Thursday, April 15, 2010


Slowly were picking up the pieces
The storm reluctantly ceases
Crashing waves against the shore
Constantly going they were before
But now the quiet lapping fills the air
Back to the known being forced to share
The sand beneath us becoming more stable
Beginning to stand now we are able
Hand in hand we walk the beach
Seeing the things we again can reach
The cool water catching our toes
From our lips every word flows
Silent tears come pouring to the ground
You sweep them away without a sound
The harsh winds settle at last
Though things will stay from the past
The setting sun illuminates the sky
Past the dampness I see hope in your eye
You cling tighter to my arm
Promising we'll be safe from harm
The circling gulls screech a warning
That this all may change come next morning
Sparkling stars dance around the night
For now we will put down the fight
The shells whisper to go with care
I will find peace knowing you are there
The man on the moon smiles at these friends
Who will always be, right down to the end

Monday, March 22, 2010

3rd Quarter ORB Review

The Freedom Writers Diary by The Freedom Writers with Erin Gruwell, Broadway Books, 1999. Genre: Biography.

This book is about a young college English teacher who gets a position at Wilson High School and discovers her class is the "reject" class. The school and community are extremely racist and unwilling to accept anyone who isn't white and rich. Erin Gruwell entered her new classroom to find a group of multiracial, fed-up, poor, marked-stupid, kids. Ms. G., as the teenagers call her, help them to deal with their problems through writing. They create diaries of the things in their life and discover through that and activities in class, that they're more alike than they thought.

"Straight from the front line of urban America, the inspiring story of one fiercely determined teacher and her remarkable students."

This book is unlike any other book I've ever read. Basically every single page has a different diary entry from a student. No names are ever mentioned of students, which can, at times, make it difficult to follow. This book is also very hard to explain, so you just have to read it. Since this book was written by teens, the style is very easy to read and easy to relate to, even if the situations aren't.

I haven't read any other books by Erin Gruwell and I don't know what each of the students are doing now. Like I said, I've never read a book like this. It has such power and emotion that wasn't expected, even being told about it.

"I stood, staring at them, as if it were an illusion that I was seeing. I closed my eyes, thinking that the vision would go away, but when I opened my eyes, the cross was still there. I came to realize that these were the same people who had beaten me earlier that day, and they continued to beat me, not physically, but emotionally. " (168)

I think this book really opened up my eyes to the world around me. The topic and theme affected me the most. It made me realize that I'm pretty ignorant. I thought South Hadley was bad, but the stories these students wrote will stick with me forever. I really liked the realism to it. I liked how the students were so open, willing, and vulnerable with their writing. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Obstacles of the Ocean

In our lives we experience many things that make an impact on us. We face obstacles that stand in our way. We want to overcome these things to be able to live with it, but sometimes we have to work to do this. Everyone, whether you are five or ninety-five, deals with things we’d rather not. Perhaps a student is facing a test they are not prepared for. Or you just got the test results back and the doctors don’t know what to do. In both cases the outcome is bleak. Either way there is something in your way. Life is like a mountain, it takes a lot of climbing, but eventually you make it to the top. Santiago obviously had huge obstacles to overcome, but he did even if the outcome wasn’t great. Sometimes that’s the risk but it’s worth it. He did catch that fish and should be proud of it. In Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, the main character faces many frustrating situations. He has to deal with loneliness, pain, and despair. All three of these things made his journey unforgettable.

In the book, Santiago has no family. He lives on his own and fishes for a living. However he is not often alone. Manolin, a young boy who lives in the village, helps the old man almost every day to fish and keep company. Manolin offered to go with the man on his fishing journey, but Santiago refused. He feared for the child because he cared for him. He was trying to be cautious. He most likely knew that the trip would be dangerous and suspenseful, so told him no. But Santiago was regretful of this decision later in the book. The boy was talkative and carefree which he missed. The old man ended up talking to himself to fill the silence. He often said in the book how he missed the boy, “I wish the boy was here.” (50) Also, there were many instances where the boy’s assistance would have been helpful for him. The boy, being young and strong, would have especially been able to help with the capturing of the fish. The old man found himself lonely and upset being alone. He wished for company and even talked to a bird for a short time. He needed a friend, but all he had was the monster pulling him along.

A second struggle Santiago faced was pain that he felt through this experience, both physical and emotional. The main physical pain he felt was his cramping hand. While he was trying to get the fish to take the line, his hand cramped up. He was an old man who had been through a lot in his life, but he was disgusted none the less. “’What kind of a hand is that,’ he said. ‘Cramp then if you want. Make yourself into a claw. It will do you no good.’” (58) His hand affected the rest of the trip. He was tolerant of it but it made him unhappy. Santiago also got many cuts and bruises along the way. He was emotionally hurt when the sharks ate his fish. He had really come close to it and felt like it was much more than just a fish. He thought of it as a brother and was sympathetic to it. Santiago was mournful when the marlin died. He felt he lost a part of him, along with his pride. He dealt with discouraging pain, but continued anyway.

The final obstacle Santiago had to overcome was despair. Santiago was already discouraged at the beginning of the story because he hadn’t caught a fish in eighty-four days, which is an extremely long time for a fisherman who devotes his whole life to fishing. Also, he was not at all prepared for such a large journey. He didn’t have enough food or water. He ended up eating raw tuna. “Chew it well, he thought, and get all the juices.” (58) Santiago didn’t have the tools he needed to catch such a fish. He only had his fishing pole and harpoon. He was deprived of the things he needed and yet he still persevered to get by.

Santiago faced many, many hardships. He dealt with things people don’t have to see every day and he did so all by himself. Although he was lonely out on the skiff, he had Manolin to welcome him home when no one else did. The pain he felt helped make him a stronger person. And in the end he conquered despair. Santiago showed us that no matter what we go through in life, anything can be overcome.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Man Overboard!!

“Aren’t you excited?!?” My elated best friend nearly shouted.

“Jeez, Court, calm down.” I laughed at her. She was jumping up and down. Every year my family and I take a cruise vacation together. Courtney is practically part of my family so we invited her to join us. She was insane from the moment we told her, which was four months earlier. It had been a long four months. She is definitely eccentric. It was the day before New Year’s Eve and everyone was ready for a break and a new year.

First, the teenagers on this trip, my cousin Jake, Courtney, and I, went to check out the pool while the rest of my family found something to eat. Even though it was Florida, the temperature was cool. Courtney and I pulled on sweatshirts but Jake pretended to be a tough guy and refused the jacket.

“You are aware it's still December?” Courtney said smugly.

“Yes I’m aware.” Jake obstinately said and shivered. We laughed and walked to the buffet where we met the rest of my family.

“So, how’s the ship?” my mom asked, coming to the table with a plate full of food.

“Cool. Literally. It’s pretty cold up on deck and windy too. Very different than what we’re used to.” I answered.

“Well it could be worse. Remember to be in the dining room at quarter of six, we have early dining.”

“Right!” I said, hoping I would remember. “See you guys later.” This was the last time I saw my parents until dinner. I love vacation. Courtney and I ditched Jake and went to our cabin to change into bathing suits. We didn’t care how cold it was, we were on vacation and we were going swimming. The pool was empty so we had no problem jumping in. Going cold turkey was the only way Courtney would get me into that pool. She grabbed my hand and we jumped in the freezing, ice cold water. I came back up quickly, gasping for air. She came up shortly after with a giant grin on her face. That’s Courtney. I on the other hand, climbed right out of that ice box.

“Haha, you look kind of blue.” While giving her a death stare, I grabbed my towel and asked for a hot chocolate from the nearest waiter.

“Oh shut up. Well now I have to take a shower before dinner so I'm going back to the room.” I glared once more before putting on my flip flops and walking away. I could hear her getting out of the pool, laughing behind me.

After showering and getting ready for dinner, Courtney and I went to the main dining restaurant where we met the rest of the group. We arrived just as my aunt was chastening my younger cousin. Typical aunt move: make everyone uncomfortable at a nice time. Luckily, the waiters hurried over to take our order. The dinner was delicious and I was stuffed by the end of it.

“Would you like more desert, Princess?” Apparently this man was talking to me.

“No, I'm all set thanks.” He smiled and proceeded to ask everyone at the table the same question. Only Joey, my little cousin, said yes. We all got up and said goodnight to our waiters. We all headed to different things so we said goodbye to everyone then. A few hours later, Courtney and I went back to our room.

“Can you believe it?? Tomorrow’s New Year’s Eve!” Courtney was being especially loquacious tonight. She must be overtired, I thought as I climbed into bed. About an hour later I heard Courtney whisper in the darkness. “Are you asleep?”

“Yes.” I rolled over and turned on the night lamp.

“I can’t sleep. I'm way too excited for tomorrow. Can we take a walk or something?”

“Court, we’re not dressed. And I don’t really want to get up to be quite honest.”

“Please? A quick walk and I promise I’ll shut up after that.”

“Oh alright. Lets go.” We went to the top deck where it was really, really cold. There was a wind that comes and goes. It seemed creepy up on deck all alone in the middle of the night. It must have been around two-thirty. All of a sudden we heard two other voices, shouting. Courtney looked at me, clearly scared and confused. Her expression was my exact feeling. I motioned to her to follow me to a place we could see these people but not be seen by them. It was a couple. She was sobbing. They were both yelling. What the heck was going on?

“I can’t handle this Sophie! This is too much!” a man said, full of acrimony.

“What am I supposed to do?” the woman, apparently Sophie, was also shaking.

“I…no! I can’t!” the man stormed off. We saw a glimpse of his face as he went by, he was crying now too. We thought the drama was all over until we heard the woman speak very quietly.

“I’m sorry.” Before we could wrap our heads around what was going on, Sophie walked over to the rail. She lifted herself over it and she was gone.

Courtney and I walked back to the room in silence. We didn't even lie down. We just sat on the bed, holding each other for support. I felt helpless but it was immutable. After our sleepless night, we got off the ship onto the cruise lines private island. We were laconic and barely spoke to anyone. My family could obviously tell something was wrong but they didn't press the point.

On the island a voice came over the loudspeaker. “Attention: If Sophie Richardson is on the island, please report to the snorkel shack immediately.” Courtney and I exchanged glances, terrified. This message came on about ten more times. Finally Courtney stood up.

“I think I'm going to go back on board.” I nodded and stood up with her. Once we were back on board I stopped her and sighed.

“We have to tell someone. This is insane.”

“Should we? What if they think we did something?” I knew she could be right. Our story was plausible but would they listen to kids? We were at an impasse. But I knew what was right.

“Courtney this isn’t a movie. This is real. That woman is missing and we have information no one else has.” She sighed but nodded. We walked quickly to the nearest person in uniform. I whispered a summary of what was going on. He looked at us with a shocked expression.

“Come with me.” He said. “We need to go see the Captain.” He took us to see her. We told her the whole story. She was amazingly phlegmatic.

“Let me see the security tapes from midnight to three o’clock on deck ten.” A man next to her nodded and brought up a video on a computer. We were transfixed. In the video, at about two-thirty, there were two people. One of them walked away quickly while the other just stood there. Then, she jumped. The Captain turned it off and looked at us. “Where were you?”

“We were standing right outside the door leading to that spot. We were sort of behind a pole.” A crew member spoke for the first time.

“The cameras can’t view that area. It’s at a too difficult angle.” She waved him away and he compliantly did.

“Thank you, girls. We will inform her husband of this. He reported her missing at noon. I know it will be hard but try to enjoy the rest of your cruise.” she tried to assuage. We left without another word.

As we were walking to dinner that night, the Captain came on the loud speaker. “Attention all passengers: I have some very upsetting but necessary news to tell you all. Today at twelve hundred hours Sophie Richardson was reported missing.” My stomach dropped. “You probably heard her name being called on the island. After viewing security tapes, we have verified that she jumped overboard in the early hours of the morning. Grief counselors are with her husband and will be available if anyone needs them. I am very sorry to have to inform this but I hope that you enjoy the rest of your vacation.” My heart was pounding so loudly that I thought everyone could hear it. I looked around the room and everyone was standing frozen, jaws open, with trepidation on their faces.

“Happy New Year.” I heard my cousin say from behind me. We all went to dinner in silence. No one was smiling. The dining room was eerily quiet. We still celebrated the New Year, but no one was truly happy about it. At twelve thirty, Courtney and I spoke up.

“To Sophie.” We said together, holding up our glasses. Everyone near also cheered to her. We spent the rest of the cruise trying to be happy and have a good time. For the most part we did. But right before we went to bed, we always had that doleful moment remembering her and that moment of fear, knowing what our nightmares would entail. That vacation was truly unforgettable.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

2nd Quarter Outside Reading Book Review

Second Quarter Outside Reading Book Review

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Penguin Group, 2007. Genre: Fiction

13 Reasons Why is Jay Asher's first novel and became a huge hit. This book is about high schooler Clay Jensen who gets a shocking package. Two weeks before he received a box full of old cassette tapes, Hannah Baker, Clay's old crush, committed suicide. Clay took a risk and started listening to these mysterious tapes. To his surprise he heard Hannah's voice come on. For the next several tapes, Hannah explained all thirteen reasons why she killed herself. Through out the night Clay was lead by Hannah's voice to places that events occurred in her life. During this experience, Clay discovers not only secrets about her and his fellow classmates, but also some things about himself.

"Very clever premise, strong voice, perfect suspense. This one will keep you reading. Jay Asher is a fine storyteller." -Chris Crutcher

This book is a very unique and interesting way of looking at high school. It shows the hardships and pain of it in in new light. Everyone suffers a least a little bit in high school and this book talks about the things that some of us never want to think about.
I've never read any other Jay Asher books. 13 Reasons Why was his first novel. I've read similar books in that they discuss high school. But I've never read something quite like this. By the end of the book you really seem to know the characters and can feel some of their pain.

"But I did, Hannah. And I wanted to. I could have helped you. But when I tried, you pushed me away. I can almost hear Hannah's voice speaking my next thought for me. 'Then why didn't you try harder?'" (148)

13 Reasons Why has become one of my favorite books. Although I am fortunate enough to never have dealt with suicide, I really connected with this. I know several people who are very close to me that deal with depression every day and it's so hard to sit and watch them in pain. This book shows that. I think this book did affect me in letting me think as if I'm in their shoes and to see how they feel. I really did love this book and would recommend it to anyone.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Christmas Beagle

What really matters? The world today has been warped and molded based on money and fear. What puts a price on something? The price tag or a criticism from someone you know? For some, the brand handbag they carry is more important to them than relationships they have. Relationships they have are influenced by the handbag. What is truly important?

For years I had been begging my parents for a Beagle. Now, finally, we are going to pick up my puppy. We're gone insane trying to find the perfect name for our little Beagle. As a family, we decide on Buster. I am nine years old and practically bouncing in my seat. It's mid-November and chilly. We pull into the driveway of the breeder that we're buying Buster from. He comes out of the barn with a little, wrinkly puppy in his arms. He hands Buster over to me. He's so warm and soft. Buster looks up and me and licks my chin. To keep him warm, I hold him close to me on the car ride home. First, we stop at my little cousins house. She sees Buster and screams in happiness. When my aunt tells her we have to leave, she says, "No, I want to stay and play with Buther." We all laugh and tear my dog away from her; she was not happy.

We get home to show him around. Unfortunately, Buster is still not house trained. Let's just say we use a lot of paper towels and newspaper. Over the next few years, Buster is non-stop. He's more annoying than ever imaginable. Puppy classes failed miserably. His first veterinarian visit was really ugly. At several points, my dad honestly wanted to send him away. But we kept him anyway. Now, Buster behaves 95% of the time, is sweet, and very protective.

I get home from school, tired and impatient. My dad opens the crate and he comes out wriggling and smiling like it's the best day of his life. Buster whines and jumps up on me. He leans against my legs, waiting for me to scratch his back. I find his "sweet spot" and his leg starts to kick uncontrollably. My welcome home greeting is the best and always puts a smile on my face. Before homework, I sit on the couch to watch some t.v. From around the corner, I see his little face. When he sees that I've spotted him, he jumps up on my lap. For a Beagle, he is pretty big. Buster is thirty pounds of pure muscle. I lose feeling in my legs pretty quickly, but it doesn't even faze him.

Whenever I'm having a bad day, Buster is always there. In a way he's better than friends because he won't say a word but still be caring. I curl up next to him, stroking his fur. As my tears fall, he licks them away. He'll stay that way forever, no matter what. After I've recovered from my meltdown, we go into the kitchen and I give him treat. After he inhales it, he trots over to the door, indicating he wants to go outside. I put on his leash and we go in the backyard to play. We play fetch for a little while before we freeze. When we come in, we both get on the couch to warm up. Buster is the best dog in the world. Although my family did pay quite a price to get him, he is priceless to me.

It's Christmas Eve and my mom and I are making cookies to leave out for Santa. Although I am a little too old for that, we still like to keep our Christmas Eve routine. Tonight is always really fun and exciting. It's about five o'clock and my family is getting dressed up for church. Like most churches, mine holds a special Christmas Eve service. We get to church and are handed a candle, the usual welcome. I greet several of my friends and compliment their outfits. We walk into the dark great room as Pastor Jeff begins to speak. The candles are lit and hymns are sung. When the service is over, we blow out the candles and fake snow blows from a machine. I run to find my gifts for my friends and they do the same. When we get home, I make myself some hot chocolate and get into my pajamas. I glance out the window, praying for snow. At last it catches my eye; several tiny crystals dancing their way down to the ground. I smile and enjoy this time of peaceful bliss. Christmas is just around the corner.

I lazily roll out of bed after a night of no sleep. Half unconscious, I make my way downstairs following the smell of coffee and the sound of my mom and grandma talking. I look in the den to see our little tree and all the presents underneath. I'm immediately greeted by the way-too-excited Buster. Once I say hello to my family, we go into the den to open our stockings. When we've finished, my mom and dad make our traditional Christmas morning breakfast, potato pancakes and homemade applesauce. We sit on the couch, eating our breakfast to watch the parade. It takes a while to finish up everything, but when we do we go back into the den to open the rest of the presents. A few hours later, my aunt, uncle, and cousin come over for dessert and more presents. I play some songs on the piano while everyone sings before they go home. At the end of the day, I'm exhausted and ready for bed. Christmas day is always a very special time for me that I wouldn't trade for anything.

Although the things I value are very different; when I think about it, both are fairly similar. When I'm alone with Buster, I have a sense of peace and relaxation. I feel as if nothing can go wrong, even if they are. I feel the same way about Christmas with my family. On that one day, I don't think about my troubles; I leave them all behind me. Christmas is a time of joy with the people I love, and Buster is included. Even though, on Christmas day, he's a bit of a spaz. The things I value most bring joy and love to people. Maybe that's why I cherish them so much. They show me things I otherwise wouldn't know. Whether I'm enjoying the parade with my family or sitting with Buster (or both!) I know that I wouldn't be me without these things.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

First Quarter Outside Reading Book Review

Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen. Penguin Group-Speak, 1998. Young Adult-Fiction

Someone Like You is one of Sarah Dessen's many novels. It follows Halley and her best friend Scarlett as they battle tragedy, pregnancy, and love together. When Scarlett's boyfriend is killed in a motorcycle crash, Halley becomes the strong friend for both of them. Scarlett later discovers she is carrying his child. Together, they learn about how to live like this while maintaining a normal life. Halley becomes the father figure while struggling with her own relationships.

"Dessen has a perfect ear for the immediate daily details of a middle-class teenager's home, school, job, party scene - the elemental push and pull of family and friends." -Booklist (Found on the back)

Someone Like You shows a detailed look inside high school life. True, not everyone deals with this situation but Dessen makes you feel like you're in the book and in the halls with the characters. Though I haven't read any of her other books, I do know that they all have very much the same feel as this does.
Other books I've read that were similar to this are The Breakup Bible and I'd Tell You that I Love You, but then I'd Have to Kill You. Although both books have much different plots, the writing style is similar. In all three books, the author makes you feel like you know the characters and are a apart of what they're doing.

"For my gift, I had blown up a picture of me and Scarlett, sitting on her front steps together. Scarlett's belly was huge,and she had her hands folded over it, her head on my shoulder. I had it framed and Scarlett immediately hung it over the baby's crib, where she or he would see it every day. 'The three of us,' she said, and I nodded." (251)

Reading this book has really made me want to read more by Sarah Dessen. I loved Someone Like You and would gladly read it again. This book really can help someone struggling in high school. Whether it's because of relationship problems or something else, I think this book can be a comfort.