Monthly Archives: August 2013

Only Child going crazy with little time

One of Only Child's teddy bears sits on time to try to tame it

One of Only Child’s teddy bears sits on time to try to tame it

My late father was a master with time. His work – railway timekeeper-  probably helped him although it drove Mom crazy sometimes. Dad would get his watch regulated at Birks and always insisted Mom, he and I arrive at Union Station in Toronto an hour and a half early for our train. I’m sure he had other time tricks that he used.

The only time techniques I’ve inherited from Dad (besides the arriving early for trains) are the awareness of how important time is and trying all sorts of ways to fit things into time – regularly and otherwise.

Not working. Not sure if it is today’s complexity – too much information, too much technology and in my case (and many others I’m sure)  too much crap shoved unexpectedly at us. I get this in spades. Sometimes I feel like taking the spade and just smashing the source of the problem. (I’m a gardener so have a spade – a pitchfork, too). But I don’t. So I vent verbally out at the Universe, God  – in many instances for not even hearing me.

That happened twice in the last 24 hours. First, with yesterday’s rainfall when I specifically put it out there that I didn’t want any water getting into the basement – it did – not from the ground but through the window – it poured down from the eavestrough above from one spot there. I suspect the cause has something to do with F., the “repair” guy when he nailed down the netting (to catch the leaves) in the eavestrough a month ago (We didn’t get much rain after that).  So, I had to call F. (that’s his first initial although a four-letter word comes to mind to better describe him) to make a return visit. This rain shower from the eavestrough had happened a few other times since he “fixed” the falling out eavestrough netting. His answer then? Call him when it is actually raining so he can see it when it happens. Newsflash F. – the rain will have stopped by the time you get here. So, yesterday I told him this and to check it out Friday morning. His answer? Take a picture of it? I don’t have a digital camera I told him and it had already stopped. And I can show him exactly where it cascaded down.

Today, it’s the anti-virus program on my laptop. When I first turned it on I did the usual updating the protection and the quick active scan. Well, the latter was quick – it scanned only half the loading-point files – every time I tried it – and I shut down the computer twice and started it up again before trying. Now, it’s doing the full scan, so we’ll shall see how that goes and how that affects (or doesn’t) the active scan. And like not wanting any water getting in from the rain, I also put it out there for all computer programs, etc. to work. The techie is coming tomorrow to see what’s what. Good thing he will take a post-dated cheque into September.

Guess I’m not shouting loud enough.

All this wastes my time and I’m already on a time roller-coaster trying to get things done before I go on holidays in the near future. I will not be cheated from my train trip and visiting my cousins.

Am I shouting loud enough here?

I’ve been trying varying techniques to try to get things done – even the dreaded multi-tasking which I’m against doing (except maybe thinking while riding the subway) Last Friday while on hold for one of the utilities (yet another problem – money-based) I decided to finally fill in the form to update an insurance document. But I needed the original and previous update. Guess what? No time to dig them out, although I know which file they are in.

And I have a “to-do list for what must be done  (besides the obvious, packing) before I travel. Here I’m doing a little of one thing, then a little of another, etc. However, I feel like I’m doing a variation of a Jill-of-all trades and master of none.

I know I have to rein in some of what I do – too much time with business email (forget the personal, only family stuff gets done). Already I’ve removed myself from several lists. (Don’t you like it when they ask why? I just say “no time/email overload). I think the delete button will become my new best friend.

Once I finally drag my weary body onto the train I’ll probably fall asleep looking out the window. That won’t work – I’ll miss my station and my cousin standing outside the train station will wonder what’s going on.

So do I wonder what’s going on. But that is fodder for another post.

Meantime, Dad, if your spirit is out there, please tell me some of your time-mastering tricks. Your daughter is running out of time…literally.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

The time challenged

Only Child Writes

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Filed under email overload, Family and Friends, Life demands, Lists, Mom and Dad, Prioritizing, Rain, Sharon A. Crawford, Time management, to do list, Uncategorized

Only Child lessens the travel load

Only Child loves train travel although engines aren't steam anymor

Only Child loves train travel although engines aren’t steam anymore

As I prepare for my annual holiday to visit my cousins in southwestern Ontario, I’m trying to lessen my luggage even more than other years. VIA Rail’s new rules of two carry-on bags plus personal (a purse) have partially inspired me. When growing up and riding the rails with Dad and Mom, we each had one suitcase (I had the small one in the two-piece set and Dad had his duffel bag). I’m not going to get it down to one suitcase, if you count laptop, Kobo, camera and even house-slippers in the laptop case as one bag and my clothes in bag number two.

Things like an umbrella and my small insulated lunch bag will be the challenge. Because of travelling time and being on the train at meal time – but meals not served – I bring a lunch. The umbrella? Well, based on the unsettled weather we are getting in this world, even with cousins’ cars, an umbrella is a necessity.

Lessening my travel load has got me thinking about its health effects. Besides the obvious physical – less to carry, less risk of sprains and backaches, there is also the psychological. How many of you have found when you clear out your office or even a cupboard, you get such a feeling of relief as if a big weight has disappeared completely? Well for a short time, until you open another cupboard or enter another room.

So my packing list will be much smaller this year. I do not want to have to push down the packed clothes to be able to close the zipper. I do not want my expandable canvass bag (my version of Dad’s duffel bag) to expand so far out it almost dwarfs my short frame and pulls on my shoulder. In that stage it is also difficult to cart around, especially when stepping up and down those precarious narrow steps to enter and exit the train. With two packed to their “gills” bags and a purse (plus dangling umbrella and lunch bag) it is difficult to fit the width of those steps. I feel like an overweight drunk and all I’ve been drinking is water and my build is slight.

I’m even bearing tiny weight-free gifts for my cousins – seven copies of the CD for the band my son plays guitar and lap steel guitar in (Beams, for those who are interested www.banjobeams.com – shameful plug).

So hopefully when I get on the train, I will be able to lift the canvass suitcase up into the overhead storage and get it down without asking for help. The laptop bag? Kept under the seat ahead just in front of my feet. I usually don’t plug into the wireless on the train but I do want to read from my Kobo or the mystery magazine I bring along.

Now, I just have to keep any purchases to small and low weight. I tend to start my Christmas shopping when my cousins and I do the touristy thing in Grimsby, Stratford, etc.

How do you travel light? I already do the roll-your-clothes-up-to-pack option.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Holidays, Mom and Dad, Only child, Railways, Sharon A. Crawford, Train travel

Only Child contemplates trees

That juniper tree in front when it was just a child.

That juniper tree in front when it was just a child.

Do we cut down too many trees? I don’t mean dead, dying  or diseased trees, but trees that just “get in our way,” whether “our way” is big developer coming in and building condos, city removal, or homeowner removal. Lately I’ve been noticing that Toronto is not as tree-lined as it used to be back in the 1970s when I could see trees forever to the lake (and the lake too) from my apartment in mid-Toronto. Newspaper articles have been written that Toronto is too much concrete. My walks through different city areas prove this. Don’t get me wrong – there are still many trees in parks and ravines, but downtown Toronto has turned into concrete towered city.

Back even further – in the 1950s and 1960s, my parents did their bit for trees. They got a little maple from the city and it was planted on the front lawn. On their own, my parents planted a snowball tree in back and lots of shrubs – back and front and of course, mother’s rose bushes. We kids used to hide under the big snowball tree; its branches hung so low nobody could find us there. No trees big enough to swing from. I did that up at my godmother’s farm. My uncle had set up a swing – heavy rope holding a wooden seat – for my cousins to swing on. One of my favourite spots. I also did a lot of swinging from swings in the nearby park in east Toronto where my friends and I went to play. Guess I was a swinger of a different sort then. .

On the Only Child front, the two black walnut trees between my house and Tanya’s next door have already started shedding their leaves. Leaves are blowing and landing all over the place on her side of the fence and mine. The trees are actually on her property and there were once four. Two came down when they added the upper extension to their house.

These trees provide the shade I needed in the patio corner of my garden and arrived serendipitously (read probably squirrels “planting” the seeds) when I cried for shade and privacy. I even had landscapers giving me quotes on lattice dividers but somehow that seemed too ugly and expensive. I did plant the silver lace that now entwines throughout our mutual fence and it grew and grew.

In the front yard I had a landscaper (starting out on his own so cheaper rates) plant two juniper trees in 1999. I have one now – the other one died as a result of the city doing some digging to upgrade sewer pipes in 2000. That upset me at first, but looking at the size of the tree now (see photo at bottom), serendipity again stepped in and fixed the situation. I have some privacy but not a complete block of the big picture window in my living room. And I don’t have to rake any leaves here.

Serendipity has worked a lot in my garden, including the tall red-leaved plant that just grew in the corner by my veranda this year – I’ve had this plant elsewhere other years; it is an annual but the seeds spread.

The city of Toronto now has a bylaw regulating injury or removal of privately-owned large trees with diameters of 30 cm or more. I have seen on some front lawns – the city part –loose orange fencing around big old trees so some tree-cutting nut (any pun intended) doesn’t come along and whack them down. A bylaw also exists for protection of some trees in ravines. And there is a Toronto-based program called LEAF  which promotes trees, gives out info about them, and has a tree-planting program for homeowners.

We’re coming along with the trees in Toronto – just don’t look downtown, especially all those condos by the waterfront.

That juniper tree today standing tall in Only Child's front lawn. Neighbours' walnut trees peak from side back.

That juniper tree today standing tall in Only Child’s front lawn. Neighbours’ walnut trees peak from side back.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Gardening, Home and Garden, Only child, Roses, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child on passenger railway security

350x247xtrain1.jpg.pagespeed.ic.NleuDB37gEI’m a railway brat. My late Dad was a timekeeper for one of the Canadian railways so Mom and I got free passes to travel in Canada and the United States. I begin the chapter “Riding the Rails with Dad” in my memoir…

If you’re going to travel on the train with Albert Langevin, be prepared to get up early and arrive at the station long before the steam engine is fired up, long before the conductor and trainman arrive, and long before anyone else stands in line at Platform 9 for Guelph, Ontario. My Dad has to be first in line at Toronto’s Union Station. His “typical [railway company name]” style dictated our family schedule during the late 1950s and early 1960s when we travelled by train to my Grandpa’s and my godmother’s farms.(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford)

That was then when train travel was more freewheeling and you could really talk about the romance of the rails. Until around 1960 there were still a few steam engines pulling trains, and up to the mid-1960s passenger trains actually ran through rural Ontario. Now, the railway company my dad worked for no longer has passenger service. In 1977, the federal government created VIA Rail for passenger service only. I’ve travelled by VIA and up to now some of the romance of riding the rails is still there.

However, it looks like it is going to change and be more like getting on a plane with security. All because of the foiled terrorist plot to derail a VIA Rail train in the Greater Toronto Area recently. Apparently VIA Rail already is doing some extra security – random searches and X-rays of baggage, sniffer dogs at stations and observing people in stations for any suspicious behaviour, plus increased training for their security staff. (See story at http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/08/04/via_rail_considers_new_security_checks_for_passengers_in_response_to_alleged_terror_plot.html). At this point I don’t have problems with this setup. So far my biggest problem when travelling by train is to limit my carry-on baggage to their requirements (two bags plus one personal – for example, a purse). However, increasing it to checking everyone against a database and everyone having ID – well, good in principle. But with a common name (Sharon Crawford) that could present problems. So could the ID because I don’t have a passport (I can’t afford one and don’t travel where I need one) and as I don’t drive I don’t have a driver’s licence. I’m hoping I won’t have to get a passport to board a train that is travelling only in Canada. I just might have to get the $35 Ontario personal ID (for non-drivers) which has to be renewed every five years (and probably more money forked over at the time – unlike the provincial health insurance card ID which needs renewing every five years but is free. It also has your photo and birthdate on it – but that one is not usually accepted for security checks). If ID becomes mandatory, there better be a choice of acceptable ID.

And will the one line my Dad rushed to Union Station to get in, now turn into two or three for security purposes and permission to board the train? The big stations in the big cities like Montreal and Toronto can accommodate all this but what about smaller stations such as in Stratford and Kitchener, Ontario, which still have the original small station?

Where do they think we will line up for ID etc. checks? In the parking lot?

Of course if the service cuts VIA Rail did last fall continue, there may be little or no operating train stations except in the big cities. Also these new security measures require more funds. It will be interesting to see what the Canadian Federal Government will do here. It has decreased funds to VIA but does spend on national security.

It is really too bad that travel has turned into a security hassle and time-consuming issue. All becomes of some baddie terrorists. At least VIA Rail is not considering the invasive naked body X-Rays and other than number, the limitation on carry-on (liquids and the like) and my ex-husband’s favourite complaint – shoe removal.

At any rate my dad must be rolling over in his grave. And I don’t think his favourite phrase about the railway company – “typical (railway company name)” would even apply here.

As I’ve said in previous posts – it’s a terrible world we live in no matter where we live.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Canadian National Railway, Mom and Dad, Only child memoir, Railways, Steam engines, Train travel