Monthly Archives: July 2012

Only Child says road construction sign of life’s discord

Only Child’s front garden – headed for some destruction?

Last weekend I did a lot of walking in downtown Toronto and was appalled at all the road construction. Supposedly it is to improve Toronto’s streets and sites. But as I slogged through the heat along Front Street West and down York Street I couldn’t help wonder if underneath it all there is a more serious sign. If you throw in the extreme weather conditions worldwide – more severe thunderstorms with flooding, tornadoes, forest fires, and the worst drought since the Depression in the mid-1930s, you have to wonder. No, folks, I’m not talking the end of the world, although some people believe that will happen later this year. I mean the extensive invasive construction and extreme weathers conditions  just might be signs of the clutter, overwhelm, and disharmony in people’s lives throughout the world.

It didn’t used to be so much construction at once, although I remember as a five-year old, poking my head out the front door and seeing the whole street dug up for pipe replacement.

Now, Union Station – Toronto’s railway hub – is going through a big renovation. From the diagrams displayed inside the station’s big hall, the future looks great. But the process is taking a long time and producing a spill-out of more construction nightmares. The actual entries to Union Station and maneuvering around inside appear tolerable. Front Street outside is something else as the islands of gardens in the middle of the street were removed last year and this summer more of Front Street is one big long hole while sewers, etc. get updated. In June, the construction and the extreme weather created a flood inside Union Station and the subway platform below.

This weekend, yet another street where streetcars run, entered the construction act – to upgrade the tracks and prepare the area for a partial pedestrian walkway for Toronto’s Harbourfront. These streetcars (as well as those on Spadina Avenue) use a dedicated track line. The buses don’t. So, we have people, cars and buses (when they come) jamming streets and sidewalks. I gave up on waiting for the bus transfer from the subway (up the stairs, around the corner and down the street) for the walk to Harbourfront. Along with many others, I trudged through heat over to York Street and then some shade under the Gardner Expressway (which has had chunks of cement falling down in various places) and finally to Harbourfront. I was trying to make it in time for the classical music concert in the Harbourfront Music Garden. So I walked in the heat and humidity over to the west end of Harbourfront. As I arrived (late) and started through the gardens I could hear the “music.”

Somebody was insulting an accordion, hitting random chords of discord. I decided to skip the concert and wandered through the gardens. Here, beauty appeared and I found areas of the garden I hadn’t known existed. Truly this is an oasis of calm (except for the occasional sound from the concert popping through). When I walked back to Harbourfront Centre proper as I passed by the main outdoor concert stage, my ears were hit with more discord in sound. Another sign of the discord everyone seems to be experiencing in their lives?

And if I think sitting out in my garden will help, I have to think again – at least for the front garden. In my walk along the downtown streets Sunday and in my walks in nearby neighbourhoods the past month, I’ve seen the big gas pipe movement – replacement of old pipes for presumably newer and better ones. And if they have to, they go on your property and dig, although for the lucky ones, it stays on the sidewalk, roads, and maybe the driveway.

Not for me. I have gas lines under part of my front garden (once a front lawn). Why would gas lines (except the one connecting to the house service at the gas metre) be under a lawn? Who was at fault – the house builder/developer or the gas company back in the day when the area was developed? Somebody screwed up. And I’m terrified they will be coming to get my front garden – if not this year, then next. I’m having nightmares and daymares.

I need to find out more and make a plan.

Does anyone else find the extremes in weather, and such occurrences as too much radical construction, etc. a sign that our lives are really out of whack and we (I use the royal “we” here) need to make some changes before it is too late?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Clutter, Extreme Weather, Garden Destruction, Home and Garden, Music, Only child, Road Construction, Sharon A. Crawford, Sign of the Times, Union Station Toronto, Walking

Only Child on when to write memoir or fiction

Sharon A. Crawford aka Only Child Writes. I promise I won’t repeat this photo each week.

I thought it fitting today to talk about writing – fiction versus memoir – when to use each – at least in my experience.

A short story or novel can come from something in real life – yours or someone else’s. It could be a news story, a classified ad, a personal experience, a friend or relative’s experience, something you see or hear, etc. But that experience is only the idea that kick-starts the story. For fiction, you need to use your imagination to create your plot and your characters.

For memoir, you gotta tell the truth – at least as you see it. This means real people, real events, although you may not remember exactly what everyone said. I’ve learned that as long as you are sure A and B were in the same place at the same time, they probably spoke – unless you know or find out they were feuding and not speaking. You can also check with others (family, friends) who knew the people involved and the scene in question for input. And if the people involved are still living you can talk to them. This is where it can get interesting because everyone sees the same event differently.

When do you write memoir and when do you write fiction? There is no hard and fast rule but here’s what I do. As those following this blog remember, my original memoir version got hit by family flak – they didn’t mind fictionalizing some of the stories, but some of the narrative they didn’t want in (this was from reading one chapter and based on some of the questions I had asked them). So I revamped the memoir to focus on my story, deleted the “objectionable” stuff and…got busy with the fiction.

So far one short story I wrote got its idea from something that happened with my relatives. And in another story, one character is loosely based on a relative and another character in another story originated with someone I once worked with. But that’s it – the stories are fiction and so are the characters. The real life events and people only planted the proverbial seed and the fictional took over.

Some stories have to be told as I see them. They just don’t work as triggers for fictional stories. They are too important not to narrate as they happened. With me it was being bullied as a child – both by a so-called friend, who I call “The Bully” in my memoir, and the nun who became principal at the grade school I attended. The two are important to what I was, what I experienced as a child and how I turned out as an adult. For example, if I had not been bullied I may not be so gung-ho on justice and fairness – which includes presenting both sides of the story. Heck, it is possibly a big factor in my becoming a journalist. It also may have something to do with why I think people who commit crimes need to be punished (although I think my Catholic upbringing in the late 50s and 60s has a lot to do with that attitude). However, my basic honesty and integrity came from my mother.

And I’ve tried writing short stories about kids being bullied but the stories never go anywhere and some read downright silly.

Rule of thumb: Write nonfiction – memoir, nonfiction article, whatever – about what is important to you to bring out into the open as fact. I know there are issues of will so-and-so sue me or get angry or? You need to consider these to a certain point. Don’t let them get in the way of writing your true story if you believe it is necessary to do so.

Like me, if you’ve already received flak and decide not to write it as memoir or personal essay, then use it as the trigger for fiction, and let your imagination soar with plot and characters.

My take on this. And I’m sticking to it.

What do you think?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

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Filed under Catholicism in the 1950s, Family Flak Memoirs, Fictional characters, Libel in Memoir Writing, Memoir content, Naming Names in Memoirs, Only child memoir, School days

Only Child’s other blog for Sharon A Crawford author

Only Child’s new photo across the blogosphere, etc. At least it’s recent, taken by my son, Martin Crawford, July 22.

I have big news – a collection of my mystery short stories, Beyond the Tripping Point, published by Blue Denim Press is due out this October 2012. More details when I have them. Meantime, with my computer teckie son Martin’s help I created another blog and joined Facebook. Both focus on my fiction writing, in particular Beyond the Tripping Point. The blog also has tips for writing fiction – plot, character development, point of view, setting, etc. using examples from my book. The links are in the Blogroll to the right but I’ll also put them below here. The new blog is set up more like a website so it is easier to find stuff. It contains an About page and one posting, but it is my intent to post every Thursday. I will continue to post to my only child writes blog on Tuesdays.

My author blog: http://sharonacrawfordauthor.com/

My Facebook author page (you can also connect via my author blog) http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sharon-A-Crawford/412730865439394   Not much here yet as I’m still learning Facebook.

Blue Denim Press http://www.bluedenimpress.com

In line with that I’ve changed my avatar as well as what I use for my blog signatures. For both blogs it is Sharon A. Crawford, which is my name (the “A” stands for “Anne.”) So when I comment on other blogs, etc., it won’t show as “onlychildwrites” anymore. But, this blog is still only child writes. And to that end, you get a second short posting this week with well, only child writes stuff.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

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Filed under Beyond the Tripping Point, Blogging, Books, Facebook, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford, short story collection

Only Child finds problem solver from roses

Only Child finds deadheading roses leads to a new way to deal with problems

I spent more time this morning in my garden than I had planned and I’m glad I did. As I deadheaded the dead roses on my rosebushes, I pretended each dead flower I snipped was a problem. Yes, I did run out of problems and was still clipping away.

But I found a tactic to deal with some of these pesky problems that seem to have no answer.

You probably know The Serenity Prayer – God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the ones I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

While in my rosebushes I thought of fourth and fifth options…”the courage to know which ones I can delay and the courage to delay them.” For me this applies to answering email whose content is imposing on my time now and in the future – I have to answer them sometime, but I don’t know what to say; waiting for answers to important emails I sent; and waiting for payments for work I’ve done. With the latter I seem to be getting screwed by the powers that be. Two cheques from clients, already processed and sent out, have not arrived. A few months ago a client from a city not far from me mailed me a cheque. It took a month to arrive by regular mail. But the one that may take the stupidity cake is a money Interac transfer that got lost in cyberspace. The sender had to redo it and resend it. That second one arrived. At least with Interac transfers, the money doesn’t come out of the sender’s account until the recipient correctly answers the sender’s question.

For the money delays, my hairdresser says there is something in the energy worldwide with money. Probably true, but I have other ideas for the personal level. No matter, I’m trying to put this one in the “delay option.” Not easy.

Does anybody else follow the ideas in the Serenity Prayer for all the stuff coming at them? Or does anyone have another way to deal with these roadblocks to getting on with your life?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Decision Making, Decisions, email overload, Gardening, Home and Garden, Horticultural Therapy, Life learning, Only child, Overwhelm, Problem solving, Problems, Roses, Sharon Crawford

Only Child’s overwhelm leads to insomnia

Only Child catching some much-needed zzzzs.

Looks like my new motto to put off until tomorrow what you don’t need to do today isn’t solving my overwhelm problem. Now the overwhelm has moved into insomnia. Not good for doing client work during weekdays. I don’t usually suffer from insomnia. I may go to bed very late but at least I sleep until the alarm rings or if I wake up, I fall back to sleep within a few minutes.

Not for the last few days. I know I’ve inherited the worry wart syndrome from my late mother, but don’t recall her suffering from insomnia. But how would I know? I didn’t sleep in her bedroom at home. And when visiting cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents, if Mom and I shared a room, she slept.

Maybe I’ve inherited it from my late father. He could give Mom a run for her worry money.

Or maybe it’s secondary factors – anxiety over too much to do (and all seeming to need doing at the same times), pain from physical health conditions acting up, and unfortunately age. It might also be because dawn arrives much earlier in summer, but I don’t think that is really the reason as dawn has been arriving early for over a month and my insomnia just started late last week.

An article on the University of Maryland Medical Center website http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/insomnia-000096.htm/  lists those three (not the dawn one) as well as the expected ingesting stimulants like caffeine too close to bedtime, menopause, menstrual cycle hormone changes, circadian rhythms disrupted, sleep apnea, snoring partners, decongestants, and the one that surprises me – computer work. Snoring partners definitely isn’t my reason and neither is computer work. My writing and editing work has me on the computer on weekdays and some weekends I spend a few hours checking and replying to personal email. If computer use was the cause for me, I’d have constant insomnia.

I don’t know if this insomnia will turn into constant. To avoid adding insomnia to my lists of problems and things I’m not grateful for, I am attempting to make some changes. For beating insomnia, the sleep experts say you should go to bed the same time every night and get up the same time every morning. I do the former – it is just very late because of all the household stuff I am still doing late at night. A partner would be helpful here. I am trying to have a cut-off time for doing housework and follow my last week’s blog posting rule – leave it to another day. Now, if I could just get my mind to wind down (and it’s not caffeine. My last cup of coffee goes down before 11 a.m., more than 12 hours before I hit the bed). I walk and/or garden during the day as breaks from work and/or before and after work and get the afternoon sun. Before I go to sleep I do relaxing things – take a shower and read from whatever book I have on the go. The experts say don’t read anything too startling and I suppose mysteries could come under that. This is often my only time to read one of the many books stacked up in the bookshelf by my bed. My room is quiet and so is the neighbourhood I live in – until a bunch of racoons start fighting and crying. Or the newspaper is plunked inside the front door. That  woke me up Friday morning and this plunk never does.  Unlike other times when some noise awakens me, this time I didn’t go back to sleep.

The article at the University of Maryland Medical Center has some other ideas but I don’t agree with them. For example, it says don’t read in bed or watch TV in bed. I don’t have a TV in my bedroom but I do fall asleep in front of the TV in the living room in the late evening and it’s not boredom.  I figure if I read my book sitting up in the kitchen or living room – I would fall asleep. When I transport my body to my bed, guess what? Awake. The article also suggests getting 8 hours sleep; I’m having trouble landing over 5 hours lately. However, experience tells me that 7 ¼ hours works for me.

Now I just have to get the 7 ¼ hours.

Do any of you suffer from insomnia? How do you deal with it?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, Books, Burnout, Only child, Overwhelm, Pain, Peace and quiet, Reading, Sharon Crawford, Sleep deprivation

Only Child revisits overwhelm

The teenage Only Child with her late mother

After enjoying the holiday weekend for Canada’s birthday I am now back into the daily grind. And another bout of overwhelm is trying to take over.

I don’t know if my late mother ever felt like she’d spiralled into overwhelm. However, she could have won the title for Worrywart Incarnate. She had a lot on her life plate – Dad dying of cancer and after his death, her own health problems plus going back to work and raising a teenager, and a house. Mom may have come close to overwhelm when she decided to sell the house. And at 19, I wasn’t much help to her here. As I write in my memoir:

I am lying on that living-room chesterfield. My ears are tuned to the top 40 bleating from the radio and the rest of my face and mind are buried in an Agatha Christie mystery.

“Sharon, help me clear out this stuff downstairs. What are we going to do with it all?” Mom shouts up from the basement.

“In a minute,” I reply, as I tell myself I’ll just read to the end of this chapter. At 19, I am Mom’s confidant and unwished-for helper.

“Sharon.”

“Be there in a minute.”

“Sharon.”

“All right.”

I shove a bookmark in the Agatha Christie, place it on the end table and stomp down the basement stairs, around the sharp curve midway. At least I won’t have to look at the orange stucco stairwell walls much longer. What was Dad thinking when he painted them?

I am ashamed of my thoughts and as if to make amends, I dig into the latest box of stored possessions. This carton, tall, narrow and heavy, contains my school exercise books, drawings, high school yearbooks and newspapers.

“Do you want all of this?” Mom asks. “You decide.”

 (Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2012 Sharon Crawford)

Today I am thinking of a recent phone conversation I had with my friend who has the back problem. She’s been laid up with it for over a month as it goes through ups and downs. While she’s been literally on her back from the pain and sleeping off the pain meds, she’s had time to think. Like me (or worse) she was always trying to accomplish way too much. (And of course, she is alone, as well). She’s decided to focus on what is really important to her and let the rest slide or wait. She is drastically changing her life, including moving closer to her brother and sister.

She’s right – not just about the family part, but about figuring out what is important in your life and ditching or postponing the rest. I’m taking that to the micro. Each day I am now deciding in my work, (including answering those sometimes pesky emails), in my personal life, just what is absolutely necessary for me to do today. With client work, deadlines help here. If a client needs an invoice so I can be paid, that is necessary for today. I look at all the emails and decide which ones are necessary to deal with today – family, friends and work. I already don’t work weekends except for the occasional workshop so rarely answer business email on weekends. I will also now stop apologizing for being so slow to reply to an email even if I don’t get to it until four or five (or more) days afterwards. I will do as my hairdresser does – just reply to it when I get to it. I have also removed myself from some email subscriptions that were merely getting filed for possible future story ideas. I’m staying on my LinkedIn groups, writing organization groups forums and listserves and blogs I’m connected to, including writing this one. Connecting with other writers is important – we can all help each other. The intent now is to actually connect with them more often. I know – where is the time? It might not be every day, but I’ll do it.

I’ll also shove more stuff in “pending.” To take the reverse of an old axiom, I will “put off until tomorrow what doesn’t need doing today.”

That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it – for today, anyway.

Any comments? Ideas on dealing with overwhelm?

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Burnout, email overload, Life demands, Mother, Only child memoir, Overwhelm, Prioritizing, Sharon Crawford, Time management