Posts in Mamahood
Dear Teacher, (thank you)
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I mentioned in my blog post the other day that I planned on writing a letter to my childrens' teachers, basically to thank them for what they do, and maybe as a way to put some positivity and faith back in the lives of good people who are under extra strain right now. And that is saying something - I know of very few groups of people who do more for kids, for less recognition, than teachers do.

I chose to write my letter to the principal, since my kids have 8 teachers each, as well as many non-teaching staff that are a big part of their lives. Here it is:

Dear Dr. Jordan, Teachers, and Staff at ----

I am the proud parent of two students at ----, and have had the privilege of being associated with the school for the past 3 years as my children have attended. My son Elliott is in 7th grade, and is 12. My daughter Rowen is in 8th grade, and turned 14 in February. This letter is to express my sincere gratitude to the administrators, staff, and teachers at ----. 

Like everyone in our country, I was shocked and saddened by the events in Florida on Valentine's day. No parent, no teacher, no child should ever have to go through a shooting at a school. EVER. As I heard the names of the victims read, I realized with a tremendous shock that seven of the victims were 14 years old. The same age as my kid. That made me scared. And angry. That was when I vowed to do two things - which in my small position are just about the only things I can do. First, I'm going to go to the March for Our Lives, either here in Raleigh or in DC on March 24, to show my solidarity with the student survivors in changing our country to increase the safety of kids.

Secondly, and the purpose of this letter, I decided that the courageous people who love and teach and protect my own children every day, need to hear how grateful I am. You need to hear how grateful I am. These two precious people I send into your halls every day mean everything to me, and I know that I've entrusted them into very capable hands. Almost daily, my kids come home and talk about a project or exercise or assembly that day that caught their attention. (That by itself is no small thing, I must say). They talk about teachers making jokes and having fun, making bath bombs, adopting a lizard, talking to the space station, the legendary guinea pigs. They play in the orchestra or take yoga or learn about lighthouses and cells. Their world is better and more fascinating because of the fire you and your staff have lit within them, and they'll carry those lessons - and that fire - through their whole lives. 

Nobody becomes a teacher for the fame and riches, that's for sure. They become teachers so they can influence the lives of kids, and I know that they work with and think about and pray for, and hope for, and LOVE the students they teach. I want you to know that it shows, in the lives of my own children. As a parent, that's a debt I know I can never repay, except to offer my undying gratitude and admiration for their work. For your work.

I imagine that the staff and teachers there have thought and internalized the unimaginable slaughter last week, and they still showed up at school anyway, their love for kids outweighing their fear. That kind of courage doesn't come easy, and they aren't thanked enough. They'll never be thanked enough. That they continue to provide my children with support, guidance, inspiration, and love no matter what else is happening in the country and the world earns the highest praise I can offer. That this support might extend so far as the defense of my children both frightens me and fills me with awe at their courage. Being a teacher - working at a school - is a hero's job, a sacred calling. 

Thank you for all you do, for my kids and all the others who you've reached and touched in your work. It hasn't gone unnoticed. 

With much admiration and gratitude,

Jessica Sprague, Proud ---- Parent 

NOTE: If you would like to copy any or all of this and shoot it off to a teacher or school staffer who could use your gratitude today, please feel free. I bet it would brighten a day or two.

#NeverAgain.

For the kids, teachers, and families at Parkland. For the kids, teachers, and parents everywhere. #neveragain.

And for them.

And for them.

Several years ago - 5 years ago, in fact, my daughter Rowen came home from 3rd grade to tell us that she'd had a lockdown drill in school that day. It shocked me, mostly because she hadn't ever talked about this before, and also because she was so matter-of-fact about it. That post is here:

Living in a Sacred Space 

I actually asked Rowen to read this post in the car on the way to school last Friday, when our talk of the massacre in Florida was getting grim. At 12 and 14, my kids are old enough to begin to appreciate reality of our world. The risk we all run as they get out of the car or off the bus. 

It has always been strange to me, how many of my emotions occur in a sort of delayed reaction to dramatic situations. As my shock over YET ANOTHER massacre of innocent kids at a school has given way to the despairing hollowness of why, sweet mercy, why, I was whipped back into focus this morning as I watched a clip reading out the names of the victims. I realized that seven of them were 14 years old. 

My kid is 14

She's halfway through 8th grade, and will be entering high school this fall. And my planned blog post in honor of the kids in Parkland, and in special honor of the staff and teachers there, suddenly shifted into clarity. This isn't just "the kids" and their heroic teachers, and their shattered parents. This is me, but for the grace of God. Me. 

I'm suddenly overwhelmed with two emotions.

One is anger. I recognize that one. But not the helpless kind of frustration I feel when I am moved by injustice and know that there is nothing I can do that will alleviate the situation.

For me, I regret that Sandy Hook wasn't the last time - the very last time ever - that kids got killed at a school. I am sad that their voices weren't big enough or angry enough or as good at organizing in social media as the teenaged voices are now. That perhaps we hadn't come to the tipping point just yet.

But I'm glad - so glad - that these kids who spend their lives connected are angry. That a hashtag can become a rallying cry can be come a movement that changes the world.

So my other emotion is hope. The kind of hope that grits its teeth and puts on its butt-kicking shoes and goes to war. That says hell or high water. Thy kingdom come.

Picking My Outrage Battle. Again.

Remember the post earlier this year about picking my outrage battle? Gun violence targeting children has just become one of mine.

I don't care enough about gun ownership to have a really open heart-to-heart with its advocates, especially about military-style weaponry. Not while there are children who still die as some kind of regrettable collateral damage, in our eagerness to protect what never should have been considered an inalienable right. Not while there is any chance that even one family or community can be spared. So I'm not a moderate voice. I'm a mama, scared and angry, who only escaped this horror because it was inflicted upon someone else. 

There are some rights worth the fight. Worth dying for. Some freedoms for which millions of soldiers have given their lives. That balance of freedom and responsibility - of what amounts to herd immunity at the cost of the rights of the individual - is the dazzling beauty of the American way. It's what makes America unique, and that push and pull is what keeps democracy alive.

But there have been times, landmark times, when we've made decisions as a nation that have changed the course of life for millions of citizens at a single stroke, because it's simply the right thing to do. What, in fact, MUST be done, even at the cost of the personal freedoms of some. This is one of those times. Enough kids - enough victims - have died from the same style of gun, that outlawing it should not even take a moment of consideration. 

For today, after my grand language, here's what I'm going to do. 

1. I'm going to find out where the marches are, and we're going to attend. I've never been a marcher, so this is a big thing. It takes a lot to get me out from behind my computer. ;) Here's one: https://www.marchforourlives.com/

2. Today I'm writing a letter to each of my childs' teachers, and their principal, thanking them for the work they do every day in the service of - and if necessary, in the defense of - my own children. They deserve it.

If you're a parent or a grandparent, I invite you to write a letter to a teacher. I'd love to see the posts if you do. I'll post mine.

With much love, and much hope. 

-JS

  

Happy Veteran's Day, and Thank You.

In the spirit of gratitude to all the members of the Armed Forces, I wanted to share this video. It is from World War II, and is the first time a cameraman was sent in to combat with troops. Their courage and tenacity, which has been passed down through generations of servicemen and women, is an inspiration to us all. 

Thank you to each veteran of our Armed Forces, for your courage, the valor with which you carry out your assignments, and your allegiance to this great country and the values it stands for. God bless America, and God bless you.  

Word of the Day: Begin

This particular topic is HUGE. Vast. I might do another journal prompt with just this image and word again, because beginning is so critical to progression. But today's prompt brought back a story I want to tell. (Or retell, I've put bits and pieces here and there through the years).

I joined the Design Team of the Chatterbox paper company in the summer of 2005. Just before Christmas that year, we were each given an unusual assignment. (Chatterbox was always a company that reached at the heart of scrapbooking - the why as much as the how).

The Assignment: Intentions

Here's our assignment, in two steps:  

  1. Think of something that you've always intended to do in scrapbooking, but just haven't, and then DO THAT THING.
  2. Create a project about what we did, and our experience.

My Take: Ruined Wedding Photos

I thought for a little while of what project I could do, and one morning (December 23, 2005, I remember it clearly), I woke up knowing EXACTLY what I needed to do. 

Backstory. Insert wavy transition and backstory music. "It all began...."

Jared and I got married on June 16, 2000. That was 15 years ago, as of just a couple weeks. He's the man of my dreams and the love of my life. And it was our great honor to be married in the Mt. Timpanogos LDS temple by my dear sweet grandfather, Seth Bills. 

I LOVE my grandparents. They were (and are) two of the Great Trees of my life, and I grew up in their shade right next door. My wedding was a perfect day. My reception the next day in my grandparents' backyard was a perfect Idaho summer evening. Cloudless and warm and golden as the sun set among their beautiful trees and flowers. If you have never been to southeast Idaho in the summer, you really need to go. It is absolutely GORGEOUS. Just be sure to get out before October when Father Winter slams the door again. ;)

Fast forward, and in July 2000 I am living in Minnesota, when I received both prints AND NEGATIVES from our photographer (a thing I still consider to be the best part of this miracle). I wasn't a scrapbooker then (it would be four more years, when Rowen was born), but I wanted to put the pictures someplace special. I bought a really great album with these cool lumpy handmade pressed-cotton pages. Very organic, very cool. Totally not acid-free. Totally water-absorbent. See where this is going? I adhered the photos to the pages with some random combination of photo corners and glue and thought to myself that I'd done a pretty bang-up job of the thing. Well, then I left the album sitting on top of our little bookcase beside the sliding glass door. Our tiny apartment had only a small air-conditioning unit, so we spent most of the (wet, hot, humid) Minnesota summer and fall with that sliding door open.

Fast-forward to spring-ish of 2001 when I pulled out the album again and opened (tried to open) pressed-cotton pages pages soaked with four months of humidity and rain. Most of them were stuck together with water damage, and ALL of my wedding photos were ruined. I cried. I shook my fist at Minnesota. I probably stormed around a bit. 

And then I remembered I had the negatives! I could just get them (all 300 of them) reprinted. Any time I wanted. And anytime never seemed to come.

I intended a few times to get the photos reprinted. I thought about it quite a few times over the next FOUR YEARS at least, and I actually ventured into Walgreen's one day sometime in early 2004 and asked the clerk what it would take to reprint them. Obviously this person didn't want to do the job, so they said, "Why don't you wait until the prints go on sale?" I left with my envelope of negatives, and TRUE CONFESSION TIME they proceeded to ride around in the armrest of my car for the next year and a half. I know. I still cringe to tell it. I completely forgot about the negatives to my ruined wedding photos for another long time.

My Project: Getting Wedding Photos Reprinted

Fast-forward back to December 23, 2005. So it has been FIVE YEARS, right? I have two bitty babies now. I wake up with a start KNOWING what I need to do for my Chatterbox assignment and I have this urgent feeling that I really NEED to get these reprints done. Today. Right now. Get your intention done, you lazy thing! What have you been waiting for?

It was a Friday. I took the negatives down to Sam's Club, which was literally a half-mile from our new townhome, determined this time not to take no for an answer and not to leave until I had figured out how to get my little travel-worn envelope of negatives back out to life again. I said to the clerk at the photo counter:  "What would it take for me to get these 300 wedding photos reprinted?" The clerk took the envelope from me without batting an eye and said, "How about 24 hours?" Kind of embarrassingly easy, huh?

The next day (Christmas Eve, 2005) I went back and picked up my 300 reprints. I couldn't believe it! I spent a great Christmas weekend going through all my photos, relishing the memories of that beautiful occasion. I tasted my life again in all the golden glory that a union of two souls SHOULD be. I saw family and friends from back home, back in what had now become another life, and I cried for the happiness of seeing them again, remembering those relationships.

Just in Time: The Only Two Photos

A week later, on the afternoon of December 30, 2005, I received a phone call from my dad, that his father, my sweet Grandpa Bills, had passed away suddenly in his sleep the night before. I was devastated. I was even more heartbroken that because of distance and our two small children, I could not attend his funeral. I felt so lost and alone in the wintry darkness of Minnesota, wanting so much to be with my family in Idaho, to pay my respects, hug my Grandma, and remember and celebrate the life of this great and faithful man. I was so sorrowful and low, and so desperately sad that I can still taste all those tears.

That night after I'd gotten my babies in bed, I suddenly remembered that among the 300 reprints I had JUST received back, were two photos of me and my Grandpa on my wedding day. They are the only two photos I have of he and I together. Here they are.

Me and my Grandpa.

Me and my Grandpa.

My night was then spent blogging - reminiscing about the things I remembered about him. Was it my own personal vigil? My private memorial? Maybe. My tears didn't disappear - how could they? But they had turned from desolation to a kind of warm bittersweetness that reached down into my heart and gave me peace. 

And I do believe that it was the Intentions Challenge that inspired me - and placed that invitation in front of me to do the thing I'd been intending to do for so long, so that I could have these photos in my hands, just in time.

I learned that night in a way that has shaped my soul, that photos (while always important) can sometimes suddenly become the most precious things we own. Photos, and the stories that accompany them--only increase in value as time goes on. They bind us to our past, help us remember who and what we are, and give us strength and courage to face our days ahead. 

THIS is why I scrapbook. THIS is why I always have my camera out. Why I will always teach memory-keeping. Why I will always make it my life's priority to savor and save. And why I will always cry two times over these two amazing, incalculably precious photos. 

Your Turn

And it's why I'm offering this prompt to you today. What is it that you've intended to do in memory-keeping, that you haven't done? What is it that springs to mind when you hear the word BEGIN associated with what you need to do as you savor and save?

Check and double check? Let me know right here what your intention is, and then you can come back and tell me what you did about it, I'd love to hear! We can keep each other honest. ;)

xo,

-J

 

Meeting My Mister, Part 2: Eye Contact

So you have already read Part 1 and the history of the internet, right? That comes in to play in this story in just a second. Many parentheses also ensue here. 

You'll remember that it's fall of 1995. Earlier that summer, I had met college friends through my best friend Share (who I met in my first week of middle school, and who would be my lifelong friend *HI SHARE!*). They had helped me move in to my apartment (above one of the two dance clubs in Rexburg - the one that didn't play country music), and then my new friend BLT (whose initials are really that) suggested we go to Craigo's for some pizza. 

BLT then suggested that we could stop by his dorm and see if a few of the guys from his floor wanted to come with. I was driving, and parked outside the dorm to wait while he went in. 

A few minutes went by.

And out he came with come two other guys. One of them was one in a black hoodie, and I thought, "Ooo that guy is cute!" and after they got in I eyed him discreetly from my rear-view as we drove. I didn't know it at the time of course, but I had just laid eyes on the guy who I'd choose as my forever guyAnd I actually don't know if he laid eyes on ME until quite a few minutes later - he tends to be pretty shy, especially then. Actual eye contact will happen in a second here, over pizza. Awwwwww. (Emoticon hearts, I know. So Lady and the Tramp, right? - except pizza and not  spaghetti.)

How to Fall fall for geeks

So we arrive at Craigo's and stand in line for pizza. For the life of me I can't remember who else was there. I'm pretty that Share and Christen were there, because we were always together, and would always share a medium pineapple pizza. BLT, obviously. Hoodie guy (le sigh) and his friend Kirk were behind me, and I overhear hoodie as he points a flyer on the community bulletin board and says: "Hey look, I could get internet in my room. I wouldn't have to go to the computer lab to play my MUD."

I'm pretty sure my mouth dropped open, and pretty sure my eyeballing was no longer discreet. After all, this guy was pretty hot AND had just spoken my language! Come on, girl! Grab pizza. Go talk! Mystery hoodie boy must be conversed with! 

How to Flirt With Geeks

There were maybe 8 of us at a big long table, so I made a point to sit across the table from him (not sure if we knew each others' names? most of this is kind of foggy, actually). What I do remember is that it was loud, so I leaned forward, I think I asked his name, and then said something super charming like, "Did I overhear that you play a MUD? Like the computer role-playing game?" <bat eyes prettily>

I think THIS is the point at which he finally looked up at me. Probably shocked that someone had spoken? That it was a girl? That I knew what the internet was? That I knew what a MUD was? (probably the last one, actually). And also, I don't know if he even said anything. In my head he has a pizza slice in his hand, paused halfway to his open mouth, nodding silently. So I went on: 

"What's the name of your MUD?"

<He says it, but I honestly can't remember what it was. MAN he had gorgeous eyes, though. And I mentioned the black hoodie? YES. Ok. Moving on.>

So, knowing I was about to knock his socks off, I took a calming bite of whatever kind of pizza I had (pineapple, maybe), and prepped to lay down the geeky trump card.

Like the pro wrestler with the folding chair. Like the chef with the sprig of parsley. Like the gymnast hitting the springboard for her vault, I say:

I have been playing Dune MUSH for about a year (pause for effect), I stopped when I moved back home, though...

He didn't stand a chance.

I actually have joked since then that I can pinpoint THIS MOMENT as the one where he fell in love with me. Hearing "I play a MUSH" from a pretty girl? (Any girl?) SOLD. And he went from aloof to interested in one blink.

After Craigo's we all (can't remember who else) hung out for the rest of the night at various places (can't remember what we did, because frankly, it was all him, and always would be from then on), and eventually made a trip to Idaho Falls for a middle-of-the-night Perkins run). We talked the entire time. Turns out he loves science fiction and Lord of the Rings and Orson Scott Card, and over the next few weeks I find out he's from Minnesota, that he's majoring in Computer Science (le sigh) and wears the hell out of a pair of jeans and Doc Marten 5-eyes (le double sigh). And yes. Your girl was smitten.

This year is 20 years since this meeting happened (holy crap, that is a long time). He was 18 and I had just turned 20. So I have officially known him for half my life. And what a better, more beautiful life it has been because of it.

Next up: The rest of the fall, the surprise trip to see him, the spring term. 

The Road to JessicaSprague.com 2.0.
When you get to the end of all the light that you know and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things will happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught how to fly.
— Edward Teller

So. I started thinking about remaking my web site in oh, 2012. Maybe 2011. Right about the time things had really started going crazy with classes and traveling and trying to maintain some semblance of work/life balance, and the one thing that wasn't changing - that I realized I couldn't get to change was the backend structure to Jessicasprague.com. We'd built it on Joomla, which in itself isn't a bad content management system. The benefit is that it has lots of plugins and is very customizable. And our downfall was that it has lots of plugins and is very customizable - because those customizations locked us in to an old version of Joomla that couldn't grow or change as we needed it to. 

Between 2012 and the beginning of 2013, Jared and I decided that we were running out of options as far as how we upgrade all the interrelated pieces of JessicaSprague.com (the forums, the gallery, the class content, the shop, the backend structure) without everything tumbling down like a house of cards. We hired two separate developers, who then disappeared on us. I felt trapped. And I must say that being trapped is a feeling that is extraordinarily unpleasant for me. Paralyzing. Visceral. 

The one thing I'd been trying to avoid was shutting the site down completely to remake it. What will happen if I do? I'll lose all this time and work and everyone will disappear. All the fear. All the uncertainty. Feeling trapped without any good options. 

In the spring of 2013, I started to get sick. Exhausted. Sad. In pain. Several months and doctors and tests later, and a diagnosis of lupus left me stunned and honestly without options for the site, because I had to focus on myself.

I do think, though, that this was a huge blessing in disguise. That trapped feeling? Well, I must say that it goes away when you're tossed off a cliff. Trapped no longer! And fear and uncertainty are still there, but mostly it's about: 

  • Where will I land?
  • What will I do now?
  • If I am not this, then what am I?
  • If I don't have this, what do I have at all?

Fast-forward through 2014. I know I did. Sold a cabin. Sold a house. Bought another house. Moved. And still those questions remained.

In some ways it was nice not HAVING to be teaching a class all the time. But I missed it - Missed it like a limb. Mostly I missed the sense of purpose, the feeling that I was helping improve lives. Missed geeking out every day. Missed connecting with women all over the world, and sharing lives and stories and joy and tears and life and all. After all, many of my best friends live thousands of miles away, and I've only met them a few times in real life. But I wanted to come back on terms I could really accept. Terms I could choose and control. No more self-sacrifice. 

In December (so about 6 months ago), by total chance, I found Fedora, the company I'm working with now, who hosts online schools. Hosts! Online schools! I had learned the price of owning my own server and being responsible for its care and upgrade and maintenance. Had I ever. (See above, chapters 2011 through 2013). So when I began to take a tour of Fedora, and saw all the things I'd gain, how easy it was to create courses, with no backend building or maintenance - that I could get back to doing what I love, I admit that I sat and cried. Now, that's no surprise, right? I cry kind of a lot. But I cried with a heart full of gratitude and hope, and in February began to plan JessicaSprague.com 2.0.

February 2015

...A lot of work...

June 2015

So, my friend. Why the backstory? First of all, I want to make sure I write it down so I don't forget what a complete and utter miracle it is that I find myself where I am right now. That I owe my Heavenly Father ten lifetimes of thanks for listening to my prayers and seeing my tears and loving me enough to let me fall completely apart. And then loving me enough to show me the way we could put me back together. It is by grace we are saved, after all we can do.

Secondly, I have a feeling that you might have faced some fear and uncertainty and thrown-off-of-cliff feelings at some point, and maybe something I have to say here might help. You are always you, regardless of what title or label you give. You are your thoughts and ideas and the goodness you put into the world. You are infinitely precious and valuable, and unique in all the universe. You were created with a purpose (whether you see it now or not), and your only job is to keep on. Your only job is to keep on. Tend your garden. Watch your flock. Stand your post. Keep the faith.

Thirdly, I want to - I guess - officially announce that I'm back. I feel SO GOOD right now. So much less pain. So much less sadness. So much hope. So how's that for an announcement? We're live! Come visit JessicaSprague.com 2.0. I'll meet you there. 

What To Do With the Time that is Given Us

Hey there! Happy 2015! I am feeling so much more settled, so much healthier and less exhausted and more balanced than I have in a long time. I'm coming back to myself without any preconceived notion or label of what that "self" is, and I am excited to explore the possibilities open to us - you and me - as we head in to 2015. I hope you are ready for some of the big plans I've got in store. There's a bunch of new things, as well as some things that will come back with some twists. I can't wait to show you!

But first, some backstory. As most of you know, 2014 was somewhat of a silent year for me here on my blog and online in general. I took some unexpected last-minute time off. You already know about a lot of what happened in late 2013 and through 2014. I decided in February of last year, after seven straight years of teaching, to finally obey what the universe had been telling me for some time: Something had to change.

The growth and maintenance of JessicaSprague.com had reached levels that I knew I wouldn't be able to sustain much longer, and it felt like I was always working. Always on to the next thing. And this rush and haste it is especially ironic considering that my entire goal is to help YOU learn the skills that help you slow down and appreciate the small things in your life, and record them. Something had to change.

The ultimate 'shove off the cliff' came in fall of 2013, when I was diagnosed with Lupus. I knew my life would be changing, and it was that extra encouragement from the universe that yes, indeed, something had to change

The resulting sickness and exhaustion led us to careful consideration, and Jared and I decided that I would step back from teaching for awhile - something that for various reasons I had really hesitated to do. And that decision triggered a whole bunch of others. 

We'd been going back and forth on one big decision for some time: to sell our cabin after 5 years of enjoying the heck out of it. To consolidate our homes into one home - a new one that better suited the needs of our changing family. Selling the cabin was quick and easy. Selling the house? Nope. Finding a new house? Getting financing, packing up, figuring out random stuff again like what school, what church congregation, where the grocery store is, all that stuff happened in the fall of this year. 

Coupled with all of this - through this entire year, is something I am sure every person has experienced at some point: this crisis of identity - of having to really examine what I was made of, what I had to offer back to the world, even what I WAS now, that designing and teaching online classes wasn't the main focus of my life. What am I, if I am not this? 

I don't know that I've fully answered that question. What I DO know, is that I was able to participate fully this past year in some really critical changes for my family. I cooked dinner (every now and then, let's be honest: this will never be me), spent time at the park. My children saw my face as we played and worked together. We visited family in the west for 2 1/2 weeks, and the dust began to settle from my "old" life into what I hope will be a better and more balanced one.

I don't feel like I have any more answers, really, than I ever did. But I've become more ok with the absence of answers than I ever have.

Sweet friend, I have no lion's heart. This much I know from the testing of it over the past few years. This road I'm on gets long and my knees get weak, and my hands hang down, and I despair of ever getting it right. Of ever doing or being as much as I ought to. And I know (looking at you through the monitor there, yes you), that you've been right there at some point. 

All any of us have is what we've been given, what we've managed to make of it, and whatever time is left to us in our own personal race. Not until our stores of energy run out, but with patience. Patience knowing that there's more to come - both joy and sorrow, and we can meet it as we've always done, and - little by little - overcome. There's more to do before the race is done.

Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings said: 

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

I have a quote I've put on the back of my cell phone, to remind myself: 

It's from Hebrews 12:1.

I know some of you are hesitant now, communication became hard for me, and the classes stopped pouring in. But I can promise you with my new mindset, soul, and this amazing support team behind me, 2015 will be a new and improved year, with more fun, more classes, and some surprises that you'll never be able to guess! 

I'm glad to be back in the game, and hope you'll enjoy this new journey through scrapbooking, digital design and more! Thank you all so much for being so patient with me and being part of the finest group of people I have ever known. Scrapbookers and memory keepers are the rarest of people, and it's an honor to be among you. 

xo

-J

All is well.

Thank you, so much for your amazing comments and emails and love. I have been moved to tears by your support, not only of me, but of the people in your life (maybe you?) in whom you might recognize some of what I said. I hope with all my heart that something might have resonated - that something might have provided help or hope or comfort.

As I've been re-reading, I realized that I needed a follow up to my last post. I need you to know about the success. And perhaps the darkness I explained and the urgency I expressed overshadowed what really matters:

It absolutely does get better. So much better.

It gets so much better that when you get back up to the ridge and the sunlight comes it is indescribable. The shock of the difference between the depths of the valley and the joyful journey with my little caravan on the ridge is so overwhelming that even I can't find the words to describe it, but just have to lift my face to Heaven and feel the bright sun and let the tears of gratitude fall. These are the reasons I'm on my knees at night, not in agony, but in gratitude to the God who gave me life, and challenges - and yep - even allows me to experience darkness. But also, because of it, the brightness of hope. 

It is no small miracle that I've arrived on earth when there are so many resources that make "normal life" (picture air quotes there, because come on, right?) possible. I knew I was going through the motions in my life when I began the search several years ago, for what it would take to truly feel better in a long-term way. If not to fix, then at least to patch the holes I felt. I was asked what percentage I thought I was "running" at - essentially how close to my real capacity for happiness | stability | potential | energy. Was it 60%? Let's start this med. 75%? What if we tweak this dosage? 80% now? And approaching that target has been my goal ever since. For me it's a more tangible way of identifying what I feel in relationship to my own potential.

I feel really good. Hopeful. And with that hope comes my desire to share the hope. 

The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi talks about the brightness of hope as he urges us to follow the path forged by Jesus the savior of the world: 

 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. 2 Nephi 31:20

Today, right now, and for weeks and months honestly, I'm on the ridge, learning how to stay here as often as I can, learning how to tell when my feet start to slip. I love my life and I count my blessings and snuggle my family and I'm grateful. So grateful for the absolute miracle it is that I've arrived on earth in a time where there is SO MUCH hope for feeling better.

Living a gorgeous and colorful life in spite of depression is possible. 90%, 100% is right there, possible. It's so much more than damage-control or one more night without the agony.

It's rising up to the ridge where you should be, and to greeting the sunlight.

He's Just the Han to Your Luke.

In which we discover that we have somewhat clashing definitions of a particular word:

Wingman.

Transient

Scene: At lunch today. Jared and I, and some Bojangle's fried chicken. 

Let's listen in, shall we? 

Jared:  You know that guy - that whatever - friend, dude who I play Eve Online with? What should I call him, anyway?

Me: Oh, the one I tease you that he's your Internet Boyfriend?

Jared: <grimaces> Yes. And you've already made it weird. So thanks.

Me: Oh it's been weird before I showed up. But you two are so cute together, and you DO spend a lot of time flying internet ships around.

Jared: Ah! Stop! He's just my - I know! I'll call him my wingman.

Me: <stop with food halfway to mouth, eyebrows reaching hairline> Your... what? What are you doing in those spaceships anyway? Scoping out the ladies? You need help from your wingman?

Jared: <utterly confused>: What? Ladies? No! He's just my wingman, you know. The man who flies at my wing. My wing.man. What do you mean scoping out the ladies?

Me: <incredulous> So, you've never heard of an actual wingman before? Like the one you'd go into a bar with and he helps you meet ladies? He introduces you, maybe chats up her friend, throws around compliments, gets the girl to notice you? You bring along a wingman to be a buffer, give you courage, that kind of thing. 

Jared: <thoughtful> Oh wow. I thought a wingman was an actual man, who flew at your wing

Me: Oh, so he's like the Han Solo to your Luke Skywalker.

Jared: Yep. Remember when they blew up the DeathStar? Luke was in an x-wing and Han was in the Millennium Falcon. 

Wingman.

Long Time No See. You've Been Having Fun?

Well! That was an interesting two+ month break, right? Lots has happened, man. Let's see... 

  • I opened the digital shop at SnapClickSupply.com, which is the new home for digital goods from my partner designers, and provides an awesome shopping experience. Seriously. Go get ya some.
  • I've started writing again. I'll share a poem in a bit if you promise not to laugh ok? Promise and pinkie swear. Sharing that stuff is hard for me. Which is weird because I've spent pretty much the past 10 years photographing and sharing all my deets, but the super-secret words I pen in the dark of night? Feels a little naked, you know? Like, if you came and looked in my closet or my dresser drawers (please, for the love, dont!), I would feel about the same way.
  • I'm also writing a book. There, I said it out loud, so now it's real, right? I'm at about 43,517 words (but who is counting?), and I'm using Scrivener on my Mac, which is pretty much the best writing software I've ever used ever, and not just because it's the only one. Seriously. More on that as progress continues. :)
  • I'm in the process of redesigning JessicaSprague.com - I've got a lot of projects going on (i.e. SnapClickSupply, StoriesinHand, Etsy) and I'm excited to have one place to access them all from - plus the classes and our awesome community which will stay put!
  • Oh, and we've been cleaning and prepping like crazy
  • Because we're selling our house. It goes on the market next week. Eek! (Main reason: We need one more bedroom. Right now when we have visitors they either have to stay in a hotel (my parents) or they have to sleep on our couch (Jared's mom - who refuses to take our bed despite years of us begging), and we are SO.VERY.DONE with that action. 
  • So now we are also house hunting. Beady eyes on Zillow.com and the really cool Zillow iPad app. :)
  • I also was invited to be part of the Google Glass explorer beta, which means I have been rocking a Google Glass for a couple of months, but hadn't ordered the new prescription frames, (I'll give you three guesses which frames out of the 4 that I picked ;) and I received them today! YAY! I'll be having the prescription filled this week or next I think, and I'm really excited! The Glass itself is so cool, but as a glasses-wearing girl, I've had to put contacts in whenever I want to use it.
  • And that's right, I really can take a picture by winking my eye. Yes I can. And now I can die happy, for all my fondest wishes have really come true. 
  • And in all that time, I have only purchased one! new pair of shoes. And also a dress to match the new shoes, because that's the order any outfit goes together. 
So Grateful.

In the past month or so since I posted this post I have received an outpouring of love and support that I could not have imagined - little chance things coming in my way like pennies from heaven, or like rain in a desert. Thank you

Twice blessed is help unlooked for.
- Eomer, The Lord of the Rings

I have received cards in the mail, emails and texts and loving arms around me as I've struggled the past few months (and admittedly, still struggle). Each one is a thread of friendship and solidarity that I've so needed, but didn't think could - what - deserve?  

I asked for God's help, and He sent me you. Asked Him for help in the long road that seems this year to be so much darker than it has before, and I find hands extended and feet ready to walk the path with me. I can't ever be grateful enough for that. 

When Joseph Smith was in prison in Liberty, Missouri (certainly far less comfortable quarters than my sunny second-floor home office where I'm writing this), he wrote a call-and-answer style prayer which I find so moving. He begins by asking, "O God, where art thou, and where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?" 

And this in reply, from the mouth of God to his faithful prophet, and from there to me: 

My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.
Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.
-Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-9

Last week we held our annual meet-up, lovingly dubbed "Spraguefest" in Atlanta. We've been meeting together every year since 2007 - sometimes only 15 people, sometimes 100. We've met in good times and bad, in Chicago and Utah and Las Vegas and Minnesota and Georgia. I have no doubt we'll keep meeting every year until forever, because it is good for our souls. I know it is good for mine.  

Last week these friends (some of whom have been to every Spraguefest since the beginning) hailed me again with warm hearts and friendly hands, and over the past month hands and hearts have been extended in ways I never looked for. 

Of course, I am still kind of a mess. The process is both physical and mental - and sometimes the pain no one can see is worse. Sometimes I begin to lose hope that I'll ever get "fighting fit" again. But even small victories are victories still, I need to remember that.

And I will admit to ugly-crying through this sermon from Jeffrey R. Holland, which was delivered during the LDS General Conference the first week in October, but which I didn't see until our hotel room in Atlanta (sorry, team!) If you have ever dealt with, or love someone with a mental or emotional illness - or an illness that has mental or emotional components, grab some tissues and watch this, ok? 

And here is a great quote from that same sermon:

Transient

There's a lot I still don't know about what's next (and I will admit to not being very comfortable with a ton of uncertainty. An outline! A sketch! A drawing on a napkin! Anything!). But even without a map - or perhaps more accurately because I am without a map, I am so much more grateful for your kindness and love. Thank you.

-JS

Living in a Sacred Space.

Twelve years ago, a very good friend of mine was killed in the Pentagon on 9-11-01. He was from my little hometown of Sugar City, Idaho ("Where Nothing Ever Happens, Including Bad Things!"), and along with everyone I know, my world changed forever. It made the possibility of actually dying at the hands of terrorists real, and it haunts me still, I guess.  Haunts me even more since Sandy Hook.

Rowen (age 9) came home from school today and told Elliott (who has been home sick since Thursday) that they had a "Lockdown Drill". She was telling him mostly because he missed it, and for a kid, a drill is kind of an adventure, right? 

I was mostly just taken aback - I said, "So this is a drill for ... ?" And she said, "So if a bad person comes to the school to hurt or kill the kids, we know how to do a Lockdown." 

Oh.

I told them that when I was in elementary school (I am only 38, and I cringe every time I say things like "back in MY day..." because only OLD PEOPLE say that), we didn't have lockdown drills. It certainly never crossed my 8-or-9-year-old mind that someone would come to my school and start shooting people. Killing kids. 

But this is Post-9-11. Post-Columbine. Post-Aurora. Post-Sandy-Hook. We have Lockdown Drills and teach our little ones words like terrorism and suicide bomber. Everything has changed. All the nightmares are possible, and all the grownups who love and care for children feel it like pain.

Around each of my children - and the whole world they inhabit - is the beautiful bright dome of Childhood. That's the world of coloring and swinging and learning and songs, and so, so much laughter . It's a sacred place, and so I feel incredibly blessed to live - most of the time - inside that dome, too. My entire life is better and more beautiful and funnier, and viewed from much closer-up because of these two small people in my care.

But their dome is a fragile one, and it's part of my job as Mama to keep it in place for as long as I can, to keep them safe and carefree and joyful, to keep our life a place of magic and caterpillars and bubble-blowing and refuge. It's the only way the world stands a chance, after all. Those sacred spheres inhabited by children. 

My small ones have only ever known their bright world full of possibility and potential and laughter. They don't see that - like never before - its edges are tinged with the bruise-black clouds of a world gone to nightmare. 

I found myself standing there in the kitchen, dazed, listening to my sweet small girl tell us what happens in a Lockdown Drill in case someone comes to their school to kill them, and wondered how the hell I manage to put them on the bus every morning. How we even manage to step out the door.

But I'm pulled out of my reverie when she finishes her tale, and without missing a beat, turns and asks if we can make popcorn and juice and have a porch picnic.

YES.

We can.

And just like that, I enter the sacred space of Childhood again. Most days I don't even notice the privilege it is to live here, because as every Mama knows, no pain or fear or sacrifice would ever be too great to shelter and shield small ones - to let them go on in their bright fearless world just a little longer. Today I noticed. And I'm grateful for that. 

Dear Lord, let me live here as both inhabitant and protector for as long as I can, ok? It's the best and brightest place next to Heaven that I can imagine.