Monthly Archives: July 2013

Only Child agrees with Canada-wide CMA Health Study

Only Child's home and garden  for her health.

Only Child’s home and garden for her health.

If you live in poverty it affects your health according to a recently released study by the CMA (Canadian Medical Association).  “Poverty kills,” said Dr. Anna Reid, the CMA president.

You bet it does and even just living a tiny bit above the poverty level can be hazardous to your health. Add that to my post from last week as I can count up to eight areas where I have health problems and some have a) b) and c) parts. Not having enough money to live on means not being able to afford to do all the things that make and keep you healthy.

Healthy food is necessary (and enough of it each day is important, but so is decent shelter). I mean how healthy is living in a rat or roach-infested apartment? Or a shelter?

Then there are the health “extras” – those necessities not covered by government health plans. Those of you who live in the United States think we here in Canada have an ideal health plan. No. Each province has its own health plan and you are supposed to be able to use your province’s plan if you get sick when travelling in another province. But more disturbing is what provinces are taking off the plate as basic coverage. For example, in Ontario, eye checkups (with some exceptions) and physio-therapy are among the deleted list (although there are some changes with partial coverage being added to the latter August 1, 2013). Other health therapies are partially covered – like podiatrists (but not the devices needed). Some were never covered and should be – like basic dental. That means getting private health insurance, something not palpable for those of us living below or near the poverty level,  just for some basics. Most cosmetic surgery isn’t covered and unless it’s reconstructive after an accident or injury, that is as it should be. If you want a nose job, etc., to make you look better you should have to pay.

We seem to be taking backward steps closer to before Ontario had health coverage. I wonder how my parents managed – I believe hospital stays in wards were covered or I hope so when first my dad, and then after he died, my mom had their times in hospitals. Before Ontario health coverage any coverage might have been covered by Dad’s employer.

In Ontario the other bad thing that returned is partial payment of OHIP coverage. When OHIP (which had a slightly different name then) came into existence, payment was required – often an employer paid part or all. Well, the recently retired premier, Dalton McGuilty (as my friend calls him – it’s McGinty), added in a health premium into your income tax payments. So once a year when you pay taxes you have to include an amount for health care premium if your taxable income is $20,000 or above. That’s taxable income, not total income before taxes, so we who live in poverty or just above poverty, don’t pay it. But we get hit somewhere else in the tax filing. Unless you have paid large amounts for extra health care (alternative medicine and supplements not included) you can’t use it as a tax deduction because of the convoluted figuring. So if it’s the year I pay a fortune for new glasses, it will count, but if it’s a year where I just get my eyes tested and don’t need new glasses, it’s no deduction.

And that’s what I have to do with all the extra health stuff I should be doing/using. Choose. I can’t afford them all, so I choose looking after my eyes and taking vitamins and minerals and other supplements. My poor feet get over-the-counter medication; my teeth get brushed and that’s about it, except for a few steps I can take – eat healthy (at least I can afford that, partly thanks to my garden and paying close attention to the weekly grocery flyers/sales), the actual gardening and walking.

I’m working on getting enough sleep but all that stress and anxiety from not enough money coming in is keeping me awake some nights and affecting some of my physical ailments, which in turn keep me awake some nights.

Vicious circle.

The CMA has some advice for governments, including starting a Canada-wide program of a guaranteed annual income and say governments need to be pushed to take action. Amen to that.

You can read an article about this CMA study, generated from town hall meetings of Canadian citizens across Canada. Article is at http://www.timescolonist.com/life/health/canadians-see-income-housing-education-as-determinants-of-good-health-report-1.564578

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Gardening, Healing through gardening, Healthcare coverage, Mom and Dad, Only child, Poverty

Only Child on living barely above the poverty level

Only Child  contemplates some harsh financial realities

Only Child contemplates some harsh financial realities

I received a shock on Sunday when I was interviewed for a survey at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. For one question, “What is your income level?” the lowest category started at $40,000. I just looked at the guy and asked, “Could you repeat that?” My reply? “Below the lowest category.”

I almost had to laugh when he asked how much I was spending that day at Harbourfront. Should have said “nothing, because I can’t afford to.” Instead I said “I don’t know.”

This is the way it is for those of us who live barely above the poverty level. In case you are interested, the poverty level for a single person on his or her own in Toronto is just under $19,000 annually.  Sometimes my monthly income from all sources is below or at the level that some of my friends have to pay monthly for renting a two-bedroom apartment. So, despite all the crap with the house, I am grateful that I do live in a house and have no mortgage.

I’m reminded of my parents and the everlasting budget, no doubt instigated by my practical-minded mother. In my memoir I write:

Late at night, long after my parents think I’m off in the land of nod, they discuss the family finances. Their loud whispers seep under closed hallway and bedroom doors.

“But we can’t afford that,” Mom says.

“We need . . .” Dad’s voice seems to hit the hallway door.

I throw off my bedcovers, sit up and strain to listen. I never get a clear idea about their plan until it happens or my parents discuss the revised version at the dinner table the next day, (Excerpted from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford)

We didn’t live beyond our means but we were never in debt. Not so with me. My only ongoing debt is that line of credit but I try not to get into it if I can help it. All other credit purchases I pay off in full when due.

What irks me is those unexpected expenses coupled with client work expected to arrive and it doesn’t because it is not ready for editing or evaluating.

That’s what happened this month. I budgeted to pay for those  two new window blinds, long needed. (The kitchen one fell on me last summer and the bedroom one was falling apart bit by bit for years). I ordered the service at the annual Home Show and Sears gave me 10 per cent off. This month I did receive a couple of extra payments including the final fee from a client whose worked I finished late in June. There should have been enough for the regular expenses and to pay Sears for the blinds.

However, I had to buy a dehumidifier, pay my lawyer for updating my will (he does give me a discount because I’m an old childhood friend), and the city water and waste bill usually coming in August arrived this month. (Is this a permanent schedule change that the city officials forgot to tell us?) When I totalled all that up, guess what? It’s about the same amount as I owe Sears for the blinds. So without the new work and its deposit payment, I have to hit the few and dwindling RRSPs – again this year – to pay my Sears bill on time.

The race is on which will go first – me or the RRSPs. No bets on this end and at this point I’m not sure I care.

My garden and writing are my salvation – the former for many things including a food source and the latter to help earn a living and to write about the highs and lows of living poor and also writing fiction – sometimes with ideas from my life, often creating disturbing stories.

Maybe you have to live hard in order to write good stories. My mystery short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, fall 2012) attests to this. Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC505OMPiVNy27zCFfND_8WA    which has videos of me being interviewed about my book and one (three minutes long) where I read from one of the short stories, “The Body in the Trunk.”  A disclaimer here. No, I have never transported a body in a trunk or any other way for that matter. After all, I don’t drive and can’t afford a car.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Leave a comment

Filed under Budget and budgeting, finances, Gardening, Home and Garden, Mom and Dad, Money, Only child memoir, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child on kick-starting memoir using sound

Only Child age 9 to 10 in the Holy Cross Elementary school jumper and blouse

Only Child age 9 to 10 in the Holy Cross Elementary school jumper and blouse

Do you want to write a memoir but don’t know where to start? You can use your senses (all six of them – Intuition is the sixth sense) to bring back memories and the feelings you had back then. Let’s look at the sense of hearing.

Merriam Webster (online) defines hearing as “the process, function or power of perceiving sound, specifically: the special sense by which noises and tones are received as stimuli.”

Bells can conjure up so many memories. The sound of an ice cream truck travelling on your street can remind you of ice cream when you were a child. For me that brings memories of going into Ron’s Smoke Shop and buying a vanilla or chocolate ice cream cone (I didn’t like strawberry). The ice cream wasn’t like the scoops of today. Ice cream (at Ron’s anyway) came in longish (maybe four or so inches) cones that had wax paper wrapped around them. So Ron or his wife would remove the wrapping and place the ice cream in a cone.

The sound of an ice cream truck also brings back memories of the few times my mom made ice cream from some sort of a machine. I don’t remember what it looked like (and here is where I would do research on the Internet) but besides vanilla ice cream, Mom made some lilac-coloured ice cream, which I suspect was huckleberry because she grew huckleberries in her garden and made a mean huckleberry apple pie.

You can see where that ding-a-ling sound can go.

Then there is the school bell. I have a small bell that looks a bit like a school bell but is smaller and sounds a little different. But when I ring this bell it reminds  me of the teacher coming out the front doors of Holy Cross Elementary School in Toronto and ringing the bell for the school day to start or to come in after recess. I think of the school grounds and playing ball (rubber ball thrown up against the window or baseball), or Red Rover.

Here are the details of this workshop.

Kick-starting Your Personal Memoir Using the Six Senses Workshop

Memoir is not only the story but is also the emotions the story brings back to you. Join author, editor and Canadian Authors Association Toronto branch Writer-in-Residence Sharon A. Crawford to get started writing your family history or life story using the senses to draw out emotion and memory.

Upcoming:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013, 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Location:

Agincourt Toronto Public Library Branch

Program Room

155 Bonis Ave., Toronto

More information and to register: 416-396-8950

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

http://www.samcraw.com

Leave a comment

Filed under 1950s, classmates, Friends, Memoir writing, Only child memoir, School days, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child on cause and effect with floods, etc.

Only Child and her parents  in another time and world

Only Child and her parents in another time and world

Yet another heavy flash downpour hit southern Ontario late yesterday afternoon. It got me fine-tuning my beliefs and attitudes towards this world we live in. And yes, more water got into my basement. But before I delve into that, more on yesterday’s storm and the unnecessary hardship it caused people. I say “unnecessary” because the storm should never have happened.

Toronto received a record amount of rainfall in one hour . Here’s the beginning of a story in the Globe and Mail by Vidya Kauri and Kaleigh Rogers http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/thunderstorm-knocks-out-power-in-toronto/article13080793/

The Toronto area was drying out Tuesday morning after record rainfall the night before closed transit and roadways, stranded commuters knocked out power in several areas, flooded homes and caused other damage.

Environment Canada said some parts of the GTA had been drenched with more than 100 millimetres of rain, trouncing the previous one-day rainfall record of 29.2 mm in 2008 for Toronto and even beating the 74.4 mm monthly average for July.

As I’ve posted before something’s not right in this world. And it looks like another story by Rita Silvan at http://www.theloop.ca/living/house-and-home/realty-check/article/-/a/2559094/There-will-be-flood-here-s-how-to-stay-above-water  is at least acknowledging the flooding to the end of the world belief – even the title. The story begins:

There will be flood… here’s how to stay above water

According to the biblical Book of Exodus, plagues come in ten different flavours, including frogs, locusts and flood. Bad-ass floods have been appearing with increasing frequency across the globe. Whether the cause is global warming or the wrath of the Gods, or both, it’s mighty inconvenient. We expect coastal habitats to get water-logged from time-to-time but Calgary and Manhattan underwater?

Not only has the frequency of flooding increased but so has the damage they inflict. Economists estimate that the floods in Alberta will cost the province billions of dollars and lower Canada’s GDP by $2 billion. That’s just the meta-view. Down at street level, shopkeepers are going out of business, workers are getting laid-off, and hippos are on the loose.

Well it’s more than hippos on the loose and they aren’t causing the floods. Although the article goes on about global warming and where houses should and should not be built, it is the first part of this story that resonates with me.

In the GTA alone, there were rampant floods around, including the big shopping mall in Mississauga just west of Toronto; power outages inside and outside Toronto (about 80 per cent of Mississauga at one point), Toronto’s subways were halted due to flooding and one portion in the west end of a subway line was still closed this morning. Highways were flooded with motorists stranded. And are you ready for this one? A GO commuter train with 1400 passengers got stuck in a flood of water in Toronto when the Don River overflowed. The water flooded the train’s lower level and passengers had to go to the upper level. The train couldn’t go either way and it was seven hours before all passengers could be removed because the police marine unit had to remove them a few at a time in their four water rafts.

Ridiculous and not acceptable. Excluding the flood part, why did the police use or have only a small number of rafts? Couldn’t other organizations’ boats come to the scene to help? There certainly was enough water for their travel.

And my basement got some water in yet again, mostly in the laundry room, including in a place where it hadn’t gotten in before. However, so far all laundry room water entries are on the side of the house and in the area where N. did the excavation and sealing two years ago. That was supposed to stop any flooding from over there. Obviously not. N. has not been doing his due diligence and fixing his error – which it is now clear is the cause of that (not the actual rainstorm/GTA flooding itself, though). The City of Toronto water people have been in and done the drain testing – my property’s part and the city’s part and it showed clear. Repeated calls to N. (with this drain result, a test he kept harping on for me to get done) about it’s not the drains and he needs to finish testing the areas of the wall to find the source have gone unanswered. I may have to take legal action. Next week I have an appointment with my lawyer to update something in my will and I’m going to ask George what my legal options here are. Not that I can afford any.

In the immediate aftermath of the rain and thunderstorm, I realized two things.

1.      You can do your best to protect yourself and your family, your property, etc. but something from “out there” will shove itself in and cause problems, even disasters.

2.      This one more a firming up – all those responsible for doing harm to people, their pets and their property, to any piece of land etc. should acknowledge their responsibility and make amends to all those they harm. That’s everybody. The insurance companies don’t call floods, earthquakes, etc. “Acts of God” for nothing. Not that humans aren’t to blame for many of the world’s disasters, such as that recent airplane crash landing at San Francisco airport and possibly the running train carrying oil that crashed into a Quebec town. I don’t see the hand of God in either of these.

I really like the physicians’ motto – “Do No Harm.”

Too bad it isn’t the modus operandi for all others.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawforf

Only Child Writes

Leave a comment

Filed under Extreme Weather, Floods, Home and Garden, Learning Experience, Only child, Problems, Rain and wind storm, Responsibility, Sharon A. Crawford, Toronto, Water, Weather

Only Child on family help and support

Only Child and son, Martin on the Danforth in Toronto.

Only Child and son, Martin on the Danforth in Toronto.

When Mom’s baby sister, my godmother’s first husband died and she had to raise seven children under nine years in age, my Mom stepped in to help. She couldn’t be physically present 24/7 – she had my Dad and me to look after in Toronto, the house and garden, and her sister lived miles away on the farm near Lucknow, Ontario. But we had Canada Post.

The sisters wrote back and forth a lot and Mom used to show me my godmother’s letters, but not her replies. Instead she made a big fuss out of playing Goodwill to help her little sister, something that people did then.

When the snow piles up in Toronto and stacks up on the farm, boxes of hand-me-downs, mother’s old clothes, my no-longer fitting clothes, and I suspect some store-bought ones find their way from our house to theirs (Excerpted from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2012 Sharon A. Crawford).

This family help and support appears to be following in my family’s footsteps – albeit from the other way round. And it gave me a reminder that maybe not all is so bad here (excluding basement leaks, sinusitis and the like).

Sunday my son Martin came over for lunch and to help me with computer stuff. He not only helped with the latter, he also fixed and helped with a few other repairs, etc. around the house. No, he didn’t fix the basement water leak. Some of that is humidity and the rest – where it is actual puddles of water getting in – is the fault of the a****** who did the excavation, etc. two years ago.

But some things and worries are out of the way.

Martin figured out how to use my knife sharpener, despite the instructions being in German only. My son is studying French and German and said his German isn’t that good. He sharpened my large garden clippers with the knife sharpener, explaining how it works as he did so. Not that it will stick in my non-mechanical brain.

He also fixed the battery in my wireless phone handset. After having The Source put in the new one last month (I had a three-for-the-price-of-one deal), it slipped out of my hand one day – that’s how bad my nerves were over all the worries – and its tenure in the handset was slightly out of kilter. It connected to the phone’s cradle- if I removed the cover and then I had to place the cover back on when carrying it around.

He changed the battery in the basement smoke detector. I did the main floor one (not completely mechanically-challenged here) but I can’t reach the ceiling one in the basement without standing on a chair. The main floor one is actually on the overhead of the doorway, so that gives me something to grab when I’m standing on a chair. Freefalling from the basement ceiling doesn’t appeal – a side effect from having vertigo.

Martin helped me sort out my accumulation of electronic extra gadgets – from adapters to ?? to various wires and cords, to an old router no longer used to a very old hard drive which I have no clue as to its origin. Most got chucked in the electronic-labelled plastic bag from the City of Toronto. I can place this at the end of my driveway for pickup on garbage day.

And he removed the Styrofoam from and broke down some of my “collection” of cardboard boxes and tied them together so I can put them out at the end of the driveway for collection on recycling day.

Maybe the best was when Martin and I cooked lunch together – he cooked the pasta and sauce (Note: sauce was from a store-bought bottle and pasta was store-bought, but he does have a pasta-maker at home and makes pasta there sometimes) while I made the salad with most of the lettuce coming from the garden. We didn’t sit outside to eat but sat at the kitchen table. We had spent a bit of time sitting outside on the back patio before lunch.

Lesson learned: sometimes family can help – even if family doesn’t consist of a partner or any siblings.

I am grateful to my son for helping me. And yes I told him so – verbally and in an email after he left.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Leave a comment

Filed under Family, Help and Support, Home and Garden, Martin Crawford, Mom and Dad, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford