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This morning, as soon as our nanny arrived to take Hudson, I made my Friday march down to my basement office, wadded up a hoodie for a pillow, and decided to sleep on the floor.x No, I wasn’t booting up my computer and reviewing my incoming emails, but I felt like, through the absence of actual work, my proximity to work might be enough. Maeby, who is unaccustomed to me being quite so literally on her level, responded gamely—gamely in the sense that she flopped right beside me so her whiskers could twitch against my cheeks while we both tried to rest.

To my Graduating Seniors of 2015

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Dear Seniors of 2015,

I need to make a tiny confession. You were already winners before the contest began, and you’ll continue to be winners long after it’s over.

I need to make another confession: I’ve been manipulating you to think that I am “The Keeper of the Words.” And yet, I struggle too–just like you–when faced with a prompt. And today, the cursor blinks patronizingly as I try to answer the prompt instructing me that somehow I must “Say Goodbye.”

I’m older than you, and by extension “wiser,” and I’ve got your captive attention for probably eight more seconds, so allow me a moment to share the thesis that you, your wisdom, and the time we have shared together has helped me to articulate.

A Post for Peter

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For me, High School was not this gaseous pit of endless misery. I liked it. By-and-large, I don’t think I would tolerate teaching in a high school if I didn’t appreciate most of my four years of deep teenagerism.

But there was that time. It was the first time that I ever really could ask myself, “Am I depressed? Is this what depression feels like?”

And for no reason at all, Peter Spear was there for me. 

I was a sophomore in the height of my silliness. Peter was a senior, super cool, musical. I can picture the way his fingers pluck mildly, deliberately, smoothly at his upright bass that was taller than me. Even his fingers had soul.

I don’t know what Peter Spear saw in me as a person. I wasn’t funny or clever. I was my worst self.

Peter took me in anyway.

One day, Peter told me he wanted to show me a song. He led me down to his bedroom and I remember feeling instantly nervous. I’d been warned about upperclassmen boys and I’d been warned about their bedrooms. I’d been warned about basements with boys.

But Peter was genuine. He genuinely wanted to play me a song. He popped in a CD, and lit some incense (this is not a euphemism for marijuana), and he laid down on his nasty couch repurposed as a bed that he’d literally found. He wanted to listen to the song all the way through without talking. He called this a “Chill Session.” And for an hour or two every day, we’d go listen to music and obliterate our cares and annihilate our heartbreaks. It was better than yoga. It was better than a lot of things.

We’d spend a lot of time in his basement bedroom with a nasty couch instead of a bed.  This probably would have HORRIFIED my parents if they knew, but nothing happened but healing.

I promise Peter fixed me.

Peter Spear was the only person in the world who had shorter fingernails than me. I keep thinking about them.

I don’t know how else to process what happened to Peter Spear. But I like to think that he’s still here, still the same boy, helping everyone else with their sad feelings.

And then he doesn’t really feel so gone.


Peter played my big brother, George Gibbs, in Our Town. Here we are, looking at the moon.


“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.”

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Ordinarily, this post might include a shame-faced apology for not blogging in so long. But there has been nothing ordinary about this past year, so the usual excuses of laziness or busyness just don’t apply. For once in my life, the most cathartic thing in my life has been–not writing–but in fact, teaching. So I can’t apologize for throwing all my efforts into that, and becoming the somewhat invisible thing that this blog is trying to catch. 


The Power of Nice

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I used to think that “niceness” was a soft attribute. I was heartily convinced that the way to be in life was like Christina Yang–calloused, driven, exceptional and seldom nice. Nice was a boring quality. Nice felt like Comic Sans and an exclamation point. Nice was a pastel butterfly on top of a crib. Nice meant weak. 

That’s not to say I was always mean. I liked to call myself “driven” instead. I was capable of being nice, but usually and especially in high school, nice was not inherent; nice served a purpose.

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.


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How do you end your college career? Especially your college career as an English Teaching Major? And more importantly how do you punctuate the end of your English Teaching Major Undergrad Education?

  • I think predominantly, the last semester produced a sort of fizzle effect, a pathetic wheeze into the finish line that is best characterized “grammistically” (made it up, whatcha gonna do about it?) by a “…”
  • At times throughout my college career, and this semester especially there was a lot of indecision and uncertainty, which as we all know looks a lot like this “?” Unless it looks more like this “!?” or even this “!?” when you are having a panic attack about all the choices you have to make (Man, I could really use an interrobang right now).
  • Once I walked out of that last final this morning, all I really wanted to do was click my heels with a giant “!”
  • But even though I am immensely relieved, finally breathing again, proud of myself, enormously grateful for all the support, and tremendously excited for my future, I can’t help but pause and recognize that another one of life’s major milestones has come and gone. And the only real way to punctuate that moment of bittersweet solemnity with a note of resonant finality is one giant .”

I’m done. I’m done with college.