Archive | Writing RSS feed for this section


18 Jul


Sitting down and writing every day, being creative, is not about discipline it’s about self-forgiveness.


Elizabeth Gilbert said this, or something like it, in her podcast episode with Brene Brown.  It was an important statement, but not the crux of the conversation. A little chocolate nugget sandwiched in to the roast beef and red potatoes.

It’s about self-forgiveness.

As soon as I told this to my writer friends they nodded so hard their heads hurt.  YES they said.

My friend texted me later to tell me during her daily free write she listed all the ways she forgave herself.

“For everything?”

“I didn’t have time for that,” she said.  “Just for the writing things.”

It’s hard to write every day.  I don’t say this in a boohoo poor me way, just in the way that it’s hard to exercise every day.  It takes energy and work.  It’s always easier to eat a sleeve of Nutter Butters and watch Felicity.

I punish myself when I don’t do it. I get upset that I’m simply not disciplined enough, not better.  If I were better I would find the time to do it every single day.  If it was really that important to me, I would be vigilant, dedicated, an army general writer person with 10 more books to my name.

I am a loser.

I am failing.


Does it all come back to that?  Being kind to your body, eating healthier or exercising more comes down to self-forgiveness.  I’ve berated myself for failing at exercise or diet plans, felt like a fraud and a lazy loser, told myself if I just had the discipline then I wouldn’t be in this predicament.

It never worked.

What does work? Radical self-love.

Forgiveness for the days I don’t walk more than a few steps.  Forgiveness for the times I should have had a vegetable but ate a stale bag of pita chips instead.

I’m never getting myself to yoga if I don’t forgive myself for all the times I didn’t go to yoga.

Something like that.

And so today as I sit in my faux-silk nightgown and drink my flat Diet Coke and celebrate the first day I’ve been able to really write in so, so long, I say to myself.

I forgive you.

I forgive you for the days you didn’t have time to write.  I forgive you for the days that you did but you chose Nutter Butters and Felicity.  I forgive you for the crappy stuff you wrote last time and for the crappy stuff you will write today.  I forgive you for not being as good as you want to be.  I forgive you for your unrealistic expectations about how good your writing should be.

I forgive you for the shoulds.

I forgive you for it all.

I forgive you.

Now go write already.

I Miss The Old Blogging

18 May


This week one of my favorite bloggers retired from the blogging world.

She was one of the first bloggers I really got into, about four years ago, when my blog obsession began.  I spent nearly a year reading the entire archives of several blogs and falling in love with their writers and their words.  Those bloggers, the first few, are still so important to me.  I know them from 10 years ago.  I feel like I know them!

As I read this blogger’s goodbye comments, I was overwhelmed with how many people felt the same way as I did.  How many people this one girl’s words had inspired and changed.  How many of us readers felt genuine sadness.

I saw this coming.  You don’t read someone’s words for 10 years and not see something like this coming.  But I hoped it wouldn’t. I refreshed her page over the past few months, wishing for a killer essay that would get me writing and thinking and blogging again.

Instead I got a farewell.

All of my favorite bloggers, the ones from those times, are basically gone.  Sure, they may update a few times a year now, but there was this golden time, well before I started blogging, where they were updating nearly every day.  Where silliness and inner thoughts and unworried posts were thrown together.

Today there’s so much hate online you have to watch every word and even then you’re not safe.

Today there’s so many sponsorships online you can’t believe any word and even then you’re not safe.

Many of these original bloggers are married and have children and they are giving their families privacy and separating themselves from hate and I am glad for them, but I am also sad that I am losing them.  I’m losing the rants and opinions and the real thoughts.  The uncensored posts.  I love those.  Getting a blog post from one of those writers is like waking up to a bouquet of fresh hydrangeas at my door.  A big, puffy gift.

Now this gift is done giving.

And my eyes are puffy.

(This took a turn.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging lately.  How fashion bloggers are now in the millions of followers and milliosn of dollars category.  How these girls (often) offer the same rotated few words:

Totally obsessed with these new (free and sponsored) shoes!!!!

These shoes!!!! (free and sponsored)

I don’t want this to be a judgement on fashion bloggers.  They are their own thing.  But it makes me sad that my blogging world is being reduced to these same few sentences and non-opinions. That the women with voices and unfiltered thoughts and skills and lives and words I aspire to are slowly dripping away.

It’s been happening for years now.  The Wild West of the blogging world is gone and we are fully into the very manufactured, all-alike suburbia.

I miss it.

I wasn’t even a part of it, I feel like I sort of got on the blogging train a few stops too late, that if I were to really have dove into this thing I needed to start 10 years ago, I needed to build some big base and to go on some journey that I documented.  And that my silly 2016 words about Chip Gaines and books and little epiphanies I have throughout my very regular days, well, what are they offering anyone?  What are they offering me?

Maybe I should retire, too.

I’m funny like that, I see someone else do something and I immediately question my own decisions.  Even if I’m happy with my current life, watching someone boldly forge a different path makes me wonder if that’s the right path!

If that’s the right podcast!

Eventually I settle in and I calm down and I make my own decisions.


And this is my decision.

All the girls in my family are going on a vacation to Texas next month because of my last blog post.

I’m here, baby.

Me and my words are still here.

On Miracles

18 Mar


Anne Lamott once said that going from an addict who couldn’t take care of herself to a sober, functioning mother was a moderate sized miracle.

She had transformed herself completely, changed things she thought impossible.

It was a miracle.


I don’t use the world miracle often, even in hyperbole.  Miracle always seemed too big and intangible. Do I believe in miracles? Sure.

(Where you from? You sexy thing.)

But what have I classified as a miracle?  What in my life, of relative health and prosperity qualifies as an actual miracle?  I haven’t been healed from some life-threatening illness. I haven’t lifted a car with brute strength or survived  a dramatic plane crash on berries and volleyballs alone.

Reading Anne Lamott, though, I realized that I have experienced miracles.

Miracles are things that you previously thought impossible that you’ve now done.

Staying sober.

Having a conversation that could have never happened five years ago.

Getting over something–something impossible.  Something you knew in your heart you could never ever ever after 60 years get over, and yet.

Here you are.

You are over it.

These are miracles.



I think it goes back to grace.  I’ve been studying grace for a few months now, and like miracle, it was not a word I used very often or saw very often in my life.

But the other day I bought a pair of pants online and they were too small and my first thought was I would lose 10 lbs.

An hour later I recognized how unhealthy this all was and that the pants were the wrong size, I wasn’t the wrong size.  I put them back in their package, took them to the post office, and returned them.

I realized that so often in my life I assume I’m the wrong size rather than my pants/someone else/the situation is the wrong size fit for me.  I realized that I am the right size as I am.

Right now.

This very moment.


It was grace.

It was a miracle.

Super Bowl Sunday

2 Mar


I woke up lazily.  Every time my body wanted to rise I asked it if it really did.  I slept on and off through the morning.

I pulled out my latest Anne Lamott book and read until I couldn’t read anymore.  I meditated for 12 minutes, reeling my mind back in approximately 1,400 times.

I had a bowl of Frosted Flakes and a ripe tangerine for breakfast.  I drank 16 ounces of water.

I caught up with a few friends.  I headed out for a walk.  On the way, I made the last minute decision to turn around and check Pavilions for Girl Scout cookies.  They were there!  Hallelujah!

I bought four boxes of Tagalongs.

I accepted that Tagalongs are the only Girl Scout cookies I truly care about even though society told me for so long it was Samoas and Thin Mints that should own my heart.

I walked on the Pepperdine track, the last of a children’s soccer practice clearing out with tears and grass stained shinguards.  Pepperdine’s baseball team started practice, tiny, gorgeous orange dots on the horizon.

I made plans with Rob for the next day.  Mondays are our weekend and we alternate who chooses what we do.  Tomorrow is his Monday and he wants to get Lily’s breakfast burritos (with potatoes) and go to Broad Beach.  It’s nice that what we like to do lines up so beautifully.

I walked around Pepperdine’s track for 5,000 steps.  I listened to Mariah Carey and remembered her arm movements in her concert and how everything I know about dancing I learned from Mariah.

Look fabulous.

Stand in one place.

Sing your guts out.

Let your diva arm do the talking.

I sang Touch my Body as I rounded the track for the last time.

I had a huge salad topped with peppers and olives and artichokes and garbanzo beans. I added a Diet Coke to the mix for balance.

I didn’t pretend like I cared about football.

Or the Super Bowl.

Instead I went to a yoga class with other people who weren’t pretending.

I thought about how a few months ago I felt like everything was falling apart.  How there are half a dozen dramatic blog drafts entitled things like “I feel happy today” and “I’m trying” that I never published on this blog because when my internal life is too jumbled I’m unable to create anything.

I thought about how I got myself over that mountain or molehill or something in between.  How I sought help.  How I reevaluated my career and made some course corrections.  How I took up meditation and how the benefits of that cannot be overstated.

I thought about how I’ve pursued my self-care as a religion the past few months.  How I walk every single day and read and meditate and self soothe.  How I am able to take one bad thing that comes my way and accept that it is a bad thing not a bad life and I’ll try again tomorrow.

How I couldn’t do that before.

My friend is going through a hard time.  I wanted to pass all this on to her, to say, “Hey! Here’s the secret.  Do it!”

And then I remembered that this is my secret, for now.

My sacred, for now.

I remembered that we all get there through different means at different rates.

That we can’t save anyone but ourselves.

That we’re all just doing our best.

For now.

January Was The Month Of Meditation

29 Feb


January was the month of meditation.

November was budget month. October I cleaned.

I’ve discovered setting goals for a month is the only way I can get anything done. Goal for a month, I suppose.  Only one.

At the beginning of each month I decide what’s most pressing and I put my energies into that. If I complete that goal then I have been successful for the day.  There is no other measure of my success.

This system feeds into my need for success, but also lets myself off the hook a bit.  I don’t have to change everything today.  I just need to meditate.

That’s what January was.  A month of quiet and breathing. Of listening to sounds and feelings and reeling my wandering mind back in again and again.  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.

That’s the lifting weights of the mind.

It’s funny, not until this last year did I think of mental exercise in the same way as physical exercise.  I’ve always known that I can improve my physical health by exercising.  Walking, lifting weights, stretching and moving.  There are tangible effects from those exercises.

I understand why I do them.

With my mind, though, it’s always been Fleetwood Mac.

It’s always been

How can I ever change things that I feel?


Oh Fleetwood

Oh Mac


I think the answer, or part of the answer, is I can’t.  I feel something, I recognize it, and then I move forward.  I don’t take every feeling as fact or an indication of my future everything.  I don’t indulge them all.  I experience them but I don’t let them overtake me.

I train my mind like I train my body.

I sit on my marshmallow bed, palms up and breathe again and again.  I work at it for a month and get up to 15 minutes in a state of meditation.  Barely 15 minutes.  Working on 15 minutes.  I think that maybe in a year I can complete the hour-long meditations.  Maybe in a year I’ll be there.

But for January.  For this month.  For today.  I am stretching my mind.

I am a success.

The Year Of Try

29 Dec


2015 was the year of growing up.

I bought a blender.  Well, first I researched the blender. I read online reviews, I talked to friends.  I thought way, way down the line into how many kids I might want to have and if this blender could feed them and then I decided that was a step too far and I would bring it back to somewhere normal—like my decision to live out of a blender in February 2016.

That sort of normal.

The blender was on sale and I used a coupon and in 2015 I grew up.

In 2015 I tracked my spending for a month.  I have this hideous Excel spreadsheet with things like “entertainment” and “food” and “health insurance.” There’s a system with Xs and numbrs and it’s all too complicated to explain, but it’s there.  In 2015 I budgeted the crap out of a month and it’s stuck with me.

Once you start worrying about money it doesn’t really go away, does it?  I wish someone had told me that first. Before the spreadsheet.

In 2015 I took up yoga.  I mastered crow pose, which is something different than taking up yoga, but equally important.

I endured hundreds of hours of doctors appointments to get my moles checked.  I took care of every non-urgent medical issue that was vaguely plaguing me.

I found a radio station that works in Malibu.

In 2015 I followed a bunch of Cape Cod Instagram accounts.

I unfollowed a bunch of writers who were making me depressed with their portrayal of their lives and their writing.

I wrote a book.

A book I’m proud of.  A book with a love story that gets me a little giggly when I think of it.  One I want to see to the finish.

I started a website.

I changed the size and cut of my underwear and let me tell you what.  I think that was the most important thing I did this year.

Fix your underwear situations, ladies.  It’s worth every penny.

In 2015 I started using men’s razors and became outraged, outraged I say! About the state of women’s razors.

I read my first Joan Didion.

I met Nick Hornby.

I got so into Hallmark Christmas movies I started ranking them according to the Bechdel test.  I wrote about religion, in a sitcom of all things, and it really scared me to even try.

In 2015 I came home for my birthday to find the people I love gathered in a Beyoncé themed birthday party complete with every food I’ve ever even sort of liked.

I gathered my siblings together and surprised my mom when she graduated from college 32 years after she began.

I have a great video of this surprise, me in my blue dress, my mom squealing, “What are you doing here?” and even better one of my mom freaking out when she saw my brother Jeff just casually standing in the kitchen in the middle of the day.

In 2015 I gave Rob the best gifts he will ever receive in his life.  No really.  I imported spices and mugs and carefully gathered things for 12 months I knew he would love and then rained them all down in one week.

I feel a surge of pride at this gift giving.

I feel a surge of shame that I didn’t realize gifts were so high on my love language list.

I’m a Denning.  Dennings don’t like gifts.

Except for me.  I want every gift.

2015 was the year of failure.

I failed a lot in 2015.  Oh my gosh.

I failed so much I ended up in therapy to discuss it, though, in many ways that was a win.

“You say failure a lot,’” my therapist points out.  She asks me hard questions like if I would feel like a failure if I couldn’t see what anyone else was doing.

What sort of crazy ass question is that? I think.  I don’t live in a bubble.

And then I cry.

I’m a crier.

This year I failed and I failed and I failed some more. Big and small.  Over and over.   Each failure hits me like a bullet to the chest.  I do not take failure well.  I take failure the worst you can take it and then I take months and months and monhts to semi recover.

It’s a terrible system and one that I fear will take my whole life to get over.

And through all this, the growing up and the failing and the wishing so, so badly that something, anything would work out, I settled a word for the year.  A word to encompass it all.


This year I tried.

So damn hard.

I tried over and over and over again until I felt like I couldn’t try anymore.  I tried and I failed and I am up again and I am still trying.  I’m still working at it.

I may get up shaking at the slightest breeze, not up with a fury and an “I’LL CONQUER THIS AND SHOW THEM” attitude, but I am up.  I’m shaking and up and I’m trying again.

I’m trying anew.

This year I tried so, so hard.

2015 was the year of try.

Grown up, lots of failure, actual trying.

Come at me, 2016.


PS: My word for 2014, 20132012 and my writing group member Katie’s beautiful essay on this same topic

The Colors Of My Cities

10 Dec


Inspired by this beautiful post

Salt Lake is purple.  It’s purple mountains majesty and purple snowcapped peaks.  It’s purple in the mall parking lot, purple on your trail run.  It’s purple wherever you turn. Ominous.  Powerful.  All-watching. The kind of purple that means  everywhere else you live you notice its absence.

Las Vegas is neon.  A rainbow of colors flashing and shimmering in the desert sky.  It’s all spark and show, all fake and all amplified.  It’s nothing like real life and that’s what it’s bringing to the table.

London is gray.  Gloomy skies and clutched umbrellas.  Trench coats and ancient brick castles.  The gray of the tube.  The gray of the pub.  The gray gray gray that infects who you are.  The gray gray gray you can never get away from.

Malibu is gold.  The shimmer of salty air right before the sun yawns its last breath.  The gold glow of warmth, of wealth.  The gold glow of something solid in its worth.

I Wore A Bikini For A Month And Lived To Tell The Tale

20 Sep


The month of July 2015 will go down as one of the best months of my life.  I traveled to Puerto Rico with my entire family, a treat of the highest order.  I traveled to Cape Cod with Rob and his family, a dream of the highest order.

I am so tan right now you wouldn’t recognize me.  The last time I looked like this I was a little girl in Las Vegas, running from my pool to my best friend’s pool to the neighbor’s pool and back, all in one blurry rotation.  My hair, a solid brown, was bleached and ragged.  My skin was so sunkissed I glowed.

Today I feel like that little girl again.

On the Cape the schedule goes something like this:

Sleep in as late as your body will allow.  Stay in bed an hour after you wake up, just because you can.  Come downstairs to an elaborate meal prepared by Rob’s food-loving family.

Put on a bikini.

Go to the beach.

Come back for six helpings of pasta.


Ice cream.


It’s just about the best schedule I can imagine, especially because the time at the beach includes things such as ladder golf and waboba balls, sailing, and diving off sailboats.  Beach chairs on the edge of the tide so you can sit as the jacuzzi water washes over you, Diet Coke in hand.

Yes, July was paradise.

And I lived in a bikini.

There was a time where those two things could’t have coexisted.

I’ll call it the first 25 years of my life.

I used to think that my body was not a bikini body and that was that.  I’ve had stretch marks since I was a teenager.  Cellulite since then as well.  My arms look nothing like Michelle Obama’s.

I could give you a laundry list of my physical complaints.  Every girl I know can.

And so there were no bikinis for me for a long time.

When I was in high school and my body was undoubtably more lean than it is now, I used to float around in my best friend’s pool wearing knee-length board shorts making fun of my body.

I am very, very sad for that young, healthy girl and for the culture and circumstances that lead to such behavior.  I want to talk more about that young, healthy girl and the culture and circumstances that led to her behavior.

Anne Lamott says something I love:

“Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you
never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in
warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly
and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out
on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big
juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring
off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart.
Don’t let this happen.”

I read that quote on an airplane on my way to Cape Cod and I thought, “Yes, Anne.  Yes, again and as always.”  It’s all a lie, you realize at some point.  Every girl I know, including the one-and-only Kate Moss, has cellulite.  Human beings have dimples and curves and inconsistencies.  This idea that we shouldn’t, or it’s abnormal, this idea that we should look Photoshopped in order to feel comfortable at the beach–at some point you have to say no to it.  At some point you have to say, “I have stopped buying into this notion and choose to live my life.”

At some point you put on a bikini.

I have a comfortable tummy, cellulite and stretch marks.  And my goodness if I was going to let that ruin July for me.

I didn’t.

I wore a bikini and ate pasta and laughed a whole lot and right now I am so tanned and so happy I feel like childhood Jill, the one before the heartaches and the real life.

I wore a bikini for a month.

This is my tale.

How To Beyoncé

1 Sep



Today my baby, my pet project, my (almost?) everything launches.

Readers, meet the girl power blog:


My insanely talented friend Rebbie and I are running this site and you can read more of what it’s about here.  Basically, as Rebbie put it, we believe women are strong and talented and capable and should have the lives they want.  We will be writing about the ups and downs of being female through the lens of Her Majesty, The Queen, Beyoncé.

I wrote a few pieces for the launch.

My personal favorite is Should I Keep Talking to my Ex?  I wish someone had given me this years ago and forced me to read it every night before bed.

There’s also I Need to Stop Following Your Wedding Hashtag about one of those Instagram weddings that destroys your self esteem. (I cannot be the only one here.)

And then there’s The Most Powerful Thing about Bey (According to Vogue) about body image and loving yourself and that ever evolving internal discussion I’m having with myself.

Rebbie wrote some stellar pieces.

The Truth About “Crazy Girls” featuring one of Beyoncé’s greatest videos, “Why Don’t You Love Me.” (I wish I had written this piece.  It is gold.)

We are…Sasha Fierce on internet personas.

And It’s OK to be Solange which is a must-read for the title alone.

We also answered the pressing question, Are You Two Obsessed with Beyoncé?  (No!  Yes!  Sort of?)

Check it out and let me know how you like it.

Let’s run the world!



How To Beyonce:






Oh, well. Hi. I finished the first draft of my novel.

1 Jul


Oh, well.  Hi.I finished the first draft of my novel.

I don’t know if that’s technically true, actually.  Two and a half months ago I sent a friend a really haphazard version of my book along with the plea, “Tell me if this is a stepping stone project, because if so I want to step right along.”

“You need to finish it,” my friend said.

I didn’t realize at the time he might not have been saying, “You need to finish it” because it was a great novel, he may have been saying “You need to finish it” because it is good to finish things.

Especially writing things.

Before I’ve picked a project, really settled into it, before a project has become fun and manageable, all I do is bounce around.  This new idea is going to be great!  And maybe this thing that I put on hold a few years ago–now is probably the time to take it up!

The truth is, of course, all projects suck until you put in the work.  It’s as simple as that.

Without work, all projects suck.

And so to finish something, to really give it my all, to edit and revise and try again and again when nothing (and everything) is at stake, when I have no agent or book deal or money on the table, and all I’m giving is more and more time, time that could be spent on that thing I put on hold a few years ago or my waning personal life—

To do that is good.

To finish what I’ve started, to show I can do it, to put my full self into a project so I can no longer hide behind the excuse of “I didn’t give my all.”

That is good.