Monthly Archives: February 2014

Only Child says 2014 is another 2013

Outside of Only Child's home in summer - a far cry from this winter and the mess coming from outside to inside.

Outside of Only Child’s home in summer – a far cry from this winter and the mess coming from outside to inside.

This year is not any better than 2014. Despite all my positive attitude and some hope with work and finances in January, I guess I read it wrong. I should remember that hope is a four-letter word.

The straw that broke my back was the quick winter thaw with all the rain. You guessed it. Water poured into my basement – in two areas of my rec room.

The “new” area is the corner and part of the adjacent walls where on the outside the downspout and rain barrel sit outside on my backyard patio. In  the fall, I took proper preventative measures – had the eavestroughs checked and cleaned out, drained the rain barrel, and closed that fork of the downspout entering the rain barrel so water wouldn’t get in and do the expand/contract with the weather nonsense. I left the bottom hose (which is used for watering plants in the summer) extended out – just in case. Put in place a few years ago was an extended downspout so water would drain away from the house and into the garden. I periodically checked this throughout this winter. Too many cold spells caused water in the eavestrough and downspouts to freeze – including big icicles hanging from the eavestrough and the downspout before the extended part, and a big wad of ice at least three inches deep on the pavement at the corner which defied any salt poured on it. I knocked off what ice I could.

Then old man winter (read God) struck. The slow thaw start caused some of this eavestrough ice to thaw – but not inside the downspout. You guessed it – the water sneaked through the rain barrel closing and started flowing in there. Oh well, the bottom hose would drain it. Right?

Wrong. The bottom hose was so hard from the extremely cold weather it broke. I grabbed a downspout extension not being used from the front and had my next door neighbour manoeuvre it into shape so now the rain barrel downspout extended away from the house.

Then the rain came – more thawing of all the ice mess with water landing in my basement. That one is on God.

Not the other sometimes re-occurring water leak on the far side of the house. Well, maybe God for letting it happen (and not just to my place – to many others in Toronto and I am well aware of the flooding mess in southern England). But this water intrusion is mainly on the back of Nigel Appelwaite, the excavation fellow who messed up in April 2011. He didn’t dig far enough down. Despite the written agreement and list of what he would do (which stated he would dig down to the weeping tiles), he dug only four feet. I remember him saying, as he started to dig, that was as far as he needed to go to take care of the current leaks. Unfortunately I wasn’t very knowledgeable in these things, and I trusted the guy, so…

Trust is the big word here. I need to continue learning not to trust – or to trust very few people and to trust myself first and foremost. I notice I am much more suspicious than I used to be – blame it on being a former journalist, age, and experience. It’s the last I must factor in more.

I have blogged about this leak and Nigel last year – as that’s when the first of the leaks after the big excavation occurred– when the rain and wind blows in hard from the east – water pours into the basement – either that corner of the laundry room (not last Thursday night into Friday) and/or the other corner side and under the window in the rec room. That’s where Nigel supposedly “fixed” it.

Of course I called him Friday – but he never showed up as he said he would.

Friday I spent in a panic, filled with anger and fear, literally mopping up and phoning around for friends to help. Elinor down the street took a look and suggested a twist mop and pail set like the school caretakers use and wrote down exactly what. Tanya drove me to Canadian Tire to get the mop set and a Shop-Vac on sale and then to Value Village to get more thick towels. My boarder helped me set up the Shop-Vac (I figured out the mop setup) and Paul down the street showed me how to use the Shop-Vac properly so it actually did the job. I alternated using the mop and Shop-Vac – some areas worked better with the mop and some with the Shop-Vac.

I am grateful for all their help.

So what does all the above tell me? Once you’ve had water in the basement you never get over it. It teaches you to live in fear.There are a few I can trust to help in a panic situation. But those trustworthy people are not God or Nigel.

Now I will have to get another excavation done by someone who can do a proper job. I am canvassing friends who have had basement waterproofing done to their satisfaction. But the price is high. Even with my ex-husband paying half (which he say he will), it will probably clean me out of whatever little savings I have and was slowly adding to. I was even managing to pay down my line of credit.

Well, I guess it’s tin-can-on-the-street time. Lottery ticket purchase time.

And making those responsible pay.

Nigel better watch out. I will talk to my lawyer friend about options. Realistically Nigel should pay 100 per cent for whatever needs to be done by whomever to remedy his mess-up plus a few thousand extra from my pain and suffering. I am also brainstorming what to do that is legal. Meantime, I make sure everyone knows not to hire Nigel.

That latter is what I have been practicing when some so-called professional screws up. I just did it again when my friend Carol was talking about needing a new roof. The company (Extreme Roofing in Ajax, Ontario) I hired in 2009 did a good job in putting up the new roof – and I make sure I say that – but the owner messed up in the assessment – didn’t notice there were three (not two) old shingle layers – the work crew foreman did – so I got charged an extra $800.  My ex and I shouldn’t have paid it but I was afraid if I didn’t agree they wouldn’t replace the roof.

Putting it out there for things to be okay just doesn’t cut it for me. I should remember the four letter words – besides damn and hell, there are snow, rain, and pray.

Now I really want to go back to the 1950s and 1960s – my Mom and Dad never had basement and eavestrough problems like this. But the weather was different then.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Consumer action, Floods, God, Life demands, Mom and Dad, Only child, Problems, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child says winters no longer fun and Memoir Writing

Only Child  rests before doing more battle with companies screwing the consumer

Only Child contemplates winters back then and now.

As we drag ourselves kicking and screaming through this horrible winter that keeps on dumping, I can’t help remembering normal winters like the ones when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s. Actually even up to the last nine or 10 years, winters still were somewhat normal. But to go back to “then” as we do when writing memoir, here is an excerpt from my memoir about what winter had to offer and how Mom, Dad and I enjoyed winter. It’s about ice-skating also appropriate because of the current Winter Olympics at Sochi.

When I was six, Mom and Dad did collaborate when they decided I needed to learn to ice skate. Dad made the ice rink and Mom got me moving on it.

Dad turns on the hose and out pours cold water. Overnight it freezes on the dormant grass in the backyard. I never think how the water passes through the hose. Wouldn’t it be frozen? Did Dad put his ear to the radio and listen to the weather reports to see when the daytime temperature sat around freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit then) or just below? When night falls, so does the temperature and in the morning – magic – instant skating rink.

Then Dad turns it over to Mom. Like a dance instructor trying to teach steps to a nervous wannabe, she grabs my hands and tries to get me in motion.

“Come on Sharon. Just slide your feet, one foot in front of the other.”

My feet, tucked tightly into new white figure skates, scrape and totter along the ice and my fingers dig into her hands, my mittens no protection for the hard petrified squeeze they give her. I do not want to fall. I might break a leg. I’m terrified of losing control, so I continue to cling to Mom as she steps backward, sometimes in her rubber boots and sometimes in an old pair of Dad’s black hockey skates. I follow forward like a drunken clown.(Excerpted from You Can Go Home, Copyright 2014, Sharon A. Crawford)

You can see how I felt then about skating on ice. But it was a positive experience. So, let’s put it forward to compare with my feelings on winter today.

This winter, especially the great ice storm that hit southern Ontario from Dec. 22, 2013 has left me feeling that our world is no longer safe – anywhere. We constantly have to be on hyper-guard, especially with the weather. I felt scared to panicky, and yes very angry that this is what got thrown at us (and you can take your pick where/who to put the blame for this). Skating was not something to look forward to as everywhere you went there was ice. I no longer have my ice skates and probably in my senior years would wobble around and fall.

So the only positive spin I can put on winter is the Olympics at Sochi, especially the figure skating. And I wish Patrick Chan, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir had won gold, but I’m still proud they won silver.

If you are in the Toronto, Ontario Canada area and want to learn more about writing a memoir, I am teaching a memoir writing workshop, Saturday, February 22, 2014, 9.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m..  Here are some details:

Getting your Memoir off the Ground:

Presented by the East End Writers’ Group

Always wanted to write your family’s story or your story but need some motivation and guidance? Sharon A. Crawford, who conducts Memoir Writing workshops for the Toronto Public Library, will teach this one-day expanded workshop on Memoir Writing. After a brief review of kick-starting your memoir using the senses, this hands-on workshop takes the writer into the nitty-gritty of writing the memoir. You will learn how to organize your memoir’s content, do research and work it into your memoir, deal with family flak, and not only start writing your memoir, but write an actual chapter and have it critiqued.  Handouts provided. Bring photos and other memorabilia, pen and paper or the electronic equivalent.

Check out the full details on my website at www.samcraw.com (click on Speaker’s Bureau).

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Ice Skating, Ice storm Toronto, Mom and Dad, Only child memoir, Winter Weather

Blending the past and the present in your memoir

The Beatles back in 1965. This photo is supposed to in the public domain.

The Beatles back in 1964. This photo is supposed to be in the public domain.

I grew through my teenage years as a Beatle fan – complete with screaming at their concerts in Toronto to agonizing over what they said, did (and didn’t say and didn’t do) according to newspaper and magazine stories.

So, seeing the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show (Sunday, Feb. 9, 1964) on this past Sunday (Feb. 9, 2014) triggered a lot of nostalgia. Where was I when the fab four appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show? At a youth club dance at the church where the club organizers had a black and white TV brought in so we could see the Beatles on Ed Sullivan Show. The TV was appropriately put on the hall’s stage.

On this past Sunday, as I sat and watched others perform the Beatles’ hits and saw the reaction of the two remaining Beatles Paul and Ringo and their wives, and the late John Lennon’s wife and son Sean and the late George Harrison’s wife and son Danny (Danny performed with some of the others on stage including Ringo and Paul’s reunion performance), I was caught up in nostalgia, in going back. And I truly felt that in those days the world was in a better place and the world was not so bad – considering today’s weather to the rush-rush, terrorists, over-technological focus, meanness, etc. etc.

My own little world may have been difficult – I mean as a teenager and experiencing all the usual teen emotions intensely with a few added ingredients. My dad was dying of cancer and I had been bullied in grade school, which left any self-confidence buried deeper than the proverbial hole.

And this is the perfect time where my past and present connected. And you can put this type of connection in your memoir. I already have some of the Beatles stuff in one chapter. Here’s a brief excerpt:

 

One day Susan and I are standing on the sidewalk outside East York Collegiate. Some of the popular crowd in our class – Dana, Lou, Marnie –stand right next to us in an open circle, but talking amongst themselves. I pretend to listen in and not listen, and try to think of something relevant to say. Something that will show I am worthy of them. But my lips and voice do the opposite to my behavior at last year’s Beatles concert.

“Sharon and I are going to see the Beatles,” Susan says. “Maple Leaf Gardens mailed her tickets.”

The eyes of the popular crowd turn to me.

“Lucky you,” Marnie says.

“Fab,” says Lou.

Even Dana is smiling at me – she who seems so formidable, probably because she is tall and heavyset. I just murmur a weak “yes,” and smile back. Why can’t I say more? I know Marnie and Lou, the twins, from Miss Garlick’s piano lessons.

Then John Lennon makes his famous “The Beatles are more popular than Jesus Christ” statement and Susan’s mom pulls her permission. Susan returns her ticket to me but it’s too close to the performance to get someone else to go and I’m too shy to ask anyone. It never occurs to me to ask one of the popular crowd. The second ticket gets sent back to Maple Leaf Gardens and Mom let me go alone.The new ticket holder is a 13-year-old girl, who after intermission moves to sit with her brother and his friends in another section. I’m left alone to see, listen, and fantasize. This time I sit on the same side in the bleachers, but way way down from the stage. The mopheads appear small and far away but I can hear them singing. I don’t scream. I felt inhibited because my friends aren’t around to join me in letting out my emotions.

But John Lennon’s statement stuck and I found myself trying to defend it, mostly in my mind. Looking back, the seeds of discontent with religion may have already been planted inside me, although Lennon’s statement wasn’t what would make me question the righteousness of religion, in particular the beliefs of the Catholic faith. My own home situation with Dad dying from cancer coupled with the change in society norms coming right up against the religion-by-rote from grade school would take care of that. This time Mom wouldn’t stand on my side and when I would turn around, no one would be there at 139 to confide in. (Excerpted from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2014 Sharon A. Crawford)

 

There is some hint of what will come in the near future. But this is a good place to add a couple of paragraphs to connect it to the present – how I felt when I saw the 50th anniversary of the Beatles on Ed Sullivan Show Feb. 9, 2014. The religious angle could also lead in to how and why I feel the world is not a better place now and why it was at least simpler then. How I feel now is important because memoirs are also about your personal feelings.

 

That is the way I would do the past and present connection. As long as the present doesn’t go off on a tangent and you can find your way writing back into the past, adding the parallel in the present can work.

Perhaps the quote I use at the beginning of my memoir says it all

 

The past is our definition.  We may strive, with good reason, to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will escape it only by adding something better to it. 

~Wendell Berry

If you are in the Toronto, Ontario Canada area and want to learn more, I am teaching a memoir writing workshop, Saturday, February 22, 2014.  Here are some details:

Getting your Memoir off the Ground:

Presented by the East End Writers’ Group

Always wanted to write your family’s story or your story but need some motivation and guidance? Sharon A. Crawford, who conducts Memoir Writing workshops for the Toronto Public Library, will teach this one-day expanded workshop on Memoir Writing. After a brief review of kick-starting your memoir using the senses, this hands-on workshop takes the writer into the nitty-gritty of writing the memoir. You will learn how to organize your memoir’s content, do research and work it into your memoir, deal with family flak, and not only start writing your memoir, but write an actual chapter and have it critiqued.  Handouts provided. Bring photos and other memorabilia, pen and paper or the electronic equivalent.

Check out the full details on my website at www.samcraw.com (click on Speaker’s Bureau).

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Beatles, Family and Friends, Mom and Dad, Nostalgia, Only child memoir, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child on the creative side of writing memoir

 Only Child as a toddler  with Mom in the backyard

Only Child as a toddler with Mom in the backyard

Memoir is non-fiction so it has to be factual and perhaps dull? No, no, no.

True, you have to get information you include such as statistics and dates of birth of family members correct. However, you are telling your story, what you remember. The key word is “story.” In fiction, stories are made-up and  creative (or should be). And that creativity (but not the made-up part) can be applied to certain types of non-fiction such as narrative non-fiction and memoir. For narrative non-fiction consult an expert writer in that area, such as Ken McGoogan who has written several award-winning books in that vein and teaches the subject at the University of Toronto. See http://kenmcgoogan.blogspot.ca/p/home_11.html

Your memoir should be your truth but should read like fiction. Here is a brief example from my memoir-in-the-works You Can Go Home: deconstructing the demons (and I want to change that title as well).

One night, late, loud pounding on the front door wakes Mom, Dad and me. Like the servant heeding the master, we all trip out to the front. Mother turns on the veranda light and yanks the door open.

 “Do you know this man?” A police officer stands on our veranda. His right hand supports the shoulder of a dishevelled man.

“Uh, home,” the man says.

The stench of his breath assaults my nostrils and I jump back behind my mother, but nudge my head out. The man’s black hair lies flat and oily. Night shadow and red compete for attention on his face. He is bare from his neck to his dark trousers and when I look closer, I see blood streaking down from a deep slice on his left cheek and dribbling onto his chest. His eyes look bloody and vague, at least what I can see of them. A black mass hovers above his left eye.

“Home?” he asks again.

“Sharon, go back to bed,” Dad says. “This is not for little girls.”

But I am both fascinated and repulsed. I lean out a little further. Who is this man?  Copyright 2014 Sharon A. Crawford)

This reads like fiction, but it is what happened (as far as my memory can well, remember). Fiction tools used are:

Dialogue – although with memoir you don’t have to remember it word for word. Dialogue shows the reader how you saw the people in your life and how you spoke then. Try to make your dialogue consistent with your age back then. Unless you were a child genius you probably didn’t talk like an adult. Also remember to use appropriate slang for the time period. “Awesome” wasn’t used back in the 1950s and 1960s – at least according to my memory.

The people involved are presented as characters with traits. For example, I’m shy and hide behind my mother. Dad tries to protect me. The man at the door is shown as drunk with how he looks to me and there is one word of dialogue from him.

Point of View – usually with memoir it is the memoir writer’s  (you) POV but if you are writing about your parents and their story, you can use third person. Here it is my point of view. And as mentioned in last week’s post, your point of view can change now from when it was then. The trick is to put yourself back to that child you were at whatever age your story occurs and write from there. This is what I did here. With some of your scenarios, what you know and think now may be scurring around in your mind. It’s okay to add a bit of that, but make sure you word it as today’s take. This often works for comparison. But I wouldn’t use it for every scenario as it can get tedious. Some memoirs will cover the time-line gap, so today’s view could go in chronologically.

With fiction, I find many authors whose book manuscripts I edit, mix up their point of view use. Point of View doesn’t usually present as much of a problem in memoir because you are telling your story.

You can combine scenarios to a certain extent. For example, at the reception at home after my Dad’s funeral, I combine something one of my aunt’s said at another time (no story with the actual time she said it) with certain other things actually said at the reception. I was contrasting Mom’s country-born family with Dad’s city-born family and the interaction of the two “species.”

Which bring me to my final tip – as mentioned in last week’s post, each chapter should focus on one topic and its theme. For example, I have a chapter that focuses on gardening with my mother and father and its connection with our religious beliefs back then. So, no going on tangents here about what happened in school – those stories go into a different chapter or two or three. However, I do get into some of my friends I hung around with where it is connected to gardening and religion. When my friends and I played with our dolls outside in the backyard, we used to pull leaves off the trees and shrubs for the dolls’ food. My dad would charge out into the backyard and give us hell for doing so. Next day we’d be over at one of my friends in her backyard and get into a discussion about religion – she was Baptist and I was Catholic.

You see, how you can weave in your stories.

The above should give you some ideas about writing your memoir creatively. If you are in the Toronto area and want to learn more, I am teaching a memoir writing workshop, Saturday, February 22, 2014.  Here are some details:

Getting your Memoir off the Ground:

Presented by the East End Writers’ Group

Always wanted to write your family’s story or your story but need some motivation and guidance? Sharon A. Crawford, who conducts Memoir Writing workshops for the Toronto Public Library, will teach this one-day expanded workshop on Memoir Writing. After a brief review of kick-starting your memoir using the senses, this hands-on workshop takes the writer into the nitty-gritty of writing the memoir. You will learn how to organize your memoir’s content, do research and work it into your memoir, deal with family flak, and not only start writing your memoir, but write an actual chapter and have it critiqued.  Handouts provided. Bring photos and other memorabilia, pen and paper or the electronic equivalent.

Check out the full details on my website at

http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/SpeakersBureau.html

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Family, Memoir content, Memoir writing, Mom and Dad