Posts in Family
Dear Teacher, (thank you)

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.

I started Violin Lessons at 39.

I don't consider myself to be a musician. An writer, yes. A designer, yes. An artist - probably. A musician? Nope. I once played a little piano, a little guitar. Jared plays the guitar pretty well, and we put Elliott in violin when he turned 7, because that was the instrument he wanted to play. I've mentioned several times how amazing it is to hear live music being played in my house. But I haven't told you this story yet. ;) First though, as always: backstory.

Meeting Ms. Petia

By total chance in 2012 we met an extraordinary woman named Petia Radneva-Manolova. She had recently moved to the area from California (via Bulgaria, where she was born, and she'd been playing with orchestras all over the world). Elliott and I both loved her immediately, not only for her warmth and humor and excellence at teaching - because she truly LOVES showing people how to play - but for her incredible relationship to the violin as an extension of herself, even something MORE than herself.

Ms. Petia. at Elliott's recital, december 2015

Ms. Petia. at Elliott's recital, december 2015

She understands and relishes the  opportunity to reach people right down to their souls. It's partly the magic of live music, especially when it's played by a virtuoso, and right in front of you. And it's way more than skill, and even more than art, although it's both of those things. Her playing is transcendent.

I am an exaggerator. I know it. Everything is Awesome for me, as the Lego song says. And it's at times like these, when I find myself sitting as she plays for us at the end of a lesson, with my eyes closed to the heavens and tears streaming down my face, that I regret all my exaggerations, because I have no words left to explain what her playing IS for me. It's spirit, and love, and a mountain stream, and the fog rolling in off the sound. It's hope, and goodness, and dancing in dappled light, and the joy of larks in the morning. It's the voice of God. 

I told her (and this was not even entirely a joke) that if she didn't mind, could I just set up a little pillow and snacks in the corner while she practiced and taught lessons? Elliott teases me because I've cried at every lesson I've attended. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, and didn't have an opportunity to hear live classical music until I was an adult. So maybe that's why her work is so breathtaking to me. Why I really do cry every time she plays. She should probably actually be a little creeped out by me. I'm glad she's not. 

Indeed, she seemed really delighted - truly, deeply delighted, when I told her last February that I'd like to learn to play. I wouldn't have been brave enough if it weren't for her, and for my son. And so about 14 months ago, it began.

in the beginning: it was hard.

In our very first lesson, Petia told me that the violin is the most difficult instrument to learn how to play. This is apparently a matter of some dispute among musicians, especially if you play the french horn or the oboe. But no guitarist or pianist who really knows is going to argue the point, and neither will I.

Example: It took me - when I was 8 - about an hour to learn how to play "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" on the piano one-handed. On the violin - at age 39 - it took me a week.

My violin, and "The Red book"

My violin, and "The Red book"

With the violin, there is just more - a lot more - that you have to keep a handle on, in order to even make a single respectable sound. Aside from the usual musical stuff like finding the note on your instrument and keeping time as you find the next one and the next, there is also the fact that right and left hands are doing completely different things - at different angles and levels of pressure. You can't push too hard, or move the bow too slowly in relationship to that pressure, or pull the bow down at a cross angle. Notes are a lot harder to find with the left hand because there aren't keys or frets. Although - you can see in the photo above, she puts stripes on to help the beginners. As you progress in skill, you get to take one stripe off, and then two, etc. Note the THREE stripes I still have.

But here's the big one: The harder you try, the worse it sounds. The violin will not be dominated. You cannot bend it to your will - you have to lower yourself in and find the perfect balance of position and angle and pressure and timing and emotion and find the note and coax it out. All while standing there and trying to find the F sharp that comes next and trying not to ding the E string because you overcorrected on the way over to the A. And then do it in an instant for the next note and the next. 

And to top it all off (this might be a matter of dispute - the french horn and oboe players haven't weighed in), badly-played violin sounds worse than any other badly-played instrument. And it's VERY easy to play badly.

One year later: it's still hard.

I've kept at it. Had to take a break for a few months, but in February I graduated to "The Red Book," which is the second in the Belwin String Builder series we mainly use in lessons. That was a really proud day. I have, if not full mastery, at least a working knowledge of such noble classics as "The Dancing Bears" and "The Happy Camel" and "The Caterpillar." Now I'm on to greater heights with "The Muffin Man." So Look Out. ;) 

I've also been bringing in the LDS Hymnbook every week and picking songs from it to work on in addition to the lessons. Being able to play "Come, Come Ye Saints" as a violin solo - much as the pioneers might have played it at their campfires on the plains - has been one of my best accomplishments (oh, and you can see that right here). I dearly love that song, and I dearly love being able to play it through with mostly all the notes. :)

A year later, I'm struggling with a lot of the same stuff. I push on the strings too hard, and I always, always overcorrect. The angle of bow between the two middle strings is about 4 inches, and I find myself dinging the next string over A LOT when I'm trying to switch between them. Because I'm nervous, and a perfectionist, and I try hard. And the violin isn't about trying hard. Practicing hard, yes. But pushing too hard, no. And I'm wound pretty tightly, as you already know. NOT trying hard, is really hard. Relaxing, letting go, trusting that the fingers and bow will make it there, THAT is hard. And it's also entirely the reason I will keep playing.

Here's why I keep playing: flow

I've been told it takes a lot of courage to begin something like this as an adult. And I guess so. I have at least 20 years on every one of my fellow-students of Ms. Petia's. And I play songs like "The Happy Camel" with as much quiet dignity as I can muster. I know what they really mean, though - is that it's hard as an adult to go into something really big as a beginner, knowing that you'll be sucky at it for a really long time. You might never get beyond the sucky phase at all, and as an adult that's a kind of defeat you see right from the start. 


Every so often I play a mostly-perfect song. A really decent song, right at the top of my skill range, with a minimum of dinged strings and notes I forgot I needed to sharp or hold another count - and I feel the magic of it. Magic that I made or was part of in a way that's beyond just a person standing there with wood and horsehair in her hands. The playing becomes, for a minute or two, its own living thing I'm participating in the creation of, rather than being the sole creator. 

It's been called rapture. Some psychologists and artists call it flow. I'm going to talk about flow in a future post. It's a precious thing, and a lot of people would give up careers and fame and fortune just to pursue that flow every day, just to have it for a handful of minutes at a time. To be fully alive and aware, and somehow touching, by your ordinary action, the intangible strings of creation itself. 

Everyone has flow experiences

I know you know what I mean. Feeling an expanded, perfected universe of possibility in the context of a very narrow circumstance. Making a drawing. Making a scrapbook page. Making a meal. Playing a song on the violin. Rapture. Being able to reach that state - even for a few minutes now and then - is an enlightening and enlivening experience like no other. A HUMAN experience like no other. I've found that along with the other ways I know I can achieve flow (drawing and handcrafting and digital scrapbooking), I can achieve it in violin, and I'm hanging on to that.

I love the great sounds I make, more than I dislike the terrible ones I make. I love my teacher. I love striving for that flow when I practice and play. And frankly, I really LIKE being a beginner. As someone who is a teacher for a living, I have a ton of admiration for anyone who decides at 30 or 40 or 50 or 60+ to learn something complicated like Photoshop. And putting myself at the beginning of something worthy-but-complicated keeps me humble and appreciative. :)

Okay. Your Turn! 

1. Have you begun anything as an adult that say took great courage to start as a beginner? 

2. When was the last time you felt flow? What were you doing? Can you describe it?

3. I need a name for my violin. Ms. Petia's fiesty French lady is named Matilda. Elliott's half-size was named Hans, and his new 3/4 size is named Gretta. What should mine be? 



Explore Your Family History: 3 New Classes

Hi there!

If you're like me, you probably have a box (or bag, or envelope, or more) with a whole hoard of vintage photos. Perhaps they're from your own childhood, or those of previous generations. For six weeks, starting June 28, I've got THREE new classes that celebrate our heritage, and I think you'll find that stash of vintage pics handy as you learn to restore vintage snaps AND build your own gorgeous projects with them! 

I've designed the courses to begin one after the other, for a full SIX WEEKS of family history goodness, plus a discount for registering for all three courses! Check that out at the bottom of the post. 

Check out below for a chance to WIN a free Family History Bundle ($118 value!)

Family History Course 1

Four-Generation Family Tree Poster

This one-week course begins June 28, and features a detailed video and the poster .psd we'll use to capture FOUR generations of your family in one place! This course is great for beginners! I'll show you how to add the photographs to each block in the tree, how to add an overlay so all the pictures are the same tones of black and white, AND help you make the cute name bracket you can see in this sample:

Plus, you'll even get a discount for the printing of this 16x20 beauty, to get it off your computer and into your home for all to enjoy! 

Family History Course 2 (begins July 5)

Family History Album, 2016 Edition

Okay, this one right here - is important. Even if you never do another family history project, you NEED to do this one. This album captures an overview of the lives of the three generations that came before you: your parents, your grandparents, and your great-grandparents. In class, I'll show you how to search for, gather photos and stories, link up, plan, and create a gorgeous 20-page album. You might not know a lot about these members of your family, so consider this an opportunity to get to know them. If you DO have a lot of information on "Your Three Generations," consider this an opportunity to capture the essence of their history in an easy-to-read book for all your family members to enjoy. 

Basic Photoshop skills are required, and we'll have great fun telling stories in class, too! You'll receive a discount on printing this as a 12x12 or 8x8 photo book!

*You can begin gathering photos and stories of your "Three Generations" now, to be ready for class to begin!

Family History Course 3

This Old Photo: Restoring Vintage Snapshots (2016 edition)

This is a before and after example from the photo restoration class : This Old Photo!

This is a before and after example from the photo restoration class : This Old Photo!

This Old Photo is a complete remake of my original 2012 class of the same name. In this three-week class, we will focus on photo restoration in Photoshop: bringing those beautiful vintage snapshots back to life!

The tools and techniques for photo restoration are completely different from those we use to edit modern photos. I'll show you how to repair photos, including fixing rips, scratches, folds, dirt, and spots. I'll also show you how to repair color shifting in early color photos, as well as restore black-and-whites and sepias to their original glory.

When we restore photos, our goal is to remove the signs of aging, while honoring the photograph for what it is: a snapshot of a moment in time. These memories and their stories are waiting for you to bring them back to life! I can't wait to share the experience with you! Class begins July 19!

Family History Course Bundle 

Poster, Album, and Restoration for one Great Price!

I've designed each Family History class to follow right after the other: SIX weeks of awesome education, storytelling, technique building, and creative fun, for one great price! Essentially, you'll be getting the poster class for FREE by registering for the entire bundle. Check it out!

If you're as excited as I am, enter at the bottom of this post to win! Five Lucky, Lucky people will win a free Family History Bundle ($118 value!)

Meet Wizard, the Lizard

So about a 6 weeks ago, I was at PetSmart buying something for Rowen and her fish, and I spotted an enclosure with several brand-new baby bearded dragons. Of course I've wanted one of these little ones for a long time, and so I was utterly smitten. Turns out the store clerk who was helping me had owned a bearded dragon before, and ah. That was the beginning of the lovely rabbit hole that ended with me owning this little sweet one of love, picked out because of his coloring, and because the clerk said she chose this little one to ride on her shirt every day to help her clean the cages. Put a fork in me, cause I'm done.

Hello there, handsome! Why don't we greet the sun? taken today, april 28. Getting so big!

Hello there, handsome! Why don't we greet the sun? taken today, april 28. Getting so big!



Before we had even left the store (ahem, to the tune of more than $300 in supplies), the kids had named him Wizard (because he has a beard! ha!), and it wasn't til we got home and Jared said it that we realized he was Wizard the Lizard. Perfect.

So Many Pictures

Rowen and Elliott have started teasing me about how many pictures I take of him. But I told them (and then opened Lightroom and showed them) that this was nothing compared to the number of pictures I took of THEM when they were babies.

Yep, he's sitting on my washi tape. A favorite spot. 

Yep, he's sitting on my washi tape. A favorite spot. 

This is the day we brought him home, march 11. just like a lil baby, he's all head. *snif*

This is the day we brought him home, march 11. just like a lil baby, he's all head. *snif*

And yes. He eats live crickets. 

If you had told me the beginning of March (probably the time of his birth) that I would be buying live bugs on purpose, keeping them on my premises, AND getting them out and watching in delight as another creature gobbled them up, well, here is your straight jacket, honey, and your padded cell is that way. But look at that face. And he relishes them so obviously that who am I to deny my little Wiz such a treat? Right? 

To round out his diet, he also likes kale, broccoli, mustard greens, collard greens, celery, and thyme. He won't go near parsley, rosemary, or any kind of fruit. Seriously. Not mango, or apple, or raspberry or strawberry. But he LOVES kale. And we kinda love watching him eat it. 

He's a perfect little sweetheart, so calm, and with this lovely bright eye he cocks up to see me, or to see where the sun is when we're outside. He is very serious about his sunlight. 

I'm thinking of making him his own Instagram account. In fact, I just did. Ha! Chances are, you'll be seeing a lot more of this little one around here. 

Your turn

Do you own a beardie? Or any reptile? Have you wanted one? Do you have questions about mine? Cause you know mamas like to talk about their little ones. ;)

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. ;)




Turning Eleven.

Eleven years ago today, on a spectacular summer Friday morning, I knelt across from my sweetheart and became his companion for time and eternity. My grandfather married us. After the small ceremony, our photographer (the now-famous Jon Canlas) got some really great shots despite it being the windiest day I can remember, like this one:


After our morning ceremony at the Mount Timpanogos LDS Temple, we all drove to Provo for our wedding luncheon at Tucano’s.

The next day was our reception in my grandparents’ backyard in Sugar City, ID. Picture barefoot bridesmaids in flowy blue dresses and flower crowns. Paper ornaments hanging from the trees. My friends Sally and Willie performing on guitar and bongo drums. And that was just the beginning of this great adventure, which has taken us from Utah and Idaho to Minnesota and North Carolina, through success and sorrow, frustration and tears, and so much more joy than I ever thought possible.

So much of the best stuff that has ever happened to me, has happened as a direct result of choosing to marry this cute boy, whom I had first seen nearly 5 years before as he walked out of his dorm room at Ricks College with another friend of mine to go get pizza at Craigos.

Over the years I have found myself thanking my 24-year-old self SO MUCH for that decision - and thanking God for the incredible blessing that brought him to me. He is an amazing stabilizing influence on me, a person who fully and deeply relishes the joys of the now. He’s brilliant, peaceable, loyal, generous, full of love. In a world where vows of honor and fidelity are built on shifting sand, his love for his family, his God, his country are built on bedrock sure and steady. It is a beautiful thing to support and to be supported. To trust and to be trusted in equal measures.

He has endured my ups and downs, postpartum depression, sobbing on the floor in my underwear in stress and despair, and - this is my greatest blessing: has unfailingly supported me in all my efforts to find and live my own true and authentic life. Because of him I have found my own creative wings, and have the courage to spread them and fly.

Babe, eleven years ago on that summer day I promised to stand by your side forever, through everything, no matter what. In eleven years as I have begun to discover the depths of that promise, it has only strengthened, and the sweetness of being with you has only deepened until I have no words to measure it. So all I can say is that I am so proud to be your wife. Happy eleven, my sweetheart.


This is one of those “I’m here!” posts that you probably won’t have any idea how to respond to. I’m considering not writing it, but I need to update from out of the swirl of events here, if for no other reason that making lists is head-clearing. :) I feel I’m awash in a tide of bittersweet Time in the events of the past few days, and in learning to accept change and let go.

Rowen had her Assessment Day at kindergarten yesterday. Jared and I both went, and pulled around (in the carpool line! an alternate universe!), and the teacher opened the car door, and helped her out, and led her inside. Better that it was quick, since it wasn’t really the Official First Day, right? And all day yesterday, I kept starting up and saying, “Where’s Rowen?” before almost immediately remembering she was at school. At school! It was like my heart went wandering - I could almost physically feel the tug. Ele and I went to pick her up at 2:00 and we went for ice cream. I asked her about her day, and she showed me the papers she had made. They were testing her on things like writing her name, coloring, cutting, tracing, and she had done well. But the weirdest? I asked her what she chose for her school lunch, and she said, “I had pink milk, and a hamburger, and peaches and pears.” She is making her own choices about FOOD! Without me there to say, no, let’s not have 7 desserts today. And she did pretty well, I think. She starts school as an official Kindergartener on Monday. Time. Washing over me. And the bitterly sweet feeling of opening my arms to let go.

Tomorrow’s my birthday, which I only mention here because I get a new purse and possibly a date with my honey. I somehow still feel 25, so some OTHER lady must be having a birthday tomorrow, that isn’t me. Couldn’t be me. Time. And the sweet satisfaction of utter denial. ;)

And lastly and most sad, my dad called today to tell me that my dear Grandma Bills, my last living grandparent, passed on into Eternity early this morning. It wasn’t unexpected - her health had been failing in the past few weeks, and she was ready to go. So my sadness here is only to lose one of the great Trees of my life - one of those monumental figures that I learned from, and respected, and admire so much. I grew up living next door to them, and she taught me about cooking and sewing, and showed me by her faithful example what real-life love and determination are. She had been a school teacher, and was a legend among my high school friends for being the absolute toughest second-grade teacher imaginable. I will always love that about her. I feel Time washing over me. And the bitterly sweet feeling of opening my arms to let go. I’m kind of too raw tonight to do a long memorial of her, but I do think that my Grandpa, who passed in 2005, came to greet her and escort her Home, and the thought of them reuniting with the love of their lives for all eternity brings me some great comfort.

Grandma’s funeral is in Idaho, of course - on Monday, the day that Rowen begins Kindergarten. As I talked to my dad today, he said, “Grandma of all people would tell you that you belong with your girl on her first day of school. Don’t worry about missing her service.”

So suddenly, sitting here tonight, I’m not immortal, and not immune to change and the progression of days and weeks that have somehow become years. Suddenly I’m hard up against Middle Age, and my little baby girl that I just held in my arms is starting school, and the last living grandparent has departed this life. I suddenly look up and glance around, a little bewildered, wondering how this happened? Suddenly my mission of the past few years since becoming a scrapbooker, to savor and save, becomes more immediate and more real.  Not from the fear of losing the beauty of today, but so that tomorrow, when today is gone, there is the looking back that gives the courage to turn and look ahead again. That’s all I’ve got for tonight. Savor and save.