It’s Sunday morning

and I'm reaching to my depths to remember a time when someone sitting in my chair at the kitchen table would have reduced me to indignant, angry tears.

I'm trying to not be angry with a five-year-old who is crying into her cheese and crackers because her little brother is sitting in the wrong chair. I'm also trying to not be angry with her for, first, covering the entire couch with cracker crumbs, before being asked to please take her snack to the table.

I'm trying to remember how unfair it feels when all you want is a snack, and everyone keeps telling you what to do.

I'm trying to remember those bubbling emotions when everything is so unfair, and everyone is so against me, and all I want is a couple of pieces of cheese and a funny cartoon on the TV.

Where is the lesson for this formerly quiet Sunday morning? Is the lesson for me? To be more empathetic with a child who has had a busy weekend and will be having a very busy week to come? Is it for her? To learn that listening often begets calm? That flexibility can earn you a more peaceful snack?

So many things I'm trying to remember about being five, but the one thing that stands out from those days is how that snack would stick in my throat as I tried to eat and not cry at the same time. How hard it was to swallow both my crackers and my pride while struggling to come to terms with whatever indescretion had befallen me.

I look at my sweet girl and think about how young she is to be accosted with feelings of how unfair life can be. Especially on a Sunday morning. And regardless of the fact that those feelings are spurned on by cheese and crackers and little brothers and kitchen chairs instead of bigger, worldlier things.

It's hard to be five. It's hard to have two brothers. And I hope if I tell her these things enough that, while it doesn't give her a pass for decimating a snack all over the couch, it does give her a sense that I'm on her side, after all. I'm on everyone's side. I'm on the side of "Where did the quiet Sunday go, and how do we get it back?" and "Life can be hard, but at least you still get to eat all that cheese."

What was it like when I was five? What was it like to be just realizing how big the world was around me? To be conscious of all the unfairness I would have to swallow just to get to eat my cheese?

I'm trying to remember. I think I can remember. I want to remember.

And in the meantime I also want a couch that is not covered with crumbs and a five-year-old who is not screaming on a quiet Sunday morning.

It's not too much to ask. Is it?

How to turn yourself into a disgusting zombie (without sacrificing your brain)

This past weekend I had the most amazing time at Austin's Comic Con. It's the first comic con I've ever been to, but I wanted to make sure I did it right, especially since I was there as an author trying to sell some books. Since my most recent book, Brains for Lunch (a zombie novel in haiku), is about zombies I figured, what the heck, I'll go all out and zombify myself.

The response was HUGE. I haven't posed for so many pictures since ever. I earned some street cred with teenage boys, I made little kids cry (sorry!), and I sold more books at one event than ever before.

So what's the trick to making yourself a dripping gorefest? I'm gonna tell you.

1) Hit up those Halloween superstores. I knew I wanted to go for some serious skin trauma so I bought a 15 ounce jug of liquid latex. I didn't need that much, but it was a good price compared to the teeny vials. You're also going to need a palette of greasepaint in grody colors. I got a nice collection of brown, green, yellow, red, black, tan and white. These are the only things you need from the Halloween store, everything else you can get at Goodwill or Target. (Side note: I bought a can of spray on blood that I used on my clothes, but in hindsight, I could have just used my homemade blood for this.) (Additional side note: I spent some money on crazy zombie contact lenses. I wasn't going to because they were so expensive, but on the first day of Comic Con I found a vendor that gave me a great deal, so I splurged.)

2) My next trip was to Target. I got some cheap foundation that was a fairly close match to my skin tone. I bought some super cheap skin-tone colored powder, with a puff. And I picked up some toilet paper, make-up wedges and extra eye make-up q-tip things.

3) You're going to also need some chocolate syrup and red food coloring (more than just a few drops). Luckily, I had both of these things at home already.

4) Now get yourself over to Goodwill and find some clothes that look like they need a good gross-ifying. I chose some gym clothes. If you want to go all out, find yourself a pair of shoes that are a couple of sizes too big, and then another pair that are regular size that relatively match the big pair. You can use one of the big shoes to make it look like one of your feet is on backwards.

5) OK! Now you have all of your stuff.

6) Get after those clothes. Rip some holes, mess up your hems, make sure your neckline is funky. Once everything is ripped, take the clothes and rub some dirt and/or mud all over them. Run over them with your car. Get them grungy. Do the same thing with the shoes. You can mess them up with some scissors, or you can just douse them with some homemade blood and let that do the trick.

7) Make your blood. It's about as simple as you can get. Find a small bowl, squirt in several tablespoons of chocolate syrup, and then dump a whole little bottle of red food dye into it. Stir. You want to make sure your blood is very dark with just a hint of red, otherwise when it dries on your skin it will get kind of pink, and it will stain and look fake. So mess around with your concoction until it seems right.


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8) Dribble and splatter the blood on your clothes and shoes, then rub everything in the dirt some more. Once your clothes and shoes are sufficiently bloody and dirty, leave them outside to get dry and crusty – but watch out for ants and bees.

9) Now it's time to zombify yourself. There are four important things to note before you start messing around with liquid latex: a) it smells really bad b) you have to put some kind of oil or lotion on your skin before you paint the latex on, or when you remove the dried latex, it will rip out every tiny hair on your skin c) make sure you're not allergic by testing out a small patch on your arm d) if you have crazy zombie contact lenses, put them in now before you start in with the latex and get your hands all mucked up.


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10. Once you know you're not allergic, it's time to figure out where you want your wounds. Pour the latex into a small container and find a paintbrush you'll never need to use again. Slather the spots of skin where you want the latex to go with oil or lotion or creme make-up. (Note: I used white creme make-up, and it was still pretty excruciating getting some of the latex off. Especially on my face.)


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11. Now that your skin is protected, paint the latex on with a good even coat. The thicker the latex is, the more you have to mangle, but having some really thin layers here and there works well, too. If you want to make a serious wound, you want the latex to dry until it's tacky. If you're just going to mangle some skin, you can let it dry all the way. A hair dryer set on cool can help speed this part of the operation.


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12. Grab some sheets of toilet paper for your wound work. Two-ply works best, because you can split it and use really thin tissue.


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The tissue I had was quilted, which wasn't great. Go for the super cheap stuff.

13. You want to roll the tissue into thin tube-type things and stick them to the tacky latex in the shape of your wound. (Alternatively, you can just attach little tears and rips to add icky texture to patches on your face or wherever.) Then, you'll paint the latex over the tissue. When you do this, the tissue might get a little mucky and tear some. Totally fine. It just makes your wound grosser.


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14. Whip out that hair dryer again and dry the latex.


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Chin wound to go along with arm and leg wounds

15. Once your wounds (and other latex patches) are dry, smack them with your powder puff, so everything sets nicely and starts to get a skin-type color to it. After the powder is on, you can start adding make-up. I added some straight-up black and red grease paint outlines to the insides of my wounds before I painted over the whole thing with foundation. I imagine you should do the foundation first, but really, it all worked out fine.


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16. Once you've got your outlines, get everything else with liquid foundation. I found that it went on better and faster with a paintbrush than with the make-up wedges. But the wedges come in handy for blending with the rest of your skin.


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This is pre-liquid foundation, post-powder


17. After your latex patches are skin colored (or close), you can add bruise-y, dirty colored grease paint and then rip at the latex carefully with tweezers or your fingernails. Just peel bits off here and there, and if you can leave the bits hanging, even better.


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I didn't use any special technique for adding the colors. I just globbed the brown and green and yellow and red all together on a couple of fingers and smeared them around.


18. Now it's time to gunk up those wounds. Add your greasepaint inside the wound and outside of it, and use your chocolate syrup blood liberally. Let it pool inside the wound and drip out.


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Here's another angle. So gross! (But it smells like ice cream. Thanks, chocolate sauce!)

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19. Now you just tear at your latex spots, add make-up and blood everywhere and ta da! You are a gruesome zombie sure to terrify everyone in your path (especially the unsuspecting people in the parking garage).


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Don't feed the author!


20. And for that last, special touch, don't forget your backwards foot. I wish I could've figured out a better way to do this, but it was reasonably effective. It made people laugh and/or grimace, and it caused a few double takes for sure. All you have to do is use one of the big shoes you bought at Goodwill and either remove the tongue, or smush it down. Then you stick your foot in between the laces. Very simple. And if you tie it tight enough, the laces will still hold your foot in nicely.


photo by PJ Hoover


Ta da! You are now a disgusting zombie. Go forth and terrify.

(I'd like to thank for helping me figure out how to do all of this. Specifically, this instructable for wounds, and this one for blood. I didn't follow their instructions absolutely, but they were a great guide. Also, in that first link, if you scroll down into the comments you can see a picture of a guy who used chicken bones to a horrifying result.)


photo by PJ Hoover


A day in the life…

I spent much of this morning deconstructing gym clothes and spraying them with fake blood so I can be a proper zombie for Austin's Comic Con this weekend. Much ripping of fabric, rubbing it in dirt and sticks, then spraying on the blood, and rubbing some more dirt in it for a good effect. It was fun, but it left my hands crazy red.

Normally, this would be no big deal. I don't usually go anywhere or do anything other than write and pick the kids up from school.


Tonight, though, was my first meeting as a member of the Mother's Milk Bank of Austin's Board of Directors. So, yeah, probably should have used some forthought before I got my hands all bloody and stained.

The meeting was amazing – the Milk Bank is amazing – and I am stunned and excited to be a board member. I'm also pleased to say that the other board members are all polite enough not to say, "I'm sorry, but what exactly is going on with your hands?"

My answer would have been, "Oh, you know, just zombiefying some activewear this morning."

But luckily, I didn't have to answer.

This post should probably be one of those sentimental weepy things where I get all sniffly about how becoming a board member is taking my family's journey with the milk bank full circle. After donating for a bit, and then receiving milk for so long, and the fact that without donor milk Ike would have been in even more dire straights than he already was – yeah – I could totally do a weepy "And now here we are!" blog post.

Instead, I like to step away from the moment and think, man. You know things have a reached a new normal around here when I can stain my hands nice and bloody while creating zombie activewear, and have a board meeting the same day, and it's all part of the everyday flow. Wild.

Probably shouldn't have just used the word "flow" there, should I?

Now they're going to kick me off the board for being gross.

Well, no matter what, it was a fun time tonight and, if they weren't too scared of me, I look forward to future meetings. That won't be anywhere near Comic Con, and thus will be attended with all appendages colored the way they should be. Unless there is an accident with Christmas decorations, which is always a possibilty.

Permission to say AAARGH even if things are relatively fine

A thing I worry about a lot is this: feeling shitty about things that are, in the grand scheme of The Universe, not that shitty.

Like, I know what a bad day is now. Those Bad Fucking Days only come every now and then. If you're lucky, you never get one. Or maybe you only get a couple in your lifetime.

The problem is, once you know what a Bad Fucking Day is like, everything else is mild in comparison. Wreck your car? No sweat, comparatively. Hurt yourself? You'll heal. Burn dinner? Order pizza. Get two rejections in one day for a project you love? Perspective.

And yet, here and there, I still want to get mopey about little things. Not all the time, but sometimes. Sometimes, I just feel kind of shitty and I want to complain about feeling kind of shitty, but then I think, no way is this a Bad Fucking Day. No way is this even on the continuum of things worth being upset over.

So, I guess my question is: is there some way to give yourself permission to be whiny about mundane things?

Maybe I just need permission to feel a little blue every now and then. I'd like to take some deep sighs and not feel guilty.


See? Now I feel guilty.