Monthly Archives: February 2011

Only child seeing believing and washing machines

Ringer washing machines - longer lasting than today's automatics?

I’m getting another instance of  “can you trust the future” on a personal level. My 10-year old washing machine started leaking from the bottom and the ensuing events have morphed into something out of The Twilight Zone or a weird variation of Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

First of all it shouldn’t have happened. The washing machine is a Maytag. And I also “pray” (ask, put it out there, whatever you believe in) that my appliances keep working okay and so they should as they are all four months to 10 years old. This may sound peculiar to some of you, but not to someone who has to live frugally. And I know my Catholic upbringing is showing. Some of it still sticks.

I’m beginning to think my late mother had it better with her ringer washing machine. Although you had to physically operate the machine, it did a good job and seemed to last forever. True you had to watch where you put your fingers. My mother told me tales of friends who didn’t.

I called the appliance sales and service place where I bought my washing machine – not to get any discounts – but to give them the business. I’ve bought all but one of my major appliances from them. The fellow there didn’t want my business. First, he asked me what type of heating I have and when I told him hot water gas, he went into a spiel about with radiators they can’t (by law) service washers and dryers in the winter unless the boiler has been checked and certified and proceeded to rhyme off a phone number to call about that.  He did tell me what they would charge to look at the washer, gave me the name of another appliance service, and then hung up – or we were disconnected. I tend to believe the former because I was very persistent about them removing the old freezer (per their agreement) when I bought a new one from them last October. So, I figured he has me labelled “troublemaker.”

I called the heating company who installed my new furnace and do annual cleanings, check-ups. They’d never heard of such radiator-winter nonsense but said the only test required by law is the Carbon Monoxide one and they’d done it. (I have written proof). I tried a couple more appliance repair businesses, including the Maytag one, and about fell on the floor when I heard the service charge – just to show up and diagnose the problem was $90 to $109. None of them had heard about the “law.”

I went back to the flaky company to get the phone number for the appliance repair service he’d recommended. I told him that I checked with my heating company and they did the only check required last November and I have the written proof. Now this fellow told me they were very busy with their other location and there was only one guy there. I asked for the phone no. of the other repair service. It turns out that was the number he rattled off before but not in connection with the company. This guy clearly needs some training in communication and consumer law.

I called the recommended company. Their service charge to show up and diagnose is a little higher than the flaky company but I booked an appointment. I did tell them the washing machine make so hope they can fix it okay without any other tangents. But I’m not holding my believing breath. Past experience has shown that when I trust that it will work okay, something often happens to mess it up. And no, expecting the worse, doesn’t stop it from happening; it just helps prepare you.

Meantime, I’m taking notes on all of this – just in case I have to go to a consumer advocate to straighten out the situation. I will also call my friend next door to see if I can maybe do a few loads of wash there this weekend. So far the washing machine leak is tiny and no big deal, but who knows what will happen after the service person arrives and takes it apart – if he has to put it together while we wait for parts.

Seeing is definitely believing with me. Too bad. It would be wonderful to do the opposite but the track record isn’t good for me. Once upon a time  I believed … until I saw, over and over again.



Only Child Writes

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Filed under Believing, Consumerism, Only child, Prayer, Trust, Washing machines

Only child revisits writing a memoir

Only Child reads a memoir excerpt at a CAA Toronto Branch public reading.

To tell or not to tell that is the question facing memoir writers. I’ve touched on this before in a previous post

However,  it’s worth revisiting with some more info. The topic has come up recently in one of the LinkedIn writing groups I belong to.

1. Do you let family members see what you are writing?

2. Do you even tell them you are writing a memoir?

3. Should you get legal advice before you get an agent or publisher or self-publish?

All can provide conundrums but the first two often roll into the third point. It can depend on your content, for example if you’ve been dismissed from a job for cause and you are going to write a memoir of your time at the company, yes, get legal advice. Is there anything in your memoir that could be construed as slander or libel? For this one, it is a good idea to get someone else to read it so you get objective feedback. As a freelance book editor, I have to scrutinize what I edit for possible copyright and libel problems. But, and this is a big “but,” I always put in the disclaimer that I am not a lawyer and it might be best if they have a lawyer check the manuscript over after it is edited. For one memoir I was editing, I took another step- I suggested that a chapter and parts of another chapter had to go because even layperson me could see that the author would be in big doo-doo if he let that get published. He was self-publishing so relying on the wisdom of a trade publisher wasn’t an option. He agreed with me and I removed the offending material. I also suggested he take the edited manuscript to a lawyer specializing in libel and he did. About a page and a half needed to be tackled – some removed and some needed the wording changed.

You really don’t want to be sued for libel. Depending on where you live, the person being sued may have to prove they did not libel anyone and that can take on many branches as well as be darn expensive.

1. and 2. points tie in together. To help, here are my guidelines from what I’ve experienced from getting some family flak and asking other memoir writers.

a) Consider if you will need genealogy help and/or family story info (including stories and documents) in your research. If you don’t tell your family what you are doing they may wonder why all of a sudden you are asking questions about Aunt Maude or Uncle Bob.

b) Remember that everyone’s memory of an event and/or person is subjective. What cousin Clare may remember about that infamous argument between Aunt Maude or Uncle Bob at the family barbecue 30 years ago may differ from your version. How to get around this? I use a disclaimer in the beginning of my memoir that reads in part:

“Interactions between myself and my parents, other family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. are as true as my memory recollects. I have taken a bit of liberty with dialogue as that is something you don’t always remember word-for-word. But the actual connections that instigated the dialogue happened.”

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, Copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)

I also use pseudonyms for all but my parents, one grandfather, and me. Some memoir writers change a few of the details but I’m not sure how truthful that is. Another way around this is to narrate some of the different viewpoints of the specific incident – although you don’t want to do that too much or the memoir could become tedious to read.

c) Showing a chapter to family members. This one is a two-sided issue. Singer Anne Murray showed all her subjects the content in her memoir that concerned each of them so as not to offend. That’s a bit drastic to me. But, you might want to consider showing one or any chapter (or part of a chapter) where you want to check  your facts – like dates, who was present. But be careful here. It needs to be presented as an “I’m just checking the facts about this incident…”

Bottom line – each individual memoir writer has to decide for himself or herself. But I would let your family know you are writing a memoir, briefly what the focus is, and perhaps ask if anyone has any concerns. You can always use pseudonyms. And if you have even a smidgen that there might be something libelous in your memoir – get a libel lawyer expert to read it.

And for those in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada area (shameless self-promo here) I will be teaching another Memoir Writing workshop for another branch of the Toronto Public Library, the Gladstone/Bloor branch, 630 p.m. March 31. Check out my website and/or the Toronto Public Library http://

I’d like to read what others have to say here. Please comment.



Only Child Writes

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Filed under Family, Libel in Memoir Writing, Memoir writing, Only child, Only child memoir

Only child looks at weird heart disease risks

Only Child and son Martin sit this one out - for now

February is Heart and Stroke Month, so I thought I’d look at some of the weird risks supposedly linked to heart disease. Apparently, if you are short you are more at risk. According to a  recent Finnish study at the University of Tampere, short people have a bigger chance of getting heart disease – 1.5 times more than taller individuals (men 37 per cent and women 55 per cent).  The considered short heights here are under 5′ for women and under 5’5″ for men.This one may bother me (well, just a little) because I’m short but just scrape by the height requirements at 5’1″. My late Mom was also short (same height). She died of a brain aneurysm and although I blame that on her falls from her arthritis, I’m also wondering if her height (or lack of) had something to do with it. Consider: if she was taller, would she have still fallen off a bench, down a couple of stairs?

What bothers me more than a little is my son is 5’4″ – an inch below the male criteria. However, his dad is 5’8” so maybe that will help. Maybe not, as there is a history of cardiovascular disease  from my son’s paternal grandparents down to his dad. One of his maternal grandmothers died of a heart attack at 86. So, what do we have here?

Let’s see what that study and its lead author say.

The  lead author of this study isn’t too concerned with the height aspect.  Dr. Tuula Paajanen says short individuals shouldn’t worry – this is just one of the risk factors – but instead they should concentrate on lifestyle issues. Oh, that’s great. Now I don’t have to do extreme stretching exercises or eat eat eat. I’m to old for all this. However, I can’t help wondering if singer-songwriter Randy Newman had an inkling of all this when (years ago) he wrote the song Short People, where among other things, he says short people have little hands and little eyes. Check out the lyrics at and see what you think.

But the weird list of causes doesn’t stop here. Some of the following are bogus, but for hypochondriacs, here’s something to get your worry warts around:

1.     Earlobe  creases

2.     Leg Length in women

3.     Ring Finger Length

4.     Male Pattern Baldness

5.     Gum Disease – truth in this one per several studies

6.     Clear skin yes – acne as teenager no per study

7.     Discoloured mucus (green)  per recent study pub in Biochemical Journal

8.     Earwax – per a 1966 Japanese study, since debunked as false

The whole list and information about each is at

As for that shorty study, check out these articles at and

Me, I’m headed for my Yoga class this evening. And when the weather warms up a bit, I’ll be out there walking, walking, and walking. And I’m being careful on benches and stairs.

Comments, please?



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Only Child looks at growing old

Only Child with her parents in "younger" times

One of my friends recently said, “Growing old isn’t for sissies.” She’s right. I’m seeing and hearing about so many older adults having miserable lives because of health problems. Whether we like it or not I suppose that is somewhat the norm for the 90 plus crowd. I say “I suppose” because one of my uncles died in his late 90s and except for a flu bout and having to slow down some, he was in good health almost until his death. He wasn’t a blood relative; unfortunately that side of my family haven’t lived that long or those that made it past 90 were in poor health.

But what is scaring me is hearing about younger older adults (those 60 to 75) who are having health problems and because of them their lives aren’t pleasant. A colleague’s sister is in a nursing home – she is 67. My brother-in-law had a stroke in his early 70s;  he lived for a few years after that – immobile and unable to speak. Then there are my parents – my father who had cancer from age 59 to his death at age 66 and my mother. She died suddenly of a brain aneurysm brought on by falls due to her arthritis. And her arthritis cost her her job. I write about this in part in my memoir.

Rheumatoid arthritis battered her feet first with swelling, aching and distortion. When the arthritis spread to her hands, her boss switched her from typing to proofreading. And another disease with a hard-to-remember and an even harder-to-spell name also invaded her body. Scleroderma…

She is on a mini-leave of absence, when one day I walk into the house and find two strange men with her in the living room. They’re both sitting on the chesterfield, one on either side of its designed split. Mom is in the pink chair by the bookcase as if the World Books standing guard behind can lift her up beyond the swollen foot propped on a footstool. The conversation stops and the two men stare at me with blank smiles on their faces…

The men say, “Hello,” and nod, and then one continues the conversation.

“Julia,” he says. “I know you are a valuable employee but we need to know if you are coming back to work.”

“I don’t like to say it, but I have to,” the other man says. “It might be better if you retired now.”

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, Copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)

Mom lasted a few more years. She was 63 when she died.

On a less personal level, check out Statistics Canada Do a search for “Seniors Health Statistics” and you will find statistics on the consequences of falls, chronic conditions of seniors living in the community, and many more. Scary stuff.

So, as I approach my parents’ ages of dying, I become more reflective but also more practical. That and the big eye scare in December has prompted me into estate-planning mode. I am also on yet another big sort-and-purge around the house. You have to plan for these things.

However, it’s not all  doom and gloom. I’m continuing my writing, editing and writing instructing  – not only are they my livelihood, but they are my passion. So are gardening and reading. I’ve escalated what I do for my health. Beyond the nutrition and diet, I’ve started walking 30 minutes daily unless snowstorms interfere – then it’s shovelling the white **** (begins with “c”). And tonight I’m starting a weekly Yoga class  and getting a 10-minute walk each way – if this incoming snowstorm hasn’t hit full blast by then. I may shake my shovel at the sky before I dig in ( two or three sessions) to the 30 centimetres or so expected by late tomorrow.

How are the rest of you doing with getting older?



Only Child Writes

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Filed under Death and Dying, Health, Health Seniors, Only child memoir, Pain, Seniors