Monthly Archives: May 2015

Only Child finds a little piece of peace

Only child in meditation mode

Only child in meditation mode

Last Saturday I visited a few buildings opened for Toronto’s annual Doors Open. Many buildings of all sorts, including some not usually opened to the public, have free access annually one weekend in May. There are so many buildings open that you have to plan your tour.

What I didn’t plan for was the peace in the middle of a too-busy city that I found at the Kadampa Meditation Centre. I have had the intent for many months to do some serious meditation on a regular basis. But the old “no time” excuse was why it wasn’t happening. However I put this meditation centre on my list for Doors Open and got a very pleasant and peaceful surprise.

As I walked down Crawford Street (and maybe there is a connection here with my last name) to get to the meditation centre, I was filled with a sense of quiet and beauty looking at all the gardens in the front yards of the old houses. Huge trees, perennials poking up from the ground, some with flowers. It was a quiet street attached to the busy Bloor St. West.

When I entered I was a little bit taken aback by having to remove my shoes. But I wore socks, so went along with it and then entered the main area on the main floor and sat down in the pew. And felt immediately at peace.

A volunteer told us about the centre and its founder, Buddhism and meditation. She also answered questions. See http://kadampa.ca/ for more details.

Then it was up the carpeted stairs to the small area where a short meditation session was to be held in 10 minutes. When the volunteer came upstairs I asked her some questions about the building and how long they had been in this location (that hadn’t come up in the talk downstairs). I found out the building was only six years old; it had replaced a crumbling old Christian church (she couldn’t remember the denomination) that had a husband and wife as pastors and after the husband died, it was too much for the wife to manage on its own. Where did the Buddhist group go during the renovation/building of their new place? She told me they met in each other’s houses in the area. It was then I realized that we were sitting in the area of the previous church’s choir loft (updated for seating for meditation). She said unfortunately they had only been able to keep a beam from the previous building as it was in such dis-repair for an old building.

I noticed that my questions came from inner peace and were calmly asked, not like I would do when I worked as a freelance journalist.

When a few more people came into the room, she started the guided meditation. I closed my eyes and listened to her soothing voice and went to peace. Afterwards I noticed how calm I was – even though I arrived at my last destination afterwards with only half an hour to spare before closing.

I did take a quick look downstairs at the temple and chatted with another volunteer. What amazed me was the place is open to the public daily even when workshops and meditation aren’t going on. That is when I decided I will be back to mediate, to sit in peace, and maybe take a few mediation workshops.

Will I become Buddhist? I don’t know. What does appeal is that this centre is not Catholic, not Christian. And as Catholicism and even many Christian beliefs have not helped me through life, maybe I have found my place.

Only time will tell.

 

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Meditation, Peace and quiet

Only Child says Carpe Diem

00240021If the unsettled weather in the world teaches us nothing else, we need to grab the good-weather summer days and get outside. (Winter is another matter, better left swept under the carpet for now).

This beautiful long Victoria Day holiday weekend in Toronto, Canada got me outside in my garden. I enjoy gardening but there is always lots to do. The trick is to pace yourself over time, even within the time span you are currently out in the garden. So I did a “to do” list, but didn’t tie myself to what I did when. I started in the front garden, but I had been already out there, 30 minutes at a time or so when possible during lunchtime, evenings on workdays the past couple of weeks. So some areas were weeded and just needed fresh topsoil and the plants planted. One area I had even put down the topsoil. As I did this, I also yanked out a few dandelions that had sprung up. My neighbour next door was rotor-tilling one area of his garden and gave me some strawberry plants. They went into the front and some in the back. Later that day when I was out only for a short walk to Shopper’s, I did what any garden fanatic would do.

Bought some more perennials I saw outside a convenience store I passed by. So I had to plant them.

The rest of the day I spent sitting outside in the backyard, reading a mystery novel and snoozing.

Sunday, was much the same – except this time I dug up the area (weeds) for onions and lettuce, put down some topsoil in the front part of the area, and planted some onions and lettuce. There is still more onions to be planted but I’ve been sneaking some of the onion bulbs in with the flowers in both front and back. I use a lot of onions and like to store the remaining ones in the root cellar in the fall, so the more the better. (But we won’t think of fall now because we know where that leads).

I’m trying to be innovative with the garden this year, partly because I’m still dealing with the aftermath of God’s winter (make that two winters) destruction outside. But we won’t think of winter now. Also I’m removing a lot of what is mostly weeds and planting new perennials. So, I have a few areas in front where it looks somewhat weedy in back and is cleared with new perennials in front. My excuse? I’m waiting to see what perennials come up from last year so I don’t dig them up by mistake. Two hostas up and spreading and those two spikes might just be the third hosta poking through the weeds.

It has been dry here lately – we got some rain Friday evening but not enough to loosen the ground where the false sunflowers are starting to come up for this year. I need to remove some of them so I can get at my compost bin and also promised Tanya and Alex next door at least once clump. And I have another place in my renovated garden for a clump too.

Oh well, hopefully next weekend. It’s getting cold again before then.

Meantime the garden club I go to is having its annual plant sale this Thursday evening. Carol and I hope to get there. I need more sedum and lavender and a new sage plant. My old sage plant didn’t make it through the winter.

Enjoy the flowers, the greenery you see around you. Remember – carpe diem – seize the day. You never know what disaster will land on you tomorrow.

 

Cheers.

 

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Carpe Diem, Gardening and depression, Home and Garden, Only child, Peace and quiet, Reading

Only Child’s thoughts on living below the poverty level

Only Child  contemplates living in poverty

Only Child contemplates living in poverty

A Google search on poverty levels in Toronto brought up this shocking information. The poverty level for a single person is $19,930 a year. That’s after taxes. Depending on your sources, that figure pertains to somewhere before 2014. See http://www.povertyfreeontario.ca/poverty-in-ontario/status-of-poverty-in-ontario/

Before or after 2014, that figure really hit home with me.

I just finished doing my 2014 income taxes in late April, so income before and after taxes was still in my mind. It turns out I am living around the poverty level for a single person – but before taxes, so I guess after taxes it is below the poverty level.

And that’s with having a boarder here most of last year – until late October – I kicked her out – with a few months leeway because according to her plan she could be here indefinitely until she found a job and was secure for six months in it. She is/was on social services (called Ontario Works here in Ontario). So the extra low monthly boarder rent income wasn’t making much difference to me as the poverty-line figure shows. My friends told me this boarder was just taking advantage of me anyway. But that’s a story for another post. At least my hydro and water bills are much less now.

I am also a senior and while I am grateful for the Old Age Pension and Canada Pension Plan, they aren’t high enough. Especially the latter, which varies with each person depending on how much you put into it when you worked. And being self-employed for the past 18 years, and before that, sporadic full employment from the late 1970s, doesn’t help increase the CPP. The Federal government does give you some extra CPP allowance (seven years I believe) to allow for raising a child from birth. There are tax credits that are doled out monthly and one in a lump sum – some are senior-specific. And I do get some alimony from my ex-husband.

My self-employment? Not as lucrative as even a couple of years ago.

The Feds also have something called the Guaranteed Income Supplement, which I signed up for when I signed up for the OAS. But I haven’t heard hide nor hare back about that – probably because your income has to be under $17,088 annually. See table at http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/services/pensions/oas/payments/index.shtml

That’s  $2,842. less than the poverty level income for a single person. Something is wrong here.

All that isn’t enough for the rising costs of living. I have health issues and take natural supplements because drugs don’t agree with my body. Yes, there are drug plans for seniors and others but you are on your own with natural supplements. The basic Ontario medical coverage gets skimpier and skimpier in what it covers and purchasing extra health coverage from private companies is too expensive.

So I end up using my line of credit to cover the more monthly expenses than money coming in. And I don’t go on shopping sprees for anything and take only one holiday a year – visiting family. I forgo a lot of entertainment (like plays and movies and some concerts) I would like to go to because I can’t afford it. Free entertainment is what I look for. Street festivals and other free events and lectures outside home. I walk a lot, garden, read (mostly books from the library but I do buy a few from writing colleagues) and do readings and other presentations with other crime authors for my Beyond mystery series. I socialize with friends, an occasional meal out – sometimes they pay – and sometimes we go to garden events (free ones) together. I am fortunate in that I have a son who helps me with computer problems and takes me out to dinner for my birthday and Mother’s Day. He is even paying for a new chesterfield for my living room – his idea at Christmas – if I can find the time to finish looking around for one.

This all makes me wonder how others with less or even the basic poverty level income, can manage. I don’t have to pay rent as I’m a homeowner (and fortunately no mortgage), although with all my utility bills needing paying this month, plus other regular monthly bills to pay, the total here came to above what my May income is. And that’s before the cash items such as food and health.

So I grow some of my vegetables and fruit in the garden.

That is if I can get someone to take me to the garden centre to get some topsoil. Another long story here for another post perhaps.

No wonder I’m cranky a lot of the time. I think I have a right to be cranky.

Cheers.

 

Sharon

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Filed under Family, Gardening, Health, Health Insurance, Health Seniors, Healthcare coverage, Income Taxes, Money, Old Age pensions, Only child, Poverty, Seniors

Only Child goes walkabout

Dowtown Toronto -  not green like Only Child's area

Downtown Toronto – not green like Only Child’s area

Last evening I went for a long walk, for almost an hour, in my neighbourhood. It is one of the two ways I exercise (gardening is my other one). With the weather recently turned spring, almost like summer, I have upped my time outside to get one on-one- with nature – the flowers, trees, and just no snow on the ground.

As I walked, I peeked at the gardens and outside the houses. There was certainly lots of greenery  – trees starting to get their leaves and the evergreens (well some) becoming  brighter green. Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths. But as I went further into areas I don’t usually cover, I couldn’t help notice two things. Not as many front lawns turned into gardens – do we really need all that grass to cut and water? And too many big mansions sprung up and in the works. Is bigger really better? At least, it is not like the condo take-over throughout the downtown Toronto core, where you have to look up up and more up to see sky and sun, the latter “glaring” off the metal and glass of the too-high condos. Their design is nothing to write home about (or anywhere else). They are so far from nature, from trees, from plants, from flowers.

This is more like it. Front of my house in spring

This is more like it. Front of my house in spring

But at least in my neighbourhood, despite a few big mansions (and I don’t call putting upper storeys on bungalows “mansions”) greenery and colour are there. And it is so peaceful (despite the odd lawn mower being used, but I do draw the line at leaf blowers).

My walk also eased some of the pains and kinks in my body and mind. Walking also helps me resolve something in my life – dealing with a client, something that has come up in the actual work, sorting out plot and character problems in my novel.

I’m not really sorting out my time problems overall. But for the time I walk, I can live in the now and enjoy what’s around me.

As long as it isn’t snow and heavy rain and winds.

I am thankful for this weather change.

Here is more information on the Top Ten Benefits of Walking daily

http://www.tescoliving.com/health-and-wellbeing/fitness/2013/october/top-10-health-benefits-of-walking-everyday

 

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Gardening, Gratitude, Scenery, Sharon A. Crawford, Trees and Shrubs, Tulips, Walking