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MADE LATELY.

R.I.P Maya Angelou

I was sitting here at Panera this morning (escaping my house and my broken a/c which they swear they have ordered parts for and I am praying sweet mercy please every moment that this ends really soon), when I opened my browser and read the news that Maya Angelou has passed away. She was one of those people who needs a whole paragraph just to describe "what" she was. A pure example of the power that one single individual can have, no matter her race or gender or where she was born. She rose, and rose, and rose again, and left us with her legacy and especially with her wisdom.

A few months ago, I created a poster for Wisdom Wednesday with some words of hers:

And I'm currently writing a project that features a poem of hers: 

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don't believe I'm wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can't use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They've got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I'll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
'Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

She was a civil rights activist, and a director, and a dancer. And she wrote words oh so beautiful. And she was right. Nobody can make it out here in life in the universe alone. Rest in peace, Dr. Angelou. You've earned it.

-JS

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. 


Where Have All the Scrappers Gone? Part 3

NOTE: This is part of a blog series exploring the past, present and future of memory keeping from the perspective of my ten-year involvement. You can read part 1 starting here

When we last saw our heroes... 

  • We were living in Minnesota
  • Rowen was just over a year old
  • Elliott was due in early summer
  • I had quit my job in a cube to become a full-time mama

By the middle of 2005 I had started to dabble in digital scrapbooking. To be honest, I resisted at first, since I spent so much time at work in Photoshop and Illustrator and I dearly loved the feel of putting glue to paper and the "engineering" aspect of piecing together a layout from various printed parts. And of course, the Bazzill textured cardstock. Noms.

But I was invited to be part of a digital creative team and began collecting digital supplies as well as paper ones. And we ALL know what a slippery slope a new source of supplies is. I was doomed. But I still created almost all of my pages in "hybrid" - designing the layout, editing the photos, and printing out bits and pieces using the computer, and only gluing together at the end.

Elliott was born in June of 2005, and suddenly I had yet another seemingly endless resource for photos and stories to tell (and he couldn't run from me like Rowen could!). And again as I made the transition from the mama of one kid (16 months old) to the mama of two kids, scrapbooking was therapy in the evenings. I could sit back and look at my photos and remember the moments without the accompanying distractions of 'real life' - this is the part that I really began to appreciate. The chance to savor as well as save.

I decided at that point to enter two scrapbooking contests:

  • The Memory Makers Masters contest, which was essentially the Memory Makers magazine's Creative Team. We'd have monthly assignments and our own idea book. 
  • The Creating Keepsakes Hall of Fame, which was more of a traditional competition, with the winners being selected and featured in an article, and then asked to do a project or two through the next year.

I decided for the Creating Keepsakes contest to do half of my ten-page entry as digital pages, and half as paper. I figured that entering a combination of page types would help my chances. Apparently, it did.

This page is my first "official" digital layout, and one of the pages I submitted to Creating Keepsakes for the 2006 contest:

You Are the Mark. June 2005

The text reads:

I have never felt more surely than now my purpose and place in the world. Each of us arrives here with the opportunity to shape ourselves, to grow and learn, to overcome opposition, and hopefully to leave some evidence of a well-lived life. I once thought my contribution to the world - my mark - would be within the walls of a cubicle or a corner office. But I know now that you, my sweet son, you are my gift of purpose and place. You are my corner office. You are the mark I will make on the world.  -JS

I do think one of the attractions to scrapbooking in general was the opportunity to combine several things I really loved and was pretty good at: writing, photography, design, Photoshop, collecting cute supplies and cardstock (ahem). It fused these diverse abilities into one craft centered on storytelling, but not only storytelling - telling and remembering and savoring and recording my own stories. Mine. Saying by these actions and this time spent that these things - my life and what I think and do and feel - matter, because they do. And they do for all of us who spend our time in this way.

As the end of 2005 approached, I began to learn for myself that this level of focus on detail and simple beauty and celebration and personal storytelling changes us as people. It changes the filters through which we see the world and makes happier, more grateful, more humble. We are more sure and alive and present in our everyday moments, for we are not just inhabiting these day-to-day things but savoring the moments now, and capturing the memories for later. 

I stumbled on a quote by the memoirist Anais Nin, who was talking about herself as a writer of personal stories:

We write to taste life twice. Once in the moment and once in retrospection. 

I've never read a better description of what personal storytelling and memory keeping and scrapbooking really is. The chance to taste life again as we relive it creating our projects with heart and mind and hands. Awesome.

I won both the Memory Makers Masters contest and the Creating Keepsakes Hall of Fame contest for 2006, and that pretty much sealed it for me: I was in this in a big way. Heart and soul.

It would be several more months before I would begin to catch the vision that part of my role in this industry would include actually teaching these concepts to others, but I was getting there. Getting to my place.

-JS

Where Have All the Scrappers Gone? Part 2

This post is a continuation from Part 1 of Where Have All the Scrappers Gone? I have decided to do an in-depth exploration of scrapbooking from the perspective of my ten-year involvement. :)

During the fall of 2004 I started looking at scrapbooking magazines, in my typical response to anything I want to learn more about in-depth: go to the bookstore. I found PaperKutz, Scrapbook Trends, Scrapbooks Etc., Memory Makers, and Creating Keepsakes. Remember those? Remember walking in to your Michael's or Jo-Anne's or the bookstore or your local scrapbook store and finding not one but SEVERAL scrapbooking magazines for sale? 

Transient
Transient
Transient
Transient

The year 2004 ended as we found out we were expecting Elliott the next summer, and I met my first scrapbook friend from 2 peas in real life: Michele Skinner. We would go on to add to our group, including Susan Weinroth and Nisa Fiin. (who I met at my first scrapbooking road trip to the 2 Peas crop in Wisconsin - I thought she was absolutely crazy - she is - and I knew we'd be friends for a long time). I also got to meet my first scrapbooking girl-crush, Ali Edwards. (ahem: it's 10 years later and she is still my scrapbooking girl-crush)

From then on, the Twin Cities girls got together pretty much once a month at different stores to work on projects and chat. I started to discover that scrapbooking is as much a lifestyle, a way of looking at the world, an outlet and a conduit for creativity, and a way to connect with other women as much as it is - or maybe more than it is, about recording memories. And let's be honest: it's also about collecting the grownup-girl school supplies of cuteness. ;) I started learning how naturally scrapbookers became friends, and within those first few months I knew I'd started to make friends (online and in person) that I would have for life. 

Every night after work Jared and I would sit in the office after Rowen was asleep, and I'd work on scrapbook projects and he'd play computer games. I remember telling him over and over again, "There's something in this for me." I didn't know yet what it was, but I could feel the ground under me shifting, even then. I also found Cathy Zielske's book called Clean & Simple Scrapbooking, and read it over and over - I still have my original copy of it, spine broken and pages warped from taking it into the tub to read while I soaked. (Ahem: Cathy Zielske is also one of my scrapbooking girl-crushes) That book, and Cathy's unabashed mixture of gorgeous design with an obvious love of paper really helped define my style.

As I perused the magazines each month (I subscribed to Memory Makers and Creating Keepsakes), I started to wonder where they got their pages from. I discovered the submission instructions and also "The Pub" at twopeasinabucket, which was a message board for those who were interested in submitting projects for publication. I began sending a few pages in response to some of the calls for projects from the magazine.

I received my first email back from Jana Lillie at Creating Keepsakes for August 2005 issue, and I was stunned. And elated. I jumped around and did laps around my office singing the Rocky theme for like, 3 days. And I packed my layout carefully and sent it off to Utah.

My first published layout. Creating Keepsakes, August 2005

In the spring of 2005 I quit my job as a user interface designer for a software company in St. Paul. I wanted to stay home with the kids after Elliott was born anyway, and I had been put on "low activity rest" until he was born because of heart problems I'd developed being pregnant. 

Of course the "low activity" was spending lots and lots of time making pages - I feel like this was the beginning of really developing a style, starting to learn about design. It became pretty much the replacement for my old job, in some ways. And always, therapy. Through my photos and the sifting through memory that I was doing, I began to see the beauty in my life. Began to really throw myself into this craft heart and soul, and relished possibilities I couldn't imagine at the time. The next year would change everything. 

Part 3 coming soon! 

Where Have All the Scrappers Gone? Part 1

NOTE: This year is my 10th "Scrap-a-versary", and I have decided to create a multi-part series on how scrapbooking has evolved, and what I see as my place in it over the years. I hope the backstory provides some insight, and that we can have a discussion about where scrapbooking was, what it's like today, and what the future might be for memory keeping in general. Here we go!

Beginnings

I remember the first day I discovered scrapbooking. I had heard about it, of course - my mother-in-law gave me a subscription to Paper Crafts magazine because I was a card maker, and I really liked stamping. 

As I looked over my Paper Crafts issues, I noticed that many of the fonts were credited to Two Peas in a Bucket. Weird! So of course I had to go check that out. That was 2003. I noticed while I was there how HUGE the scrapbooking side of the site was - tons of product and tons of galleries and message boards. I bought fonts and ignored the rest. Heh. Little did I know.

In February of 2004, my little daughter was born almost 6 weeks early. I've mentioned a bit about that struggle in this post. I was, frankly, traumatized. Everything was new, I was lonely, and I had some pretty desperate post-partum depression. I shouted. I ran away a couple of times. Drove around for half an hour and came home with tail between legs. 

One of the things that I started doing that helped was taking photos of her. For the first time, really EVER, I had something to photograph, and so the pictures began to accumulate on my computer. 

She was about 5 months old when I decided that I really needed somewhere to put all these photos. A photo album, right?

So one Saturday I drove over to the Archiver's in Apple Valley Minnesota, less than a mile from my house. I knew they sold photo albums - so I went in for a photo album. Heh. Man, was I about to get my eyes opened!

 

Archiver's. Apple Valley, MN

Archiver's. Apple Valley, MN

The Mothership

This whole backstory, I hope, will help to illustrate what happened when I walked in the door. I was flooded by color and light and cute things and cardstock and patterned paper, and I do think angels sang. I would swear it. The Mothership had called me home.

I left Archiver's that day a different person. Preparation had met need, and my dormant creativity met my desire to capture the memories I had recorded of my daughter. I wouldn't realize until later just HOW different I would be. In fact, almost everything about my life - certainly my creative and working life, and my relationship to my family and my life in general would change forever. In a very real sense, I was rescued by scrapbooking. I will always have a special place in my heart for Archiver's because of that. 

Since I had an account at TwoPeasinaBucket.com already, I started looking through the galleries at the scrapbook pages there. And I began collecting supplies.

My first pages? Oh yeah. I've never shared them publicly. In a way, I like looking back at these pages as I made my first foray into a new craft. A new way of looking at my life, too. 

My very first scrapbook page. My very first time really trying to process my story, to come to terms, and even to celebrate the experience. Summer 2004.

Here's page two. The poem is one I read first in college, and I knew then that I wanted to tell this poem to my daughter one day, if I ever had one. 

Born Yesterday

by Phillip Larkin

Tightly-folded bud,
I have wished you something
None of the others would:
Not the usual stuff
About being beautiful,
Or running off a spring
Of innocence and love -
They will all wish you that,
And should it prove possible,
Well, you're a lucky girl.

But if it shouldn't, then
May you be ordinary;
Have, like other women,
An average of talents:
Not ugly, not good-looking,
Nothing uncustomary
To pull you off your balance,
That, unworkable itself,
Stops all the rest from working.
In fact, may you be dull -
If that is what a skilled,
Vigilant, flexible,
Unemphasised, enthralled
Catching of happiness is called.

As the year of 2004 progressed, more pages came. More memories were savored and saved, and I was sucked deeper and deeper in to this craft. 

I fell in love with Bazzill cardstock, (in fact, I still have quite a handsome collection of it), and started getting to know names, like Rhonna Farrer, KI Memories, Chatterbox, Autumn Leaves. And it never really became about "getting it done" as much as it was about the absolutely theraputic process of putting glue to paper. The hobby (ahem: obsession) had begun. Heaven help my husband. He had no idea what was coming. ;)

Part 2 is here!

Happy New (February) Year!

Happy New Year!

That's what I meant to write one month and six days ago, and somehow January disappeared. So the fact that I didn't even START my New Year's Resolution (this one, and a couple of others) doesn't really mean I broke them, right? Just - delayed for a month. :)

What I do know, is that I'm really glad that 2013 is over. Whew. I know that December 31 and January 1 are just days, and not really that different from one another, but a new year feels like a new opportunity. Maybe to start something we've intended to do, or to get better at something, or to shed the scales of routine and drudge and try to see the world with new eyes again. To learn how to be patient with the process. To get back to joy. 

I got a new case for my iPhone from Uncommon for the new year, and after thinking long and hard I decided to put a Bible verse from Hebrews 12:1 that has felt really apt the past few months. Here's how it turned out: 

IMG_0523.jpg

(I will say that the difficulty of taking a quick picture of my iPhone without the actual phone took a couple of minutes of figuring out. ;)

Do you have a quote or a verse on your phone case or something else you carry everywhere? 

The Business of Being in Business

 First I must share a quote:

“Everybody go back to work…Because this is a business, and we’re in the business of being in business and we’re doing business and nobody’s business…Do it!  Business.  Good!  I want business done…Just the way it should be!”

- Monty Brewster  |  Brewster’s Millions (1985)

Pretty much sums up the last oh, 3 months of my working life? Things are a lot different with me since finding out about lupus. Some of it has just been acceptance. Learning to run with patience. Learning that there are good days and bad days, good hours and bad hours. There wasn't much equilibrium in my life before, what with the working and traveling and teaching and mama-ing and wife-ing and whatnot, and there certainly isn't any more now, but somehow the past few months have felt like permission. Yes. It's ok. Sleep. Feel better. Let it go.

I taught a digital organization class in January, which will be going up for sale as a self-paced class soon. There are other classes in the works. Photoshop isn't going away, memory-keeping isn't, and I'm not. I'll have more to say about this a bit later, though. It IS a slowing down process, for now. Not 9 new classes, like I did last year - but maybe 5 or 6? 

I've been reading a lot of books, designing some new stuff, and taking naps And it feels really good. Especially the naps. ;)

The Business of (Being Afraid to Share My) Writing

I've also been writing. A lot. Trying to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard every day. And I'm finding something interesting there - I have discovered that my writing is one of the very few parts of myself that I'm really shy about sharing. Weird, right? I mean I share my scrapbook pages without batting an eye. I've told personal stories in dozens or hundreds of classes, given talks and speeches since high school. I've blogged for almost 8 years. But my own stuff - the writing like poems and stories? Terrifying

I've been writing (a writer? one who writes?) since I can remember. It's part of the reason I decided to take English as my undergraduate major. I love words.  I love reading them both out loud and silently, savoring the best of them with closed eyes. I'm moved by them, and when they are put together well, they resonate in my soul like nothing else does.

I remember the first time words made me cry. I was sitting on the floor in 2nd grade, surrounded by my classmates, learning the words to the song Puff the Magic Dragon from a flipchart (I assume we were planning to sing it at some point, but I can't remember). We came to the third verse:

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys 
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys. 
One grey night it happened, Jackie paper came no more 
And puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar. 

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain, 
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane. 
Without his life-long friend, puff could not be brave, 
So puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.

All I remember is that this part was so - hard to bear - that I could only cry. Tears ran down my face, in grief at these two friends parting forever. I couldn't believe we were learning a song that was so tragically sad, and that I seemed to be the only person who saw that. I know for a fact I was the only 8 year old in the room who was sobbing her face off. Even now that last refrain makes my heart constrict and my throat close. 

This certainly wasn't the last time - everything from Gone With the Wind (high school) to scripture (also high school), to Annie Dillard's The Writing Life (about 5 years ago or so), to The Lord of The Rings (I cried unashamedly through almost the entire Return of the King - all four times I've read it) to Harry Potter (Snape in Book 7! *sob*) to the third book in the Infernal Devices series (maybe a month ago?), words of poetry and prose, song and scripture and "high art" and "low art" has had me crying my whole life, it seems. Tears of resonance, of recognition, of grief or longing, of humility in the face of great deeds or great sacrifice. 

What I do know, is that there are words inside me. Maybe that's part of the resonance. Sometimes I'll read something or think something, and I must respond to by writing. With this year's new adventure I'm trying to make the writing part happen that more often than those occasions when I can't NOT write or I'll explode. 

So I've been writing. But the fear hasn't gone. 

We shall see. 

As for the rest, Rowen celebrated her 10th birthday on Tuesday. Jared left this morning to attend the Tucson Gem and Mineral show. I bought new shoes (although really, is this much of a surprise?), Elliott got FOUR new Lego sets over this past couple of weeks and has put them all together. 

So, friend, Happy New Year. Let us run with patience.

xo,

-JS

Top Digital Kits of 2013: Collections

What I really can't believe is that 2013 ends tomorrow. WOW. So I'd like to take a few posts to round up some of my favorite items released by the JessicaSprague.com designers in 2013. Remember that they're only on sale through December 31, so be sure to go grab the ones that catch your eye like they caught mine!

Top 10 Large Collections of 2013

With 15+ papers and dozens or even hundreds of elements, these large collections serve up plenty of coordinated goodness at a great price - these are some of my absolute faves from this year. 

Carina Gardner - Garden Rose

With lush green and several shades of pink, Garden Rose is a gorgeous kit you'll turn to again and again. 

Fancy Pants Designs - The Good Life

I adore this kit for its base of navy blue and red, with pops of bright yellow and minty green that cross styles and genders for a perfect album or project! With 24 papers and 174 embellishments, you will absolutely love all you can make with this collection.

BasicGrey: What's Up

This gorgeous kit contains 24 papers. 175 elements. And prompts several swoons and drools on my keyboard. These colors are bright and fun, but with BG's usual sophistication and attention to detail. Check out more detailed images, and then grab the full collection here.

What's Up collection from BasicGrey.

What's Up collection from BasicGrey.

Glitz Design: Uncharted Waters

One of my all-time favorite kits. With 24 papers and 118 elements, the colors in this collection combine great neutrals of black, cream, and kraft with bold pops of color - slightly beachy in theme, but with plenty of all-around awesome design.

Uncharted Waters collection by Glitz Design

Uncharted Waters collection by Glitz Design

Echo Park: Reflections

This vintage-style collection has darker shades of yellow, blue, and rust, and lots of embellishments for every kind of project. I especially like that many of the papers and elements can be used for more masculine projects and gifts. 26 papers and 111 elements.

Reflections collection from Echo Park

Reflections collection from Echo Park

Echo Park: Beautiful Life

Sweet and light-hearted, this collection contains gorgeous banners, great alphabets and 22 beautiful papers for everything from spring and summer projects, to garden parties, to cards for all the ladies in your life, no matter what age.

Dani Mogstad: Girl Crazy

This kit is a bright and happy explosion of color and fun! Plenty of embellishments that speak of childhood play, with papers that can be used for any bright and energetic project. You'll love this one!

Girl Crazy by Dani Mogstad

Girl Crazy by Dani Mogstad

Lori Whitlock: Office Oriented

If I were stranded on a desert island, I would take a bottle of water and Lori's Office Oriented collection. I've used pieces of this anything-but-basic collection in dozens of projects since its release. 32 papers and more than 50 elements.

Office Oriented collection by Lori Whitlock

Office Oriented collection by Lori Whitlock

Carta Bella: True Friends

This sweet collection features light colors and retro-50s styling for a perfect kit to celebrate friends near and far. Individual elements and papers, of course, can mix in to projects for lots of occasions.

True Friends collection by Carta Bella

True Friends collection by Carta Bella

BasicGrey: Out of Print

When I first saw this collection, I couldn't wait to download and unzip it and dive in! There are more than 200 elements here, and 36 gorgeous, detailed papers that will have you swooning. I've never made a secret of my undying love for BasicGrey, and here's another reason why!

Out of Print collection by BasicGrey

Out of Print collection by BasicGrey