Thursday, February 22, 2018

"My Little Sister" by KMB

My little sister was born on October 23rd, 2014. I’m not exactly sure what hospital she was born in, I believe it was Inova Fairfax hospital, but that’s not very important to this piece. Anyway, my mother and father named this monstrosity, Aleyda Benitez.

I actually didn’t want a little sister, but one knows how parents are. They always seem to surprise you with something new. That being said, when they announced that they were bringing a little girl into the world. I wasn’t exactly happy.

It was my freshman year when my little sister was born. I knew it wasn’t going to benefit me one bit. For the first few months I told my parents I didn’t like her. They were in disbelief, but that’s just how it was for me. I thought that my brothers and I were good enough, but I supposed that wasn’t the case. I just didn’t see the reason as to why they needed another child. There were already three of us, yet they wanted a fourth. It just baffled me on how much money it would cost and I deemed it a waste of money. After all, having to buy those diapers and baby formula isn’t cheap. Not only that, but needing someone to take care of a child was also another factor that led to the dislike of my sister. I don’t recall who took care of her when she was little. I think she would just lay on a pillow while I played NBA 2K15 in front of her. Ahh...those were the days.

Fast forward a couple years. She began to learn how to walk. That’s when she truly began to get on my nerves. She would get into everything and make a mess. However, it’s not to the same degree as it is now (which is worse). It was a lot more cleaner, but now she spills things on purpose and even writes on the walls. It’s just very aggravating. She also gets hurt a lot too. She’s blindly walked into hot coal and got these huge, green, grotesque blisters on her feet. They were not pretty. My mom ended up blaming me despite there being like five people around where Aleyda had walked. Yet, I was still the reason for why she has pink scars on her feet (according to my mom). That’s the thing though, if you’re gonna have children, don’t make other kids watch them. That’s like eating a tide pod, disastrous.

Recently my little sister had slipped on the ice, and busted her head open. I wasn’t there (thank god), but her eye had swollen and gotten black. It was kinda shocking at first, but the more I looked at her, the funnier it became. On her left side it would look like she was really tired and sleepy because of the swelling. However, on the right side she was wide awake. It’s a lot better now, but she still has a scar above her eyelid where she had busted her face open. Although, even if that scar doesn’t remind her about that time. I still have some pictures to show her when she’s older.

Even with all the things she does I can’t really hate her. I just get extremely mad at her. She’s grown on me to be honest. I love her. She’s my little sister. No matter what happens.

"Mind Reader" by pseudo

It’s all quiet except for the sound of pens on paper; Students are furiously putting pen to paper on the AP exam. You can feel the pressure pulsating from every student in that room, except from me. What am I doing? Instead of writing my AP Lang essay I’m looking into people’s minds. I stare across the room at this girl who’s in my class. She’s writing just as hard as everyone else. But, I’m thinking to myself, “what does her voice sound like?” I could have sworn that she was so quiet that she never said a word in my class. I start thinking about why people are the way they are. What makes people not say a word in class? Then it hits me, it’s a realization that I’ve had for a long time. We have no idea what is going on in the lives of others. There’s definitely a reason that made her not want to talk in class. Something that could very easily be good or bad. I’ve heard people pass judgments and say it’s weird and I think to myself, if we knew the cause of the silence would we change our judgment?

I daydream in class too. I wonder why someone who perpetually says, “I’m fine” isn’t actually fine. I recently heard that an old friend of mine just went through his parents’ divorce. I had no idea what was going on his life, but he still came to school looking the same as if nothing had happened. I had always treated him nicely because we were friends, but would that be different if I didn’t like him?

I frequently wonder about what goes through people’s minds when I’m in the car. Obviously, I’m not driving because I’d probably crash if I did. Over the summer I was an intern at my dad’s office and on our morning commute I’d look out at the other drivers. People would be talking on the phone, glaring at the road, or listening to music. I thought to myself, what would it be like to switch roles? What if I lived a day in their shoes? When I thought about that scenario it brought endless questions to my mind. Questions like: is going to work exciting or is it an escape from sadness at home?

I think we can all admit that not everyday is sunshine and rainbows. But, the mistake we make is assuming that it is for others. Whenever we feel down in the dumps we feel alone. We feel helpless and we think that we are being singled out by chance. However, the idea that it’s not just you doesn’t pop into our minds. The idea that I’m not the only one who feels sad, and in my friends case, he’s not the only one who’s going through a divorce. I wish people would think of this because it makes the low points in life bearable.

Most importantly, I want people to realize that when we go through tough spells in our life, so do others, and that means that we have to treat everyone with kindness. Imagine being depressed and then going to school only to have people make fun of you. That’s what makes people feel like they are alone. I want to combat that because mental health is an issue that isn’t talked about enough and it affects us all. A show of kindness to a stranger who’s going through a tough time can really mean a lot to them. So, that’s why it’s important that we realize that we have control only over our lives and that we should treat strangers kindly regardless of what we assume about them. We need to stop trying to read people’s minds and pass judgments. Instead, we should be kind to everyone we meet because at the end of the day one small act of kindness can go a long way.

Friday, February 16, 2018

"Home Brew" by Rae Kwon The Chef

I make my own alcohol. Yep, you heard me correctly. Right here in my own home I have my own alcohol fermenting as we speak. Now, I know what question you’re just dying for me to answer—what kind of alcohol in particular are you making, Ethan? Well I’m glad you asked! It’s actually ethanol, to be exact. Alright, now before you flat out throw away this piece or start dialing 9-1-1, let me add a little bit of context; I am a bread maker. I craft and bake my own bread right here in my house with nothing more than flour, water, and little bit of salt. In fact, the alcohol that I produce is one of the byproducts of my quest to master one of the most complex, distinct, and delicious breads there is: sourdough.

Sourdough bread is like no other bread. Most conventional bread products on the market are produced by packaged dry yeast activated with a simple splash of water. But sourdough isn’t so simple; it requires an active colony of yeast that acts like a live creature demanding to be fed with additional water and flour on a scheduled basis. What gives sourdough that unique pungent flavor is actually the acetic and lactic acid produced as a side product of the yeast fermenting, as well as ethanol. The alcohol separates and rises into its own broad liquid layer that bread makers refer to as “hooch”. My professional opinion is to not drink the hooch.

Sourdough making is such an engaging and awesome process to be a part of. While it is pretty time consuming (the stretching, folding, autolysis, gluten forming, fermenting, and shaping takes a whole twenty four hours to complete), it is so rewarding. There is nothing like the aroma of a fresh loaf baking in the oven, and certainly nothing like that texture of a crackly crust contrasted by an airy and open crumb. That distinctive sour note you taste when you take a bite of sourdough bread is such an awesome experience. Every bite is complex and invigorating, bringing life to any sandwich, piece of toast, or slice of bread and butter.

The steps to making that perfect sourdough can just be as fun as actually eating it. Wild yeasts in the air are unique to every region of the world, so every sourdough starter has its own distinct flavor and smell. Experimenting to find that perfect ratio between white and whole wheat flour creates its own unique taste, texture, and aroma within each loaf. And of course, mixing additional ingredients into the dough such as raisins, herbs, or everything bagel seasoning (my personal favorite) yields bread that is not only customizable but reflective of your own preferred tastes.

My relationship with bread doesn’t end with sourdough, however. I also have created challah breads, bread bowls, baguettes, naan, pita, and of course your normal loaf of crusty bread. And while these processes don’t require me to break the law, I still find enjoyment in creating an edible product with just several ingredients. Every single type of bread is similar to every other type, going back to the three main ingredients: flour, salt, water. Every single type of bread made on this earth has some combination of these three ingredients, yet there are so many other factors that come into play that create thousands upon thousands of different end products. No two loaves of the same bread are ever the same, and that’s what makes baking so awesome. Every time I pull out a stand mixer or a banneton, I’m overwhelmed by the endless possibilities. More so, I am captivated by the little things--the texture of whole grain flour, the smell of yeast and water mixing together, and the smoothness of a tight ball of dough doubling in size.

So yes, I break the law. And to be honest, I love doing it. Being a baker has become a part of who I am, a representation of what I believe in. Some people think it’s weird for a teenage boy to wear a chef’s jacket and know how to ferment yeast. To them I say, “Don’t be so sour.”

"Sixteen Things I've Learned in Sixteen Years of Life" by Inspired Spaghetti

#1: The people that you surround yourself with, can positively or negatively change the kind of person you want to be. I have learned that it is important to stay true to who myself by finding people who share similar goals and values as me.
#2: It is important to always be open to new opportunities because experiencing many things will help you in the long run by aiding you to discover your interests and passions. I learned that by soaking all life has to offer like a sponge does with water, you can learn a lot and meet amazing people on the way.
#3: Staying organized is key to a productive life. By staying organized, I feel that I am able to reach my goals with mental ease. I learned this by taking hard course loads, and my desire to succeed in these classes inclined me to find a productive way to find success.
#4: Spend money on experiences, not tangible items. I feel that I constantly want to spend my money on the things that give me immediate satisfaction, but I’ve learned to be more minded of the future which allows me to want to save for future satisfactions such as travel and concerts. In the long run, you will remember the memories retained by experiences.
#5: Worrying about what other people think of you, will keep you from doing the things you love. I learned that anything I do will be accompanied with varied opinions. There is no way I can please everyone with what I do, so I might as well please the most important person, that being me. By doing what I love to do freely, the happiness I feel from my free will, will outweigh the negative opinions others have to say about me.
#6: Music is one of the best ways to relieve stress. I learned this is a crucial method for stress relief when having a bad day or a hectic schedule because it gives your mind a way to relax. I feel that ways such as this to gain small breaks in the day is important for anyone to maintain their sanity while either very busy or in need of relaxation.
#7: Comparing yourself to others is a vicious cycle of disappointment that will never end. I learned that there is always going to be something that you feel you lack that you believe someone else had. I think it is important to remember that jealousy works the opposite of what you want it to.
#8: I learned that sleep is one of most important needed to have a balanced lifestyle. Although often times neglected, sleep is so crucial to anyone.
#9: Eating healthy and exercising is a key part of anyone’s lifestyle. I learned that when I am conscious of what I am putting into my body, I have more energy and I am in a better mood. I also believe that exercise is an amazing way to reduce stress and detoxify your body. Overall, these two factors I have found out are very important to encourage, now matter how drastic the changes are in comparison to your current lifestyle.
#10: I learned that knowing your goals and understanding how you can achieve your goals will make the actions you take the most productive. Throughout my high school career especially, I have learned that having a set view on what I want to achieve, helps me to understand the most productive way to reach my goals and aspirations.
#11: Always have a class half-full mentality when tackling difficult problems, will help them easier to overcome. Life is full of rough events and disappointments, and having a positive attitude about even the work things in life will allow you to expediently reach your goals.
#12: School is very important and being open to it will allow you to learn more about the world around me. I used to think that all of the core classes were wastes of my time, but now I understand that without my trial and error of those subjects, I do not think I could have ever realized my love for writing.
#13: Make more friends than enemies. In the long run, I learned that it is better to make positive connections with people, so people around you have a positive image of you.
#14: Never keep any emotions bottled up, it is important to always express them to others around you. I learned that if your feelings do not hurt the people around you, then it is very unhealthy to keep your feelings inside your head.
#15: Never be afraid to question things. I learned that is very ignorant accept everything around you as the truth because according to Thoreau: conformity is death to society.

#16: The final thing I learned is that it is important to always take chances because if you don’t, you won't learn anything. I rather know I took all my chances I could have taken, rather than regret the chances I was took afraid to take.

Friday, February 9, 2018

"New York" by Miranda Alba-Torres

It was New York City. My family and I were walking around, along with my friend David. The traffic was terrible, as it always is, and the sky half covered by white, delicate clouds. The sun shone through a bit, but nothing worth noting. There was also a slight breeze that made the air icy, although the winter weather created a cool environment anyway. Nothing outside of one’s typical winter day with the family.

Central park had always been my favorite part of town. Not only the beautiful trees and the exposed wildlife that inhabit the location, but the diverse life and culture that is displayed and are welcomed throughout the place are harmonic and peaceful to me. Not only that, but the thought that the people of New York escape their life and problems by fleeing to the park to jog or just take a walk in order to free their mind makes it seem like a sanctuary. A public sanctuary for all to join. To me, that’s lovely.

Nevertheless, David and I were always in front of my parents as we talked; they always seemed to take their time, appreciating everything along the way (the street, the sidewalk, the buildings, everything). However, David and I walked faster because as our conversation went on, we didn’t want our path or our time together to end. The whole day, that dynamic remained; my mom and dad and then, David and I, two steps ahead.

I cannot recall how David and I met, really. He’s always been there in my life, or was a part of it, at least. There is not a single moment or time that I can remember of where he wasn’t present or had a place in my heart. My memory is not that good though, but that’s David’s and I’s history.

Suddenly, David and I were approaching an intersection, my parents still behind me. Three steps behind, red light. Two steps behind, red light. One step behind, green light. We walk across the pavement markings, and wait on a small square of concrete between the roads. While the four us were halted between the two lanes of traffic, I looked out in front of us, where a massive copper statue stood and hid whatever mystery laid behind it. That was interesting, I thought, how sometimes great surprises can await just around the corner. However, I looked away and moved on.

I turned around to face David, but I didn’t seem him right away. However, I directed my gaze towards the cobblestoned tile and saw him, on one knee, on the ground, with a ring inside a box on his right hand outwards, towards me. I froze and stared at the shiny, fragile object inside its red velvet covering and reverted back to stare at David’s eyes. They just stared back. I stared back. He stared back.
In a quick second of enlightenment, I realize, I haven’t known this David for so long. In fact, I’ve only known him for… for 6 months. I met him 6 months and a half ago. At Katie’s fourth of July part. Right? It’s the same David, right? No. Yes? A moment ago he was, I could have sworn he was, but now, he isn’t. Right. David. That still doesn’t change the fact that a marriage proposal, for me, is being offered, to me. I’m being proposed to. How old am I?

That does not matter. I think… I think this is it? I think it is. I want to. I’m getting married! I take the ring, which is obnoxiously… too big. Is this a ring? How the hell is this a ring? It looks like a rococo door knob. Anyways, I take the ring and hug David. I’m getting married! Wait, no, this is… I’m sure this is Katherine’s boyfriend. Why am I engaged to Katie’s boyfriend? Suddenly, a hoard of my friends run at me to congratulate me on my engagement. They’re clapping. They’re cheering. My parents are cheering. GUYS-
I wake up, once again, in the middle of the night. I have to call Katie.

"Importance of Dreams" by ayir

Dreams are such a weird thing that you have ever since you were a little kid. Dreams such as what you want to be in the future and where do you see yourself in a couple of years. Dreams are necessary. Without dreams, there will be no ambition to chase. There will be no goal to reach. We will all be nothing without dreams. Not having dreams is like chasing an invisible shadow. We must know what we want to do and follow that ambition. We can’t achieve anything in life without goals, and for these goals, we need to dream.

Most people have dreams. Big ones or small ones. Even the most successful people had dreams and that is what has made them what they are today. Dreaming is essential for a human being. Without dreams, you will lose interest in life and finally hate to live life. You will be bored and tired of the same routines of your daily life and will not even find interest in the most exciting things. Only with dreams, will you find a purpose to live your life. You will start working hard towards the dream and will never lose interest in life.

But with dreams, comes great responsibility. It is just not enough to dream and forget about that dream. Many people dream, but only some wake up and work for it. It is essential to work hard for your dreams. Without this hard work, a dream will only remain a desire in the subconscious mind and will never be achieved. You have to work hard for yourself to reach these goals or they will only be left as dreams. Hard work is the key to success and dreams should be the motivation to work hard to achieve these goals.

If you don’t have motivation, you will be a failure in life. You will not be able to achieve those goals and will lead a boring life. You will never enjoy the luxuries of life and you will never feel happy. Dreaming helps you to get an attitude of doing better or constant improvement. Constant improvement is very important. We must go that extra mile to reach our goals. Failures may come, but an attitude to keep moving on and trying to improve is thoroughly achieved by dreams. Dreams are the fuel that keep energizing you to go further. Even if there are many obstacles in life, you tend to keep moving further and trying to be better than who you are. Constant and never ending improvement is very vital in progressing in life. It enhances your personality and also whatever you want to progress in. It helps you to learn from your mistakes. Steady progression will help in slowly achieving a big goal. A positive attitude towards everything also helps you be motivated and uplifts your mood and makes you want to do better.

Dreams also help in aiming for bigger goals. Dreaming for big goals are very important and they can even be dreams that change the course of your entire life. It decides your occupation and your inner desires. Dreams are the reason we want to get up in the morning and do better. They make you want to be a better person than you already are and pushes you towards that. We should never stop dreaming no matter what age and how successful you are in life. There is always scope for you to improve.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

"Not Quick Enough" by Clumsy

Hands type,
Not quick enough
Feet tap,
Not quick enough
Mind processes,
Not quick enough
Breath quickens,
But not quick enough
Nothing is quick enough.

I hold my breathe and count to ten,
Squeezing my eyes closed
Clenching my hands, leaving fingernail marks in my palms,
Red and bloody.
Why isn’t this working?
It works everytime.

panic, panic, panic, Panic, PAnic, PANic, PANIc, PANIC, PANIC!
I want to rip my hair out,
So I try,
I want to bite all my fingernails off,
So I try,
I want to cry my eyes out,
So I try,
I want to scream at the top of my lungs,
So I try
But trying isn’t enough

My hair is glued onto my head,
My fingernails grow back instantly,
My eyes have infinite tears,
My voice box is broken, leaving me screamless
Please help me.

My heart races,
Too fast.
My face reddens,
Too fast.
My life flashes before my eyes,
Too fast.
Everything is happening too fast.

Clara talks,
Bill yells,
Julie  laughs,
Anna dances(awkwardly),
Evan jokes,
Too many distractions, I can’t focus

I can’t take it,
I can’t breathe
I can’t stop,
I can’t, I can’t, I can’t

You know how it starts,
You know how it goes,
But you don’t know how it ends,
It doesn’t.
Anxiety never ends.

Support systems.

Smile and pretend it helps,
Laugh and pretend it’s okay,
Bite your tongue, stop the tears,
Hold your breath and count ten.

Then it starts all over again.

"My Little Sister" by KMB

My little sister was born on October 23rd, 2014. I’m not exactly sure what hospital she was born in, I believe it was Inova Fairfax hospita...