Conversations with Lily

I’ve only spent an hour with her today, but my heart is already bursting at the seams. When I’m with her, nothing else matters. I’ll never forget her reaction when I surprised her this morning — it’s forever seared into my memory.

A few snippets:

“Jen Jen, would you like to play with me?” Always irresistible, always in a slight British accent.

“Hey Mochi, what’s the matter?” Said in a sweet, comforting tone to one of her dogs, who was looking mopey.

“Mochi, it’s not for doggies, for pete’s sake.” I laugh, and she smirks because she knows exactly what was so funny. “Yeah, I say ‘for pete’s sake.’”

“Turn on the music, so we can dance, ok?” A gal after my own heart. But I prefer my dance parties after 8am.


Don’t worry, she gave me a mask too.



Maybe it’s…

  • The holidays.
  • My turning 30 soon.
  • Being back in Lodi, where I grew up.
  • Facebook’s On This Day feature.
  • Watching my niece blossom into the smartest, funniest, coolest kid.
  • My new OCP.

…but I’m feeling extra sentimental these days. In my usual fashion, I’ll share a little bit, in list form. :)

Here are a few of the countless things I’m thankful for:

  • My people. My family (furry ones too!), friends, and coworkers. I could write a book on this bullet alone. Everyone, both near and far: even if we’re not in touch all the time, I’m often thinking of you and appreciate you very much.
  • Automattic/my work. I get to work on fantastic things, with wonderful company, amazing flexibility, and incredible benefits. I never forget this.
  • My health. I’m aging, I can feel it! My wrists are hurting more, my right ankle continues to be problematic, and I experienced heartburn for the first time ever, twice in the past month. These completely trivial annoyances remind me to appreciate my body and all that it does for me, despite the hell I sometimes put it through.
  • Technology/the internet. I have the pleasure of blowing my parents’ minds every time I reveal a bit more of the magic. It’s slow-going, but such a treat. For example, my mom was pumped today because we just got to watch an episode of BBC’s Monkey Planet (she loves animal documentaries) on the TV instead of the iPad (thanks Chromecast!). They have had such rough lives, but they deserve all of life’s pleasures, which we often take for granted.
  • The bay area. It’s beautiful!
  • All things new — good, bad, or inbetween. New experiences, new places, new feelings.

Here’s a glimpse of my completely normal, but 100% delightful day:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Although the photos aren’t anything special, the moments were.


His Voice is Strong as Ever

he always used to tell her the right things to do. BEFORE YOU SAY ANYTHING ABOUT FEMINISM, she’s a feminist. she can think without him. …she just can’t think things through. “you need him,” she thinks. “he doesn’t want you,” she knows. and she hates that. “he doesn’t think about you,” …that’s a fact. and now she’s embarrassed at herself. she’s become that girl. capital letters. that girl who thinks in past tense but can’t see futures.

-bridget minamore
vacuum cleaners and cupboard doors

You Need To Go After The Things You Want

This was posted a year ago today, and I still love everything about it.

When did we become so afraid to love someone with vulnerability? When did we become so fearful of spilling our guts and being who we are? It sounds corny but it’s true.

Let’s go after the things we want, let’s love each other brutally and honestly, and not worry about the consequences. Let’s release the feelings inside of us and let them land somewhere special. Otherwise, we might have a lifetime of longing in front of us.

My very pragmatic side annoyingly reminds me that I can’t spout off about everything I’m feeling. There are repercussions. What good will it do? I’m an adult after all, and adults can’t successfully function unfiltered …right?

I don’t know, but I know that I’m happier being genuine with my heart upon my sleeve, regardless of the discomfort, self-doubt, and general anxiety it may cause me.

(But if I’ve caused you any discomfort or anxiety, I really am sorry!)

September 7, 2013

On this particularly sunny and hot Saturday, Dave and I headed to Berkeley to see Cal take on Portland State. This was typical — our falls are always consumed with college football. This season we had a brand new head coach, a recently renovated stadium, and a whole lot of hope for our team. Go bears!

We played Portland State seven years earlier on September 16, 2006 under very different circumstances. Cal started with a #12 ranking, went 10–3, and finished the season ranked #14 under Coach Tedford. Dave and I were in our third year of college. I was in a 4+ year, tumultuous, long-distance relationship with a guy[1] from Lodi and Dave had just gotten out of a very similar situation with a gal from Maine. We were acquaintances, nothing more.[2]

At that 2006 game, there wasn’t enough room where my friends were standing, so I ended up a couple of rows back next to Dave and his fraternity brothers. Dave’s fraternity had the endearing and extremely reckless tradition of mercilessly dogpiling every time Cal scored a TD. No one was spared. Thankfully, Dave protected me from the onslaught. September 16, 2006 was the day I started paying attention.[3]

A terribly unflattering photo of me next to handsome baby Dave that day.

Me next to handsome baby-Dave that day.

Fast forward to Cal vs. Portland State 2013. At a Haas business school happy hour, Dave won a tour of the swanky University Club at Memorial Stadium. We skipped pre-game bar hopping with friends to check out this exclusive area that we’d otherwise probably never visit. My excitement really set in when I noticed Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour riding the elevator up with us. Two lovely women, Henrriette and Whitney, gave us a quick tour and then left us alone to appreciate the gorgeous views.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We wanted to get some photos of us in this breathtaking setting, but because our tour started a couple of hours before kickoff, there weren’t many people around; no one was out on the deck with us. We set up Dave’s phone on a nearby table to see if we could get anything decent with the self-timer. Then this happened.

Turns out Dave hadn’t won a tour at all. He had spent months preparing for this moment and worked some magic, one small piece of which is this heartwearming letter to Coach Sonny Dykes:

Dear Coach Dykes,

The date was September 16th, 2006. It was a beautiful, sun splashed fall day in Berkeley, the kind of day I am sure you will come to cherish. Cal was playing Portland State. I had ducked out from studying to enjoy the game when some nearby students got a bit rowdy. I protected a young lady from the pushing, and we struck up a conversation. It was the start to our love story and I’m excited to say that this fall I plan to propose to her.

Cal, and in particular Cal Football, has been a huge part of our lives from the day we set foot on campus. We have been loyal season ticket holders since graduation and actively recruit our friends to join us (our group is up to 12 this year!). I was recently accepted into the Haas MBA program and it is my dream to eventually settle in Berkeley and raise our family there. I’d like to do something special for her for my proposal.

I was hoping to propose to her on the University Club balcony before a game, but access is limited to those with special passes. Coach Dykes, I realize you are a busy man, but if there is any way you are able to help with pregame access passes I would be extraordinarily grateful. I would be able to create our first engagement memory with the most beautiful backdrop I can imagine.

I am proud that our head coach has actively embraced the community, from open practices to living ten minutes from campus. After a down year it feels like the Cal community is once again excited about football. You have certainly started your Cal story on the right foot. I hope to add another chapter to our own Cal story, and with your help, I can make it an unforgettable one.

Thank you in advance, best of luck in the upcoming season, and Go Bears!

Best regards,

Dave Harrison Smith


The proposal came as a huge surprise for a couple of reasons. To be completely honest, we hadn’t been in the best place as a couple — I had started a new job two months prior and he was struggling to balance a full-time job with business school. We were busy and stressed, and we weren’t making enough time for each other. And believe it or not, we hadn’t really discussed marriage in our nearly seven years together. Sure, we both knew it would likely happen, but neither of us were in any hurry (and we still aren’t!).

But I’m very happy because I love this man dearly. I can’t thank Dave enough for bearing with me and my many faults. I know we’ll overcome every challenge together because he’s strong and courageous in every way that I’m not. Here’s to love, growth, and countless adventures.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Oh, Cal squeaked out a victory on the day we got engaged: 37-30. It was our only win of the entire season… whew.

Poem written for us by San Francisco poet, Silvi Alcivar.

Poem written for us by San Francisco poet, Silvi Alcivar.

[1] Although we aren’t really in touch any more, I have to say he was a great guy — we just weren’t great together.

[2] Embarrassingly enough, I had introduced myself to Dave on three separate occasions at his frat house. He responded to my third “Hi, I’m Jenny!” with a short and effective “I know. We’ve met.” Needless to say, I felt like a jackass, but bless his heart for forgiving me.

[3] But we didn’t start dating until January 20, 2007.

Groomswoman Duties

Ben, my close friend of 20 years, had his bachelor party in San Francisco last weekend. As his groomswoman, I got the chance to take part in his fun – and pretty wholesome – bachelor party. It was awesome to spend an entire day with some of my favorites. I usually don’t enjoy marathon drinking, but when duty calls…

(Ben is usually clean-shaven or rocks a full beard; he gave us a special shave for the weekend.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Onions. Onions All The Time.

I am extremely sentimental. Let me be clear: sentimental, not uncontrollably, outrageously emotional. I pride myself on being more objective than your average person and being able to look at a situation from all sides. Just ask my brother — I’m certain he thinks I annoyingly play devil’s advocate way too often. But overall, I am a sap. Case in point:

– Weddings = waterworks
– I wept when my work-husband was laid off, despite knowing that he would move on to bigger and better things
– Thinking of a dog I’ve lost (nearly decade ago) can still bring me to tears
– I nearly cried during this super bowl commercial. Clydesdales? More like crydesdales, amirite?!

All of my friends know this about me. And although I wish I was less tearful at times (how embarrassing would it have been to cry in response to a super bowl commercial?!), I embrace it. I like that I feel so deeply. However, I do my best to hide this side of myself from my family because… I don’t know why. The Zhus have never really been emotive around one another. Whatever the reason, I’m working on it, which makes for a lot of discomfort. One little treasure has made this monumental undertaking a bit less daunting: Lily Zhu.

coyall smiles

I love my niece an incomprehensible amount. Born just 4 months ago, she doesn’t do much, but… WOW. You don’t know how much you can truly care about someone until a little bundle of joy like Lily enters your life. I spend time each and every day looking at photos of her (only because I’m too far away to snuggle her in person).

Lily’s arrival and the frightening, but obvious aging of my parents, along with the scary health complications of some of my fit, young friends (maybe more on that later) makes me all the more grateful for our time here.

So let’s get cheesy, shall we? Remember to love deeply and don’t take anyone or anything for granted!

photo (1)

P.S. Thanks reddit, for surfacing this devastatingly sad and heartwarming tale years later. WHO IS CUTTING ONIONS IN HERE?!