EXTRA! SO VERY EXTRA!

Archive for July, 2013|Monthly archive page

Lord of the Rings: The Writing of the Bar Exam Essay

In Bar Prep Problems, Law School Problems on July 31, 2013 at 2:32 am

Using the glorious and varied facial expressions of Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, I will show you what it feels like to write an essay for the bar exam. Currently, I am trying to squeeze an extra 30 minutes out of my day so that I don’t have a repeat of the I went to sleep too early and thus woke up at 3 am debacle of this morning.

Without further ado….

1. Focused.

2. Oh, hell. I’m NOT supposed to touch the essays yet?

3. Ok. Ok. Gotta listen more carefully.

4. WOOT! There it is! Begin!

5. Reading. Reading. Yeeeeeah. I know this issue. I’m all about this issue.

6. Wait. Hold on. What? What is that? What…? I don’t…! How am I….?!

7. C’mon. C’mon. Get it together. Enough drafting. Enough reading. WRITE! WRITE!

8. TEN MINUTES?!

9. ONE MINUTE????!!!!!

10. Glad that’s over. I feel…actually…LIKE A BOSS.

11. Oh, hell. What? What were the instructions? Do I leave the paper clips?

Flashcard Rant

In Bar Prep Problems, Somewhat disjointed rant..., Uncategorized on July 27, 2013 at 12:07 am

I have attempted to refrain from an angry woman studying for the bar rant.

But, I can’t.

The straw that drank that last of my milkshake: FLASHCARDS. So, studying for the bar exam is an industry. There are companies that offer bar prep packages. There are live classes, online lectures, online practice tests, practice essays, workbooks, tip sheets, outlines, and (ta-da) pre-made flash cards all ready for one to study.

Except–except for one point. Now, I’m putting myself out on a limb. This statement could be

(a) Slanderous

(b) Tortious

(c) Defamatory

(d) Testamentary

But, who ever programmed the flashcard maker has not quite yet mastered that ancient art of flashcardery. You see, the concept of the flashcard is wreathed is mysticism. But, I will try my best to explain it (spoiler: I’m being a douchebag). Here it is: on one side of the flashcard is a word or incomplete statement. On the opposite side of the flashcard, there appears the definition of the word or the completion of the statement.

Let’s take for instance CATS.

Therefore, one side of the flash card should say

CAT

As a result, the opposite side might say

A FELINE THAT IS THE SUBJECT OF ABOUT HALF OF THE INTERNET.

However, the opposite side should not say

A CAT IS A FELINE THAT IS THE SUBJECT OF ABOUT HALF OF THE INTERNET. (Saying CAT on both sides is pointless)

neither should the opposite side say

DOG. (How does that help me remember what a cat is?)

nor should the opposite side say

FELINUS RETICATUS E PLURIBUS UNUM WHENCE THE TESTAMENTARY INCAPACITY OF THE BENEFICIARY TWENTY ONE YEARS FROM SOME LIFE IN BEING, BUT ONLY IF THE INTEREST IN THE DEFAMATION IS PERFECTED BY A REASONABLY PRUDENT PERSON. CANINUS DEFICIENCY JUDGMENT MAY BE A LIEN HOWEVER THE CROPS MUST BE ASCERTAINABLE FROM A DISTANCE THAT DOES NOT POSE A NUISANCE TO THE ADVERSE POSSESSOR. INTENT CAN BE NEITHER MORE THAN OR LESS THAN DEPRAVED HEART MURDER.

The above does not make sense. Putting something on a flashcard that is several sentences long and fills up the whole flashcard and does not make sense and is silly.

That is all. It may seem insignificant, but when one has just graduated from law school (with a bill of at least $10,000 rolled up inside your JD) and has shelled out another grand to take the bar exam and has further shelled out a couple of thousand for the bar prep course: THE FLASHCARDS. ALL THE FLASHCARDS should be helpful.

 

Monday Bar Review Blues and All That (Christian) Jazz

In Bar Prep Problems, Encouragement, First World Problems, Law School Problems, R[evol]ution, Somewhat disjointed rant... on July 23, 2013 at 4:55 am

Have I mentioned that I am taking the bar this summer? Have I mentioned that studying for the bar is miserable for me? It is. BUT, I am down to about 7 days before the end begins. And, let me tell you: this is a crawl to the finish. Quite frankly, I am feeling like a chip of pine bark. It has been a lonely and trying couple of months. I have experienced sadness, self-doubt, abandonment, isolation, confusion, and anger. It feels like I am being ripped to shreds–and there is no guarantee that I will pass. Like a flash of lightning, I realized that I needed some good Words.

Reading over my scripture cards (yes, I made scripture cards…type A personality! Hello!?), I experienced not my old reaction of feeling confirmation (and even pride), but rather a feeling that the words before me were goals. The words are measures of what I can achieve and reminders that God can take me to those places. These words are, for me right now, mirror and magnifying glass and window and telescope all at once. The big picture and the details feel a little clearer. I am God’s and no matter what happens, that is what really counts. In passing, I can learn more about Him. In failing, I can learn more about Him. The part of me that is closest to Him can never fail.

Here are some of the scriptures that grabbed me.

1. “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26).

2. “Why should I be afraid of bad days?…” (Psalm 49:5)

3. “Nevertheless, His mind concerning me remains unchanged, and who can turn Him from His purposes? Whatever He wants to do, He does. So He will do for me all He has planned. He controls my destiny.” (Job 23:13-14)

4. “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 35-39)

5. “You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh.” (Psalm 38:9)

6. “[God] who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.” (II Corinthians 1:4)

7. “. . . For he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6)

8. “No one will succeed by strength alone.” (I Samuel 2:9b)

9. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phillipians 4:6-7)

10. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed . . . ” (From II Corinthians 4:8-10)

11. “For God’s gifts and His call can never be withdrawn.” (Romans 11:29)

12. “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)

13. “Simon, Simon, Listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22: 31-32)

14. “For the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been confounded. Therefore, I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.” (Isaiah 50:7)

15. “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)

16. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. There is need of only one thing.” (Luke 10:41-42)

17. “Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (II Chronicles 20:15)

A Moderate Black Woman Stands Her Ground

In and other uncomfortable topics, Education, R[evol]ution, Somewhat disjointed rant... on July 17, 2013 at 6:13 pm

First, allow me to apologize. I apologize to all of the people who are either angered or attracted by the title of this post. I may not say what you think I am about to say. I further apologize for my use of humor. I do not mean to make a joke of the entire situation, but I use humor as a defense mechanism. Needless to say, I feel like I am on the defensive right now.

If each person on this planet had a baseball card, the back of mine would likely contain the following stats.

  • 5’9.5″ tall, 175 pounds
  • Hometown: Decatur, Georgia
  • Socioeconomic status of birth: Working class
  • Age: 32
  • Race: Black
  • High School: Columbia High School; Decatur, Georgia
  • College/University: Agnes Scott College; Decatur, Georgia
  • Graduate school: Georgia State University (Master’s Degree in Education, 2006; Juris Doctor Degree, 2013); Atlanta, Georgia
  • Religion: Christian
  • Politics: Bleedingest of Bleeding Heart Liberal
  • Gender identity: Female
  • Sexuality: Heterosexual
  • Current occupation: Studying for the Georgia Bar
  • Friend group: Diverse

I think that many people who know me would identify me as moderate to liberal on most issues. In the aftermath of the murder of Trayvon Martin and the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, I have had to dig for the most compassionate, balanced, moderate stance that I could muster. But, that still leaves me angry, sad, and worried. Yes. The most moderate stance still means I am angry.

This is not about George Zimmerman. Something in my heart tells me that Mr. Zimmerman has had (and will continue to have) an unenviable life. This is not about him. This is not about the verdict in this case. The moment that this situation was submitted to the American legal system a verdict of not guilty became a part of the “what if” spectrum.

This, like a great deal of the things swirling in my head, is about me.

I am angry. I’m angry because all lives do not have the same value. The American legal system tells me that. The American education system tells me that. The American political system tells me that. The American employment system tells me that. I do not have empirical proof of that. I do not have scientific studies to back me up. I have the lowliest of all evidence: narrative proof. As a Black Woman (double whammy), I know and I have heard and I have told numerous stories.

I am angry because I looked at the crime scene photos. That’s right. I steeled my heart and looked at Trayvon Martin, sprawled out lifeless in the grass. Tall, lanky, handsome, clean cut and with his pristine Jordans on. Looking so eerily untouched; looking as if he could have blinked his eyes and stood up with the uttering of a simple “Lazarus, come forth.” But, he wasn’t untouched. He didn’t blink his eyes. He didn’t stand up. And, no one uttered “Lazarus, come forth.”

That’s not fair.

That’s not fair for Trayvon’s family. It’s not fair for the thousands of other families with young, brown sons and grandsons and nephews. Yes, brown. Not just African-American. But, there is a rub. This is not about racists with white hoods or pitch forks or slurs dripping from their mouths. They are easy to denounce. They are obvious. This is about an insidious, subtle little thing.

The thing that makes me go inside of my house quickly and lock the door and stay away from the windows whenever I see a sleek Mercedes driving my street at night.

The thing that makes me shake my head whenever I see a Black woman get into a car with a White man at the check cashing place at the corner of Austin and Glenwood.

The thing that makes me lock my car doors any time I, alone in my car, pull up to a red light next to a truck with a gun rack and a confederate flag displayed.

The thing that necessitates me walking into Neiman Marcus with my head held high, my eyebrow raised, and my back impossibly straight.

The thing that made Trayvon Martin, Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, Matthew Shepard, and Kathryn Johnston (despite the tragically different inhumanity of their deaths and the frighteningly arrayed motivations and identities of their killers) easier targets for violence.

Stereotypes. We all hold them and use them. And, we rarely challenge our own pet stereotypes and the prejudices that underlie them.

I have no right to assume that a Black woman getting into a car with a White man at the check cashing place is a prostitute and that he is up to no good. I have no right to assume that the Mercedes is driven by a coked-up, gun happy drug dealer. I have no right to assume that the people in that truck will drag me out of my little Honda and lynch me. The associates in Neiman Marcus have no right to assume that I will steal any of the (surprisingly tacky) clothes they have on display.

And, here is where I stand my ground. I will not retreat. I will not go to the wall. Regardless of what you say, I believe what I am about to say is right with every fiber of my being.

Every time I, personally, am afraid when I see a Black man approach me and I don’t challenge my own fear and examine it and debunk it: I am making it a little more possible for another family to lose their tall, lanky, handsome, clean cut son. Every time I, personally, think that a woman with a short skirt and a good body looks like a slut: I am making it a little more possible for someone to think that she “deserves” to be raped. Every time I, personally, snort and shake my head when a (frankly, very brave) young Black woman admits she has difficulty reading cursive: I am making it a little more possible for the American education system to justify the abandonment of more young Black people.

I already know the reaction I will get. Those deaths are not related! A self-defense murder and a brutal rape and murder and a homophobic attack on a young man and a mistakenly tragic execution of a no knock warrant? Absolutely unrelated, one might think. But, those needless deaths are all grounded in stereotypes that were petted and fed and nurtured and allowed to grow and then those fully-grown, flesh-thirsty, vicious stereotypes were used in different ways.

This is not about George Zimmerman. This is about me.

Epic Vent: Depression and Downers

In Encouragement, R[evol]ution, Somewhat disjointed rant... on July 6, 2013 at 5:00 am

A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety disorder for the third time in my life. Non-head shrink language? Everything stresses me out. A LOT. I just can’t sometimes, like seriously. Well, not everything stresses me out. It’s more like I become stagnated in anxiety. This is not a medical definition; this is my description of what it feels like.

Big reveal: I take medication for it. To me, this is not a big deal anymore.  I speak of it–not in an uncomfortable way (ok, so sometimes I do make jokes about depression that make others uncomfortable–but it’s funny to me)–when it’s appropriate. I think mental health needs to be spoken of intelligently and often. Ah! But, that’s the rub: INTELLIGENCE required. Sometimes, when a person finds out that I struggle with clinical depression/generalized anxiety: s/he says/does weird ish. Like, seriously ermergag-that-was-strange kinds of things. I am sure that many of things were said or done with the best of intentions by someone who cared for me. Nonetheless, these things were true downers. And, down is  not where an anxious and depressed mind needs to go.

1. You need to laugh more. 

Really? Watching a couple of Kevin Hart movies and a few I Love Lucy re-runs should get it, then? No. No. No. Though laughing does release “good” chemicals in the brain (I went to law school, not medical school), there is no way that I can laugh myself out of clinical depression. Moreover, if I tried to do so I am sure that the phrase “why so serious, son?” would be involved.

Please understand that depression and anxiety are not the same as a bad day–and bad days suck. Before starting a regimen of therapy and medication, I could crack jokes and laugh at jokes multiple times a day and still cower in the corners of myself. Please, in the name of Aslan, STOP TELLING PEOPLE THIS. 

2. You need some supplements.

Exactly! Prozac! No? Oh. You mean like vitamins and minerals? Yeaaaaaaaah. I tried that. Valerian. St. John’s. I was dropping a fortune at health food stores because the dosage of those herbs required to provide a therapeutic effect is quite large. Because I am sure that Van Gogh just needed a little more vitamin C in his diet to prevent him from chopping his ear off. Ernest Hemingway would have been with us much longer if he’d had more leafy greens.

3. You have no idea of the side effects of that medication.

True. I mean, I read the pamphlets and information. I ask my doctor lots of questions. I go to WebMD. But, in the long term (like 40 or 50 years out), I don’t know the side effects. I admit it.

But, one of the immediate side effects of a combination of therapy and medication was that I felt a little sharper. I realized how very long I had been going through the motions. I felt like a very fine and nearly invisible cob web had been brushed aside. I was barely functional in the months before I started the meds. I scraped through my reading assignments. I dreaded meeting new people. I dreaded talking to people I did know.

Though I am still quite the drama queen (halllelooooo!), I am able to deal with stressful situations. I can order and prioritize things. I can make small talk. I can meet new people. I can follow the rapid fire of a normal conversation.

4. You need more faith.

For the record: telling this to someone who is clinically depressed IS NOT–I REPEAT–NOT A WWJD CHOICE.

Sigh. This one. Yeah, seriously. I heard that–and, I believed it for years. While I worked in ministry and taught Bible study. I was barely handling things. I was on the edge–and it showed in my body. I got the flu; I fainted at work; I had chest infections; I had outbreaks of hives; I ballooned up to 200 pounds and, less than 2 years later, I dropped down to 120 pounds.

And, I prayed. But, still I had weeks where all I could do after meeting my personal obligations was hide in bed. And, I beat myself up because obviously I still felt that way because I didn’t have enough faith. I hadn’t prayed enough. I had a friend actually cut off contact with me partially for going back on meds the second time. I beat myself up even more, and figured that she must be right. I went off meds again. Hey, I haven’t always been the dazzling logical mind that I am now (pants on fire).

You might think that God would never allow me to suffer like that if I truly had enough faith and prayed enough. Let me stop you right there. God is not a genie and prayer isn’t like rubbing the bottle. Paul said in II Corinthians 12:7 – 10,

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me,“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Truly, this struggle with depression has made me stronger. I have become more able to show compassion to others dealing with emotional struggles.  I am not quite to the point where I delight in it and, let’s face it, I’m no Paul so I will never get to that point. The Bible does not and never has promised smooth sailing. That’s a fact.

5. You just need to talk about your feelings.

Actually, this one is not all that bad. For some, therapy and counseling without medication is a solution. But, not so for me. And, honestly, who wants to listen to me whine and bellyache and angst brain about my life? The people who told me that all I needed to do was talk it out eventually got sick of it. I don’t blame them.

You might think that you can be a sure and constant listening ear for someone with lots of emotional issues. But, don’t take on that responsibility before you count the cost. Depression and anxiety can lead to weird telephone calls from odd places at crazy hours. Encourage your loved one to seek professional help from someone who can provide a comprehensive plan for mental therapy. You can be a part of his/her support network.

***

I’m not even going to go there with these gems:

-You should switch to a vegan diet. (Oh, ok.)

-You should exercise more. (Oh, like to obsessive levels so I can get runner’s high? Nice.)

-You shouldn’t worry about it. Everybody gets sad. (Everybody dies, too……?)

-Black people don’t get depression. (I can’t. I just can’t with this one.)

 

Novel: Pop Up characters?

In Bar Prep Problems, Novel on July 5, 2013 at 3:08 am

Here is a link to the novel that I am writing one page at a time.

I often write when I can’t sleep (and don’t feel like doing bar prep practice problems), so I have a notebook (with the perfect paper) that I use for draft writing. I don’t have much a plan for this story.  I just write in such a way that I can reflect on whatever negative emotions I am experiencing. This is quite cathartic.

But, as I was writing last night: a character “created” himself. I had no plans for him (Lawrence). He just kind of forced his way into the story. But, he is weird and a little creepy and I don’t really like him at the moment. Moreover, I am not sure why he is weird and creepy. I’m not sure if Lawrence will be in the whole story.

The funny thing is: I don’t care right now. It felt good to move another person into the story other than my protagonist. I have decided that I will deal with him when he needs to be dealt with.

Is this a unique occurrence? Do any other writers experience “pop-up” characters?