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Where I Thought I Would Be At 29

5 Feb


This week I finally set up my sewing machine.

I bought it something like eight years ago, at a time when I had more money and no student loans and was living in a much cheaper place. A time where I saw a sewing machine for sale at Costco and thought, “Sure! Why not?”

A time where I knew people with Costco memberships!

It sat in storage as I used my mom’s and grandma’s machines when I needed them.

This week I said no more! No more piling up of my flea market dresses, torn and old, needing repair. No more waiting for my mother or grandmother to step in and save me.

It was a grown-up moment.

Later I fixed my garbage disposal on my own. Hands in deep, with noodles and black beans and corners of carrots coming up. I fixed it and reset it and it’s working and I am an adult.

I’m saving myself.

Someone asked on Instagram today if we are where we thought we would be in life at this age. The answer is no, of course. Is anyone where they thought?

Even the people I know who had a very specific plan and who look like they’re on the road to that plan, have had enormous setbacks along the way. Unanticipated illnesses, pains, relationships much more terrible than they could have imagined.

No one is where they thought they would be.

And when exactly were we doing this thinking?

Was it when I was a young girl, when all I knew of the world was my mother and so I assumed my life would be just like hers?

Was it when I was a teenager and sure I would join the Peace Corps or run a Fortune 500 company, something Dramatic and Intense and Important?

Was it when I was first in love and positive I would get married and have children, support someone else’s dreams, but somehow maintain my own. The somehow the unanswered question.

There are so many versions of who I thought I would be and where I thought I would be at 29.

Many of them included marriage. Some included children or book deals or millions of dollars.

I have known what I’ve wanted and then I haven’t. I’ve known that I wanted Something More, the Belle complex. I’ve known that the somehow was important to me. That it was really the only question.

So no.

I didn’t think I would be here at 29.

I didn’t think I would be in a tiny apartment in a tiny beach town and have a really nice, writer boyfriend of three years.  I didn’t know we would spend date days going on walks and eating his pasta.

I didn’t think the idea of being a librarian, something so attainable, would give me so much joy. I didn’t know that writing would be so hard or that I would experience so much rejection. I didn’t know how much I would work on my mental health. How much I would like yoga. That I would give up pants. And bras.

I didn’t know I would love my hair or make smoothies for breakfast. That I would fix my own garbage disposal and sew my own clothes and it would still suck, even at this age.

I didn’t know how hard it would be to find my place in this world—geographically, emotionally, professionally–but that the fight, the fight to figure myself out would be the thing that was worth it.

Of course I didn’t know.

Thank heavens we don’t know.

The Six Types of People in Trump’s America

31 Jan


There are some truly terrible things happening right now and I do not want to minimize that or ignore that. Every day I am trying to balance being informed and taking action and not letting anxiety rule me. I am still working through what this current climate means for my writing and this blog, but I wrote this in my attempt to understand how we are all coping right now. I have been most of these people at different times, sometimes within the same day.

I am trying my best.

I believe the vast majority of us are trying our best.

The Six Types of People in Trump’s America


1. The avoider

“I just can’t bring myself to look at the news right now. It’s too much.”

2. The hysteric


3. The fighter

“F*** this s***. Where’s the protest? Where are we meeting?  Not on my watch!”

4. The yogi

“There are three aspects to the ‘yoga of change.’ First is ‘tapas’ or giving yourself a new challenge. Second is ‘svadhyaya’ or self-study and reflection on what you learned. The last is ‘isvara pranidhana’ which is letting go of thinking you can control it. If you’ve done the first two, you now must let it go.”

5. The religious

Psalm 37:37 A future awaits for those who seek peace.

6. The willfully ignorant

“It’s kind of funny to watch everyone freak out haha. Please! I burned my tongue on my drink, Trump’s fault!”

About Me

25 Jan


Good at:

Planning surprises

Keeping in touch via text

Making bran muffins

Recommending books

Being alone

Finding mumus

Editing pictures until they are unrecognizable

Teaching church lessons

Singing tenor


Bad at:



Remaining calm

Being friendly to strangers

Grocery shopping

Waiting patiently

Cooking chicken that is not dry and frightening, but totally safe!

Saving money

Singing soprano

The Answer Is Hope

20 Jan



I read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon recently, a sweet children’s book with exquisite pictures and poignant, adult messages. At one point, the lead’s father is distressed that she (Minli) has left home without warning. He says to Minli’s mother:

Do you remember the story I told you about the paper of happiness? And the secret, which was one word written over and over again? I have thought a long time about what that word could have been. Was it wisdom or honor? Love or truth?

For a long time I liked to think that word was kindness. But now I think perhaps the word was faith.

At another point in the story, there’s a magical paper that rulers have used throughout the centuries to seek advice and find their way forward. Each time the rulers seek truth, the words on the paper are different. The advice changes according to the times.

I think the two are related. That the one-word secret to happiness does change according to our circumstances.

At some point in my life my one-word answer to happiness was perhaps gratitude or grace.

Now the word is hope.

The world feels so hopeless, especially today, on this dark, dark day. The heavens have been weeping, flooding the streets with their tears. It feels lost. It feels like heartbreak.

But the answer, right now, for me, for most of us, maybe, is hope.

I asked my friends and family today to share what they have hope for in 2017, what brings them hope right now.  I spent the day off social media, instead reading text messages from individuals smarter and kinder and calmer than I. The answers were diverse and remarkable, as diverse and remarkable as the people giving them.

I have hope for the creative community. There’s enough fuel for some truly incredible art.

I’m sending out my book

I’m taking a women’s studies class

I’m going to have a new grandbaby!! 🙂

I get to see Alaska

I think this will be the year my children become best friends. My goal is to help foster that relationship.

I’m buying a piano

2016 went so wrong that it snapped so many of us out of our apathy. When the unthinkable became reality I know I realized I can’t just sit back and assume people aren’t self-destructing…it was a big wake up call for an apathetic quiet group who didn’t realize their voices matter and they can make a difference in their spheres.

I get to run a book club at the library and choose diverse stories about diverse people

In 2017 I will be done with school forever!

I’m in a healthy relationship

My parents are coming out to visit

I hope for peace. I hope that my voice and views will be reflected by my elected officials in Washington.

I take courage in the fact that amongst the greats, bullying and evil will always look small

I have people that I have to have hope for. They rely on me. I’m so grateful to be needed. We are all needed.

I have hope because my outrage has been channeled into a firm, resolute belief that this cannot, this is not, this will not be seen as okay or normal or acceptable. I have talked to my 5 and 3 year old about racism, sexism, and bullying. I have realized that when we start to have these big conversations at an early age they will never be fooled into thinking any of these behaviors are okay. I have felt more compelled to address those around me engaging in these behaviors. This has led to some really important conversations.

I’m moving into an apartment with an oven

I am planning for a new baby this year

I can’t wait to watch my partner grow into their new job

I’m excited about the revival of Sunset Boulevard on Broadway

I feel hope because I know I’m capable of doing things I don’t want to do


There’s so much to hope for, big and small in our lives. Hope for this country, hope for our loved ones and ourselves and the world.

There is much to hope for.

And tomorrow we march.


I would love to hear what makes you hopeful for 2017 in the comments or in an email. 

Some Advice To Myself In 2017

7 Jan


This year…

Take more trips to Utah.

Hike to the freaking Pepperdine cross even though it is freaking hard. Do it again and again.

Start the morning off with a glass of water.

Take off your makeup.

Pull out those reusable grocery bags. You can do it! This will give you some feeling you are helping the environment which you are very, very worried about.

Find hope.

Look for it every day and discover it around you. Scary politicians cannot take away your hope.

Continue to resist, to fight, to do your action items. Call your representatives. Take those surveys. March with women. Become involved in local politics.

What Would Hillary Clinton Do? (Not give up, always come back fighting, reek intelligence, that’s what.)

Keep a box of chocolate cupcake mix in your cupboard. You want them often enough to skip the middleman.

Always have fresh flowers on your windowsill.

Don’t weigh yourself.

Light the candle. Plug in the twinkle lights. Shine that Happy Birthday light chain.

Call home.

Say hi to your neighbors.

Send your yearly Valentine’s letters to women you love.

If you can’t let something go, write it down, put it in a drawer and walk away. Nothing you can do about it.


Explore Buddhism.

Go long periods of time without Twitter. Maybe the whole year.

Read outside your genre.

Write with fury.

Embrace change, step into the future.

Beautiful things are coming this year, I can feel it.

My (Truthful) Hobbies

13 Dec


1. Spending hours on Trulia looking at houses I cannot afford, but still putting “price limits” on there, because this is totally rational and realistic.

2. Looking up the Instagram accounts of the five or so people I do not know but am still interested in.

3. Making long lists of things I will do tomorrow without any thought of perhaps trying to tackle any today.

4. Texting my friends in the “Stronger Together” group message long, angry political rants and then emotionally accepting they will not respond.

5. Ruminating on the bad habits I never am able to end.

6. Making boxes of Kraft mac and cheese.

7. Scrolling through Netflix for a New Show That Will Change My Life and landing on nothing after an hour or so.

8. Wishing Fuller House had more episodes because that’s what I’m looking for on Netflix but I don’t really want to rewatch, you know?

9. Taking pictures of my neighbors’ (exterior) decorations without them seeing me.

10. Hot tub(bing?)

11. Talking about how much I love hot tubs and how all I want in life is a hot tub.

12. Randomly renewing library books on my library app.

13. Writing


Hobbies I tell people:

1. Yoga!

2. Hiking!

3. World peace!

The Year of Grace

12 Dec

For most of my life, I have thought the purpose of said life was to find joy. Life is about happiness, and seeking happiness and finding happiness and, in my case, hunting down happiness and wrangling it like the bear it is, trying to force march it back to camp with me.


Yoga has calmed this to some extent, teaching me how to breathe through pain, that whatever level I’m on is the level I’m on no judgment. Yoga isn’t about joy or happiness, yoga is about breathing through whatever comes, about accepting yourself and accepting the moment.

Meditation takes this to the next level.

I once described my mind during meditation like this:

In 10 minutes of meditation my mind can escape me thousands of times.  The task of recognizing it has lost its way, lassoing it and bringing it back to the present—that’s hard work.

It is hard work.

But what I’m realizing now, almost a year later, is that, once again, that was just the beginning approach. The better approach is leaving the lasso at home, leaving the extreme verbs and the aggression that I love so much, and gently bringing my focus back.

The better approach is seeing my thoughts go by and observing them without judgment. Pain isn’t bad. Joy isn’t good. I don’t need to go chasing after love or serenity, or jumping in front of hurt or sadness. I need observe them all, and when I get distracted by one, gently bring my mind back.

Even that is without judgment. I don’t beat myself up for getting distracted–I just come back.

I love the video above that so perfectly illustrates this.

My mind, for the majority of my life, has been me chasing after cars and trying to halt cars and generally standing in the middle of a huge car wreck traffic jam wondering why all my efforts aren’t working.



This is what I’ve realized now, or what I think today.

That’s the, excuse me, joy, of blogging, isn’t it? To find the words for a specific day in my life and then to look back and say, oh wait, those aren’t true for me anymore.

This is what’s true now.

What is true for me today is that I’m learning to let my thoughts go by without judgment. Joy isn’t the be-all-end-all. Pain isn’t the worst thing in the world. I don’t need to avoid or seek either with all my energies, because life will give me both. I need to sit back as they come to me and accept that they are coming.

The purpose of life, I think, is love. Not romantic love go chase it down in on the freeway of life, love, but simply loving what you have. Loving through joy or pain or serenity. Loving yourself when you forget and jump into traffic yet again. Gently loving yourself back.

Grace, I suppose.

That’s my word for the year.

I’ve never understood it, really, and I guess I don’t fully now, but this is what I do know.

Grace is that moment when all is dark and you go outside for a walk.

Grace is allowing yourself to be imperfect, loving yourself anyway. Writing even though you know it will be terrible. Forgiving yourself for that. Forgiving over and over–even, and especially when you don’t deserve it.

As Anne Lamott says, grace bats last.

It’s a big word, a complicated word, a word I’m still unpacking.

But the other day, while I was talking to someone and getting angry that they weren’t responding how I wanted I had the thought, “Give them grace.”

It’s seeped into my internal dialogue and it’s seeped into my life.

More grace, please.

Perhaps that’s the purpose of it all.


PS: My word for 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012

Validations from Lin-Manuel Miranda

3 Dec


The other night a friend and I were texting long after we both should have been asleep. This is not a sign of good things. This is a sign of unhappiness, shared unhappiness even if the unhappiness has nothing to do with the other person.

As we ended our conversation and she said she should get some sleep, I wanted to sign off with something supportive. Something profound. An “I love you, you’re doing great,” but better, you know?

I realized I wanted to sign off like Lin-Manuel.

Lin-Manuel Miranda sends out morning and evening validations on his Twitter. If he weren’t who he was, our Shakespeare, a man who reads a sonnet at the Tonys, then we would roll our eyes. But he is who he is. He is powerful with his words and his words have power.

Today I’d like to share some of that power with you.

I’d also like to pass on the little I know, which goes something like this: More grace, for yourself and for others. Less Twitter. If things are falling apart after midnight, go to bed.

And now for Lin-Manuel.

For the morning:

Good morning. Your body sets your internal temperature. See if you can set your internal temperment, even if it’s cold out.

Good morning, you magnificent thing, you. Give Monday a good kick in the pants.

Good morning! Recess today. Chase your happy.

Good morning. I’m tired. You tired? At your own pace, vamos.

Good morning. Take a breath. Then another. Repeat. Move at your pace. You got this.

Good morning. Yes, this blanket is warm and this bed is comfy. It’ll be waiting for you. Let’s go!


For the evening:

Good night. One step at a time. Your pace. Your unforgettable stride.

Good night, you. Make new mistakes. Dream new things, repeat!

Good evening. Your body sets your internal temperature. Now check the thermostat on your internal temperature. Have a great night.

Good night. There’s your blanket fort, waiting as ever. Sweet dreams!

Good night, stunner. You’re just getting started. Your age doesn’t matter. The stars are out, the night warm, You’re just getting started.

Good night. Take a breath. Then another. Repeat. Shake off the day. Sweet dreams.

Good night, you magnificent thing, you. Monday is thoroughly impressed with you: ya came out swinging. Rest up for Tuesday.

Good night. I’m tired! You tired! A dormer, vamos.

Gnight! Stretch!

A State of the Sickness

30 Nov


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

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

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

Jessica tried KUTWK for the first time.

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

It’s always true love at 16.

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

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

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

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

I remind myself. I am living the dream!

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

I grind my teeth, remember?

I know my limits.

I’m living the dream.

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

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

Very quickly thereafter Lil Miquela liked the post!

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

And then I shut the whole thing down!

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

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

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


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

I think that was sort of the point.

If there is a point to art, anyway

What Is Art Anyway?

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

Does this one count?


31 Oct


Rob’s mom sends me a very thoughtful birthday package every year. I consider it one of the great advantages to dating an only child, specifically an only child named Rob. I get a lot of attention.

The package is always themed and wrapped perfectly. Each gift has a purpose and a meaning to it. This year everything was wrapped in a beautiful, pale pink pattern  with flowers and fruit—a masterpiece that I wish was wallpaper in every room of my home.

I immediately set about to take a picture of it, this wrapping paper, and when I was satisfied with my editing job, I posted it online.

My final picture looks only vaguely related to the real thing. Maybe a cousin, where you squint and say, “Oh yeah I can see the resemblance, I guess.”

It’s pretty though, and it goes with my color theme on Instagram.


I’ve been thinking a lot about what we post online and reality. It’s nothing new, I don’t have some groundbreaking information that will change your world or make this blog go viral. But I’ve been thinking about my own life and what’s out there, probably because lately I’ve been sad.

I almost said “sort of sad,” or feeling a “little low.” There are all sorts of euphemisms we say to others, and we say online. Because this blog is public and employers can read it and future employers can read it and you can read it.

I am always a couple shades further from exactly how I feel on this blog. I’m always a bit brightened, the contrast higher, the saturation up. It looks right for my feed, the online version of myself I’ve curated.

The real-life version isn’t quite the same. My real life is the vaguely related cousin.

I haven’t been sad for any particular reason. I don’t want to alarm you. Things aren’t terrible or awful right now. I’ve been a bit lonely, I think. Overwhelmed with the amount I have to get done. Feeling like a failure in the things I want to succeed at most.

Normal life sadness without really a particular point I can put it all on to make it seem better.

See, this tragedy occurred that’s why I’m not so happy.

See, I’m normal.

I am sad and that’s the reality.

I know what to do from here, I’ve been here before.

But I’m sad.