Category Archives: Family and Friends

Pictures can help you write your memoir

 

For those of us writing a memoir or who want to do so, sometimes we get stymied. Where do we start? What do we focus on? What happened in our life that really affected us?

Of course, we may have a specific area of our life we want to focus on. But our memories can play tricks on us. Our memories can “hide” a wealth of information about our past, the people in it and our emotions during those times – even if we think we know how we felt.

So, use pictures to trigger your memory and its whole enchilada. I don’t mean just old family and friend photos. But buildings – your school, the house you grew up in, streets, transit (cars and public), old new-story photos, old ad, even cemeteries.

And even the above which may not be your family photo, may not be a streetscape you are familiar with. You are thinking of the time and what is actually in the picture and transferring it (in your  mind) to your story.

As some of you know, I teach various memoir writing workshops and courses at Toronto Public Library branches. And as the above hints at, the next one, on April 16, is called Using Your Pictures to Create Your Memoir. Most of my memoir writing workshops and courses have something about pictures, particularly those old family and friend photos. An interesting thing I keep discovering is that even if the picture is of my family or friends or me or the house I grew up in – it will always trigger some memory (not connected to me) in some of the participants.

“Oh, the picture of your dad reminded me of my dad.”

“The picture of your house reminded me of the house I grew up in.”

“That picture of your friends reminded me of something that happened with my sister/some of my friends.”

The pictures take on a generic form. And that can happen with transit and streetscapes. For example, a picture of a streetcar can bring up memories of you riding in a streetcar in the past,  lead to something (good or bad) that happened to you while riding a streetcar. Who were you with? What was your relationship to them? And taking it beyond the streetcar ride, what else happened to you and them, especially if a sibling, parent, or close friend? How did you feel towards them? Does it bring up emotions – sad, happy, angry, etc.? And this can lead to more stories with them and maybe with the streetcars. Maybe your dad drove a streetcar or a bus. What were his stories about that?

You can see where a simple picture can lead you in your memoir writing.

Here are the details of my workshop. If you are in the Greater Toronto Area and are interested in taking it, there is still time to register. And it is free. Yes, I get paid by the library for teaching these workshops.

Using Pictures to Create Your Memoir

Tue Apr 16, 2019
2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
90 mins

Location

S. Walter Stewart Library

S. Walter Stewart

In this memoir-writing workshop, author and editor Sharon A. Crawford shows how old photos, news stories, ads, streetscapes, and pictures etched in your mind can help create your memoir. Includes how to do picture research and research kick-started by pictures. Through discussion and writing exercises with feedback, you will get a start on your memoir. To register or for more information, please call 416-396-3975.

Meantime, look, really look, at the photo at the top of the post. And see where it leads you in your life.

And the picture below my signature.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Family and Friends, Libraries, Life, Only child memoir, Writing workshops

Only Child why no posts for awhile

I have not disappeared off the face of the earth, although sometimes that sounds like a good idea. But I am stubborn and determined, despite being very cranky this winter. But for good reasons – and these reasons are why it has been awhile since I posted here.

My intent is to resume posting – at least every other week and hopefully getting back to weekly postings.

So what has been in my way?

Well, one of the biggies is sporadic or no Internet access – for just over a week late in February. Even my land line went on strike off and on. Combination of old phone wires and old modem and bad luck. I got a new modem and the fibre connection – which is fine with the Internet but I don’t like it with the phone. I have to keep the modem on 24/7 so the phone will work. The 24/7 is okay but not the phone’s dependency.

What’s wrong with this picture? The modem has a battery, but if there is a power failure the battery lasts for only 4 hours. For major power outages that is not acceptable. You might be able to phone the hydro utility, a family member or friend during that time. But if for some reason you have to call the family member or friend or 911 after that and can’t… I’m a senior and need my land line to be an actual land line – not off in cyberspace land. And don’t tell me to get a cell phone – they operate on batteries, so will run out of juice. During the big power outage in southern Ontario in December 2014 (thanks to the ice storm), my landline was my lifeline to my friends and my son. There was a boarder living here then – she had a cell phone and couldn’t use it because it needed recharging.

From another era. Are we too far in the other direction?

Bell Canada smarten up here.

The other biggie is the weather in southern Ontario (and elsewhere -no one has been spared). Too much snow, too cold, mixed precipitation, rain on its own, damaging winds (fortunately the power didn’t go here in Toronto then and I had just had the new Bell fibre system setup and connected two days before). Among other things, I have had to move a dental appointment three times because of weather. It is now on hold until spring, unless it turns into an emergency. Dealing with this weather is and has been horrendous. Below are a couple of shots I took of the outside – at the beginning of one of the big snowstorms.

Above photo – recycling bins waiting to go to the curb. Hah!

 

My backyard patio – where I eat in summer.

The list goes on and on. I swear on one of my pile of mystery books that 95 percent of my problems are not caused by me – they come from what I call “outside” but I have to deal with them. From what I hear from others, I am not alone with this scenario. Many others have been hit with a lot of bad luck since January 1 of this year.

I am a Sagittarius and for 2019 Jupiter is supposed to be my ruling house, meaning lots of good things happening. Well, you astrologers and would-be astrologers, that is bunk and some of us are living proof of it.

Could it be something in the air causing all of this?  Or? (You substitute what you think here).

And what do you think anyway. How is your 2019 so far?

For the record a few good things have happened in my life this year. But the balance of good to bad (or should that be bad to good?) is lopsided. They say that into our life some rain must fall – my emphasis on the some. But we are getting hit with torrents of rain (metaphorically speaking) t seems.

So, my personal way to deal with this? Go after the big trouble-makers/big problem causers and let the rest slide. Connect with the people in my life who really care and I really care about. And

WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!

I am a writer after all. See my website for more on that.

Like author John Irving once said
“Half my life is an act of revision.”

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

Beyond Faith book cover

 

 

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Filed under Computer problems, Extreme Weather, Family and Friends, Good and Bad Luck, Life Balance, Life demands, Problems

New Year New Outlook

Teddy reminding me to slow down

I am one of many who is glad that 2018 is past, deceased, down the drain. It was a very bad year for everybody and for our planet. On my Facebook page, my New Year’s message for all is:

Happy New Year to all my family and friends. May 2019 be your best year yet and the best year yet for our world, especially earth. May we all learn how to slow down before we burn out.

That is what I base my intentions, goals, etc. on. I don’t do resolutions. Instead I do a few lists under headings such as “Want to do/have to do”, “Don’t want to do/have to do”, “Want to do/don’t have to do” and my favourite “Don’t want to do/don’t have to do”. The latter is a bit longer than other years – the first has the longest list, which is good –  it is always better if what you have to do is also what you want to do. What is on my list is for the whole year and I don’t intend to do all at once. But it helps me realize what I have not been doing and what I have been doing too much of. And the focus is on CHANGE.

And no, I’m not going to list the whole she-bang. Just a few highlights.

I have not been able time-wise to do as much reading as I like and enjoy – so that is on the want/have to do list. So is something that has been eating away at my psyche and my health for a few years.

Those of you who follow this blog have probably read my occasional posts where I complain about water getting into my basement sometimes with heavy rainfalls and why it happens. In 2018 a friend offered to pay to get the waterproofing done and so I interviewed five prospective contractors who specialize in waterproofing the basement. But there are two black walnut trees near the house and on my neighbour’s property – trees neither of us planted – the pesky squirrels did it. As digging is required for outside waterproofing and I was concerned about tree roots, I decided I better get in an arborist to look at the tree situation. I kept my next door neighbour up to date on everything.

The arborist came and said the trees had to come down. He was going to charge a  ridiculous fee, plus there is a permit to get, etc. etc. – so  more fees BEFORE the waterproofing could be done. No way did I want my friend paying for trees to come down – she had offered to pay for the waterproofing and I was grateful for that. Anyway, for other reasons, both my next door neighbour and I do not want the trees to come down (shade, etc.) – they have been trimmed in the past by another arborist (who didn’t return my calls to do an assessment).

These trees weren’t big enough to be in the way when the original contractor, one Nigel Applewaite, did the job and did it wrong. He didn’t dig down to the weeping tiles like you are supposed to. I distinctly remember him telling me then that he was digging down four feet (weeping tiles are 5 to 6 feet down at least). Of course, then I didn’t know any better.

The first two years no water got in and then it did – obviously from below where he stopped digging. After he told me to get the drains checked (I did – city workers said they were clear), he ran the hose against the wall in one area to see if any water got in (not from that spot)  and that was it. Never heard from him again.

So I’ve been letting people know not to hire him because of what he didn’t do – including my insurance agent’s manager when her basement flooded for the same reason. “Don’t hire Nigel Applewaite” became my mantra for all.

Well, I’m still suffering thanks to him. So, this year I’m going after him – all legal. I have some options up my sleeve for this.

The rest of my intentions for 2019 are not nasty unless you count dropping so-called friends who betrayed me in 2018. But from that and other experiences I have learned to treasure my true friends and to try to spend more time with them. To that end I am cutting back or deleting some of the unnecessary time-wasters from 2018. Or just saying “NO” to what other people think I should do.

 

I will still be writing (more than in 2018 I hope), doing book promo for my Beyond mystery books, editing clients’ manuscripts and teaching writing workshops. All that will be  covered on my author blog here. But I probably won’t get to this week’s post until tomorrow (Jan. 4, 2019). But posting weekly to both my blogs (as I used to before forces outside me took over it seems), is one of my 2019 intentions

So, happy, prosperous, joyful, productive, peaceful, etc. 2019 to all.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Basement Flooding, Family and Friends, Life demands, New year's resolutions, Only child

Only Child says don’t order me around

My Mom and Dad

When I was a child my mom and dad told me what to do. And so they should – that was part of their job being parents. Fast forward too many years to now and people are still telling me what to do – or trying to. I’m a senior and should be able to make up  my own mind, including weighing in on pros and cons of different situation.

That doesn’t mean I don’t ask for help, for suggestions from friends and family – the big word here is “ask”. It is the unsolicited advice – sometimes almost like orders I’m talking about.

That also doesn’t mean that I don’t listen to experts talk/suggest in well, their area of expertise. For example, with my handyman, Mike, if I call him in with yet another house repair problem. Sure, we can get into a discussion. But I listen to what he says and will probably have him do what he suggests – as long as I can afford it. Sometimes, the work just gets postponed until I can afford it – like the old rec room window that last month just started letting water ub during heavy rainfalls. That’s a closed window, folks.

And for medical/health advice, I listen to the experts and read expert info – although in the end,  a lot of that is up to me. But I don’t pretend to know everything. As a former journalist I am very familiar with the word “research” and do lots of that.

It’s when people who think they know what I should do start in. For example telling me to get the basement waterproofed now. When I explain there is the window to see to first, then they try to draw up a schedule for me to get it all done. They know I am a writer and have my third Beyond mystery novel to promote, etc., etc., so…

News flash: I don’t have a husband or any other type of partner. I’m in this myself so that means I have to do and/or organize everything in my life.

Not that I wouldn’t want some help and sometimes friends gift me their help – but they are not ordering me around. My son is also a big help, not just with computers but with a few practical things that surprise me. But he doesn’t push it.

Tbe big one that really gets my goat is this: If I am having so many house problems why don’t I sell it and move into a condo?

Oh, For you-know-whose sake! Is that the answer for us seniors living in our own homes? To those  who think this, I think “Get a life – preferably yours, not mine.”

Throughout my life I  have lived in apartments, townhouses, two-storey houses and bungalows. I live in a bungalow now and it’s the only type of home that appeals to me. So, I have a short answer for these meddling busy-bodies who ask “Why don’t you sell the house and move into a condo?”

Because I would rather be dead than give up my garden.

That shuts them up.

Sharon on patio backyard garden

Of course I have more practical reasons. But I am tired of going into them.

So, I say, I am a senior and as long as my brain is still working, I think I can decide what to do and when to do it. And I reserve the right to change my mind or move the timing of it and when to ask for help.

What do you say?

How do you deal with unsolicited advice to well, run your life?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Aloneness, Decision Making, Family and Friends, Garden, Help and Support, Life Balance, Only child, Problem solving, Seniors

Only Child needs a time management boost

Only Child and her Dad on the veranda of house where she grew up.

My late father used to sit at the kitchen table and re-set his watch based on the wall clock above the table. At dinner time. It annoyed my mom no end. But Dad was timekeeper for CN Railways (then CNR), so what did Mom or I expect?

I’ve inherited Dad’s penchant for keeping track of time and the related getting things done. Dad may have been better at it than me, and I don’t think it has anything to do with keeping the watch regulated – at least for me.

Despite going through the annual goals, etc. list (including purging unnecessary tasks, etc.), I am still in a big stage of overwhelm and spending too much time doing what isn’t a priority for me. Lots more has to be deleted from what I do and lots more has to be shoved onto the back burner, some maybe indefinitely and then eventually scrapped when I can stop holding onto them and let them go.

And letting go of the guilt that goes with dumping things you do, and even people, from your life. The latter sounds harsh, but I have had to evaluate who in my life I need to well, dump. This includes the obvious people I don’t like and/or we have nothing in common.

But I also have to consider where our values don’t jive. For example, being a responsible person and keeping promises is very important to me. So is being decisive. Here, I’m talking about something as simple as two friends deciding to meet at a specific event at a specific time, and one waffles either about if she will get there as she has so much else to do – or promising she will meet there and then she never shows up and I don’t get a phone call about it.

This the modus operandi of one of my so-called friends. There was even another friend involved for one event. Friend No. 2 and I were to meet the irresponsible one at at the annual Zoomer’s Show. The two of us waited and waited outside the show area for ages and guess who never showed up. At least we were waiting inside.

Let’s face it – stuff happens beyond our control. High on the list are getting sick and bad weather. But these are exceptions.

Also on my list is something that is harder to deal with but is a big time waster – problems that come from outside me and yes,  outside my friends and my relationship. Problems from utilities, governments and insurance companies. In most cases, they have caused the problem but I’m stuck with trying to get it straightened out. I can’t exactly cancel using the utility, or not pay my taxes, etc. Unfortunately, these things take time, my time.

And I resent it.

So, I’m going through my goals and the like again and weeding out more.

My health depends on it.

And dealing with health issues is another time-waster. However,  I have taken the recourse of doing what I have to do for my health – but if it is beyond what normal healthy people do for their health, then I do it when it is convenient for me. At least that’s what I’ve been trying out the past few months. Yes, sometimes I forget the damn eye drops, but you know, if it was safe to put one type of eye drop (three prescriptions although two are together), right after the other instead of waiting five or 10 minutes for the second drop, it would help. I don’t have time to stand around for five or ten minutes, so I go on to something else.

Then, forgot to put in the damn eye drops.

And don’t get me into wasting a half day at the ophthalmologist’s – two and a half hours minimum  in the waiting room. I have politely spoken to her about it, even suggested she hire another ophthalmologist, but that didn’t sit too well with her.

Do any of you have any ideas on time management? How do you manage your time in your daily living?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Family and Friends, Health, Life Balance, Life demands, Only child, Prioritizing, Time management, Uncategorized

Only Child on Christmas present

Martin and Juni by Christmas tree

I play all the Christmas songs over and over again because they  may be our only hope for good times in this world, not just during the Christmas season but in 2018. And since I promised in last week’s post that this week ‘s post would deal with what Christmas means to me today, here goes. Things have definitely changed. The only magic about Christmas is in those songs and the Christmas (new and old) movies on TV. So, I’m going to do a summary of some of the things that got messed up in my lead-up to Christmas and well, on Christmas Day too. It serves as an example, personally, but sadly some of it is the way it is elsewhere.

1. I got sick with a throat infection including a cough December 11. It lasted about a week. I had to cancel going to the Christmas dinner held by the writers networking group I belong to. Turns out three others were just getting sick and probably not going.

2. That same week I was sick, we had some rain mixed with snow and because some snow was already on the ground, some water got in the basement in the corner by the entrance from driveway to backyard. Not the usual place for water to get in and not anything to do with the contractor who messed up waterproofing on the other side. Just weather and we know who controls that and it’s not The Weather Network or Environment Canada. So I had to get the handyman in to add heating cables to the outside of the downspout. Now I go from roof heating cables to downspout cables as turning both on at the same time will cause the circuit breaker for that area to kick in and I lose power in that area of the house – inside and out.

3. I decided to take two weeks off from client work and book promo from December 19. Because of the house crap and being sick I got behind in getting the little bit of food and two more Xmas presents I still had to buy. Because I don’t have a car it was numerous trips on public transit  three afternoons in a row. I ended up returning home in rush hour which was particularly slow and miserable  the third day because some of the subway service was cut out for a few hours a someone jumped onto the tracks at a subway station. While I usually have empathy for someone so troubled they want to end it all, that doesn’t extend to jumping in front of a train because it messes it all up for thousands of commuters. Enough said here.

4. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We already had a white Christmas from a previous recent snowfall and didn’t need anymore. But I guess God decided otherwise. Christmas Day I got out there to shovel at least the veranda and enough of the driveway so my son could get his girlfriend’s dad’s car in. But it was too much and I was out of breath and shaking my fist at the sky. When Martin phoned I told told him about the situation and he said just to shovel a narrow path for them to get in and he would shovel the driveway, which he did with Juni’s help around the back of the house. But not before…

5. The power suddenly went out late Christmas morning. “No! No! No!” I yelled, shaking my fist at the sky and telling God to get the power back on – after all it is Christmas Day and as I found out when I called Toronto Hydro – it was widespread in East York and Scarborough parts of Toronto. For once God must have heard (must be because of many thousands of people affected) – power went back on five minutes later, so I adjusted the only two electric clocks I have in the kitchen. Then the power went off again and I did my fist-shaking at the sky scenario again. But it came back on two minutes later and stayed on. But I left the wall clock as is,  hanging crookedly, just in case.

These are just a few things. You didn’t want me to summarize them all – that would be at least a book chapter. But, if you go through them, you can see that at least four of them are representative of what is going on in the world today. Some places in Canada, and elsewhere, got worst weather and had longer power outages. And not just at Christmas. This is a year long thing and is indicative of the world going to hell (or should that be heaven?) in a very over-sized basket.

And then there are the crowds shopping before and after (Boxing Day sales – I no longer do the latter) although online buying is helping to diminish the in person shopping and crowding. Getting sick with viruses and other things is way up in winter all over. For example, the Weather Network’s graph of flu occurrences shows widespread in southern Ontario. And that’s just one area. It looks like the world is killing us. Because of all this, personal and worldwide, church attendance and religion (except for the extreme fanaticism) is down. With the weather New Year’s Eve and Christmas Day, attendance was lowered it even more.

Okay, there was one bright spot at Christmas – Martin and Juni spending Christmas Day here with me. We exchanged presents and had good conversations sitting in the living room near the tree. (See photo above for my tiny not real Christmas tree – rather appropriate but more because my tiny house has no room for big trees). Dinner which I cooked was good – we cleaned our plates and dessert dishes – despite me overcooking the brussel sprouts and the chicken – which I had placed upside down in the roasting pan. Martin had brought the fresh strawberries I had asked him to bring in case I didn’t get the apple crisp made. I did make the crisp on Christmas Eve. So we ate some strawberries with ice cream for dessert and I sent some of the apple crisp in a plastic container home with them.

Martin also did some updating/upgrading of the operating system on my Mac laptop – which took four and a half hours but he just had to check it occasionally for the downloads and then do the installation. They also got here safely and back home safely.

So all that made my Christmas. The rest is all true over the world. Unfortunately. God needs to listen to us and help us. Clearly, we aren’t doing it right and maybe can’t do it alone. I’m not holding my breath, though. I am someone who has learned from experience and what I have learned doesn’t bode too well for planet earth.

But let’s hope I’m wrong. May 2018 be better for all of us.

Next week I’ll go into New Year’s Resolutions, with a twist.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Sharon and Martin Christmas Day

 

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Filed under Christmas, Christmas stress, Church Attendance, Extreme Weather, Family and Friends, Only child, Problems, Snow, Winter Weather, World Environment

Only Child on writing a memoir using the senses of smell and taste

Mom and Only Child in Backyard

The senses of smell and taste often go together – at least where food is concerned. There are, of course, some smells you definitely don’t want to associate with any taste – like a skunk’s smell.  But maybe that will bring in some taste in your memory. It does for me.

A friend of mine always had at least one dog. And one of these dogs was forever colliding with a skunk. You can imagine the stinky and messy results. My friend used to try to remove the smell by bathing her dog in tomato juice.

Tomato juice is a taste I like and it brings back some memories – my mother growing tomatoes. My mother making some God-awful relish from green tomatoes. My mother calling me to the side door of our house where she stood on the other side with a large tin can in her hand and showing me what was inside the can. Not tomatoes she had picked, but horrible green tomato worms. I remember her laugh here.

So you can see how taste and smell can work together to trigger something from your past. That something might just be a story you want to include in your memoir.

For those writing a memoir, using the six senses to kick start your memoir is one way to get your mind, feelings and emotions (latter two very important) back in your past.

When you walk into a Tim Hortons and smell the coffee, what does that remind you of? And when you taste the coffee? Does that enhance your memory?

This Tuesday, November 21 I’m teaching another workshop on Kick starting your memoir using the six senses. This time I’m at the Forest Hill Library Branch in Toronto. There is still room in the workshop for participants for anyone living in the Toronto Ontario Canada area who is reading this before the workshop time  (2 p.m. to 3.30 p.m.) and day. You can either phone the library at or just show up. More details here.

I’m posting this a day early because the workshop is Tuesday, when I usually post to Only Child Writes.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

Sharon’s backyard garden. No green hornworms on my tomato plants.

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Filed under 1950s, Family and Friends, Home and Garden, Memoir writing, Writing