FontSpotting: Passions Conflict by Linotype

I was browsing through the latest catalog from Levenger (who, by the way, make my favorite notebooks, the Circa system), and I spotted Passions Conflict, a great embellished script from Linotype. Hello there, lovely!

From the Levenger Catalog, Holiday 2014

From the Levenger Catalog, Holiday 2014

Levenger, with their array of pens (including fountain pens!) and paper and notebooks for the seriously serious paper aesthete (their words include "super-smooth" "thick and substantial"), it's no surprise that the typography for the catalog needs to be elegant and spot-on. And of course I'm drawn to it like a month to a flame!

The designer used Passions Conflict in combination with a simple all-caps sans-serif for all the titles in the catalog, and in a Christmas/Holiday setting, Passions Conflict feels really high-end - like an invitation to a gorgeously decorated party. 

Here's the sample with all the characters in it:

Passions Conflict by Linotype

Passions Conflict by Linotype

You can purchase Passions Conflict at MyFonts.com. $25.00.

Photoshop Elements vs. Photoshop CC: Which One Is Right For You?

It's getting close to Christmas, and if you're a geeky girl who has been dying to try Photoshop, you might have this on your wish list. I get asked a lot what the differences are between Photoshop Elements (Retail: $99) and the full version of Photoshop, which is now called Photoshop CC (Subscription starts at $9.99/mo).

For me, the answer has been simple: 

I've always thought of Elements as a consumer-level version (basics and quite a lot of advanced functionality) and Photoshop CC as a professional version (deep functionality necessary in a professional environment).

So my recommendation has always been: start with Photoshop Elements, and if you decide a couple years from now that you've outgrown it, spring for the expensive one. 

There's the summary. Now for the backstory?

However, that's not necessarily the case anymore, given the pricing structure Adobe has rolled out within the past year. 

Photoshop Elements: A Nice Car

For Beginners, Hobbyists, and Pro-sumers

I've never made it any big secret that I really like Photoshop Elements. I think Adobe has done a great job of making almost all of the really necessary features available in straightforward way.

There are fewer menus, fewer palettes, more automation for basic functions, less initial setup, and of course, less overwhelm in general because of the cleaner interface. Photoshop Elements is the program I recommend for every beginner, in fact.

Functionality

Elements includes features designed for photographers who use cell phones, mini digital cameras, or even digital SLR cameras. It's also awesome for families, dabblers, bloggers, hobbyists, or pro-sumers in areas like: 

  • photo editing (open, edit, save, close, with some basic automation)
  • photo collage (combine photos into one document, i.e. for printing)
  • digital scrapbooking (install brushes, combine files, and type)
  • poster-making (add vector shapes or layerable graphics)
  • card or invitation making (create new files in just the size you need)
  • digital art or collage (lots of layers, brushwork, shapes, photos, type, etc)

With the exception of my most advanced class, I teach everything in Photoshop Elements as well as the full version of Photoshop, because almost all of what "regular people" want to do with graphics or type or design is available to you.

Think of Photoshop Elements as, say, a Nissan Murano. Any Nissan. Or whatever your favorite car is. A very decent car, even a really nice car. A new one, that smells good. If you're driving to and from work, or taking a road trip with the fam, this is so perfect for you. Just add snacks and drinks and your GPS and go.

Price & Ownership

Photoshop Elements is license-based, so you purchase it once and own forever. The retail cost is roughly $100, but you can usually find deals or coupons that bring it down into the $70-80 range, and if you ever want a new version, you'll have to spring for it. 

Photoshop CC: A Commercial Plane

Great for Serious Hobbyists, Pro-sumers, and Professionals

It goes without saying that anything you can do in Elements, you can do in CC. BUT. When you first install Photoshop CC, you're dropped into a stark, dark grey interface without much warning, and then pretty much expected to do whatever it is you're going to do because the software doesn't care. This is both a huge benefit (if you already know how to do what you're going to do, and you just want the program to get out of the way), or a huge limitation (if you have no idea how to do what you want to do, and you're completely at sea). 

I can't count the number of people who've told me they installed Photoshop, opened it, noodled for 15 minutes, and then closed it and walked away. That's partly because in general, Photoshop CC caters to the professional audience.

The functionality is deep, like so:

  • At least 20 extra functions for the Brush tool (PSE allows install, creation, and stamping)
  • Create vector paths (type on a curve or in a circle, too!) and shapes (PSE allows only opening)
  • Ability to automatically open photos into Camera Raw (PSE allows open, but only one photo at a time)
  • Support for 16-bit photos (PSE is only 8), as well as access to individual color channels
  • More advanced typography, including access to alternates, as well as letter spacing, sub/superscript, and type smoothing
  • Grouping of layers, with filtering and adjustments available on entire groups
  • Record your own actions, (one-key access to a pre-recorded series of steps, such as a filter or a save at a specific size) - (PSE allows only a few actions to even install)
  • Better sharpening through the Smart Sharpen tool
  • Support for fringe stuff like 3D and basic animation (i.e. blinkies and animated .gifs)
  • Automation for things like adding watermarks, batch file sizing, saving, and conversion
  • Ability to completely customize the quick-keys for various functions (i.e. keyboard mapping)
  • Smart Objects - layers that retain their original function (such as vectors), so they can be opened and edited in Illustrator, but can also be filtered and adjusted in Photoshop

And the list kind of keeps going. Remember the car analogy? Using Photoshop CC is like flying a commercial plane. There is the basic "I want to get from here to there" mentality, and the cockpit of a plane roughly resembles the driver's seat of a car. You can turn, and brake and so forth. But wow, the thing gets really complex. But after you figure out what all the dials do, not only can you get where you want to go a lot faster, but you can navigate in 3D space AND say the phrase, "this is your captain speaking".

Awesome. 

Purchasing & (Non-)Ownership

Photoshop CC is now subscription-based, and requires you to sign a year-long contract, connect to the internet at least once a month to stay current, and pay for the program on either a monthly or a yearly basis. Oh, and it starts at $9.99/month. In previous versions, Photoshop was packaged with a license just like Elements, and was priced in the $500-$600 range. So the big pro here is that the entry-level fee is incredibly low, just $10 a month in a package with Lightroom, which is Adobe's professional photo editor.

Summary

Photoshop Elements is still the main contender in the casual, hobbyist, and pro-sumer market.

Pros: Photoshop Elements is a little easier to learn, because of the simpler interface and tools. Plus, you own the software forever. Adobe usually offers upgrade pricing when you're ready to move to the next version. Elements is still an inexpensive option, and includes all the options I teach except for the most advanced (see list above)

Cons: Obviously the big one here is that since Adobe has been releasing a new version of Photoshop Elements for 13 years (that's right, 2014 is lucky 13!), you'll have less than a year before a new version is released. Sometimes the version updates are small. And sometimes they are huge (i.e. Photoshop Elements 11).  

Photoshop CC is hands-down THE industry-standard graphics program. Adobe made it available to a whole bunch more people by creating a pay-as-you-go usage model, kind of like a gym membership.

Pros: The subscription to this awesome beast is so cheap (a plane in every driveway!). Ten bucks a month for the best graphics program in the world. Also, because you're using a subscription, Adobe can roll out updates much faster, AND you're guaranteed to always have the latest version and functionality. Super great, especially if you're someone who depends on the latest features and updates. 

Cons: You pay a monthly price, but you are locked in for an entire year at a time (unused plane sitting in your driveway? Not their problem). If you DO decide not to renew next year, though, you'll still have all your files (.psd format, which of course you can't open if you don't have Photoshop...). Photoshop CC is still really hard to learn - the learning curve is a lot higher because of the massive flexibility and the depth of the features. The subscription also bothers a lot of people: in a year, you'll have paid about the same as you would have to buy Photoshop Elements, but you won't own the software itself.

My Recommendation

If you're a beginner, I still recommend that you get Photoshop Elements. It's a lot simpler to learn, and because of the year-long contract with CC, you'll end up paying the same price anyway. 

Ask your Santa to put it under your digital tree this year, or go get the 30-day free trial of Photoshop Elements. And then register for my beginner level digital scrapbooking class, or photo editing class to get the most out of it. 

If you've already made your decision, did you choose (or will you choose) Photoshop Elements or Photoshop CC? Why?

-J

 

 

When The Sun Shines

My sister recently got a tattoo on her forearm, which I think is pretty neat. It's of her favorite quote, which is from The Lord of The Rings. Obviously I highly approve of pretty much any quote from the LOTR, and she chose an awesome one. It goes thus:

Sam: It's like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?
 
But in the end it's only a passing thing, this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it'll shine out the clearer.
 
Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going because they were holding on to something.
 
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
 
Sam: That there's some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it's worth fighting for."

This conversation from simple and wise Sam Gamgee is so beautiful and full of hope, and so exactly right about the stories that support and define us. I decided to create a poster for her, with this quote set in some of my favorite fonts. 

I'm planning to put this poster up for sale at Etsy. But feel free to Pin or share this web-sized one!

-JS

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.

Through the deep waters.

In memory of Robin Williams, 1951-2014. 

Whose work made me think, and laugh, and try harder, and whose hidden sorrow and untimely death brings me here, in the hope that together we can save a few.

Rest in peace, Lonesome Robin. 

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee. 

-Isaiah 43:2

I don't talk about depression very often around here - or specifically about my depression. I'm actually not that sure why, except that, especially here, I choose to focus on happiness, optimism, my blessings. And laying this stuff out there is hard, I'll be honest.

But man. For the second time in two days Mr. Robin Williams has propelled me to step back out. So I will provide fair warning: heavy stuff ahead.

Yesterday I cried.

I cried for Mr. Robin Williams, along with the world's world's cries of shock and bewilderment and sadness. But I also cried a little harder for him. Because for me, it is terrifyingly easy to imagine the level of pain and loneliness and darkness that surrounds such a decision, such a deliberate act as suicide.

And so here I am talking about it. And please, If this post gets to you somehow, consider it a sign:

Do not end it. 

I was first treated for depression when I was still in high school. So let's say 20 years, give or take. And on and off until about 7 years ago, when I went on (treatment) in a long-term way. Like a for the rest of my life kind of way. I've had a long time to assess the situation, a long time to figure out and accept three things:

  1. Depression is not our fault. Not weakness of will or lack of faith or lack of nutrition or effort. It can be deadly, and should be treated and monitored like any chronic physical illness.
  2. Depression is so, so much more than melancholy, or a passing squall of grief and tears. It can be deadly, and should be treated like any other life-threatening illness. 
  3. Depression is treatable, but it's like walking on sand. It changes states and degrees over months or even days, evading 'cure' and requiring (for many) lifelong treatment and vigilance. 

Depression is Not Your Fault

I've experienced a lot of misunderstanding in the last 20 years of dealing with, suffering through, and accepting the fact that this simply IS a part of my life. And I will say that it takes a really long time to come to the point where you can look yourself in the mirror and say, this is not my fault. This dark and desperate and powerless way I feel, this going-through-the-motions-of-life way I feel isn't because of something done or undone. It is a rock to carry, your rock to carry, and possibly to carry on and on, stumbling til you lay it all down in the end. The hills ain't going away, and the rock gets so, so heavy. Other people have other rocks, and this one is yours. That must be said with acceptance and not with despair, and that's a fine, fine line.

And I will say also, that YEARS of careful self-acceptance can be undone by a single breathtakingly insensitive comment like, "Well, maybe if you could just pray a little more?"

Or, "I'm sure if you just get moving then it isn't so bad? More exercise? Vitamins? Positive thinking?"

And this: "Maybe you're getting TOO MUCH sleep and that's what's wrong?" 

No. That isn't what's wrong. 

That isn't what's wrong. What's wrong is that I need real help and I'm reaching out because I'm hurt, and I'm being insulted in return.

Nothing but the fact that you have depression is ever what is wrong. Put away the lie that you have mental or moral weakness, or that you simply don't have enough willpower or that you were born to be a terrible housekeeper. What's wrong is this outsider perspective that sees depression as something that can be "powered through." That can and should simply be sucked up with gritted teeth. Like walking on a sprained ankle, maybe. Maybe you put a brace on it, walk it off, it'll be fine. 

Major depression is really like diabetes. Your body doesn't make enough of something it needs, or isn't using what it has in a way that works enough. There's no permanent fix. You get really, really sick if you don't treat it, and so you must spend a lifetime handling with great care and constant vigilance. Management, not cure. Support and not scorn.

And I cried for Mr. Robin Williams yesterday because his decision to end his own precious life full of humor and influence highlights a terrible misunderstanding in our society: That untreated or poorly treated depression cannot be as lethal as untreated diabetes. Do not ever doubt that we're talking about something as serious on either hand. No one in their right mind would tell a diabetic to suck it up or power on through, and chronic depression is no different

So if you are privileged to be one of the Trusted Ones that your person reaches out to, (depression is still a pretty embarrassing thing to admit to out loud, and it takes an immense amount of courage for a grown-ass, independent woman to admit to needing help), please, for the sweet love. Put away the thoughts of the ankle brace and focus instead on just listening. And do not walk away until you're sure your person is safe back to the shore.

So Much More than Melancholy

I've been sad a bunch in my life. We all have. Shocked or grieving or hopeless or blindsided or betrayed or wandering through a desert of doubt. Everyone wades through dark water, everyone. And it's the worstFather Lehi says in the Book of Mormon, that our trials on earth teach us the difference between joy and sorrow - that there actually isn't any song of joy to sing at all without its accompanying bag of rocks to carry. That's the way the world and mortal education just works. And we come back out of the deep water and find our way to some joy again, so grateful that we know the difference.

And then there is chronic depression. Major depression. Bipolarity. The long-term stuff that sends your psyche into a tailspin a thousand times worse than any other doubt or dark water, because it seems endless, the rock infinitely heavy.

What It's Like: My Journal

In my personal reflections I like to hand-write a journal, that I don't share with anyone, and wouldn't normally share here. But it seems important to tell what really is in my mind during one of the dark times. Don't ever let anyone tell you that psychic pain is any less exquisitely painful than broken bones or a severed artery. Or that it isn't real because it can't be seen.

This is from October 29 of 2013. It's also very, very tear-stained.

The rock is heavy tonight. It is both infinitely weighted and invisible, so when I look inside all I can see is just flatness. No desire. No love. No hope that doing anything will make it better or make any difference. 
 
Tears - hot shameful tears of self-pity and self-loathing and hopelessness, and - I think - grief - for lost years and all my stuck-ness and suffering and battle against something massive, invisible, impossible to describe. It is formless and so only feels like emptiness. Only feels like failure, and such deep, deep mourning. 
 
So here I am at the bottom - nearly as far down as I ever get, only hearing echoes in my head and not comfort, or answers, or peace. Only more tears. 
 
Eventually the tears will go quiet and I will go quiet, and stop writhing in invisible pain, and just sleep. It's the only answer I've found to get on by and back up the hill a bit. Back up to a place where I can at least believe in the sun even if I can't see it - too far down and all hope if light gets swallowed up in the unending, unfathomable, suffocating dark.
 
Drink the bitter cup and be strong. There is a Savior who went before me, who bore this grief and carried this nameless abyss of sorry, and who even if He will not or cannot take it from me, will at least tread down the long dark road with me, until the higher ground comes and there's a hope of sun on the horizon. 
 
I know at some level it's the devil's lie to think they're better off without me, that ending my own suffering would end theirs, too. A convenient and easy-to-belive lie that always surfaces during the worst of the psychic vulnerability when the idea of disappearance sounds so, so appealing. Rest. Anything to stop the present pain, bleeding like an amputated limb, collapsing like a deflated hot air balloon. And in the ashes around me, ashes of dreams and hopes and curiosity and desire, now all seemingly, everlastingly burned away - just giving up, turning off the cold dark path and lying down forever right over here.
 
Perhaps my people up on the ridge won't notice and come looking to shake me out of my stupor of living death, for what is life without hope?
 
 Perhaps they will move off into the distance, my bright little caravan, capturing the joys of their life together and no longer weighed down with watchfulness hoping that this time I can stay out of the dark valley. Disappointed, maybe, that I return here again and again needing rescue. 
 
I'll be rescued, if I wait it out. Time and sleep and some chocolate and maybe a bath will ease me back to life, back up the ridge to carry on. But my footing's unsure, and my rock's a tricky and unbalanced weight. So the real rescue - a permanent place among the caravan on the ridge is a hopeless dream. 
 
That's ok. The times on the ridge - out in the sun with a little warmth and perspective help me leave the valley to itself for a time. But tonight, among the ashes on this dark and familiar and neverendlingly infinitely dark road I want to lay down and disappear among the ashes. To not need the immense amount of effort of simply trying anymore. But I will and I always will, sometimes more and sometimes less. More's the pity. So I'll sleep while it's dark and hope for a bright morning.

Depression Is Like Walking on Shifting Sand

One of the things you might have noticed there is that I've known about this and been in treatment for this for two decades. Intensive treatment with therapy and meds for more than 7 years, and yet that journal entry from the abyss of darkness, that frightened me even as I copied it down, is from less than a year ago. That's because depression is a shifty bastard. No other way to put it.

See, the truly sucky part (there is no word to describe the level of suck, actually) about depression is that it requires not only vigilance (taking its daily toll as though collecting the cover charge at the door of every morning), but it requires that you be rescued - not just once, but over and over again. As if asking for help once weren't excruciating enough.

And despite all your care and vigilance it'll just happen and you won't be able to control when or for how long, or how bad it will be this time, no matter what you do. That's what that journal entry means. Seven years in, twenty years in, good meds and therapy, and still it happens. It is what it is. But what I do know, is that the chances of feeling better in the long term increase with meds and therapy in combination. It's uncertain and slow, kind of like going to the eye doctor for new glasses, but it takes a year to get anywhere close to a prescription that works. "Do you see better with A or B? Come back in a month and we'll check on it." Depression is all the more painful because treatment is so difficult. And what worked a year ago, might not be entirely working now. 

If you're like me, it'll never truly pass, and that shadow will live there all your life, sometimes growing and sometimes receding. Meds and therapy. Sunshine. Prayer. A text to a friend. Getting out of your damn bed even though you need a running start. 

Don't disappear. Please. 

I'm not gonna lie, 2013 was a beast. It was a near-daily struggle with physical and mental illness, imbalance, confusion. I was helped through it - rescued from that instance of it - by a very kind counselor (who at one point during last summer, made me do daily suicide watch check-ins). It isn't my fault. Meds and therapy. And it will get better.

I know this is seriously heavy stuff. Frightening, actually. But I need for two things to happen by sharing this:

  1. If you are suffering, I'm over here, ok? I know a little of what the valley is like, and how excruciating the pain is. And how lonely that desolate place can be. When the rescue comes, recognize it for what it is, ok? Sit tight and wait for it.
  2. If you love someone who has been in the valley, or who has gone there again and again, they need your strength. They need your hand in a practical way, and it's impossible for you to be too concerned about this. Say "here, tomorrow I'll sit with you while you call a mental health center. Tonight I'll bring you the laptop so you can email your therapist that we'll be at their office first thing. I see you and your suffering, and I'm here." You'll be the rescue. 

On Rescue From the Valley

Every time I've been in the valley, I've been rescued by something, or someone, that pushes me back up toward the ridge and into the hope of sunlight again. Here are a few.

In an Emergency: Call the Hotline

This is really important, okay? If it is really bad, and you are thinking concretely about pills or ropes or your car's exhaust or whatever, stop whatever you are doing, ok? Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Call right now 1-800-273-8255. Right now, man. I mean it. Please, do not end your infinitely precious life. 

Step 1: Call A Mental Health Clinic

Go online or to the phone book and look up a local Mental Health clinic, call them and ask to see a psychiatrist. They're MDs who can evaluate, prescribe, and recommend what additional therapy is needed. And they'll become your Someone if it ever gets really bad and you need to go somewhere to get safe. 

Make the phone call right now. Not tomorrow, or after your other to-dos are done, okay? You know you've already put this off too long. Your life will change forever when you do this step, I pinkie-swear.

Reach Out

And while you're waiting for your appointment, which honestly should be less than a week away or you need to call someone else, text a friend just to say hi. I've been rescued by Heidi, Kristen, Tori, Tristina, Erin, Sherrie, Heather, my dad, another Heather, Greg, Carol, and a lot of others. And of course, my soulmate Jared. Rescuers all, and they probably don't even know it. They represent contact with the world, a tie and a touchstone that says yep. If I reach, only reach.

Sit Still

Sometimes, some of us are only rescued from desperate acts by putting ourselves in a place where we can't act - we can just ride it out. Lock up the pills. Get in bed. Get in the (empty) tub. Lay in your closet. Squeeze those eyes shut and sleep or ask for a milkshake or for someone to hold on to you til the pain gets easier.

Also, if you get to this place, you should have calls or emails in to your professionals.

A Beautiful Sermon: Hope is Never Lost

I was rescued by a just-in-time sermon by Jeffrey R. Holland from the LDS Conference in October, which I'm embedding here because maybe it will rescue you, too:

Put Pen to Paper

Write. Write write write. Get a pen. Sob it out. It sucks, it hurts, oh sweet baby Moses in a basket it hurts. But if your pen is on the page and your thoughts are here, they aren't over there where the water is a little too temptingly deep. And when you get back to the lighter place, maybe a few weeks or months from now when the meds and therapy are making it easier, you can read that thing and know, if you go to the valley again, you'll come back out. Your little bright caravan on the ridge will not leave without you. If they didn't back then, they won't the next time. Proof.

Find Hope in Music

Get a song or two that really speaks to you. I have been rescued by the great Pioneer anthem Come, Come Ye Saints more times than I can count. I can picture those stalwarts there on the plains, walking and freezing and dying for their cause, and echo, 

Why should we mourn, or think our lot is hard?
Why should we think to earn a great reward, if we now shun the fight,
Gird up your loins, fresh courage take!  Our God will never us forsake!
And soon we'll have this tale to tell,
All is well! All is well!

Incidentally, here is that very hymn as sung by the magnificent Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Take a minute to watch it, ok?

So. We are called, sometimes, to go through the deep waters. To tread down into a valley that seems only full of desolation, and the most exquisite pain imaginable. And we may go there over and over again before the journey's through. 

If you're there in the valley or you find yourself nodding to the journal entry above and you haven't gotten help, get help. I hope that I can be proof that hope and help are there. And I want you to know that I know what real courage is: taking the step. You don't have to go through the motions anymore. There can be a day when you don't need a running start to get out of bed. And when the light comes again, it will be breathtaking.

If you are a Trusted One, fight the urge to lecture or suggest, or judge or become impatient. This particular rock is excruciatingly heavy at times, and although it's probably completely baffling from the outside, all you need to get right now is that your person is hurting. Call in the troops. Get those wagons of mental health professionals circled up around them. Your bright and beautiful person will come back up the ridge, and you can carry on into the dawn together.

With so much love,

-JS

Moving House. Your help?

Okay, so I mentioned that we're moving, right? We've lived in our cute house on Bristol Blue Street for almost NINE years. Sheesh, that sounds like a long time. When we moved here, both my kids were in diapers. Elliott couldn't walk yet. We had a double stroller, two carseats, and a lot of gratitude for our new home that wasn't in Minnesota (where it was 1000 degrees below zero when we moved).

I want to spend at least one post with photos and memories in general, but I have photos of me stripping wallpaper. Of us chasing in the backyard. Of each of the kids' birthdays right up until 9 and 10. It has been our shelter and refuge and a place of healing and hope, and love. And it's also time to give it over to someone else to love. :) 

We've also found a new place. You know how you have that list of what your PERFECT house would have? It's like the perfect hand in a deck of cards. Some are the aces you know you have to keep. And some you'd be willing to trade if you got enough other things to make up for it. So I had been looking online and driving to see houses for something like 3 months, and had gone with our realtor to a few, but nothing really was like, YES. They say that happens, right? I had actually started to feel like that wouldn't happen. But went to check on a listing for a new construction home. The salesman took me to see the house, which was only sticks at that point, and I walked in the front door (of sticks), looked up at the two-story foyer (on the list!) and through the other sticks to the backyard, and said, YES. We put our offer in for it the next day. So I'm really, really excited.

Well, let me be truthful. 

We've had such a hard time selling our current place that we haven't let ourselves be over-the-top excited yet, but all the main hurdles are over, so now we can get excited! I am still frankly finding the whole thing a little hard to believe. :)

Here's Where You Come In

So, as I mentioned, the last time I was in this position was 9 years ago? We are closing on THIS house (Bristol Blue) on the 28th, but won't close on the new house (on Henderson Rd.) until the 29th. So even though the new house is only about 20 mins drive away, there'll be some logistics about what to do with the truck and/or ourselves in the intervening.

And of course aside from that I don't even know what I don't know - what I won't even think of. So now I need your help.

Let's start with these: 

  • Have you found a good list somewhere? Like of what to do when? 
  • Utilities. Do I transfer them to start on a certain date?
  • Who should I be telling our new address to? 
  • Have you hired packers and/or movers? Was it worth it?
  • Did you rent a U-Haul or another truck? How did you decide how big your truck should be?
  • Clothing: for a drive this short, all in cars, or into boxes?
  • What were you so glad you did in your previous moving experience(s)? 
  • What would you do differently from your own moving experiences if you had it to do over again? 
  • Anything else?
Also, are you busy on Friday? And can you bring some boxes when you come over? I'll make the Hot Pockets. Kthx.

And YOU may contribute a verse.

Robin Williams as Mr. Keating, Dead Poets Society

Robin Williams as Mr. Keating, Dead Poets Society

Just now. Like, five minutes ago, I was shocked out of my bloggy silence by the news of the death of Robin Williams. I know, people - and even celebrities - die all the time. But this one, this news? Was the signal that I really need to end the silence I've held here for so long.

It isn't that I haven't thought about writing here in my blog. It's been my journal for years. It isn't as though I haven't laughed at something or thought of something and thought - I should ... but for all this time it hasn't gotten further than that. 

Confession: I've been hiding. 

Granted, lots of things have been going on this summer - with getting the kids out of school, the agonizing experience of selling our cute house (44 showings. That's right. 44.) Organizing endless repairs. Visiting grandparents in Idaho and Oregon for 2 1/2 weeks. Finding a new house to move to. Getting the kids settled into their new year-round school. Trying to make a list of all the stuff we have to do before we close on August 28 (my birthday!). And pain. And the always, always tiredness.

Whether they're reasons for silence, or excuses, the fact still remains: I've been hiding. It's so much easier to just disappear, don't you think? You don't have to talk to anyone, be responsible to anyone, and if you set no goals and account to no one, you don't have to face failure. Oh, failure and guilt niggle in the back of the mind, of course, but if you hide, nobody can see. And if you don't blog, you don't have to think about it.

Part of this has been the confusion and turmoil of slowing down teaching classes at JessicaSprague.com. If I am not this anymore (or not all the time), then what am I

Cue identity crisis. The resulting tailspin. The desire-and-yet-not-motivated-enough-to-overcome-the-fear of finding (creating?) something new in myself put on hold over and over again. And instead of facing the lack of answers with humility and care, cue hiding. From you. From myself. A lot of knitting. A lot of Sudoku. And a lot less introspection.

And then, (Mr. Keating) Mr. Williams. And one clear call for me. 

Is there anyone here who saw Dead Poets Society and whose life wasn't changed forever? I know Robin was talented (they're saying it all over the world now). And I know he played other roles. But his performance as Mr. Keating changed me. He was Mr. Keating, he inhabited that role. And as terrible as it is, his death made me remember: 

We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. 

How, in the face of this, can I stay silent? How can I keep from singing?

I've only got a bit, a little bit of life (relatively speaking) - to be on the stage, and I've been pretending I don't exist, hoping that people forget and don't look for me too closely. Well, just like always, no matter what I've ever done, there comes the point where I can't pretend anymore. Where the words and thoughts, the beauty and poetry and patterns and photographs and fonts have build such a pressure behind my heart I have to let them out, have to write it or glue it or cut it or edit it in Photoshop. Have to make the marks. Risky business, that. But it is the creative life. It demands attention, and it can never be completely ignored. (And I'm not the only one, mama: you feel it too, don't you? And if you ever doubt, please watch this video. As many times as you need to. Take two, call me in the morning.

And so I'm called up by this today, called to come back to the creative well and dip in again:

You are here ... life exists, and identity; ... the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. ... The powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

After so long afraid of whatever the answer to this might be (or maybe even more afraid that I actually had no answer), I've decided I don't care. Doesn't have to be great or grandiose, or even worthy (this whole idea that what we write has to be worthy of a post has held a lot of us back, hasn't it?) It does have to be spelled right, and it does have to be honest and earnest. here I am.