My Soggy Pants, Science Fiction, and Dudley Do-Right

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Cover of "Dudley Do-Right"

Cover of Dudley Do-Right

Last week I went to the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts aka ICFA.

     And to be perfectly honest aka “The freaks come out at night”

It’s a conference for science fiction and fantasy literature, fiction, and other sorts of media. My friends, Gabby, Megan, Adella, Vera, and I went, met a bunch of people, fangirled over Neil Gaiman, and presented papers. It was a heckova good time all around. We trashed our hotel room (Not on purpose. We were working on our theses and forgot to let housekeeping come in to clean. After three days it was quite horrific. I’m pretty sure my left over pad thai hissed at me when I tried to reheat it), acted like pretentious members of the academy, made fun of the people with no social skills, and drank wine in a hot tub.

You’re not supposed to bring wine into the pool area at the Sheraton.
But I was on vacay.
I put my wine into an old starbucks cup.
The hotel never found out.
Now everyone’s happy.

I would spend some time relating the events of the conference, but I figure that will bore all of you to death. Were I to go into tell you about what happened at ICFA I would end up only discussing all of the papers I heard. I’m not sure that would even fill up an entire blog post.

Some papers were good. Some papers were bad.
Some presentations made me think.
Some presentations made me think, ‘what barnyard animal raised you?’

Suffice it to say, the conference was awesome and I want to go back next year. However, I will not stay at the Sheraton. Any hotel that doesn’t allow wine in the pool area and charges $13.79 for breakfast is not the hotel for me.

Anyway, I’m writing this blog post mainly to relay the super-di-dooperly stupid thing Gabby, Meg, Adella, and I did after the conference.

When we were planning our trip to Orlando, we decided that we would stay over an extra day in order to go to Universal Studios. Gabby, Vera, and I had never been Harry Potter world. Considering I went to the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts you were probably able to divine that I’m a huge Harry Potter fan.

My non-lit major friends make fun of me.
And rightly so.
The day we planned to go to Universal dawned dark and dreary, but we were determined. Vera lives in California, so there was no way she was going to miss it. It looked like it was going to rain, but in Florida what looks like rain may not be rain. It may be one of four things:
1) a light drizzle
2) a hurricane
3) a “Gotcha! It’s not really gonna rain, you guys”
4) start building an ark

We go to Universal around 11:30. We drank butterbeer and rode the Harry Potter ride twice. (FYI, use the single rider line. You don’t get to ride with your friends, but you can forego the 75 minute wait and ride 2 times in 15 minutes. FYI DO NOT forego the 75 minute wait if you just drank two mugs of butterbeer. Found that out the hard way.) As we were walking through Hogsmeade it started to drizzle. I broke out my raincoat (booyah elements of nature!) and then we sought shelter in the Owlery. At this point we were stage 1- a light drizzle.

Unfortunately for us, Florida decided to forego stages 2-3 and skip right ahead to 4. In 14.7 seconds it went from “Oh man, it’s raining” to “CRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAPPPPP!!!!”
We waited in the Owlery for the rain to calm down.
And we waited in the Owlery for the rain to calm down.
Then we waited in the Owlery, but the rain didn’t calm down.
Vera made a run for it because she had to catch her flight.
The rest of us stayed in the Owlery thinking, ‘this’ll totally blow over in a few minutes.’

Eventually we remembered that we had paid $97 dollars for our tickets, and so we went for walk in the rain. There was no singing in the rain. There was just screaming in the rain. Adella was wearing white. Gabby was wearing khaki. Meg and I were wearing shorts. By the time we were done walking in the rain we had no secrets from each other.

I’m not sure how long we were walking in the rain. I do know that we walked from Harry Potter world to Jurassic Park to Cartoon World to “I want ice cream.” “It’s raining.” “I do not care.” to the Spider-Man ride. Thankfully we were able to ride the Spider-Man ride.
Everything else was closed due to inclement weather.
Except the water rides.
Do you see where this is going?
Eventually it did stop raining, but the rides we really wanted to go on weren’t going to open back up for the rest of the day. The guy we asked mentioned something about safety…blah, blah, blah. I’m not sure who said, “We’re already soaked. We might as well just go on the water rides” but none of us were smart enough to counter that person’s argument with, “Yeah, but we’ve got a 2 1/2 hour drive home and no clean underwear.”
So we high-tailed it back to Jurassic Park and went on the water ride.
And we got soaked.
Then we walked back to Cartoon World and went on the Dudley Do-Right ride.
And came out looking like drowned rats.
Side note: Meg wore a poncho on both rides. Useless.
Side note for the side note: I told her to buy the poncho. Useless.
It was after we got off of the Dudley Do-Right ride that we realized that we had a 2 1/2 hour drive home and no clean underwear. The more time I spend with myself the more I realize that my Bachelor’s degree and nearly completed Master’s degree have done NOTHING to aid my common sense.
Also, we had no place to change.
Because we had left our bags in the car.
We had left the car in the parking garage.
Do you know what it’s like to walk through Universal Studios in soggy underwear with your shoes leaving puddles everywhere? I do. So do Gabby, Meg, and Adella.
Do you know what it feels like to change clothes in the Universal Studios’ parking garage?
I do.
Feels like shame.
Do you know what it’s like to then have to walk into a Wendy’s with a damp crotch and frizzy hair?
I feel pretty…oh so pretty…I feel pretty and witty and NOT!
Sometimes people ask me, “How is a girl like you still single?”
From now on I will answer them with “Because I’m the girl who walks into a Wendy’s with a soggy crotch and frizzy hair.”
That’ll do it.

 

 

And finally: HAPPY 300th post!

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The Five Stages of Grading

Right now my students are reading an excerpt from Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking.”

In case you’re unfamiliar with it I’ll summarize:

During an ordinary night in their ordinary New York apartment, Joan Didion’s husband, John Dunne, suffers a heart attack and dies. In order to make sense of his death, she chronicles her experience through the grieving process. Didion is a much better writer than I, and her prose are thoughtful, direct, and honest if anything else. However, the book is also incredibly sad.

She’s talking about death people, this isn’t light hearted fare.

My students are enjoying the piece (when they’re not weeping uncontrollably) and our discussions have been going well. One of our talks brought us to the five stages of grief. If you’ve never heard of the five stages of grief, or simply have no idea what they are, I will summarize them for you:

Denial: refusal to accept a loved one’s death

Anger: the person is either angry at his or herself or others

Bargaining: hope that you can delay the inevitable

Depression: sadness…lots and lots of sadness.

Acceptance: you come to terms with the issue

What is most interesting about the five stages of grief is that they’re not limited to people that have experienced the death of a loved one. One can grieve over a variety of tragic and unexpected occurences. (You see exactly where I’m going with this don’t you?) If one experiences a loss or some kind of major crisis, one can experience one or all of the five stages of grief. Take my students’ papers for example. Each one is its own tragic and unexpected occurence.

This is not to say that my students are bad students. I have been blessed with classes of smart and intelligent individuals. The thing with teaching college is that you often forget that you’re teaching college students. You forget that when you were in college you didn’t know everything and were apt to make mistakes. Therefore, you walk into the college classroom expecting to meet a group of self-confident, capable young adults.

And it’s adorable that you think that.

Hope does spring eternal.

When awaits you when you enter the college classroom are adult-lite individuals. They are grown up enough that they know how to go to class on time, feed themselves, and turn in their papers. They are NOT grown-up enough that they will go to on time everyday, feed themselves something besides Taco Bell, and turn in their papers without mistakes.

That’s why they’re adult-lite.

They’re Diet Pepsi.

All the flavor of regular Pepsi but with half the calories.

As a result of their lite status, I often get papers with the most rididulous, easily fixed errors. That’s why I go through the five stages of grief every time I grade their papers.

Here you have, dear reader, The Five Stages of Grading:

Denial: “No. No, that didn’t just happen. That’s not right. That must be some other word. No one spells gnomes N-O-W-M-S. Absolutely not. This is not happening.”

Anger: “STOP USING SEMI-COLONS!!!! YOU DO NOT KNOW HOW TO USE THEM! I forbid it! I forbid you to use a semicolon! And why aren’t you citing the text?! We read two essays! You must include textual evidence in order to support your argument!”

Bargaining: “If you stop using run on sentences I will give you an A. How does an A sound? Just use some punctuation. Not a semicolon. Do not use a semicolon. If you use a period at least once in this paper I will pass you for the semester. Please. When God made light He also made the full stop. Please start using periods.

Depression: “Why bother? It’s no use. Gnomes can be nowms. We can use semicolons all the live long day. Who cares? All we are is dust in the wind. Everything is hopeless. The text is pointless.”

Acceptance: “It’s going to be ok. I can handle this. I can grade every single one of these papers. Tomorrow we’ll go over how to use a dictionary. We’ll discuss the propoer use of semi-colons. I’m ok with this. Life is peachy.”

I should probably let you know that I don’t get to the acceptance stage until after I’ve eaten my weight in cookies and had a glass of wine.

That’s happens.

Please don’t judge me.

Taking the GRE Subject Test in Literature

My dear, amazing, wonderful, patient, drop dead gorgeous readers,
I’m so sorry that I have been so negligent with the blog. I broke it and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. That’s why it’s been months since my last post.

How did I break the blog, you ask?

I have no idea.

And it still isn’t fixed.

I’m at school writing this listening to one of the most awkward conversations on simulated male genitalia.

Don’t ask.

Anyway, for some strange reason, I’ve decided to apply to doctoral programs.

I have no idea why I’m doing this.

Yes, I do.

But at this moment the reasons seem contrived and hard to believe.

In order to apply to doctoral programs and have any hope of being accepted, I had to take the GRE Subject Test in Literature. Do you remember what happened the last time I took the GRE?

If not, read this post and get back to me.

Now that you’ve read that you can probably imagine how absolutely terrified I was to take the subject test. For those of you unfamiliar with the subject test in literature, you should know that the subject test expects you to have a working knowledge of everything that was ever written ever.

You see how incredibly difficult that is.

However, I had a game plan.

My friends, Meg and Gabby.

When faced with an extremely difficult intellectual task, cling to the friends that are smarter than you and ride their coattails into the world of academia.

Thankfully, I have smart friends in abundant supply.

As soon as I said, “I’m gonna take the GRE subject test!” Meg and Gabby, “Awesome, so here’s what we’re gonna go: we made a list of terms, theories, authors, and forms that are likely to appear on the exam. You’re going to take 1/3 of the list and define those terms on convenient note cards. When you’re finished with said note cards we’re going to study together for at least 2-3 hours 2-3 days a week. The weekend before the test we’re going to study for 27 hours and then we’ll study Wednesday from 4-9, Thursday from 3- whenever, and Friday from 4-death. Is that feasible?”

“Um…can I just wing it?”

“No.”

And so about a month ago I started studying.

At first I was really excited about everything I was learning.

DAY TWO OF NOTE CARDS: “Wow! I had completely forgotten what assonance was! Good thing I’m studying.”

That buoyancy was quickly lost.

DAY TWENTY OF NOTE CARDS: “If I hear the word ‘epigram’ one more time I’m gonna gut someone like a fish.”

When I say that the GRE subject test in literature expects you to have a working knowledge of everything that was ever written ever I’m not kidding. Even the study guide I borrowed from my friend, Monique, said, “The GRE subject test expects you to have a working knowledge of everything that was ever written ever. Obviously this is not possible. Good luck. You’ve got a snowflake’s chance in hell.”

It may not have said it in those exact words, but that sentiment was definitely implied.

Here’s an example of a GRE subject test questions:

A poet’s part-by-part enumeration of his mistress’s beauties draws on a rhetorical structure known as the:

A) Interlace pattern

B) Epithalamion

C) Apostrophe

D) Debat

E) Blazon

When you come face to face with the GRE subject test it says, “Oh you have a B.A. in English? That’s cute.”

“You’re working on an M.A.? Aww, how precious.”

“What’s that? You think you know literature? That’s adorable.”

While I was studying for the test I would often drift to sleep with a literary term bouncing around in my head. When I woke up, I would immediately define that term.

12am: “What is catachresis? Did I study that already? I must have. What on earth is catachresis? Catachresis…catachresis…is when you catch a cat…with a crease…(snore).”

6am: “Catachressis is the misapplication of a word or the extension of a word’s meaning in a surprising but strictly illogical metaphor. I’m awesome! (evaluates life) If I keep doing stuff like this I’m totally going to die alone.”

The GRE started to permeate every part of my life.

In my car: (singing Tay Tay Swift) “You were Romeo I was the Scarlet Letter and my daddy said, ‘Stay away from Juliet! – wait a second. Is that catachresis?”

* Yes, I often sing Taylor Swift on my way to school. No, you may not judge my taste in music.

Reading the Bible: (Matthew 19:30) “But many who are first will be last, and may who are last will be first. Is that a chiasmus? I’m pretty sure that’s chiasmus. BOOYAH! Look whose finding literary terms in the word of God! YES! I AM AWESOME!!! (evaluates spirituality) I am the worst Christian on earth.”

My experience studying with Gabby and Meg was surprisingly similar to my experience working on note cards.

HOUR TWO:

Me: Tell me about William Faulkner.

Meg: Southern gothic writer during the 1920s. Wrote The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, As I Lay Dying, and A Rose for Emily. Majority of his stories take place in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County.

Me: Tell me about Gertrude Stein.

Gabby: Expatriate writer, published The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas in 1933.

HOUR 22:

Me: Tell me about William Faulkner.

Meg: F*ck Faulkner.

Me: Ok, we can come back to that one. Tell me about Gertrude Stein.

Gabby: Lesbian.

However, I was not much better.

HOUR TWO:

Meg: What did Oscar Wilde write?

Me: Some stuff…people read it…whatever.

Gabby: Define New Criticism.

Me: It’s new. It’s criticism. Done.

God bless Gabby and Meg. They’re much better at saving their crankiness until the end of the study session. My temper tantrums reared their ugly heads from out the gate.

The madness wasn’t even close to over.

Student A: I think he’s arguing that race isn’t biological. Race is something that changes depending on our environment.

Me: Is this because race has become synonymous with culture?

Student A: Um…I think so.

Me: JUDITH BUTLER!!!! You could totally connect Judith Butler to that and argue that race is a performance!

Student A: Ms. Byng?

Me: Yes?

Student A: Who the heck is Judith Butler?

Do any of you know who Judith Butler is? I do. That’s because I studied for the GRE.

I’m hoping now that the test is over I can recapture the pieces of my humanity that were lost in the struggle to amass volumes of knowledge in a rather short period of time.

My social skills are in the toilet.

This is not to say that I was the life of the party before, but I’m starting to forget what He-Man and Chi-chi look like.

When I try to imagine my father’s face in my mind’s eye all I see is Amiri Baraka.

And when I think of Chi-chi for some reason I see Emily Dickinson.

That’s not a good sign.

Especially since Chi-chi does have a habit of wandering around the house in white flowing garments.

.

You Give Good Hug

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Everything has a rhythm.
My childhood music lessons taught me this.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Stealing my sister’s cranberry juice and then having her throw the entire bottle at me taught me this.
Public displays of affection require a precise and accurate sense of rhythm in order to receive an equal and opposite reaction that is to your liking. Unfortunately, I have no sense of rhythm and my social skills leave much to be desired. As a result, I cannot, for the life of me, give a good hug.
I always manage to mess it up.
Whenever I make a new friend, I’m always dreading the day when we get close enough to hug. It’s not that I hate the contact. I’m not particularly averse to touching my friends. What I’m terrified of is that they will introduce the hug into our friendship too soon, they will discover I have no hugging rhythm, and then they will no longer want to be my friend.
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
When one lacks hugging rhythm, one is not often hugged.
I feel as though there are certain criteria inherent in the definition of a “good” hug.
1) Arm placement- If you are the shorter person, you must aim low.
2) Pressure- Pretend like the other person is a melon you’re testing for ripeness. You want to apply just the right amount of squeeze.
3) Release- Average hug duration is 3 seconds (Don’t ask me how I came up with that number).
Everytime I hug a new person I always manage to screw it up.
I’ll think they’re shorter than me and so I’ll aim high and then our arms will collide and the moment will be ruined. Other times I’ll nearly crack the other person’s ribs because I squeezed too hard. I forget to start counting and then I realize that the person has been giving me the “please get off of me” back pat for about 5 seconds and I’m still wrapped around their middle.
Or even worse, I’ll be the one that introduces the hug into our friendship too soon and the other person will side hug me.
I’d rather be punched in the throat than given a side hug.
Even though I give terrible hugs, full frontal ones say, “We’re buddies! We’re pals! I enjoy you as a person so much that I would like to be in extremely close proximity with you for 3 seconds!”
Side hugs say, “Piss off.”
My lack of hugging rhythm is the reason why I high-five people so much. They think I’m really excited about life.
The truth is that I’m incredibly self-conscious.
If I can delay the hug in our friendship then there’s a chance that they’ll see my lack of rhythm as one of my cute and endearing quirks. There’s a chance that they’ll come away from our first hug and think, “That Gyasi is so darn cute and endearing. She can’t even hug correctly! How droll!”
Rather than, “What the heck just happened? Did she just stroke my hair?”
Yes, that happened once.
I’m not sure how or why.
But it definitely happened.

Anything you say to your students will inevitably come back to kick you in the face

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Since I started teaching last semester, I’ve learned many an important and frustrating lesson.

For example, students don’t text in class. It’s quite normal to stare at your genitals and smile. It helps them focus.

However, the most important lesson I’ve learned since I started teaching is that anything you say in class will turn into a creature from the black lagoon and destroy you where you stand.

In the spring when I was teaching in the Philosophy department, this fact wasn’t so evident to me. Perhaps it was because I was teaching upperclassmen or that I only saw my students one day a week, but when I interacted with them, I didn’t get the sense that they dealt in extremes.

It is true that some of them were EXTREMELY lazy, but for the most part they were a mild mannered, even tempered group with a sense of balance.

This is not the case with my class this semester.

Not only do they deal in extremes, they freakin’ major in them.

I’m going to blame this flaw on the fact that they’re freshmen and don’t know any better.

Using their freshmen status as a scapegoat also allows me to hope that they’ll grow out of it.

At the beginning of the semester, I noticed that my students were a tad wary of using the reading to support their arguments. They’re a smart bunch, but while they’re able to string two thoughts together in a somewhat coherent manner, their arguments fall a bit flat because they lack textual evidence. I reasoned that if they used the text, they would ultimately become stronger writers. My lovely and thoroughly developed mind worked out this equation and thought the logic behind it was sound:

Students + Thesis Statements+ Textual Evidence= Strong Papers

Unfortunately, my logic was severely flawed.

Also my equation failed to take into account the fact that my students major in EXTREMES.

Me: Try to use the text to support your argument.

Student: How do you feel about excessive quotes?

Me: You shouldn’t quote excessively, but you still need to use the text.

That piece of advice seems rather benign, does it not?

To your average human being it is.

But I deal with college freshmen.

Therefore when I said, “You shouldn’t quote excessively, but you still need to use the text” they heard, “You shouldn’t quote…the text.”

Imagine my surprise when I received 20 papers with nary a quotation in sight.

Me: I am so stupid.

So I thought I would amend what I had said in order to get my students to do what I actually wanted them to do.

Me: Make sure that you’re using the text. While the text is not the main focus of your paper, you still need to demonstrate that you understand it and are able to critically engage it.

They heard: Make sure…the text is…the main focus of your paper.

You can probably guess what happened next.

I received 20 papers with quotes, quotes, and more quotes.

Me: I am so stupid.

In two papers my students have gone from NOT quoting the text to ONLY quoting the text.

I’m not quite sure how to restore balance in the universe without inevitably screwing myself (and my students) over again.

Surviving Hurricane Isaac aka Escape from Byng Island

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In the five and a half years that I’ve lived in Florida, I haven’t had to deal with a hurricane.

About two weeks ago that changed.

Now I know why Floridians get so pissed off during hurricane season.

As you all know, Hurricane Isaac came a-knockin’ at our doors. He stormed in, made a mess of everything, formed a sinkhole, and then went to bother Louisiana because they haven’t gone through enough lately.

Poor Louisiana.

They’ve really been getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop.

Isaac didn’t hit my area as badly as it did others, but it still dumped a Biblical amount of water into my neighborhood and there was no Moses to be found.

Noah doesn’t live in the acreage either so I was completely screwed.

When I went to sleep, my neighborhood looked like this.

And when I woke up, it looked like this.

And yes, those are real live ducks in the picture.

At one point my neighbor was rowing a canoe down the road.

Because the local government hates the acreage, we were flooded in for 3 full days.

On day 1 I was pretty happy about the situation. FAU was closed which meant I had nowhere to go for the day. I spent the morning exercising, showered, did some reading for class, worked on some lesson plans, and then watched tv. Considering I hadn’t had a day off in weeks I was pretty calm and well pleased with being trapped in my house. I went to bed thinking, “Oh well, this was a nice day. Back to school tomorrow I guess.”

I guessed wrong.

I guessed oh so very wrong.

Tuesday morning I woke up around 6am, stumbled out of bed, and walked to the front door. Upon opening the front door I noticed the moon shining off the lake, glimmering like a jewel in the deep blue sky.

The only problem with that picture is that the lake was our front yard.

I stepped outside and said,” Um…what?”

At this point, Chi-chi and He-Man had woken up.

Chi-chi: You may not want to do that.

Me: Why not?

Chi-chi: Gators.

Me: This state sucks.

There was a foot of water in my front yard, surrounding our entire property. When the sun finally rose, Uncle Nigel and I rolled up our pant legs and went exploring. Yes, I know that’s extremely dangerous, but such is life and then you die… or get flooded in…and have ducks swimming in your front yard. We didn’t catch cholera or any of the other heinous diseases that breed in still water, however, we did find about five large koi that had swam out of someone’s backyard pond and into our driveway.

Koi are extremely friendly.

But koi will scare the bejeepers out of you if you don’t realize they’re there.

Uncle Nigel: Good Lord the entire neighborhood is flooded.

Me: What are those?

Uncle Nigel: Some kind of fish maybe.

Me: NO! NO! GATOR! NO! SOMETHING TOUCHED ME!

Uncle Nigel: Gyasi, those are koi.

Me: Oh. My, my those are some pretty fish.

Uncle Nigel: Those things sell for about $200 a piece.

Me: Get me a net.  That’s tuition money.

By now, dear reader, you should know that I have no shame or scruples about selling someone else’s fish in order to pay my school bills.

Grad school will build your intellect while degrading your morals.

Positive and negative consequences, it’s all positive and negative consequence.

We did not succeed in catching the koi (because He-Man knew who they belonged to) and at this point in time I was going stir crazy. I did not want to read another essay. I did not want to exercise. I did not want to send another email, write another lesson plan, or take another bloody photo of the ducks in the front yard.

The ducks were starting to mock me anyways.

Quaky bastards.

I decided that come hell or high water (poor choice of words) I was going to leave the house the next day.

Wednesday came and there was absolutely no improvement in our situation. The water was just as high as it had been the day before. He-Man was past the point of no return and refused to be beaten by a few inches of water. He decided that he was going to get coffee from 7-11. He was going to escape from Byng Island.

Unfortunately for Uncle Nigel He-Man decided this escape was happening with his car.

He-Man won’t risk the Camry.

Chi-chi and I stood by the shore and watched as they slowly turned the car around and crept out into the flooded road. They were about 2 feet out when Chi-chi cell phone rang.

Chi-chi: Hello?

Neighbor: Did you know there’s a car floating down the road?

Chi-chi: That’s Herman and Nigel.

Neighbor: Oh. Well, they’re making decent progress.

Chi-chi: What’s happening now? We can’t see them anymore.

Neighbor: They’re inching along slowly. They went too fast just now and made a wave.

Me: What’s going on? Who’s on the phone?

Chi-chi: I think they’re turning back.

Me: Why are they turning back?

Chi-chi: There’s a wave.

Neighbor: Wait they’re almost at the end of the street.

Chi-chi: They’re almost at the end of the street.

Me: Ugh, I knew I should have gotten in the car.

Chi-chi: I wouldn’t have gotten in the car.

Me: Is that a gator?

Chi-chi: That’s a log.

Neighbor: THEY MADE IT! THEY MADE IT!

Chi-chi: The neighbor says they made it.

Me: Mom, I’m pretty sure that’s a gator and I’m pretty sure that used to be a koi. I’m going back in the house.

It turns it that it really was a log, but I’m still not exactly sure what killed the koi.

I’m placing my money on the ducks.

They can be quite deadly when they have free reign over the neighborhood.

Let’s just be honest: you named me “JAH-see”

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My name is a rather touchy subject for me.

And when I say “touchy” I mean “poke it with a stick and I will annihilate you.”

I really don’t like my name.

Over the years people have complimented me on it, told me it was extremely original, and said things like, “Oh that’s so pretty! I bet you’ve never met anyone else with that name!”

And I haven’t.

Because my name sucks.  I’ve noticed that everyone who compliments me on my name is called something like “Mary,” “Martha,” or “Jean.” No one with a name like “Latisha” or “Bon-qui-qui” ever tells me my name is “original” or “unique.” They just shake their head and say, “Girl, I understand.”

Something strange happens when brown folk name their children. They could have been living in these here United States since the 1700s, but as soon as they produce progeny, you would think they just stepped off the boat into the new world. They may be more American than they are African, but they WILL name their child an “African” name just to prove that they are in fact black.

Unfortunately, they are so far removed from the continent that they end up naming their children things like “Shaneequa” or “Dekwan.”

I went to Kenya. I did not meet any Africans with a “la”, “sha”, or “da” at the beginning of their name.

I had two legitimately African friends as a child and their names were Bamakole and Tawakalitu.

Those are African names.

Barack is another African name.

Shatifa not so much.

I say all this to say that when my brown parents named me, they felt as though they had to pay homage to their African roots. Mind you our family has been living in the West Indies for quite some time.  We’re more West Indian than we are African now. However, my parents, Herman and Carol aka He-Man and Chi-chi felt that they should give their children names that reflected their heritage.

So they named us Timothy, Akira, and Gyasi.

Tim lucked out.

Me and Kira not so much.

For those of you that have studied Japanese culture or watched any anime in the last twenty years, you’ll notice that “Akira” is actually a Japanese boys’ name.

According to He-Man “Akira” is Chi-chi’s fault.

He-Man: I wanted to name her ‘Kira’! I was all ready to name her ‘Kira’! That’s a good, strong African name. Then your mother added the ‘A’ and made her Japanese.

At least Kira has the option of going by “Kira”. That’s a nice silver lining to have at your disposal.

I was not so fortunate.

When I tell people that my name is “Gyasi” they hear “Jaycee” which is fine. However, as soon as they see my name on paper all hell breaks loose.

Person #1: Who is this “JAH-see” person I keep seeing copied on our emails? I’ve never seen him or heard of him. Is he new to the program?

Me: Actually that’s me.

Person #1: Really? That’s how you spell your name?

Me: Yes.

Person #1: How do you pronounce that?

Me: Jaycee.

Person #1: No really how do you pronounce that?

I know this post sounds incredibly bitter, so let me clarify: the name “Gyasi” in and of itself does not suck. What is sucky is the fact that I’m named “Gyasi”.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, “Gyasi” is actually an African boys’ name that means “wonderful child.” Why on earth would you choose to name your obviously female child “Gyasi”? Because you’re my mother and you apparently want to teach her at an early age that life’s not fair.

When I interrogated Chi-chi yet again about my name this is what happened:

Me: Out of all of the names on earth, why did you choose “JAH-see”?

Chi-chi: I didn’t name you “JAH-see” I named you “Jaycee”.

Me: What put the name “Jaycee” in your head?

Chi-chi: At one of my old jobs there was a man named “John Cacamo” and he went by “J.C.” He was really nice, so then I started to like the name “J.C.”

Me: So why didn’t you just name me “Jaycee” or two names that made “J.C.”

Uncle Nigel: (on his iPhone) I checked out this website and it says “Gyasi” is a very popular name in Maryland.

Chi-chi: Your father wanted you to have a unique name.

Me: So you chose “JAH-see.”

Chi-chi: I named you “Jaycee.”

Me: You gave me a boys’ name.

Uncle Nigel: According to Google there are 28,000 people in the United States named “Gyasi.”

Chi-chi: That’s a lot of people!

Uncle Nigel: That wouldn’t even fill a football stadium.

Me: How many of those “Gyasis” are women?

Uncle Nigel: Two.

Me: And I’m one of them.

Uncle Nigel: The other woman is called “Stephanie Gyasi.”

Me: So it’s not even her first name.

Uncle Nigel: Nope.

Chi-chi: You’re not helping.

Uncle Nigel: I wasn’t trying to.

Me: You gave me a boys’ name.

Chi-chi: The book where I found your name said it was a unisex name from Indonesia.

Uncle Nigel: This website says it’s African.

Me: You gave me an African boys’ name.

Chi-chi: Indonesia’s in Africa?

Me:……..

My niece is gonna give me body issues

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When my niece was a small lump of baby flesh and unable to so much as lift up her own head, I longed for the day when she would be able to walk, talk, and move of her own volition.

Those of you that have experienced children in close quarters for long periods of time probably know where this blog post is heading.

I want to go back in time and give past Gyasi who wished for a walking, talking, and critical thinking niece a roundhouse kick to the face.

She should have enjoyed stagnant lump of baby flesh Emmalyn more.

Emmalyn will be 3 years old in January. This means that she is currently in the midst of the terrible twos. The terrible twos are as terrible as they say times thirty-five. Really they should be called The Abominable Twos or the Demonic Twos because as soon as the child hits 24 months, they transform into Satan’s Mistress. Or Satan’s Minion if it’s a boy.

A few weeks ago, my sister and her family came to visit for He-Man’s sixtieth birthday. Yes, yes, He-Man is the big 6-0. Is he pleased with this development? Extremely. They don’t tell you this until you reach the big 5-9, but the big 6-0 is the age when you get to go on a 2 week cruise to Alaska and leave your child at home.

For 2 weeks.

You go whale watching.

She stays home.

Not that I’m bitter or anything.

Anyway, Emmalyn came to visit for a few days and couldn’t have been happier. She loves her Papa Herman. She can’t get enough of her Papa Herman. When Papa Herman walks through the door she wants to be in his arms in 2.5 seconds and never leave them.

It’s that blasted Auntie she can live without.

I don’t know when or how this happened (perhaps she’s read the blog), but my niece no longer as fond of me as she once was. Then again, she’s been unable to vocalize any sort of opinion until last year, so perhaps she’s always loathed my very existence. Maybe she’s just been biding her time, waiting for the chance to strike. In ten years when her body has caught up with her nefarious schemes, she’s probably put me in cryogenic statis and drop me in the depths of the ocean.

I’m onto you, Emmalyn.

I’m watching you.

Everytime I tried to hug, kiss, or play with my niece, she kicked, screamed, went running, or some combination of the three. She wanted nothing to do with Auntie. Mind you, Auntie was the one that changed her diapers, fed and clothed her (well partially. I never put pants on her because it was too much work), rocked her to sleep, and took her for long walks in her stroller. One year later, Auntie gets no love.

Papa Herman is a god among insects

I am the insect.

Papa Herman is the bees knees.

But that Auntie can piss off.

On her last night in Florida before she went home, I thought we were making progress. I thought that the love had finally returned. It was about 7:30 at night and I decided to change into my pajamas. Emmalyn was roaming the halls when suddenly she started following me into my room.

“Do you want to stay here or come in my room?” I asked her.

“I want to come with you,” she said sweetly.

When Emmalyn was just a lump of flesh I had no problems changing in front of her. However, now that she has developed opinions and the ability to voice them, things have changed. She feels more like a person now, so being in the nude in front of my niece feels odd. Before I started changing I made sure she was occupied with some figurines I have on my dresser.

What I failed to comprehend is that two year olds have the attention spans of two year olds.

Standing half naked in my room, with my back to the door, suddenly a face appeared at my knee, shocked and appalled. With as much ferocity as she could muster, Emmalyn squealed, “Auntie, put your boobies away!”

I have two things to say about this:

1)      That’s just hurtful

I was under the impression that I had very nice boobies

2)      Who on earth taught her “boobies”?

I asked my sister where Emmalyn got that word from and her response was, “I have no idea where she picked that up. We call them “nursers” in our house.”

 

Um…ok?

And So I Built A Fort

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Around this time every summer, my depression wakes up, realizes I’m happy, and says, “Oh no, no, no, we simply cannot have that.”

It then proceeds to launch an attack of epic proportions.

For about 3-4 weeks every summer I feel no need to interact with the world, make pleasant conversation, get out of bed, eat anything but toast, or feel anything but miserable.

This happens every summer, so I can usually brace myself for the coming onslaught of despair, but this summer, I made the very, very bad decision to go on facebook when my depression was at its peak.

The problem with going on facebook when I’m depressed is that EVERYONE’S LIFE WILL BE BETTER THAN MINE AND THEY WILL HAVE THE PHOTOS TO PROVE IT.

Of course it’s not true that everyone’s life is better (at least I hope it’s not), but it still feels that way when I’m depressed and I only got 3 days of vacation for the entire summer.

And I used those 3 days to go to NY to run a 10k.

Foolish?

Quite.

Unfortunately, this time around my depression coincided with all of my friends going on vacation. Because they’re on vacation, loving life, and posting pictures on facebook, they don’t have time to call or text me, so I feel unloved and unappreciated.

Mind you if they dare to call me when I’m depressed I’ll most likely cry and then yell, “Leave me alone! Can’t you see I’m indisposed!!!!!”

It’s a vicious cycle.

Once July passes I’m usually back to my old relatively content self, but the weeks where I hate life and want to dramatically throw myself through a stained glass window with a picture of the Madonna and baby Jesus on it are intense.

It takes time and prayer, but I eventually get out of it and start finding happiness in the world again.

The reason why I’m boring you with this is so I can tell you about my fort.

In an effort to kick my depression in the butt and start feeling more like Gyasi and less like a waste of flesh, I built a fort.

It wasn’t a very beautiful fort, but it was my fort, and it had a sign on it that said, “The Queen is in.”

I was the Queen.

So let me tell you about my fort:

Next month my office is moving to a new location. If any of you have ever moved before you know what a long and complicated process it is. You also know that in an effort to move all of the things you have accumulated over the years, you will discover that you have accumulated too many things over the years and you will need to throw some of it out. When I moved from NY to FL I threw out about four garbage bags worth of stuff.  In the two weeks that we’ve been preparing to move, my coworkers and I have thrown out or shredded about ten garbage bags worth of stuff.

And we’ve still got another two weeks before moving day.

Lord help us.

Monday I was helping one of my coworkers clean out some files from her office and get them ready to go into storage. We had a great system going; she brought the files to my desk, I boxed them up, and then I put the boxes off to the side. When we started, I thought she would have 4 boxes max. She had about twelve boxes of files that needed to go into storage. My desk area isn’t that large. That’s part of the reason why we’re moving: nobody’s desk area is large. We need more space. Unfortunately, as I was boxing up her things, Fedex dropped off three boxes of documents.

A towering wall of boxes was forming around my desk.

And I was standing at the base of it ready to crumble.

I don’t handle stress well when I’m in a balanced state of mind; therefore, I was ready to fly off the handle in my emotionally compromised state of mind.

Cue the divine intervention.

“I should build a fort,” I said to no one in particular.

My desk is isolated from everyone else, so I often talk to myself.

“Yup, I’m definitely building a fort.”

Then I emailed Joanna and told her about my need for a fort.

Thankfully, she was supportive of my foolishness.

At 5:30, I turned off the phone, shut the office doors, called Joanna and said, “Fort” to which she replied, “I’m coming,” and started building my fort.

Joanna’s an interior design major, so she was necessary to the construction of my fort.

She was the reason my fort ended up with windows and a flag.

At 5:45, I stood back, looked at our handiwork, and thought for the first time in a long time that life wasn’t that bad.

It is true that I’m not jetsetting to Mumbai this week. Neither will I be going on a weekend getaway to Key Largo. It is highly unlikely that I will become a world-famous writer in two weeks. There’s a slim possibility that will get up tomorrow morning and find that I’m feeling 100% again. There’s an even slimmer possibility that I will wake up tomorrow and be the Queen of France with nary a care in the world. Yes, I know that France no longer has a monarchy.

Yes, I am also aware that royals have problems too.

However, I able to hope that I will feel better.

When the depression sets in I’m incapable of hope.

There is no end to the sadness, just a deeper level of sadness for me to wade through. When the depression gains momentum, it’s like a hurricane that blows through your front door, tears the pictures off the walls, hurls your couch out the window, and rips the floorboards off the floor. Nothing is where it should be and you don’t know how to put things back together again.

When I’m able to find hope again, it’s like putting the door back on the hinges, rolling up my sleeves, and being ready to tackle the mess.

So what is the moral of this story?

Perhaps when life is kicking your butt, you’re in a funk that you can’t get out of, you feel like every one else in the entire world is at a party and you’re stuck at home, or you just feel like you’re done with the world and want to get off, take five minutes and build a fort.

I’m not saying it’ll change your life, but things don’t seem so bleak when you have a fort.

Guns, More Guns, A Water Buffalo, and Some More Guns

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“Why don’t you come shooting with us this weekend?”

“I’m sorry have you met me?”

For the last month or so my friends, Hannah and Jason have been asking me to go to the shooting range with them. Like any other well-adjusted individual who grew up in a neighborhood with gang violence, I have a healthy fear of guns. I don’t care what the NRA says; people may kill people, but they use guns to do it. (I bet you we wouldn’t be nearly so keen to go to war if we had to fight with were well sharpened pomegranate. Let’s just be honest: guns are effective harbingers of death.) A sure-fire way (bad choice of words) to avoid being killed by a gun is to avoid places that have guns. You can’t get hit by the bullet if you’re not in its way. This is why I have avoided shooting ranges all of my life.

However, Hannah and Jason know me too well, so they know that if they ask me enough I’ll eventually cave.

“Come shooting with us.”

“No.”

“Come shooting with us.”

“No.”

“Come shooting with us.”

“No.”

“Please come shooting with us?”

“Ok, fine.”

So yesterday after church I drove to Shoot Straight on Southern Blvd.

(Before I continue, can we talk about the fact that I went to a shooting range after church? Even though I wasn’t shooting people or animals, I still feel as though I broke some unwritten commandment. Like “Thou shalt not shoot on a Sunday” was an alternate commandment in case one of the original ten didn’t make the cut.)

I got there a few minutes before Hannah and Jason, so I had no one to speak to about the giant bear that greeted me at the door of Shoot Straight. Yes, there was a giant stuffed bear in the lobby of Shoot Straight. There was a giant stuffed bear with a sign that said, “DO NOT TOUCH” on it; however, if someone puts a giant stuffed bear in your path, what else are you gonna do?

I’m not saying I touched the bear, but I’m not saying that I didn’t touch the bear.

About 3.5 seconds after I encountered the bear, I got around to looking at the walls of the Shoot Straight building. Apparently, the company is very keen on animals. There were water buffalo, deer, really big deer, a hippopotamus, various goats, and a bobcat throughout the store. Well, at least their heads were throughout the store. The company is only keen on DEAD animals. At least the goat got to keep its front legs. You see why I am correct in saying that guns are harbingers of death? Do you think any unaided human could have taken down a hippo with a well-sharpened piece of fruit?

Hannah and Jason got there a few minutes later and then we started signing forms, paying fees, and getting ear plugs. And when I say “we” I mean “they.” I was taking pictures.

Of all the death.

It took about fifteen minutes for us to get a space at the range, and when we walked into the range, I wondered why on earth I was walking into a place with not one, not two, but fourteen guns that were firing at a steady pace. Even though Shoot Straight is a very safe range, there were shells flying everywhere and when you’re not used to guns a shell is the same as a bullet. For the first five minutes I had to resist the urge to duck and cover.

Jason showed me how to safely load and shoot a gun. He owns a normal (as if I know what a normal sized gun looks like) handgun which doesn’t have a ton of recoil and is a good gun to shoot if you have a healthy fear of guns. After he emptied the clip, Hannah refilled it and then it was my turn. I put the magazine into the gun, took off the safety, aimed, and fired.

And promptly shot my target in the crotch.

Did I mention that we were shooting at zombies?

Shoot Straight has kitschy targets you can buy for $2.00.

We bought a round of zombies for everyone.

I fired my second shot and got the zombie right between the eyes. Then I got him in the chest, throat, the thumb (I’m a crack shot, right?), stomach, and leg. By the fifth shot, a strange feeling started to overcome my senses. With the sixth shot, it rose from my stomach to my chest. I started to feel all tingly in my legs and arms. With the eighth shot the feeling was in my head and my ears were warm and turning a slightly pinkish color.

Dear Lord, I was having fun.

That was happiness welling up inside of me.

With each shot I felt less like Gyasi and more like Rambo.

We both have curly hair, so all I would need to pull off the Rambo look would be twenty pounds of muscle and a bandana.

Perhaps it was the smoke, maybe it was the lead, or it could have even been the shell casing that ricocheted off the wall and burned me, but happiness somehow got a hold of me and I had a ridiculously fun time shooting guns on a Sunday. I now know why people go to the shooting range on a Sunday. You feel some kind of way about yourself after you’ve been shooting bullets at a target for an hour and a half. And it never gets boring. Oh no, in fact things get more fun when I get a bigger gun.

But the big gun scared me so all I could bring myself to do was look at it.

Baby steps, people, baby steps.

Do not take this blog post as an endorsement for guns. (Take the fact that I saw Congressman Allen West at the range as an endorsement for guns.) You know that I only write about things to make you laugh, dear reader, not to encourage you to do them. If anything, I encourage you to try something new this summer. I didn’t realize how much fun shooting bullets into a zombie could be until I tried it.

Although to be honest the sound of a gun firing still makes me skittish.

Spending the afternoon at the gun range was thrilling, but only confirmed my decision to never, ever own a gun.

Because despite the immense amount of safety precautions at Shoot Straight, guns are still freakin’ terrifying.