Karen the Zombie

With Halloween coming up, and The Walking Dead returning (although I’ve actually never watched it, too scared) I thought I’d take a little break from Plain Jane (she’ll be back next week), and that a zombie story would be appropriate. Enjoy…

-Shan

Karen shook herself out of her daze and struggled to get up. She had taken a shot to the chest from a shotgun at almost point-blank range. “That stupid fucker,” she thought to herself.  As she hoisted herself up off the pavement she saw that her two daughters had taken care of the redneck asshole who had shot her.  Her youngest was slyly gnawing on a finger she had torn off, but the oldest was patiently waiting.  Isabella was like that, always so obedient and polite.

“Go ahead babies,” Karen told her daughters. They exchanged grins and dug into their meal. The redneck asshole, who wasn’t completely dead yet, started screaming in pain. Usually Karen would finish their prey off before digging in (she saw no need for them to suffer), but this guy had nearly killed her, which would have left her two babies orphaned. Pissed off, she figured he could stand to suffer a little. He didn’t look like he had been all that great of a human being anyway – tattoos of swastikas, confederate flags and other racist symbols clearly displaying his overall ignorance dotted what was left of his arms.

She looked around, lifted her nose and took a deep breath in, smelling no signs of other humans, or zombies for that matter. She cocked her head, listening for any sign of either… The redneck asshole abruptly stopped screaming. Olivia was greedily scarfing down the still-beating heart she had just pulled out of his chest. “Olivia,” Karen said in her best Stern Mommy voice, “Share that with your sister.” Olivia frowned, tore a chunk off and half-heartedly handed it to her older sister.  She had been hoping to eat the whole thing herself; the heart was her favorite part.

Karen listened and sniffed the air once more for good measure. The coast appeared to be clear.  She reached down and tore one of his legs off, then sat down to enjoy her meal.

It had been six months since the outbreak.  No one really knew exactly how it started, or how the virus that had affected 70% of the human population turning them into what could best be described as zombies had become airborne, but the first reports had come out of Texas. From there it spread quickly into the surrounding states and Mexico, after that communications and utilities had began to go dark. That is, until the zombie population took them over and brought them back up on-line.

As a human, Karen had actually been what her friends jokingly referred to as “a crazy zombie lady” and had taken measures against a possible zombie outbreak, but she was no match for the virus.  One minute she was fine and dandy, the next, she and her whole family were zombies. But not the kind she had expected.

They could still speak, still feel emotion, and still “function” for all intents and purposes as a human.  With the large exceptions being of course, they were no longer human, and the craving for living flesh. Her senses had become heightened, she was stronger, and they all found that they could move with surprising speed and agility.  Especially her kiddos, they could move lightening quick, and combined with their four years of gymnastics training they were incredibly lethal, but Karen had to remind them to be cautious. A shot to the head and they would be done for.

By now most of the zombie population had moved into the cities, which was where the best human hunting still was, plenty of pockets of the unaffected were holed up in them, however Karen still preferred the suburbs. Her friends had tried to convince her to move with them, especially with her husband Bill gone (he had gone hunting two months ago and hadn’t returned) but Karen felt safer in her own home. She also held out hope that Bill would come back.

Karen’s phone rang. She reached into her back pocket to grab it; it was her best friend, Anne. The picture that popped up on the screen was a selfie of the two of them on the beach, margaritas in hand, at their last annual girl’s weekend. How times had changed… “Hey you!” Anne said cheerfully before Karen even said a word, “Just calling to check in on you and the girls!” “We’re just finishing dinner,” Karen replied. “Remember that hermit-y neo nazi who lived on Shadywood?” “Oh, he was such an asshole! How’s he taste?” Anne asked as if Karen and the kids had just tried a new restaurant.  “Good. He took care of himself, that’s for sure. Hardly any fat on him. I took a shot from him, he ruined one of my favorite shirts, that f-u-c-k-e-r (she spelled it out since her kids were close by). The girls finished him off, though.” Karen laughed like getting shot was no big deal. There was silence on the other end of the line for a moment before Anne spoke. “Kar, I really wish you would move to the city with us, we got a great apartment with a view of Town Lake, the girls would love it. It has plenty of room for you guys and a pool and everything. At the very least you should come visit for a while – you could take a break from eating so many house pets…” Anne trailed off, trying to make a joke of her own (she did have a point, the remaining house pets were the most abundant food source in the suburbs). “I’ll think about it, OK,” Karen said, hoping she sounded somewhat convincing. “Look, I gotta go, it’s getting late and the girls need baths, they’re a mess. I’ll call you later, give my love to Fred and the boys.” They hung up, and Karen munched on the last bits of flesh still hanging from the bone before breaking it open to suck out the marrow. She turned and looked at her two little girls, who were doing the same with what remained of the redneck asshole. That shot had been too close, she thought with a shudder.  She had been careless…

“Mommy,” said Olivia, breaking Karen’s train of thought, “can we have dessert tonight?” Karen looked around, sniffed the air and listened.  Her girls did the same.  Isabella spoke up, “I smell a cat. Can we go after it? Please, Mom?” Karen smiled and gave in. “One cat. But then it’s home, baths and bed, got it? And be careful!” “Yay!” the girls shouted in unison and took off running in the direction the smell had come from.  Karen smiled to herself, feeling proud of her two littles, they were such good girls… “If only Bill were here to see them,” she thought to herself.

She took one last look at the carcass beside her, looking to see if the girls had left anything tasty behind. Something caught her eye then, something shiny, glinting in the light of the setting sun.  It was a ring. It must have fallen off when Olivia tore the redneck asshole’s finger off… She picked it up and with dawning horror realized, it was Bill’s. His wedding ring.

She heard the girls returning and quickly wiped away the tears that had started to fall down her face. “We saved you some, Mom!” Isabella called out. “Yeah,” said Olivia proudly, “Bella wanted to eat it all but I told her we should share.” “That’s very sweet of you, girls,” said Karen, quickly pocketing the ring. Isabella eyed her mother carefully. “Is everything OK, Mom?” “Yeah baby, everything is fine.” Karen mustered a smile and grabbed their little hands in her own. “Come on my little ladies, time to get home.”

Plain Jane – Part Two

Every morning Jane woke precisely at 6am. She needed no alarm clock, since the age of five she had risen at 6am and her body was now programmed to wake without any aid. She would wash her face, brush her teeth, feed the cat (in that exact order) and then dress to go run.  Jane ran on the sole treadmill located in her apartment complex’s small fitness center, always for exactly 30 minutes. On the rare occasions another person was in the fitness center, Jane would put on her headphones and pretend to listen to music, although in actuality none played (Jane did not listen to music). Never had she encountered another person on the treadmill.

Upon completing her run she would return to her apartment, shower, dry her hair, dress, fix herself breakfast (which was always plain oatmeal, with a small glass of orange juice to drink), sit in the single chair at her small table and watch the morning news on her tiny portable television that was placed on the kitchen counter. This was the only time she would watch TV, Jane had no need for sitcoms and reality television. She just found them confusing. After eating she would wash out her spoon, bowl and glass, dry them, and place them back in the cabinet. Her kitchen cabinets held very little, in fact, she had one fork, one knife, one spoon, one bowl, one plate, one small glass and one slightly larger glass which she used to drink water. Jane drank mostly water. The only time she drank something other than water was her breakfast-time orange juice. By then it was off to work, which took 20 – 30 minutes depending on traffic. The traffic report was the main reason why Jane would watch the morning news. Jane always preferred to drive the exact speed limit.

Her weekends were essentially the same. On Saturdays, in place of work, she cleaned her apartment, every nook and cranny. Not one speck of dust escaped Jane’s careful eye.  To keep Whiskey’s shedding to a minimum, Jane would bathe him, and then carefully brush him dry to catch any nascent shedding hairs the bath didn’t take care of. Whiskey loathed the bath, but luxuriated in the brushing that would take place after. He would strut around the small apartment after Jane was done, stretching and finding sunny spots to lay in that would best show off his shiny, golden coat.

On Sundays Jane would do all of her laundry (which was more than one would think). Jane had seven running outfits, seven sports bras, seven regular outfits (all various shades of beige), seven regular bras, and sixteen pairs of underwear, eight rundies (running undies), and eight to wear under her regular clothes. Although she never wore the eighth pair of either, she found solace in owning an extra. After her laundry was put away she would grocery shop, eat lunch, visit her Aunt, and then spend the rest of her afternoon perusing her favorite used bookstores for new reads. Her evenings were always spent reading in her small armchair, wrapped up in her beige blanket, with Whiskey on her lap.

Jane lived in a world of one, a world in which she was perfectly content.

Plain Jane – Part One

I’m trying something new here today and sharing a little something that I’ve been working on. Hope you like it…

-Shan

Jane was the type of girl who after meeting her, you would have a hard time recalling what she looked like. She wasn’t unpleasant to look at, in fact one might even call her delicate features pretty, but she didn’t flaunt her looks. She dressed conservatively, wore no makeup and her straight brunette hair was always brushed back and held out of her green eyes with a thin headband. At social gatherings she usually faded into the background and became invisible, that’s if the host or hostess had remembered to invite her at all, or if Jane attended at all (she rarely attended, and rarely did anyone notice).  At work she always arrived promptly at 8am, and left promptly at 5pm. She kept her desk tidy and sparsely decorated. In fact, the only sign that anyone worked in the space was a small potted plant placed next to the phone, and her beige sweater hanging on the back of her chair as she had a tendency to get cold. Her work was always satisfactory, never falling below expectations, but never exceeding them either. One of her superiors once gave her the feedback on her performance appraisal that he would like to see her “step out of her comfort zone” and “take on new challenges”. In the comments section she wrote, “I fail to see how this has bearing on my current work performance, I either meet expectations or do not.” Her supervisor, realizing that Jane was not the type to ever stretch her wings so to speak, decided that Jane was one of those rare individuals who are completely at ease in the role they are in, and actually took comfort in the fact that what he had on his hands was a dependable, plain, Jane.

Jane’s small studio apartment was always clean, furnished with exactly enough furniture for one, all of which was some shade of white or beige. Like her desk at work, there were only a few signs that her apartment was actually lived in. In one corner, a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf was crammed with books, mostly paperback fiction, their spines creased, revealing the wear and tear of multiple reads. Next to the bookshelf was a small armchair, over the back was draped a beige blanket. An almost permanent fixture on the chair was Whiskey, Jane’s cat, named not for any preference for the libation (Jane didn’t drink), but for his deep orangey-gold color (the cat was one of the few colorful items in the apartment). In the bathroom, her toothbrush and toothpaste were placed neatly next to the sink.

At the age of 32, Jane had never been in a relationship, had never been kissed, and had never had sex. She had no friends or social acquaintances outside of work (if you could call her coworkers acquaintances), although she did have one Aunt she was close to, who she visited at the retirement center every Sunday from 1-3pm. Looking at her, one might think that she was the kind of person who had let life pass her by, either on accident or on purpose.

The fact that she had no friends or romantic partners did not bother Jane. In fact, she quite preferred it that way. People were conundrums to Jane, and she chose to avoid them whenever possible.

Feedback…

I remember kindergarden as a kind of cast of characters you’d find in a John Hughes movie. We weren’t picked up by a bus so our moms had this intricate car-pool system worked out. There were four kids in our carpool in total, and we were all in the same afternoon kindergarden class.

Adam – the goofy class clown, I adored him

Roy – the Jake Ryan

Princess – I don’t remember her real name but she was always wearing pleated skirts, cardigans, hair in headbands and actually wore pearls (really, fucking pearls) in kindergarden. She had this long, thick brunette hair that I coveted something fierce. It was like Charlotte York hair.

Me – nerdy and slightly socially awkward… I like to think of myself as a less cool Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles. Like maybe add in some Ally Sheedy from Breakfast Club, but not as weird and way more hygenic. (I’ve always been kind of a clean freak.)

Kindergarden was where I began learning something about myself though… I liked to make people laugh. And, it’s where I began to correlate that if I did x, people laughed.  And today I would say, I’m pretty funny. There are times I think I could be funnier, and times I think “nailed it”, and times I think I wasn’t funny at all… But overall, I think I’m funny. Nowhere close to the pure comic gold of Will Ferrell or shit even Paul Rudd (a Will Ferrell sidekick) – but funny nonetheless.

(Here’s your chance to tell me otherwise if you think I’m not. I once had someone tell me I remind them of “that funny girl. You know, that funny girl, she’s kinda blonde and you know… anyway, she reminds me of you. Except you’re not as funny.” How’s that for feedback?)

By far though, the best thing about kindergarden was that we got to wear our Halloween costumes to school on Halloween.  I’ve had some costumes that in hindsight weren’t the best choice (ahem, bag of jellybeans… don’t ask), but my favorite costume ever was in kinder. I was Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Aside from the fact I was blonde, I was a pretty damn authentic Dorothy. I loved that costume.

Adam was a vampire and Roy was a football player. Guess what Princess was? A fucking beauty queen. She walked in in this giant ball gown her mom had had made with a hoop skirt,  hair all done up in a crown and a sash that read “Miss Bear Creek” (the name of our elementary school) and I was like, “what the fuck?” (or the five year old equivalent of “what the fuck?”) – don’t get me wrong, I thought she looked beautiful, I mean she looked like a real princess.  My incredibly girly little girls would flip their shit over that costume. But come on, she could have easily been on Toddlers in Tiaras with that getup. (We moved to another city after kindergarden, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Princess and Roy went on to date in high school, became Prom King & Queen, got married and had cute little prom king and queen beauty pageant babies. I’ll have to look them up on Facebook. You can find out anything about anyone on Facebook.)

Dorothy, Vampire, Football Player, Beauty Queen – it’s kind of refreshing to know that some things will never change – I suspect I’ll see all four at my door this Halloween… This year I’m going to try to change it up and go as Scarlett from GI Joe (the 80s version, not the crappy live-action version). Although after a quick google search of available Scarlett costumes I’m thinking I may have to change gears… Why is it costume manufacturers assume that only stick-thin, size two bitches want to dress up?  And that they will want to wear head to toe spandex and parade around like sluts?

Hmmm… perhaps it’s indirect feedback – maybe they are telling us that slutty, stick-thin size two bitches are the only “adults” who should dress up… Man, feedback sucks sometimes.  Good thing I rarely listen to it.  😉

Happy Halloween!

-Shan

 

Side note: Upon reading this to the hubs his feedback was, “Good. (Dramatic pause) You sure like to use the f-word.” Ummm….. I think he must have forgotten who he was fuckin’ married to for a second.

 

The Best Mommy Ever

I can’t believe it’s already September. I mean really, where did this year go? I really thought that by adopting a new lifestyle that time would move slower, life would be less harried… But nope. Seems that there isn’t much you can do to slow down time.

It’s been eight months since I made the decision to leave my full-time job. A decision I made because I was unhappy and had grown ashamed of the person I had become.  An absentee everything – mother, wife, sister, friend… Work got 90% of my attention. Which I resented. Which in turn meant that I wasn’t the best employee and boss that I had the potential to be – how could I be if I was angry all the time?

Like many, I’m addicted to Pinterest. I’ll spend hours pinning all these cute little crafts, DIY projects and recipes – confident in my ability to execute them with ease even though my cooking skills are mediocre at best, I’m not nearly as crafty as I like to think I am and even though I have a sewing machine I’ve never actually sewn anything. I admit that at first my approach towards full-time motherhood was the same as I take towards those projects – totally oblivious of what I am actually getting myself into. I had all these visions of having a completely clean house, clean kids and healthy, homemade dinners every night. Of taking my kids on daily trips to the park for play dates, me gossiping with the other moms while we push our kiddos on the swings. Of hitting the gym every day… and never did it cross my mind that I would actually miss the career I thought I loathed.

It didn’t take me long to realize how hard my new “job” was. How much I had loved my old job. Even though I had been 110% sure I was doing the right thing for myself and my family, doubt crept in.

I started taking a good hard look at myself, trying to figure out why I am the way I am. How I had become a person I didn’t really like or care for. How I had let myself fall so out of touch with my loved ones, my children, especially. It depressed me that my husband knew them better than me. That it was him that they went to when they were upset or hurt, that it was him they went to with their problems or silly secrets, that it was him they would snuggle up to on the couch. It depressed me that I was jealous of him for it. It depressed me that my friends didn’t call me for dinner or lunch dates anymore, and that my once daily interactions with my BFF had become limited to a text or email every few weeks or so. It depressed me that my siblings had grown closer without me, and that I was now the last to know what was going on in each of their worlds when I used to be the first.

Mostly, it depressed me that I had done this to myself – that my situation was no one’s fault but my own. And it depressed me that it was something that was so hard to undo. And, to be completely honest, it depressed me that I wasn’t instantly good at all the things I wanted so desperately to be good at. On top of that I found myself getting angry again – angry at myself. I fell into a mean case of the summertime blues.

Luckily, my birthday is in July. I say luckily, because it gave me an excuse to do something I had always wanted to do. I wrote about turning 35 with a skydive, and how it’s funny that it took something as extreme as skydiving to help kick me out of my funk… But it worked. I’m not saying that I don’t still struggle with depression or doubt, but that day was also the beginning of me looking at things a little differently. Or trying to, anyway.

This year has been an exercise in learning to forgive myself for the past four years of disconnect from my family and friends. Of realizing that I can’t be instantly good at motherhood, wifehood, sisterhood, friendship-hood… That like all things worth having they require work and effort.  Of learning to lower the bar just a little and setting realistic expectations. Sometimes celebrating the small stuff.  Learning to let go of the anger I wore as armor. Accepting that life is not ever going to be perfect, but that you can have perfect moments.

I’m continuing to work on becoming the me I know I can be, Shan 2.0.  I know my journey has probably been a doozy for those closest to me, dealing with Happy Shan one minute and Sad/Angry Shan the next, so I’d like to say thank you to those people. Thanks for sticking by me, listening to my rants and sometimes calling me on my bullshit when I relapse or start to feel sorry for myself. Thanks for supporting me as I seek to find balance in both my work and personal life. Of those whom I’m speaking,  you know who you are and I hope you know how much I love you and how important each of you are to me.

The other week I made quinoa for my family, which my husband politely ate even though it really wasn’t that good (I’ve since learned from a foodie friend at one of those long overdue dinner dates that the secret to quinoa is to add citrus). Stella, my youngest, looked up from her plate and said, “Mommy, you aren’t a very good cooker. Can I have a pop tart?” Ordinarily, my first reaction would have been to tell her to be nice and eat it all anyway, and then sulk and stew over how my family didn’t appreciate the dinner I had made for them and hell even though it wasn’t that good they should eat it and keep their mouths shut. But this time, I gave in. She happily skipped to the pantry to get her pop tart, and then came and hugged me tight and said, “I love you mommy. You’re the best mommy ever.”

There’s nothing quite like the honesty of a 4-year-old to help you see how silly you’ve been acting. I still can’t cook worth a damn, and yes, my child ate sugar for dinner instead of a healthy meal, but for a brief shining moment, she thought I was the best mommy ever. Score.

35 with a Skydive

The time to hesitate is through, no time to wallow in the mire…

– The Doors

Yesterday I turned 35.  And, I did something I’ve always wanted to do.  I, along with my two brave siblings, went skydiving.  I gotta tell you, It. Was. AWESOME.

Lately I’ve been letting things get to me – work, motherhood, relationships… Letting them pile up and pile up – carrying the weight of those stresses, worries and fears on my back and shoulders. I’m like that – I’ll let things weigh upon me and then there will be some thing, some final thing, that will get me ranting and raving and leaving everyone wondering where the crazy bitch lady came from.

When I decided to skydive on my birthday, I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I’m pretty brave, and according to one friend I “like to flirt with death”, but I needed the extra support and motivation of another person there to have the courage to actually do it. Knowing I would want my husband planted firmly on the ground (one of us needed to stay on the ground for our girls), I called upon the first two people I could think of, my sister and brother.  We’d always talked about skydiving, and looking back the three of us have been the more adventurous of our family as it pertained to jumping off things, speed and heights – together we searched out the highest cliffs at the lake to jump off of, the fastest and tallest roller coasters, take us to a carnival and we’d pick the rides that flip you upside down and inside out with the gnarliest looking ride operators.  If one was going to do something, you could be sure the other two would follow, because my family is also a competitive bunch. (Don’t ever try to play a board game with my family. We take that shit seriously.) But I also like to think it was because we always have each others backs. The love between siblings is quite an incredible thing.

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Pre jump – all suited up and ready to go!

Up in the plane I was so excited I could hardly talk.  I thought about my brother and sister, and wished I could turn around to tell them that I loved them (but I was securely strapped to my instructor so I couldn’t really move). I thought of all the “stuff” that I had been letting weigh me down. And made the decision that I was going to leave as much as I could up in the air in that plane. That when I jumped, only the things that were truly important would follow me. About that time the photographer turned around and asked me if I was scared, and I remember saying (and thinking) “not really”. I was ready to jump.

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Clearly I was having fun…

Words cannot describe how amazing and peaceful it was. I loved it up there.

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Ready to jump again!

After yesterday I feel like I have a new pep in my step.  To use my sister’s phrase, it’s as if a new fire has been lit from within. I jumped out of a plane. If I can do that, I can certainly take on the stresses of “everyday” life. Some of you may be shaking your head at my finding it necessary to jump out of a plane to kick me out of my funk, but I like to look at it this way…. We all have moments when we need a swift kick in the arse to get them in gear. My kick just happened to be in the form of celebrating turning 35 with a skydive.

-Shan

PS – Much love to Stacy & Seth (my awesome sibs), and my hubs (who didn’t get why I would want to skydive but supported me anyway).

Shan for President

At dinner one night, my dad brought up this little blog ‘o mine. “You’re funny”, he said while shaking his head. The way he said it I knew there was a ‘but’ coming.  Sure enough, he followed it up with, “But you could never run for President. Not with the stuff you talk about.” I think I said something like “Right. Because me running for President sooooo is likely to happen…”

But upon further reflection, what I should have said was this, “Thank you Dad, for thinking that I am capable of being President. Thank you for always believing that I could do anything I set my mind to. I love you.”

– Shan

PS – I think my potty mouth and tendency to talk about poo actually makes me relatable. He may be on to something with the Presidency thing… In fact, I’ve already thought of a campaign slogan. “I poo. Just like you.” Eh?  Catchy, isn’t it?