Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Zombie Films as a Reflection of Reality

There have been some happenings recently that have reminded me why I enjoy zombie movies so much. These happenings mainly involve how we as humans treat one another.

One of the things I find endlessly fascinating about horror films is how they reflect society. Specifically, how they reflect things society is afraid of. On the surface, zombie films represent our fear of death and dying. Rotting corpses roam the streets, making it hard to ignore that one day, that could be us. Hopefully not the undead part, but definitely the rotting.

But the other aspect zombie films reflect are how awful we humans are to one another. They show that when it comes to survival, we will do all we can to ensure that we have what we need to make it, that others (unless they are part of our clan) don’t matter and are therefore expendable.

The scary part about this is that we act like this now. It’s not something that only happens in the movies. But we aren’t trying to survive zombies. That’s why it’s incredibly fascinating to me.

Without a doubt, zombies are scary. They are hard to stop, they feel no pain, and they keep coming and coming. They can’t be reasoned with. They have no emotions or freedom of thought. They are spurred on by some primal desire to eat and destroy.

But their motives are known. Humans know what to expect from the undead. They don’t change their patterns, and they are predictable. If only that could be said about the humans. We are the ones who use deception and treachery to get what we want. We’ll lie, cheat, and steal to ensure our survival. We’ll kill and maim. We’ll lure others into a false sense of security just so we can get what we want.

This is incredibly apparent in The Walking Dead. Sure, the walkers are a huge problem, but they aren’t nearly as scary as the humans. Look how the current season ended. Everyone has been anticipating the introduction of Negan. He was a major part of the graphic novels, and it’s possible that he’s going to murder one of the main characters. Perhaps Glenn. The audience is on pins and needles waiting for what is going to happen. There are theories all over the internet of who it will be.

But the point is that it’s humans against humans at this point—and, in reality, it has been since the show started. Sure, the zombies have killed their fair share of main characters, but not nearly as many as the humans have.

The zombies change the humans; they are the catalyst that put them in this awful situation in the first place. Take Carol, for example. At the beginning of the show, she was a shy, mousey woman. A lot of her behavior had been dictated by an abusive marriage, so it’s almost refreshing to see her grow a spine. However, it goes beyond that. She then becomes devious and a killer. She unpredictable and can’t be trusted, so she has to be sent away.

But, wait, you say. This is about survival. Everyone has to do something they wouldn’t normally do to live.

And I agree with you. One of the points of zombie films is that it pushes us humans into situations we wouldn’t normally be in and it asks us how far we would go to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

However, zombie films and shows also ask: how do we bring ourselves back to humanity?

None of you would argue that the situation the characters are in in zombie shows and movies is pleasant. It’s scary and difficult. But the humans ultimately have to decide what path they will take. They have to decide if they will continue to be killers or if they will try to rediscover their humanity.

The character who embodied this trait in The Walking Dead was Dale. He even flat out asked the others if they were going to give up their humanity by killing another human being. He was their voice of reason, the one guy who kept most of the others grounded. And then he was killed.

If zombie films and shows have shown us anything, it’s that returning to humanity is the hardest task of all.

In the real world, there are people who are ridiculously self-centered, who will do anything to ensure that they have what they need to be comfortable and survive, and they will step on anyone to get it. They will use deception, cheat, and steal to meet their own goals, and they won’t feel remorse about it.

We’ve all seen these type of people. Whether on the news or even people in our lives. They are frustrating and irritating. We want to do something so they can see the error of their ways, make them change into better people. But how? Nothing seems to make an impact on their actions. So we do the next best thing: we ignore it as much as we can. We focus on our needs or the needs of our family and push everyone else away. Thus, the cycle continues. Trust me, I do the exact same thing.

There’s a sense of security that comes from watching zombie shows and movies and knowing that the survivors are going to be horrible, awful people—although some are less horrible and awful than the others. These oftentimes turn out to be the heroes. They are flawed, but they still retain some redeeming qualities.

There’s a sense of control because more than likely, those really bad people will get their come-uppins at some point. We can boo and hate them, knowing that in the end the hero will come out on top. Sure, there will be some losses along the way, but that will make the defeat of the bad guy so much sweeter.

There’s less sense of control in real life. There’s no guarantee that the “bad” guy will get what he deserves. In fact, it often feels like the opposite happens. This is also frustrating and irritating. It makes me weep for the state of humanity, makes me wonder how in the world we’ve advanced this far as a species when we can be so horrible to one another.

But, like the characters in zombie films, we continue on. The process changes us, but we survive. And we hold onto the hope that one day, things will get better.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sometimes It’s So Easy to be the Best Mom Ever

For a while, I’ve been meaning to get a weight bar. I get up super early in the morning to exercise, and I like to change my routine every few months. Every time I went to the store, I would forget to grab one, but then I finally remembered.

I got it from Walmart, so it came in a box in three pieces. I didn’t have a chance to put it together right when I got home, so I set it on the floor at the top of the stairs so I wouldn’t forget. The boys were at baseball practice until later, and while I was downstairs putting sheets in the dryer, I heard my youngest.

“Oh, my gosh! You are the best mom ever! You are so awesome!”

I come to the bottom of the stairs to see what he was going on about. To be honest, I kind of thought he was playing around or being sarcastic—he is my child, you know. And then I noticed that he was looking at the box with the weight bar.

“I’ve wanted one of these for so long, and you finally got me one!”

I chuckled and told him it was for me, but I would let him use it.

Later, as I was putting it together (which I didn’t accomplish, I had to have help), the boys were hovering around me, waiting to use the weight bar. They were so anxious, they were doing what they could to help put it together. However, it was bed time at this point, so they didn’t get the chance to use it.

The next morning, after eating breakfast, they headed downstairs to get a workout in. It was pretty dang cute. It was also a great moment to teach the boys about weight lifting safety and how to spot one another. Always take advantage of teaching moments when you can.

I just wish parenting was always this easy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Dogs Gone Wild…Or Maybe it Was Just Me

I’m not a calm person. I don’t handle intense situations well. I’m what you’d call wound a bit too tight. I try not to let it hold me back, but every so often, something happens that reminds me why I don’t do certain things. A something happened on Monday night.

We own three dogs: two Corgis (Siggy and Floki) and a black lab (Ryder). The black lab is huge, weighing in at 95 lbs. I kid you not, his head is the size of my small Corgi. And he’s terrible on a leash. That’s totally our fault. More often than not, we take him for walks in places where he doesn’t need a leash. But it’s also cyclical. We take him to these places because he’s terrible on a leash.

Anyway, Monday was a nice day. The sun was shining, and the kids really wanted to be outside. They asked if we could take the dogs for a walk, and since there were three of us (one for each dog), I agreed. We planned to go after dinner. While I was cooking, a small rain storm decided to blow through, soaking the ground and causing mud puddles. I was hesitant about going, but the boys convinced me if we stayed on the sidewalk, it would be fine. I relented.

Mistake #1.

Siggy loves going on walks, but she hates having her harness put on. She runs away or has to be held, which then makes it traumatic for her and she snaps and bites while putting it on. Once it’s on, she’s happy. But then comes the task of hooking up the leash. Getting her ready for a walk is at least a 10-minute ordeal.

The other two dogs practically put their collars and leashes on for us, then proceed to whine and dance until we head out. Ryder will run over anything that gets in his way on the way out, so he has to sit until the boys are out the door and situated.

My irritation level was on the rise before we even left the house.

I knew that since the walk was going to be an ordeal I should make it worthwhile. I put a bunch of treats in my pocket so that I could keep Ryder under control and reward him for listening. After grabbing some plastic bags, we headed out. The boys went first, then Ryder and I followed.

Mistake #2.

Once outside, I went to close the garage door, but it has issues and pops back open if someone isn’t pushing it down. Of course, since I didn’t have the opener, I had to use the keypad, and the damn buttons stick. I was trying to keep hold of Ryder, who more than once tried to wiggle out of his collar, and get the door closed. When that was finally accomplished, we headed up the street.

Everything started out fine. Ryder was jerking me down the sidewalk, but I was pulling him back and trying to make him heel. The boys were running up ahead of us with the Corgis, so Ryder wanted to run too. But I was determined to make him obey. He even got a few treats for listening.

We ran into a coworker of mine, then a neighborhood kid. Floki rolled around on the wet sidewalk in some dead worms. At one point, Floki stopped to go to the bathroom, which my oldest had to pick up. He handed me the bag, then we continued on our way.

At some point during all of this, the neighborhood boy had run to his house to grab his dog to take for a walk. I’m not sure what kind of dog it is, but it’s bigger—not 95 lbs big, but big enough. When it saw our dogs, it lunged to come across the street, pulling the poor kid over onto the sidewalk. He landed hard, and I saw his head connect with the cement.

He did what any other kid in that situation would do: he ran home. Without his dog. Who had run across the street to greet my dogs. That, as you can imagine, caused Ryder to lunge forward. I don’t think it was in an aggressive manner, but I wasn’t sure. And I was freaking out that I wouldn’t be able to hold onto him. Plus, I had no idea how that other dog was going to react.

Siggy, who is a lot like me (high strung and panicky) was losing her doggy mind. She was barking and carrying on, which then caused Floki to get into the action. Emotions were running high at this point, so I decided the best thing we could do was head back home.

Probably Mistake #3.

The other dog started to follow us, which was to be expected. I mean, the excitement was heading down the street! During this time, the mom of the neighborhood boy had come out to collect her dog, and let out her 100-lb chocolate lab—and he didn’t have a leash. I don’t care how nice your dog is, when it comes barreling at me and my dog, it’s going to scare me. And it caused Ryder to once again lunge forward.

The boys had the Corgis quite a ways down the street, but Siggy was still losing her mind, so it drew the attention of the big lab, who then went barreling down the street at her. I’m not sure if I was yelling at this point or just trying to keep a hold of Ryder—it wouldn’t surprise me if I was yelling. There was so much chaos going on, it was drawing people onto their porches to see what the hell was happening.

Keep in mind, this entire time, I’m still holding a bag of dog crap.

Finally, we get all the dogs under control. The boys made it home with the Corgis, and Ryder and I were on our way back. He decided to stop and go to the bathroom on the sidewalk, so I stopped to clean it up, hoping the entire time he didn’t decide to take off running. Thankfully, he didn’t.

So, we finally make it home. I threw away the bags, inwardly thankful it hadn’t gotten all over me. I was shaking like a leaf. My oldest was also shaken, and he told me how scared he was when the big lab came running at him. We get our dogs corralled, then headed back up to the house to see if the neighborhood boy was all right.

He had scraped his hip and bonked his forehead. He was on the couch with some ice, so we didn’t see him, but we talked to his mom. We discussed what happened and the craziness, then the boys and I went back home.

Later that night, I thought about the situation again, which caused my anxiety to spike. I questioned everything that had happened. Had I overreacted? Was there something different I could have done? Why did I think I could take the dog for a walk by myself?

Long story short, this is why I don’t take the 90-lb dog for a walk.

However, with the chaos, uncertainty, and fear came the determination that Ryder will learn how to walk nicely on a leash and I will be able to control him.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

One of the Many Reasons I Hate Traveling

I’m not an adventurous person. I much prefer living vicariously through characters in books and on film. With that being said, you can imagine how much I don’t like traveling. I realize that it stresses most people out, but it also fills me with anxiety and panic.

From March 23-26, I was supposed to be in Seattle for the PCA/ACA conference. I was scheduled to give my Women and Slasher Films presentation on Thursday at 9:45. I was super excited to go!

As is typical out West, we get hellacious spring storms. I received a message on my phone Tuesday morning that we would be under a winter storm warning from midnight that day until 6:00 Wednesday evening. Since my flight left at 11:00 on Wednesday morning, I decided to head down a night early so I wouldn’t get trapped in Wyoming.

I checked what the weather was supposed to be like in Denver, and they were under a winter storm warning too, but they weren’t supposed to get as much snow as we were. I figured I would still be able to get out, so off I went.

When I woke up Wednesday morning, the world was blanketed in swirling white. Not only was it snowing, it was also blowing. I was up by 6:00 so I could shower and partake in the free breakfast at the hotel. My plan was to leave for the airport around 9:00 or 9:30, but after seeing the weather, I figured I should head out a bit earlier. I decided to leave at 8:00.

Getting to my vehicle was an adventure. The snow pelted me in my face, and I had to clean a few inches of wet, heavy snow off my windows. And it was still coming down. Still, I was optimistic.


As I pulled onto the main road that led to the highway, I got stuck in a line. I figured there had been an accident, so I got into the other lane, which was actually moving. It didn’t take me long to realize that I needed to be in the not-moving lane, so I flipped a U-y and got back into the line. Where I sat.

At one point, I happened to glance into my rearview mirror and saw a black truck sliding sideways toward me. No doubt the driver hadn’t been prepared for the line (which would have been hard to see through the snow) and had to slam on his brakes. I immediately tensed and waited for the impact. Thankfully, it never came.

I honestly can’t tell you how long I sat in that line, but it was long enough for panic to set in. I was texting my husband and my mom that I wasn’t going to make my flight. I wasn’t even sure I was going to make it to the airport. Finally, the line moved. I had been right: there had been an accident. And it was on the on-ramp for the highway. I was rerouted several miles up the road to another street that connected with the highway that took me to the airport.

The weather wasn’t improving at all at this point, and the roads were covered in snow. Traffic was moving at most 30 mph on roads with normal speed limits of 75 mph. My knuckles were beyond white as I gripped the wheel. I keep plodding along, though. What else could I do? I was committed at this point.

I was behind several vehicles on the road with snow covering the signs. I had my phone with directions on my lap, but since I was so focused on not running into anyone, I missed the exit for the airport. I just about lost my mind. I had to travel a few miles up to the next exit, on the most craptastic roads you’ve ever seen, then turn around and head back.

Cars were off the road everywhere. I passed two semis that had jackknifed into the median. The red and blue flashing of highway patrol lights barely cut through the fog and snow. My heart was in my throat.

Finally, I made it to the airport. When I was halfway there, I had received a text from the airline that my flight had been rescheduled to 3:50 that afternoon, but since I was already committed to getting to the airport, I decided to keep going. Where else was I going to go? At least there I would have bathrooms, food, and places to plug in my electronics. Plus, it would relieve some of my stress.

I parked in the economy lot, at the end farthest away from the main terminal. If I could have gotten closer, I would have, but that was my only choice. Braving the winds and dragging my suitcase through slush, I headed in. 

 
I was able to check in and get through security in about 5 minutes. It was the fastest I’d ever gotten through at DIA. I was still optimistic that I was going to make it to Seattle. I found my gate, then went and got some coffee and some food. Pulling out my computer, I decided to get some work done while I waited.


After a while, I headed back to the gate. There had been some announcements over the intercom about flights, so I wanted to see what the status of mine was. I went up to the desk, and they put me on a waiting list to maybe get me out earlier than 3:50. I then went and sat back down.

I never made it to Seattle. A little while after talking to the ticket agents, the entire airport shut down. No flights in or out. In addition, the road in and out of the airport was also closed due to the snow. I was trapped.

So, I did the only thing I could do: I stood in line to get a refund on my ticket. I was in line for more than an hour, but since I couldn’t go anywhere, it didn’t matter. At least I was warm and safe.

After that, I had to go to the main terminal to get my bag. If I could have stayed at the gate, I would have. There were a lot less people and more food options. I could have found a place to settle in and sleep. But I couldn’t leave my bag.

By the time I got my bag and was standing in line for food, the road out of the airport had opened and my husband had found me a hotel for the night. You have no idea how happy I was. I hadn’t been looking forward to sleeping in the airport, but I would have done what I had to do. At least I had my toothbrush.

I started my trek to the farthest regions of the economy lot. Part of the parking lot had been plowed, with the exception of where my Jeep was parked. The snow had drifted, so I had to walk through snow that came up to my knees, and I couldn’t drag my suitcase through it. Needless to say, I got my workout in for that day. When I finally got into the Jeep and had it started, I had to break through a drift, rolling backward and forward multiple times to finally get through the snow.

At this point, irritation, exhaustion, and anxiety were taking their toll. I drove to the exit to find chaos. Apparently, the gates wouldn’t open, so we were stuck. I lost it at that point. I started crying. Eventually, maintenance workers made it so the gates would open, and I was off to snow-covered-road hell.


I am ever so thankful that I have a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, but even that doesn’t make me super comfortable on crappy roads. I was gripping the wheel so tight, my hands were cramping. It took me maybe 40 minutes to get to the hotel, but it felt like an eternity. There were many moments when I just wanted to pull over and say f*ck it. I wanted to wait for a tow truck to take me to the hotel, but I knew it wouldn’t happen. I knew they were busy, so I had to keep going.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I broke into tears again. I was shaking so bad, I could barely sign the paperwork. At this point, I was hoping that my adventure was over. I had made it. The sun was out, and the snow was starting to melt. Everything was going to be all right. But nooooooo! Here are the other “fun” things I had to endure:

  • As I stepped off the curb to head to the Jeep to get my suitcase, I thought I was stepping onto solid snow. Instead, it was slush, and I soaked my jeans up to my knees.
  • There were a series of restaurants within walking distance of my hotel, and since I didn’t want to drive again, I decided to check them out. They were all closed. Once again on the verge of tears, I decided to find the closest gas station and take the food back to my room. 
    • I had tried to order a pizza and have it delivered, but they weren’t delivering because of the road conditions.
  • All I wanted to do was relax and watch TV, but the storm had knocked out a tower, so there was no TV.
    • Thankfully, there was wifi, so I logged into Netflix and watched Z Nation.
The next morning when I headed out, I stopped at a gas station to get gas, only to find there was no gas. I went to the next one, and they didn’t have gas either. I broke into tears about that, also. I finally got gas several miles up the road. However, the first pump I pulled up to was broken.

When I finally made it to Cheyenne, I found out that the road was closed to Laramie because of an accident. I decided to bide my time by doing some shopping, then having lunch at Red Lobster. When the roads were still closed, I backtracked about 30 miles to take a cutoff and come home by a divided highway.

A 2-hour trip took me 5 hours to get home, but I made it. If this taught me anything, it’s that my travel window is from the end of May until August—and that’s it!