Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ya-Yas in Bloom

Ya Yas in BloomYa Yas in Bloom by Rebecca Wells<
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If I had read this ten years ago, I probably would have given it five stars. After all, in high school, I was obsessed with all things Ya-Ya. Seriously - I read Little Altars Everywhere and Divine Secrets multiple times. I loved Sidda and her artistic take on the world. I loved the idea of friends being best friends since childhood. I loved the Southern phrases and the references to entertainers through the decades. And, of course, I loved the drama of it all.

Now, while I enjoy the books, I see more of Wells' formula, more of her pattern. Don't get me wrong - I can't help but love the Walkers and the rest of the Ya-Ya gang. I'm just not as willing to follow them anywhere they want to go. So, all that said, if you loved the earlier books, feel free to give this a whirl. If you haven't read the others, don't start here. And remember, as the Ya-Yas would say, life is always better with a drink in your hand.

The Book of Useless Information

The Book of Useless InformationThe Book of Useless Information by Noel Botham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this book, but let's be honest, I love all things random. Fill 300 pages with useless information, and you have one very happy reader. The reason this book is not five stars is that Botham spent too long on the animal kingdom. I much rather would learn that Tommy Lee Jones and Al Gore were freshman roommates at Harvard or Louisa May Alcott hated children. She only wrote Little Women because her publisher asked her to. On that note, I better go get out Trivial Pursuit because at least one of the useless facts I just put in my brain has to be an answer to a question... Happy reading!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hello SRV Class of 2011!

If you read the post written before, you know that I am sending off my student's letters to themselves that they wrote two years ago. Here is my letter to them as they embark on their new adventure.... (crazy that mine began TEN years ago)

Hello Class of 2011-

I cannot believe it has been two years already since we wrapped up your sophomore year. I have slipped on and off campus every couple of months since then to say hi to old friends, to watch some of your games, to hear some of you hit impossible notes, and to just catch up on where life is taking you. You have been doing incredible things, and the more I hear about your plans for the fall, the more excited I get for all the great things you will continue to do.

As you take a minute to read your letter that you wrote to yourself two years ago, I’m sure some of you will be pleasantly surprised that you actually accomplished all that you set out to do. Some of you will be reminded that things have not gone as planned. Others of you won’t care about what you said and will just be ready to move forward. Hopefully you’re still talking to all those people you listed as “besties” or you finally got the girl/boy you had been crushing on for way too long. No matter what your reaction is to your letter and no matter what goals you reached this past year and what goals slipped from your grasp, I hope you will see that every day is a new opportunity to make your life what you want it to be. High school may be ending, but it is never to late to be who you want to be.

I have spent your junior and senior year completing a graduate degree. I would have much rather spent it with you reading a few more books and writing a few more papers, but it has been a good experience just the same. It has been great to be a student again – there’s nothing like spending your days learning new things. Whether you’re off to Cal Poly or DVC or going straight into the workforce, never stop learning. There is so much out there to know and to experience.

I know you have been reminded recently of how hard life can be. I have talked to many of you about all the things you have had to overcome in the last twelve months alone, and my one thought for all of you is don’t give up. There are always people who can help you along your way. If that is not enough, remember that as Gandhi said, you can always be the change you wish to see in the world. If a butterfly can change the current of the North Atlantic, what little things can you accomplish in order to reach your goals?

I am so excited for you as you start this new chapter of your lives. I will be in the stands on June 10th cheering you on. You are exceptional people, and your future, as someone wise once said, is so bright it hurts my eyes. Remember that I am one of those people who always here to help you along your way. Let me know if I can ever do anything for you.

Congratulations on graduating!

Miss Hutchins

Signing off as Miss Hutchins - 2009

I am mailing out my last batch of student letters this weekend. These are the letters that kids wrote to their graduating senior selves (more on the content of these letters later). I also wrote a letter in the summer of 2009 just as school was wrapping up. It's fun to revisit what I wrote then, and what I'm writing to them now. As always, the things that matter most and that are the most true don't change much....

July 3, 2009

“Happy Thursday. Welcome to class.” I can’t think of how to start anything to you without breaking into my normal introduction to any one of our 180 English classes. As we finished out the year, I was a little nostalgic. Leaving somewhere you love will do that to you. So bear with me, while I take you on a journey down part of the road that led me to the Home of Champions….

I became a teacher for very simple reasons. I had a teacher who changed my life. She was my 7th and 8th grade Spanish teacher (shocking, I know, since you guys complained more about foreign language teachers than any other subject matter) at Pine Hollow Middle School in Concord. To be honest, I don’t remember loving the exercises we did, but I loved her. I loved how I felt when she talked to me. I loved all the potential she said that I had. I decided that I owed it to “the universe” to give back what I had been given. I needed to teach – to make someone feel as important as Miss Monteverdi made me feel. I don’t think it is overdramatic to say that she changed the course of my life. I was headed down a less-than-ideal path then, and the friends that continued down that path have struggled immensely in their adult lives. I, on the other hand, have spent my first few years as an adult teaching people like you. My life, so far, has been great.

How did I become a high school English teacher if my favorite teacher was my Spanish teacher? I knew when I entered college that I loved liberal arts – music, literature, history, art, etc – but I was best at English related things, so I started as an English major. Then throw in that I have always loved teenagers, and suddenly being a high school English teacher seemed the perfect fit. With English, I could tie in everything - the history, the music, the movies (where would our classes have been without the movies?!), and, of course, the books. With high school students, I could say, “sit down” and people would do it. I could say, “that’s what she said” and not only would you understand, you’d laugh, but not get me fired for it. I could talk to you about the real world. Maybe, somewhere along the way, we could learn how to write better introductions and figure out how to escape the Combine and the beast within.

I spent two years of my English teaching career laughing and learning with you at San Ramon Valley High School. We read some great and some not-so-great books. We learned some of the essentials of writing. More importantly, we learned about each other, and we learned about ourselves. I hope you learned that there is nothing you cannot do, and that you owe it to yourself and to those around you to not settle for doing less than your best. That does not mean that you have to be stressed and serious all the time. It simply means that you need to work hard at the things you love, and that you need to value people and value ideas – whether you agree with the people and their ideas or not. And, of course, you need to laugh while you work, while you play, while you do whatever-- life is hard enough without being pessimistic along the way.

It’s only been three weeks since we ended the 2008-2009 school year, but it feels like much longer. I have packed more than a dozen boxes and locked the door to E4 for the last time. I have already started studying (something that should be a crime in July) for my upcoming courses in the fall. I think about you all often. It’s amazing how much I enjoyed being with you. There’s that cliché idea, that if you find a job that you love, that you won’t “work” a day in your life. It’s true. Spending my mornings and afternoons with you did not feel like work.

I am so excited for what the upcoming year holds for you. For my juniors – this year is it – the parting shot to San Ramon. For my sophomores, the best is yet to come. Junior year is fantastic. I cannot wait to hear all about it. See you soon—

reminders of goodness

While the world still seems a bit dark, I am grateful for reminders of goodness, of hope, and of love. I appreciate so much the people in my life who care to call, to write, or just appear at the exact moment I need them. Those reminders of goodness help me believe that things will be okay - no matter what is going on at present. Love you all!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

dear world

dear world-

we need some good news. people are being mean. joplin is devastated. alliy is dead. posey is out for the season. a little girl has stage iv cancer. i'm not asking for anything crazy, but please something besides divorce, death, unemployment, and the plague that would be sarah palin running for president in the headlines.

we all would really appreciate it.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

the topic which must not be named

we are so afraid to talk about certain things whether it be a facet of religion, politics, morality, or death. suicide is one such topic. and today suicide is all i can think about. not to worry, i am not suicidal. but a sophomore at san ramon took her life on tuesday. i did not know her, but that doesn't change how sad i am for her family and her friends. i am also so sad that the students and staff of san ramon are dealing with another tragedy. i hate that people so young have to think about the cruel realities of life. and while i think we need to talk more candidly about these types of topics, i want to talk about them in a way in which these kids believe that there is hope.

alliy bayliss was only fifteen. she was not alone, and yet she believed she was.

cue the cheesy music if you like or embrace the deafening sound of silence - either way - know that you are not alone. there is always reason to hope even in our darkest hour. and if you ever need anything - day or night, someone will be there. you just need to call.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Automatic Millionaire

The Automatic Millionaire: A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish RichThe Automatic Millionaire: A Powerful One-Step Plan to Live and Finish Rich by David Bach
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The concepts in Bach's book are not rocket science, but they are solid and realistic. I don't agree with the concept of getting rid of a budget, but I am completely agree with the idea of "paying yourself first" (aka working at least an hour a day for yourself). This is was a worthwhile read as I gear up for my life post-grad school. Now if only I had a salary to put these principles into practice with.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cinderella Goes to the Ball

Our beautiful Jenessa went to Senior Ball last night, and I am proud to say that as the primary photographer at the pre-party, I took over a hundred pictures. I know I chose the large photo size, and no, I don't know how to tile these better (I should have listened to Hill and Jewels more). However, Jewels needs to see these pictures in an up close and personal way because we miss our J2 on nights like this.

A few essential details-
Jenessa's date and boyfriend: Colten Brown
Jenessa's shoes: sparkly Toms
Why Toms?: Colten is Jenessa's height
Dance location: Giants stadium in San Francisco (yes, I almost cried and almost volunteered to chaperon - almost being the key word)
Jenessa's dress: an amazing find at Alysse's Bridal in Provo
Starry, starry night: Sure it was a bit rainy, but Colten capped the evening off by giving Jenessa a star - He had one named for her, matched her perfectly, and was an all-around charming date.

Post-It Jumble

As most of you know, the stickies on my mac desktop are one of my most frequently used applications. I have a stickie that I literally created last July that held ideas for things to blog or write about, and now it's May and the list is unmanageable. When I thought this week that my hard drive was potentially lost, the only shred of relief I felt was that this list was gone and I no longer had to account for my previously unexpressed thoughts.

Obviously and thankfully, my hard drive was not lost and so the list remains. However, I do not like to feel obligated to things, especially a to do of my own creation...and so here is the list. It's garbled and incoherent, but it makes sense (at least a little) to me. And I am free of this obligation and am off to conquer another one.

if you want an interesting relationship, stay in one - julia's friend

identifying others' excellences make YOU better at what you do

Each day we are persuaded and persuade others.

"We're not the best person. We're not the worst. Graduate students are the worst." Jack & Liz

Colin Firth BAFTA acceptance speech

life happens right now
transformation happens right now

we spend more than when we feel less than

just relax - let it happen >> sis. hinckley

CJ's "why i'm a business major"

Last Gatsby quote - 8 hour performance Gatz

look up and live. when you are discouraged...

2:15pm - Home
5:30pm - Dinner w/ Lauren

9am - Walk w/ Emily
10:30am - Massage
12:45 - Lunch w/ Rachel & Tracy
Late afternoon - Katie Fin
Evening - "Eat, Pray, Love" w/ Mom

Movie day with Mom & Ness

8am - Breakfast w/ Chuck
10:00am - Massage
12pm - Lunch w/ Lorraine
2:30pm - WC shopping
5:30pm - Skips w/ the fam

San Francisco day (shop for dress)

Home, pack, relax

First day school
early morning - good hair
poptarts - near wipeout on the ice
classes - strategy (what am i taking again?), ethics with the macc students
lounge chatting
voice lessons
derma tech
sundance - perfect snowy wonderland
dinner w/ kar and gilmore girls
applying for jobs - nets/nordstrom
chatting with marianne
kirsten's party
eat, pray, love

family stone, while you were sleeping, hp1, eat pray love, blind side, dan in real life

Loving the snow capped mountains and all the great holiday gatherings to look forward to. Life really is amazing.
...a comforting sort of terror

ws photo

LIZ OTT's blog : when i die

blog allison sweeney's hair - bl 10.5

giants - best baseball team in july, rich aurilia (giants wall of fame)

3000 ads a day - don't even realize we're being exposed

zac on red carpet outside work - didn't know of course but crazy to consider

30 things before 30 blog

*blog la, trip with jewels, life out here, stardom (just people)
red checked table cloth and sunglasses w/ a book, friends gag reel, juri's wedding

*Blog maria, semi-freedom of expression vs. faithful following

reread hunger games on blog

white dress, white parasol - not a month goes by that i don't think about her...

the human condition

movie stars are people we watched growing up. our age or younger, they're just people

*we crave the drama, the obstacles - the product (apple, youtube, columbus) isn't enough

i wish song - beg. of disney, musicals - telling us what they want and where things will go

i like books, movies - fiction etc - because the pain isn't real

"All that we call human history--money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery--[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy." -C.S. Lewis

"three hats we wear -- who I think I am, who others think I am, and who I really am," has caused me some discomfort. Since then, I've analyzed my personality by asking myself, "Do I say or do this because that's what I think I am supposed to do? Or is it because that's what others think I am? Or is that who I really am?" Also, when I answer the questionnaires I ask, "Which one of me is responding to these questions? I've been told my whole life that I'm outgoing. Am I really? Or is that what other people think I am so I act on it? Or is that who I think I am?" (1st year)

goals/love list
jim collins - goals, stop doing list
GEEK UNIVERSE _ resolutions!!
your wishcake post

charity sees the need, not the cause

Did you ever think you're not meant to fly under the radar - Ash O.

Whiners are Wieners

(Wow - you scanned all the way to the end of this. That's amazing.)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mini Book Reviews

Okay for NowOkay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I don't know if I was too nostalgic after having graduated or for just having returned home, but this book surprised me and exceeded my expectations...and so I loved every minute of it. This book follows a completely storyline than Schmidt's "The Wednesday Wars" but does involve one of Wednesday War's small side characters (e.g., one of Holling's friends). If you are a fan of young adult fiction, I would highly recommend this book.

StargirlStargirl by Jerry Spinelli
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Can you tell I'm reading all of Juliann's books from her children's literature class? I read this because I feel like everyone read this book years ago. I liked it, but I didn't love it. There wasn't enough resolution for me. There were some quality descriptions included throughout the narrative, but I feel like Spinelli spent enough time in the denouement portion and too much in the introductory portion.... Still, I'm glad I read it.

Where She Went (If I Stay, #2)Where She Went by Gayle Forman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Forman's first novel "If I Stay" had me from the very beginning, and her second was much the same. Forman writing style is engaging and her storyline intriguing (albeit a bit salacious). I didn't love how Forman forced the ending to tie into the first book's storyline, but I did enjoy how she wrote the main characters' interactions and how she included their passions in their movements, their dialogue, their thoughts. Though it can't live up to "If I Stay", this book is worth reading.

Hatchet (Hatchet, #1)Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I don't know how it has taken me this long to read this book, but I'm glad I finally did. This really is a great book for boys, whether they are younger and reading with a parents or a little bit older and struggling readers.

Bridge to TerabithiaBridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Again, I'm lost in the middle of Jewels' books and of course, had to read this book. I first read it in fifth grade and haven't picked it up since then. Hard to believe that was almost twenty years ago now, but I am so impressed by how well this book communicates profound ideas through simple, accessible language. Paterson crafted a beautiful story all those years ago, and I am not surprised at all that it is still one of the greatest books in children's literature.


Despite all my to do lists and my “of course everything will work out” attitude that I use to answer all the many questions that everyone (including the voices in my head) keep asking, there are some moments when I feel like I’m Tom Hanks in Cast Away, floating adrift of anything stable and without Wilson to keep me company. Those moments are, shall we say, not my favorite.

Monday, May 9, 2011

What a day!

Today is my parent's 30th wedding anniversary. They are spending it away from home, so I tracked down their old journals and scanned them their respective thoughts from just after May 9, 1981. Today is also the 36th anniversary of my parents first holding hands at Dance Festival. Too cute for words- (My parents and Ryan in June 2008 - can you believe these people are old enough to be my parents?!?!)

Today, my cousin Megan also had her baby! William James Linton was born this morning in Sandy, Utah and was 17.5 inches long and 6.2 pounds.

Yesterday was my brother Ryan's 21st birthday. Seriously - my little rambunctious Lego building brother now looks like a MAN and is off to Europe on a Marriott School study abroad for six weeks.

Yesterday was also Mother's Day. My mom, as previously mentioned, is out of town, so Jenessa and I spent it alone going to church, laughing (a little of this may have been during church), feeling odd in such a quiet house, and playing board games (which may or may not have included Chutes & Ladders and Candyland - no, there were no children here to join us).

Tomorrow, I am going to plant flowers in the front and backyard of my parents' house. Spring is in full swing, and I am on a quest to add a little more color to the glorious shades of green that are already gracing their yard.
Tomorrow, I am also going to hang out with Katie Finegan. That really needs no other explanation because that simple fact is wonderful on its own.