Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Notes on Fleeing a Hurricane

I've been out of commission for a while, mostly because Hurricane Sandy decided to rip through the entire east coast like a million hordes of Vikings on crystal meth.  On the positive side, I did learn a few useful life lessons while driving from Connecticut to my parents' house in Michigan in a desperate attempt to escape the worst of the storm:

1.  If you have to make emergency hotel plans, the Marriott is usually a pretty good bet.  They're clean, the rooms are nice, they have a complimentary breakfast, and they're very understanding when you have to change your reservation dozens of times to beat the weather.

2.  Tossing blankets and a flashlight and a first aid kit and a snow shovel and a month's supply of food and water in the car is pretty much a scaled-up version of grabbing an umbrella every time you leave the house while rain is on the forecast.  Absolutely nothing bad happened to us.  We didn't even run into any of that snow the Weather Channel was so direly predicting.

3.  Pennsylvania gets an unfair rap as a boring state.  True, it's pretty sparsely populated in places and it takes ten eternities to drive through, but the scenery is anything but boring.  We passed lots of high green hills, clear mountain streams, and picturesque old white farm houses in grassy valleys.  My favorite part of the trip was the stretch of I-80 that winds through the dynamite-scarred walls of a towering mountain ridge, with a big river churning in a deep gorge on one side.  Try piloting a two-and-a-half-ton car through there at 70 miles an hour while blasting one of the metal stations on Sirius XM at full volume sometime.  You'll feel like you're in a freaking Iron Maiden video.

4.  Speaking of Sirius XM, satellite radio is pretty awesome.  Getting a new car that offers a free six-month satellite radio trial is even more awesome.

5.  Seriously, Denny's?  A grilled cheese sandwich with fried mozzarella sticks in it?  No, I didn't actually order it; I don't want to die of a massive coronary at age 30.  I also concede that it's not quite as awful as that burger at Friendly's that's served between two grilled cheese sandwiches instead of a bun, but still.  You fail, Denny's.  You make morbidly obese American Baby Jesus cry tears of pure melted butter.
    Also, your coffee is pretty bad.  And when I can tell your coffee is bad, you've got some nasty, stank-ass coffee.

6.  Note to self: no matter how desperate for money you are, never, ever get a job as a Weather Channel reporter.   

7.  Your new car with all-wheel drive is ever-so-slightly wider than your old car, which was the same model but only had front-wheel drive.  It won't make much of a difference for ordinary suburban driving, but it will somehow make city driving and parallel parking ten times more horrid.

8.  There is a secret branch of the federal government known as the Department of Highway Inconvenience.  They are the ones responsible for arranging such obstacles as closed lanes in a "construction zone" with no workers or actual construction equipment in sight; truckers who drive for a living, yet somehow don't know how to use cruise control; and those dratted oversized-load trucks that crawl along at forty miles an hour while you sit stuck behind them in your zippy little sportscar and fume. 
    They secretly analyze your driving patterns and carefully select just the right annoyances to throw at you the second you leave your house.  They get me every time I venture onto the interstate, usually with dumbasses who jabber away on their cell phones while bearing right down on my bumper or the brutally effective tag team of slow-ass-old-guy and jerk-who-won't-let-me-into-the-passing-lane.  You will never convince me that this department doesn't exist.

9.  Finally, if you live in Connecticut and won't get a backup generator for your house after a hurricane passes through, you're a bit unreasonable.
     If you still won't get a generator after a huge destructive snow storm and another hurricane pass through, I seriously question your judgement.  Especially if you're on well water.
     If all of the above are true, and you're also my landlord, it doesn't exactly encourage me to think happy fluffy marshmallow thoughts about you.  Please, Connecticut landlords, do the right thing and get generators.  Your tenants will love you for it.  Hell, I'd be willing to pay extra for it.  Think of the happy marshmallow thoughts, Connecticut landlords.  Think of the happy marshmallow thoughts.

That is all.    

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Schoolyard Rhymes, Part III: Say Whatever You Want (But Learn To Duck)

Once, when my brother was about twelve, he started singing 'Row, row, row your boat' at the dinner table.  One of my sisters joined in, and they performed a nice little round.

No big deal, right?

Wrong.  My brother chose to use an alternative set of lyrics he'd picked up from kids at summer camp.  They went something like this:

Roll, roll, roll the joint
and twist it at the end.
Puff, puff, that's enough.
Pass it to a friend.

Despite being right next to them and hearing every word, my mom said nothing.  She waited patiently for them to finish.  Once they did, she drew her arm back and dealt my sister, who was closer to her, an almighty smack to the back of the head.

My sister was quite indignant, having somehow failed to grasp the correlation between her belting out an unsolicited hymn of praise to illegal drugs at the dinner table and this spike in parental disapproval.

"Ow!" she shouted.  "Why did you do that?"

"Because I couldn't reach your brother," said my mom calmly.

My sister sulked the rest of the meal.  I believe my brother may have gotten a surreptitious under-the-table kick or two from her.  

Here's how writing works, in a nutshell: if you have something that you think is worth saying, write it down.  If you think it's worth sharing with other people, share it.  If some people find what you wrote offensive and criticize it, share it anyway.  Take their criticisms into account if they happen to be valid and well-reasoned, but keep on sharing whatever you do.  Nothing you write is going to be universally liked by everyone.  You have a right to your voice, those you offend have a right to express their opinions, and no one has the right to never be offended ever.

Write anything you want, but don't expect to be adored by the whole world.  Also, keep some quick reflexes.

Disclaimer:  This post is not intended to defend internet trolls, trashy political 'pundits,' people who non-ironically refer to themselves as 'provocateurs' or 'contrarians,' or anyone else who habitually spews forth vile, hateful crap expressly for the purpose of angering as many people as possible.  Getting death threats and suffering legal consequences for being, say, a horrid cyberbully doesn't make you some kind of brilliant, misunderstood second coming of Salman Rushdie.  It makes you a wretched fissure in the anus of humanity.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Amazon Roulette Sunday, Round II: Quinn Popcorn

Okay, full disclosure time.

I hate microwave popcorn.

Yes, I know it's horribly un-American of me.  Yes, I know it makes me an awful person who probably, like, kicks puppies and throws little old ladies in front of speeding buses and stuff.  After all, who could hate something as fun and innocent as microwave popcorn?

But before you rush off to Walmart to buy some pitchforks, torches and witch-burning wood, hear me out.  The first time I ate popcorn was at my grandmother's house.  She popped it in one of those old-fashioned air poppers and seasoned it with exactly the right amount of oil: enough to make the salt stick, but not enough to make the popcorn soggy.  It was like eating a bowl of warm, puffy, crunchy, salty little clouds.

Then, a few years later, I dug into my first bag of microwave popcorn and immediately thought, "what is this slimy crap?"

Every time I've had microwave popcorn, it just tasted nasty to me--stale and slightly burnt-smelling even when it isn't burnt at all.  And that nauseating, overly salty melange of mystery chemicals that the kernels have been marinating in for who knows how long overwhelms everything and gives the popcorn a weird waterlogged mouth-feel.  Also, I suspect the manufacturers only call it 'oil' because the FDA would start asking uncomfortable questions if they told the truth and called it 'condensed smog monster urine.'

So I was intrigued when I saw Quinn popcorn for sale on the rather upscale Dean and Deluca website.  It was advertised as a spruced-up version of microwave popcorn with natural oils and organic corn, no chemical coating in the bag, and no preservatives.  It also came in three yummy-sounding flavors:  Parmesan and rosemary, lemon and sea salt, and Vermont maple and sea salt.

I couldn't decide which flavor I wanted to try first.  Fortunately Amazon.com offers a sampler package of all three for about fifteen bucks, so I ordered one and let Technomancer choose, since he so kindly offered to help with this one.

He chose the maple.  I opened the box with the blue stylized corn leaves on it and found this:

The plastic-wrapped bag is the popcorn itself; the packet immediately to the right is the oil, and the smaller packet is the powdered flavoring.  The popcorn bag has a pretty simple list of written and pictorial instructions once you remove the plastic and unfurl it:

Basically it says you're supposed to microwave the popcorn first, and then open the bag to add the oil and seasoning.  I guess that's a pretty good way of getting around the whole popcorn-kernels-stewing-forever-in-bag-of-rancid-oil problem.

It honestly didn't look like there was much popcorn in there, but the bag inflated nicely during the microwaving process.  Here it is about halfway through, looking kind of like grainy footage of a UFO:

I was also a little worried about the oil-and-seasoning-adding process; the instructions said to dump them in and then shake the bag to coat, and the bag felt flimsy enough that I could see it tearing and splattering hot popcorn and oil all over my floor and bare feet, but it held up really well.  I also discovered that the contents of one bag fit nicely in my inexplicably huge cereal bowl:

I'm happy to report that it tasted as nice as it looked.  The maple sugar gave it a nice buttery-smoky-sweet flavor underlying the saltiness, like a good sea-salt caramel, but not so strong that you couldn't tell there was popcorn in there.  Technomancer and I agreed that it was our favorite.

The Parmesan and rosemary was a close second.  The powdered seasoning didn't seem to distribute quite as evenly as the maple, but it was still delicious, cheesy, savory comfort food.

The lemon sits comfortably in third place.  It wasn't bad--it's still a few trillion times better than normal microwave popcorn--but we simply preferred the other flavors.  Also, it has a very intense lemony flavor, which also isn't bad but can be a bit of a shock when you pick up a piece with a little too much seasoning on it.

There were a few minor drawbacks.  The oil and seasoning packets make for more stuff to throw away.  Each box contains only two popcorn bags, and the bags are relatively small--which is fine for the two of us, but might be a problem if you're trying to provide, say, six people with popcorn.  All in all, though, it's definitely something I'll buy again, especially the maple and Parmesan flavors.  Heck, it's a nice, easy and quick microwaveable popcorn that not only doesn't taste like chemicals and sadness, but is actually so darn awesome that Dean and Deluca thought it was high-class enough to sell!  If that isn't enough to bring me back to the beloved American snack food fold, nothing is.    

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Poemiest Place In Vermont

So I'm still pretty tired from finishing up a long weekend/micro-honeymoon in Vermont, but I do have something very important to say.

The Pitcher Inn in Warren, Vermont is a veritable hotbed of pure, uncut awesome.

Is it because of their beautifully and individually decorated rooms?  The clear mountain stream that runs through the property?  Their excellent food, huge wine selection, and the fact that their dining room overlooks said picturesque mountain stream?  Perhaps the fact that they leave fresh chocolate truffles on your bedside table every night?

Well, yeah.

But what is it that makes them really, super, way-above-average awesome?

They leave little cards with famous poems printed on them right next to the chocolates.  Really.  On Saturday we got a copy of 'Willow Poem' by William Carlos Williams along with our lovely cappuccino truffles.  'Up-Hill' by Christina Rossetti appeared next to two dainty little black forest-flavored morsels the next night.

How brilliant is it to make people associate reading stuff with free chocolate?  I'm seeing a possible book-selling strategy here.

Speaking of books, check out the cool vintage ones we found hidden in a desk in our room:

They had a whole library of these in a cozy little den near the reception area, too.  New Englanders sure do like their old books.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Schoolyard Rhymes, Part II: Down With The (Teacher) Man!

Little kids are the most subversive writers out there.

I came to this realization after my parents cleaned out their basement storage room and found some of my old school assignments.  Including a short essay about my family's Christmas traditions that actually opened with the words, "My nasty teacher is making me do this dumb assignment, so I might as well get it over with."

This wasn't a random scrap of notebook paper I'd scribbled a fake essay on to vent my frustrations before starting the real one, mind you.  This was the actual essay.  Which I'd turned in for actual points.  Amazingly, the resulting grade was not a triple Z-minus.

When you think about it, children are pretty powerless.  They live in a world of (in their eyes) arbitrary and often blatantly unfair rules and restrictions that must be followed no matter what, with the adults they rely on for the very essentials of life strictly enforcing the rules.  No matter how loving and fair the adult enforcers are, of course a kid is going to harbor a little bit of resentment toward them.

That's why this little ditty circulated around my playground, especially in the weeks leading up to Christmas:    

Joy to the world!
My teacher's dead.
I barbecued her head!
Don't worry about the body;
I flushed it down the potty,
and round and round it goes
and round and round it goes
and round and round and round it goes!

Now that school shootings are a big concern, hearing such a song in their classroom might make teachers a bit jittery.  But when I was a fourth grader in the early nineties, it was generally understood that we kids weren't actually little psychopaths plotting to engage in a cranial grilling party followed by the world's most ridiculously impractical method of corpse disposal.  We were simply blowing off steam; saying "You're giving us homework over winter break?! Well, stuff you, hag-beast!" rearranged into a fun, lighthearted celebration of cartoonish violence.  The hostility was there, but the delivery was ridiculous and over-the-top enough that no one got in trouble.

Which is the whole intent of subversive writing: speak the truth to power, but don't let power know that you're doing it.  I'm pretty sure that I only got away with writing that essay the way I did because the teacher thought I was joking.  Maybe I actually was joking, but I doubt it.  Despite tending to be a teacher's pet, I rarely liked the homework they gave out.  Especially, as mentioned above, homework given over winter break.

Which I think that essay might have been, considering the subject matter.

I've been out of grade school for a good fourteen years now, and I still get a little bitter when I think about all the times I was stuck in my room doing homework over winter break.

Yeah, I totally wasn't joking.  As my teachers read my essays and chuckled at my feisty sense of humor, they never knew I was mentally firing up the grill and giving the Cadaver-Be-Gone toilet a priming flush.  Joy to the world indeed.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cop Shows Mess With Your Mind (Also, Knives Are Sharp): A PSA

I recently devised a test to tell if one's spouse is a serial killer.

This happened entirely by accident. To give you some background, my husband and I were married in May. We've been pretty happy together so far, but ever since the wedding there has been a question floating around in the back of my mind--the very same haunting, nagging doubt that haunts all women who are both married and overenthusiastic consumers of TV shows like CSI and Law and Order.

Namely, is my husband sneaking out at night to brutally murder people--most likely in a way that will result in a heart-pounding season finale in which at least one team member is killed in the final stand-off?

Now, I was reasonably confident that my husband--who we shall call Technomancer for the purposes of this blog, due to his preternatural computer skills--was not a serial killer. He spends most of his time working or playing video games, and he isn't terribly fond of strenuous physical activity, so things like chasing victims down and dumping bodies would probably be out of the question.

Yet I couldn't help but notice that he has some unsettling habits. He occasionally ponders out loud the possibility of science someday conclusively disproving the existence of the human soul. Sometimes he starts singing to himself in a creepy, high-pitched cartoon character voice for no reason at all. Besides, how many times has television warned us that it's always the quiet, unassuming secondary character who turns out to be the culprit?

Unfortunately there is no clear-cut test for determining whether the man you're married to is responsible for one or more of the bodies in the local morgue. A few weeks ago, however, a random sequence of events propelled me closer to certainty. I'm happy to say that Technomancer is almost certainly not a serial killer.

Here's what to do, in simple step-by-step form:

1.  Get some nice sharp knives for a wedding present.
2.  Have some potatoes you need to cut up.
3.  Realize that all the knives most appropriate for cutting potatoes are dirty.
4.  Don't bother to clean them because you hate housework.
5.  Use a knife that isn't really intended for potato cutting instead.
6.  While cutting potatoes with the inappropriate knife, fumble and badly cut yourself by accident.  (note the underlined words--they are a very important part of this step. Even if you're doing it purely for research, it's kind of dangerous and messed-up and weird to cut yourself on purpose.)
7.  Realize you can't stop the bleeding on your own and call your husband for help.
8.  Watch his reaction.

If he seems pleased by or overly interested in your predicament--well, I hope you didn't plant any flowers or trees you care about in your backyard, because the FBI's coming to dig it up soon.

If he blows you off and won't help you at all--he may or may not be a serial killer, but he's certainly an asshat. Either way, you're probably better off without him.

If he gets the bleeding under control quickly, calmly and efficiently--probably not a serial killer, though people who are perfectly calm in a crisis like that are always a bit creepy.

If he tries his best to help you, but is having a hard time of it because he can't look at your gushing wound for more than ten seconds without puking--not a serial killer.

Technomancer's reaction most closely fit the fourth option. He was twice as freaked out as I was; I seriously thought he was going to faint. My bandage was all crooked and lumpy-looking because he was staring at the ceiling the whole time he wrapped and tied it. No way that man would ever go through with stabbing a hooker or eating a kid's heart. If your man's response is in any way similar to his, you're in the clear.

Just be warned that this test has a margin of error. I was feeling pretty good about myself until Technomancer pointed out that he could be the kind of serial killer who poisons people.


Good thing I'm always the one who cooks dinner.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Amazon Roulette Sunday, Round I: White Lotus Paste Mooncakes

Deep down in the soul of every human being lurks an irresistible urge to seek out pulse-pounding, adrenalin-gushing, blowing-a-big-wet-raspberry-into-the-grim-face-of-death danger and adventure.

Since I can't get the hang of breathing in a scuba mask, hate camping, and have no interest in becoming a NASCAR driver, I satisfy this urge by ordering random food off the internet and eating it.

A few weeks ago I was puttering around amazon.com's grocery section when I stumbled across white lotus seed mooncakes with 2 yolks from Kee Wah Bakery in Monterey Park, California.  What the white lotus seed filling tasted like I had no idea, but the picture made it look deliciously decadent and gooey.

Now, according to my extensive knowledge of cultures not my own (okay, a brief glance at Wikipedia), mooncakes are traditional fare of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the four most important Chinese festivals.  Lotus seed paste is apparently a delicacy reserved for special occasions and is considered the most luxurious mooncake filling.  Wikipedia also tells me that the yolk found in some mooncakes represents the moon, which makes sense, though it doesn't say anything about why these particular mooncakes have two yolks.  Maybe the other yolk represents some sort of mythological emergency back-up moon.  I don't know.  I had no idea what to expect from these mysterious confections I'd just plopped into my little virtual shopping cart.   

The mooncakes arrived in a very pretty tin with a stylized portrait of (I think) Confucius on the lid.  They were also individually wrapped.

It took me several tries to accurately capture the shininess and intricacy of the decoration on the cake's pastry 'crust,' and I still don't think I quite managed to do it justice.  This thing wasn't merely beautiful.  It was exponentially beautiful.  I almost felt guilty poking a fork into it.

As for how it tasted, the pastry shell was flaky and vaguely yeasty.  Very much like a pie crust, if a bit thinner.

The moist, dense lotus seed filling was the most enjoyable part.  It had a nutty, subtly sweet flavor, with a slight potato-y undertone.  Sort of like if someone ground up freshly fried potatoes into high-quality marzipan.  Which kind of makes it sound disgusting, but it wasn't at all.  It was very good and I'd eat it again.  But marzipan-with-potatoes is the closest description of the blend of flavors I can manage.

There was some saltiness to it as well, but I think it may have leached from the two egg yolks.

Which brings me to the yolks.


I didn't realize that the yolks were salted.  Maybe if I had known to expect this going in, I would have enjoyed them more.

Then again, maybe not.  A blend of salty and sweet can be all kinds of awesome, but not when the 'salty' end of the equation is a stale, vinegary egg yolk that's gone drier than Death Valley in a post-apocalyptic drought.  The crumbly mass dissolved into weird lumpy powder on my tongue and promptly sponged away all my mouth's moisture, forcing me to quit after two bites.  I think the yolk component of the mooncake is simply one of those foods that people who grew up with it love and look forward to, while people introduced to it later in life diplomatically refer to it as an "acquired taste."

Or maybe I chose too slow a shipping method and the yolks spoiled in transit.  Like I said, no idea what to expect from these.

On the bright side, I did eat all the lotus seed paste I could reach without touching any more yolk.  Plus, as I flip through the little menu of Kee Wah's other products that was included with the shipment, I see that they offer both white and golden lotus seed mooncakes sans yolks.  They also advertise such intriguing offerings as date paste, pineapple paste with walnuts, and, most interesting of all, mixed nuts and ham as possible mooncake fillings.  If they added the pineapple paste and a maraschino cherry or two to the ham one, they'd have themselves a special Chinese-American fusion Hawaiian mooncake. 


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

How To Make Kids Hate Doing Everything Creative Ever: A Teacher's Guide

Look, teachers, I get it.  Your job is hard.  You've got a zillion screaming kids to look after.  You have to bust out the same well-rehearsed, patient explanation that yes, story problems really are necessary and are in no way some kind of pointless evil math-torture five to seven times a day, every day.  That must get old pretty quick.

I also get that you're probably working under certain guidelines and restrictions that aren't obvious to the kids you teach.  After all, their stories and artwork are destined to decorate the walls of the school or be submitted as entries in one of those district-wide writing contests that they sometimes hold, or will at least be sent home into the eager hands of parents who are eager to behold their junior Picasso's newest creation.  I imagine the school wouldn't be terribly comfortable hanging crayon drawings of bloody-machete-wielding horror movie villains or any picture titled "mommy and daddy doing their special naked dance" on your walls.  Nor do you want a horrified parent reading a short story about a cat that murders naughty children by pushing heavy flowerpots down on their unprotected skulls and never gets caught because nobody suspects the innocent little cat.*  There are certain subjects that simply have to remain off limits for children's schoolwork.

That said, it's probably a bad idea to do the following things in any class that requires creative thinking:

1.  Choose the bees over the birds.  When I was in second grade, the third graders made birds in art class by papier-macheing light bulbs and gluing feathers to them.  The art teacher hung them from the ceiling of her classroom.  They were glorious--as different from one another as snowflakes, floating above our heads in a technicolor firework-burst of glitter and neon feathers.  I was very much looking forward to making light bulb birds in third grade.  In my head I was already picking out the various paints and feathers we would use.

Then third grade rolled around, and we were told we'd be making light bulb bees instead.  Bees.  Plain ol' striped, two-toned bumblebees.  We were given no feathers or glitter to use.  We weren't even allowed to make, say, a hot pink and lime-green bee instead of a yellow and black one.  Now that I think back on it the art teacher may have varied birds and bees between years, or possibly didn't have enough money in the budget for feathers.  But she could at least have let us do something to make those stupid bees less boring.

I made the shoddiest, most half-assed bee I could slap together out of pure spite.

2.  Declare books off limits and then flaunt them.  My third grade teacher used to give us a ten-minute period of silent reading time.  She had a shelf of books for kids to borrow, as well as a shelf of books that were 'off-limits' for reading time as she intended to read them to us.  This shelf was not hidden behind anything, or set apart from the 'available' shelf by any great amount of space.  The books were right there, tempting us.

One day I got yelled at for taking a book from the forbidden shelf because I'd already read everything on the other one.  That's how I learned that something deep down inside of me gets white-hot, spitting mad when someone tells me I can't read something.  Somehow I managed to act appropriately contrite while thinking, "so don't put your books out where any fool can grab one if you don't want us reading them, silly woman.  By the way, now I'm going to take every opportunity to sneak your precious books and read them before you read them to us.  It's on."  

3.  Look at me funny when I like something different than everyone else.  Why yes, Mr. Teacher, you're taking a poll of which book we read this year was our favorite.  Yes, I raised my hand for The House with the Clock in its Walls instead of the girly-girl coming-of-age girly book that made so little impression on me that I don't even remember its title.  Yes, I realize I'm the only girl who did so.  Thanks for pointing that out, right at the time in my life when all the other girls my age are getting interested in clothes and social cliques and snagging boyfriends even though they're freaking twelve years old and I know perfectly well that they're judging me because I don't care about any of that crap.  It's not like I'm self-conscious about that or anything.

4.  Give me some GOOD writing assignments for once.  No, I don't want to write a poem about the autumn leaves.  They're pretty and all, but they don't really do anything.  They hang there for a while, and then they fall down and rot.  That's not exciting.  Can I write an epic poem about, like, aliens invading the earth, and it happens to be autumn when this goes down, and the leaders of the resistance movement have to use the fallen leaves to send secret messages somehow, and they...

Oh.  No, huh? It's got to be about just plain autumn leaves, no aliens or resistance fighters allowed? And it has to be no less than five and no more than ten lines long, so no sweeping epics?

Well, shit.

5.  Bring the pressure.  I hate, hate, hated it when I was about to write some story or poem** and the teacher told us, "Be sure to do your best job on these, because we're submitting them to Random Writing Contest/reading them out loud at the end of the year/illustrating your poems and hanging them on the walls for parent's night!"  I would promptly begin to panic over whether my idea really was the 'best' I could come up with, and could I make it better because actual grown-up people were going to READ this and JUDGE it and what if they turned up their judgey grown-up noses at it and declared me a failure and a fraud who should be banned by law from owning any writing implements?  I guess in all fairness, this did give me an early taste of what being a professional writer would be like.

Teachers of the world, please understand that I'm telling you this because I love you.  You're the ones who instilled the love of all things creative in me in the first place, after all.  And I understand that perfect teachers, like perfect parents, simply do not exist and it's pretty much impossible for a teacher to be all things to all students.  All I'm asking is for you to try to respect and be mindful of the fact that sometimes your students may want to add something to the assignment that isn't necessarily in the instructions.  Also remember that creativity has many different faces, and two different kids may express it in vastly different ways.

Also, I'm sure it wouldn't kill you to let them write about aliens and killer cat-monsters once in a while.  

*Actual story I wrote in fourth or fifth grade.

**Oddly enough, I never had any problem with my artwork being displayed or shown to other people.  I didn't even care when the art teacher hung up my crappy bee.  But someone wanting to see a poem I'd written was enough to instantly change me into a quivering, tearful bundle of insecurity and crippling perfectionism.