About The Great Unwashed

I enjoy nonsense. I have a large family. I do bathe, just not often.

The Recycling Game – The Lazy Mom’s Answer to Pintrest and All Those ‘Learning Activities’

Mama, I see you, pulling out your hair because it’s a pandemic, your children wrapped around you like snakes in a tree. I see your eye twitching when they ask to paint. I feel your pain when your oldest begs for the craft kit that is so finicky, it makes rocket science look simple. I see your exhaustion, and I feel how overwhelmed you are.

Here’s something which will actually help, unlike those endless activity lists for ‘Busy Toddlers’, which just make you feel more inadequate. Oh poor, tired Mama, I created this game just for you, to help you clean your basement, and make your kids happy for ten minutes.

The Recycling Game

  1. Forget to wheel out the recycling cart for two and a half months until it fills to the brim and your toddler has to tap dance on the lid to make the cart close.
  2. Miss recycling day twice more. It’s more fun if you miss it by a minute and try to chase the recycling truck down the street in your pyjamas while hauling an overflowing cart behind you shouting, “Wait! Wait!”
  3. Pile up the recycling in the corner of your basement like an environmentally minded hoarder.
  4. Finally remember recycling day so the cart is emptied. Wheel the empty cart to a doorway. Employ some child labor and have your preschooler ferry boxes of recycling up from the basement to the door, while talking up the fun of the ‘Recycling Game’.
  5. Have your children stand on the steps and throw the recycling into the cart while yelling random numbers when the items go in: Seventeen points! Thirty points! Forty two points! Twenty points!
  6. The game ends when you run out of recycling or your baby falls face first in the snow. If both happen at the same time it’s called Kite Crash and everyone wins.
  7. Forget recycling for three months so you can play again.

Feel better Mama, you can’t see it, but there is an end to the pandemic in sight and regardless of how you feel, you ARE doing a good job.

Life at Crisis Point During a Pandemic – As Written For High School Students Studying Canadian History in 2084

Dearest Highschooler,

I am so sorry that you have to read my ancient blog post. I’m not sure what the internet looks like now but I imagine my words to be projected directly into your brain. My sincerest condolences; sometimes I don’t want my own words in my brain either if it makes you feel any better.

Please also allow me to apologize for the fact that you are not making out with the hottie who sits behind you in English. Again, I too would rather that the 2020 pandemic had not happened thus freeing up your time and your tongue for more attractive activities, but since it did, let’s get down to business.

As of today we are eight months into the pandemic here. The last ‘normal’ day was St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t know whether you still have that, it’s a day for binge drinking and making bad decisions under the guise of celebrating part of Europe. Even then, St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t normal. Everyone sat perched on a sharp edge, as though waiting for catastrophe to arrive.

It never did.

Manitoba – it’s a province, we cut Canada into pieces and then claimed that everyone needed different things; Alberta needed oil, B.C. needed hippies to eat organic produce, Manitoba needed winter coats, and Toronto, or as some might call it, Ontario, needed tiny, expensive condos to bankrupt their residents, there were other provinces too but they weren’t important – my home shut down early and hard. Kids were out of school for six months including the summer. People were fearful and stayed home. As a province, Manitoba did really well, our case numbers were very low – there was even a period of two weeks when there were no new cases of COVID.

Then the fall came.

People started gathering inside. We still weren’t sure of how the virus was spread. Initially in the pandemic people were crazy for disinfectant. Wipes were sold out everywhere. If you saw them, you grabbed them, even if like me, you didn’t use wipes. My still untouched canister of wipes is probably in a museum somewhere – “From the COVID era, wipes were a popular tool to combat coronavirus”. People were bonkers, they were disinfecting everything in sight. I even read an account of a man who froze his morning paper to kill the virus because he couldn’t wipe it down.

Finally people started wearing masks. This should have been a turning point in our pandemic fight but it wasn’t. Unfortunately the pandemic came hot on the heels of Trump’s presidency. That man stood for ‘Me, me, me and especially ME!’ What this meant is all of North America was well versed in getting riled up about having their rights violated while trampling other’s freedoms. So not everyone wore masks.

Some idiots even staged anti-mask rallies where they gathered together and all breathed in each other’s fumes while bellowing about how they wanted to hug everyone and the virus was a sham. These same people would end up in hospital killing all the grandmas and grandpas with their negligence because case numbers kept going up and hospital beds were in short supply. Physicians had to make tough choices.

Doctors had it bad but no profession was safe. The teachers were all stressed out because they had to teach online or in person but two meters apart and no one could do any group work or have fun in the classroom. Nurses were stressed out because they were overworked to begin with and kept getting sick. Ditto for the healthcare aides.

If the minimum wage workers hadn’t been laid off then they were working the front lines and were also getting sick. Small business owners were hurting, big companies were hurting because there were shutdowns of entire industries. The only people whose lives were mostly the same were the IT guys who worked from home but even those poor dudes had their work load doubled because everyone was working online now.

And the working online. Dearest highschooler, it was bad. Like French egg bad – oeuf. Picture trying to video-brainmeld with your great aunt Lilly. People had no concept of norms; they’d show up in their pyjamas, they’d have wildly inappropriate websites open on their screens, sometimes they even used the can while their coworkers watched. The can is what we used to call the toilet. You probably have a more sophisticated method of relieving yourself now. You’d think that the virus robbed people of their common sense rather than their smell and taste.

Weeks turned into months, then more and more months ticked over. People got tired of the restrictions. But the case numbers kept going up and hospitals continued to be overwhelmed. Even for the general population, every day felt like waking up in a lead vest – heavy, a slog. There was a kind of worried sadness that permeated every aspect of life. You’d be out in the grocery store and ask how someone was and they’d just stare in silence then shake their head.

When I was your age, I wished for an event as grandiose, life changing and romantic as a World War. This isn’t a war but people are dying and across the world, everyone’s lives have changed drastically. If I could go back in time, I would wish for more fun nights with friends and hot dates.

I’m done rambling now – tell your teacher that you read my words. Now please go make out with someone in your car while wishing for more of the same.

Day Drinking with the Elderly

So this blog used to be about humor, But now it’s a spot to post my writing assignments. Please descend on this piece like a pack of hungry jackals.

Introduction to Storytelling

Write about a time you tried something new and it surprised you. Now take what you’ve written and make it exactly a hundred words – not ninety-nine or a hundred and one. Think about what can be cut and why. What choices do you make and how do you create priorities when editing your work? Now take the hundred word story and write it in six words.

It was nine am on a Sunday. I’d been up for an hour and it would be at least two more hours until my sister Diana woke up. The clock ticked slowly. I wished I had brought a book.

At home, I go to church. But I wasn’t at home. I was somewhere in a metropolis. Even when I’m somewhere new, I still go to church. I once sang hymns while accompanied by a minister who played his trombone. The minister’s young son spent the entire service tugging on his leg and asking when it was going to be over. To date that was the smallest, most unusual church service I’d ever been to.

I looked at the clock again. Nine oh two.

At once, I decided that I was going to find a church. There had to be one around. Leaving Diana a note, I walked out of the apartment. Before I saw the sign, I heard the bells. A church.

An Anglican church, I’m United, but as far as I’m concerned, in the same way that love is love is love, God is God is God. How bad could it be? I’m guessing they’d have a piano which already put the service a cut above the outdoor one I attended with the trombone playing minister.

God is absolutely God. And love is absolutely love but Anglicans have their own agenda and it looks nothing like any that I’ve known.

The entire sermon, they were reading from a book that I didn’t have. I was one of six parishioners so I even pew hopped to look for the missing scripture. No dice. Apparently it was BYOB- bring your own bible.

Being the only person under eighty jumping from one pew to the next would have been enough embarrassment for the day but it was also communion.

In the United church, we have individual, tiny glasses and individual wafers. I’m not crazy about the plastic waste but I go along with it.

Apparently the Anglicans are hardcore environmentalists. They shared a cup.

One cup.

For all the old people.

I would have opted out, but everyone rose from their seats and formed a line at the front of the church. I was in line behind a centenarian before I realized what was happening.

Once again they were reading from the book I didn’t have so I was extra confused and a little grossed out. But all the same, I knelt down on the cushion and drank from the same cup that the minister had thoughtfully wiped with a towel after the man before me finished. It tasted like wine and the 1918 Spanish Flu that the gentleman before me had survived.

Afterwards I walked home and thought about how my soul felt lighter even if my lungs were now heavy with liquid tuberculosis or some other old person ailment.

479 words

While visiting my sister, I went to an Anglican church. I am a United Christian but ‘How different could it be?’ I naively thought.

It was very different. They spent the entire sermon reading out of a book I didn’t have. It was BYOB – bring your own bible.

The worst was yet to come. It was communion. Instead of the individual, plastic glasses at the United church, all the parishioners lined up to drink from the same cup. I was kneeling at the front of the sanctuary before I realized what was happening. By then it was too late. Ugh.

100 words

Anglicans read secret books and share cups.

7 words

Please criticize me mercilessly and make me cry

So that was a helluva eight months. Like everyone, I’m a little furrier, and just a touch more stressed.

But

I finally did it, I enrolled in a writing course. Well writing courses. But I’m a grown up. With children. And a job. So that means I complete them one at a time. Because that’s how you eat elephants- one at a time.

That’s definitely the saying.

So in lieu of actual posts, I’m going to post my assignments. Please enjoy them. Or not. But please grade them. And rip into them like you are my mother and my work is an errant, shrieking smoke alarm.

Introduction to Storytelling – Keep a journal

September 16, 2020

The battery in the smoke detector outside my bedroom died at precisely three forty-one am this morning. I wonder whether they program it that way, whether it’s China’s revenge on us for forcing them to produce all our goods.

 I can picture it -the two unfortunate workers sitting next to each other in the factory.

“Should I set it for two fifteen?”

“No, they’ll get a good night’s sleep after that, pick a later time.”

It made me remember when I was little and the smoke detector went off in the night. Instead of a sporadic beep, it was a long wail that pierced your eardrums and was so loud that you felt you could almost see sound.

 I walked out of my bedroom just in time to see my mother whacking the plastic safety device repeatedly with a broom. The smoke detector flew across the landing and onto the floor where my mother pounced on the battery compartment with the aggression of a hungry lion tearing into a gazelle, snuffing out the smoke detector’s life force as swiftly as a predator on the Discovery Channel.

I wish I had been that dramatic when my smoke detector went off. It makes for better childhood memories.

I merely reached up and removed it from its place on the ceiling. I didn’t even need a chair- a benefit of living in a house that was designed for oversized garden gnomes. Then I grabbed the kitchen step stool to reach the shelf with the batteries.

There were no nine volt batteries. Are there ever any nine volt batteries at three in the morning? Perhaps all the charged nine volt batteries gather together to party at that hour, licking one another for kicks. Who knows?

So then I had to make the decision of which smoke detector to move from its floor to replace the defunct one outside the bedrooms. Which begs the question- if I were a fire, where would I start?

The answer is of course – pants, hence the phrase ‘liar, liar pants on fire’. Ergo I swapped out the main floor one because there were pants in the basement hanging on the clothes horse to dry. Then I went and lay awake in bed for three hours and thought about how my children will only have boring stories to tell.

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.