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The Dennings Do LA

20 Feb

Last week some of my big, curly-haired family came to visit me in LA.


See that?  Wild hair is genetic!  Frizzy Dennings unite! All you needs is curl! Etc.

I tend to write stories about families with a million siblings and more curly hair than one home knows what to do with, and it’s such an obvious, “Wow, Jill, drawing from real life?” thing that it’s almost embarrassing.  But I don’t stop.

Write what you know.

And I know crazy, curly, overalled families.

Other things I know:

1. Teenage angst (and adult angst)

2. Female friendships

3. Feminist girl bands

5. Girls who want to be Stevie Nicks

Also, let’s talk about the whole “write what you know” thing.  I think most of the time, for me, at least, it’s “write what you wish you knew.”  It’s write Ryan Gosling.  It’s write a British boarding school where the lead (who looks and acts suspiciously like I do) falls for a boy named Elvis, the son of a rock star.

Elvis, for Elvis Costello.


But back to my familia.

What I really do know.

Years ago it was decided that I would be the Chief of All Vacation Activities And Other Assorted Tourist Plans in the Denning household, and I have to say, it’s quite a fun role to have.  My mother once said that people come to her and my dad for practical things.  If you need someone to help you move, they are exactly who you’re looking for.

No one has ever called me specifically to help them move.  I’m an adequate mover (I assume), it’s just that it isn’t quite in my range of specialties if you know what I mean.

My parents are pros are day-to-day life.

I’m a pro at being on vacation.

Last week my family ended up at the wax museum in Hollywood (one of my life goals–NO JOKE) and so much happiness ensued.  I will only share one highlight per Denning because, really, you don’t love us that much.

Also some things are special.  Like me and Thor.  That is special and that is secret and that just got weird.

Do you know what else is weird? Me and David Beckham. Gosh, that’s an awkward photo.

And now to pictures allowed on the internet!


Leo.  Leo my love.  Leo, do my burning eyes display my burning passion for your burning soul?  Leo I’ll never let go if you jump I jump Leoooooooooo.

(Fun fact.  My AZ roomie Harry contacted me after I put this picture on Instagram and asked who my new boyfriend was.  I was like, “Do you think I’m dating Leonardo Dicaprio? I love you!” And he was like, “Oh.  I didn’t recognize him.”

Could that fact get any more fun?)


My mother.


Joel was ridiculously on fire this day in a way he’s never been on fire in front of the camera, well, ever. (I’ve been there for 20+ years of family photos with the boy, trust me.)  He then was initiated into the Instagram world.   I don’t think he quite got it, but I also don’t think we’ll be seeing pale pink borders on his pictures anymore so we’ll count that as a win.


Jessica making Hitchock/me proud.

Bonus picture just because I’m a Pink Lady and if you can’t post these pictures on your blog why are you in the blogging game in the first place?


Goodness gracious I love this family of mine, curly hair and all.

I think I’ll keep writing about them.

Curly hair and all.


Itching For Adventure

28 Jan

I’m ashamed to say we ate from the supermarket or Quick (the local equivalent of McDonald’s) because we were to chicken to try out more French.  We ate far too many baguettes because that’s all I could ask for.  We also ate yogurt in our hotel room by sticking our noses in the pots and slurping it out because we didn’t have any spoons.  But it was our first proper Europen jaunt, so I’m sure we’ll be better tourists next time!

Shauna Reid, The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl

The first time I went abroad, I was 20 years old.  Breanne was finishing up a semester in the Middle East and I decided I wanted to join her in Europe on her way back.  And then Ashley said she’d like to come as well.  And Mandee kind of, sort of invited herself, too.  And soon, the Fab Four was born.

Every once in a while when I tell my Mandee friendship story I say, “We met in Europe” and giggle a little.

Mandee is my European friend.  How lovely is that?

My first Europe adventure was much like Shauna’s.  We packed the majority of our food in carry-on bags and every day at lunch we divvied up our trail mix portions—Ashley took my raisins and I took her peanuts and complained loudly that I hated trail mix and hated raisins and hated peanuts.

I believe I have an old photo of the tradition.  Yep, here we go.


RIP neon sunglasses.

At night my friends and I would heat up the teakettle and make ourselves cups of Lipton soup.  If we were feeling bold, we would buy a baguette at the local shop and call it a meal. One sorry hotel had no teakettle and so we turned on the lukewarm tap water, scrunched our noses and gagged down our cold soup.

How wonderful it all was, simply to be there soaking it up.  How quickly I forgot that excitement when I moved to Europe permanently and life caught up to me.

It feels like it’s been so long since I’ve stretched those traveling wings of mine in a real way, and all of the sudden the bug is back and I’m thinking, “Hmm, Australia could be a nice place to look for jobs” and “Perhaps it’s time to really think about the English countryside” and my heart is swelling with every beat.

I want to live abroad again.

I want to fix the mistakes I made the first time.  I want to have the experience I was meant to have.  I want to fall in love with another city and do what I always should have done in that city–write.

I really, really want to live abroad again.

As a writer.

I want to live abroad again as a writer.

There, I said it.

Big Sur

9 Dec


Last weekend I went to Big Sur for the writing conference to top all writing conferences.

Big Sur is stunningly beautiful, as expected, and the experience was stunningly beautiful, as expected, and let’s see if I can use stunningly beautiful one more time, shall we?

Katie and Hilary are stunningly beautiful.

Nailed it.

As expected.

For the conference, we stayed in cabins in the woods and Hilary built a fire to provide heat.  I offered my moral support/supervision.

I don’t mean to go into too much detail here, but it took eight matches and returning the Duraflame packaging to the brick in order to get the flame going, so basically I would die in three seconds if asked to survive on my own in any way.

Also, it turns out supervision is really as unneeded as everyone says it is.

Moving right along.

The trip was full of so many wonderful things–a manic Hilary, who tried to insert her debit card in a cash-only slot, my tweezers, which were called upon to rescue said debit card, two days without service/wifi of any kind, and also, and most importantly of all, a new reality TV show series.

The Untitled Big Sur Project.



No to all?

The Untitled Big Sur Project, which I am now just shortening to Big Sur, is my new pet imaginary TV project based around “The Pub,” an Irish bar in the middle of the Big Surian woods. The Pub is everything you want out of an Irish bar–mahogany, live music, blue cheese burgers that change you life.

As we stood in the middle of its glory, Katie said, “This is the sexiest pub I’ve ever been to outside of Europe” and I said, “This is the sexiest pub I’ve ever been to including Europe.”

And we mean sexy, of course, in the most nonsexual of ways.

The Pub was not only physically beautiful, but contained some of the best characters I’ve ever seen.  I kept looking around for Josh Schwartz because I thought maybe he was filming some new CW show with super-hot people and I was just observing a set, because no one really looks like that, right?

There was the beautiful couple that had stepped from the pages of a mountain catalog.  The girl with her glossy blonde hair and red lips, the boy with his puffy vest and Range Rover.

(I am assuming the Range Rover here.)

There was the corner with the old women raucously playing dice. There was the live music and the dancing and the man in the hat with the braids, and, oh, a dog off his leash that just wandered on in like NO BIG DEAL.

Big Sur has that magical feeling of a town untouched.  A town with Christmas light-adorned stores and gas prices that make you a little bit sick.   A town where you go, where does everyone actually live?

A town perfect for reality shows.

Catalog couple, I’m sure you follow my blog.  Contact me.  I will make things happen in the TV world with my as-yet-unknown industry contacts.

But really, though, oh beautiful ones– I’m a safe bet.

After all, I go to writing conferences.

Me at 20

9 Oct


Inspired by this post about being 20 years old and what that means.

Twenty was a big year for me.  Looking back, it was maybe The big year.  The year where all the things that make me who I am today were set in motion.  The year I was presented with some of my first Important Life Lessons, and the year I completely failed to figure out what most of them meant.

Twenty was a turning point.

At 20 years old, I was in graduate school at the University of Utah.  I was studying social work and interning at Valley Mental Health and eating a lot of Swedish Fish and cream cheese bagels from the Marriott Library.

It’s funny how certain foods are associated with certain times.

It’s funny how I don’t eat Swedish Fish much anymore.

At 20 years old, I was positive I knew how my life would go.  I knew what career I would have.  I knew what boy I would be with.  I knew that everything was about to come together in my life, finally!  Finally it seemed, things were about to all fall into place.

It would take me four years to quit the career I had at 20.

It would take me a very, very, very long time to quit the boy I had at 20.  In fact, we might call 20 the beginning of my Kate Moss “years and years of tears” phase.

At 20 years old, my very best friends in the world and I were all single.  My first best friend got married later that year and from there, one by one, my favorite people suddenly found new favorite people.  And while these girls remain my kindred souls, 20 was the last time our friendships were so carefree and spontaneous and silly.

Twenty was the year grownup friendships began.

At 20 years old, I went to Europe for the first time.  It was a point of personal pride that I made this trip happen, that I got my passport, that I planned it all out with my best friends.  It was the culmination of a lifelong dream and an event that proved I could live the life I imagined.  When I touched down on British soil for the first time and heard The Beatles playing in the bathrooms at Heathrow I thought, “Yes.  This is for me.”

Three years later I returned with a working visa in hand.

At 20 years old, my parents moved back to Utah from Kentucky.  This move was something I had eagerly anticipated for over two years, something I was certain would fix all the troubles in my life.   At 20,  I believed I had two main problems, and between This Move and That Boy, all the things wrong in my life would be magically right.

What a simple, and difficult lesson it is to learn that no one event, certainly no one boy can fix all the problems in my life.

At 20 years old, I saw the Spice Girls in concert.  I flirted with a man named Romeo at an outdoor restaurant in Italy.  I watched the Olympics in Trafalgar Square.  I graduated with my MSW.  I got my first job.  I started a 401K.

I became a grownup way too young, but then again, I was always a grownup way too young.  It was this premature  adulthood, this rigid idea of what my life would be and the ultimate crumbling of that imagined future that spurred my quarterlife crisis now simply referred to as “Malibu.”

That 20-year-old Jill, man.

That silly, wonderful, thought-she-knew-what-“finally”-meant,  20-year-old Jill.

I can’t escape her.

The Best Laid Schemes Of Mice And Men

13 Sep



Last weekend I took a quick trip to Salt Lake City to see the familia.  My time home included a little pasta salad and a lot of baby and all is right in this wonderful thing we call life.

Monday morning I headed back to LA on the same flight as my Pops. Before the trip, my entire family sat down and my dad talked through the strategy for our flight.  Since we were flying Southwest, we, of course, couldn’t just take things as they went, we needed a capital P Plan.

We are Dennings, after all.

Our planning conversation was eerily similar to the Arrested Development Season 4 episode where Michael, George Michael, Maeby and Paul vote someone out of the dorm room–we talked in circles, nothing made a lot of sense, and if the scene made it in our family sitcom, it would grow tiresome quickly.

That said, here’s the plan!  Yay!  Excitement!

  1. My father would board first and take the aisle seat.
  2. I would board with the other, non-priority members and take the window seat next to him.
  3. My dad’s sour disposition would keep anyone from choosing the middle seat between us.

There were other details, including but not limited to, luggage placement in the overhead bins, but that was the gist of it.  All parties were prepared.  Extended family was informed.  The US Embassy was on hold.

Go time.

The plan was thrown off almost immediately when someone in A1-30 held up the line and I caught up to my dad.  It further deteriorated when, on our largely empty flight, a stranger chose to sit in between us.

That’s right, we had ourselves a MIDDLE SEAT IMPOSTOR.

There are two explanations for this unforeseen person/disaster:

1. My dad’s face is not quite as sour as he imagines it to be.

2. My disposition is so sunny that people are drawn to me, inexplicably, even in a plane of empty seats.

Because it was 7:30AM I’m going to have to go with reason numero uno.  Also, no one has ever said I have a sunny disposition, so there’s that.

I should mention the middle seater was not a disaster and saying she was is what we writing folks like to call hyperbole and what we regular folks like to call DRAMA.

In the end, my dad and I successfully completed our flight alongside a middle seat impostor/completely regular person, and you know what?  We were okay.  In fact, we were more than okay. We were learning Robert Burnes best-laid-schemes-of-mice-and-men-often-go-awry life lessons!

Perhaps next time we will learn that we don’t need best laid schemes for a two-hour Southwest flight.

Then again, we are Dennings.

Flight strategizing is part of the package.

And Then We Went To Martha’s Vineyard

31 Jul


Martha’s Vineyard has long been a bucket list location for me.  I can’t remember if this was the case before or after Logan Huntzberger, but we’ll go ahead and say before so I sound like an original thinker.

Rob’s dad asked me if I had any other East Coast bucket list locations and I confidently said Maine.  Just Maine.  Because of this song.

Side note: I once dated a boy who knew I related to that song but didn’t fully know why. When I would get upset he would say, “Let’s move to Maine and catch lobsters” and it was so adorably cute and silly and missing the point I couldn’t help myself and would start laughing and kiss him right away.  Such is the power of bucket lists and Ingrid Michaelson and lobsters.

And so.

Our Martha’s Vineyard day was stormy and gloomy and naturally I wore a bright blue 70s dress and gladiator sandals.  Rob, ever thoughtful, brought three different means to warm me because he knew I was wearing an inappropriate outfit and would want them.  Everybody needs a Rob in their life.

I once asked Rob what he brought to our friendship and he said, “Jackets.”  Do you see what I’m talking about?

And so round two.

We were full-on tourists in the Vineyard, stopping at a pub for clam chowder and exploring The Black Dog and following in the steps of Bill and Hillary before us.  Did you know that The Clintons are the unofficial mascots of the Vineyard?  Because they are.

At first I just thought we were picking the best places to visit.  “Ooh!  Big B and Intelligent H visited this ice cream shop in the late 90s it must be the greatest black raspberry ever!” I would say.  Except I wouldn’t call them Big B and Intelligent H and I never should have put that in this post and I’m sorry.

Did I mention today is moving day and I didn’t get much sleep last night?

It turns out Big B and Intelligent H had visited nearly every place on the Vineyard and you can even buy semi-unflattering postcards of them in the late 90s as souvenirs!  I’ve regretted not purchasing one ever since.  Perhaps I should check online.

I hope you are gathering Martha’s Vineyard is a magical place from this ridiculous post.

Our day ended with the oldest carousel in America and a huge dose of Vineyard hair and a round of skee ball where I beat Rob and now he owes me a karaoke song of my choice.

I’m thinking “Like a Virgin” or “Genie in a Bottle” but am open to suggestions.

Rob is the best traveling companion because he 1) Loves food 2) Encourages me to buy fudge when I’m not hungry because he knows I’ll want it later 3) Indulges my silly conversations.  Also he brings jackets.

I give Martha’s Vineyard an A+ even though I didn’t see any Kennedys or Logan Huntzberger or Big B and Intelligent H.

I give my nicknames Big B and Intelligent H a D+ and promise to never mention them again.

They got away from me.

Cape Cod

30 Jul

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Cape Cod was a dream.  A very lovely, exactly-suited-for-me dream full of hydrangeas and cottages and a vague sense of “the rich kids of Instagram.”

There were house parties in Chatham where the boys wore boat shoes and people acted like they were in the pilot of The O.C.  There were sailboats and homemade Oreo cheesecakes and absurd flea market purchases.

There were card games with shells and 2:00 AM Nintendo 64 tournaments and Power Rangers pilots, because we are children of the 90s, after all.

There was the moment I asked everyone to turn away so I could swallow my first oyster.

And then there was the night I arrived, when we put on our swimsuits and sat in the still, warm water, drinks in hand, Katy Perry blasting, and watched as the sun grew heavy and time didn’t matter.

Dreamtown Central.

Cape Cod, you haven’t seen the last of me.

I mean that in the creepiest Cher way possible.