Tag Archives: zombies

Why, Hello There, Mr. Nice Chainsaw Maniac

Imagine, if you will, an asylum.

Not a nice modern one, with group time and art therapy and periodic state inspections; no, we’re talking about a stylized interpretation of an old-school asylum, with chain-link cages and straitjackets and experiments of questionable ethical integrity. Imagine darkness and dampness and screaming. Imagine people scurrying and shuffling and running and sometimes freaking out and smashing things. Imagine grasping hands. Imagine invasions of your personal space. Imagine that asylum.

Now step right over here, give the nice lady $18 apiece, and take your ticket. When you present it to the gal dressed as a demented nurse in the entryway of what used to be a high school, she’ll point you past the sliding wall and you can go tour the Creeeeeepy Asyyyyyyylum for yourself, where you’ll meet Mr Crazy Axe Murderer, Mr Doctor of Ambiguous Morality, Miss Jokester-y Clown Lady Who Is NOT I REPEAT NOT Harley Quinn, Mr I Have This Baseball Bat Because Reasons, and a fine cast of other assorted characters all inhabiting a darkened labyrinth of twists, turns, tight squeezes, that weird spinny cylinder thing from Grease but done up in blacklight paint with a little stationary bridge through the middle, and a very beautifully detailed series of creepy scenes that you’re supposed to be too terrified to stop and examine. None of this is recommended for anyone with any sort of physical or mental challenges, including claustrophobia, limited vision, or pregnancy (which isn’t really a physical limitation of the variety they’re considering, to my mind, though I can understand that they probably don’t want to scare anyone into labor).

That, kids, was our Saturday night. Halloween around here is a Very Big Deal(TM), and the Haunted House Experience(TM) is part of the whole kit and kaboodle. There are a few big-name haunted houses in the metro area–big three-story jobs that advertise more or less year-round and cost about $50 a head to walk through–but neither Moon Man nor I had ever been to a real professional haunted house, and we’d heard about this one near us that was only $18 and did not include a three-story twisty slide at the end (pro tip: nobody wants to hear the awful squonnnnnnnk sound of a buffalo whose skirt has ridden up around her hips trying to overcome friction and get herself down three stories of plastic slide designed for someone half her girth). So we decided to give it a go.

And y’know what? As it turns out, haunted houses really are scary to me. Just not for the reasons they had in mind.

I should note going into this that I struggle with social anxiety. Meeting new people is not exciting to me. I do not enjoy going to parties where I don’t know at least 50-75% of the attendees. I do not like being unfamiliar with the unspoken rules of a place, I do not like inconveniencing others with my ignorance, and I do not like infringing on someone else’s ability to have a good time. Small talk makes me want to go live in a cave. Public speaking is fine–I’m an excellent teacher and trainer, but that’s because I’m prepared going in and know what I’m supposed to talk about; “let’s go around the room and everyone stand up and tell us something interesting about yourself” makes me pray for sudden-onset laryngitis. It’s like that for me, you see.

So we rolled up, bought our tickets, got in line, and that’s when the fear started. There was only the one line, so I could be fairly confident we were in the right place, but oh man, what if I was taking up too much room? The stairwell into the school was modestly narrow; what if someone needed to squeeze by me to get in or out and I was in their way and it was inconvenient for them? What if I were to be standing on a stair, waiting, and I turned wrong and toppled over and knocked down a stranger and squished ’em? And that’s just getting in the door–what if I got inside and got turned around and someone had to come rescue me because for whatever reason Moon Man and I would have gotten separated? What if I knocked over some props? What if I stepped on a performer?

What if I did the haunted house wrong?

Finally it was our turn (I did not, you’ll be pleased to hear, fall off the stairs), and we started our walkthrough. The nice haunted house designer people had clearly planned for the possibility of people wandering off and getting lost behind the scenes, and had kept the path very clearly delineated–if you tried to go the wrong way, you would simply run into a wall. Try again. The pacing of the experience was good: enough jumpy startle moments to keep you on edge, but not so many that you got complacent; and the scenes changed often enough that you were constantly being distracted by new props and backdrops and somehow kept failing to notice the creepy guy in the corner who would chase you with whatever he was wielding in that scene (or you’d start to congratulate yourself for spotting him, and realize that you’d actually spotted a mannequin when the actual creepy wieldy guy ran at you from a different direction).

So yeah, I jumped and startled and gasped along with everyone else–two teenage girls had asked to walk through with us because they were too scared to go alone–but I realized as I was going through this thing that the real fear wasn’t so much the startles and spooks: it was a reflexive response to not wanting to be a bother. There were parts where we had to crawl through low, snug doorways; and those were scary not because of the claustrophobia, but because I am slow to get through such obstacles and heaven forbid I might slow up the line. At one point a Creepy Clown Lady told us we were going slower than her grandma, and I thought I might actually die of mortified embarrassment. And I was acutely aware of my body’s position in space–it was just terrifying to think I might accidentally bump someone, or try to feel my way around a corner and grab someone’s face by mistake. I realized at one point that when a performer leapt out at me and I jumped, it was partly a startle response, sure, but the noise I was making was the same noise I make when I back into someone in the grocery store aisle–that combination of “Gahh!” and “OhgoshI’msosorry”. In other words, I was mentally apologizing to the Hatchet Murderer, because I might have startled him.

And then it all came to a head when, in one room, there’s a sort of planned separation–the performers watch for groups to come through, and split them off from each other, trapping one part of the group in the room for an extra minute or two. We came to that room, the teenagers got stuck in there while Moon Man and I got shunted into the dark hallway just beyond it, and, because you’re supposed to keep moving, we kept moving, figuring the girls would be chased to catch up with us in a bit. We were a good ten steps down the hallway when the Demented Man With Meat Hook stopped us and asked (in his gravelly “evil” voice) if we wanted to wait for the girls; we said yes, so he told us to wait right there, and I (because when you are a Socially Awkward Buffalo, you tend to default to Excessive Politeness) said “Oh, that’d be great. Thank you very much!”.

That’s right, kids, I’m the gal who politely thanked Demented Man With Meat Hook for his assistance in enabling our group to continue traveling together through the asylum of tortures and terrors.

/sigh

So that was our Saturday night. For what it’s worth, it really was an entertaining experience. It’s probably not one I’ll repeat, but not because of anything they did wrong, or because it was too scary, or anything like that.

No, it’s because later, a Chainsaw Maniac With a Goat Head led us down a wrong path, then told us it was the wrong one and laughed at us while we headed for the right path, and I found myself thanking him too–y’know, for clearing up the mixup and letting us know we’d gotten it wrong the first time.

And really, once you’ve said “Ahh, right, [self-deprecating chuckle], thank you!” to a Chainsaw Maniac, there’s really not much left for a haunted house to offer.

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Braggin’

I know, I know, pride goeth before a fall and Ego will keep you from true Enlightenment. I do, in fact, believe in humility and having a servant’s heart; I believe in knowing that you will never know all the answers and that there will always be someone who is doing the exact same thing you’re doing but with more success; I believe in accepting that we are all part of a big cosmic web, where no one part is inherently more or less important than any other part, so we should all play nicely and share the toys.

I also believe in celebrating your own victories, because a) you can’t always guarantee that someone else will celebrate ’em for you, and b) sometimes hearing about someone else’s triumphs will provide that little boost that one needs to get him/her out of a slump–kind of an “If she can do that, so can I!” sort of thing.

So today I’m totally braggin’.

Approximately two months ago–on January 12, according to the little tracker thingie–I joined Fitocracy. You may have heard me mention it before; basically, it’s a site that makes exercise kinda-sorta game-like: you exercise, then you come tell the site what you did and it awards you points, which combine to let you Level Up. You can get bonus points by completing quests–usually sets of pre-selected exercises–which help you level up faster as well as giving you nifty online badges to show off to your friends. And as we all know, I’ll do just about anything for the promise of points and leveling up and getting completely real-world-valueless prizes (stickers, anyone?), so Fitocracy has been a fantastic tool for me.

Now here’s where the bragging comes in.

Today I went scrolling back through my activity on Fitocracy, because it stores the workouts you’ve entered and I wanted to see if I could remember the name of that one exercise I did that one time (for the curious, it was “Bodyweight Close Squats”). And suddenly I had an urge to play Pin the Sticker on the Awesome Lady–so I went back and looked at my first workout. I wanted to see how far I’d come, y’know, because I knew I’d made progress, but wanted to see the numbers fo’ realz.

Frankly, it was a little more dramatic and impressive than I’d anticipated. Here’s what the record shows:

Workout 1, January 12, 2012:

  1. Dumbbell Bicep Curls: 8-lb weights, 3 sets of 8 reps
  2. Bodyweight Squats: 2 sets of 8 reps
  3. Seated Bent-Over 2-Arm Dumbbell Triceps Extensions: 8-lb weights, 2 sets of 8 reps
  4. Standing 1-Arm Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 8-lb weights, 3 sets of 8 reps

That workout earned me 53 points (remember that number–it’ll be important in a minute), and I remember feelin’ pretty cute at the end of it, because by gosh, I’d exercised for realsies. I’d gotten up and done something, and while I was fairly pooped by the end, I felt very accomplished, because I had in fact accomplished something.

And I am not here to mock that workout. It was real, and it counted, and I’m still proud of myself for doing it. It marked a day of very real change for me–the jogwalking had been fun while it lasted, but it didn’t have any real staying power; this whole “working out in my living room” thing, on the other hand, has been happening 4-5 times per week for the last two months, so we seem to be on to something here. January 12 was a big day for me, and I earned every one of those 53 points.

But the bragging part is coming up … now.

Here’s the workout I logged yesterday:

Yesterday’s Workout:

  1. Dumbbell Bicep Curls: 15 lbs, 5 sets of 10
  2. Dumbbell Shrugs: 15 lbs, 5 sets of 10
  3. Tricep Kickbacks: 15 lbs, 5 sets of 10
  4. Dumbbell Step-Ups: 15 lbs, 5 sets of 10
  5. Weighted Calf Raises: 30 lbs (2 15-lb dumbbells), 5 sets of 10
  6. Stiff-Legged Dumbbell Deadlifts: 15 lbs, 4 sets of 10 (something in my hip went “spang”, so I ended up switching to some gentle stretches and calling it a day. Hence fewer sets of everything from here on out).
  7. Supermans: 30-second holds, 4 sets; total of 2 minutes
  8. Leg Lifts: 4 sets of 10 (I need to get some ankle weights)
  9. Weighted Crunches: 10-lb medicine ball, 4 sets of 10
  10. Side Crunches: 4 sets of 10
  11. Short Bridges: 4 sets of 10
  12. Stretching (for cooldown): 10 minutes

That workout earned me–wait for it–1,355 points. I got nearly as many points (49) in one set of weighted crunches–remember, that’s one set out of four–as I did in my entire first workout.

The moral of this story is twofold:

1. I rock the casbah, and am slowly but surely excavating an inner bad@$$ who’s significantly stronger, bendy-er, and more hardcore than I would’ve realized, and

2. If I can do this, You can really very a lot truly totally 100% absolutely do this. 

My scale and I are still having trouble relating to each other. I tell it that I did a 1355-point workout yesterday, and it tells me that I’ve lost a total of 8 pounds over the last two months, and have lost exactly zero since last week. I tell it to shove off, because lookit how much better my clothes are fitting and please observe that I can wear this jacket that I couldn’t zip two months ago, and it tells me to go away and stop pestering it.

So according to the scale, I am still at almost 350 pounds…but by god, those 350 pounds can do some pretty impressive things. No, I can’t outsprint a zombie yet, but I can pick up a cinder block and bash it into his head 50 times or so (and if that doesn’t do the trick, then I can serve as a great warning for the rest of the survivors). I don’t have the stamina yet to hike 5 miles to the nearest water source in the Zombiepocalypse, but I can haul the water, 30 pounds at a time, up into the fortress once you come back with it. And I don’t have six-pack abs (well, maybe I do, but you can’t see them under the insulation yet), but I can … y’know, actually, never mind. This is a family show, so we’re just not going to talk about things I can do on my back.

 

So you’re darned right I’m bragging about myself today. I’ve earned it; I’ve sweated and cussed and worn myself out again and again, and I’m coming to love the feel of achy, well-worked muscles and the endorphin rush that goes with ’em. I can do this, and you can do this, and as I’m learning fresh every day, we are all more bad@$$ than we think.

 

So go! Have your 53-point day today, and I’ll be ready and waiting to celebrate with you when you have your 1350-point day. You can do this. Trust me.

 

High-fives all 'round!

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Happy Plates

First let me note that I actually don’t have many issues with the “Happy Plate” concept for kids. Kids are finicky, particular, and in some cases, outright obstinate; and while forcing them to eat their [insert whatever it is they’ve decided to hate this week] is counterproductive at best, there’s certainly no shame in suggesting that perhaps they’d like to join the Clean Plate Club at dinnertime. Totally fair game. (Though there’s a certain something to be said for teaching them the difference between “I’m full” and “I don’t like this”. But I digress.)

 

However, I am a grownup. I have tried the cooked canned peas already, thankyouverymuch, and I already know that I do not like them. I’ll eat fresh peas all day long–I particularly love fresh raw sugar snap peas, and can sit and eat them like chips–but you can go ahead and give my share of the canned crap to someone else who will appreciate it more. I have done my obligatory time as a Person Who Was Served Foods She Hated And Who Had To Grin And Bear It, but now that I have passed the age of majority, I’m off the hook. If there’s something I don’t like, I just don’t cook it, unless I find an exciting new recipe that might make it palatable (I blame my sister-in-law for teaching me how to make sweet potatoes delicious. I might never forgive her for that, because sweet potatoes were such a harmless thing to hate, and she has taken that away from me).

 

But the Happy Plate training has apparently stuck with me, and lemme tell ya, that’s some hard training to break. Evidently I feel a certain compulsion to clean my plate, regardless of how much food is on it and whether I’m actually hungry or not; it’s like something in me believes that the winning lottery numbers are printed somewhere on the plate below my food, and if I eat everything, I might find ’em. Or maybe there’s a door to Narnia under there. I don’t know.

 

What I do know is that this should, at least theoretically, be far easier for me to get past than it actually is. If we extend the logic to the rest of the world–i.e., if we work from the idea that “a clean ___ is a happy ___”–then my furniture is among the most depressed furniture in the history of ever, because it gets dusted approximately once every 974 years. The back yard must be on the verge of suicide, because I don’t do a blessed thing with it until it starts looking like it’s going to embarrass me in front of the neighbors. And don’t get me started on the windows, which are actually starting to talk about running away from the oppressive filth regime that is their home. I am clearly–clearly–free from the “clean=happy” mentality in the rest of my life. But the plates, man…they hold me in some strange iron grip, and they aren’t letting go for love or money.

 

So I’m trying a two-pronged attack here, in an attempt to break the brainwashing:

 

1. I have added another mantra to my arsenal: The existence of food does not obligate me to its consumption. The zombie apocalypse didn’t happen today, so we are not in a “grab all you can” state yet. Our refrigerator and chest freezer are both fully functional, so I am able to store leftovers safely and eat them again later. The grocery store two inches from the house has not gone out of business, so we can easily go get more food to replace what we use, and I’ll be planting a garden next spring so I can grow some of my own. We are not out of food, nor are we likely to run out anytime soon. Therefore, if I fail to eat until I am bursting at the seams, I am probably not going to starve to death in my sleep. It’s a first-world problem, really, and my eating (or not eating) everything on my plate is going to have absolutely no effect on the starving children of [whichever country my mother chose as an example that day].

 

2. I am attempting to serve smaller portions, with the idea that unless the zombies invade right this second, I can probably go back for another helping. Granted, we have incredibly poorly behaved cats who have no shame about hopping onto the countertop and sticking their heads into the pots on the stove to see if there’s anything delicious in there. Left to their own devices, they would eat all the leftover meat before we can come back for seconds. But fortunately, we have lids for our pans, and plastic reusable storage containers, and in a worst-case scenario, we can just stick the entire pan into the oven and close the door. There are no roving hordes of starving people battering their way into the kitchen to steal what we’ve made. We have no hungry pixies who will devour anything left unattended. It’s ok to take less food on the first pass and come back later if I’m still hungry. The food will still be there.

 

With this as with all things, it’s going to take some time to truly deprogram myself. I’ve got years and years of Mom’s voice in my ear, telling me that I’m going to send the plate into a nervous breakdown if I don’t eat everything that’s on it and that all the starving children of [insert subject hometown here] will come water my lawn with their tears if I waste even one molecule of food.

 

But I’m just going to have to live with that. If I can ignore the cries of my unhappy shelves, then I can ignore the cries of the plates–or at least put less food between myself and their joy.

 

It’s the holiday season, after all. I’d hate to keep them from all happiness whatsoever.

 

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Zombiepocalypse…and Stickers!

A couple of foundational points:

1. As I mentioned recently, I love stickers. That day in kindergarten when the teacher showed you the little chart she’d made, and explained that she would put stickers on your chart if you did what you were supposed to? Yeah, that day made a profound impact on me. Mirty-mumble years later, there are very few things that I won’t do for the chance to earn a sticker.

2. Moon Man and I have just finished watching Season 1 of The Walking Dead on Netflix. While not officially a Zombie Aficionado, I do enjoy a good zombie-based piece every now and again, and The Walking Dead is frankly fantastic. (I also love Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth series of novels for young adults. See? I’m well-rounded.)

Got those two points? 1. Stickers, 2. Zombies. Yes? Away we go, then.

Today Moon Man and I tackled the yard. One of the things that I love about our yard is that we’ve got a several well-established trees, plus trees in all our neighbors’ yards. It always creeps me out a little bit when I see a tree-less subdivision; it looks all desolate and bare and a little bit obscene. But here we’ve got trees and lots of ’em, and they provide shade and privacy and something lovely to look at.

And then once a year, they wage war on us. They fling leaves at our heads, pile ’em up like little barricades, and generally do everything they can to drown us under a pleasant-smelling, delightfully rustly little mountain.

So of course, being the fine upstanding suburbanites that we are, we fight back. We’ve got thumbs, see, and tools, and free time on the weekends. So we spend a day tackling the piles, raking and mulching and rearranging and generally reclaiming the yard in the name of Humanity. We should really get a flag.

And all of this hustling and bustling and pushing and shoving and dragging tends to wear a body out, which got me to thinking about whether I should get a sticker today. I give myself a sticker on any day that I exercise–right now that’s usually jogwalking, though I also earned a sticker yesterday by going and playing “woccer” (that’s “walking” + “soccer”) with Moon Man on the nearby high school field. It was a short-lived game (as it turns out, the pros wear shin guards for a very good reason), but it was delightful and it burned some calories and got our heart rates up, and that was pretty much the point of the thing. So when we got home from our “game”, I put a sticker on the calendar and congratulated myself for a job well done.

But today–was that really exercise? I mean, yeah, I sweated, and yeah, I moved around, and yeah, I used some muscles, but does that really count? I mean, really really?

So I thought about it while I took my post-yardwork shower, and I think I’ve decided to go with the following guideline:

If there is any chance that what you have just done will help prepare you physically for life post-zombiepocalypse, then it counts and you get a sticker.

There are lots of things I can do to help myself prepare intellectually–we’ve got a bunch of miscellaneous books on how to do things the “old-fashioned” way, i.e., by hand, and I reckon I can always just flip through one of those to figure out how to, say, bake over an open fire or make pants from scraps of fabric salvaged from a stranger’s house. I can use my aggressive nurturing skills to help people cope psychologically, and I can use my leadership skills to help identify people’s strengths and bring them together as a team.

But if the ‘pocalypse happens tomorrow and  it comes to a BW-vs-zombies footrace? Save yourselves.

If it is somehow my job to personally clear a field so we can plant a garden? I’ll go read about what crops grow best around here.

If the nearest safe water source is 3 miles away and someone needs to help collect 50 gallons at a time and haul it back here? I’ll stay here and build up the fire so we can boil it when you get back.

In short, unless life post-zombiepocalypse really needs someone to set up a makeshift library and do storytime with the little ones, I’m going to be less than useless. I am zombie food. May as well start brining myself in a tasty marinade.

Fortunately, zombiepocalypse hasn’t happened yet, so I’ve got time. And because of my current physical condition, there aren’t a whole lot of things that I can do that won’t help improve my fitness and survival chances. Pushing a mower around the yard? Helps build stamina and strength. It counts. Churning butter by hand? Stamina and strength. It counts. Gradually increasing the number of steps that I can jog on my little every-other-day jaunts? Stamina and strength, plus it specifically helps me outrun at least the slower zombies. Totally counts.

So I’m giving myself a sticker today, because when you look at it from a zombiepocalypse perspective, all activity counts and is totally valid–you never know when you’ll need someone who just happens to have developed the specific muscles associated with raking up the carnage of an autumnal leaf-based assault. And that person may as well be me.

Besides, this way I get a lot more stickers.

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