Because the Zugs could never just go hiking.

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I said, “Let’s go hiking tomorrow.”

He said with wild eyes, “I know, LET’S GO GEOCHACHING!”

I rolled my eyes to the heavens and sat back in my chair.

Deflated, offended, he was all, “What?”

“Why can’t we just be like normal people and go hiking?” I said bitterly.

“It IS hiking – but with a goal, a purpose. It’s like a treasure hunt!”

“So enjoying the great outdoors with your children isn’t purpose enough?”

I know. I can be such a bitch sometimes.

The stupid thing is, I knew it would be fun. Everything Bryan wants to do is fun.

Looking for the hidden treasure…

looking for a treasure...

More looking…

more looking...

Finding the treasure!

finding the treasure!

Checking out what’s inside…

geocache box of goodies

Recording that we found it…

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Putting it back for the next treasure hunter…

Hidden Treasure

All in all, not too shabby for our first time out on this high tech adventure. And? The kids made it hiking half a mile straight up the side of Cougar Mountain.

Go here for information on geocaching, because there’s probably a site within 300 yards of where you’re reading this (there’s tons in our own neighborhood).

Go here for the full flickr set.

Muxtape 5 – Caught in Love

Muxtape CassetteAbout a month ago a new friend asked me how I met Bryan, and I was caught up in telling our story. It’s a fun story, and I love to tell it, so please ask me to whenever you see me next. It makes me smile.

Today is our 7th wedding anniversary. And in writing a portion of our beginnings here in song, I see I am even more fortunate than I first believed. Woven through our story is the purposeful intention of a very patient man. Not a word wasted, not a move meandered. Just a wildly intentional, poetic, man who knows how to woo a woman.

You can listen to the mix here (open in a new browser or window).

Barry Louis PolisarAll I Want Is You

Miss LiOh Boy

Florence and the MachineKiss With a Fist

BeckThink I’m In Love

The WeepiesGotta Have You

Tom BaxterBetter

Bruce CockburnIsn’t That What Friends Are For

The WaterboysStrange Boat

Over the RhineI Want You to Be My Love

Belle & SebastianIf You Find Yourself Caught in Love

She & HimWhy Do You Let Me Stay Here?

Landon PiggFalling In Love At A Coffee Shop

“I want you to be my love.”

It seems our relationship always had a soundtrack attached to it, even from the very first eyebrow-raising interaction. In 2001 Bryan did a substantial amount of pro bono web development for a non-profit I was working for, so he was in and out of the office quite a bit. One day in February he sat down in the empty chair of my office and we chatted about nothing in particular that I remember. When he got up to leave, my friend says to me, You should see if he wants to go with us to the show….

She was referring to Over the Rhine, whose tickets for an upcoming show at the now defunct Crocodile Cafe were about to go on sale. If you’ve never heard of Over the Rhine, it’s because they are a somewhat obscure band from Ohio with a huge cult following. So when I called after him as he left and asked if he’d like to go with us to the show, I saw his eyebrows flicker up just a little as he paused, then said yes, he would love to go.

The next morning when I came into work I read the following email from Bryan:

Jen,

I just wanted to thank you for making my day yesterday.

Going to see OTR is good. Going to see them with a beautiful woman who really appreciates them — well, that’s better — much better.

bryan

As it turns out, he was also a huge Over the Rhine fan and was quite smitten with the idea I knew and apparently loved them as well. His email swooped in and clearly communicated this would not be a group outing, and that he was, in fact, asking me out on a date. Though before this reality sunk in, I found myself shouting at my computer in a cavernous office with no rugs or curtains to mute my cries, “WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?!”

The Boss Man came in, read the email, smirked, and nodded his head as if to say, “Well played, Bryan. Well played.”

“I think I’m in love but it makes me kind of nervous to say so.”

For our second date Bryan took me to see O Brother Where Art Thou at the Harvard Exit, then we had drinks and dinner somewhere on Capital Hill. I swooned at all this attention, all the chivalry. I had just come off a two year crush on a boy who didn’t reciprocate my feelings, and wasn’t used to someone actually being into me. But this also unsettled me. I felt I was being swooped into this relationship emotionally before I completely understood what I really wanted – a pattern my friend had graciously pointed out in the past.

So I clarified.

“I just need you to know I’m not sure how I feel about where all this is going,” I said over dinner. “I like you, but I don’t know much beyond that.”

“How about this,” he said, leaning in. “I’ll just keep asking until you say No.”

Which of course meant I would NEVER EVER IN A MILLION YEARS say no, because at these words I was hooked.

“Isn’t that what friends are for?”

Several weeks after our first date Bryan had to leave town for a job out of the country. The trip was three weeks long, and was situated right at the point in our relationship when you either part with pleasantries or go all-in. Bryan had been married before, and I was approaching 30 – young by most standards these days, but I was tired of being in The Game. Neither of us wanted to nurture another broken heart, so there was an unspoken urgency – at least on my part – to Figure It All Out before he left.

I don’t remember what solidified my decision, but suddenly I was feeling fairly certain I would marry Bryan. So I leaned in for a kiss, and in my mind that was the beginning of our covenant. Having participated in all kinds of dysfunctional relationships from the time I was in middle school, I knew this one was different. I don’t know how I knew, especially since we hardly knew each other, but I just knew.

I asked to borrow some CD’s from his music collection. If he couldn’t be with me for the next three weeks, I wanted to know more about him through his music. Bruce Cockburn’s Breakfast In New Orleans was one of the CD’s he gave me, and I listened to it the night before he left. The next morning on the way to the airport, I gave him a card with these lyrics in it from the song:

I’ve been scraping little shavings off my ration of light
And I’ve formed it into a ball
And each time I pack a bit more onto it
And I make a bowl of my hands
And I scoop it from its secret cache under a loose board in the floor
And I blow across it
And I send it to you against those moments when the darkness blows under your door

I swear that I’m not embellishing the story when I tell you he said he thought of me, too, when he heard these lyrics again, which is why he gave me the CD. We each had a Complicated Past prior to our collision (and who doesn’t?), so we had a deep personal knowledge of Things Not Working Out. Some of that healing had to take place before we met, but the rest? We needed each other for that.

“I think that possibly maybe I’m falling for you.” -Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop

The morning Bryan left the country we had breakfast together at the Blue Star Cafe and Pub in Wallingford (which is what I kept calling Dottie’s True Blue Cafe in San Francisco). I had another moment of panic, somehow thinking I was just the poor schlep who happened to say Yes to this guy. I knew he’d asked other women out recently before he asked me, and I wondered, Should I have said no? They said no. Should I have said no, too? How did I know I wasn’t just going along with this because he was asking me to?

Questions swirling (which is just a euphemism for holy shit, am I really thinking about making a commitment?!).

I don’t remember much of our conversation after that, but obviously I was talked down off the ledge (It’s funny to me how I manage to clearly remember the moments of panic, but not the words that brought peace). Later, when Bryan proposed marriage, he gave me the first poem he ever wrote for me. The entire thing is here, but in these verses he references that Blue Star Cafe conversation:

she has just asked me
how i know
that she is the one

and there is so much to say about the past and the future and the moment unfolding before us — sitting across a table eating Saturday morning eggs at the breakfast pub on 45th and Stone

she wants to know
the method of my surety –
how I have discerned
its measure is not madness

and my answer is simply this –
i know because i have chosen.

chosen to dive for these pearls
chosen to dig for this treasure
chosen to love her first
and last
and among
all that lies in this middle

and make no mistake
there is much that lies in this middle –
split tongue undertones
of compatibilities?
too soons?
and happily ever afters?

i will push these half-truths into full light
and say plainly –

we are not compatible –
we are wicked
and only by Grace made able

we are not going to live “happily” ever after –
we will be nourished by Joy,
through famine into laughter

we will be blessed in restful wrest –
a marriage bed of ordered mess

“Were sailing on a strange boat; Heading for a strange shore…” -The Waterboys

We were engaged the first weekend of April, just a month and a half after our first conversation about Over the Rhine’s upcoming show. Like many young women, I had grand ideas of what I wanted my wedding to be like. I had the songs picked out, the dance music picked out, I had the flowers picked out – all I needed was to insert a groom.

One day on a drive out to the country – I think we were going to a friend’s wedding – Bryan put on a CD by The Waterboys, and Strange Boat came on. A hush came over me as I listened. I made him play it several more times.

And then?

“I think this is the song we need to have in our wedding. We have to get rid of all the other songs and use just THIS one.”

And that bastard? He smirked. And he said, “I was hoping you would come to that conclusion.”

He’s been subtly planting ideas in my head ever since.

“a kick in the teeth is good for some” – Kiss With a Fist.

We were married July 27, 2001 in a hidden garden on Queen Anne. We stood under a canopy of tree branches. The caterers forgot the forks. I walked through the grass with my herb bouquet and my green dress, and I got hitched.

We have an obscene amount of fun in our marriage. No two people should be allowed to have this much fun without first getting high, but we somehow manage. When we fight, we fight hard, and I fight dirty. And there was that one year, the one after Thomas was born, that I wondered if we would make it.

But we did.

And now I hear this song, and it makes me laugh because it is so true, a kiss with a fist is better than none.

First Fourth

first fourth

2003 was our first Fourth of July as parents. It was also Bryan’s first paid holiday in nearly his entire working life, having lived the high life of a freelancer until I got knocked up with Ruthie. It was the first time I’d ever seen him relax – like, REALLY relax – because he wasn’t thinking about all the money he wasn’t earning that day by not working, or all the all the future business he wasn’t funneling into the pipeline.

Five years later Bryan lost weight, I’ve gained weight, and I have a new growth attached to my hip who goes by the name, Thomas. Also? Ruthie still makes this face when she’s pissed at me. And at bedtime. And when I cut her off at three bowls of cereal.

Bryan rocks the kitchen, all weekend long…

Bryan cooked for me all weekend, which is pretty much like porn for women, in my book. Beginning with dinner on Friday night, the pornography just didn’t stop. I’d had a really crappy day with the kids, and since he was able to come home early from work he offered to make dinner. So I sat on the back deck with my book and a Jitterbug while he whipped something up for us. The kids were banished from my sight to save their own existence.

On Saturday morning he made us all omelettes, and then (AND THEN!) he accomplished several fix-it tasks around the house, including disassembling our front screen door and completely hosing it down. When he hung it back up, it was so clean I nearly walked right through it.

For dinner that night he made Ginger Lime Beef Lettuce Wraps, and they were phenomenal.

ginger lime lettuce wraps

While we both agreed this would have been a little more sophisticated using thinly sliced steak instead of ground beef, he used what we had on hand to create a fantastic and light dish, using the juice from fresh limes, freshly grated ginger, frozen green beans, and saute’d mushrooms.

ginger lime beef with green beans and mushroomslettuce "boats"

Also? We ran out of jam by Sunday, and if you are in possession of a preschooler you understand how frightening it can be to face the lunch hour with one third of your PB&J combo missing. My solution, because I am a grouchy old lady most of the time, was to make them JUST a peanut butter sandwich, or even (gasp!) try to make them something else for lunch.

Bryan, however, whips out a few strawberries…

four strawberries

adds a little sugar…

add sugar

employs the chopper…

chop

and chops them up…

chop some more...

...and more...

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...aaand more...

into freshly made jam….

voila! strawberry jam

The kids were ecstatic, and now expect me to make fresh jam every day. But alas, I am still just a grouchy old lady. Not very much fun, like their porn star dad.

Take me out to the ball game…

front row seats, third deckrunner caught on the baselinelong way down
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the view from our seatsseventh inning stretch

It really is true that the early bird gets the worm.

One of Bryan’s co-workers was selling a pair of tickets to last night’s Mariner’s game, and sent out an email early that morning. Bryan, being the early bird that he is, snatched them up before many had even come into the office. There were many long faces in the office that day, because not only were these seats behind home plate, but yesterday was GORGEOUS – perfect for an open-roof game.

We already had a sitter for the kids, this being our weekend out in our babysitting swap, but we didn’t have solid plans for what we were going to do. Bryan IM’d me in the morning with instructions to meet him at the office and dress warm. All day I had no idea what we were doing, and the bastard never told me.

We even had a quick dinner, and he still didn’t tell me.

Then? He takes me to a bus stop. A bus stop? I drove all the way down town, and now we’re getting on a bus? And it finally dawns on me at that point… Wait a second, I say. Are the Mariners in town? And he smiles, and says, I don’t know – are they?

I love baseball. And I love surprises. And I love spontaneity. And last night, Bryan gave me all three. Thanks, babe.

Hottie. That’s right, Mr. Technical Director, I’m talkin’ about YOU.

Bryan started a new job a couple weeks ago – he writes about it here. This means he is no longer flying to San Jose, nor is he working in our basement studio office.

The kids have not been able to grasp this. They wake up in the morning, venture down to his office to say good morning, find his office empty, then come back up to my cozy and warm bed to alert me to this fact. At six-thirty in the morning.

“Where’s Dad?” Ruthie asks.

“He went to work.”

[pause]

“On the airplane?”

“No. On the bus. To his new office. Can you make me a pot of coffee?”

It didn’t occur to me that he’d been doing the traveling and working from home thing for so long they’ve likely forgotten there was any other way he’s worked. Last Friday I took the kids downtown to his office so they could see where he worked, so they could understand where he spent his day now that he is not working from home.

We arrived in time for Friday afternoon Happy Hour, and I was given a Manhattan to drink. It’s going to be a lovely career.

I can’t find the words to express just how happy we both are with this job. The work is creative, and most refreshing is that Bryan is trusted. About a year ago when shit was hitting the fan and we made some transitions out of a community, we heard a pastor preach a sermon from Nehemiah that brought clarity to much of the struggle Bryan and I were experiencing. He spoke of men who were trustworthy leaders, but were not trusted.

This sermon was the beginning of our healing.

Bryan has amazing skill, and talent, and entrepreneurial vision. He solves problems. He establishes systems. He’s keen to patterns. He asks the tough questions before things implode into a crisis of inevitability. The last couple years have been challenging for him, both personally and professionally, and I’m elated that finally he is in a position where he shines.

Every night as I listen to stories from his day I feel one more muscle relaxing; I feel tension releasing from me slowly, like those deep breaths after that long run. Even in the stressful moments, during the stressful meetings, in the midst of stressful project deadlines, we feel peaceful and confident this is the right place for him to be.

Having become familiar with how hearts harden, it’s refreshing to experience this Grace that softens.

These photos were taken by a professional photographer for use on the company web site and in marketing materials.

Wii look out for ourselves.

B: Who wants to play Lego Star Wars with daddy?!

T: ME!

R: ME!

T: NO! ME!

R: NO! ME!

(repeat several times)

B: You can take turns playing. Thomas will go first since he said it first.

J: Nice.

B: What?

J: Way to reinforce the concept of putting others before yourself.

B: Hey, it’s the rules of the arcade – first kid with his quarter in the slot plays the game.

Memory Lane

A few days ago we drove the kids through the neighborhood Bryan grew up in. I’ve seen it all before, but it was fun to take the kids – especially Ruthie, who seems to have understood these were places Daddy was when he was little like her.

This is Bryan’s Grandma’s house, now owned and rented out by his Aunt. Bryan pointed out the side fence (not pictured) he helped his Grandpa build:

Grandma's house

The house on Norwood, where Bryan grew up until he went off to college. He shot a rocket through the living room ceiling of this house, and there used to be a tree house in the yard. His Uncle Chris built the fence on the side yard so they could have a dog:

the house on Norwood

It’s on a huge lot that I can’t believe is still there, considering that across the street there is a new housing development that’s been built since we were last here. It’s so dreamy to look at this house on this huge lot, hearing in my head all the stories I’ve been told of two boys playing in the yard and all the trouble they (well, his brother, usually) got into.

The house Bryan grew up in

Just since we’ve been down here I heard a new story about a fight Bryan got into down the street, and Brad, who is three years younger, came marching to his defense with a pitchfork towering practically a body length over his head. The stories I hear are mostly about adventure, and honor, and defending the family name, and sticking up for the little guy. Who knows how much of it has been glorified over the years, but as someone who always wished she had a sibling close in age, I love to live vicariously through those stories and imagine my own children getting into adventurous mischief or fights that defend one another.

the house on Norwood Street

Move over Subway Jarred, there’s a new skinny dude in town.

weight lossThis weekend we went to a swanky Christmas party. It was the first swanky event we’ve attended since last year’s swanky wedding of Chris and Ponzi. Since each of us only has one swanky outfit to cover all swanky events, it was a bit of a problem that Bryan couldn’t fit his swanky attire BECAUSE HE’S LOST SO MUCH WEIGHT since last December.

I mean, LOOK AT HIM! He puts me to shame with all that discipline.

I, on the other hand, sucked myself into a pair of control top pantyhose in order to hold everything in place, and wore the same green dress I’ve worn to nearly every event in the last year (not that it’s a bad dress – I quite like it, actually), save for that OTHER sexy dress I wore on my anniversary.

Go Bryan, Go! By next December he’ll be dainty.

Captain of the Sock Police

captured by the sock policeEvery year when the weather turns, Bryan goes into Paranoid Sock Police Mode. It’s not uncommon to hear things around our house like, “The reason you got sick, Ruthie, is cuz you’re not wearing your socks!” and “Thomas! You just coughed because you’re not wearing your socks! Where are your socks?”

Maintaining this level of Sock Security was easy with Ruthie because he just made her wear tights every day. But because Boys Don’t Wear Tights, he’s had a tougher go of it with Thomas. Apparently, as you see in the picture, he thinks pulling Thomas’ socks way up high will help keep them on. Tucking his p.j.’s into the socks also helps, and will increase Thomas’ chance of finding a wife.

I just roll my eyes at the insanity. The kids go all day with bare feet because I have bigger fish to fry than trying to find discarded socks throughout the house. But as soon as Bryan gets home from work he’s on Sock Patrol. I figure, if he wants to spend his energy policing bare feet, then so be it. I usually just end up sweeping random socks into a laundry pile at the end of the day.

In a related story, Bryan has also been known to wear socks with his sandals during cooler summer evenings, and even into fall. I have requested he not do this while in my presence, but I am not obeyed. “My feet are cold,” he always says. To which my normally irrational mind rationally thinks, “Then wear shoes…”

This piece of logic escapes a man with a Sock Blind Spot.

I recently laughed at him when he sent Thomas downstairs in these ridiculous black knee socks, and told him I was so blogging about it. He was all, Fine, but you should watch this commercial first, because socks are a NORTHWEST thing.

Yeah, baby. Sure they are.