You May Call Me Mrs. President.

Last week on the morning of my 40th birthday, Bryan woke me with a kiss, handed me a mug, and said, “Your coffee, Mrs. President. Happy Birthday.”

And it’s true. I am now the President and CEO of my own company. It’s called What Now? Exactly! and we make kick-ass animated explanations.

There is a long story behind this momentous day, but I am too tired to tell it. Not because I’m 40, but because I just launched an explanation company and it kinda took a lot out of me.

And here is where I get sappy, so grab a box of tissue.

I made some amazing friends over the last couple years, and without them I’d probably be managing the shoe department at Target. Not that working at Target is bad, but I’d have to wear pants and brush my hair to fit in.

Wait, that sounded bad.

I don’t sit in an office with my team, NOT wearing pants. We all work from home and collaborate on Skype. So, just wanted to clarify that in case you thought this was some sort of “special” animation studio.

We met while I was running a different explanation company, Lilipip. As contractors, we bumped into each other on several projects and soon realized we had the perfect chemistry for cooking up some great animated explanations.

This gave us the entrepreneurial itch to start our own thing.

That’s why I’m so excited about our first client, The Startup Foundation. It’s their mission to help folks like us do what we did – plant a flag in the community and start something new. It was an inspiring project, and just the thing we needed to keep our momentum going during this stressful season of getting launched.

Like I said, my team made this all possible, and I want you to meet them:

Andrew Imamura – Storyboard artist, Art Director, Partner.
Yas Imamura – Branding & Design, illustrator.
Linda Spain – Animator.
Fancy Morales – Everything else.

If you feel so inclined, please “like” us on Facebook, follow us on twitter, and hire us to make your next animated video.

Bootstrapper Family

“Gotta go sew a Tyvek tent. I blame YouTube and marrying crazy.”

My friend posted this to her facebook page the other day. I have no idea what a Tyvek tent is, but I know the sort of person her husband is and that these things usually start with a wild-eyed idea, followed by a wife who rolls her eyes but secretly enjoys the adventure of it all.

I, too, married crazy. Only I’m not sewing outdoor gear to survive the inevitable collapse of the American economy and life as we know it, I’m buying a domain for every Big Idea, starting a new adventure every six months, and green-lighting gear purchases that spark a little twinkle in my husband’s eye.

In my wedding vows I said I would follow Bryan through seasons of hot dogs and caviar, through dry and plenty. This is because he warned me what life with him would be like. He warned me that I wasn’t signing on for a suit and tie, nine to five, salaried existence, but that our life would be filled with curves and cliff hangers, surprises and disappointments.

In retrospect, I’m so thankful he prepared me for this. His ideas are adventurous, sometimes costly, and usually risky, but the man is an entrepreneur at heart and I knew what I was getting into. Occasionally I forget who really rows our Strange Boat and panic, but for the most part I chuckle, roll my eyes, and go with it.

We always end up having fun, and are happiest when adventuring together.

To that end, I introduce Bootstrapper Studios, our multi-camera HD broadcast video studio, located in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. I’ve been spearheading much of the admin and set design for the studio, and can’t wait to show off photos when it’s complete, so stay tuned.

tag along

Ruthie joins Lilipip!

A couple weeks ago I gave a short presentation on Lilipip at Tech Cafe (formerly Lunch 2.0), and I brought Ruthie along to the happy hour event because I wanted her to see see me in action.

After seeing my name tag, which said @jenzug above @lilipip, Ruthie wanted to alter her name tag to be just like mine.

Sometimes I take it for granted how much Ruthie wants to be like me. More than occasionally I’m impatient or irritated by it because it usually involves some time and effort on her part, and I don’t like to be slowed down.

It’s pure selfishness and ridiculousness on my part, because aside from Jesus who ELSE would I want her to be like?!

Bringing her along was an experiment, and one that ended successfully. Ruthie stood at the door and handed guests a name tag and pen as they arrived.

Occasionally she gave out hugs.

Having her with me felt like one of those important stolen moments when Life and Work converge, and I look forward to letting her tag along more often.

The Socially Awkward Social Media Maven

It never ceases to amaze me how awkward I am at making small talk. You’d think I’d be versed in this skill for all the networking events I go to, not to mention I attend CHURCH, where “stand up and greet your neighbor” is my cue to get another cup of coffee.

So Bryan and I are at this event last night, and now that I’m a big shot Cheezburger blogger and Creative Director who’s out to pimp myself for business, he’s all You should go talk to So-And-So, and You should have Dude-I-Know introduce you to Dude-I-Don’t-Know.

But really I just want to sit in the corner reading twitter, acting like I’m just Bryan’s ride home or something.

Eventually I part with my second husband (read: iPhone) and head out to find Dude-I-Know, who’s always up for a good conversation. In passing, I ask if Dude-I-Don’t-Know is here, and Dude-I-Know points him out to me.

Then I proceed to:

  • Use the bathroom
  • Get another glass of wine
  • Circle the perimeter of the venue
  • Cross the diameter of the venue, thinking I see someone I know
  • Circle the perimeter of the venue again when I realize I was mistaken
  • Hover awkwardly near Dude-I-Don’t-Know
  • Wander over to see what Bryan is up to
  • Circle the perimeter of the venue…again.
  • Hover awkwardly near Dude-I-Don’t-Know…again.

FINALLY, now that security cameras are tracking me as a possible stalker, I step toward Dude-I-Don’t-Know with my hand out.

“Hi Jen,” he says, shaking my hand.

I am completely taken off guard that he knows my name, and smile awkwardly.

Then comes the awkward silence where I am supposed to state my intentions.

Did I mention I was awkward?

“I… uh… I write for Babysaur.”

“Yeah, I know.” he says.

“Ah. Okay.”

And I walked away.



And while Jenny on the Spot thinks glitter spray is going to solve all my social phobias, I’m not altogether sure I haz the jenny-on-the-spot skilz to think on my feet.

Did I mention I got lost in the parking garage on the way home?

p.s. this awesome photo is by Randy Stewart.

Sexy Too Soon? Body Image, Media, and Self Esteem

panel-pic-125Tonight I have the privilege of participating in a panel discussion in the Pathways Lecture Series with ParentMap on the subject of girls, body image, and self esteem.

I really don’t know how this happens, how I end up on a panel with people who have expensive titles and degrees bookmarking their names, particularly when I blog about twice a quarter these days.

I’m grateful to my peep, Jenny on the Spot, for floating my name to the organizers. To prepare myself, I will spend the day flexing my brain muscles & trying to finish at least one sentence in hopes that I will be somewhat coherent by tonight.

Also, I will flat iron my hair.

If you are local to Seattle and have an extra twenty bucks, I would love to have you join the conversation. If you can’t make it and still want to eavesdrop, be sure to follow my twitter stream (@jenzug) or the #sexytoosoon twitter hashtag.

I will also be joined by these fabulous friends:

Jenny Ingram – Jenny on the Spot / @JennyOnTheSpot
Taraneh Guidry – Seattle Mommy / @SeattleMommy
Giyen Kim – Bacon Is My Enemy / @Giyen
Maya Bisineer – Think Maya / @ThinkMaya
Leslie Flinger – Mrs. Flinger / @MrsFlinger
Mandy Morrison – Harper’s Happenings @teammandy
Brett Nordquist – Nordquist / @Akula

Would also love your thoughts on the subject, so please leave a comment here.

Here is a little bit from the event page:


Is six the new 16? When did 8-year-olds start wearing glitter makeup and skimpy skirts? And why do 6-year-olds prefer Hannah Montana and High School Musical to Curious George and The Electric Company?

This panel will discuss the pressures that today’s girls feel regarding their body image, sexuality and social status. What’s the new “normal” when it comes to makeup, minis, and tight, trendy, tees? What does “sexy” really mean these days? And where are the grown-ups while all this fast-tracking is going on?

Sundance Day 1: Paparazzi Jen

my streaming perch

Yesterday was a little… well… not what I’m used to.

At several points during the day I found myself surrounded by the media, like when Beau Bridges and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar arrived for a panel to discuss the role of social media in promoting their new movie, On the Shoulders of Giants. I was sitting on my tall stool working my streaming video camera with several long camera lenses lurking over my shoulder.

At one point, as I stood next to my stool to stretch my back, I absentmindedly reached over to lean on the backrest and instead found myself leaning on a handsome photographer.

Oops! Well at least it was a comical conversation starter.

the streaming control roommedia on my shoulderBeau Bridges & Kareem Abdul-Jabar

As part of our streaming duties we are also assisting tv and internet personality, Shira Lazar, as she wanders around the venue doing “man on the street” type interviews with celebrities. Once again I found myself surrounded by the rush of media as various personalities came in to do their thing on the red carpet.

iPhone mounted on a monopod for portable web streaming

Our roaming streaming set-up drew quite the interest from the professional cameramen, as I was simply using Bryan’s iPhone attached to a monopod to stream directly via the Ustream Live Broadcast app. Several cameramen filmed ME as I filmed Shira interviewing celebs.

So watch your local entertainment news for the back of my head at Sundance!

We also interviewed Bob Saget, who is a dirty, dirty man. It was quite entertaining, though, and I think I broke cameraman rules by bantering with him during Shira’s interview. I couldn’t help it! It’s not like the iPhone was pressed up against my face like a camera, so he kept looking at me as he went on and on about his horse-like… qualities.

But the creme-de-resistance of the day was the big entrance of Adrian Granier, the handsome lead from HBO’s Entourage. It didn’t go as I imagined though, since he kind of tripped over the bottom of my monopod.

blue strobe tequilaThe look he gave me was not the look I was hoping for.

By the end of the evening I was very happy for the open bar with the tray of tequila shots waiting to be snatched up – even IF they were strobing blue lights obnoxiously (said the old fart).

Speaking of old farts, we were pretty wiped by day’s end (which started at 4am), and were in our jammies by 9:00 despite the super cool Tweet House after-party that went on without us until 1am.

I don’t think I’m cut out for this!

Who needs an autograph when you can have a conversation?

Picture 8

We flew into Salt Lake City tonight for the Sundance Film Festival where we’ll be live streaming and producing video at the Tweet House.

While standing in the baggage claim Bryan goes, “Hey, there’s Ted from How I Met Your Mother.”


I watched a few people ask for his autograph, smile at him while he signed it, then walk away without really saying anything. What was I going to do with an autograph? Go home and show people my signed flight itinerary? #boring.

Besides. Fan Girl isn’t really my thing. I was MUCH more interested in his musical taste, anyway.

I don’t think it’s a mere coincidence that I JUST heard Josh Radnor’s interview on KCRW’s Guest DJ Project in which he featured one of my favorite bands that no one’s ever heard of – Cloud Cult.

Coincidences don’t just happen like that – I think Jesus wanted me to talk to Josh Radnor.

So I did.

“I heard your guest DJ Project on KCRW,” I said. “Cloud Cult is one of my favorite bands.”


I don’t recall if he said IS IT REALLY? exactly, but that was his sentiment. He was excited – the kind of excited you get when you love something totally obscure and you find out someone else not only knows what you’re talking about, but GETS it.


We talked about how awesome they are, and how weird we thought it was that KCRW never heard of them, and how PHENOMENAL their live shows are.

“I put one of their songs in my movie, Happythankyoumoreplease!” he said.

I’ve been thinking about that all evening – how Josh Radnor made the movie he wanted to make, and put the music he loves into it, and now people are going to know about Cloud Cult (as they should).

Reminds me a little of Zack Braff and his Garden State – loved the movie, LOVED the soundtrack. In fact, Let Go by Frou Frou is one of my favorite songs, and I heard it first on Garden State.

(I used it here as a soundtrack to a significant day.)

At any rate, here’s what Josh Radnor had to say about Cloud Cult in his KCRW interview:

The lead singer is a guy named Craig Minowa and he and his wife lost their child, a baby, when the kid was about one or two and most of their records have been a response to this grief….when I listen to the Arcade Fire I feel like the world is ending and Cloud Cult makes me feel like the world’s already ended and, like, now where do we go? Everything’s in shards and pieces on the ground and they’re building something new. It’s really like this transformative experience listening to them.

Yes, like the world already ended – now what? I feel that way most of the time, which is probably why I love that band.

But I digress – back to happy topics:

I had a conversation with Josh Radnor today in baggage claim.

The live feed:

Picture 7

Picture 8

Picture 9

Picture 10

The Mom and The Mogul: a new kind of job offer


I bet you’re wondering what I’ve been up to, lately, amiright?

You may recall I did an Ignite talk in April called The Sanity Hacks of a Stay at Home Mom. I love public speaking, and aside from a breakdown or two in the preparatory stage, I had a total blast doing it.

Who knew that six months later I’d have a new blog in the Cheezburger Empire?

Yeah, the back story is definitely needed at this point. I agree.

So after I did my talk I sashayed up to the bar (because that’s what you do after you deliver a KILLER Ignite talk – you sashay.)

I’m standing there with my gin & tonic and a friend named Beth when a vaguely familiar face appears next to me, and this vaguely familiar face is attached to a fail blog tshirt (not this one exactly, but you get the idea).

I HEART the fail blog, and at this point I realize I’m talking to the creator of the fail blog. And at this same time I also realize I used a photo in my talk from the fail blog which I did not attribute, and I’m all, crap.

Thanks for the photo, I say, pointing my drink at him.

Yeah, he said. I wouldn’t have minded seeing the fail blog watermark on it, he says.

*jen laughs nervously*

*jen points drink at him again as if to say, good one!*

The awkward moment ends, and Mr. Fail Blog Creator starts talking to me about Mommy Blogs. On the outside I’m nodding and making eye contact and moving my mouth in such a way as to form words. But the fan girl on the inside is like, OMG THE FAIL BLOG GUY IS TALKING TO ME!

Two weeks after that night I happen to catch this tweet from Ben Huh, Mr. Fail Blog Creator:

Since I’m a compulsive twitter refresher, I saw this right after it was posted and casually responded that I’d be interested in hearing about his project. But on the inside I was all, OMG THE FAIL BLOG GUY IS TWITTERING ME.

We exchanged a couple DM’s. We had a phone meeting while I lunched in the park with my kids. I sent him some writing samples.

After a few rounds of writing samples his ideas were clarified, but I wasn’t sure it was the project for me. I was faced with the question many creatives face at some point: Do I take on a project for opportunity over love? Or do I hold out for twoo wuv?

In the end I held out for true love, and gracefully bowed out of the opportunity. Please keep me in mind for future projects, I wrote. I’d love the opportunity to work with you.

More than two months later I see this in my twitter stream:

We exchanged a couple DM’s. We had a phone meeting while I lounged at the beach with my kids. I sent him some writing samples.

This time the project was a great fit for me – WIN! And we launched the new site last week: Babysaur – So Cute, It’s Scary!

Did I mention all this happened via email and twitter? And that the only face to face conversation I had with Ben Huh was that first night at the bar? These are crazy times with these Interwebs, I tell ya.

I’m proud of this site, and having a blast. Please add it to your reader. Please follow @babysaur on twitter. Please become a Facebook fan. Please give us lots of Babysaur love!

So in a nutshell, that’s what I’m up to.

Ignite Seattle: The Sanity Hacks of a Stay At Home Mom

Here it is. My ignite presentation.

I’m pretty proud of it, just to let you know. I think maybe I like public speaking because I never really get nervous at the time of presenting.

I DO, however, have a nervous breakdown SEVERAL TIMES during the preparation of a presentation – particularly this one, as I feared NOBODY WOULD CARE about what a stay at home mom has to say to this particular crowd. But as you can tell by the laughter at appropriate times, I think I pulled it off.

Huge huge HUGE thanks to Bryan & the kids for putting up with my irrational mood swings, the growing laundry piles, and the generally chaotic home environment as I prepared for this event. Also, Bryan put up with a disproportionate amount of verbal abuse whenever he said the words “bullet points.” But in the end he was avenged, and did his victory lap around the house.

Also, big thanks, of course, to Brady and the selection team for picking me. Yea!

It was great fun, but I’m so relieved to have my regular life back, slaving away at home.

Ignite Seattle or Things That Make My Bowels A Little Nervous

This week I’m busy working on my Ignite Seattle presentation called “Sanity Hacks of a Stay at Home Mom.” Mine is one of sixteen presentations of the night – the first eight have been posted here. Topics include Public Library Hacking, Knitting in Code, and The Secret Underground World of Lego.

Ignite presentations are 5 minutes long using 20 powerpoint slides that auto advance every fifteen seconds, and presenters are not allowed to use notes. ACK!

I am appropriately freaked out, particularly since the confirmation email I received indicated the King Cat Theater, where the event is held, holds up to 700 people. So when it’s over I will either be flying high on presentation adrenaline, or I will crap my pants, shut down my blog, never to be seen again as I die of embarrassment.

If you want to catch the suspense in person, here’s the info:
April 29: doors at 7, start at 8:30
King Cat Theater
21 and over.

No worries if you can’t make it live, the good Bryan Zug will be recording video for the event.

In related news, I’m off to find a babysitter!

A Wild Ride: muddling through expectations.

I contributed another essay to A Wild Ride, a resource blog for parents parenting in challenging circumstances. Here is an excerpt:

Last Spring when Bryan and I were in the car with our two kids – a preschooler and a toddler – a verbal scuffle started in the back seat.

Ruthie (the preschooler): MOM! We’re playing hide and seek, but Thomas won’t stop counting!

We were in the car, and hiding consisted of covering her face with her hands. But still.

Me: Did you ask him to stop?

Ruthie then turns to Thomas and begins screaming at him to stop. I cringed as the echoes of her screams reverberated in my head.

Me: You need to ask him to stop without screaming at him. That’s not okay.

Ruthie, in a horrifically matter-of-fact tone: But mom, I have to scream at him because he’s not stopping.

At which point I smirk quietly to myself as Bryan throws his head back in that deep, bellowing, from-the-gut laugh that I love (but only when it’s not at my expense), and he says, “You are SO BUSTED!”

To read the full story, click here.

Bloggy Giveaway: win a free, SIGNED copy of Auralia’s Colors.


It’s that time again, the time in which I give something away. For free. And it’s all her fault.

Remember the last time I gave something away for free? It was awesome. It was like a party on This Pile with all those comments.

Here’s your second chance if you missed all the hoopla before – you’re chance to shine, your chance to sparkle, your chance to dance your way into that Big Finish like the cute chubby girl from Little Miss Sunshine. DON’T LET THE SNOOTY JUDGES GET YOU DOWN! All kinds are welcome here.

I’m giving away a signed copy of Auralia’s Colors, by Jeffrey Overstreet. It’s a poetically written book from the fantasy genre, and I guarantee you will love it. Not into the fantasy genre? You don’t know that. You just say that like you say, “I don’t like country music.” Have you even seen country music lately? What’s NOT to like about Keith Urban?? So before you go making any claims about what you do or do not like, READ THIS BOOK.

I’m not even in to fantasy, either. I’ve read, like, two fantasy books in my life. I liked those other books fine, but Auralia’s Colors was full of beautiful, artful, colorful imagery and imagination. But don’t just take my word for it – check out these reviews from

“The late John Gardner said that a good story should unfold like a vivid and continuous dream. With Auralia’s Colors, Jeffrey Overstreet has crafted just such a story, one that will leave readers ready to dream with him again.”
–John Wilson, Editor, Books & Culture

“Through word, image, and color Jeffrey Overstreet has crafted a work of art. From first to final page this original fantasy is sure to draw readers in. Auralia’s Colors sparkles.”
–Janet Lee Carey, award-winning author of The Beast of Noor and Dragon’s Keep

“Jeffrey Overstreet’s first fantasy, Auralia’s Colors, and its heroine’s cloak of wonders take their power from a vision of art that is auroral, looking to the return of beauty, and that intends to restore spirit and and mystery to the world. The book achieves its ends by the creation of a rich, complex universe and a series of dramatic, explosive events.”
–Marly Youmans, author of Ingledove and The Curse of the Raven Mocker

auralias_colors.GIFImagine a world without color, art, or any creative expression at all. Imagine a gray world in which all things beautiful are stowed away in a dark, damp, abandoned basement. And then imagine a little girl who can weave color, whose colorful creations have magical qualities.

Can you imagine? You haven’t grown up and lost your imagination, have you? If you have, Auralia’s Colors will revive it.

To win this book, leave a comment (only once, please). All are welcome to enter, and I will ship anywhere (again, you Australians know who you are – especially that jobless one). The contest will be open until noon on Sunday, February 3rd, West Coast time. I will announce the winner on Monday, picked from a random drawing.

Good luck!

Oh, and for other giveaways, check out the bloggy giveaway site!

[This contest is now closed.]

A donkey and a carpenter and a guy named Oswald walk into a bar…

That’s the title of my latest post over at The Vox Pop Network. You should go read it. It’s right over here. I give you a taste:

A few months ago on an espresso high, I was reorganizing my bookshelves in the middle of the night when I came across good old Ozzie. Chambers, that is. I read My Utmost For His Highest religiously in college (that was, um, seventeen(ish) years ago). Like most Christians in America, I set my copy next to the toilet for those brief moments of daily…solitude. Feeling a rush of nostalgia, I snuggled into the couch in the quiet of my basement, flipping through to all the underlined passages that addressed my struggles at nineteen years old.

To find out what happens next, go here!

You may recognize the beginning of that post from the one I wrote here just a few days ago. If you read the first post, and then go read the Vox Pop post, you will see the lovely transition from draft to completed project.

The first draft I wrote quickly and without thinking too much about it. Maybe it took twenty minutes to do, including the formatting and the actual posting. I knew there was something else in there I wanted to say, but didn’t have time to develop it.

Later I thought it would make a good post for The Vox Pop, but there is where it got ugly: I had an expectation that because I had already written a draft, I would be able to finish it off quickly and move on to something else. To the contrary, I spent the entire three hours of my writing afternoon working on that essay, and when my time was up it was still not fit to publish. Because the creative juices would not obey me, I was hugely frustrated. In fact, I sent off a few Eeyore-type “I suck as a writer” IM’s involving F-words to anyone who happened to be online at the time (uh, sorry about that, friends).

It was a good reminder that I should not walk into a writing project with such arbitrary expectations.

The two biggest challenges for me in writing are endings and titles. I want a title that catches your attention, and I want an ending that punctuates without tying a neat little bow on top. Ongoing life is hugely unresolved, yet my early draft work almost always includes a version of “…and she lived happily ever after.”

This essay was no exception. It’s almost like I need to get the fantasy out of my head, the wish that conflict would be resolved in a 30-minute sitcom or a 500-word essay. Sometimes I write conflict resolution into the essay when it hasn’t actually resolved yet, and when I read over it I’m like, WTF? Who is this woman with all her problems solved? Who put this in here?

So at the end of my three hours I closed my laptop and went home, feeling like a failure.

It wasn’t until the kids were in bed that I had enough head space to process through the essay again, and this time I could see things so clearly! I chopped, I reworked, I added, and then… I sat again and waited for the ending to come to me. Always with ribbon and bow in hand, I want a nice little story ending. Finally I realized I could just chop off the last paragraph I was working on and *poof,* the ending you see is the ending you get. No moral. No lesson. No you-should-be-like-me. No summary wrap-up that insults your intelligence. Just, an end.

I was giddy. It was fantastic. I read it over and over. I hit “publish.”

We creatives are so moody, aren’t we?


Judging by my plummeting stats, you all are feeling the same about this blog as I am – bleh. I hear ya. I’m just not that into it either, so no offense taken.

I’ve been putting a lot of energy into my new lifestyle of waking up, working out, cleaning the house, and going to bed. I was not prepared for how exhausted strenuous exercise would make me, but at least during round two of weight lifting my muscles are not sore. There is yet hope for getting into shape.

I’ve also been putting a lot of energy into other writing projects. I’m exploring the possibilities, but I may have a collection of essays available in the next few months. We’ll see what time and circumstances allow for.

In the meantime, head on over to my NaBloPoMo page where I am reflecting on Thirty Things I Love. It’s been a very therapeutic process, and a welcomed break from my usual worried-email-inspiring posts here. This week I wrote about Fall, Coffee (my personal favorite of the week), Getting Organized, and Sleeping.

…and the winner is…

I’m back from a weekend away and trying to get back into real life again. If you want to check out my first four posts on the Thirty Things I Love, they are Getting Away, Bryan, The Ocean, and Coming Home.

For those of you eagerly anticpating the winner of the Fall Ya’ll giveaway of my Anne Lamott book, the waiting is over! The winner of the random drawing – executed by my lovely assistant, Ruthie – is Jhianna, Queen of the Marginally Bright! Jhianna, I’ll be sending you an email requesting your mailing address.

Thanks to everyone who participated – I had 71 comments! I think that’s a record for This Pile. It was hugely fun, and I look forward to exploring some of your blogs.

But for now I must empty a few suitcases and hit the grocery store.