Monthly Archives: October 2010

Only Child and the freezer saga

Only Child waiting for freezer

Every Sunday morning I would wake up to Mom yelling “get out,” not to me but to the roast beef stuck in her tiny fridge-top freezer.  This childhood ritual turned into adult realty a couple of weekends ago, when my very old upright freezer decided it had enough. As it sputtered to its end, I had to stuff its contents into the freezer at the top of my fridge and in a Styrofoam cooler. As I also had some of my neighbour/friend’s food in the freezer I had to let her know – this on a Sunday,  not a.m. but 10.30 p.m.

Although the timing was bad (same time as I had that whopping house insurance premium due), the whole situation played out in a serendipitous manner.

The freezer of unknown age (I inherited it from the previous house owners 12 years ago when I moved into this house and the freezer was old then) had been making weird noises off and on for the last few months. On the Saturday, the handyman I hire occasionally to do house repairs and painting, helped me clean out the huge chunks of ice that had accumulated. When  he turned the freezer back on it made what he referred to as “a noise it makes when it is dying.” He adjusted the big coil in the back, turned the freezer back on and it appeared to be working. I turned the temperature up and moved some of the food back in. By Sunday evening the freezer was lowering its temperature with water appearing on the shelves – when the door was closed. That did it. I went into panic mode. But it was a good thing it had just been cleaned out.

Next day I went to the local independent appliance store, picked out a smaller chest freezer and arranged for its delivery and for their delivery people to remove the old freezer to the curb where a scrap dealer (whom they would call) would pick it up. They charged for delivery of the new freezer but waived the cost of moving the old. I let them know it was a big upright freezer in the basement but the stairway up to the side door was open.

Monday they didn’t arrive until 7.20 p.m. No problem getting in the new freezer and setting it up. But they balked at removing the old one. I went into “you have to- this is the deal mode”) . They called the store owner – they talked to him; I talked to him and the deal was back on. A third fellow arrived to help the other two. It was a struggle, including waiting for the freezer to stop dripping water from the inside. They removed the door and attached it to the dolly. But they couldn’t seem to get it up the stairs – no wonder – they were trying to do so with the freezer standing upright. Of course, it hit the stairwell ceiling in one spot. They refused to move it out but said, “we can move it to another room.” I went into yelling and crying mode. It worked – they resumed the removal – this time putting the freezer on its side. They got it out the door and to the curb. I refrained from any nasty comments and just said, “thank you.” Half an hour later I heard noises outside. The scrap dealer was removing the stove. I opened the front door, stood on my veranda and shouted, “Thank you.”

Now with the small chest freezer (and there is room for all my food and then some) in my laundry room I can see space. I can feel that a big burden has been removed and the whole area has opened up. I can feel energy returning and I am motivated to do some more clearing and cleaning in the laundry room and the adjoining cold cellar.

So, you can see how what could have been bad luck turned into a good thing and worked itself out. The only downside is the cost end – thanks to the house insurance premium due I had to put the much lower-costing freezer on a credit card. But I intend to pay it off when it comes due in a month’s time.

As for my Mom and her freezer/fridge situation, she did eventually purchase a bigger fridge/freezer – and had to have the overhead cupboards sawed smaller. Not too long after that she sold the house and had to leave the freezer behind. Not her new stove – that came with her to the apartment, but that’s another story.

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Filed under Debt, Karma, Only child, Serendipity, Synchronicities

Only child revisits being alone

Only child in front of house

Besides the emotional end, being alone also has its practical repercussions as I keep finding out when money gets tight and the house (or stuff in it) literally starts falling apart. This goes way beyond just being an only child. Not having a life partner factors in a helluva lot here – maybe even more so than the only child situation. Add to that the “senior factor” (although at the lower age end here), and you have a recipe for stress, stress, anger and some resentment.

My late mother used to have a saying, “You can’t win nohow.” Although it comes across as negative, I’m beginning to  think she had a point. Consider my personal “crap list” for this month: house insurance premium due and way higher than last year coupled with s-l-o-w cash flow (common with the self-employed). Technically I have enough cash coming in to pay the bill but will it arrive before the due date? The other biggie is over the weekend my very old upright freezer (inherited from the previous house owners) took a turn for the worse. It probably wouldn’t make it through the winter so I’ve got a new one on order due here today. I’m not even going into the worries about getting the big old freezer out of my basement and out the door. But let’s just say it’s got me jumpy. And my credit card is getting a workout.

So here’s where the practical part of being alone comes in. A life partner could help with the expenses (not to mention the work around the house) and here comes the emotional – provide some support if only being someone to talk it over with. I’m not saying that having a life partner guarantees this support, but not having one guarantees the opposite.

Before you all think I’m into a “poor me pity party,” not exactly. Some of my friends are in similar boats – one had her computer die and is having trouble affording a new one. and she needs a computer to make a living.  Others are (like me) going deeper into debt. And you know – there are more older women in these types of situations than men. (However, I do know one older man in this type of situation).

What’s the solution? I don’t know. It is probably different for each of us. Me, I’m just very stubborn and determined. Yes, I get angry and resentful, but sometimes that fuels me to continue on. And here’s where being an only child comes in -it helps me strive towards independence, although not completely. Friends do help as does my son. And I take any help I can get.

How do others who are alone cope?



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Filed under Aloneness, Debt, Family, Insurance, Only child, Self employed and cash flow

Only child on gratitude and not


Only Child and barbed wire July 1950


The Canadian Thanksgiving yesterday prompted me to think about gratitude. The self-help and new age gurus tell us we need to express our gratitude daily – write it down, maybe five things we are grateful for. Period. Well, I do a different take on it. Yes, I do a daily gratitude expression of what I’m thankful for, but I also add what I’m not grateful for in my life. I need to get that balance – life is not all good; neither is it all bad. I need to deal in reality. Blame it on my journalist background where you try to be unbiased and get a balance in your stories – unless you’re writing an Op-Ed (Opinion-Editorial) piece. Or it probably goes back to my childhood, to my mother, with her somewhat offbeat take on honesty.

In my memoir I have a chapter called “Mom’s Ten Rules of Honesty” and after I go through that I add:

Mother’s honesty didn’t just encompass telling the truth; it covered people’s basic integrity and how they dealt with the screw-ups, bad times and bad luck that always pop up in life. Nothing is certain except taxes and death, but the trick is to wind yourself through the days, months and years until you die – without falling into the muddy waters.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2010 Sharon Crawford)

Or it could also spin off from my grade 6 teacher who told us, “I’ll give credit where credit is due.” Over the years I’ve added “and discredit where discredit is due.”

Now I can hear some of you thinking, “Why doesn’t she just accept what is?” That is good to a certain point. However, if we all accepted everything in our life then certain big changes would never happen. For example, what would have happened (or not) if  Terry Fox merely accepted he had cancer in his leg and left it at that? What if he didn’t take his cancer a big leap forward and start his walk for cancer research? Just doing the proverbial lying down and accepting our conditions in life and doing nothing about them doesn’t help us or others. Methinks if we do that we often end up ranting and complaining about our plight in life.

Of course we can’t go out and try to change everthing. The key may be the old serenity prayer  which goes something like this – God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I don’t read anything here  about accepting everything.

And so I do my gratitude/non-gratitude list daily. And I do work to change what I can in the latter. But sometimes  it is a long road getting there.

What do others think?



Only Child Writes

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Filed under Balance, Family, Gratitude, Life learning, Only child, Only child memoir, Parenting, Teaching

Only Child looks at city changes

Streetcar and highrise in Toronto circa 2005

A  recent comment by mystery writer Maureen Jennings (Murdock Mysteries)  juxtaposed with yesterday’s book launch by outgoing Toronto mayor David Miller got me thinking. How much change should cities go through? How much of the past should they keep?

Anyone like me who grew up in a city or town during the gray ages (195os, 1960s) can probably remember “how it was” back then compared to “how it is” right now. Do we like the changes we see? Was the past really better? What do you think?

Speaking personally, I liked the more intimate closeness of a smaller Toronto but I also like the multi-cultural aspect of its now diverse population. When I was growing up, Mom and I would get around on the Toronto transit system. Before the subway was built, that meant long rides on buses and streetcars and freezing our tushes while waiting for them in winter. (I still do that now.) Mom and I used to go shopping on the Danforth part of Toronto – then populated by greengrocers and butchers and those dime stores called Kresge’s, Woolworth’s and Metropolitan. It was awesome for a little girl but sometimes intimidating…

I look up Pape but the bus still isn’t visible at the turn in the road. When it finally arrives, we climb on board and ride the rest of the short trip to one block north of the Danforth. The bus loops into a dead-ended Lipton St. with a two-foot high stonewall at the end…

…Like today, the Danforth proliferated with green grocers selling fresh vegetables and fruit and a butcher’s shop, although unlike today, the owners of the former were Italian, not Asian. Mom would buy a basket of peaches or plums.

But the butcher’s shop captures my curiosity. Mom opens the door to a clanging bell; we step in, and my feet feel as if they’re traipsing through Grandpa Charlie’s barn. I look down at…

“Sawdust,” Mom says. “That’s so the butcher can sweep the floors easier.”

I stare down at the floor, but don’t see any pieces of meat there. As Mom grabs a number and waits her turn I look up at the shoulder-high counters. Behind glass barriers lie slabs of meat in various hues of red and pink. I recognize only bacon, as I’ve seen its striped pink and white fat curling in the fry pan for Sunday breakfasts at home. My nostrils flinch at an unfamiliar odour mixed in with the sawdust, but this is not like the smell of the chickens bawking around in Grandpa’s chicken room. This smell is more animal, more immediate and ripe, and I’m not sure that I like it.

“A pound of medium ground,” Mom says.

The butcher, wearing a blood-stained apron that one day was probably white, picks up stringy medium-red worms. I want to gag.

“For hamburger,” the butcher says, with a big grin. I frown. I need to get out now.

Of course, I eat hamburgers, as a kid, as a teenager, as an adult, including at McDonalds. They always have to be cooked, almost burned. When I am 50, I give up eating red meat for five years because it bothers my digestive system and I give up ground beef forever. And I never get over the squeamishness of handling raw meat.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home Part 1 – Deconstruct,  copyright 2010 Sharon Crawford)

Some things don’t change completely – they just transform. The new “dime stores” are the Dollar and Dollar plus stores, thanks to inflation. Most are small and cramped but if you look hard enough you can find some bargains, but usually over a dollar. Butchers no longer sprinkle sawdust on their shop floors. The subway now runs along the Danforth and the particular strip of the Danforth I go to is called Greektown, but has many different ethnic restaurants. That is one benefit of a multi-cultural city, but then I often lead with my stomach cravings.

So what did Maureen Jennings say? It was at the Bloody Words conference in June where we were talking about the TV series (Murdock Mysteries) based on her Murdock mystery books. She said  the show is taped in various southern Ontario cities and towns, not just the series’ and books’ setting of Toronto. Why? Because Toronto is such a mixture of old and new buildings that it is hard to get a scene with just old buildings.

And maybe Maureen hit the cusp of the answer to my earlier question. Perhaps it is better to combine old with new, but at the same time being careful what is knocked down and what is put up. Sometimes upgrading old buildings for new uses is a better answer.

Last evening while on the bus, I thought these newer buses with their wide street-level exits that can be lowered and places for wheelchairs and scooters are better for everybody. I mean, I no longer fall out the back door when leaving – something I used to do on the old buses with their steep narrow stairs and the door closing on my back.

And no, I wasn’t drunk – just klutzy.



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Filed under Book launch, Cities, Cities and towns, Murdock Mysteries, Only child, Only child memoir, Public Transportation, Streetscapes, The Danforth, Toronto