Posts in Travels
Finding Totality.

I mentioned that we'd been planning to travel into the path of totality for the 2017 Eclipse for some time. We followed this totality map from NASA to get as close as possible to the center line, where the viewing would be as long as possible - still a seemingly-paltry 2 minutes 40 seconds. So maybe in total 20 hours of planning across a couple of months (including about 4 hours the night before as we changed final plans at the hotel), plus 12 hours of driving, a day off from work and school, paying twice the $ for a hotel, waking at 6 to head to our destination (Lake Murray, more on that in a second), then sitting for about 7 hours as the South Carolina heat cranked up into the mid-90s, all for that breathless 2 1/2 minutes of complete totality. No wonder we know so few people here in NC who decided to pull THAT trigger. On paper it definitely makes no sense, and I have to admit I questioned it as we checked in to our hideously overpriced room in Florence, SC on Sunday, to prep for the second leg first thing Monday morning.

So was it worth all of it? I told my dad in an email (more on that later) that we'd have done it twice over to have that same 2 1/2 minute experience, and I'll probably go further than that when we get the chance to head to New York to repeat it in about 7 years. 

And yes. It was worth it

To marvel with the crowd of new friends as the shadows sharpened and the world darkened into a colorless sunset and the crickets began to chirp. To sit in a dome of near-complete darkness with several thousand of my fellow human beings, shouting and screaming, because we couldn't NOT shout and scream for the joy and wonder? To remove my eclipse glasses and tear the filter off my camera lens, and watch with tear-filled eyes, as a perfect circle of perfect blackness revealed the dazzling whiteness of the sun's corona, and the stars began to shine.

To see this, with my very own eyes.

This is a photo I took, with my comparatively modest 200mm lens. Still pretty proud of it though: This involved setting up my camera on a tripod pointing almost directly overhead, covering it with a makeshift eclipse filter, and then during totality manually adjusting settings and focus with my fingertips. 

Worth it? 

I will never be the same human being again. 

The Power of The Stars

One thing the stars have always had for me, is this ability to make me feel both infinitely small and infinitely important at the same time. To lay down in a field and scan across the dome of darkness at the spectacle of cloud and constellation, and then imagine those tiny lights, not as dots on a black sheet, but as giant, impossible fires in an impossibly vast infinity of space. Stretching literally back to the beginnings of time itself.

And yet, here I am, laying here on this fragile crust of earth beneath a tenuous swath of atmosphere, so absurdly tiny in comparison - but knowing that I am. I AM. And I - my own self, that I have such trouble loving sometimes, and such trouble acknowledging my own lovability sometimes - I belong to this grand universe. Belong as surely as any vast star or great sweep of galaxies, I'm a part of a grand plan, organized down to the smallest blade of grass I'm laying on. Organized by a Creator so dazzled by life and color, so loving of His children that he made it all for us. We, you and me, are the purpose of that mighty passion, so gorgeously arrayed across the night sky. The universe is infinite, yes - but its Great God, hidden from my mortal sight wherever He is hidden - knows my name, and loves my soul. 

The Edge of Heaven, The Crown of God

On Monday, for the first time in my life, I got a glimpse of that Heaven. In fact, that was the word that kept ringing in my mind as something deep in me recognized it for what it was: heaven. The edge of heaven

The word corona is Latin for crown, and (hello, word nerd), it in turn comes from the Greek word for wreath or garland. Surely this is as close as I will come in mortality to seeing the crown of God himself, and for me, it was fundamentally life-changing. 

It's no wonder to me that so many people of faith have described being in the total eclipse as an intensely spiritual experience. There's no other way to describe that feeling of resonance, of reverence, of awe. Of being in the Presence of something so vast, so majestic, so powerful, that has been hidden in plain sight all along. Just thinking about the dazzling pearlescent spikes surrounding a jet black hole gives me chills. The edge of heaven. The crown of God himself.

Jared took a timelapse of the sun darkening, which I will post. Elliott took a video of the totality, in which you can hear all the people around us shouting and screaming, and he and I loudest of all. How can we keep from singing? I've also got a couple of videos of me just riffing on the experience right after, that I'll transcribe. Stay tuned.

Your Turn: Eclipse 2017

I'd love to hear where YOU were for the Great Eclipse? Did you get supremely lucky and simply stand outside as the world darkened and you saw the sun with your naked eyes? Or did you travel for the experience? Tell me about it, ok? Stories are my heart and soul, as you know. 

So Grateful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here is a great quote from that same sermon:

Transient

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

-JS

SpragueWest, Day 2 - Utah to Idaho

Whew! The last 24 hours has been exhausting! We have arrived safely in Sugar City, Idaho, after stopping in Phoenix last night (temp: 112 degrees), and then flying on to Salt Lake. We grabbed our rental car and headed to the Little America in downtown Salt Lake for the night - arriving at about 11 p.m. local time. Crashed out.

The kids were great on the flight. We haven’t flown together as a family in about 3 years, so they didn’t remember what it was like, and loved every minute! Well, most minutes. Rowen was busy taking photos out the plane window, and drawing in her scrapbook, and Elliott snuggled down with his “Purpley” blanket to listen to his iPod playlist a few times. I sat between them and ‘borrowed’ their tables to begin filling in the first pages of the scrapbooks. And almost immediately I wished that I had taken time to put backgrounds in to the books before leaving.

Travel Scrapbooking LESSON 1: When scrapbooking on the go - put backgrounds in before you leave. (you know, in all your spare time as you’re trying to finish a class, pack for four people, make sure nothing in the fridge will stink, arrange for pets, mail, employees, scheduling, hotels, transportation, etc. Squeeze it in.)

This morning we drove up to Temple Square and walked all around with the kids for a couple of hours. If you ever find yourself in Salt Lake City with a couple of hours to kill, definitely go. The block is beautiful, and the historic buildings are so stunning. Of course it was teeming with brides! LOL. During the summertime there can be as many as 50 weddings a day in the Salt Lake temple, just churning out one right after the other. The three we could see got married on a Wednesday at something like 8 in the morning. Random, but if you want to get married there, you take whatever time they’ll give you! 

The kids LOVED seeing the beautiful granite blocks of the temple up close, were amazed to hear that each block was cut out of the canyon and pulled 23 miles to the temple site, and that the building took 40 years to complete. It’s almost impossible to imagine what the Salt Lake valley must have looked like then - especially as we ended our morning tour (which included the Tabernacle and the 23,000 seat Conference Center, as well as a visit to the Christus statue in the north visitor center) across the street at the Blue Lemon. Delicious, and SO MUCH EASIER than the original pioneers had it!

This morning was really special to both Jared and I, being able to share some of our legacy with our children - we both have several ancestors who were among the pioneers to arrive in those first Utah years after crossing the plains in wagons and on foot, and it was humbling and awe-inspiring to stand at the foot of the marvelous Temple that is the monument to their faith, strength, and obedience.

After our tour and lunch, we met the amazing, gorgeous, so-sweet Heidi Swapp and her kids at Liberty Park for some play-time while we had a quick meeting. Did I mention she is AMAZING? We talked about some of our plans for the upcoming months, which I will talk a LOT more about after we get home from this-here trip - but it included a new Mouse Paper Scissors class (yay!) and a few other bits of awesomeness. Mostly it was just great to see her. She is one of my favorite people on the planet - and one of the great blessings that scrapbooking has brought into my life is the opportunity I have had to get to know her. Can’t wait to see her again in a few weeks at Creative Escape!

After our meeting, we stopped at Maverik (for the 3rd time in less than 24 hours!) for yet another 44 oz frosty cold icy Diet Mt Dew (which they do not have in fountain drinks in North Carolina gas stations), and hit I-15 for the drive in to Idaho.

I have driven the road between Salt Lake and Idaho Falls at least a couple of hundred times in my lifetime, and while there are parts of it that get a little monotonous, most of the drive is really beautiful! Jared and I both reminisced about this particular 3 1/2 hour stretch of road, which we each traveled every other weekend for almost all of our 6-month engagement back in 1999/2000 - he was going to school at Ricks College and I was at BYU in Provo. I could probably drive this stretch with my eyes closed! But it was so much fun to show the countryside to the kids, who loved the lava rock, the sagebrush, the huge sky filled with strange clouds, and the wheeled sprinklers out in the farm fields. So familiar to me, and so foreign to them, growing up as they are in North Carolina rather than Idaho. Some part of me will always think of this part of the country as home.

We dropped off our rental car at the Idaho Falls airport and my mom picked us up to bring us on in to Sugar City. One of the hardest things about being far from these grandparents is that not only are they just flat-out far away, but they live in the middle of nowhere. So it’s 8 hours of flying to get to Salt Lake, where you have to rent a car and drive another 4 hours. We have only made that journey four times in the 7 years Rowen has been alive - most of the visiting has been one or both of my parents coming to see us instead.

I had just been back to visit my parents at the end of April for a couple of days, but Jared and the kids hadn’t been since Christmas of 2008. Jared said as we drove in to Sugar City (population 1246) that it hadn’t changed much, and I agreed.

When we arrived here at about 9:30, both of my brothers and their families were there, and we had fun talking, and letting the cute cousins get to know each other again! There are 5 grandchildren in our family, and they have never been all 5 together, although my kids have met the other 3 at other times. They instantly raced outside to play (something that is pretty much impossible in NC during the summer, unless you want to be eaten alive by bugs), even in the growing dark, and stayed out until it was too dark to see. Awesome. We are looking forward to lots of great time with the cousins.

My sister Julie, who lives in Phoenix, started her new teaching job at Great Hearts Charter School yesterday, and so can’t join us for the reunion. I am so sad I can’t see her this trip, but so excited for her new gig, and looking forward to seeing her in August. :) Aside from Julie, everyone else in our family is present and accounted for, and it feels so good to have reached our first destination.

We won’t be connecting with the printer until probably tomorrow (it wasn’t waiting here in Idaho when we got here, but should be along very soon), so for now we’re just collecting the pics.

Which leads me to the First Major Bump on the road to complete hybrid scrapbooking nirvana. Somehow in the transfer from the rental car to my mom’s car in Idaho Falls (four suitcases, two laptops, two backpacks, purse, scrappy totebag, plus random loose articles), my little Canon PowerShot camera went missing. I have looked everywhere and can’t find it - and so my heart hurts tonight to lose all the airport/flying/hotel/TempleSquare/drive to Idaho pics that were on it. Somehow the loss of the camera itself is nothing compared to the loss of the pics I was going to put in the scrapbooks and share with you here. :(

In (slight) consolation, I had taken some pics with my phone, and Jared with his, so we have a few. But I’m sad that the kids don’t have their camera. I think we’ll probably pick another one up on the trip.

Tomorrow we are all headed up to the Idaho Falls Zoo (we made the vote after my dad, who hates the zoo, had gone to bed. HA!), and a picnic lunch at Tautphaus Park (another landmark from my early childhood, which I spent in Idaho Falls from ages 2-7).

Here are some of the photos we got on the phones yesterday and today (and one more little boo hoo for my lost camera and I’ll be done):

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Watching the Smurfs on the iPad in the airport. Sharing headphones. Awesome.

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My sweet ones in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. The acoustics are legendary - you really CAN hear a pin drop from the back of the room.

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 The Salt Lake Temple

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My favorite shot of the day. :) This statue is called The Christus, and is at the top of a spiral ramp with walls painted like space (oh yeah, totally made Elliott’s day). Jesus is shown here resurrected and with the wounds in His hands and feet and side. The experience of standing at the base of the statue and looking up into His face is so humbling.

The Spragues Go West.

Well, it is official! The Spragues are headed west! Jared and I both grew up in the western US, and both of our extended families (with the exception of my brother in Cincinnati) live there still. My parents’ 40th wedding anniversary was in June, and they requested that we all gather together for a reunion - not having been together for more than 5 years. So we decided that this would be a great time to take the kids west to visit not only their Grandpa Bruce and Grandma Sue (my parents) in Idaho, but Papa Dean and Grandma Carol (Jared’s parents) in Oregon.

And today is the day we set off on our two week trip! We are so excited!

Our plan is to travel from Raleigh to Phoenix (layover), and then on to Salt Lake City, where we’ll stay tonight. Then a quick meeting with my dear friend Heidi Swapp, and on in a rental car to Idaho and my parents’ house for the first of the two legs of the trip.

Next week we’ll drive to Oregon to visit Jared’s parents, and then on up to Seattle, where we’ll catch our plane ride home. It’ll be the furthest we’ve flown with the kids, and the longest we’ve ever been on a family vacation.

And that’s just the beginning of the fun. ;)

I’ve given the kids my little Canon PowerShot to use on the trip, and I’m also taking my big Nikon D300s and two lenses. Jared and I each have our iPhones as well. So there is no shortage of photography devices.

BUT, the best part is that I’m going to be trying an experiment on this trip, and I hope you’ll join me as I report back how it’s going! Epson is sending their PictureMate Charm Personal Photo Lab 4x6 printer to meet us at my parents’ house, where it will continue with us for the rest of the journey. I have been preparing three wirebound sketchbooks as scrapbooks for myself and the kids, and we’ll be printing the photos we take and scrapbooking our trip in real-time.

I have a few reasons for trying this:

  1. I want my kids (who are now 6 and 7) to be involved in the memory keeping process, from taking photos to printing them and gluing them in their own scrapbook alongside drawings and stories.
  2. I want to try to actually have something FINISHED when we walk through our door after the trip.
  3. I want to see if recording the memories we make as they happen, rather than weeks or months later, is as potent as I think it will be.
  4. I’ve never taken scrapbook supplies as a carry-on, and I’m looking forward to it (minus scissors, of course!)
  5. I want to see what it is like traveling with a printer.
  6. I want to share the information and insights I gain here, and the lessons I will learn with you, so you can make real-time scrapbooking part of your life as well

Okay, does that sound like a tall order, or what?

Here is the preparation I’ve done:

  • I bought three wire-bound, hardcover sketchbooks. The kids’ books are 5x7 and mine is 7x10.
  • I pulled out my scrapbook embellishments and let the kids choose three colors for their color scheme. I handed them each a gallon ziploc bag and they gathered their own embellies. I think this will help them feel more involved in the process, and it was by FAR their favorite part of the packing! Rowen chose yellow, orange, and blue, and Elliott chose red, green, and blue.
  • I’ve prepped a 2 1/2 inch tall clear scrapbook storage box with adhesive (LOTS of adhesive), punches, some acrylic stamps, ink, pens, journaling tags, an old dictionary to tear up as patterned paper, and I picked up some 4x6 mat stacks for patterned paper.
  • The storage box, plus the travel-sized Fiskars trimmer, the sketchbooks, and my camera are going in a big tote bag I’ll use as my carry-on. I plan to sit between the kids and get some scrapping time on the long flight to Phoenix!
  • Epson is sending the printer to my parents’ house, at which point it will join us on the rest of our journey. I’ve owned a large-format Epson for so long, I’m excited to see what it is like using strictly 4x6 (and smaller) photos for an album!

I’ll be blogging, Tweeting, and posting on Facebook as the trip continues. For now, we’ve got to finish up packing and be off to the airport!

As the inaugural first photo, here is Lucky trying to stow away in Jared’s suitcase. MAN I am going to miss this snuggly dude:

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P.S. Feel free to ask questions about the scrapbooks, the printing, taking a printer on vacation, or anything that comes to mind! See you on the other side (of the Mississippi)!

Piratical.

I spent today recording and editing video, hanging out with my family, and watching the rain come and go. It has been beautifully, springishly warm here for the past few days - like in the 60s. Warmer than usual, in fact, but awesome. I’d prefer year-round 70s if I had it to pick, but North Carolina with its range from 40s in winter to 100+ in summer is pretty much second best. :)

For today’s photo I chose my newest pair of Fluevogs, which I got from the Chicago store last summer.

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This is the stonework on our front porch, spotted with water from the rainstorm that passed through today. Also, these shoes (and some cute black capris) make me look like a pirate. Bonus.

I’m heading out on Thursday to visit none other than Heidi Swapp! Yeah! We’ll be spending two days hammering out the details for our upcoming Mouse, Paper, Scissors hybrid scrapbooking/crafting class, and I can’t wait. Heidi is super-inspiring, and pretty much one of my favorite people. Plus, I’m excited to collaborate with her on this big project! I’ll come home with project photos and a much better idea of the class details, but you know if Heidi is in on it, it’s gonna be GOOD. Can’t wait! I think I’ll wear my pirate shoes.

Rowen's Writing, Elliott's Writing

Rowen’s Journal 3-14-10I bought the kids each a little wirebound notebook to have in the back of the car while we drove this weekend, and asked them to write their journal entries. Rowen is very familiar with journals, since she keeps one at school every day. She sounded out ALL the words for this one, which says, “We are going to a trail we have not been, that might have a stream at the end. We will have fun. I love to hike.”

I don’t know why, but of all the things this miraculous child does, her writing just gets me through the heart. It is so HER. So pure, and genuine and thoughtful.

I know that spelling and writing are very difficult, so it’s easy to see small changes as she develops the skills - look, today she remembered to put spaces between the words! And of course maybe it’s because spelling and writing are things that are close to my heart anyway (my undergraduate degree is in English) - I’ve always been so moved by stories and by the beauty and power of language.

Seeing my sweet newly 6-year-old progressing so much, creating these stories and poems and journal entries in her own handwriting is something I will treasure forever about this age she’s in.

And Elliott? Well, this guy is rocking the journaling in his own special way. He was asking us how to spell things for another page he was working on, but this one caught my eye, because it’s so HIM:

Elliott’s Journaled NebulaYeah, a nebula. He is usually drawing endless solar systems, so this one was a branch in a different direction, but he was so proud of how many stars there were in his nebula. I SO WISH I could fast-forward 20 years and see what this kid grows up to be. He’s amazing, I’ve never met a kid so into space as he is.

Speaking of which, there is an album called Rock’n’Learn Solar System, that I got from a teacher’s supply company for him for Christmas:

It is awesome. If you have a space-monkey at your house, even if they are 4 or 5 or 8 or 10, this CD is really good. Like, we listen to this in the car and sing along to the Neptune Tune, because you can’t help it. It’s like really nerdy space science set to a rockin’ beat. In fact, just TONIGHT Jared recorded Elliott singing to the first song on this album, Journey through the Solar System. Behold, the cuteness:

Jared & Jes - a rare "Together" pic

Jared and Jessica, Wilson’s Creek, Pisgah National Forest, NC

We went to the cabin this weekend, from Friday night to Sunday morning, and spent most of Saturday driving, hiking, and “plooping rocks” in the Pisgah National Forest. It was perfect jacket weather, and we found this beautiful spot on Wilson’s Creek. This is my first experiment with the camera’s self-timer. I leapt over those rocks in the foreground in a SINGLE BOUND. Look at this handsome fella, would you? How can a girl get so lucky?

CHALLENGE: We realized over the weekend how very few photos of Jared and I we have - most are of him and a kid, or both kids. If you are feeling that way, get out that camera and set your self-timer, and grab a shot, ok? DO IT! :)

Home! NYC was Awesome.

Home again!

Wow! New York City was amazing. Completely mind-blowing. So different from anywhere I’ve been in so many ways. Candice is a GREAT tour guide, mixing in equal parts shopping, sightseeing, and eating, three of my favorite things. ;) We spent Sunday and Monday going ALL over the place - Union Square, Herald Square, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, the Anthropologie flagship store (!), H&M, Uniqlo, a phenomenal chocolate shop called Max Brenner, and I took like 250 photos in 2 days. LOL I’ll be posting some of them later today when I get more time to sit down.

I actually have them all edited in Lightroom already. I can’t say enough great things about Lightroom for editing lots of pics in sets.

So it took a few days to recover from this trip, which was almost a week long! Whew! I’m so glad to be back home. My heart starts pulling towards home after being gone for a couple of days, so by day 6 I was definitely ready to come and snuggle on my family.

I came down this morning to find Rowen in her new tutu and her pj shirt, spinning circles in front of the TV. Elliott was in his pj shirt, pullups and his “stomper boots”, playing on the back patio. Apparently pants are optional today. Spread the word!

Rowen is out of preschool today, and it’s raining, so we are heading over to the Hopper’s House (a cute little neighborhood play place with big inflatable bounce toys, a play kitchen, all kinds of toys and games - perfect for too-hot and too-rainy days). And a good chance to hang out with my kids in a place they love.

Okay, don’t forget that registration begins on Monday for Stories in Hand! The class size is unlimited, so you have until right before the class begins (November 8) to register. :) We’ll be putting up links here and on the home page of JessicaSprague.com on Monday at midnight. Thank you so much for helping me get the word out! I am SO excited! :D

Connecticut, Classes, Hints, and Excitement!

You guys are the best! LOL!

I have really enjoyed your guesses! HEHE!

And I am surprised how close some of you are. It is really cool to see what you’re hoping to see, too. That is another post, because I am sincerely interested in what you want to learn. How we can improve the menu of classes we offer, and fulfill our mission to help bring technology into the life-storytelling and memory keeping process.

As for me, I arrived at JFK yesterday and watched closely as we drove an hour into a totally other state! I grew up in Idaho, you’ll remember, and driving an hour in any direction only ended you up in the middle of someone’s farm or in the middle of the mountains. We DID live about 2 1/2 hours from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but seriously? To be able to take a day trip to like 7 other states is mind-boggling to me. And to live in one state and work in another? Crazy.

I taught a class at Momento in Milford, CT last night, and it was great. It’s SO MUCH FUN to introduce scrapbookers to the power of including some computer tricks into their scrapping process. It was awesome to meet Anne, who is a “Beta Girl” from way back in my very first online class from last year - thanks Anne! :D It’s great to be there with beginners, too - to see the light go on as things start to come together, to make them promise that they will always do their own black-and-white photo conversion from now on, and never let Wal-mart do it for them again, and most importantly, to see the confidence level go up. It is awesome. I love how empowring the experience of learning Photoshop can be.

Today I am teaching an Introduction to Photoshop class at the Creative Photography Retreat here in Stamford, and I’m looking forward to more of the same goodness (on a MUCH larger scale - this class might be HUGE, but it’ll be ok), meeting some scrapbookers, and starting the par-tay that is a CK event. :D I’ll let you know how it goes… Then some photo editing action on Friday and Saturday (EIGHT 90-minute classes over two days! Whew!), and then we’re off to NYC, I can’t wait!

So.

I am REALLY excited for the big announcement tomorrow. I think it’ll be huge!

Ready for another hint?

Let’s see.. we already know:

  • This class is for ALL skill levels - even non-scrappers!
  • But (and this will be veddy veddy interesting) it’s perfect even if you’re a seasoned digital scrapbooker
  • This class is a perfect opportunity, if you haven’t taken a class at JessicaSprague.com, to come check the place out
  • This class includes printable goodness

And now let’s add these keywords (which will totally make sense tomorrow)

  • capture
  • catalog
  • past & present
  • everyone welcome

You can check here, or the web site home page, and I’ll be sending out a little email reminder to my newsletter list as well. WOHOO! :D

p.s. Keep guessing in the post from yesterday - let’s increase the prizes to 7, just to keep it interesting! And just so you know, there were some very close guesses!

Have an awesome day!

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Heading Out, Sneakie Peeks, and (what else?) New Shoes!

I’m leaving for my final trip of the year tomorrow morning. Heading to Connecticut and CPR, then for a couple of days in New York city with Candice! Yeah! :D I’ll be back in town next Tuesday - this is a long trip for me and required much forethought in the choosing of shoes.

But this week, I’m feeling so good. 

Sneakie Peek

I feel SO good, in fact, that I wanted to give you a sneakie peek of what’s coming in the Big Announcement on Friday:

That’s all there is for now! Hehe. But at least you know which week to set aside in your schedule, right? And now we can let the debate rage about what exactly all the other stuff is in this picture. Can you guess it? Shall I give a prize to the first 3 people who DO guess it? Yes. I will!

Okay, here are a couple more hints on the brand new class:

  • This class is for ALL skill levels - even non-scrappers!
  • But (and this will be veddy veddy interesting) it’s perfect even if you’re a seasoned digital scrapbooker
  • This class is a perfect opportunity, if you haven’t taken a class at JessicaSprague.com, to come check the place out
  • This class includes printable goodness
Oh, and I am really, really excited! :D

I’ll post the official flyer here and over at JS.com, along with the class description and all the details. I hope you’ll help me spread the word about this cool class. There is NO LIMIT to the registrations for this one, so we can all pile in and have a GREAT TIME as we round out the year of classes at JS.com!

Alrighty, off to pack and burn some CDs and deliberate on shoes.

Oh yeah! Shoes!

I am now, for the record, a 5-time Fluevog owner - if you’re coming to Connecticut youll be the first to see my BRAND NEW shoes I just got in the mail today! (See, I have this thing about shoes…) Ah, swoon.

I will post a pic of my own as soon as I can - Fluevog is going to have a hard time topping the complete and utter perfection that is the Zaza (which, if you read on their web site, was actually part of their Open Source Shoe project - so awesome). Seriously, though. They are comfy enough to stand in all day (just like all the ones in this series), and cool enough to get compliments on them every time I wear them. Oh, and the GREEN! And three buttons! Holy cow, man. Per.Fec.Tion. I truly think I don’t need to buy another pair of shoes as long as I live.

But who am I kidding, right? Seriously.

 

Creative Photography Retreat Recap

Whew!

I must say, traveling across the country can be a bit draining. Being sung “Happy Birthday” by 300 people at once is exhilarating. Teaching the same class 8 times over 2 days is exhausting. Meeting new friends and seeing old friends is awesome! Seeing scrapbookers with laptops is inspiring. What a cool thing. It’s a real wish fulfilled for me to be part of these live events where people are bringing computers, just like it’s a wish fulfilled for me to be part of online classes on using the computer as a scrapbooking tool.

After flying ALL day (left at 8 this morning from San Jose, got into my driveway at 9:15 tonight), I am a little tired, but so glad this weekend went well. CPR was SUCH a cool event. I was initially pretty nervous to teach a live photo editing class. It’s something that doesn’t get attempted very often, for obvious reasons, right? Hehe. Well, we had a great time. And my favorite part? Seeing the pics that everyone brought to practice on after we finished with our sample. 

We definitely had some adventures with Adobe Camera Raw and the various versions of Photoshop, and learned a lot in the process.

Some highlights:

  • 8 sessions of the same class in 2 days - never done this before!
  • Meeting LOTS of people from the Spraground! And many who have taken classes at JessicaSprague.com! It’s so AWESOME to meet and feel a connection right away because of our shared experience in learning Photoshop online. :D
  • Someone brought their laptop down to the Free Shoot last night, and asked a question, and we sat on the floor to work on it, and soon there were 20 or so people gathered around asking questions and chatting about Photoshop, photo editing, digital scrapbooking, the works. It was awesome.
  • Hearing people say after a class session that they wish they could just stay and edit pics instead of eating or going to another class. Hehe.
  • Hitting up In-n-Out Burger (for my first time ever) with Nicole, Candice, and Brittany Beattie. We got lost, even with Brittany’s GPS. Nicole (who was telling us that she LOVES to visit In-n-Out whenever she can), pulls out her iPhone and says, “I’ll just call them. I have them programmed into my phone.” And she scrolled down to the i’s - and there in her phone? In-n-Out Burger. “You thought I was lying. I’m not. Hi, Jennifer? We’re at the San Jose airport, and wonder if you can tell us where the closest In-n-Out is?” And Jennifer guided us right there. It was really good food, yes. And the CULT-ural experience (is Nicole the only one who knows what “animal style” is? It’s part of the secret In-n-Out menu that means “grilled onions”) was eye-opening. :)
  • Being part of the Beta Testers for a brand-new event. Always fun times and adventure. :) And it just feels like beta testers for the most part are the adventurous souls who are willing to overlook a few glitches in exchange for the opportunity to make history :)
  • Walking around the hotel at every hour of the day (mornings, lunchtime, evenings) and seeing students kneeling in the driveway of the hotel taking shots of the skylights, laying on the tiles out by the pool, laying in the grass, climbing trees, leaning on cars, experimenting with shots and really learning what they were there to practice. It was SO cool.

And now it’s home again. So glad for that. Jared and I need to go watch an episode of Futurama or the Simpsons and hang out. Now that August (and my 3-of-4 weekends of travel this month) is done I’m looking forward to a month of being home before a couple more trips planned for this year:

  • I’ll be teaching the same photo editing class at CPR in Connecticut in October, plus teaching two hybrid classes at Momento in Milfort, CT (one is a layout class and one is a mini-album), as well as hanging out that night at a crop. Then I’m looking forward to experiencing NYC for a couple of days afterward with Candice! As a small-town Idaho girl, this biggest of big cities has always scared me a little bit. But I’m totally excited to see it with Candice as guide and partner-in-shopping! :D
  • I’ll be teaching a hybrid project at the Scrap Etc. Wrapper’s Delight event November 6-8 in Birmingham, AL. I’m looking forward to getting inspired for the holidays! :D
And then of course we’ve got great online goodness:
  • The beginner digital scrapbooking class, Up & Running with Photoshop, is now Self-Paced. So you can register at any time. (Remember to send me an email if you were at CPR this weekend!) This is the place where the Photoshop fun begins. :)
  • Registration for Type + Writer starts tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. Eastern! Liv and I are so excited to add a journaling/typography class to our lineup! It’ll be 2 weeks of writing and typography AND exclusive templates to help you scrap 6 pages along the way!
  • Check out the rest of the schedule for 2008 at JessicaSprague.com

For September: It is good to be home.

Sunday

I am home from Charlotte CKC, two acronyms down and one (CPR) left to go for August. But nearly 2 weeks home is a good thing!

Most of the classes I taught in Charlotte were sessions of a journaling class sponsored by Shutterfly. I added to the presentation a bit (the CKC classes are developed by the CK Education team and then taught by different teachers through the year), and had everyone write down a couple of quotes in the notebooks we covered as the class project.

Here’s my favorite:


Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.
Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart.
Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.
Let me hold you while I may, for it will not always be so.
One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky, and want, more than all the world, your return.

-Mary Jean Irion

This poem illustrated a couple of the concepts we talked about in class (including the parallel construction in the 2nd line), and it is just exactly what I wanted to say to encourage everyone to start today writing things down.

In the spirit of this, and as so often happens with me, two or even more totally different things appear at the same time to teach me a concept, or reinforce it. So the poem is one.

Last week at CKU, my beautiful friend Ana gave me a book, The Last Lecture. I had actually downloaded the audiobook version of this, but then hadn’t taken time to listen to it. I read most of it on the way home from Utah last week, and then finished it up this weekend. It’s a beautiful, short, wonderful reminder to savor our moments and work hard for our dreams. It’s totally unsentimental, poignant only because reading it, I knew that the author had already passed away about 6 weeks ago. 

It’s not the first time an author has invited us to look at our lives as though we were at the end, reviewing it - it’s so cool to be reminded, though, that each day - no matter how boring or ordinary it might seem (or how kind of dizzy and headachey you might feel - that’s me today), is a gift and a wonder to be treasured.

So today, Rowen and I made a storybook. Her drawing skills have improved dramatically in the past couple of months. I need to share her artwork from last week’s gymnastics camp, which she came home and finished with plenty of Tuck Royce:

On the left is Wall-E, complete with scratches and dings, and green treads, a neck and his two sweet binocular eyes, and on the right is Eve, white with her blue eyes. They are dancing in space. This masterpiece (especially the coloring of every square inch of space) consumed Rowen for a full hour after she got going.

This is beautiful evidence to me. Part of the delight of parenthood to me is watching the independence and personality of my children emerge - having conversations with them, listening to the ideas and songs and chatter, answering the constant barrage of questions, being swept along in the current of delight at each new thing or experience. And I (headache and all) get to be part of this. What a blessing!

Here’s one more funny & cute:

I made chicken and mozarella ravioli with alfredo sauce for dinner. Seriously, you might ask? Well, yes, the ravioli was from frozen, and the parmesan cheese didn’t quite melt in the sauce (any tips on this are welcome - I can’t ever get the cheese to melt completely!), but Jared (bless him) was praising the meal (it actually tasted pretty good), and Rowen said,

“Maybe mama can become a cooker when she gets done making lots and lots of scrapbook pages.”

It was a sweet vote of confidence, but also kind of a telling statement about my life as it is right now, unmelted parmesan and all.

I so needed to learn and re-learn and hear all these things this weekend. I needed to hang out with scrapbookers, and hear their stories, and encourage myself even as I encouraged them to start writing things down. It’s too easy to forget. Too easy for it to get put off for self-consciousness or tiredness or mismatched priorities. And yet, stories and storytelling are a huge part of life - keeping us connected, grounded, focused, reminded, grateful, and aware. In one sense, it’s nothing more than the art of paying attention.