Happy Blog Birthday to me…

I was looking through my archives yesterday and noticed that tomorrow is the two year anniversary of blogging at my own domain! Yea me!

I was also reading through some of those old posts, which was both fun and enlightening. I was seriously depressed back then. And angry. And Bryan and I were not having fun being married to each other.

Yet, some of my writing was so funny! That was an era in which I wrote much more often, and wrote more stories about the funny, every day stuff. It wasn’t all just depression and marital strife here.

I miss that a little bit. While I think I’ve balanced myself out a bit more offline and actually act like a mother, there is a lot of hilarity in this house that I would love to write about if I only had the time.

So maybe from time to time I’ll dredge up an oldie but goody to share. Here’s my favorite from August 2005:

——

This post is going to be ALL ABOUT BRYAN, and what a great husband he is.

I do not give compliments well, that’s all there is to it.

Bryan told me that should be the first line of my very next post because I keep neglecting to mention all the fantastic, thoughtful things he has done for me this week. Not to mention all the fun we’ve had.

He has a point.

I tend to use my writing as a voice for the angst within, and there’s nothing very interesting about resolution: no suspense, no climax, no tension, nothin’.

So this post is dedicated to the one I love.

Tonight we saw The Violent Femmes play at Zoo Tunes, which is a great outdoor venue on a green lawn with blankets and picnic baskets and wine smuggled in tinted water bottles. Kids are running around everywhere, because kids under age twelve get in for free.

FREE, I tell ya.

In the words of Bob the Tomato, What more do you need to be happy?

There I was, sitting on my blanket, leaning against my picnic basket, listening to great music, reading the book Bryan bought me last week – the book he gave me as a sweet, unprompted gift; the book which he found while browsing Barnes and Noble because I was late picking him up for LAST week’s Zoo Tunes concert (Patty Griffin – talk about musical diversity!); the book which I LOVE and can’t put down – so I was sitting on my blanket enjoying the evening with my husband who was so gracious to me after I forgot the tickets and we had to drive all the way home after I had picked him up from work so we could theoretically get to the zoo early for a good spot, and we actually didn’t get there until ten minutes before it started and had to sit way in the back… and I was content.

The evening could have gone very very bad.

Jokingly, Bryan said, “You have the tickets, right?

Dramatically, I slammed the steering wheel and growled, “FUCK!”

I guess he thought I was kidding, you know, like “Oh no, I thought you had the tickets, ha-ha-ha,” but no, I really meant FUCK!

For the next hour as we made the round trip-and-a-half through evening rush hour traffic to get the tickets I said “I’m so sorry,” with, I believe, twenty-six different inflections and nuances because ONCE could never be enough in Zug Land when you’re an hour late for a show.

But darn it if that Bryan didn’t just blow my Keens off when he says to me, “Don’t worry about it, babe. I’m just enjoying the time I get to spend with you.”

And here’s the best part: HE DIDN’T SOUND LIKE A COMPLETE CHEESEBALL WHEN HE SAID IT! He really meant it. He wasn’t saying it through clenched teeth as he really thought to himself, “I need to set up a color coded charted and timed system to ensure this doesn’t happen NEXT week….”

He was very sweet, and I finally relaxed, and we had some of our best conversation of the evening during that drive.

It was pretty surreal to see Gordon standing there right in front of me as he sang (well, not RIGHT in front of me, more like at the other end of a football field, but still, it was surreal). He just has one of those distinct voices that you think is make-believe – kind of like Elmo or Grover – and to see that a real person makes that sound was, well, surreal.

I had the same experience the first time I saw Stevie Nicks sing.

The climax of the evening came during ‘Add It Up,’ the song that was The Femmes’ greatest – their paramount, if you will – which of course they saved for the last song of the evening, at which point all bodies leaped (leapt?) up from their picnic blankets to dance.

Tattooed bodies, magenta hair, average thirty-somethings with kids: they all danced. Children danced hand in hand with their parents, doing the jitterbug, or the twist, or some such dance.

Have you ever heard the words to ‘Add It Up?’

Watching the children dance with their parents, Bryan says, “I think I’m scarred.”

Ignite Seattle: Too tired to do it justice

I had a blast last night, but after it ended at 10:30 I sat around waiting for Bryan to break down all his video gear. This took over an hour and was not something I could really help with, so I ended up using his cell phone to send about 800 twitter updates to break the boredom. [Sorry everyone. Truly, I am.] After taking the babysitter home across town, I didn’t get to bed until 1am.

As the evening started with a mixer-type game, I sat next to Bryan and the video equipment like some kind of groupie wall flower. Then one guy came up and asked Bryan about his camera, and they began talking Geek. Then another guy came over and asked me what kind of camera Bryan was using, and I was like, Uh… I don’t know, but they’re talking about it if you want to sit here an jump in. As I got up to let him have my seat, he feigned like it wasn’t necessary for me to give up my seat, then totally just plopped down and turned into the conversation.

Maybe you had to be there, but I thought that sort of ferocious hunger for tech knowledge was kind of funny.

After losing my seat, I found a Stranger and sat in the back row of seats and read, waiting for Something To Happen. Eventually my friend Beth found me, and we were high school excited to see each other: “I WAS GOING TO CALL YOU!” “NO WAY! I WAS GOING TO EMAIL YOU!”

Again, maybe you had to be there.

The presentations were amazing, and I can’t even imagine the pressure of getting out all that information with such precision timing. I will post the videos of my favorite ones once they are uploaded to Blip.tv. There was one about art, and another about buying a new car, and several about building community. More thoughts on my thoughts when I’m not sleep deprived.

Also, Randy Stewart took an amazing picture of me and Bryan, and I can’t figure out how to embed it into my blog, but please click here and go see how happy and content we both look.

Check out that RACK! I mean, SHIRT!

I am an awkward conversationalist in new settings. I like knowing people, but I hate meeting them. What’s to talk about? I usually resort to talking endlessly about myself, which is never fun for anyone… including me.

So at the KOMO blogger meetup I experimented. I wore my Stay At Home Blogger t-shirt in hopes it would help to break the ice and start conversations for me. And did it ever. I met some great new people, sent some business to BabyBrewing.com (the t-shirt maker), and may have even found a new web site to contribute to should I ever find the time to write something a little better than a shitty first draft (I will now sheepishly link to this embarrassingly positive review of The Pile I’m Standing In).

I asked my friend if she thought I should wear the SAHB shirt again to Ignite Seattle tonight. And she was like, Do you really want to risk forever being identified that way? And I was all, Good point.

At Bryan’s suggestion, I decided to wear last year’s Gnomedex t-shirt. I didn’t attend, but Bryan did, and noticed that Ponzi kindly had women’s sizes made. I predict this will be a big hit in starting conversations, as this year’s Gnomedex starts tomorrow.

Also, if you look closely you can see a cartoon image of Chris’ face in the design.

And I ask you, what girl wouldn’t want Chris close to her… heart?

KOMO Blogger Meetup



Photo by l0ckergn0me.

I was invited to a blogger meetup last night at KOMO tv that Chris Pirillo helped organize. I was expecting to find the usual crowd of familiar faces that I see at these events, but was pleasantly surprised to meet some new people.

Elisabeth came with me – she is the administrator for Mars Hill’s network of blogs, and she found out just how difficult it is to say Vox Pop Network several times in a row when people can’t hear you (“Did you say, Box Top Network?”). I also met SJ from I, Asshole – who I think I may have met at Blogher 2006. Not sure, but after reading her About page this morning, I feel like I’ve heard her story before.

I also met the woman from Slumberland, the woman from Folly’s House of Mirth, Mike from Mount Rainier Climbing, and Elizabeth from A Wild Ride. When Elizabeth saw my Stay At Home Blogger t-shirt she asked if I had a ‘challenging child,’ and I nearly had beer spewing out my nose. Turns out her website is a resource for parents with challenging children! We exchanged business cards and she gave me some information on contributing stories to her site.

Looks like I’m getting the hang of this networking thing.

Funny story: This guy named Randy Stewart asked me about my Stay At Home Blogger t-shirt because he works from home and thought it would be really funny to have one. I gave him all the info and we started talking about other things, and we were talking for quite awhile. Then Karen Anderson joined our group and the two of them started talking about Ignite Seattle and how great the video presentations were that Bryan Zug did.

And I was like, ‘Uh… he’s my husband.’

And suddenly Randy was freaking out and tells me we actually met before at Northern Voice, and can’t get over the small world. He also took this great picture of my arm.

Even more funny, is when I came home to tell Bryan who I met: I mentioned meeting this energetic guy who used to work at Yahoo and thought my shirt was cool. Before I said his name, Bryan interrupts me and says, ‘You’re talking about Randy Stewart, aren’t you?’

Want to win something? If you click on the group photo above you can see a larger version of it. If you can spot me in the photo, send an email to jen at zugbot dot com describing where I am. I’ll draw randomly and send one person a mix CD from my collection.

For the eavesdroppers among us…

Since switching to my new, sexy, and perfectly shaded color of blue website, it took some troubleshooting to get my Last.fm player up and running again. But the roughly four hours over several days that I put into it made it worthwhile, in my opinion. The new player I downloaded is fun because it has a flashing ‘listening now’ sign on it if I currently have something playing in iTunes, plus their designs were much more simple and fit better in my sidebar.

If you’re looking for a music sharing site, you should check out Last.fm. It’s free (unlike Rhapsody), and uses an rss feature to load your recently played tracks into a chart directly on your website.

Pretty cool if you like that sort of thing. Which I do.

Gardening bliss and blunders, with a little TMI sprinkled on top

Today during naps I am forsaking my garden and geeking out on the computer. It’s cold, it could rain, and I have cramps – therefor I am grouchy and feel like doing what I want to do rather than what I need to do. I have just learned how to post .pdf files onto the blog, so I am one step closer to posting all the song lists (with lyrics included) to the mix tapes I’ve made.

More on that later.

Even if I don’t feel like being in the garden, I do want to share! This is a patch under the front window on the East side of the house. It looks rather scraggly for most of the spring and early summer because my dahlias (the tall things on the right in the back) don’t come into bloom until mid to late summer. In seasons past I have filled in the dead space with bulbs and annuals, but it always looks sparse and haphazard. This year I moved a large container to the space in front of the window and filled it with Sutera (the white trailing flowers), Petunias (the pink flowers), Heliotrope (the purple flowers), and Coleus (the red leaves). I am very proud of this arrangement artistically, because it filled in very nice, and was much more exciting than just the petunias I usually do. I had fun wandering around the nursery looking for just the right height and color combinations.

I had some Begonias left over from another planting, and decided to plop them into a small pot to add to the grouping. I thought this looked great, too, and it inspired me to just fill in the rest of the space with more annuals in all the empty pots I have around rather than dumping more time and money into planting perennials this season. My vegetable garden is work enough this first go-around

Speaking of which, I may have been a little rash in starting the vegetable garden this summer. Mostly because I never put down weed blocker, and when I came back from MN there was a carpet of three-inch-high crab grass choking everything out – at least visually. And novice that I am, it never occurred to me that weeds would grow inside the bean teepee, making it impossible to weed in there once the beans were growing up the bamboo! Fortunately I noticed this before the beans began climbing, so I removed the teepee, weeded, then put down some really attractive newspaper to (hopefully) choke out anymore weed growth in the middle. Needless to say, I have my work cut out for me this summer if I plan to stay ahead of the weeds.

I realize it’s been three whole days since I last posted, and this is hardly the essay you’ve been holding your breath for, but this is really all I’ve been doing since I got back from MN. This, and unpacking, catching up on laundry, and clinging to any adult who will let me come over with my kids so I don’t kill myself from the insanity of Bryan being gone again – we saw each other for a total of four days over the last three weeks. And because my patience apparently needs more practice, I started my period today, the day he gets back, which is the third month in a row I’ve started the day he gets back.

Please excuse me while I stick a fork in my eye to distract me from my horniness.

Practicing Patience

I have many deep thoughts on my mind, both introspective and contemplative, and I am starting to feel my circuits cross from lack of time to process via writing. I am to the point at which these thoughts bounce around in my head with no anchor, and my mind can not find stillness in the unorganization. I am praying for a quieting, a peace, until time allows the relief of writing.

In the meantime, I have added a new tab at the top of This Pile called ‘Reminders.’ Like my quotes section, this tab will reflect the bits and pieces of things that strike me, that move me, that make me think – most likely things from Scripture.

The New Face of This Pile

Welcome to the new era of Jen, and the new era of The Pile I’m Standing In. I’m very excited about the change happening in both, and I felt my blog needed a new look to reflect how I feel. Poke around a little to see what’s new, and definitely check out the About tab at the top – I’ve updated it to reflect the new beginnings I am embracing. Other new things are on the way as I continue to tweak, but I was too excited to share this with you now!

(That paragraph contained the word ‘new’ six times.)

Bryan helped me out tons by doing all the fancy technical tricks he does, including finding the most perfect color of blue to set as my background. But I’m happy to say I’ve turned into quite the geek, too, having learned enough html to find my way around the template codes and do most of the template customizing myself.

So without further blabbering by yours truly, feast your eyes on this…

(and now you must satisfy my vanity by commenting with all your oooo’s and aaaahhhhh’s)

Writer’s block

I’m completing my third and final hour of writing at the wine bar, and I’m feeling quite frustrated by failed expectations. It seems that I feel inspired to write at any time of day or week OTHER THAN the time I have set aside to do such things. On Sunday morning I jumped out of the shower, wrapped in a towel, to write something down before I forgot. Yesterday I was on the Monotonous Machine of Monotony. Last night it was just before I settled in to snuggle with Bryan for the evening.

But now? I got nothin.

I can’t even go with something I started when I was ACTUALLY INSPIRED.

But I’m fine. Really, I am. Last night I went to bed as early as 10:30 – that’s how fine I am. And today I’ve spent two hours writing, though nothing will be published – and I’m fine. I remain disciplined, and make writing a priority within established boundaries. What has changed, is that I’m no longer obsessed with my blog stats, or worried about making sure people are coming back to read me, or that my book will get written.

I am happy. Content. Enjoying my husband, and sex, and being with my kids. Telling you about it just doesn’t seem Important to me right now, and I hope you are not offended by that. Being content with Being is an important aspect of my journey. Finding a way to be needed is hazardous to my health, and I think I have felt needed by you for a long time.

I tend to be a Swinger. And by that I mean that I swing the pendulum wide, from one side to the other, as I search for just the right spot to land in some aspect of my life. For awhile I wrote all the time, neglecting my children and responsibilities and getting way too little sleep. And now, I’ve swung wide the other way, neglecting my writing altogether. I know now that it will all come into balance, and I’m not worried about it. I will be present here again.

But the sun is out and my garden needs tending. Ruthie wants to help plant sunflowers and green beans, and my number one priority is to figure out how to not be a control freak in the process. These are days I want her to remember with fondness, but I am altogether grouchy and destructive. I need space to be nice. I need lots of time. I am realizing I have a low tolerance for being busy.

But exciting things are in the works at This Pile – a new look and such. A new era of Jen Zug is dawning, and I want my website to reflect this.

Life is good. I hope yours is, too.

Fifteen Minutes of Fame, Part 3

Here is the final installment of the podcast I did with The Kindlings Muse. It was great fun, and I hope to have the opportunity again – if for nothing else than to wear that cool Madonna-mic again.

For as much as I hate it when the media pits two extremes against each other as if that one extreme opinion represents everyone on that side of the fence, it does make for a more interesting debate. I see now why nobody ever interviews the guy with a balanced point of view – there isn’t really much to argue with if he’s not saying anything controversial. Before we went on the air Scott Erickson asked if he should pick a side and be the Devil’s advocate, but it didn’t seem organic to do it that way.

So, while this experience wouldn’t be categorized as The Great Debate, it was an awesome opportunity to educate, inform, and work out my thoughts.

Fifteen Minutes of Fame, part 2

I should really call these posts ‘Twenty Minutes of Fame,’ since that’s about how long each segment is, but that just isn’t catchy.

Here is part 2 of the Kindlings Muse panel discussion with Dick Staub. In this segment you get to hear Dick put me on the spot with a question about Mars Hill’s practice of sending live sermon feeds out to multiple site locations. What you don’t hear is the the deadpan smirk I give him after he asks the question, as I wonder how much of a smart ass I want to be for being put on the spot.

All in good fun, as I expertly deflected the conversation (“Do you REALLY want to talk about this now?”).

There is also discussion of focus on a virtual community vs. a community that is right in front of you. Dick used the example of talking on your cell phone long distance while sitting next to someone in the car whom you are ignoring. To that I will add (though I couldn’t fit it in at the time), that my writing and blogging does at times distract me from my children and my duties as the manager of my home. I’d say that while some of that is an intentional choice to lower my standards of cleanliness for the purpose of my own sanity, there is definitely the distraction factor of checking emails when I should be running a load of laundry or something.

Early on in my recovery I noticed that the majority of my rage episodes happened after a period of extreme distraction in which the kids’ mounting irritability at not having my full attention caused the whine meter to reach defcon 1 levels in preparation for attack. Subsequently, I would finally tear myself away from whatever riveting thing I was doing and realize my stress level had risen without notifying me, only to open The Can on everything that made a sound.

I definitely keep an eye on that now.

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

I had a wonderful time with the folks over at The Kindlings Muse on Monday night, but it reinforced why I prefer the medium of writing over voice or video – namely, that I hate the sound of my voice, and when I’m trying to figure out what to write next you don’t hear me say, ‘Um’ over and over and over….

But other than that it was a fun night of conversation over a topic that I have a growing interest in. The podcast is being posted in three sections, so here is the first. I will link to others as they come.

Participating as part of a moderated panel was a great first experience into public speaking because I didn’t have to be the person with all the answers, and I also wasn’t responsible for setting the direction of the conversation. But at the same time, I came prepared with all sorts of interesting things to say based on my experience, and we either didn’t have time for it all, or the conversation just didn’t go in a certain direction.

I think one of the things I would have been interested in exploring more is the very basic idea of ‘what is community?’ It seems to me like what the original Inklings group had going on was an ‘iron sharpens iron’ style of accountability where they spurred one another on to do and be great things (Author Larry Crabb calls it Soul Talk). That doesn’t magically happen just because you sit down in a pub over a pint and start talking, and it is not merely a matter of information exchange – whether in person or via the internet. You have to be committed to one another, and desire to see other people grow and change for the better, and you have to do it within the context of love and relationship.

I think there are plenty of groups who meet in person that do not possess this kind of intimacy that inspires us as humans, just as I think there are many people who have discovered kindred spirits online and continue to be challenged by those relationships. To me it is not about online or offline, it is about relationship.

But alas we did not go there fully. Perhaps another time, no?

Grace (Eventually)

Last night Bryan and I went to see Annie Lamott read from her new book, Grace (Eventually), which she nearly titled Forgivishness.

I was first introduced to Annie’s writing when I became pregnant with Ruthie and my sister-in-law gave me her copy of Operating Instructions. I think I read that book in one sitting because I had never before experienced something so frank and honest.

It seemed like she left nothing out.

Several years later my book club read Traveling Mercies, and it was during this book that I had an epiphany. I had known for some time that I had a story to tell, and that somewhere inside of me was an incubating talent for writing. But at the time I was taking myself too seriously. I was focusing too much on time lines and overwhelming details and structure, and I was getting lost in the big picture.

I didn’t know where to begin, therefore I didn’t.

But as I read Traveling Mercies, which is a collection of essays on the theme of her faith, I was suddenly able to see my future as a writer. I knew I could tackle essays of 500 – 1000 words in length, I knew I could write honestly about my journey, I KNEW I wanted to say things that many women are not willing or able to say out loud. It was my What About Bob moment, realizing that all I needed to do was to take baby steps.

And so, as I grieved over many things during the winter of 2004/2005, I began to write on this blog. And I wrote honestly, and I was very raw, and I quickly hit my stride and found that elusive ‘voice’ that writers always talk about. Blogging has sucked me into a routine of writing and into the alertness of story telling, and now I see everything that happens to me or around me as a potential story to tell. It has helped me to not take myself so seriously, and as a result, I now have over 500 shitty first drafts categorized into topics in the sidebar to your right.

But enough gushing about how Annie changed my life.

A question from the audience brought up the topic of Annie’s ‘God box,’ which she wrote about in a previous book – I can’t remember which one at the moment. Annie had described how, when she is concerned or worried or fearful, she writes these things down on a piece of paper, folds it up, places it in God’s ‘in box,’ and tries to not do anything about it until she hears from him.

It is doubt and surrender made visible, she says.

To me, it is also letting go of the notion that I have anything to add to God’s wisdom. This comforts me during the times when other people think things about me or about people I love – things that are hurtful and untrue – or that are true, but expressed in a way that crushes the Spirit (bearing little fruit).

I can not control what others think. I can not control what others do or say. I can only ask God to convict me of the ways in which I need to repent, and ask him for grace and reconciliation concerning everything else.

Somewhere along the line I let myself believe that it is up to me to change the minds of other people, to convince them of who I really am, or in some cases, to convince them of who they should be. This is evidenced in many past relationships, romantic and otherwise, in which I was involved for all the wrong reasons and for far longer than was healthy. Little by little I am learning to let go of Things I Can’t Control and trust that God still loves me even when I don’t have all the witty answers and grand solutions.

He has, after all, been taking care of every one of us on his own for a long time, and has the gray hairs to prove it.

Listening to Annie read and tell stories and speak honestly and truthfully brought joy to me on a day when I wasn’t feeling very joyful, and I continue to be inspired by her writing and by her truth-telling.