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My favorite female character in A Song of Ice and Fire has to be Daenerys Targaryen.  

I didn’t like her at first.  She irritated me when I started reading A Game of Thronesthey way she always deferred to her brother, how tremulous and frightened she seemed.

She was a sad character.  I thought her whole story was going to be about how terrible her life was -her marriage, her family, her exiled-royalty status.  Those things paired with Viserys mad obsession to reclaim the Iron Throne had me convinced Daenerys’ chapters would be unbearable.

But I quickly came to realize I was wrong.

She took to her new status as Khaleesi, gaining regality and confidence every day, and came to love her husband, Khal Drogo, deeply.  I started to like her more and more as the uncertainty and fear drained out of her like so much blood from a wound.

Daenerys took on a queenly manner, kind and devoted to her subjects yet commanding respect.  She won her people with strength, charisma, and eloquence.

She is revealed to be trilingual, fluent in the Common Tongue, High Valyrian, and proficient in Dothraki, and begins to reiterate, “I do not have a gentle heart.”

Daenerys comes to embody her House words, “Fire and Blood,” becoming Mother of Dragons and determined to her place as rightful queen of Westeros.

She is shown to have become both strategic and cunning, wrecking havoc in Astapor and gaining the undying loyalty of the Unsullied.

Yeah.  She’s pretty much a badass.


In the Heart of the Sea

This book combines my two favorite reading subjects: impossible  survival, and the sea.

In the Heart of the Sea details the incredible true story of 20 Nantucket whalers in 1821.  Nathaniel Philbrick brilliantly marries careful research, psychology, and biology with a heart-wrenching account of human suffering and strength to create a novel of resounding intensity.

The crew of the Essex was sunk in the Pacific by a bull Sperm Whale.  A whale, described by First Mate Owen Chase, as having a very human concern for its slain brethren.  Chase described the attack as deliberately vindictive, a prospect that was beyond terrifying to the whalers.

They drifted on the open Pacific, living on 1.5 ounces of hardtack and half a pint of water a day for 96 days.  Exposed to sun, raging storms, wind, and rain, sores covered their entire bodies and they lost two-thirds of their body weight.  They resorted to cannibalism, forced to eat their dead shipmates and even came to once drawing lots, shooting a crew member and devouring his corpse.

The story is one of leadership, despair, resilience, ingenuity, and sacrifice.  It is an account of personal strength and a testament to the human spirit.  Do not miss this book!

In 2014, a film adaptation will be released starring Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, and Ben Wishaw (so…Thor, Scarecrow and Q).


Doll House

I have terrible nightmares 5/7 days of the week.  Here’s my most recent one.

I was in a house. The halls were washed with ghastly bluish-purple light, the color of a fresh bruise.  The kind of bruise where the blood is mere millimeters from leaking out of the damaged skin.  The walls were covered with photographs in dull black frames. Photographs, with dusty, cracked glass laying spider webs over sallow, sagging faces. All other manner of macabre things hung alongside the photographs. Things… I can’t even describe. Not a centimeter of the walls was visible.  They bulged, distended like sick a stomach, breathing in and out with slow, rasping breaths stirring the musky air.  The decorations breathed with them, watching, waiting, and smiling.

I realized the things on the walls were half eaten, disintegrated beyond the point recognition.  They were shells to an anemone, digested and pushed back out as to create armor for the soft-bodied mouth-stomach.

I found myself, against my will, walking into a room.  The door locked.  And the floor beneath me, the bed beside me everything was inhaling, feverishly trying to pull me in, to get closer.

And then the dolls came.

They marched and crawled and slid and rolled out of the walls with their button eyes dangling, ogling, bouncing madly from their heads on invisible tethers.  Their red, smiling mouths dripped with viscous blackness, filth bubbling forth from lips like rotting sausages.

They reached for me, groaning and laughing with their hollow, putrid, sweet voices echoing terribly around the room.

All the while the house tried to suck me down, somewhere dank and foul, into its roiling stomach.

It wanted to me…  To devour me and digest, to make me part of the decorated walls.  To use my bones as armor and garnish its halls with my skin until it decayed into a mass of putrescence too fetid and melting to drape across the picture frames.

I don’t believe in God. But when they first emerged and started toward me I fell to my knees and begged God or something -anything to save me.

And of course, nothing came.  As I knew it wouldn’t.  There is no God.  And nothing will ever save me but myself.

I burst through the door, the wood of the door frame too weak to hold the rusting lock. The dolls chased me, coming slowly, but steadily with their jerking, broken movements, and the floor rolling and pitching and trying to throw me back into their rotting fabric arms.

Now they were corpses and dolls at together. Flesh melting off their stuffed fabric bones, the smell of rot and mothballs and decaying silk filling the air, their stringy hair writing and hissing like snakes.

The bruise-light made their white, white skin look monstrous… Thickened, oxygen-less blood sloughed like pig slop behind their papery skin.  There was a gruesome, delighted gleam in their black button eyes.  One that promised a gristly embrace when they caught me.  And there was no doubt that they would… No doubt at all…


I’ve a great, and unquenchable love for peppermint.

As a kid, I’d always grab the green and black swirly dinner mints at restaurants, a classmate having told me the red and white ones would make my eyes bleed.

But one fateful night, I accidentally ate one and thus, I was introduced to the wonderful world that is peppermint.

It became quite a problem around Christmas.

My mom would always buy twelve or twenty-four packs of candy canes to hang on the tree.

I believe my sisters were rather peeved when I ate most of them before we could decorate each year.

When I was seven, I got a candy cane corn snake.

And guess what I named her…

I was about nine when someone sent me a tin of peppermint pillow mints straws for Christmas.  They’re truly some of the most magnificent sweets in the world.  I was sitting downstairs at the table, watching a movie and shaving the red and white stripes off the surface of the candy with my teeth when I broke my first bracket on my braces.

I discovered peppermint bark and Burt’s Bees, shortly after.

Needless to say, it’s the only Chapstick I use consistently.

I also stumbled upon Bath & Body Works‘ Holiday Traditions Collection.  My favorite lotion was originally their Vanilla Bean Noel.  But I tried on some Twisted Peppermint and fell in love with the sweet, spicy scent and the way it made my skin tingle and feel so deliciously cold.

Just wearing it made me feel like I’d taken a long shower and left refreshed.

I now have a Twisted Peppermint candle on my bedside table.  I leave it open to scent the room, but I can’t light it because my parents have forbidden my pyrotechnic practices.

I love peppermint because it smells clean and sharp, and like Christmas and snow, and reminds me of being warm while watching dark fall outside.



Football, or as we Americans call it, soccer.

Yes, I’m aware that the above is not a complete sentence.  However, the winter sports season is my favorite, as I get to play soccer.

Now, I hate running.  Even though I do cross-country in the fall and track in the spring, I am really not a runner.  I wish I was, but I’m not and that’s just how it is.

That aside, I love running in soccer.  I love the sprinting, and the distance.  My friend Ally and I run at least two additional miles after practice every day.

Here’s the other thing: I’m terrible at soccer.

I played as a kid in one of those coed AYSO leagues.  The only thing I remember from that was when a kid named Peter fell off the monkey bars near our practice field and got a concussion.  I was sad because he was never the same when he came back, and I had a crush on him.

I played again in seventh and eighth grade on the school team, and wanted to play my freshman year of high school.  But, I popped out my knee during cross-country and skipped a year, joining back up as a sophomore as left wing.

I’m currently the only left-footed player on my team, so I guess that’s something.

But back to the point, I’m awful.

I just can’t seem to get my kicks right and I don’t know why.  But that’s ok; I don’t mind.

Who needs aim when you can just smash?

That’s what I do.  I just barrel into whoever is in my way and pass it to the players on my team who actually have all that fancy ball-handling down.  It’s a party, and I like it.

I love the physicality of soccer, the movement, the heat.

There’s something incredibly fierce about the pace and the nature of the game.  It’s like an unexpected dance, the opposing team always has you guessing.  You have to figure out how to move with them, anticipate their actions and take your queues.

Of course…I’m a horrendous dancer, but that’s mostly irrelevant.


Pastel orange light spilled languidly from the houses’ open windows onto the beach below.  The stars were bright, jewels strewn by a passionate hand across a sheet of the deepest blue satin. All the sky was drunk and hazy with their light.

He stood there, the darkness having swallowed the Stygian green of his eyes.  The combined backlight from the houses and the celestial illumination beaming down outlined chiseled marble of his cheekbones and the pale smoothness of his skin, dotted with dozens of chocolate freckles.

He had a beautiful face, sculpted and effortless like the creations of the old masters.  The freckles gave him a sort of impish, youthful look.  A mischievous edge to temper the severe, angular quality of his bone structure.

But even in the dark, she could see the indecision in his face, his eyes shifting like the sea bracing itself for a storm.

“I’m having conflict within myself,” he said softly, pressing his lips together.

“About what?” she asked, placing a hand on his face, her slender fingers gently laid across his cheek, long, pearlescent nails gleaming in the blackness.

He took a deep breath, closing his eyes so that the white of his eyelids shone stark.  After several moments, he opened his eyes, staring down at her with a vulnerable intensity that she had never known.

“Telling you I love you. Because it’s so soon. But it’s true. I love you.”

She felt something in her chest crumple, and feeling seemed to rush forth, filling up her ribcage with so many emotions it was like floodwaters bursting a dam and spilling into a shallow bowl, overflowing.

She looked up at him, one hand still on his cheek and the other wrapped gently around his bicep.  The soft orange light illuminated her face, turning her brown eyes burning amber and bathing her in faint tangerine radiance.

With breaking heart, she kissed him.  Lacing her fingers into his wavy dark hair, she rose up on her toes and slid one hand around to grip his shoulder.  They kissed with such bruising softness that she felt tears, tremulous, behind her eyelids.

She found herself shaking in his arms, the tremors starting at her lips and rippling out from there.  Coming down off her toes, she kissed his neck, looked up at the sky and began to whisper into his ear as her eyes filled up with thousands of glittering stars.

“There’s only ever been one person for me. And that’s you. No matter who I liked, no matter who I was with, it’s always been you.”

She pulled back and put her arms around his neck before pressing her forehead against his chest.

“Comme toujours, vous avez mon cœur, chéri,” she murmured.

“What’s that mean?”

“As always, you have my heart.”

And they stood there, in the sand with the waves crashing on the shore and the stars making their hair shine silver with soft light.  She laid her head against his chest, listening quietly to the beat of his heart.  His hands were tangled up in her hair, running up and down her back as he breathed softly next to her ear. She felt like she was breaking apart into millions of tiny, glittering pieces, twinkling stars, all swirling, spiraling away.

I was thirteen when I attended Spudfest at the Ojai Valley School Upper Campus.

Spudfest is an annual campus-integrating event that introduces students of the Lower Campus to high school life.

We had Team Comp(etition) and battled it out in various events for points, the winner would be rewarded with a pizza party.

We did all sorts of games, including, but not limited to, the chicken launch, the Barbie drop, tug-o-war, candy mummies (where someone got wrapped in tape and rolled on a tarp with candy all over it), and the shoe scramble.  It was all very jazzy.

Afterward we had a party up at the campus.

They had a cotton candy machine.  And a chocolate fountain.

I met my future journalism teacher (for whom I am writing this blog post right now), when he made me some cotton candy.  Little did I know he would be the worst thing that ever happened to me.  And I mean that in the best way possible.

Fred Alvarez with Ojai Valley School Alumna Reika Kijima

We had carnival rides.

And other such… strange forms of amusement.

That day, I met people I will never forget.

Eight months later, I was ready to graduate middle school.

I had chosen Villanova Preparatory School, a private Catholic school three minutes away from the Lower Campus.

There were about a thousand things wrong with this decision, among them, a dress code, the fact that they would have made me retake Spanish I and Algebra I, the early morning start time, and the fact that I am passionately, ardently, fiercely atheist.

But the tuition was less, and that made the decision easy for me.

However, I didn’t know that they were going to make me retake two courses  (that I didn’t particularly  enjoy the first time around), until the day of graduation.

So I went up on stage, where the Headmaster, Andy Hamilton, gave me my diploma and announced that I would be attending Villanova in the fall.  I felt oddly dissatisfied when his words pulsed through the speakers.

There was going to be a pool party at Villanova, where I could pick up textbooks and get oriented.  I was all set to go when my parents informed me I was to retake the aforementioned courses and I just lost it.

I thought about what had transpired during Spudfest eight months before, told my dad I would not do those classes over, and that I wanted to go to Upper.

He made the call that night, and within a few hours, I was enrolled as a freshman at the Upper Campus.

Upper Campus at Sunset

I hadn’t told anyone I switched schools.  The day students get lockers with their names on the doors, and when several of my friends at Upper saw my name, they were surprised and it made me smile.

So, in short, Spudfest was a glorified sales pitch, and it worked.

It was the catalyst day, the event that determined the direction of my high school career.


“It means the smell of dust after rain.”

In freshman English, our teacher had us memorize a list of the “Hundred Most Beautiful Words in the English Language.”

I still use a lot of the words I learned from that list, in my writing.  But one word stuck with me more than the rest, and that is: petrichor.

In that list, it was defined as “the smell of earth after rain.”

Isn’t that just lovely?

Last weekend, I went home to San Diego for just over fifteen hours.  It was the shortest visit I’ve ever had, but it was beautiful.

It was drizzling when we hit Genesee Avenue, and raining when we got to Point Loma.  I stayed at my friends’ house and I could hear the rain pouring outside.

At about 12:30 am, I walked out into the warm, San Diego rain.

It was foggy, so the city lights turned the cloud layer soft sherbet orange.

It was so peaceful.  I just stood there and let the warm droplets collect on my eyelashes and make them heavy with rain.  The world looked gilded, as if embellished in tiny bluish crystals, tremulous and glittering.

My heart is across the Atlantic

And yet, I am anchored here

Caught astride the blue and green

Between the far and near

To one I lost my head and heart 

In autumn hot and dry

But with you, chéri, my dreams are filled

And for you, my feelings fly 

Flickering like starlight

With eyes of emerald flame

I scarce could stand his searing touch

Or when he spoke my name 

But you, amour, I miss your laugh

That golden, sunny smile

Your piercing lapis lazuli gaze

Devoid of rage or guile

His hands are long and slender

With blue veins all showing through

The loveliest I’ve ever seen,

And yet, I think of you

Your lips so curved, like Cupid’s bow

Soft red with rosy tinge 

Perfect with unconscious grace

Lips, drawn and made for sin

Far across the dreaming sea,

In a city full of light

My love lives happy, fast and free

For you, I’m out of sight

But know, chéri, you’re in my heart

Still always on my mind

I won’t forget your face or touch

Though love is painted blind 


I had the most amazing weekend.

I went to Disneyland with my roommate and one of my best friends, Brooke Browning.

We stayed at a Hilton, and as I walked in the door, I looked down to see a text from her:

I’m gonna get you.

Turning my head, I dropped all my bags and ran into her arms when I saw her running full speed at me.

What most people don’t understand is the intensity with which CIMIans miss each other during the year.  I hadn’t seen her in 63 days, which for us, is like 63 lifetimes.

At camp, the C’s (16-17 year olds) have a  Murder Mystery Party and this year it was cowboy themed.  I wore my costume from that crew night and Brooke went as Max from Where the Wild Things Are.  

She made her costume, mind you.  She makes everyone’s costumes at camp.

Disneyland at Halloween time is so awesome.  They go all out with the decorations, the shows, the commodities.

If you ever go, you have to go in the Haunted Mansion, because they make it AMAZING.

I think they leave the decorations up until Christmas, and only switch out the centerpiece of the ballroom table when December comes around.  But it’s an awesome combination of classic Disney Haunted Mansion and Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.  It’s extravagant and so incredibly detailed.

Another cool thing about the Halloween Party are the wristbands.  When you buy a Halloween Party ticket, they give you a wristband and you can get free candy from the candy stations, located around the park.  They also kick everyone without a wristband out after 7:00, so even annual pass holders have to go home if they didn’t buy a Halloween Party ticket.  It thins out the crowds dramatically.

They put on a great Disney Villain-themed fireworks show and a parade.  And of course, they set the lights on the Magic Castle to go along with the decorations.

I had a divine 27 hours.  It was so fun.  I even made a collage!

I miss you, Brownie!