Monthly Archives: May 2011

Only Child on keeping cool in home office

Only Child's garden oasis from the summer heat

Today is the first heat-wave day in Toronto. It made me remember how my mother coped with a hot and humid house back in the grey ages when I was growing up. Air-conditioners weren’t the norm then so Mom decided that one time of the day she, Dad and I would be cool – suppertime. So we ate either in the basement or outside in the shady backyard. Mom cooked supper in a hot kitchen (facing south) and then with a little help from Dad and me, carted downstairs (or outside) a card table, three chairs, tablecloth, dishes and food. Then for half an hour to 45 minutes we could sit in coolness while we ate. Afterwards, we carted everything back upstairs or into the house and mother did the dishes – by hand.

An awful lot of work, especially the moving around and cooking in the heat.  But it got me thinking about staying cool while we work in our home office, sometimes without always cranking up the air-conditioning. Mom’s basement procedure provides a more modern/less set-up work idea for those of us who work from home. Of course, if your office is in your basement, you are already there. For the rest of us (my office is a converted dining room), here are a few ideas. Some are from and some seem to be running around in my head. With energy use peaking all round, and possibly leading to brownouts (depending on where you live), some of these might just help.

1. Desktop PCs use more electricity than laptops and notebooks. Printers also use a lot of electricity (I know; most go into sleep mode). With wireless connections, you can just turn on your power board for your modem/router and take your laptop or notebook down to the basement. If you don’t have proper outlets to plug in down there, use the laptop or notebook on batteries.

Basement not suitable or you live in an apartment or flat with no basement access? Take your laptop/notebook to an air-conditioned library or Internet cafe (My son, who works from home does this, although his landlord is finally putting in air-conditioning). Or stay home and…

1. Draw your drapes and close your windows during the day and do the reverse at night. Thermal drapes are good but so are mini blinds.

2. Use fans, particularly the overhead ones – they circulate the air better than the regular fans. Thoughts on window fans differ from good to bad. Check out for some ideas here.

3. Drink, drink, drink, preferable water and fruit juices while you work, but keep the drinks away from the laptop.

4. Take breaks away from your laptop. If you have a swimming pool in your backyard or apartment building, use it.

5. Consider shortening your work week or at least your workday for the summer. I am. Starting in June I don’t work on Fridays, at least on client work. I may do some of my own writing but I may also go to the beach or “work” in my garden (early morning or later in the evening) or just sit in the garden and read a book.

6. Don’t use your conventional oven. Cook on the barbie (if you have one), or use a crockpot or rice steamer and your microwave. Make light meals. Salads are good.

7. Dress light and comfortable. . Unless you are meeting clients in your home office, shorts and a tank top or a bathing suit are fine.

8. If you go outside make sure you apply sunscreen before, put on the sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat or cap. Stay in the shade as much as possible and go for walks in the early morning or late evening after the sun sets.

9.  Last but not least – keep your cool with your temper. Angry outbursts will raise more than your ire and blood pressure.

Anybody else have any favourites about keeping cool?



Only Child Writes


Filed under Cooling home office summer, Energy saving summer home office, Health, Heat summer, Only child

Only Child bemoans possible library changes

S. Walter Stewart library branch. Only Child is a frequent visitor here and at other Toronto library branches.

They’re dumping the librarians and replacing them with technologists and educational students and moving the books to storage. At least that’s the thought in one instance and the reality in a couple of others…so far.

Ian Brown, a staff writer at the Globe and Mail, writes eloquently about this in the newspaper’s Focus section, May 21, 2011.  See “Don’t discard the librarians” for full story. I agree with Mr. Brown 100 per cent.

The chief librarian at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario thinks academic libraries should go digital with only information technologists and post-doctoral students as staff. Denver, Colorado library has just shoved 8o per cent of its books into storage. And the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School board in Ontario is closing its school libraries and getting rid of all but four librarians. The books will go into the classrooms.

The sorry part is that it’s not due completely to all the digital changes. The cost factor comes in as does a slur on the nostalgia of visiting the library.

As an only child growing up in Toronto, the library and the books provided me with an escape mechanism from my not-too-happy world. About the time my dad was in the hospital for his second round of battling cancer (this time in the brain), my grade school teacher walked her class from Holy Cross School to the newly built S. Walter Stewart Public Library. I was in heaven with all the books, especially the teen book section and have been an avid library patron since. And after moving back to Toronto, this branch has been one of three or four branches I go to regularly (except when it closed for nearly two years for renovation).

Nostalgia aside, even I realize that there is the digital factor. But these “want-to-ditch-the-librarian advocates” need to get their heads around a few facts:

1. Like Mr. Brown says in his article, if you go into any branch of the Toronto Public Library, for example, it’s busy, not just with people borrowing books, but there are lots of activities for children, teens, adults and older adults – workshops, story-time, author readings, and yes, even computer training. Heck, I got my library workshop teaching gigs from the librarians. And we’re going to rely on information technologists and post-doctoral students to find the information we need? Even with the Internet and Wikipedia, librarians can help you find what you might not be able to find otherwise – whether from your computer, Blackberry or in person at the library. Some people prefer to or have to go into the library to do their research – not everything is digital. Over the past 25 plus years, libraries have evolved from just books to CDs, videos (remember them?), DVDs and are now hubs of the community. Go into your library branch and see what programs they offer. Many are focused on the ethnic groups living in the area. Lots of ESL for those where English is a second language. Try to do that with your computer and a technologist at the other end. That will give you practice in speaking English with others?

2. The Toronto Public library has 99 branches, including a very large reference library. Branches are continually being renovated. Why do this if libraries and librarians are redundant?

2. E-books (and yes libraries “carry” them and you can download them onto your Kindle) have brought in MORE readers to the library – different readers than those who read print books only.

3. You can renew library books, put books on hold on the Internet AND go in to the library to pick them up.

So libraries are combining the old with the new.

And that’s what I think has to continue happening, rather than dumping the old. Think of previous instances of technological change. When TV arrived (back in the grey ages when I was barely kid age) did the radio disappear? Has either the radio or TV disappeared with the Internet? No, they’ve combined to reach the public. Ditto with the music industry. We need to learn from the music industry how to do it right. You can download music, buy CDS, listen to music online (and on the radio), watch performances online (and on TV) and even buy LPs. Some of us remember them, the precursor to those small tapes. Well, many popular musicians now record CDs and LPs. Newspapers and magazines have combined print and online, with the latter a good way to post new updated articles (instead of waiting for the next issue) as well as further information to print articles. I read newspaper and magazine stories in print and online. And yes, I write for both print and online magazines.

The bottom line is not about nostalgia or holding a hard copy of a book in your hands. It’s  giving everyone choices by combining the old with the new, not killing the “old school.”

What do you say? I’d like comments here.



Only Child Writes

1 Comment

Filed under Digital libraries, E-books, E-books vs print books, Librarians, Libraries, Libraries as communities, Libraries going digital, Only child, Technology and libraries

Only Child sleep deprived

Only Child trying to stay awake during the day

The signs are there. I’m forgetting where I put stuff. I’m finding stupid mistakes in my work (Clients please ignore this and read on). Sure, stress and too many distractions in the day are factors. But the biggie, according to sleep experts, is not getting enough zzzzs each night.

Slowly I’m sleeping my way to the big 8 hours of nightly sleep. That’s what these sleep experts say we need to function properly each day. Previously I had read that 7 hours worked and found that if I slept for 7 1/4 hours I was fine. Trouble is, the nights of that amount of sleep were few and far between. I get to bed way too late (too many things to do) and no, I don’t get up too early. However, when this relentless rain we’ve been receiving  this week stops for more than a few hours and the temperature climbs, I want to get up an hour earlier to go out into my garden before sitting in front of the computer. So, I have to work back from the other end – when I go to bed.

Surprisingly, I usually don’t have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. On the few occasions when I wake up during the night I generally nod off within a few minutes. A disclaimer here: I do not take drugs to sleep  or calm down, but occasionally take the natural supplement Valerian  Root to relax. It doesn’t interfere with daily functions.

My big problem is finding time to get enough sleep – something I first encountered in high school when I stayed up late studying for exams and set the alarm for 6 a.m. to continue studying. I still didn’t cover everything in the curriculum and would face the exam with trepidation.

I’m not alone in this not-enough-sleep lifestyle. Many of us “sleep-walk” our way through each day. A study by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia confirms many people are akin to the living dead in their reactions to  getting insufficient nightly shut-eye The CDC did an analysis of  information from a 2005-2008  National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Statistics gleaned here  on sleep deprivation are:

Adults  20–39 years  – 37.0%

Adults 40-59 years – 40.3%

Adults aged 60 years and over – 32.0%

I fall into this latter group so these somewhat lower statistics surprised me, mainly because of what my friends of the same age have told me, i.e., they go to bed late, wake up at 5 a.m. and can’t return to sleep so get up and read the newspaper and check e-mail.

The other jolt from this study is the main repercussion found from lack of sleep – 23.2 % of US adults had difficulty concentrating on doing things. When you consider everything people do daily, it gets scary. Driving and operating machinery come first to mind. But what about traffic controllers? There have been instances of airplanes circling the runway because of no traffic controller response except maybe a series of  snores. Even those of us who write and edit for a living lose our concentration fast. It seems to take longer to grasp something than normal and we miss bad sentence structures, wrong words in manuscripts and reports we edit (Clients, please snooze now). I’ve even dozed off for a few minutes and woken up startled to find my hands sitting on the computer keyboard.

Something has to be done. Bottom line is we need more sleep but how to get it? Some experts say to cut the TV viewing but that isn’t the only culprit. We stay out too late at social events. We work too late – and heaven help the night shift workers – they have it worse, but that’s another story. We try to cram too much into a day (guilty here). We need to either extend our sleep time in the morning or just get to bed earlier. I’m still don’t believe that on weekends you should get the same number of hours of sleep as weeknights (i.e. don’t sleep in). But if you do sleep in weekends, you need to get more than five or six or even seven hours of sleep during the week.

So, I’m trying to train myself to do less “housework” each night. I have the habit of doing the dishes late and then I get sidetracked from getting to bed by clearing papers off the table, sorting the unwieldy pile of unread magazines on the coffee table, sorting old newspapers, flyers and dumping them in the big recycling bin outside, and even reading said newspapers and magazines.  The list goes on and I’m not even fully awake at the time. Do I really have to do this now? should be our mantra. Ask yourself: will the world end if you don’t (supply your own task) tonight? Remember the three D’s – delay, delegate and dump. Being an “only person” here, the middle D often raises the question “Who?” But I’m using the other two “D’s” more.

Another option is power-napping for 20-minutes during the day. But that doesn’t mean we can forego a good night’s sleep. If we don’t get more sleep, our society could turn into snoring zombies.

Now that would be rude.



Only Child Writes

Leave a comment

Filed under Concentration, Health, Life demands, Memory loss, Only child, Prioritizing, Sleep deprivation, Time management

Only Child: follow Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”

Only Child behind barbed wire and feeling the lack of respect

My hairdresser hit it right about the nonsense I’ve been dealing with from others. In last week’s post, Only Child tumbles into overwhelm (May 3, 2011), I mentioned some of the situations that have thrown me into overwhelm. Well, it’s not just the situations per se, but the people involved in them. While colouring my hair on Saturday, she listened to me rant and grabbed onto the incident about the person who kept phoning me  with questions and comments a couple of hours before a meeting we were both going to attend.

“She’s disrespecting you,” my hairdresser said.

I never thought of it that way, but yes, it’s true. Ditto for the fellow doing the excavation and grading work outside my house. After promising me a new-used picnic table (his idea to remedy his breaking the leg off the old table  when moving it. A new leg on the old table would have satisfied me), he is now incommunicado. He didn’t show up when he said to do the table exchange and refused to return my one follow-up phone call. Note, I said “one,” as I’ve put him on “delay” until the time arrives for him to do the grading.

All this lack of respect got me thinking in two directions. First, there is a lot of disrespect in our actions in both business and the personal. Think voice mail and the dreaded message, “Your call is very important to us.” Think rude e-mails and Facebook retaliations. This may go against what I also said last week – trying to gain control and get out of overwhelm. But perhaps, a lot of the disrespect stems from people believing they have no or little control in their lives – business or personal. My hairdresser says she’s noticed people are very cranky lately and is blaming it on a shift in the planets. Even if you don’t believe in her “why” she is right about people being grumpy. I know from my own state of mind.

The other thing I started thinking about is not just why I may not be getting the respect that I deserve but why I’ve let it happen many times. Growing up as an only child I was bullied by both a friend and a teacher (a nun).  Of course, I had no brother or sister to stand up for me and as a shy person, I was terrified to stand up for myself – unless pushed to do so. On one occasion when the bully friend and I had sharp words, I acted – with a little help from my mom.

I don’t remember the issue, but we’re standing outside on my front veranda. The Bully is letting me have it; I am burning hotter and hotter inside. Mom must hear us because when I run inside to get a knife, she hands me a ruler. The Bully knows she’s in trouble and she runs down the steps. Brandishing the ruler like I’m Zorro without the mask, I tear after her down the stairs, down the street, and around the corner. I’m steaming with how good it will feel to whack her one across the back and head, but she is too far ahead of me. Unlike Zorro, I have no horse, only my short eight-year old legs. I go right up to the side door of her house after she dashes inside. I yell and shake my ruler. I wish I had the nerve to run into her house and finish the job, but what will her mother think and do?

Maybe Mom is trying to protect me by teaching me to stand up for myself.

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

Of course I haven’t been Ms Doormat up to now. I’ve learned from practice to be assertive in my work and sometimes in my personal life. Not without fear sometimes. I think the answer is “mutual respect.” Don’t push the person too far. Watch your timing and words when you ask for information or a favour. Mutual respect is offering to give something in return.

And here I have to add one instance in the last few days where mutual respect is happening. One of my East End Writers’ Group members has offered to help me with an area of my book proposal for my memoir because she says I have helped her with her writing within the group. In return I have offered to provide supper the evening she comes over to assist me.

Aretha Franklin had it right in her song, Respect. Spell it out like she does and listen to the words, especially the beginning, the end, and the chorus.  And follow them. Lyrics at, plus several video downloads on Y0u Tube.



Only Child Writes

Leave a comment

Filed under Aretha Franklin, Assertiveness, Civility, Only child, Overwhelm, Respect

Only Child tumbles into overwhelm

Only Child contemplates getting out of overwhelm

Lately I’ve become a space cadet. I forget where I put things; why I went downstairs and people’s mugs sometimes create a blank stare on my part (I’m usually good with faces and sometimes can even summon a name). At the same time a virus invaded my body. My turning point  came last evening when I boarded the bus and tried using last month’s transit pass without realizing it. The driver was kind but I decided to return home and get the May pass because I would still have to return home by public transit.

While the virus may have added to my “space flights,” it is not the cause – it is more likely a result according to an article on preventing burnout at The “cause” is too many things in every area of my life coming at me at once. Many fly in out of the blue (or black). Everyone demands my action NOW. Like that poor headless chicken I try to oblige. Some of these very people with the big demands tell me to “relax.” That’s an insult because you can’t turn on relaxation like the TV. So I now tell these people, “only person here. Have to do/organize everything myself.” I really think  being alone in the world is a factor. Not the only one, though. According to this article a person’s attitude can have something to do with it. I agree. The article also mentions a symptom of burnout as not having enough time for yourself. I agree and add not having enough time to make choices or sometimes not having any choice (or seeing my situation that way).

After reading this article I realize I haven’t quite hit burnout. But “overwhelm” and “stressed-out,” yes. So, after exiting that bus, I resolved to live my life according to my priorities. It is not essential that I answer every e-mail pronto; heck, it’s not essential to check e-mail like I was a gnat-in-action. The delete button is getting a vigorous workout. Of course, I try to be reasonable with my priorities. Obviously if a magazine editor wants my story in by a certain date, his or her deadline becomes my deadline and gets prioritized. I don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today; instead, I put off to tomorrow (or after tomorrow) what doesn’t NEED to be done today. Eliminating too much “food” on my life plate at once is starting to make my body and soul feel good. I’m becoming more assertive. Just have to watch I do it pleasantly not with anger – unless the person keeps demanding and becomes a nuisance, which happened last week. Somebody kept phoning over a two-hour period with a different question each call… all at the last minute before a meeting we would both attend. I also had my lawyer arriving for me to sign some papers just before this meeting. Bad timing? Maybe. However, he was saving me another trip up to his office in the northern parts of Toronto and he was only in my area that evening.

Then there’s the guy doing the excavation/sealing to fix the leak in the basement. That part  is done, including filling in the hole he dug, but the area must sit for a month to settle before he does the grading. I can live with that. However, I can’t live with his flakiness about when he will  bring me that patio table to replace the one he broke (a leg) moving for the work. He found another patio table that his neighbour wants to get rid of for free. I’m grateful for that. He keeps saying he’ll do it when he has a helper for his other contract work.  I tell him to call first to make sure I’m in and not meeting with a client. Meantime, the old patio table sits propped up with a large plant pot (turned upside down) and a brick. I’m holding back on some of his fee until all work is done and told him so last evening – after days of worrying over doing so – used the twofold reason I’ve never paid him before he finished other jobs and isn’t that standard practice?  It is in my editing business.

Felt better after that. Yoga classes resume tonight, so I will do another of my new resolutions – take care of my body.

Anyone else want to comment on how they deal with stress? Here’s the link to that article again.

And if you are in overwhelm, remember the 3 D’s: delete, delegate (if you can), and delay.



Only Child Writes

Leave a comment

Filed under Assertiveness, Balance, Burnout, Decisions, Life demands, Life learning, Multi-tasking, Only child, Overwhelm, Prioritizing, Public Transportation, Stress, Time management