Ally Duvak | Period 2 | June 11, 2015

Chapter One: A Recipe for Disaster

A recipe created fourteen years ago by Brian and Desiree Duvak. Takes many ingredients, but is relatively uncomplicated. (She hates complications.)


  • Three quarts of impatience

  • A dash of ego and a spoonful of self-doubt (she’ll figure it out eventually)

  • Half a cup of courage

  • A cup of clumsiness

  • A sprinkle of dedication

  • Two cups of humor

  • Six spoonfuls of sarcasm


Heat oven to a relatively neutral temperature. Not too hot, not too cold. Seventy degrees with a light breeze is her favorite. Then, pour all ingredients in at once. She’s never organized, anyway. Wait for them to settle (she always gets worked up over things), then stir. Bake for the shortest time possible. She’s ridiculously impatient. If she starts singing, that means you’re probably good to go.


  • Can be hot-headed. Proceed with caution.

  • Will likely sleep very frequently. This is normal.

  • Often very snarky. She’s not trying to be mean. She’s just too witty for her own good.

  • If you hear wheezing in the middle of the night, don’t be alarmed. She’s just laughing at one of her own jokes.

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Chapter Two: What's in a Name?

In order to fully cover the story of my name, we'll have to take a bit of a journey through time, space, and people. You see, the story of my name cannot be found among the sheets of a hospital bed (sheets that, after fourteen years, I pray have been thrown out). My name developed as I did. But, of course, I cannot be given full credit. There are many characters in this story, even if I star in it.

The year is 2000. Enter my parents. Brian and Desiree did not take the adventurous path when it came to choosing my name. Alyssa Bryn came straight from a baby book. That was it. Sure, there were probably conversations of deliberation. Contenders were likely eliminated. A final decision was agreed upon. On June 7, 2000, I was deemed Alyssa. And that was that. Unless you talked to my great-grandmother.

To my Bachi, I was Ally. Like older relatives (or teasing classmates) so often seem to do, she said my name in a sing-song. Apparently, it went like this:

"Ally, Ally, oxen free!"

Now, of course, this prompts questions. Like the age old riddle of who let the dogs out, this brings up a curious inquiry. Who let the oxen go free? Was it Ally? I am here to disappoint, dear reader, for I do not know a thing about the meaning of that song. I doubt that I ever will. But I know one thing for sure: I did not enjoy it. Such a nickname offended me. For the beginning of my life, I was Alyssa Bryn, through and through. Where Alyssa flowed, Ally was clipped. Too short. Not girly enough for my princess-like tastes. It wasn't pleasant enough to me. Until later.

We must continue our journey by hitting fast forward. The year is 2008. I am in third grade, sworn to the tomboy title, and craving a new sort of change. After all, I was headed into the wing of the school deemed to be the territory of 'big kids'. I had to have something new about me as I graced those hallways. And then I got it: a name change. I was no longer Alyssa. No, I was Ally. It was short, still sweet, and to the point. The flow I had once craved was deemed unnecessary.

So, Ally I became.

It stuck. Perhaps I could've swapped back upon my arrival in middle school, but by then, I couldn't. Ally was the name I responded to. Though I ventured out of my strictly tomboyish ways, the title was one I had sworn to.

My name is my identity. When I hear it, I don't picture frivolous things. It doesn't sound like a bird song. It isn't the color blue, or a rush of warmth. To me, Ally is a title. Ally is how I've grown and how I continue to do so. It reminds me that I hold control. It marks me in the minds of people. It is confirmation of who I am.

So, Ally I remain.

Chapter Four: Memory Trunk

I lack a memory trunk. I don’t own any souvenirs from my grandmother’s wedding or remnants of my great-grandfather’s time in the army. Unlike in The Goonies, my attic is not full of antiques that will lead me on a quest set by a pirate. I do, however, have a Baby Box. This box typically sits in the closet within my basement, tucked into a corner under containers of wrapping paper, plastic reindeer, and inches of dust.

Opening this box gives way to a mountain of papers. There are cards galore, signed by people that remain somehow related to my family -- or, for some of them, not at all.

Though some of the mysterious names interested me, it wasn’t until I dug deeper into the box that I found some more intriguing items. I found the mementos of my firsts. First movie ticket stub, a picture of me in the midst of my first haircut, a flag from the banner which decorated the house upon my first birthday; these objects were what riveted me.

Seeing these objects next to the cards full of my relative’s names made me realize that, inadvertently, my Baby Box is, in fact, a Family Trunk. It shows how my family has been involved in my life since the days that I cannot even recall. Whether it is my grandfather’s signature within a card, or my aunt’s arm in the picture of me mid-haircut, I am shown that they were undeniably present.

Though perhaps unveiling this box from its deep and dusty corner does not reveal any secrets, it does inform me of just how much involvement my family has had in my life. Even if I can’t recall it.

Chapter Five: Best Friends, Worst Enemies

While on the topic of my family, I suppose I should acknowledge people very close by on the list: my friends. This year, I have both made and lost very, very good friends. But there are two who have stood the test of time with me. Isabel Torres and Alex Castellano are definitely my best friends, and with all of the torture they endure from me, deserve awards for being so.

'Twas a dark and stormy night when I met Isabel. Well, not really, though middle school is a dark time for us all. We were acquainted when we attended the same theatre camp (only one of us stuck with that hobby) in the summer of 2011, and met once again when we entered middle school. It was through mutual friends that we became more acquainted. Our senses of humor clicked well, but it was only when I invited her to my neighborhood block party and we went on a moon bounce during a torrential thunder storm together that I realized, yes, this girl and I had to be best friends. And here we are, years later.

Alex and I established our friendship much earlier on. She was so unfortunate as to choose the seat behind mine on the mat on our first day of first grade. I forget what I was wearing, but I can clearly recall the pair of blue tights that she had on. We'd just returned from recess, and she had evidently torn her stockings while on the swings. Perceptive as I am, I turned, pointed at the gaping hole, and remarked: "You have a hole in your stockings." She paused for a moment, before replying: "I know."

The poor girl hasn't been able to get rid of me since.

But, really, I don't know where I'd be without these two. They've taught me lessons that I didn't even realize I'd have to learn, they've lent listening ears and shoulders to cry on, and most importantly of all, I know that I can fearlessly act like a nincompoop around them, knowing well that they will do exactly the same. In our time with each other, we sometimes go on adventures that lead to inside jokes and idiotic injuries, but we are just as happy sitting quietly and being in each other's company. Truly, I would be lost without them.

They are idiots, though. There's no denying that.

Chapter Six: Personal Alphabet

A is for affable. I try to be friendly and conversational.

B is for bold. I am forward in my actions and my personality.

C is for candid. I am straightforward and truthful always.

D is for dynamic. I find that the more that I learn, the more that I change.

E is for elder. I am the elder of two children, and I find that it definitely impacts my personality.

F is for forgetful. If I don't write something down or somehow remind myself, I'm doomed.

G is for gallant. I try my hardest to be brave.

H is for headstrong. I may have a tendency to be stubborn.

I is for impatient. Waiting is impossible for me.

J is for jaunty. I pride myself with the fact that I have never worn a pair of sweatpants to school.

K is for klutzy. I will never claim that I am graceful.

L is for literate. I love to read; usually when I have free time, my nose is stuck in a book.

M is for musical. I am probably singing as you read this.

N is for (nearly) neat. I color-code my notes and keep all of my school materials organized... but my bedroom is not.

O is for observant. I tend to recognize the small details.

P is for passionate. I find that I'm rarely passive about things.

Q is for quick-witted. I've always got a clever joke or quick reply ready to shoot from the hip.

R is for responsible. I accept what I need to do and get it done.

S is for spirited. I try to be full of enthusiasm and determination.

T is for tenacious. I set my goals and stick to them.

U is for unique. I don't go out of my way to fit in with the crowd.

V is for vociferous. I'm not quiet. I'm also not ashamed of it.

W is for wry. I definitely have a tendancy to be sarcastic.

X is for xenodochial. I am friendly towards anyone I happen upon.

Y is for youthful. I acknowledge my young age and tend to take advantage of it.

Z is for zealous. I am passionate by nature and dedicate myself to my causes.

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Chapter Seven: Likes and Dislikes


  • The feeling that I get at the top of a roller coaster’s tallest hill

  • When someone takes my hand and laces our fingers together

  • Long-running jokes

  • Reuniting with people when we’ve been apart for a long time

  • Wearing lipstick

  • Receiving flowers

  • Late night conversations

  • Playing cards with my family

  • Candid photos

  • Nicknames

  • People watching

  • Dressing rooms

  • Books that make me cry

  • Being talked down to

  • Not being in control

  • Complete silence

  • Feeling inferior

  • People who aren’t straightforward

  • Sushi

  • Unnecessary rudeness

  • Being woken up

  • Cleaning up after others

  • When seaweed touches my legs in the ocean

  • Intolerance

  • Giving up

  • Being asked lots of questions

  • When people chew loudly

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Chapter Eight: A Year in Reading

These year's novels featured the good, the bad, and the ugly. No matter what, they're all summarized and reviewed here.
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Chapter Nine: Regrets

I cannot make a list of regrets. Sure, I regret getting together with my sixth grade ‘boyfriend’, or not telling the guy that I had a crush on that I did. I regret the awful haircut that I got in fourth grade. But there are no things that I have done that loom over me, that I feel immensely guilty for.

Perhaps that means I don’t live a risky enough life. Maybe I don’t own up to my actions. It’s just that my philosophy on mistakes is that I made them for a reason. . Granted, I probably could’ve done without failing the majority of my science tests. But I like to think that, somehow, these mistakes that I have made have pushed me towards some sort of fate. I like to think that we all have some sort of destiny that we're bound to live up to. This means that my mistakes have shaped who I am, and without them, I’d be a completely different person who has made completely different errors. I suppose they’re inevitable. So I don’t regret mine.
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About the Author

Ally is a fifteen-year-old living in suburban Pennsylvania. Sometimes she strings words into somewhat decent sentences. She can usually be found onstage, or holed up in her room reading and singing to herself. She tries to be funny. Please don't tell her that she's not. She'll find out one day.