Right now, I’m at my kitchen table trying to write these words while my superhumanly bored seven-year-old wiggles, squeals, and scowls beside me, begging for a post-Christmas candy cane even though it's a weekday morning, 8:23am in the middle of January.
My disheveled progeny is sitting there, stomping the floor and gnawing on a pencil in front of her iPad, while on the screen, a kind but exasperated Grade 1 teacher groans like an underfed zombie, reminding her twenty fidgety virtual students to turn off their microphones for the millionth time.
Let's just say that most of these little tykes aren't all that skilled at remembering to mute themselves after they've spoken up.
One of the woefully unmuted girls is singing along to what appears to be one of Cardi B's more explicit tunes; most of the lyrics I'm hearing are so far outside the family-friendly zone I suspect my child may never require a sex ed class. Another kid is enthusiastically clapping two silicone spatulas together, albeit without any discernable talent in either percussion and rhythm. One red-headed boy is nice and silent, but he appears to be making out with a large stuffed dinosaur. Yet another cherubic little boy is having a massive, runny-nosed tantrum, screeching at his off-screen mom for not letting him wear his favorite Roblox pajamas to virtual class while simultaneously trying to cram a glazed pop tart into his tiny blubbering mouth.
Yeah... this sucks.
I'm basically (Don't put the pencil up your nose!) writing this newsletter (Yes, you still have to keep your pants on during virtual school!) in eleven second spurts. My apologies if (No, I have no idea who came up with the word poop. More importantly, what's seven minus four?) this email is somewhat disjointed.
If I were trying to use voice dictation to compose this email, my newsletter this month might read like the hand-scribbled graffiti one might find inside the public washroom of a mental institution's games room.
So yeah. As you can see from the photo I just took of my adorably disgruntled mini-me, remote learning doesn't have too many fans in my house.
Both of my kids have been attending their classrooms virtually for several days, given that local schools were shut down right before the Holidays because of the surge in Omicron cases. My children have basically been home full-time since December 17th. Like so many other busy, working parents around the world dealing with young kids stuck at home, my wife and I are struggling with this development. And for me, finding time to write is definitely a challenge, to say the least. But it is what it is, so I’m pushing through.
It takes a fair bit of Zen to suppress chronic parental stress, but all things considered, I think I’m doing okay. Repressed, ill-digested existential angst and delusional escapism runs deep in my family. During most of my childhood, my Dad tried to convince me that he was Clark Kent. Meanwhile, my larger-than-life grandfather, often speaking in completely made-up gobbledygook, would spend hours telling me all about how his hyper-intelligent crime-fighting horse and him personally conquered the entire Canadian wilderness. And I seem to recall that one of my great-aunts spent a few years thinking she was a small brown quail.
Me… I’m just trying to tell zombie stories. So, despite this latest lockdown and the fact that parenting is taking up 98.74% of my time right now, I'll be stoic, and keep up my professional pandemic papa poker face.
Except, of course, for those times where I can’t help but dash to my bedroom to scream inside the warm, sound-suppressing folds of my memory foam mattress topper. Which only happens ten or eleven times a day, tops.
Don't get me wrong. I love being a Dad. But being a full-time lockdown homeschooling parental unit is something else entirely. It’s something straight out of Dante’s Inferno, except with way more boogers and vegetable refusals. Anybody who suffers from excess mindfulness or chronic patience only needs to spend a few hours trying to manage the education of my two explosively shut-in kids to get taken down a few notches on the Nirvana scale.
When it comes to emergency homeschooling my kids, most of the time, I feel like an elderly ostrich might be better at this gig than I am. That’s not an exaggeration: I basically think of myself as being one tiny notch below a giant, homely, flightless bird convinced it can make itself invisible to predators simply by sticking its bald head into the ground.
Believe me. I'm not underselling myself, here. When one of my kids has a meltdown over some aspect of their screen-based education, I admit that I will occasionally head straight to the bathroom to wait for the storm to pass. Sure, my kids might grow up to think that their dad was massively incontinent, but at least I'll have held my sanity together.
On the off chance that Elon Musk may be reading this newsletter, let me say this: if Tesla ever markets an autonomous, rechargeable AI nanny, I might sell one of my spleens just to get on the early adopter waiting list. Heck, if it's got an add-on that grants it the ability to organize Tupperware containers, I'll sell both, and maybe even throw in a kidney.
It’s minus 33 degrees Fahrenheit outside today, so cold that exposed skin freezes in about ten minutes, and I have to head out to work later. I know I need to shave my scraggly beard to make sure the N95 masks I wear at the airport COVID screening center where I’m working right now will fit correctly. I’ve just eaten a freezer-burnt bagel for breakfast, I can't find my wristwatch, and I think there may be some extra-terrestrial mold growing behind my bathroom's doorframe, either as a result of a hostile, body-snatching alien invasion (which would help explain some of the tantrums around here), or perhaps because of my youngest's offspring's overly-splashy bath time play sessions, which often look like a reenactment of the movie Titanic's third act.
On the upside, my newest zombie book Better Dead than Red is finally finished. Finito! So that's a pretty cool silver lining. I'm also going to be getting the audiobook produced in the next couple of months, so stay tuned for that.
In the meantime, if you'd like to read my island jungle zombie survival story, check it out RIGHT HERE.
Speaking of stories, did you get a chance to read my short post-apocalyptic story Jangle while it was available in December’s free anthology Once Upon an Apocalypse? If so, I’d love to know what you thought about my little Holiday tale about an endless earthquake, in case I ever decide to dive into this world again. If you didn’t get a chance to download the original anthology, you can still get my standalone story by clicking the image or the link below:
While I’m on the topic, how were your Holidays? Did Santa leave you anything interesting under the Christmas tree? Let me know, especially if you landed any cool books or zompoc-themed gifts!
One of my favorite gifts this year was a bright green emergency AM/FM/shortwave/NOAA radio—specifically, the Mesqool 5000 mAh 5-way model. I always love getting gifts that play to my friendly neighborhood post-apocalyptic prepper sensitivities (you know, multitools, water filters, camping gear, decommissioned subterranean nuclear missile silos, etc...), and this thing totally rocks my world. The radio can charge your phone, blast out a crazy loud alarm, provide light, give you emergency weather alerts, and it even has a hand-crank dynamo and an integrated solar panel! We get a lot of winter power outages where I live, and having this nifty little unit charged up and ready to go makes me feel a little safer (even if you can’t really use it to behead a zombie). Seriously, this thing has so many gnarly features I keep expecting it to transform into Optimus Prime and start talking to me about places I should visit on my next trip to Cybertron. Check it out at the link below!
FUN WITH ZOMBIES
By the way, if you’re looking for something fun to listen to while you shave your favorite neighbor’s back, practice your blind machete throwing skills or build a post-apocalyptic treehouse, my friend and fellow zombie author Derek Slaton is running a bit of an experiment with his audiobooks right now. He’s uploaded several of his popular Dead America audiobooks to YouTube, where people can listen to them for free. If Derek gets 1,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel (and he’s getting close!), he’s committed to uploading his entire collection of zombie audiobooks for free on his channel. Derek has something like seventy-five novellas in his series, so it’s a MASSIVE collection. You should totally check these out, especially if you enjoy really action-packed zombie stories. If you like them, make sure to subscribe to his channel!
Free Book Promos
That’s it for me! If you’ve filled out my form to get your free copy of Better Dead than Red above, you’ll hear from me in a few days. Otherwise, see you in February!
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