How to Have Fun at Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream When You Hate Being Scared!

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The ghosts and goblins have come out to haunt Busch Gardens at this year’s Howl-O-Scream, and despite my aversion to Halloween horrors, I was there to revel in the mayhem and attempt to escape alive! (Obviously, since I’m writing this post, I succeeded!)

I love Howl-O-Scream. I don’t like scary things or haunted houses but somehow I still love Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens. You can ride rollercoasters by day and dodge scary creatures lurking in the fog by night! So how does someone who doesn’t like being scared enjoy a theme park transformed into Horror Central? You could hide in the bathroom or ride the same rollercoaster over and over, but I’d suggest going with one or more of these ideas:

1.) Make it a game to avoid the scarers as much as possible.

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When I first started going to Howl-O-Scream, this was my tactic. Busch Gardens has changed the way they distribute scarers throughout the park over the years. Sometimes they’ve placed them in areas that are tight but avoidable. In more recent years they’ve instituted the “Terror-tories” where themed scarers wreck havoc on whole areas of the park (usually centralized in a certain country). This means if you want to get through the park, you CAN’T get around them. But you CAN make it a game among your friends to see how many scarers you can get past without them noticing you or trying to scare you! There are many options for this tactic: laughing in their face, remaining stoic-faced, dodging around them, and even being creeptastic yourself. Pretty much anyway you go, you’ll be left with belly laughs instead of nauseous fear!

2.) Look for the irony and hidden humor.

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Haunted houses are scary, but the creators almost always have a sense of humor. For example, two of the new houses in 2015 are called “Cornered” (where you travel through a corn maze on the property of the McCobb family farm) and “Lumberhack” (where you must try to escape the axes of a band of zombie lumberjacks). It’s funny! When you think about it, you have to laugh. So instead of being scared stiff, just try to find the hidden jokes!)

3.) Bring a large group.

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Peer pressure is bad. Unless you’re in a scary park and the pressure is to scream and laugh at the same time. One of the first times I went to Howl-O-Scream I was just with my boyfriend, and it was awful. Neither of us liked scary things and we accidentally stumbled into an elaborate haunted house experience that we thought was going to be a show. (BIG NO!) But the last few years I’ve been slowly adding more and more people to my Howl-O-Scream group, and it’s become more fun. First of all, it’s so much easier to wait in line when you have a large group of friends to talk with. Second, there’s always an arm to hold onto or a shoulder to stumble into when you get caught off guard by a spooky ghoul. And finally, the more people there are, the easier it is to laugh off those scary moments. You can laugh at your friend getting scared by a creepy guy on Demon Street with a chainsaw and laugh at yourself when a pack of vampires freak you out in Germany. Friends don’t let friends get scared by alone.

4.) Enjoy the not-so-scary parts of the park.

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If all else fails, you can always retreat to the not-so-terrifying parts of the park. While not horror-tastic, they are still just as awesomely Halloween-themed and fun. The shows are always amazing with my personal favorite being “Monster Stomp” in England because you can’t argue with dancing skeletons and music made from beating and scraping knives on a coffin! There’s also the Rocky Horror Picture show reminiscent “Fiends” in Ireland where you can get your fill of sexy, pink-haired nurses, the more audience interactive “Night Beats” in Das Festhaus, and new for this year and the live-action dining-experience of the Blood Banquet™ at Vampire Point™ Hotel in Germany. Once you’re done checking out all the shows, you can’t go wrong grabbing a “bite” to eat at any of the delicious dining options which are always appropriately renamed for the Halloween season. And if you’re old enough (and inclined), there are many alcoholic options to get yourself a little looser and maybe ready for the scarier parts of the park. My favorite this year was Scarlett’s potion, a spooky-looking mixed drink with color-changing lights in the glass available just outside the entrance to the park’s headlining haunted house: “Unearthed: Scarlett’s Revenge.” You can down that sucker and then stride right into the scariest house in the park like the boss that you are!

All in all, Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream is a wild ride for both the horror-junky and the faint-at-heart because the key to the park is to have fun! As long as you’re not taking yourself too seriously, you’re guaranteed to have a delightful time!


Halloween: Costume vs. Cosplay

Halloween Cosplay 4 It’s October and that means Halloween! And what does Halloween entail? Costumes! Or is it cosplay? That’s my current dilemma. With the ever-growing popularity of cosplaying now because of various fan-centric conventions like Comic-Con and the general rise in respect for “Fandoms,” when thinking of a fun costume for Halloween, I feel like I’m not creative if I don’t have a down-to-the-exact-details cosplay of a particular character. Well, let’s say this…it feels like there are three types of female costumes.

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First, sexy costumes are what you probably think about when you think of women’s Halloween costumes. I don’t even consider them an option. I mean it’s one thing to want to look cute in your Halloween costume, but I personally find it unnecessary to wear glorified lingerie in public. So that leaves the “lazy costume” and the “intense cosplay.” The adjectives “lazy” and “intense” are not actually true, but they accurately describe the way I’m made to feel about these types of Halloween attire.

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The lazy costume doesn’t have to be lazy. But any time you’re dressed as something only semi-recognizable or just a generalized character without trying to be in the “sexy costume” category, I feel like people judge you as being in a “lazy Halloween costume.” I imagine a girl with an obnoxious Valley Girl accent saying, “Like what’s the point? It’s like you’re not even trying.” But the truth is, you could actually REALLY be trying. I remember as a kid, I could dress up as a fairy and do face paint and decorate my wings and flower crown, and IT WAS A BIG DEAL. I was super creative for doing all of that! But somewhere in the last 5 or so years, I feel like this respect for creativity has given way to a different kind of imagination.

Halloween Cosplay 3           Cosplay is amazing. I have so much respect for the people (especially girls) who do it. The incredible cosplays of Disney Princesses always wow me. Like I want to meet them, not the official ones at Disneyland! But whenever I look at pictures of cosplayers, I feel a little deflated. I feel like if I want to be considered a really creative person on Halloween then I HAVE to cosplay a character. I can’t JUST be the Queen of Hearts. I have to be Lizzie Hearts from Ever After High or the Red Queen from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. For example, my initial ideas for Halloween were Princess Mononoke, Sailor Jupiter, or Emma Swan from Once Upon a Time (because my boyfriend is a dead ringer for Captain Hook).   But all of these ideas require extensive research, money, and intricate costume piece hunting that I personally just don’t have time for. I’m always telling myself that I’ll start early so it won’t be a problem, but truthfully, I need to start November 1st and get it over with and hope I remember what I decided on in a year.

My next deluge of ideas include: The Queen of Hearts (because I want to do some cool make-up inspired by Lizzie Hearts), the Tin (wo)Man (because I have a silver skirt and shirt and shoes that would be pretty cool to throw together), a Circus Ring Leader (because I’ve worn a similar costume before and have many of the pieces already) and a Unicorn (because again, I’ve worn this costume before and could update it). But this second round of ideas feel less inventive. I want to be impressive! Although I’m not entirely sure who I’m trying to impress. Myself, probably. I’m always trying to one-up myself every Halloween. I also realized that an “easy” cosplay and couples costume would be Claire and Owen from Jurassic World. I mean, I’d just need a red wig, white outfit, and to roll around in the dirt a bit. It would be genius! I could even bring along a stuffed T-Rex and a (fake) flare just incase people are being especially dense.

As Halloween steadily approaches and my window for ordering specific pieces online disappears because I don’t have Amazon Prime, I’m left wondering if one is better than the other. Is cosplay the new king of Halloween? Does a non-specific character costume mean that you’re a lazy Halloween celebrator? Can you be creative without cosplaying?

I’m still not sure how this Halloween is going to turn out costume-wise for me. I mostly want something that I can be proud wearing because I put thought and effort into it and it creatively expresses “Kaitlyn.” Because that’s the reason Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. It’s not about goblins and ghosts and horror stories for me. It’s about costumes, creativity, and imagination. It’s about being a kid again for a day. It’s about being something you’re not or maybe, showing who you really are underneath the boring, everyday façade we all have to put up to survive. It’s a time for fun. So whether you’re cosplaying, costuming, or sexifying it up this Halloween, enjoy a night of wildest imagination!

Images I’ve collected for cosplay purposes when I thought it was feasible for Halloween.


Child-Free But Not a Child-Hater

Child Hater 1       I feel like I’ve discussed this topic a lot on the blog, and I wish it wasn’t the case. It’s not that I’m trying to beat a dead horse or anything, but unfortunately, in the world we live in, I can’t express my desire to have a future without children in a nonchalant way like one might discuss how they’re going to dye their hair a darker shade of brown. Very few people lecture you on why you should or shouldn’t dye your hair a different color, but most everyone has an opinion of what you should do with your reproductive organs.

So by now, you know I don’t want children. And you know most of the reasons why. And you know how I struggle with the expectations that others have for me especially when it comes to others expecting me to have kids just because they want kids. But what I wonder when I interact with my friends who are now having children and doing the “family thing,” is if they think I don’t like their children. I wonder if they think I don’t want to coo at their baby or hold his or her hand and make him or her smile. I’ve made it clear on my YouTube channel that babies kind of freak me out as they’re these helpless squishy, crying masses that I don’t know what to do with. So it might seem to an outsider that I’m a child-hater. That I scoff at any and everyone having kids now. That I turn my nose up at my friends’ children.

But I’ll tell you a secret…

I actually love kids.

Well, I love watching them and being around them. Being responsible for them is another story (which is why I tend to shy away from holding them because I might, you know, drop them or something). I don’t get as gooey-eyed as many of my gal friends do around babies, but I certainly enjoy them. I love watching the faces they make and the adoration they have for their parents. I love seeing kids figure things out and be imaginative and creative. I love seeing myself in children and realizing that I wasn’t really that much of an outcast.

Child Hater 2Kids are kind of like kittens. Even if you don’t want to be a cat owner one day, (even if you’re allergic to cats!) you can’t deny that they’re cute and cuddly-looking and generally just amusing to watch and be around.

Sometimes I wonder if I need to make this distinction because I feel like I have to yell so loudly to be taken seriously on the child-free issue that the “child-hater” message is inadvertently interpreted along with it. And nobody wants to be known as a child-hater! So bring me your children! I will love them and play with them and coo at them. I just won’t leave with any overwhelming need to procreate myself. (Actually, in truth, I’ll probably leave with a little bit of relief!) And I think that’s just fine. What would this world be with adopted “aunts” and “uncles” out there who can give 100% love and play because they can go home to their quiet life at the end of the day?

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Why You Shouldn’t Cancel a TV Show About Cancer

Chasing Life 1        I unwillingly and accidentally became a Chasing Life fan. ABC Family worked their scheduling magic and ran Chasing Life’s freshman season after my favorite network show Pretty Little Liars—a surefire way to get someone hooked. While I didn’t need any more shows to add to my already burgeoning watch-list, I couldn’t help but love the characters and find myself connecting with April’s “mid-twenties, still living at home, trying to figure out what her career dream is” persona. It was fun to have a TV show about characters actually my age and in a similar post-graduate situation rather than the perpetual “we’re still in high-school even though it’s been 6 years” *cough*PrettyLittleLiars*cough* that ABC Family specializes in.

But even though the storyline and characters seemed to be a little more grown-up, I was still skeptical when watching those first few trailers because John Green’s mega-hit book turned blockbuster The Fault in Our Stars had just debuted theaters that summer, and it felt like everyone was jumping on the cancer bandwagon (just as it feels like everyone’s on the transgender wagon right now). But cancer is a serious thing. I didn’t want to support a show that was turning a serious subject into a cash cow.

Chasing Life 2 And I felt that way until I actually watched the show. It took a few episodes as the main character, April, isn’t exactly likable right off the bat (she’s perfectionism magnified) and there’s nothing exciting that happens plot-wise (she’s diagnosed with cancer, big surprise). At first glance the characters appear stereotypical—the bratty younger sister, the overprotective mom, the recently-passed perfect father, the estranged uncle, the perfect love-interest, the bubbly best-friend, and later, the rich, bad boy with a (cancer) death-sentence. Actually April’s snarky grandmother appears to be the only unique and likeable character! But this is an illusion. As April’s cancer story unfolds—her choices as to who to tell and not tell and her decisions regarding her job and health—so too do the characters. We come to see that Brenna is not just a bratty younger sister, she’s a fiercely loyal sibling and much more mature and smart than she first appears. We find the estranged uncle to be a strong advocate for April’s health and a great model of forgiveness. And a fan-favorite, Leo, the rich, bad boy turns out to be a personal make-a-wish for adults and the greatest challenge to make April live in the moment (something as a perfectionist myself, I can attest is difficult to do).

I really felt like Chasing Life hit its stride in its sophomore season though. As April’s health outlook appeared more and more grim, we explored what it means to live fully and to grieve and to follow your dreams. April’s cancer became a looming backdrop for a young woman having to really live because she didn’t know how much time she had left. It meant throwing caution to the wind on things that we millenials are so particular about right now. It meant getting married to a man she’d only known for a few months. It meant making drastic and risky health decisions. It meant quitting a stable job to pursue a long-buried dream.

It also meant as viewers we didn’t always like or agree with April’s decisions, but we can’t fault her for them because it is her life. And just as she had to realize she couldn’t let other’s impressions and expectations of her control her life, as viewers we have to learn to respect her (aka the writer’s decisions). But we don’t ever want to give up hope. That’s what the title is about, right? “Chasing life?” It seems to be slipping away from her, but she’s running, desperately trying to catch that train.

Chasing Life 3Season two ended in a bittersweet way with April announcing that she was ready to die. That she’d fought and now she was done. It was heart wrenching and confusing because “NO APRIL YOU CANNOT JUST LIE DOWN AND DIE IN ITALY!” And then just a few days later, it’s announced that Chasing Life has been canceled. And you CAN’T cancel a show about cancer. Not without her beating cancer or dying trying. Unfortunately, with the way season 2 ends, we’re left believing that April’s story ends in the latter outcome. Which for all the trials she’s been able to overcome so far (e.g. finding out her father had a secret family, her boyfriend dumping her when he found out she had cancer and lied to him about it, her almost-new-boyfriend being in a coma for months, her husband dying after only a month of marriage, finding out her father had ALS and didn’t die in car accident but actually intentionally wrecked his car and blackmailed his brother into covering it up) seems like a poor excuse for an ending. Not that she has to have a happy ending. I mean, cancer is real life. And cancer doesn’t always have a happy ending. Well…real life rarely has a happy ending. But there’s something more final and gut wrenching about canceling a show about cancer than shows with other plots and topics. We can imagine the characters going on and overcoming whatever obstacle they faced last because usually their troubles are just over the line of reality. But cancer isn’t. Cancer is reality. April’s struggle is real life dramatized.

So I understand the outcry that Chasing Life fans have at the announcement of the series’ cancellation. It feels like more of a lack of faith in April’s survival than a strategic choice based on ratings. We want April to live! And it’s a hard thing to believe in when even the network doesn’t seem to have hope.

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What do you think? Did you ever have a favorite show canceled too soon? (ABC Family probably contributed to at least half of them. Jerks…)