Category Archives: Genealogy

Only Child celebrates birthday

Birthday_birthday_cake_3Today is my birthday. Didn’t the Beatles have a song that started out something like that? Which would be appropriate as I was and still am a Beatles fan. And yes I went to a couple of their concerts at the old Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto and screamed my throat out – back in the mid 1960s.

Some people reflect on their year and what is ahead at the end of each year. I do some of that, but the annual birthday may be just as appropriate, if only for the “I’m getting older” factor. Birthdays are a reminder of that. When you are a senior, like me it is very mixed.

Yes, I would like to be  around 10 to 15 years later – if I could have my so-called wisdom and experience and my son would be the same age as he is now.  And be in good health and afford to live.

First the bad side of getting old and I will paraphrase my neighbour from down the street (also a senior). When I mentioned that I had been experiencing a lot of health issues the past five months, she said that this time in your life it is supposed to be when we can retire and enjoy life. She said it as if she didn’t believe it anymore.

She is right. Life in the senior lane can be awful. The body fails; the mind fails and for some people it can be very lonely. Add in living in poverty, despite all those glowing retirement ads and stories. Not all of us are rolling in money. Some (myself included) live below what Statistics Canada states is the upper level for singles (all ages) living alone.

Heck, last year when I had that dreadful boarder living here (I finally kicked her out and am glad I did), my net income was lower than the year before when she was living here only five months, not 10. Turns out she drained my electricity and water and that upped those bills.

And utility bills, with or without boarders, are high. So are property taxes and not just for seniors. Many of us live on a budget and certain things (like extra health coverage for health areas not covered by government health plans). Many of us don’t have access (via our or spouses’ retirement plans) to extra health plans, so we do without. We may have to choose one extra area to focus on. Eventually the others will fail us in old age.

And more things happen. So far my memory and forgetfulness haven’t worsened – I don’t think. On days when I have too much going on, too much bad being shoved my way to deal with, I wonder about that. That’s why I’m continually trying to prune what I do and also get rid of the clutter still left in my home. Right now I’m focusing on all the excess paper in my home office. The laundry room and storage there is next – but a lot of that is garden stuff dumped inside now that garden season is about over. I say about as there are still a few more things to do out in the garden and the weather might just be co-operating this coming weekend.

So, what do I give thanks for on my birthday? What do I still like in my life?

My outside garden obviously. In winter I try to compensate with lots of plants inside, but it’s not the same – so I do plan for next year’s garden.

My writing – particularly my Beyond mystery series and personal essays. And promoting my books. And something new I just started and enjoy – doing short skits as public presentations where I dress up as my main Beyond Blood character Dana Bowman.

Teaching writing workshops/running my East End Writers’ Group and helping and connecting with other writers.

Reading (and yes, print mainly although I do have an e-reader), walking, watching favourite TV programs and movies on TV. I’m old-fashioned enough to want to watch TV on a TV, not a computer, although I do watch short videos about the weather, gardening, health, writing and the like on the computer, also like cooking, and dining out with family and friends, going to street festivals, going into unique shops with crafts and the like (mainly “window shopping). And living in this house which I love (despite all the things that need fixing).

What do I want to do in the future?

Continue collecting info on my late father’s ancestry and reconnecting with cousins on Dad’s side of the family (particularly another one doing some genealogy research in that area), travel more – but not by plane. I don’t like all the excess security for those of us who are not security risks. I think my ex put it best when he said something about removing shoes was what got to him. But he and his current wife do still travel. Me, I want to travel more by train to Quebec province (where my dad was born), the train trip out west to BC through the mountains, and to my cousins’ in a medium-sized town in Michigan. One cousin has offered to pick me up at Windsor or Sarnia and I’m hoping to take him up on that later next year.

And more money to come in to pay for extras including house problems and travel.

I also wish for my health not to get any worse.

To tag on to the above two -house and health. If the latter gets too bad I don’t want to hang around. And I don’t want to go into a nursing home or even a retirement home. My next stop, I say, is the urn.

If I have 10 to 15 more good years (see above for what I consider good/not good), that will be fine. Living to an old age for most people isn’t worth it if you are sick in mind and/or body and are just wasting away.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under Family and Friends, Gardening, Genealogy, Health, Health Seniors, Home and Garden, Old Age, Only child, Poverty, Reading, School reunions, Seniors and Happiness, Seniors Hobbies and Interests

Only Child on mother’s dresser drawer and inheriting personal characteristics

Only Child with her parents in saner times at her grandfather's farm

Only Child age 11 with her parents at her grandfather’s farm

Do we inherit our personal characteristics from our parents? Or is it all environment or a little of both? The experts seem to be undecided, some research even pooh-poohing the genetic aspect. See the excellent Psychology Today article online at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/under-the-influence/201307/do-genes-influence-personality.

Lately I seem to be subconsciously following in both my parents’ genetic footsteps as I try to sort through the aftermath of a difficult 2013 and move forward. Until the last few days when I had sort of an extended “aha moment.”

I realized I was using my mother’s logical and practical modus operandi to budget my finances, to organize my days (both for work and other) and stay on track. What put the light bulb in my head about this was remembering Mom’s simple basic files in a dresser drawer in her bedroom. Nothing fancy but it kept her on track with her finances. She also seemed to have a plan in her head about what she did – whether sewing clothes for me, knitting, gardening or cooking and baking. Even after Dad died and her health went downhill she still retained some of this organization practical skill to keep her going. Until we actually were moving out of the house I grew up in – but that’s another story.

Mom came from a mixed bag of right brain and left brain ancestors. As the name suggests, the Strauss side members were artistic – music, painting, crafts – and not too practical. The Schefter side members were very practical and business-like. I think Mom inherited mainly that side – particularly from her father, my Grandfather Charlie – although Mom’s sewing, knitting, gardening, and even cooking bordered on the creative side.

I can’t knit to save my life but I spent a number of years quilting by hand and sewed all my maternity clothes back in 1977. Now to get me to mend anything is a big deal. Then there is my writing and gardening. The latter is definitely inherited from Mom, but the gardening environment I grew up in plays a big role too.

Besides the Strauss influence I need to go to my Dad’s side of the family – the Langevins. There is a Langevin, a novelist who lives or lived in Quebec province. No idea at this point if I’m related to him. To my knowledge my Dad didn’t get involved in artistic endeavours, although I have a vague memory that he once did some painting (the artistic kind). I do know he was a terrific house painter and he did spotless and creative painting jobs inside and outside our house. That wasn’t his profession, though. He was a time-keeper for Canadian National the railway company and became obsessive about being on time.

I’ve inherited that time-obsessiveness. I also seem to have inherited some of my parents’ temperaments. Both Mom and Dad worried a lot so I have that one big time. Dad had a short fuse and so do I. Mom thought things out a lot and so do I.

Where does that leave me? Yo-yoing in my approach to life?

Maybe that’s a good thing – combine both sides of the fence to get you through life. Whether it’s hereditary or environment or both, plus what you can bring to your life yourself from all experiences – good and bad can help you in living. From the bad (among other things) you can learn what to kick out of your life. From the good, you can learn what works and how to apply it in future. I know – good and bad are relative to each individual.

And the reference to the Langevin side of my family? One of my goals this year is to dig up (not literally) all my dad’s ancestors. Dad was born in Montreal, Quebec. I have the book Finding Your French-Canadian Ancestors to get me started and the Internet searches it suggests. Maybe even a trip to Quebec City and Montreal, Quebec later this year.

I’m saving my money for that one – using this unique weekly plan posted the end of 2013. Check out http://www.digtriad.com/news/article/263861/1/52-Week-Money-Challenge-Save-About-1400-In-2013  There is a link to a chart for those of us mathematically challenged so we know how much to put in the “kitty” each week.

What do you think about where we get our personal characteristics?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Genealogy, Hereditary, Uncategorized

Only Child looks at research in writing a memoir

Two of Only Child's many cousins. The one on the right is the Canadian family genealogist.

The upcoming Memoir Writing Workshop I’m teaching for another Toronto Public Library branch is filling up fast. That tells me memoirs are still high on the trend list. A Google search of  “Memoir Books 2006 to 2011” produced a hit list of 5,300,000.  This continuing popularity gives me hope about getting my own memoir You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons published.

What about memoir writing itself? I’ve covered some ideas on what to write in previous posts (See https://onlychildwrites.wordpress.com/2010/05/). But writing a memoir isn’t just mining from your memories. Research is involved and sometimes where to begin can overwhelm you. Do I go through all those unsorted family photographs? Do I have to become a genealogy expert? Should I talk to family members? Do I…?

Hold it right there. Before you do your version of a chicken-with-no-head, focus. Make sure you have narrowed down what you want to write about in your memoir. Subject matter will determine research. If you’re writing about an area of your childhood and/or your parents, you might want to talk to family members to get the bigger picture. Maybe someone in your family is doing the family genealogy. On my mother’s side of the family, two family members – one close (as in relationship and in distance) and one in another country are researching family history.  Neither knew about the other until another cousin met the United States-based one and connected him to the Canadian one. This connection brought out one point. The Canadian cousin was researching both the Strauss and Schefter sides of my mom’s family. The US distant cousin was researching only the Schefters. On my dad’s side of the family, a cousin once removed (I hate that expression; sounds like the person was kicked out of the family) is doing a bit of research. If I hadn’t talked to several cousins (Although I have no brothers and sisters, I am blessed with many, many cousins) I would have been blindly going where no one has to go. (Sorry, Star Trek fans. I’m one, too).

As I seem to be wearing my teacher’s hat today, let me list some of the things you can do when researching for your memoir.

a)     Sort through old photos, diaries, letters, etc. for what is relevant.

b)    Read the diaries and letters you keep out. Make some notes.

c)     Talk to relatives (the older the better), especially the family genealogist. Bring a notebook, digital recorder or laptop to take notes. Or communicate via Skype and webcam, Facebook or e-mail.

d)    Talk to people with the same last name (yours and your mother’s maiden name in particular) even if you don’t think you are related.

e)     Look at the photos and see what stories they trigger about the family and friends in them. Bring photos when talking with relatives, preferably someone in the photo(s). Or post them on Facebook or on Flickr for online checking with family members.

f)      Visit the cemetery or cemeteries where your dead relatives (including those ancestors) are buried.

g)     Look at photos of the house where you grew up and see what stories that triggers.

h)    Revisit the “scene of the crime” that old house. See if you can get an appointment with the current owners. Compare house stories.

i)       Library – (Disclaimer: I am not a librarian – ask a librarian for more info on what to look for) Some things you can use here – books on areas you want to cover. Digital and micro-fiche records of old newspapers which might have stories about your family, and the time period you are writing about. Your memory isn’t 100 per cent.  If you have a library card, you can access digital files of newspapers from your home computer. Micro-fiche records of the ownership history of the house you grew up in, or at least the lot number may also be available at your library.

k)    If you must do some genealogical research, try: http://www.genealogy.com/index_n.html and Church of Latter Day Saints  (new site) https://www.familysearch.org/ which links to (old site) http://www.familysearch.org/eng/

Those are just for starters.

And for those in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada area (shameless self-promo here) I will be teaching that Memoir Writing workshop at the Bloor/Gladstone branch of the Toronto Public Library, 6.30 p.m. March 31. Check out my website http://www.samcraw.com and/or the Toronto Public Library http://www.tpl.ca.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Cousins, Family, Genealogy, Memoir writing, Only child, Only child memoir, Research memoir writing, Teaching, Writing workshops