Monthly Archives: April 2014

Only Child roars about sleep deprivation

Only Child catching some much-needed zzzzs.

Only Child catching some much-needed zzzzs.

In this fast-paced overwhelm world getting enough sleep is a pipe dream for many of us. I’m at the point now where if anyone – expert or so-called well-meaning “friend” suggests I need more sleep, I will hand over my “to do” list (or rattle it off) and say,

“Here, take care of all this and maybe I might just enough sleep.”

Maybe is the key word here. I have other sleep stealers going on. I’m a senior and as you age your quantity and quality of sleep diminishes. Copy that – at least in the sleep beyond 7.30 a.m. or 8 a.m. area. That is if I don’t get woken up by the boarder getting up from her room to feed her cat anywhere from 5.30 a.m. to 6.30 a.m. I don’t hear them every morning.

Or one of my many medical conditions either keeps me awake or wakes me up early. Or something unknown – maybe a bad dream – wakes me up during the night. If I don’t get back to sleep within 10 minutes it’s a lost cause as my mind starts thinking of my too many problems, some of which are on that “to do” list.

I’ve tried getting to bed earlier but between what I call housework shit (no, not dusting, just the routine daily stuff like lock doors, make the coffee and set it up for the next day, etc.) and the bedtime rituals (shower and sometimes washing and drying hair) I’m lucky if I make it to bed by 12.30.

Amount of sleep needed each night is different for each individual. I need at least seven and a half hours sleep each night for my health and I would love to get it. Sometimes I think about when I was a child sleeping in my room and hearing the comfort of my parents talking about budgets of all things down the hall in the kitchen. Or sleeping in on weekends until I heard my mother yelling, “get out, get out,” not to me or Dad, but to the roast stuck in the very small freezer atop the small fridge.

I know all my nights in childhood didn’t have 100 percent sleeping with no worries. In high school I would worry about finishing studying for exams and get up really early for more studying. Life as a kid and teenager was not stress-free.

Somehow, over the many decades since, the stress has piled up and up and turned into a constant overwhelm – even when one problem gets solved another one pops up.

And it all affects my sleep.

I’m not alone here – we are a sleep-deprived society with our hurry-rush-rush lifestyles. Smart phones (what a misnomer) and all the other technology that keeps us “connected” 24/7 is partly to blame. Although maybe not in my case as I don’t have a smart phone; I don’t do “Twitter” (for the birds is my take on that), and I make sure I have off-the-computer time where I actually shut the computers off. I do have an e-reader but reading is one of my so-called relaxing pastimes (whether print or e). I say “so-called” because finding time to read for pleasure is almost as hard as finding time to sleep.

Despite my dig at sleep experts and other health experts above, they are right about the downsides of not getting enough sleep. I do agree, but sometimes I feel like shouting “stop the world I want to get off.”

Check out these articles on sleep deprivation.

Insufficient Sleep is a Public Health Epidemic http://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/
Sleep Centers Increase to Highest Number Ever http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/03/sleep-centers-highest-number-american-academy-of-sleep-medicine_n_2366719.html

We are a sleep-deprived world and we resent it.

How do you get enough sleep or do you get enough sleep? Comments please.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Sharon A. Crawford teaches memoir writing workshops and courses in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Her next workshop, Getting Your Memoir off the Ground is Saturday, May 10, 2014 at Hugh’s Books and the Studio @ Hughs in east end Toronto. If you are in the Toronto area and want to learn more about writing memoir, this might be the workshop for you. More details on at http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/SpeakersBureau.html

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Filed under Memoir writing course, Mom and Dad, Only child, Overwhelm, Problems, Sharon Crawford, Uncategorized

Only Child on gardens back then and now

Only Child's new garden tool area on the patio

Only Child’s new garden tool area on the patio

In April, when the first tulip showed its face in the flowerbed under the living room window, Mom had to get out in her garden and do her vegetable, fruit and flower business. In the beginning, Mom and I moved in tandem with the garden and religion like we found parallels in them – both had beauty, filled us with awe, seemed to bring some order and ritual to our lives: plant seeds in spring and be rewarded with beautiful flowers and bountiful vegetables and fruit in summer; go to Mass and communion on Sunday and be rewarded in life with only good. (Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2014 Sharon A. Crawford)

So starts that chapter of my memoir. That was in the early to mid-1950s. Compared that to this April, 2014.

Mark Cullen about sums up the havoc of the worst winter in memory in his weekly Toronto Star gardening column. The gardening expert and lecturer takes readers out to his large garden. Except for the crocuses popping up, the sights do not show a happy spring. He writes about winter burn on evergreens such as cedars, yews and boxwoods, snow and salt damage on soil. See http://www.thestar.com/life/homes/2014/04/17/damage_control_in_your_garden_begins_now.html for the full article.

My garden echoes his on a smaller scale size-wise. I don’t have any cedars and my yews have only a few brown branches. But my precious boxwood’s south-facing side is brown while the rest of the boxwood is turning green.

To top it off, Sunday when I finally opened the tool shed I found some water had seeped in- despite having put plastic around the bottom where walls meet the floor. The carpet was damp and the floor underneath wet. Fortunately in the fall I had enough sense to place the push lawn mower on top of something and wrap it in plastic. My experience has taught me not to trust that all will be okay.

This spring is not our usual spring, thanks to God and his weather. And for those scratching their heads at that comment, I am well aware of global warming. I also know that God gave us humans free will. Might it be that he doesn’t like what humans are doing with that free will so he is either letting the weather take its course and/or not looking after us and listening to our prayers? How many besides me prayed to have the ice storm not descend on us in Ontario last December 22 and afterwards?

And you can forget that Mother Nature stuff. No such person. Even if there were, the name “Mother” and destroying the earth just don’t go together…in my mind at least.

So after giving God a good scolding about the tool shed and telling him he owes me extra funds to pay someone to help me remove the heavy stuff (so I can dry it all out) and seal around the bottom, I got to work.

I removed what I could from the tool shed including patio and lawn furniture which (hopefully) can stay out until late fall. I turned the carpet back as far as I could, then dried its underside and the wooden shed floor with my hair dryer. It worked – what I could get at. Now, on warm days when it isn’t raining, I open the tool shed door and spread the carpet back out so some of the top can dry.

Of course someone with more muscle and know-how will have to remove the heavy stuff and do the sealing. Meantime, I tried to bring some beauty and joy to all the deadwood and brown still outside. I arranged the lawn/patio furniture, placed some pansies in pots around, and removed more of the dead branches from plants and shrubs in the backyard so the new could grow in – if it will. Some has and now, almost a month late, the tulips, irises and day lilies, some left over onions, and the rhubarb stems and leaves are surfacing. The small backyard grass area is beginning to turn green. No hyacinths, peonies yet though. Just a few crocus flowers but I’ll take those and try to breathe in some joy. My umbrella is up and on sunny warm days I can sit at my patio table to eat my meals. I also created a new area setup for my rakes, watering cans and other gardening “tools” on the patio. It shows good colour contrast and cohesion and exemplifies my purpose.

No matter what God shovels at us, I’m going to garden and get some joy out of it. It (along with my writing) is what saves any sanity I have left. The robins have finally returned as well as some of the other birds and I am enjoying their singing. Squirrels are back too and as long as they aren’t too rascally, this year I will try to live with them. The racoons are another matter.

Inside on my bedroom window sill I have tomato, peppers, basil, marigolds and other plants started and on their way to readiness to go out in my garden…whenever that will be this year.

May your garden grow well and bring you joy. And if you don’t have a garden, then adopt a park with flowers and spend some time there.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Sharon A. Crawford teaches memoir writing workshops and courses in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Her next workshop, Getting Your Memoir off the Ground is Saturday, May 10, 2014 at Hugh’s Books and the Studio @ Hughs in east end Toronto. If you are in the Toronto area and want to learn more about writing memoir, this might be the workshop for you. More details on at http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/SpeakersBureau.html

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Filed under 1950s, Garden Destruction, Gardening, Memoir writing, Only child memoir, Spring, Toronto, Weather

Only Child tries to grab control of her time – again

Only Child will no longer sit on time like this teddy bear

Only Child will no longer sit on time like this teddy bear does

If shooting the clock would tame my time I’d do it. However, Mr. and Mrs. Clocks are not the guilty parties. The culprits are having too much to do, especially when some of that is because others are butting in and/or just not doing their job. It is literally making me sick and stealing my sleep time.

I’m fed up with picking up other’ slack and putting up with others’ unnecessary interference – in my personal and work life. So, I’m on the warpath again.

Sometimes I think life is a spiralling whirlwind with no jump off point – unless you want to be drastic and do the proverbial cliff thing.

Not me. I prefer to tackle the culprits, despite the feelings of dread, weariness, anger, guilt and frustration for starters. I’m tired of being dragged down. I want my life back. I want my health back. I want this viral respiratory infection (now in my neck glands) to go away – permanently. I figure without all the stress and with regular sufficient sleep it would never have gone beyond the sinusitis stage, which lasted only three or four days. Then it hibernated and surfaced in the glands. I’m taking a natural remedy to help get rid of it. But I need to do more.

For the house repair stuff , I may not be able to control what needs repairing but I will control what I deal with, when and who else gets involved. So, if I’m focusing on getting one repair done (including the actual doing) the rest takes a back burner and maybe some of the people bugging me about it get ignored permanently.

Some writing colleagues are not doing their job where it is connected to what I do – so I am left to pick up their slack, which I’ve been doing with many worries about how to rectify the situation. Despite reminder emails I’m greeted with silence. So, now I will try the old-fashioned way – use the phone.

Getting more sleep – only one area needs improvement on my part – getting to bed a bit earlier. Here, I need to stop doing household chores after the 11 p.m. news. Once the weather report is finished and I turn the TV off, all that should be left to do is get ready for bed and go to bed.

The other sleep problem is not under my control. My boarder insists on getting up between 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. whenever her cat wakes her up to be fed. Sometime that wakes me up and I have trouble getting back to sleep before my alarm goes off three of so hours later. If that were me, I’d stall feeding the cat – other cat owners do this. But then, I’m not a cat owner, so what do I know?

The weather – and I’ve posted my feelings and beliefs on this one before. Just when I was getting into gardening and being able to sit outside away from everything going on inside, get some privacy and peace, we get snow today. It will melt but I’m stuck inside and back to “hiding” in the living room, with door closed, to sip my morning coffee and read the newspaper or a magazine. In real spring and summer, I sit outside on the patio and read and also eat breakfast and lunch, and perhaps dinner. Now, I’m back to eating breakfast with answering email (with my office door closed).

I find my garden – just being in it – and my writing, reading and walking sooths this savage beast – for a time. Maybe I’m crazy, but I actually enjoy rewriting my mystery novel – the one getting published later this year – even following the editor at my publisher’s suggestions (well, most of them). Perhaps it’s being one with my creative process and shutting out the miserable world around me.

But it helps.

Not today, though. Today, it’s back to another hateful job – working on my 2013 tax returns – which I don’t file electronically. You don’t dare do that with the Heartbleed virus. And getting after one of my writing colleagues to do his job so I can do mine.

Shooting the clocks won’t work anyway. I have only a small water gun.

How do others tame their time? Suggestions are welcome. Let’s share our ideas, especially what works.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes

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Filed under Balance, Health, Life demands, Only child, Overwhelm, Prioritizing, Sharon A. Crawford, Stress, Time management

Only Child condemns high utility bills

Only Child  digging in her purse for non-existent money to pay soaring utility bills

Only Child digging in her purse for non-existent money to pay soaring utility bills

Like many other individuals I am going broke just keeping up with paying all the high utility bills. And only one utility service has a legitimate reason to raise the rates. Two of the others are penalizing the consumers for their (the company, not the consumer) mistakes. A few, like the phone company, cable TV service and property taxes are just normal rates tied into inflation. This latter I may grumble about but it is acceptable.

So, who are the two companies “stealing” from the consumers – why Enbridge Gas (and other gas companies) and all the municipal hydro companies as well as Big Daddy in Ontario – Hydro One.

Enbridge apparently can’t learn from past mistakes. For winter 2012 into 2013, gas consumption for heating homes rose. Enbridge didn’t factor this possibility into their equal monthly billing. Most of us got hit with an extremely high bill to pay off the difference at the end of the company’s fiscal year. That’s what I found out when I called to complain. Apparently they no longer raise the equal billing rates mid-winter season if necessary. Guess they received too many complaints about that set-up, but my guess is that not as many complaints as the number who complained of the year-end monstrous bills. Consumer advocate here (me) pushed for a deal and got the okay to pay half one month and half the next month.

So, the equal billing amounts were raised only a smidgeon for this 2013-2014 inter and we consumers thought we were getting a good deal – at least compared to what the hydro company was doing. Hah? Now the gas companies, including Enbridge, are raising the rates starting with April’s bill. Enbridge’s rate increase is 40 per cent while Union Gas (southern Ontario) is 28 per cent. Enbridge claims that it had to buy “more spot market gas” and that costs more. See http://www.thestar.com/business/2014/03/27/enbridge_gets_hefty_interim_rate_increase.html

My first question is the obvious one: why didn’t these companies factor in that we might just get another bad winter, if not worse and just maybe they might have to purchase more gas elsewhere? Hello consumer company big whigs – severe weather is now the norm – everywhere and every season. Tunnel vision doesn’t work.
The second question is – why should we consumers have to pay for their costly mistake – or at least to the tunes of 40 per cent and 28 percent, which the Ontario Energy Board okayed? This same energy board is investigating ways to make it not so bad for consumers to pay. Why couldn’t they hold off payment until they found a way? Talk about doing something ass over backwards. So, as usual, consumers are stuck. Those who have gas stoves and gas fireplaces will get hit even harder. Fortunately, I have just the gas furnace and water heater. And here I thought I was “lucky.”
To make matters worse, the head of the Industrial Gas Users Association, Shahrzad Rahbar compares it to getting a root canal and do you blame the dentist for that? Bad comparison. The dental patient may be responsible for dental problems requiring a root canal. But consumers responsible for a gas company’s mishandling of  their bad choices and lack of foresight? I think not – at least not to 40 per cent and 28 per cent all-at-once increases. See http://www.thestar.com/business/2014/03/28/natural_gas_rate_increase_angers_consumers.

I know – you have to turn on the gas furnace with an electrical switch and thermostat. Apparently that wasn’t always so. Back in what I’m now more and more realizing were the “good old days” you could get your gas furnace going without electricity.

And now for the other utility money-grabber and that situation is even worse. The gas companies are merely guilty of stupidity but Hydro One and all the Ontario municipalities (the latter have to base at least some of their costs on those of Hydro One) rate increases are for the wrong reason.

In a nutshell, we consumers are paying off Hydro One’s debts.

There is also another shady going-on with Ontario Hydro customers – some smart meters giving excessively high readings, causing some users to go bankrupt from over $2000 monthly hydro bills. Smart meters? Stupid meters. Stupid idea Hydro One and former Ontario premier Dalton McGuilty (McGinty). There are 600 plus complaints about this one to the Ontario Ombudsman so he has launched an investigation into these dealings. Some people say it should go much farther into a fraud investigation. See http://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/ontario-ombudsman-launches-hydro-one-investigation-1.1670529

I can’t remember how hydro and gas bills were set up when I was a child (my parents had oil heating, not gas in our little bungalow) but we were billed for water at a flat rate. I’m not saying we should be billed a flat rate today. And water rates are going up on a continuing but scheduled basis. However, Toronto Water and Waste is doing something with this money. They are upgrading all the old sewers pipes, water pipes – the infrastructure that goes back 50 plus years, and doing extra on their part to stop basement flooding in Toronto areas prone to that. So, while I may complain about the high water rates, at least I know my money is being put to good and necessary use.
Unlike hydro rates, which despite the mess-up with some “smart” meters, has gone up three times in seven months.
Something is really wrong here. We can conserve energy (heating, etc. not our own personal energy) until the proverbial cows come home, but it doesn’t seem to matter much.
Come to think of it, with this situation, do the cows really want to come home anyway?
What do readers think? Are you experiencing similar utility hikes where you live?
Please comment.
Cheers.
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes

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Filed under Consumerism, Extreme Weather, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford, Weather

Only Child’s novel to be published fall 2014

Only Child reading from her writing.

Only Child reading from her writing.

My prequel mystery novel, Beyond Blood, will be published this fall by Blue Denim Press, the publishers of my mystery short collection Beyond the Tripping Point. As one of my friends says, “you must be over the moon.”
Yes, but writing is what I do, what keeps me going. Along with gardening, writing helps keep me (somewhat) sane…if writers can even be called sane. Let’s say eccentrically sane.
My writing goes back a long long way – to grade school when I was 11. The Knights of Columbus held an essay writing contest and I came in second. No clue what I wrote about. But I learned a great lesson in friendship. I write about it in my memoir:
My friend, Leslie, is not a writer. After everyone has submitted essays, Leslie and I are walking home.
“My friend, Josie, who’s 13, wrote mine,” she says.
I don’t know what to say.
“Don’t tell anyone,” she says.
A few weeks later, Mrs. Jones announces the winners. My essay came in second and Leslie’s came in first.
Do I rat on her and lose one of my few friends? She cheated. She didn’t write it. I could be first.
She’s your friend. And like you, she doesn’t have many friends.
She’ll dump you..
But she cheated. I wrote my essay myself. She didn’t.
Maybe I could slip Mrs. Jones an anonymous note.
Leslie will know it was you. She won’t want to be your friend.
But I wrote mine myself and she didn’t write hers. She came in first with her fake entry and I came in second with my real one? Is that fair?
Over and over in my mind, the pros and cons teeter and totter….
I keep my mouth shut. Leslie wins the cash prize; we both get to go to the Knights of Columbus District dinner with our parents. Mom and Dad are proud of my accomplishment – my coming in second; I don’t tell them about Leslie’s big cheat. (From You Can Go Home – Digging Up the Dirt, copyright Sharon A. Crawford 2014)
With the publication of Beyond Blood, there are also lessons to be learned. The obvious is to persevere – in writing and pitching your work. For example, this novel went through many, many versions and even the one submitted wasn’t good enough. But my editor and the publisher at Blue Denim Press gave me the benefit of the doubt and let me do another major rewrite and it paid off. Now, of course there are some minor rewrites – but that is par for the course when you get a book published.
The big lesson here unfolds from a synchronicity if you will.
Another mystery novel being published at the same time by Blue Denim Press is one by a longtime writing colleague and also an editing client. My task here is to help him with his book promotion, including doing some joint promo. Two years ago when Beyond the Tripping Point was published I asked for promo help from other writers and got it. Now it’s my turn to flip the coin and do my part to help him make the connections and get the word out there about his book and get some sales. We don’t live in the same city, but that can be worked around.
That’s what it is for writers (besides writing) – we help each other.
Check my other blog for info on Beyond the Tripping Point and its characters – some of them – the fraternal twin PIs are the stars in Beyond Blood. http://www.sharonacrawfordauthor.com

Cheers.
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1960s, Beyond Blood, Life learning, Only child memoir, Sharon A. Crawford, Writers Helping Writers, Writing