The Trouble With Relaxing


Yesterday I made myself take a break. I’d worked the amount of hours I’d set aside to work, and there were no pressing issues that couldn’t wait until the next time I clocked in.

I cleaned the kitchen, pitched some clutter, and managed to keep five kids happy and entertained.

At 4:30 I finished a task and considered what to do next. There is always a long list – sometimes mental, sometimes actually written down, sometimes stashed away on my computer – ALWAYS taunting.

I looked at my dining room table (cluttered with Legos and markers), I looked at my piano (dusty), I looked at my bathroom (swimsuits on the floor and toothpaste spit in the sink), and I decided to…. take a break.

It felt absurd to take a break in the midst of so much left to do, but my day started at 6am with a call to Montreal and I hadn’t stopped moving or thinking since then.

So I opened my Google Reader and stretched out on the couch.

Thirty seconds later the kids were milling about in the room.

Seriously? They’d been playing happily for several hours. I have a big house with a basement playroom and a back yard. I hadn’t seen these guys for more than a thirty second pass-through, and the moment I sit down for a break they hover.

I felt like a half-chewed carcass in the desert, fighting for my life as five three-foot vultures circled around me, waiting for me to breath my last. They weren’t even doing anything – they literally were standing around in the living room while I laid (layed?) there reading.

It was an interesting sociological phenomenon, watching their obvious discomfort and perplexation at my doing nothing. Was I the battery that energized the entire household? Was I the monkey winding the box? Apparently my lack of bustling shut the entire operation down.

Until I said “FRUIT SNACKS!” and they all went racing into the kitchen to raid the snack basket. They never returned, and I finished my break.

Hey Boss Lady

My assistant affectionately calls me the Boss Lady, which I find endearing. “Hey boss lady,” she’ll write in an email. “Here’s the weekly financial update. Did you send out the checks?”

Yeah, she may call me Boss Lady, but she’s always telling me what to do.

I find that I really like being the boss lady. I oversee three project managers and my assistant, as well as various illustrators and animators. I love working with this team. I learn a lot from this team.

And I’ve learned a lot about myself, being the boss lady.

I’ve learned that it really sucks when your team has to work a weekend because you have the gift of procrastination. I’ve learned that kindness builds bridges. I’ve learned that praise is a great motivator, and generosity breeds loyalty. I’ve learned that it’s okay to leave things undone at the end of the day… unless I’ve squandered my time. I’ve learned that I hired great people, so I can stop trying to do their job for them.

I’ve learned that I need to keep reminding myself of all that I’ve learned.

I’m not sure what it is about motherhood that I just don’t GET at first glance, but I feel like all the lessons I learn about being a mom I learn while being something else. I guess a detached perspective is the story God chooses to tell me – I’m just thankful he continues to crack a hard nut like myself.

But anyway, as I thought about how much I love to serve my team and see them succeed in their jobs and give them the tools they need to be awesome producers of great animations, I realized I fail so spectacularly at doing this for my own children.

I do not serve my children generously – I take what I need from them. I do not get excited to see them succeed – I want them out of my way. I do not always give them the tools they need to be awesome – I criticize them.

Surprisingly, I don’t feel guilty about this. Guilt is not from Jesus – he does not shame me to action. Conviction is from Jesus – he gives me clarity to see what I’m doing really looks like, and frankly I’m not all that impressed by it once I can see behind the curtain.

So I pray tonight for my hard, cranky, selfish heart to be as generous and kind and encouraging to my kids as it is to my team.

And maybe, just maybe I’ll make my kids call me Boss Lady, too.

Why they call it WORK.

I’ve always had a tendency to quit things when they get hard. Or at least WANT to quit. I definitely WHINE a lot.

Since I can’t really quit parenting, I do a lot of whining about that.

A LOT of Whining.

There is much whining.

Imagine my surprise (oh!) when I felt like quitting my job every other day because… wait for it… sometimes it’s hard.

That’s why they call it WORK.

It didn’t take long for me to realize I only wanted to quit on the hard days, but on the super duper easy days I was all, I WANT TO DO THIS FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.

I think I’m a bit more tempered now. I recognize my job for what it is: an opportunity to earn a little money doing something I enjoy and that I’m really good at. I mean, how many people can say they work at a job they really enjoy? We may tolerate it, we may enjoy it for what it is, but I think it’s pretty awesome that what I’m doing is kinda perfect for me.

She Got Up Off the Couch

she got upOccasionally I work long hours after the kids go to bed, and Monday was one of those nights. I was a little manic, and despite being tired I couldn’t shut my brain off. As I tried to tear myself away from the laptop and just Leave It All Undone, I remembered how I gazed longingly at the Shelfari line-up in my blog’s side bar recently.

Those were some mighty fine books I used to read, I thought. I kinda miss those days.

So I pulled this off the bookcase and read until I dozed off and the book crash-landed on my face.

It’s a follow-up memoir to one I read last year titled, A Girl Named Zippy, and this one promises to be just as good.

Then Tuesday, as I sat in my car waiting for Ruthie’s bus and obsessively checking my work email (I’m telling you, I tend toward work-a-holism), I realized I’d be better off leaving the iPhone at home and reading a book while I wait instead.

I seem to be making a transition re my devices. My computer and iPhone are no longer the avenues by which I connect with the outside world for community and entertainment, but are now tools used for work, and work is definitely something I need to cut off with some pretty clear boundaries.

Fancy Solutions


A couple months ago when I started working with Bryan at Lilipip, I was really excited about the creative part of my job – all the writing and aspects of putting together a great animation. But I felt very overwhelmed by the operations tasks I was taking on – namely the multiple bank accounts and slough of monthly bills.

One day I lamented to my friend about how I can barely manage my household finances or stay on top of the accounts for our consulting business, and now I was taking on even MORE?

She very cheerfully said, “Well, when you make some money you can hire someone else to do all that for you!”

Well, my friends, I have arrived.

This month we hired a part time Operations Admin and she is FABULOUS. She does all the work that makes my head hurt, and I kinda think she likes it. I don’t know HOW or WHY she likes it – all I know is she doesn’t groan and pull her hair and curl up into a ball like I do.

p.s. Her name is Fancy. Isn’t that AWESOME?

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

Everyday Changes

jen-at-lilipipI’ve been working about 25 hours a week at Lilipip since the New Year, helping out with various project management and operations tasks.

It’s been seven years since I last did this – wore something different every day, put on make-up, left the house before nine… you know, the USUAL.

It’s been a hard couple of weeks. I’m tired, and I miss my friends. My body is getting used to sitting at a computer again. But I know without a doubt this is what I’m supposed to be doing right now.

Several friends recently asked me how it was going, tolerating Bryan all day at work in addition to tolerating him all evening at home.

(Well, they didn’t word it that way EXACTLY.)

Working together is probably the best thing that ever happened to us. I can’t imagine doing anything else, now, and it’s only been two weeks.

I always figured at some point I’d go back to work, at least part time, and I worried. I didn’t worry about the transition from home life to work life; I didn’t worry about an identity crisis; I didn’t worry about missing my kids.

I worried about living in a divided household. I worried about going in one direction while my husband went in another. I worried about having Things To Do and Goals To Meet that were completely separate from Bryan’s goals and lists.

Maybe that sounds like I don’t have dreams, goals, or a life of my own, but that’s not how I look at it. When Bryan and I joined our lives together, we jumped into the same boat – and as the song says, sometimes it’s a Strange Boat.

We are much happier and healthier as a family when we’re sailing in the same Strange Boat, working toward the same Strange Goal. I hope we get to do this forever.

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.

Somewhere between limitless possibilities & certain painful death.

God, your God, has blessed you in everything you have done. He has guarded you in your travels through this immense wilderness. For forty years now, God, your God, has been right here with you. You haven’t lacked one thing (Deuteronomy 2:7, The Message).

I think the tricky part to the Daily Grind is not drowning in the details. It’s easy for us to stare at the empty refrigerator we may or may not be able to fill next week or a full schedule that doesn’t allow us to breathe, and think to ourselves: Shit, we should have kept the day job.

But that would be too near sighted.

Every morning at six Bryan and I have coffee together and set our plan for the day. We are bloodshot and tense and running on five hours of sleep (well, at least I am), but thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Still, enjoying yourself doesn’t always pay the bills or add an extra two hours to the day.

So yeah, the emotional ratio of limitless possibilities to going down in a blaze of glory is constantly fluctuating.

But when I read this the other day I was all, “YES! HE HAS! HE IS! I HAVEN’T!”

And mentally – not literally, as I was still drinking my morning cup of coffee – I jumped to my feet, pumped my fists in the air, and did a few grunting body builder poses. I karate chopped the air, let out a WOO-HOO! and ran a lap around the dining room table – all still mentally, mind you, as I’m not this energetic that early in the morning.

But still, that’s how encouraged my inner Eeyore was after reading this passage in Deuteronomy.

Contextually, it’s a sermon Moses preached before he died and before God led the Israelites across the river into their promised land, the land that was just within their reach for forty long years.

Think of it like a product launch party, or a ribbon cutting ceremony, or a toast at someone’s milestone birthday party. So much led to this moment – joy, tears, sweat, uncertainty – but here we are! We arrived!

And we are not the same as when we left.

My wilderness seems immense right now – though filled with mostly good things. Even so, God is right here with me, and I’m not lacking anything.


LEE080114- 0086.jpgBryan is working from home today – one of the many benefits of our new flexible lifestyle. We all walked together to Ruthie’s bus stop this morning, and he played tag with the kids while I chatted with another mom. I can’t think of a better way to start the day, except maybe with room service in a five star hotel somewhere tropical.

I recently picked up some freelance work, so we are sharing the office this morning while Thomas is at preschool. Fun, right? Sort of.

When Bryan is on a call he talks really loud. Like, so loud even my ear buds can’t drown him out. And he gets out of his seat to go to the bathroom and stuff, which makes me think – Huh, I wonder what HE’S up to? – and then I forget what I was working on. And sometimes while I’m trying to write an essay about how INSANE it is to write with distractions all around me, he likes to brag about how awesome he is at Bringing In the Money – particularly when he gets off of one of his really loud phone calls.

So after the UMPTEENTH interruption this morning I let out a deep sigh, turned to him with my finger sticking straight at him and a good tongue-lashing on its way out of my mouth, and —

I paused.

“I do this to you all the time, don’t I? Is this why it bugs you so much when I call you at work to ask why my Twitter updates aren’t posting to Facebook?”

This, of course, made him laugh and feel very vindicated.

I vowed to never call him at the office ever again unless I’m bleeding or winning the lottery – provided he shut the fuck up.

Pick your sliver well, my friend.

business cards_back

Last night I escaped to my garden for a few minutes right before starting the kids’ bedtime routine. The sun was going down, the air was cool, and as soon as I reached for a tomato off my plants the anxiousness of our Days slipped away from me.

As I continued picking my Sun Golds and pruning branches and weeding weeds, I fell into a familiar rhythm of movement and thought – the same rhythm I get into when running or cleaning or cooking – my hands are busy so my mind can process.

It was a peaceful few moments that recharged me.

What I found myself processing through was how my gardens – both the vegetable and flower – were sorely neglected this summer. The water pressure issues with the automatic drip system and technical difficulties with the spigot didn’t help, but I was not as consistent in my love or care for the normally full and lush edgings around my yard.

Gardening had turned into a chore instead of a hobby this summer.

I took on some consulting work recently, which is a radical shift in how I spend my time. A few hours here and there spent on the computer or in a meeting displaces something else, though there were enough inefficiencies in my time management skilz to absorb a lot of this. But still, grocery shopping has been haphazard, meals thrown together, and I feel a general sense of disorientation with my schedule.

I know this will improve as I get into the rhythm of my days, and I realize August probably wasn’t the best time to take on new projects, but in the meantime I feel a little frazzled.

But as I tended to my sad little garden I felt the universe plop back into order. I remembered I’m slow to transition the Big Things in life – more like a semi-truck lumbering to a halt than a sports car screeching to a quick stop – and I needed to give myself time to find my way. I remembered that letting some things go doesn’t mean I’ve failed, but I’ve made choices and rearrange priorities.

And most importantly, I remembered my Identity is not rooted in being a stay-at-home mom, or a work-at-home mom, or a consultant, or a wife, and that tweaking any of these things does not change who I am at my core.

The cartoon pictured above – which is printed on the back of my business cards – was drawn by Hugh at Gaping Void, and it’s the matrix by which I make all decisions concerning home and work. Every time I take on something new, I have to decide where it’s going to fit and what gets shifted to the back burner. If I start to feel frazzled, I know I’m trying to do it all.

So if you happen to catch me freaking out, my friend, feel free to ask if I’ve picked my sliver well.

Stolen Moments

Bryan's road crew

I think we were all stretched a little tight last week when Bryan was out every night at events, bookended by working both weekends. It was one of those occasions where it did no good for me to complain about it – whether out loud or in my heart – so I simply embraced the flow and made it work.

That alone was a miracle of Jesus-proportions.

It was Friday morning when I realized we both needed the car that day, because for some reason when he said “I have a video shoot,” it didn’t occur to me he can’t haul all his gear on the bus. I considered leaving the kids at home with our new house mate while I drove him into the city, then realized the commute would be a perfect stolen moment for the kids to see their dad.

I should have known they’d end up being roadies.

The kids made two trips with Bryan into the Maritime Events Center, hauling tripods and gear boxes while in their jammies. They felt important and useful, and I think it’s a memory they’ll store away for a long time.

Not bad, for a few stolen moments.

bryan & my jitterbug

As for my own sanity, Bryan took me with him to an event on Wednesday. Friends kept the kids, I picked him up downtown, and we jetted across the lake to Mercer Island more than an hour before the event started – which was more than enough time to sit on the lazy veranda at Mercer Island’s Roanoke Inn, sipping cocktails and gazing into each others’ eyes.

I felt happy sitting there, relaxed despite the overwhelming week. Bryan had insisted I come with him, and I initially balked at the logistics of making this happen. But as I sat there, I realized it was his way of taking care of me, of loving me within the limitations of his schedule.

And I was glad I acquiesced.

bryan "in the zone"
Bryan with Kenji Onozawa and Adnan Mahmud.

And then we were off to our event, and I got to watch Bryan in action and meet the great folks at the Jolkona Foundation.

So now the question is, can we sustain this life pattern – these stolen moments – for the next few months as work and travel pick up? Can we make this work? Is an hour here and there enough?

We posed these questions to our faith community last night – friends from our church who love us, know us, and ask us the challenging questions. These are the folks to remind us of our vision as a family and as a lover of Jesus. They will celebrate our successes with us, and speak up when they see our priorities getting out of balance.

To us, Life is a group effort. Bryan can’t lead our family without the family’s support, and our family can’t thrive without our community’s support.

So as to the question of sustaining through the Stolen Moments? I have no idea how we’ll fare, or how long we can plug along at this rate, or even how long we’ll need to. But it’s fun being in this together, and it’s comforting to know we have Community to put things into perspective.

Why lie? I need beer.

Why lie? I need a beer.
Photo from Podcasting News.

The reality of being in start-up mode is settling in as we run out the final dregs of cash money and tap into our back-up reserves. One item in our budget that always seems to get cut is wine and liquor.

WHY I do this to myself every time money gets tight, I will never know, because when times are tough WE LIKE TO DRINK.

So after two weeks of living in a dry house, we are now buying three buck chuck from Trader Joes, and will try our darndest to make a bottle last.

When money is tight in your house, what do you cut? What must you absolutely hang on to, even when times are tough?

Start-up Mom

ruthie and thomas

The other day as I drove home from a couple hours spent at the beach I started to feel pretty satisfied with my life. Because I get kinda, you know, whiney sometimes. But after a busy morning of getting work done and a midday of running errands in the heat, we were all pretty content to float in the water for awhile.

Both the kids crashed into a coma during the ride home, so I had a peaceful drive along Lake Washington to remind myself that life’s not really as bad as I make it up to be. For instance, not everyone gets to take a two hour break at the beach in the middle of the day, you know? It’s not something to take for granted.

I was also thinking about our latest camping trip, and the last time we all flew on an airplane, and how easy it was to pack everyone up without all the baby gear to schlepp along. No strollers or playpens or bottles or even diapers! Each kid had a bag full of clothes they dragged behind them and a backpack filled with their own snacks and entertainment. For once I was carrying my own stuff through the airport.

Parenting is a lot like launching a start-up business, I realized in the car. You have wild dreams and expectations and hopes, the joy of birth, the stress and hard work and sleepless nights, the doubt and fear and failing confidence, the renewed hope and second wind, and the joy and stability of an investment well tended.