you with your big, lifelong struggles.

Or least it’s mine.

The worst part of adulthood is being away from those you love every day.  Childhood with your family all around and your friends for 8 hours a day, no one tells you this is it.  It only happens once.

Because I know, even if I lived in Utah, I couldn’t see my girlfriends every day.  They have jobs and children and husbands and mortgages.  They have families of their own, obligations and real life.  I would see them, more, sure, but not enough.  Never enough.

And so I press on.  I don’t know the answers to all of this, nor do I think I’ll ever have them.



I do know, however, that I have two kinds of stuffing.


I Miss Pepperdine

10 Aug


I miss Pepperdine something fierce.  Something right in the gut that creeps out and punches me every once in a while just because it knows that it hurts.  It knows where the bruise is.

I miss Pepperdine even though at this very moment I’m sitting in the Pepperdine library typing away.

I love Pepperdine.  Much like I love Malibu and I love Caitlin, I love Pepperdine because it came to me at a time when I felt particularly low, a time when I needed it most.

I love this library I’m sitting in.  I love the hot chocolate machine that I can never get to work.  I love the cubicles, with wood and scattered plugs you have to search for.  I love to write here, knowing that I am protected from noise and other people, but I can also see the ocean if I turn my head just so.

I love the shelves and shelves of books.  I keep collecting books for my future library, against all principles of zen and the art of tidying up and I’m OK with that.

Pepperdine is OK with that too.

I’m assuming.

I miss Pepperdine in the fall, with all the new freshmen and all the new energy.  I miss being a TA with my best friends, spending the afternoon in a booked study room wasting our time, talking dreams.

I miss Katie showing up late with a gold parking token, Starbucks in hand.

I miss the Chipotle runs, the Duke’s runs.

I miss getting snickerdoodles and oatmeal chocolate cookies from Malibu Kitchen during break.

I miss the pointless lectures and the group chats.  I miss that feeling that we are right in the thick of it, that we need to sign up for that writing conference Right Now!

I miss writing.

I still write, obviously.  In some ways more than I did then.  But I miss writing for an audience.  The anxiety before your work is read in class.  The thrill of watching yourself improve, of getting caught up in a story.

I miss playing pretend for four hours a night and calling it school.

I miss class.  I miss tea breaks from class.

I miss the popcorn trees in spring and the ever-changing rock.

I miss the pasta bar and chocolate milk machine.

I miss, I miss, I miss.

I finished my coursework in two years, the quickest you could do so in my program.  That was silly, looking back on it.  That was silly, but I was eager to make money and get in the workforce.  I don’t remember why, exactly.   Student loans, I think.

That extra year, the third year, was the year people really started to improve.  People found their voices and niche and ideas.

I have two great sitcom ideas, so so much better than the sitcom idea I pitched last year.

And here I am.

I didn’t have a good undergrad experience.  One day, if I choose to write about it, it will be like the book of Job–calamity after freaking calamity, this time with no moral at the end.

I’ve often wondered about this.  Had I gone to a different school would things have been different?  What about a liberal arts college back East studying creative writing?  What about an all-women’s college?

What if I had applied to schools abroad?

The conclusion is always the same: I can’t change it now.  I made the decisions I made when I made them for a reason.  I was 17.  I wanted to be near friends and family.

But further, I was 17 and had to pay for college.

I made the decisions I made for a reason.

I am here now for a reason.

Not for a reason like “Everything happens for a reason,” but for a reason like “I actively made these choices.”

Pepperdine got to be the college experience I never had.  Not in the traditional sense, maybe, because my version of college has never included many of the traditional college things.

Pepperdine got to be a place I could pursue the thing I love most, with my best friends around me.

I never made any friends in undergrad.  Well, one.  (Hi Laura again!)  I felt like I was in the wrong place doing the wrong thing.

Here I am today and my best friends are all people I met in this program.  The boy I love is someone from this program.

I miss Pepperdine.

I’ll always have it, of course.  I’ll always have Pepperdine.  The memories, but also the present.

I still come to campus often.  I run on the track.  I go to yoga twice a week.

I swim in the pool.  I buy those overpriced gluten-free chocolate animal cookies from the shop. I check for eggplant soup in the cafeteria more than I care to admit.

I miss it and I have it and it’s fleeting.

There’s a thing when you’re in a moment that you don’t fully grasp it.  I remember when Caitlin and I stopped being roommates there was this feeling–that was it.  That little patch of time where our lives intertwined perfectly with Grey’s Anatomy reruns and Rice Krispie treats, that time was gone.

We talked halfheartedly of being roommates again post college, maybe in San Francisco, but I think we both knew it was over.  That time came and was wonderful and it would never happen again.

We are different now, Cait and I, from when we started Pepperdine.  We grew up.  Together and separately.

I am different now, from when I started Pepperdine.

I grew up.

I miss it like mad.

Home Is Where The Nachos Are

31 May


Friday afternoon I found myself in a yin yoga class with Hilary.

Yin yoga is my favorite kind of yoga, mainly because I know I can do it.  I know I can stretch and grow and leave feeling refreshed.  Sometimes I go to these 1.5 hour hot yoga classes in Malibu, and all I can think is I’ll never be able to do this, I must give up yoga and probably everything else.

But yin yoga at noon at Pepperdine is one of my favorite things in the world.

Hilary smiles throughout the whole class.  You should really try working out with that girl.  Her eyes are closed, she’s in shavasana, and she’s got a big, broad grin across her whole face.

Hilary has many of the things I do not have.  It’s what makes us good friends, my eagerness to soak some of it up.

After yoga I told Hilary I wanted fries.  I saw an Instagram shot of fries and I needed fries and so to Duke’s we went because I know about their fries.

(And their nachos.)

(And their hula pies.)

We’ve been here nearly three years, Hilary and I.  I got a notification that the blog I started in London–a very sad, very small, desperate thing of a blog–just turned four.

FOUR YEARS OLD!  My London times are in preschool.  They no longer just happened.

I remember moving here, fresh back from London and everything was London this and London that and it’s not anymore. I hardly mention it.  It’s part of my history, and certainly not the most important part right now.

Not even close.

The boys Cait and I dated that first year we were here, the ones we gave nicknames and who were topics of conversation–they have grown older, grown out of their nicknames.  The other day I found out one of them is expecting a child with his now wife.

I texted Cait.

She responded with a picture of a burrito.

Three years.

Not quite.

Almost three years.

It’s enough to make a place a home, I think.  Or it’s getting close.

I get sad, sometimes, about my life here.  I have friends, and good ones.  But not that many of them.  And none who knew me before.  These are all “new” friends, people who met me when London was fresh.  People who have never met the boys who broke my heart or the friends and family who healed it.

My friends here feel so separate from the rest of my life, sometimes.

Rob has two friends from other areas of his life, a childhood friend and a college friend, who are both here in Southern California.

I envy that.

What I would do to have a childhood friend out here!  A high school friend!  My sole college friend! (Hi Laura!)

There are times when my life in California feels so separate from my life elsewhere.  My life in Utah, I suppose.

All of my siblings are back in Utah now, did you know?

You wouldn’t know.

For a stretch there it was only 1/5 Denning children in the Beehive State, all of us spread out, doing our own thing, likely never to return, and then without warning everyone is coming back but me.

It’s enough to make a girl think.  What am I doing here?  How long will I be here?  What do I want of my life?

I think these things anyway, but the prospect of all the people I love regularly gathering without me, I think them harder.

I have a life here.  I’m no longer at the stage where I wonder when my real life will begin.  I am living my real life, right now, this very moment, with the dregs of my cold tea and my California cherries and the four books I have open on my bed because nothing is really holding my attention reading-wise these days.

This is my life.  A life of yin yoga and french fries, of sea salt and foggy skies.

I don’t want to ever leave Malibu.

I think this fairly regularly.

Every time I drive up the PCH, past the stilted houses and the dots of surfers and the overpriced restaurants–I feel the air come back into my lungs and I think, “How could I ever leave this?”

Malibu feels like home.

I have my places.  A magazine stand, a burrito stop, my favorite scoop of ice cream.

Places take time.

So do people.

Rob reminds me of this when I’m feeling sad about being here.  “Jill,” he says.  “Your people in Utah have 15 years with you.  It’s natural that it’s different here.”

It’s natural and it’s hard.

It’s my real life, right now, this very moment.

Dinner With A Therapist

31 Mar


Tonight was one of those chance evenings where the universe aligned and I had a few hours off work at the same time my friends were in Malibu and so we celebrated with Duke’s.

Duke’s is the place you go to in Malibu for a drink or a burger.  It’s right on the water and has amazing key lime pie.  We ordered everything on the menu.

It was nachos.  It was fish tacos.  It was fries. It was burgers.  It was key lime pie and then an ice cream pie and then, oh, 27 million drinks, keep those drinks a coming and oh wait her baby is asleep how about after dinner coffee then?  And another?

It was the best time I’ve had in months.

The entire dinner, all three hours of it, was spent without cell phones.  We didn’t have to institute this rule, which is why I love these people.  Three hours just talking, no distractions.

Things come out when you talk like this.

First the basics.  Work.  Goals.  Relationships.

Oh relationships!

Then we started talking about our fighting styles.  How we fight with others.  How unhealthy/healthy it is.

And then it turned to other crazy things.

“What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?” I asked.

And we went round robin around the table until we had exhausted our share of crazy.  I shared freely, without worry or thought.  The times I’ve been a truly awful person.  The times I regret.  The times I laugh about.  I wasn’t judged or nervous.  There’s something incredibly nice about that.  To say, this is me.  These are my flaws, my mistakes and to have someone say I see you, here’s mine.  This is me.

You aren’t terrible.

I’m not terrible.

We’re human.

At the end of the night, my friends stood up to go to the bathroom and it was just me and my friend’s husband left at the table.  This man is getting his PhD in psychology.  He also has the most perfect hair color the world has ever produced.

“So Jill,”  he said. “Let’s make a plan for you.”

I squirmed a bit.

“You have a problem with expectations,” he said.

“Yes, it’s my number one problem in life,” I said.

“Well here’s how we’re going to change it,” he said.

My friend’s husband proceeded to make a plan for my life, a plan to change my narrative of failure.  Because when you’re me and you set impossible goals, you are constantly disappointed in yourself and in life and in other people.  It’s hard way to be.  People often tell me that.

“It must be so exhausting being you,” they say when they get to know me and see the Mount Everests I build for myself to climb every day.

I say, “Yes.”

I say, “I’m trying to change it.”

My Surrogate Therapist gave me assignments to complete. “It’s not that you’re not getting stuff done, it’s that you’re not getting impossible things done and so you feel like you’re failing,” he said.

“Yes,” I nodded.  It’s an advantage, in times like these to be so transparent about yourself and your flaws and hopes.  Therapists offer free advice after dinner.

“Now go home and decide one thing you need to do tonight,” he said.

“Perfect,” I said.  “I’ll put the sheets on my bed.. And clean my kitchen.  And finish an act of my novel.  And read my book, actually make that finish my book–”

“No,” he said.  “One thing.”

My friends got back from the bathroom at that point and it was all packing and shivering and talking about how we really must do this more often.  It is necessary to do this more often.

As we said our goodbyes, I announced to my friends, “I hope next time we see each other things will be dramatically better for all of us.”

My friend’s husband shook his head, “Not dramatically better.  Small and steady incremental changes.”

I laughed.

I walked the extra 10 feet to my non-valeted car.

I went home and made my bed.

The Baking Hive: A Utah Must

7 Jan

This beautiful, aproned bombshell is my friend Elisa.


When I talk about Elisa I usually say she went to Berkeley and dyes her hair red and that’s all you need to know.

But there’s more.

There’s always more.

Elisa is the sort of person who lights up a room just being in it.  Her energy is contagious.  Her laughter, her enthusiasm, her loud love of life.  I look up to her in every way.  I have a huge stinking crush on her.

I met Elisa at church in London.  It’s amazing that anything good came out of my church experience in London at all, but Elisa was it.  I sat in the back and made some snarky comment, and at the end, Elisa came up to me and said “I overheard you.  You’re normal.  Let’s be friends.”

I was taken aback because who does that?  Who walks up to a stranger and proposes friendship right away?

Elisa does.

Elisa is such an extrovert.  The type of person who doesn’t wait around for what she wants, she marches up and asks for it.

That day Elisa joined a friend and I on a ferry trip to Greenwich.  We tried all sorts of food and laughed at all sorts of things and Elisa announced she had one week left in London.  She had been living in the UK going to cooking school and her time was up.  This was it.

“Let’s hang out before I leave,” she said.

I was the sort of person who knew I was leaving London and snailed my way out.  I spent months in my bed knowing it would all soon end and I could forget about it.  My last week there I counted down the minutes until I could finally say goodbye.

Elisa had one week left in London and went wild.

I went wild with her.

We tried Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant.  We saw a musical.  We talked politics on the tube and I found Elisa to be one of those rare gems, one of those people who makes a political discussion meaningful and nuanced and exciting.

Sometimes I wonder what London would have been like for me if Elisa had stayed.

Certainly less lonely.

That’s the beauty of Elisa.

She makes me feel less isolated in the world and less isolated in my opinions and culture.

She shows me someone like me!  I have so many amazing role models of women as wives and mothers, but I have a precious few examples of women in business and careers.  I talk to her about things I don’t talk to anyone else about.

I talked to her about these things the first day I met her.

One of the biggest lessons from Elisa has been not to compare myself to other people.  Everyone’s timeline is different.  Do what feels right for now.  When it doesn’t, do the next thing.

I’ve watched her go from cooking school in Ireland, to an MBA program in Scotland, and now back to Utah for her business.

I’ve watched her slowly make her way towards her dreams.

Last month I visited Elisa at her dream– her very own bakery, The Baking Hive.

It was such a proud moment for me, I was practically bursting with excitement.

There was Elisa, apron on, doing what she loves–baking.  There she was using her natural abilities of nurturing and feeding and business to create something she is proud of.

Elisa is the biggest nurturer.  You feel hugged just being around her.

Eva Longoria once said that she collects amazing, smart, interesting women.

I feel that way too.

I collect incredible women and then I marvel at their bravery and success and strength.

I marvel at Elisa.

Last month as I sat on a stool and watched her bake, and ate cookies, and talked about life and goals and dreams I marveled some more.

Her bakery had only been open two weeks, she was tired and excited and so in the moment she hadn’t even reflected on how she was doing it.  Doing the thing she had dreamed of for so long.

Before my visit I was in a horrendous mood.  Maybe it was Utah or the holidays or something, but I was complaining something fierce.  Rob told me I needed to see Elisa.  She would make it better.

And I scoffed.

I had tried all manner of food and friends and nothing was fixing this mood, nothing I tell you!

And then a few hours with Elisa and suddenly my heart was light.

Suddenly I was giggly and giddy and that famous Elisa attitude–brazenly herself, brazenly happy–had rubbed off on me.

That’s the power of Elisa and her baked goods.

If you’re in Utah, you must visit her!  Support local businesses!  Support local businesses run by women!

Give her a hug.  Tell her I sent you.  Ask to hear her British accent.

I’m giddy with Elisa pride.

The Baking Hive


3362 South 2300 East

Salt Lake City, Utah 84109


Mon – Sat 9:00AM – 6:00PM

Get the Dirty Johnny or the Caramel Jaguar Bars or both.  Get it all.  Also!  Sign your kids up for her healthy kids after school baking classes. More information here.

Thanksgiving Weekend In Concentrate

7 Dec


I need five pillows in order to make it through the night.

This seems high maintenance, I know.  But there it is.

I sleep with five pillows.

One between my legs.

Two under my head, stacked.  One in my arms.  One perpendicular to the head pillows.

Five pillows.

Count them.  One, two, three, four, we don’t want your superstore.

I spent Thanksgiving in the suburbs with Caitlin and her family.  Thanksgiving is the only time all year in which I want to be in the suburbs, my soul cries out for convenience and planned communities and cheesy decorations.

“What about Christmas?” Luke asks.

“Christmas needs to be spent with my family,” I say.  That could be anywhere.

But Thanksgiving should be in the burbs, in a cozy house with Tupperware and leftover shells and toilet paper galore.

Cait and I shared a bed over the weekend.  She knows my sleeping habits by this point, and so she had five pillows and two comforters and two sheets and two everything so we could sleep side by side and not have to share at all.

Neither of us are sharers, really.

At least not that kind.

There’s something so wonderful about seeing where a person is from.

I know Caitlin very well.  I’ve shared laughter and tears and car rides and soul secrets.  I know what she looks like without makeup.  I know her strengths and skills and strengths and skills she doesn’t count as strengths and skills.  I know her favorite Robyn song v. her most played Robyn song.

I know Cait.

And yet.

I come to her childhood home and I see her even more clearly.

Caitlin in concentrate.

This summer a mutual friend visited me and Luke on Cape Cod.  As we sat on the overcast beach the friend commented that Luke on the Cape was “Luke in concentrate.”  There, in that tiny town where he learned to cook and had summer flings and grew up, there Luke is most himself.

I like that idea.

I wonder where and what Jill in concentrate looks like.

Cait in concentrate includes boxes from ex-boyfriends.  The boys she loved and wanted to love and will always love.

It includes a closet of jumbled clothing, Abercrombie high school photos, a doorframe with 50 Cent quotes.

Oh my goodness, Caitlin’s doorframe!  I only took a picture of the 50 Cent quote, but there are others.  Other gems written in her same lopside handwriting, in different colored markers.

Been hit with a few shells but I don’t walk with a limp 

I’m surrounded by a vanity crisis, everywhere I turn

We’re hopelessly blissful and blind to all we need

Caitlin in concentrate is also Caitlin with her parents. The souls who watched Grey’s Anatomy, and shared a popcorn bowl, and encouraged our Diet Coke habits day after day.

They are part of Caitlin in concentrate.

I like Caitlin in concentrate.

Well I just like Caitlin, really.

Thanksgiving morning Cait and I started off with Diet Coke. I had forgotten how much Diet Coke I down when with Caitlin.  My body wasn’t prepared.  I’ve been drinking too much water!

We went to McDonald’s and Carl’s Jr. and rounded the trip out with a donut shop and then before I knew it we were back to Carl’s Jr. and then back again.  It got to the point where the Carl’s Jr. worker commented on our clothing, “Ooh, you girls changed!”  and we responded “Cool manicure!” and reached for the fresh DC with lemon.

And now I’m going to say something blasphemous.

The Diet Coke at Cait’s home Carl’s Jr. is better than the Diet Coke at her home McDonald’s.

I didn’t know it was possible, but it is, apparently.


As the hours counted down to the feast, Cait took me on her favorite winding roads to her favorite places, through postcards of fall. Fall came to Northern California!  Who knew.

We listened to my limited iPhone music, and danced to Justin Timberlake and took pictures of the scenery (and since it’s Cait, she took pictures of me.)

This shall forever be known as the Thanksgiving of the Nikes.

And fuzzy socks.

Nikes, fuzzy socks and DC.

And then we had a Thanksgiving dinner, one with more gravy than I’ve ever had in my life because Caitlin’s family, they understand gravy.  And cranberry sauce that made me think maybe cranberry sauce has a place in this world.

That kind of cranberry sauce.

Oh!  And I helped with the rolls!

People kept congratulating me on this.

You can congratulate me too, if you’d like.

And then, finally, after a long day of Cait in concentrate, once we were full and happy and caffeinated, we got in the car and made the trek to a fancy San Francisco hotel with a killer view and all the shopping a girl could want.

As soon as we got to our room, Cait silently handed me all the pillows off her bed.

I put one between my legs.

Two under my head.

One in my arms.

One perpendicular to the head pillows.

I need five pillows in order to sleep, you know.

The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Whatever

2 Jul


When I was in high school, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants movie came out, and wouldn’t you know it, my best friends and I decided to assign ourselves Sisterhood characters.

The process was rather easy.  I was clearly Tibby, the hippie activist who went to socialist day camp and overthought the meaning of life on a consistent basis.


My friends quickly fell into their own categories and girls–the free spirit, the Type-A, the one who cares a bit too much–and soon these Sisterhood assignments of ours became one of the hallmarks of our friendship.

We signed off our notes and emails as “Tibby,” “Lena,” “Carmen,” and “Bridget.” We started our own Sisterhood of sorts, and we even went as far as creating a traveling email with tailor-made rules.

Please note rules #3, #14 and #20 of our Sisterhood, the Sisterhood of the Chi Pi sorority:

3. Do not text big news.

14. Tweezing is not a reasonable response to duress or relief of stress. A Chi Pi does not tweeze under pressure.

20. Never buy a lotion that boasts of a yogurt base.

Every so often I get really excited about a new book idea of mine, “I’m going to write about a group of girl friends in high school and how they stick together no matter what.  Ooh, you know what would be fun?  If they had a token of their friendship or something that they swap every few weeks over the summer as they come of age!”

…and then I realize that Ann Brashares got there first.

I just really love the Sisterhood.

I really, really do.

In The Great Gatsby Nick Carraway says everybody suspects himself of having at least one of the cardinal virtues, and while I know it’s not technically a cardinal virtue, if I suspect myself of being good at anything good it’s friendship.

I believe in the power of female friendship.


This summer I got the chance to see Ann Brashares speak at the LA Times Festival of Books and it was entirely thrilling.

Ann is exactly what you’d expect her to be.  She’s gorgeous and thoughtful and one of those people who seems to live and speak and act purposefully.

I never live purposefully.  I’m too impulsive and manic and moody for all of that.  And so when I’m around someone who seems so thoughtful I become even more manic, “What’s your secret!  Tell me everything!  I WILL BE PURPOSEFUL TIMES A MILLION NACHOS RIGHT NOW.”


I want to say by watching Ann that she’s a Lena who thinks she’s a Carmen.

But I would need more time to really know.

In the panel, Ann was promoting her new book, but when the audience got to ask questions, all anyone wanted to talk about was the Sisterhood.

Ann said that she never really wanted to say goodbye to the girls so gave herself a deadline and told herself if she was still thinking about the Sisterhood at that point she could write one final novel.

When the deadline came she still couldn’t forget about the girls, and so she wrote Sisterhood Everlasting.

Yesterday I picked it up.

It’s funny, in this book, the girls are 29, which is a bit older than my friends and I are, but we’re still going through a lot of the same things.  That just adulthood.  Those big decisions.

Trying to maintain our important friendships while in different cities, with different lives, with a different everything.

It hit close to home.

And so I did what I’ve always done when it comes to these fictional girls and my life.

I sent my own Sisterhood an email.

I started it off with–

In shocking news, Tibby (I) dies (die) 10 years into the Sisterhood franchise. 

I then outlined what each character ends up doing in the book, how it relates to our own accomplishments and failures, and what Ann Brashares knew about my life before I did.

(Spoiler: Tibby went to film school.

She then moved to Australia because that’s what we Tibbys want to do.


She ended up with the nerdy, neurotic boy who loved her to the ends of the earth.

It’s like,

Why wasn’t I listening to Ann sooner?

How much time and heartbreak could I have saved myself?

How many unnecessary degrees could I have avoided?)

I signed my email “Tibs” and then went back to work, knowing full well it may be days before I get a response.

After all,

We’re trying to maintain our important friendships while in different cities, with different lives, with a different everything.

We’re a grown-up sisterhood now.


30 May

photo-259 photo-260 photo-261

These pictures deserve their own post, if only to show the progression of my photography relationship with Caitlin.

The first photos Cait and I took were just about two years ago at this point.  We were a set-up friendship, and had never met in real life so our first encounter was when I showed up in LA ready to look for apartments.

Cait, of course, documented the whole thing.  She has no qualms about taking pictures, asking people to take pictures, forcing you to take pictures even when you say, “no thank you,” in your most polite tones.

No qualms whatsoever.

As a result, we have dozens and dozens of horrifying photos from that first weekend together.

I’m not exaggerating when I say these were the worst pictures of my youngish life.

For one thing I was wearing a hat.  This was during the black-out three days of my life I thought hats and I could work out, and now it’s recorded for all of eternity because Caitlin doesn’t get rid of pictures, she just uses them as blackmail later.

I know, kids.  Look at how weird your mother was.

For another thing, the pictures were just…bad.  The body language.  The angles.  We didn’t know what to do with each other both in the photos and in life.  You could tell she was thinking, “Who is the weirdo in the hat?” and I was thinking, “Who is this weirdo in a hat?” and maybe it was the hat that caused all of the problems.

But probably not.

We took some getting used to, me and Cait.  It took time for us to learn each other’s angles, if you will.

And so these recent pictures, these happy, effortless photos at Caitlin’s graduation, well, they mean quite a bit to me.   They show how far we’ve come.  They show how well we know each other.

I believe “ease in pictures together” is a significant marker in any relationship.

I just thought of that this instant, but I’m sticking to it.

More on this theory later!

Or not!

There was a moment during Caitlin’s graduation where her mother turned to me and said, “Aren’t you so glad Cait didn’t go to USC?”

I nodded.

She continued, “You know, Cait called me when she started school and she said, ‘This roommate, Mom.  It was meant to be.  Pepperdine was meant to be.'”

At that point I full-on teared up.  I watched Cait’s long blonde hair bouncing up and down in the ocean breeze and all I wanted was to go back to our little unfurnished Malibu apartment and start these two years over.  Do them again and do them right and change almost nothing.

Except maybe document them more.

I know, kids.  Look what a sap your mom was.

McDonald’s Moods

13 May


The other night I got in a bad way.

Sometimes I don’t know when these bad ways will hit, or why, really, or how to get out of them.  All I know is I feel very misunderstood and what I need more than anything is Caitlin.

“I need to talk to Cait,” I said, that bad-way night.  “Caitlin will understand.”

And sure enough, when Cait woke up to my distressing texts she said, “Want me to come over and we can get dolled up together while listening to Stevie?  How may I be of service mon petit chou?  We can get ready and order pizza with all the toppings and snuggle and watch Grey’s.”

“Yes” I said. “Yes, yes, yes to everything and yes again.”

Caitlin is the only person in the world who relates to this specific mood of mine, this self-destructive self that is willing to throw away wonderful things for the ghost of a flash of a memory, who clings to falsehoods and crazy and irrationalities.  She understands because she can be the same way.

And so Cait came over, as good friends do when they receive distressing 3:00AM texts, and through Silver Springs and Nutella and peanut butter Rice Krispie treats for breakfast we confirmed what we always confirm in our emergency Jill/Cait sessions:

These are destructive moods.

We can’t throw our lives away for memories.

Or ghosts of flashes of memories.

Especially those.

Stevie Nicks is the answer to all of life’s problems.

And then we went to our Adventure McDonalds’s (not to be confused with our Regular McDonald’s) and we tried out the new Mickey D’s Value Pack and I ordered a large fry because why are there no fries in this value pack?  What is life? What is a McDonald’s value pack without fries in life?

And then we drank four Diet Cokes and and took stupid silly pictures with stupid silly facial expressions and tried to eat fries out of each other’s mouths and some such nonsense with extra sides of ranch.

And for all of my refusals to live in the moment, for all of my focus on the future and all my obsession and re-obsession and over-obsession and obsessive-obsession with the past, I realized that right then I was in the moment.  As Cait and I divvied up our Value Pack and sang our regular “One Day More” parts* and danced seductively to Mariah Carey that afternoon, I was so fully in the moment and so unabashedly myself I forgot about the irrationalities and obsession and was just…happy.

Or at least present.

Perhaps that’s Cait’s gift to me as a friend–the gift of living in the moment.

The gift of being present in my own life.

Holy Spicy McChicken with light mayo is that a good gift for a girl like me.


*One Day More parts, in order of appearance*

Jean Valjean: Jill (Obvi.  Role I was born to play, obvi.)

Marius: Cait

Cosette: Cait (Yes, she duets with herself, I DON’T KNOW SHE MAKES IT WORK.  Maybe she has one of those voices that can split??  Will investigate further.)

Eponine: Jill (On lock)

Enjolras: Jill

Javert: Cait (The role she was meant to play, obvi.)

The Thendardiers: Jill (…)

Various chorus parts: Both of us as the universe moves us


For bookings and other Les Mis appearances/performances/reenactments, please see my contact page.

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?