12-12-12: Feeling Blessed this Birthday

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I feel so blessed this birthday. Honestly one of the best.

Recently I watched a television show (Save Emily Owens MD!) that poked a little bit of fun at “birthday people.” They mentioned that having a birthday was not an accomplishment, so why celebrate?

To which I respond, because I like to! I like birthdays. I like your birthday and my birthday. Do I feel a little embarrassed that I not so tactfully hinted to my students that my birthday was coming up? Probably less embarrassed than I should, because my students were unbelievably kind to me on my birthday… and I won’t lie, that felt wonderful.

A Chicago First Anniversary

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Right before I left, Jeremy and I celebrated our first year of marriage in Chicago. It was a little bit of fanfare, because our real anniversary was on Sunday and Latter-day Saints try not to spend money on Sunday, so we celebrated Saturday. Both of us felt like it was cheating a little to celebrate the day before though, so we went ahead and celebrated Sunday anyways. That felt real and wonderful and romantic.

Our Festive Fourth

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I haven’t been terribly homesick since I got to Chicago, but today I found myself a little achey–not just from all the walking.

I missed Utah. I missed my Sugar House neighborhood parade. And I missed all the Republican Patriots! No one really sported the old Red White and Blue. I missed the local marching bands and the musics and the glow sticks and the kids with streamers on their bikes. I could not track down a single piece of salt water taffy.

My Top 5 Under-Appreciated Instagrams

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Instagram is a wonderful cyber reality. No really, I am enjoying it. Knowing I am no photographer, I am still happy to have these little square pictures documenting the mundane and exciting moments in my life, and I am enjoying the little glimpses I get into your lives too.

But after a loosely calculated and hardly serious study, I am learning that I can basically predict which photos are going to get some “likes” and which won’t. 
Does your Instagram feature:
  • A couple (usually yourself with another person) doing something mildly abnormal like playing Scrabble or washing a car?
  • Some sort of Witty Aphorism?
  • Aesthetically pleasing, gluten-free food?
  • Jimmer Fredette?
  • Jef Holm?
  • A picture that was taken in an exotic locale with a nice Canon camera, then heavily photoshopped, and then applied to Instagram?
  • A pretty teenage girl posing in a just suggestive enough pose to still be sexy AND mysterious AND age-appropriate all at once?
Good for you, your photo’s gonna get some lovin’. I’ve shot some well-liked photos into the Instagram abyss, but I’ve had others that have flopped. So here I am to shame my Instagram followers for not understanding/ appreciating the “artistic integrity” behind my point-and-shoot efforts on my weeny cell phone camera. 

My Top 5 Most Under-Appreciated Instagrams
*Please note, most of my justifications are completely made up and a load of waffle. 
This photo comments on society’s vanity. Jeremy poses with a hybrid of “Duck Face” and “Clout Pout” to show the unattractive, amoral underbelly of the Fashion industry. He is in essence, MODERN ART, people! How did you not see the inherent message behind this impromptu image and Jeremy’s appallingly scary facial expression?

Guys! I found the Rainbow Fish from This Fable, and you are acting like it’s no big deal that I met a celebrity. Admittedly,  yes,  I wasn’t scuba diving or even snorkeling. I found him in a tank… at an aquarium. But it was still a rare “find.” You may have noticed that it is slightly blurry. Perhaps that was why you did not “like” this photo when it appeared on my Instagram reel. But if you could see the minutes of diligent effort that I spent trying to get this fish at an appropriate, non PG-13 angle, where his body wasn’t swimming suggestively, then you certainly would have been more eager to HEART THIS PHOTO UP.
Admittedly, there is not inherent artistic quality to this photograph, but I was saddened that more people weren’t excited about the existence/ NAME OF this product. SMENCILS. Shelby-Russels, you guys appropriately reacted to the Smencil, my Gourmet Pencil that smelled like Root Beer, so you are off the hook. But by and large friends, your lack of enthusiasm was underwhelming. I love my Smencil so much it sleeps under my bed at night… Because it rolled under there and it’s dusty, so I haven’t gotten it out yet.
This piece was titled “Bird Late for Work,” and… I’m embarrassed to say I was genuinely proud of this composition. This solo bird was a stark juxtaposition to the impatient humans in the Chicago subway. It was out of sorts with its natural habitat, yet so serene and patient. Don’t even get me started on the irony and symbolism richly apparent in this Instagram. This Pigeon was an example to us all. If only you had known.  
Look. I’m a high school English Teacher. I know that Poetry seems like an outdated artform. But this was profound!
I blame myself that this photo was overlooked. There was a typo in my caption. I wrote, “My give year old nephew’s magnetic poem.” Probably you didn’t know what a give year old was. But I meant to say my “five-year-old” nephew, Thomas, though I believe he is six now. At such a young age, he perceived one of the most basic human truths about society, and we judge and measure ourselves up to our peers. Of course, I’m interpreting this formalistically, so I should probably question his lack of commas, even though this is a list in a series. I might also interpret the meaning behind putting “myself” in between man and friend. What does that say about how Thomas situates himself in this society.  Also he used Ampersands, which tickles my English Teaching funny bone.
ALSO: It’s cute because all the poems Jeremy and I made are way up high. This poem was situated near the bottom of the fridge, much closer to Thomas’ little height. While that is not captured in the image, it certainly adds to the over all effect. 
So there. Now I hope you all feel sheepish. Or I hope you go back through the annals of my Instagram reel and see if you were one of the few to understand the real MESSAGE behind my trite little photographs. Feel free to “heart” if you’ve had sudden epiphanies. Username: SierrasPen 😛

Update: I just “linked up” with Brooke’s Instagram Link Up. I didn’t know there was such a thing.

We Out-Funned Ourselves

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So, I get it, finally! I’ve been baffled by the “Travelog photo dump blogs.” Blogs are about writing, Not about dumping photos! That’s what Facebook is for, I thought. Yet by the end of the day, you are so proud of your travels and so exhausted that you don’t have the mental stamina to write something clever about them, and tagging sounds too tiring. So we photo dump. And I am going to assume that this is for posterity and close family members because… I don’t typically like anyone else’s photo dump blogs. Furthermore, I have never liked the word Dump, so I am going to call this a “Enlightening Photo Essay.” Much more enticing than Travelog Photo Dump, right?

So here we are:

An Enlightening Photo Essay: Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago–we got in on a free day and bee-lined for the Impressionism. I plan on spending the first and second Wednesday’s of every month… Right about here. Tempted to join me, Emma Penrod?

Don’t expect much as far as captions go. All the Clever has run dry. This was one of our first days in the city, and of course, we went to the Art Institute of Chicago. I took pictures with my favorite paintings. Add to the spectacle and magnificence of it all, you know. This is Gustave Caillebotte Paris Street, Rainy Day. 
Notice that I carefully selected my most “Art Muesemy” shirt possible. Don’t I just look like a curator?
Renoir On The Terrace
Searching for our soul a la Cameron Frye. Georges Seurat, Sunday Afternoon in the Isle of La Grande Jatte. 
Claude Monet, Bridge over a Pond of Water Lillies
Claude Monet, The Artist’s House at Argenteuil
Renoir said painting flowers was a mental vacation, or something like that. Thought it sounded litt
Without people cluttering it up.
van Gogh, The Bedroom.
The Museum of Science and Industry. I believe this was Jeremy’s favorite, because he really liked all the Science. I liked all the buttons you could push. 

Jeremy creates a cyclone.
I think we were playing with bouncy balls here or something. But, you will not see many pictures of me this day… Underlight is not my favorite angle. I don’t want my posterity to see me so underlit. Plus, bangs WOULD NOT BEHAVE.
Ah, yes, the bouncy balls. Something about Wind Resistance or something… Science….
Lighting! I guess you can make lightning now a days but it has to be incredibly loud.
Some may call me short, but I am almost as tall as the scaled down model of the tallest building in the world… The Willis Tower. Didn’t know the tallest building was called the Willis Tower? Us neither. They stupidly renamed the Sears Tower the Willis Tower. We object. 
Jeremy has another dream in life. To build a train track as cool as this. 
Then we went to the Shedd Aquarium. I about died. It was magnificent, and we took a thousand and a half photos. I siphoned… sort of. 

This is the view from Museum Campus, where the aquarium is. 
After feeling self-conscious about the Sierra photo disaster of the Science and Industry Museum, I felt desperate to get a good picture up. 
Oh good, more jellies.  
I was most excited about the otter, and he was so cute! But I couldn’t get great pics. So here is your otter pic. 
Don’t know too many aquariums with DOLPHINS!
I love it when they swim upside down. 
We couldn’t tell if he was posing for the Paparazzi (us) or “flipping” us off… get it… ’cause he has flippers…
There was a Sea World style Animal show and it was insanely delightful, even though one of the Beluga Whales wouldn’t behave (For shame, Nunevic!), but I still think these are some of the most incredible animals. 
By far the most interesting fish. It’s little fins moved like moth wings! It was about the two inches and we loved it. 
Here’s another picture to show favoritism. 
Though we actually liked this frog quite a bit too. 
One night we used one of our wedding gift certificates to get some cheesecake. This skirt, sadly, just won’t work in the windy city. Almost had some Marilyn Monroe moments. 
The Cloud Gate at Millenium Park: A Super Cool Statue that encourages vanity and self-obsession at every angle. 
The Bean, or The Cloud Gate has probably been one of my favorite things so far. It is a big, mirror landmark in the middle of Millenium Park, and it reflects the whole city. Incredibly cool. 
We then took a series of silly fun pictures in front of the Bean, because that is what you do there.  
A very nice Iranian woman took this picture for us. She was there with her husband and adorable child. And though I didn’t know her well, I could tell we would have been friends.
She took this one too.
Guess what: Hair doesn’t stay super curled in Chicago. 
Getting tired of the captions. 

The Garfield Conservatory: We went here today, and give it a 5/10. There were some nice parts but over all, it was over-hyped. We’ve been garden spoiled by Butchart, so we are totally Garden Snobs. Still, the Fern Room was nice. 
This is the Koi pond. Koi give me the creeps. It’s the way they touch each other. And the way they expect so much from you with their big, nasty, wide open mouths. I don’t like them. Makes for a nice picture though. 
The Fern Room. There was a nice water fall. 
Here it is.  
The astute viewer will notice that I am wearing the same outfit two days in a row. I do not have a defense for this. That is what I did. 
Here are some Chicago Skyline Pictures. The architecture here is the best I’ve seen, next to Paris. It is so interesting and unique and beautiful and asymmetrical and I love it. 

Many of those pictures were taken from this place: The Navy Pier. I want to ride that Ferris Wheel, and Jeremy promised we could. 
“And so ends our photo journey… For Now,” she finished lamely.