I Did The Bad Thing

I did what you’re not supposed to do. Which, in the grand scheme of terrible actions; murder, smoking, social media, isn’t that terrible.

I joined Publisher’s Marketplace.

And started researching agents.

And then I went insane.

But only slightly, because on any given day, I’m most of the way nutty to begin with.

This led to me researching query letters even though EVERY SINGLE WEBSITE said “Do not query until you are done, absolutely, utterly and completely done your manuscript”.

But I kept going. I make bad choices like that- how else would I have destroyed our washing machine twice otherwise? But I digress.

All of the query letter instructions gave a format. My book did not fit the format. In writing a book, you write it from the inside out. As far as I can see, writing a query letter means looking at your book from the outside in.

So I stepped outside my book. Then I looked at it sideways, tossed it upside down, and threw it hard at the ground to see whether it would bounce. This all occurred in my head of course. I don’t suggest you abuse actual novels in this way.

This inability to fit my book into the mold of a query letter led to a full scale metaphysical meltdown where I was like “Maybe I haven’t written a book at all? Maybe it’s a koala? One would have thought that the smell of eucalyptus would have tipped me off but no such luck.”

I was on the verge of going on the interweb and ordering koala habitat paraphenalia so my book could live out it’s existence in comfort when my husband asked me what was wrong.

Tex is an engineer. The sole purpose of engineers is to solve problems. I presented him with the parameters of my problem- the format of query letters along with the content of my book. He looked at me and said “This is your protagonist’s dilemma. That’s your query letter” And then he walked out of the room and went straight to bed. Because he had solved the problem, ergo his job was finished. The engineering version of a mike drop.

Goodnight internet. Goodnight my Unwashed public. I haven’t quite determined what to do with this blog of mine. It seems to have served it’s purpose- in that I became a writer. However I made a pact with myself to keep it for three additional years. Stay tuned.

Also go visit my friend Ross’ blog, because he’s been responding to my ridiculous text  messages about writing and publishing.

https://rossmurray1.wordpress.com/

 

Australia is Burning and I Hope You Feel Bad

You did this. I did this. We all did this. Every single person reading this post burned more carbon than they should have, which warmed the atmosphere, causing climate change and creating the fire storm that is engulfing a continent. Every one of us is culpable. Every one of us should feel ashamed. And every one of us needs to make sweeping changes to our lives now.

Do you feel bad?

Good.

Then change your actions.

Firstly, donate to help the people who are suffering.

Next, park your car. If you don’t believe me when I tell you that how we transport ourselves accounts for at minimum thirty percent of our carbon footprint, then go here.

Capture

Screen capture of the average household carbon footprint according to the Cool Climate Calculator (Source https://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/calculator)

It’s the Cool Climate Calculator. It shows how you compare to other households like yours. It is far and away the most comprehensive calculator I’ve found. As a point of reference the accepted global sustainable footprint for an individual is 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

 

The carbon footprint calculator was developed by a number of organizations one of them being Berkeley, the California school. Look at the bottom, it has Leo DiCaprio’s name on it. Say what you will about his taste in women, that man is devoted to climate change and bringing awareness to it.

If you want to help understand the ramifications of the crisis and how it came about, watch National Geographic’s “Before the Flood”. It’s narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio and was the catalyst for our family committing to both renewable energy and reducing our carbon footprint.

This is an emergency. Greta Thunberg told us to act like our house was fire. There’s no pretending now- our house is truly on fire.

What are you going to do about it?

Tell me your and your family’s goals to change your habits and lifestyle in the comments.

 

It’s Best If You Don’t Ask To See Our Photo Albums

Dear Tex,

I love you like crazy. I don’t take pictures of your butt anymore but it’s still cute. I thought you should know that. Although if you decide to go on anymore  ten day long trips without me and the kids I might start that habit up again.

I want you to know, that even after two kids and approximately 8.73 million moves, I would still follow you to the ends of the earth. Not just because I was trying to take photos of your rear end or even because life with you is exciting and marvelous but because I like you. You’re kind in a way that I can’t even emulate. You’re funny and understand not only me but how to poke hilarious fun at my foibles and gosh is that ever fun. But best of all, you are interesting; life with you is intricate and well thought out. I hope I get to listen to your explanations until the end of time because your thoughts fascinate me.

So cheers to another year of you. Thanks for spending it with the kids and me. Happy Birthday.

Also now seems like a good time to surprise you with this, but I accidentally painted all the couch cushions in a Pintrest gone wrong project last week. I didn’t clean them, I just flipped them over. So your birthday gift is a wet vac rental.

Unwashed

So I Thought I Was Finished Rolling Around In My Shame Like A Pig In $&#@ But It Seems That I’m Not

Because this is a small town, so your shame lives right around the corner and offers you free cheese samples at the grocery store. For those of you who missed it. I burned porkchops then the fire department showed up in their flashing lights, fifty pounds of gear and siren sounding glory on a Saturday night.I thought that was the end of things, you know except for the fact that whenever my friend Liv comes over now, my son asks when the firemen are coming. But small potatoes really in the grand scheme of I-pulled-these-innocent-and-helpful-men-away-from-their-families-and-their-dinners-for-nothing-on-a-Saturday-night.

That was until last weekend, when we were at my husband Tex’s company Christmas shindig. We sat ourselves down with his pregnant colleague so I could talk about all things Mom related. This was when I learned that Tex’s pregnant colleague’s husband, whom I was sitting directly next to, was a firefighter. My cheeks burned when I realized that he might have visited my house the previous weekend.

“Ummm” I said, swallowing the giant, flaming sword in my throat “Were you working last weekend? Because if so you came to my house and I am SO SORRY.” And then I willed the earth to open up Old Testament style and swallow me whole.

“Ohhhh!” The off duty firefighter laughed “Pork chops! I heard about you, no I wasn’t working last weekend-that was Steve.” And then it happened. I thought that I had bathed in shame, before but that was just a hint of the shame I experienced upon actually meeting a firefighter off duty.

Bathing In Shame Which Is Surprisingly Similar To Bathing In Lemon Juice, Only Just Add An Invisible Force That Keeps Submerging Your Face

Suffice to say, it’s an experience that stings the eyes and pretty much everywhere else.

Let’s get down to how I took a shame bath. Flashback to Saturday night, after having lived here for six months, I have made a friend. Liv came to dinner. So I was cooking, zucchini, and porkchops and because I’m crazy and have no respect for tastebuds and complimentary flavours, there was a pot of pumpkin curry going too.

Of course Mini-Tex was having none of this, so he was on my back while I stirred, and cooked and talked with Liv. That’s when it happened; the porkchops burned. And went up like a house on fire, at which point our house started to act like it was on fire. High pitched beeping and shrill shrieks reverberated off of every surface. It seemed like the house itself was screaming. Wanting to protect my two year old son’s ears, I made a beeline for the door. And began swinging it open and closed to disperse some of the smoke. Janie covered her ears “It is so loud!” Unable to understand English over the din, she joined me outside, while Liv tried to figure out how to disable the smoke alarm.

In our brief tenure at this house, this happened once before so I knew that the smoke alarm was somehow tied to my landlord’s phone. I immediately sent her a frantic series of texts along the lines of “nothing is on fire, how do I disable the system without hacking into the wall with an axe?” Unbeknownst to me, my landlord’s phone was in her car, so she didn’t reply.

After a couple of minutes Liv managed to disable the smoke alarm (all the while stirring the remaining dishes so they didn’t burn and opening windows) and we all sat down to dinner, content to laugh about the hilarity of the situation, feeling that it was in the past. This is of course when the firetruck pulled up in front of our house with lights ablazing and a firefighter clothed entirely in his heavy firefighting getup, stepped down from the fire engine.

Embarrassment flooded my being and I wanted to sink into the ground. But before digging my way to China to escape my shame, I had to apologize to the poor men whose Saturday night I had ruined. Because let’s keep in mind that this is a small town. The likelihood that they were on call and that my poor cooking had pulled them away from THEIR family dinners was exceptionally high.

Despite the -25 temperature, I ran outside without a coat. It didn’t matter, the bubbling cauldron of humiliation that was my midsection at that moment kept me warm. “I’m sorry!” I cried “I’m so sorry! There’s no fire! You can go home, I interrupted your dinners for nothing.”

The fireman good naturedly explained that he still had to come in to fill out paperwork and that possibly I should get the security code from my landlord for the next time I was cooking the other white meat.

This was when my shame morphed from a small roiling portion of my midsection to a full on lemon juice like bath. Because the fireman walked into my house and upon hearing that Mini-Tex was excited by the whole situation, the firefighter, still with his fifty plus pounds of gear on, began to play peekaboo with my son.

It was at that moment that I melted and became a puddle of mortified goo, as this man, who was missing his dinner because of my mistake, made himself the hightlight of my son’s month.

After a couple more short questions and giving the fireman the proper spelling of my name, he and his firetruck left, with the lights still blazing. Mini-Tex spent the rest of the night talking about the firetruck that was in our front yard. And later, when he woke up that night and the next morning, his first words were “firetruck”.

That whole story would be awful enough, but the thing is, it’s a small town, so the story won’t end there. It will be relived when I see that kind man in the grocery store. He’ll give Mini-Tex an extra specal wave at the parade next week when he recognizes him. And because God loves a good laugh, most likely I’ll meet that kind firefighter at my work. And thanks to my impossible to spell and unique last name, he’ll remember me and likely ask whether I’m planning porkchops for dinner. And I’ll bathe in shame all over again.

But in the grand scheme of things, it’s a good shame bath to have. Splashing metaphorical lemon juice in ones eyes because you’re so mortfied that someone was so kind when you were so stupid-it’s a good problem to have. That’s small town life for you though.

This post is dedicated to Liv, who insisted that I take a brief shame shower and retell the story at work.

Names have been changed to protect the identities of those who didn’t allow the curry to burn.

Also, if you are sitting there thinking “I feel like I’ve read this story before”, it’s because you have. Part two is coming out next week. So I had to repost this because it’s been two years. Here at the Great Unwashed, we pride ourselves on timely responses and follow ups.

Also please wish my mother a “Happy Birthday”. She’s twenty-nine today, which is awkward because I’m thirty-four.

 

Bizarre, Unsolicited Romantic Advice To And From Dirty People

Once upon a time, when I thought it was still appropriate for one’s butt cheeks to hang out of shorts, I went to a music festival with my sister. Performing on one of the smaller stages was a girl whose lack of hygiene put mine to shame. While I confess to being chronically Unwashed, this girl was grimy- her hair hung in lank, dirty locks around her face, she wore a filthy oversized shirt, her overall appearance was one of a person who questions the utility of indoor plumbing marvels such as showers.

The music was electrical synthesizer, the kind that homeless youths might dance to at during impromptu raves in back alleys. The girls swayed back and forth on stage as though she was in her own grungy world. The performance was as forgettable as she was clean, which is to say, not at all. In the same way that I live to my name, she lived up to hers; she called herself Grimes. She brought dirt to a whole new level that I had never considered.

Grimes is a Canadian artist so she resurfaces on my radar now and again. When this happens, I always check to see whether she’s bathed in the last six months. But most recently, I paid attention to the young musician because Grimes attended the Met ball with Elon Musk. I like Elon Musk- he’s accomplishing incredible feats with his company and has his head on straight about a lot of issues; the most pertinent one being his resistance to AI. However I wouldn’t want any of my friends dating him. Grimes and I are not friends but we’re kind of in the small clique of people who eschew standard grooming habits, so, we’re compatriots in the fight against an overly sanitized and wiped down world.

Anyways during my third year of university I was dating a man who my parents called “a bad choice”. My Dad disliked this guy to the point that he let loose the most damning insult in my father’s limited repertoire- “He’ll be a poor businessman.” My mother was blunter and shared her thoughts on this young man one morning while I was leaving for work.

I want to say to Grimes what my mother said to me “Oh you poor, pungent, filthy girl, I’m sorry” actually my mother did not preface her speech with that. My mother would never say “I’m sorry” when giving these types of speeches, instead my mother merely shouted at me “Don’t call him. He isn’t going to love you Unwashed, he’s not going to marry you!” There was probably more to that sermon but I ran out the door covering my ears. No doubt Grimes would do the same, but still as a fellow lover of dirt in a world where many people shower every day (why?), I feel it’s my duty to give her fair warning.

 

Love’s Echoes

My grandfather died four months ago today. I miss him. But in a way he’s still here. Every day I’m reminded of him in the way that love subtly announces its presence.  He is the reason this blog exists. My Granddad loved telling stories and in doing so made me into a storyteller. So in writing this I’m remembering him, remembering the roots of my family.

Though my children will never have the opportunity to know my Granddad as well as I did, he has a profound effect on their lives. My grandparents were present for every major and minor event in our lives. They accompanied my family on trips, but my Gran and Granddad also took my sister and me on trips. I remember on a drive to the States when my grandfather handed a grim faced border guard a notarized letter from a lawyer stating that he and my Gran had permission to take my sister and me out of the country.

Before my son was born, I talked about my relationship with my grandparents to my in-laws often. My husband didn’t have that same depth of relationship with his grandparents. Part of that was age; my grandparents were young when I was born. Part of it was distance; my grandparents lived close. And also a question of fairly dividing attention; until I was sixteen, it was just my sister and myself on the one side whereas Tex has many cousins. There wasn’t precedent in my husband’s family for that kind of grandparent interaction.

But for my mother-in-law, Zoey, and my father-in-law Pat, my stories struck a chord. They wanted that experience with my son and daughter. To be there. To be present. To be a major part of so many of our family’s memories and to have a relationship with their grandchildren that was entirely its own wonderful entity.

So my in-laws do. My son goes for bi-weekly sleepovers. He visits their farm once a week and has routines and traditions that are his and my mother-in-law Zoey’s alone; ice cream after dinner. As soon as my son walks in the door, my father-in-law Pat sets up the VCR (For the younger generation this is an old style of DVD player.) and put’s on Mini-Tex’s favourite movie. They go out to the garden and say “Hello” to the scarecrow, and he rides the tractor and Mini-Tex takes Pat’s old fishing rod, with the hook removed, out to the boat that’s been parked on the lawn for a decade.

And I encourage it. All of it. Even the visits to the well when Mini-Tex sits up front in the truck with the airbags off. I don’t like it, but I recognize how important it is. The well and fetching water is part of my in-laws life and Mini-Tex loves being in their life just as much my in-laws enjoy being in his. I know from experience that my role in this is to stand back and let that relationship happen. My Gran still comments on this during our twice weekly phone calls- that she and Granddad loved that they were always given access to my sister and me.

I think about how much I loved and still love Granddad and then I invite Zoey and Pat to watch my son’s swimming lessons-it’s automatic. I offer for them to stop by for a quick play while they do errands in town. I send them letters and pictures of the kids when they go south for the winter. I do all of that because my grandfather taught me how to ride a bike. Because Granddad made my math homework take 300% longer because he had to explain how knots work because he sailed even though it wasn’t relevant to the question. Because Granddad used to wheel a TV into my sister and my room at their house and play the Hobbit as we went to sleep every time that we visited.

I include my in-laws every chance I get because I miss my grandfather. Every day. I feel my Granddad’s absence keenly but seeing my children receive what I had – the daily unconditional love of a grandparent, somehow takes the sting out of my grief.

 

Magic Is All Well And Good Until You Serenade A Stranger

A friend of mine posted this message the other week “Look for people who bring out your magic, not your madness” to which my only response is “What if your magic looks like madness?”

I was having a magical morning; the sun was shining, the air was crisp but not too cold. It was the Three Bears of fall weather for vampires like me who want the sun but need the cold to soothe the burning of their skin. The only weather that is better in my opinion are the minus thirty Celsius days where it’s so bright that you wander around the snow drifts shouting “I’m bliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiind! Bliiiiiiiiiiiiiiind!” before heading back into the house for sunglasses.

I was on the bike. And singing. Because there’s no point in having a weird bike unless you own it by also performing in a one woman musical as you ride down the street. Now before anyone gets too impressed by my physical fitness, I should amend that statement to- I coasted down the street. Although we have a reclining baby seat for infants, my daughter insists on craning her little head up and forward like a tiny, ginger periscope, so to protect her neck, I go an average of ten kilometers an hour.

So I’m singing away and my excellent mood continues all the way to the grocery store where there’s a car cart just sitting out, saying “Take me, I was left out here just for you.” This of course makes me smile wider so that I look like a T-Rex about to devour the metal shopping cart. A happy T-Rex who loves Abba.

Mini-Tex climbs into the front and I pop my baby into the seat in front of the handles. This is where things went awry. Now I had an audience. Specifically my infant. So I am singing to beat the band and kissing her and smiling away, just looking like a crazy person in general, but it’s fine because crazy beats homeless and I got mistaken for a vagrant last year.

I steer my way around the fresh produce section. There’s lots of room, few people, mostly grandmas who are remembering joyful mornings with their little ones like the one I’m having. Still singing so all was eccentric but still well.

Everything was good until the narrow aisle that was closed on one end for renovations, that was when the wheels fell off the eccentric cart and it became a crazy train because I broke into a new loud song just as I was turning the cart. Which would have been fine had I not locked eyes with an uncomfortable looking man who for a second thought I was speaking to him. To make this awkward moment even more cringe worthy, I belted out the lyrics “Hold our your hand darling” at that second.

So I did it. I called a grown man “darling” in the middle of the grocery store and sang to him. He’s probably decided it’s safest to shop at the competing grocery chain and that perhaps he should consider backing the NDP in this coming election because clearly mental health sector is not getting the attention or funding it deserves.

That was my magic. It unfortunately looks like absolute madness. I’m uncertain whether I should be searching for more people to bring this out of me. My gut says “no”.

Slow Dancing With Our Nation’s Leader

Tex went away for a week and a half. I’m not what most people would describe as “normal” at the best of times, but my husband’s presence does have a tempering effect on my weird.

Which meant that eight days into his absence, this happened.Talking with Justi

In case you’re wondering, that’s a random ad for the Liberals playing on the iPad. I put it on mute and then pretend that the Prime Minister of Canada is giving me compliments and asking me out.

My strange is kind of like a freight train, it takes a while to get going but once it’s out of the station it takes a while to slow down.

cRAZY TRAIN

Which meant that four days after Tex returned, this happened.

Dancing with Justi 1

For the record, Tex does wear a cowboy hat along with boots and spurs at all times. I merely request that he remove them in bed.

Dancing with Justi 2

Our couch changes colour sometimes. This happens with children- mostly it goes from normal to puke coloured.

Dancing with Justi 3

I look forward to the return of my regularly scheduled programming. This whole situation is becoming a little odd even for me.

This Is My Cocaine

Or rather it would be but for one tricky ingredient. In addition to our family’s continued commitment to biking, buying secondhand, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and living in sweaters for the majority of the year, I’ve started branching out with my environmental activism- by asking companies directly to change what they are doing.

Dear the good people of Nabisco,

I heard somewhere once that Oreos are more addictive than cocaine. I love Oreos, not only did I totally believe this, but I have experienced their addictiveness firsthand. You have an excellent product. I’ve never tried cocaine, but I’ve compiled a list of why Oreos are superior.

Reasons Why Oreos Are Better Than Cocaine

  1. They are delicious. Very delicious. I’m fairly certain cocaine doesn’t go in a person’s mouth. Don’t quote me on that. I’m not well informed on these topics. The only thing I’m certain of is that cocaine doesn’t go in your ear. Or maybe it does. You know what? Never mind, we should move on.
  2. You can share a box and make friends. Sharing drugs makes one a drug dealer and a felon. Best to bring a box of cookies.
  3. Three words: chocolate dipped Oreos. Again, I’m not familiar with the seedy underbelly of the drug world but I’m 99.8% certain that chocolate dipped cocaine isn’t a thing. Or at the very least it hasn’t been suggested to my Pintrest board.
  4. You can acquire them at a grocery store and not in a back alley. A plus for those who value their wellbeing, which I do.
  5. No policeman will ever search your car for Oreos. Only because I’m not a policeman. If I was I would be searching people’s cars ALL THE TIME.
  6. If you eat too many Oreos, you can ride your bike to work to get them off your hips. Good for you and a plus for the environment. Again, not too familiar with the drug world, but I’m fairly certain there are flashing lights and sirens involved when there’s a question of too much cocaine.
  7. You’ll never have to get in trouble with your roommates for consuming all the Oreos. Actually, this is a lie and has frequently happened to me. Can I hide behind the statement of how addictive Oreos are?

I then of course, had to compile the opposite list just to compare.

Reasons Why Cocaine is Better Than Oreos

  1. It doesn’t contain palm oil.

This one reason is driving force behind why our family has not purchased not only Oreos but any Nabisco cookies, since 2017, when we stopped consuming palm oil. The rainforests are burning. Part of that destruction is the result of the world’ hunger for beef, but palm oil also plays a large role. Canola oil is an excellent emulsifier and furthermore is a local product which is raised in Canada and the United States.

As you can tell from my list, I love Oreos. And I’ll be honest; I miss them dearly and stroke the packages longingly as I pass by them in the grocery store. But my desire for a world with intact rainforests is greater. Please use canola oil in the place of palm oil in your Nabisco cookies.

Sincerely,

The Great Unwashed