Category Archives: Mom and Dad

Only Child on rebooting your life

House front of my childhood home

Growing up an only child can often unleash a myriad of feelings. In me, the negative ones  were fear, loneliness, and often being the victim of bullying. My late mother used to help combat this by setting up a restful situation which I now call “rebooting my life”.

I was still in grade school, around eight years old. On sunny summer mornings when no one was around to play with, Mom would set up the card table, a chair, my big box of crayons, my colouring books and me outside on the front veranda. I could colour to my heart’s content. But more so, I got the chance to look around at the green grass which my Dad (sometimes with my help) mowed with the push mower, at the shrubs and  roses and at the quiet neighbourhood. Occasionally I heard a bird chirp. Seldom would a car whiz by on the street which I faced and never would a wasp dare to come near me – at least  not that I remember. But once in a while someone, maybe a neighbour I knew or didn’t know, would walk by on the street below. We would give each other the friendly eye and smile.

Today I do my own version of Mom’s rebooting my life. When things get overly problematic and/or busy (which they have this summer) I go out into my garden. I may dig in and remove weeds, pick berries or collect vegetables, but often I sit outside to eat my meals at the patio table in the backyard. Sometimes I sit in the shade of my neighbour’s overhanging black walnut tree and look out at the garden or read. Sometime I take photos of my garden. And yes, I do sometimes sit out front on my veranda, but I don’t colour. The recent trend (probably now passe anyway) of adults colouring in adult colouring books never caught on with me. Could be because I am a professional writer and amateur photographer. You really wouldn’t want me drawing anyway. I can’t even draw a straight line – with a ruler.

View of today’s backyard garden from patio

Dusk view from my current front veranda

However, looking back at my childhood (I know – my age is showing), I realize Mom had cottoned onto a good idea. We all need to reboot from all the stuff in our lives.

Only Child’s home and garden for her health circa 2011

Do you reboot? If you reboot, how do you reboot?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1950s, Crayons and coloring, Gardens, Life Balance, Mom and Dad

Only Child Coping with Daddy’s Cancer

Children can be more resilient and creative than adults think or maybe even the child herself. When my dad had cancer it was devastating. I was almost 10 years old when the first cancer episode happened – Daddy was diagnosed with cancer in one of his lungs. An operation to remove half the lung was supposed to stop the cancer.

It did in the lung. Two years later it had spread to his brain. He had horrible continuous headaches and was constantly vomiting. In those days (early 1960s) the only other cancer “treatment” was burn, i.e., radiation. And so my Dad back in the hospital had radiation on his brain. He wasn’t expected to live. Mom and I grew closer and one of her older sisters came to stay to “help” us out. She meant well, but wasn’t the best help to be around. However, after  some weeks the radiation seemed to work and Daddy returned home. My aunt also returned to her home. Now Mom and I had to get used to Daddy being back home and back to work and get back into the routine.

It was then that I got the idea to teach Mom to play the piano. But I never connected it to dealing with Dad and his cancer until a few years ago. So I wrote a story about this called “Don’t Look Down”. After rewriting and rewriting and after a few rejections from submitting it and more rewriting and rewriting, I submitted it again last year to The Smart Set, an online only magazine published by Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was published January 17, 2019 (and for writers reading this post, yes I did get paid. The copyright also now reverts to me at this time, as long as I state where it was first published and when, which I just did).

The story begins like this:

“Don’t Look Down

Coping and communicating through music

By

There we sat, Mom and I, side by side on the piano bench. A mirror on the panel above the keyboard reflected our fingers, perched to perform. Deadly piano-playing duo? Not quite. You see, I had decided to teach Mom to play the piano. She was in her mid-50s; I was 13.

Perhaps a grade eight history-teaching project had infected me with the teaching bug. More likely it was connected to Dad’s second bout with cancer. At the hospital, the radiation had zapped his tumor. Now he was back home and had returned to work, but Mom and I were left with the aftermath of his life/death ordeal. We needed a diversion to keep us sane in this sudden change to supposedly safe routine. Besides, my music credentials were impeccable — five years of learning Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin on our pink Roxatone-coated piano.”

You can go to The Smart Set for the full Don’t Look Down story

When you were a child did you use your creativity to cope with a horrific experience?

 

Still have the piano today. It really is pink.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1960s, Cancer Treatment, Dad, Health, Mom and Dad, Only child, Piano

Only Child resents these work time-stealers

When I was a child my mother didn’t work outside the home – until I was in high school, when she had to because my dad had cancer.  Before that when she was home she did work – albeit house and garden stuff. If she had to go to a doctor’s or dentist’s, it didn’t matter when. If the plumber had to come during the day weekdays, it didn’t matter.

Fast forward to today when many of us work from home, running our own business. I am a writer, editor and writing workshop instructor. Except for the latter and doing book promo in person, I do my work in my home office. Or at least I try.

Lately the non-work-related interruptions have been interfering with my work time. Sometimes I have to go out for them  and sometimes I have to phone them to get something straightened out with the house, ID cards, etc. Most of this stuff is not generated by me. To put it bluntly, it gets shoved at me. And it takes time, often more time than you think.

Take health-related issues, particularly dental and eyes. This spring and now summer it is my left eye. It is in bad shape. Not my fault and not the eye professionals’ fault. What is their fault is the majority of them don’t have evening or Saturday hours. So I have to waste my work-time travelling to appointments, sitting in waiting rooms (sometimes for a couple of hours) and then actually seeing the professional.

And don’t get me on the subject of government agencies who only operate on regular business hours. So you have to take your work time to renew ID cards. At least you can call the bank outside business hours if you have something that needs straightening out.

I know what some of you are thinking. “She runs her own business from home for Pete’s sake (and who is Pete anyway?). She can set her own hours.

Teddy time tracking

Well, I do. I just prefer them close to regular weekday business hours – 9.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. The only exceptions are when I do in-person book signings or presentations (usually on a Saturday) or panels or talks related to book promo and the odd writing workshop that is on an evening (most are during the day on weekdays). But in the interest of time I like to stick to regular working hours and use off hours for personal stuff, for the  most part. That would include medical. At least the medical clinic I go to has evening and Saturday hours. It is close enough to home I can even go on my lunch break.

I really resent having to use my work time doing health, house (as in getting things fixed although my handyman usually does come evenings or early mornings and except for explaining what is wrong, he usually stays out of my way so I can work) and government-related stuff, especially when clients start to wonder when I will have their work completed.

Not sure what do do about this? I do have the phone calls under some kind of control with a vm message that tells callers when I am available to answer the phone for business and personal (and I use the “We can’t come to the phone right now.” message beginning). If it is important they can leave a message or call during those hours. One friend calls anyway during my work time but not business phone calls time. I don’t pick up the phone. When I check messages I hear her apologizing for calling at the wrong time. But she should know by now. She also usually leaves a “life story” message. I have two of those that I gave up listening to and they are left as “skipped messages.” I have no idea how to delete them without listening to them. Guess I will have to borrow a phrase of another friend who is smart in her vm mail message for incoming calls. “Please leave your name, phone number and a brief message.” She adds something about limited space for vm messages. I could do a variation of that. After the first part I could add “so all callers can leave a message.”

That’s the phone. Now about all the people and organizations, etc. stealing my work time because they don’t cater to the working crowd.

As one of my friends says they need to “get on the program.”

How do you deal with these non-work related interruptions? I don’t mean life and death. An ill family member, a death in the family. These are exceptions.

Now back to my client work. This blog post  hasn’t even taken as long as the public transit ride to the eye doctor.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Life Balance, Life demands, Mom and Dad, Time management, Work Time

Gardening between the rainfalls

Mom in her backyard garden 1944

I come from a long line of gardeners and farmers. My grandparents had farms and my mom grew up on one of them. When she came to Toronto to work, met my dad and married him, when they bought their first house, the one I grew up in – they made a garden, It was like a ritual every spring and when I came along, even at four and five years of age I got into the act. Each spring, Mom and Dad turned the soil, Mom planted vegetable seeds and I helped her do the latter  – with a lot of instructions from  her. After the soil-turning, Dad looked after mowing the lawn – with a push mower.

Four-year-old Only Child ready to garden in April

I also use a push mower to cut the lawn and like my mother I have to have my garden.

But in order to have a garden, you have to be able to get out there and work the garden, remove the weeds, plant the seeds, baby the perennials coming up again.  This year it’s been raining too much in southern Ontario so I am literally sometimes out there gardening between rainstorms. Meantime, out in British Columbia and Alberta it is dry, dry and there are spreading wildfires. Somebody up there got the weather mixed up – we need the rain to fall in western Canada and eastern Canada (Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces) need some dry periods – like more than just a day, or just a few hours.

So, I’ve been slowly making my garden beautiful. At least it is green and the perennials are coming up and blooming. So is the lettuce and onions I planted.

Do you garden? How does your garden grow?

Here are a few early photos of my garden. Enjoy

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

 

 

Waiting to be planted

 

Waiting to assist with the planting

 

A few perennials among the weeds

 

Rhubarb ready to pull, cook and eat

 

Bringing some flowers inside

 

 

 

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Filed under 1950s, Gardening, Mom and Dad

Only Child says Spring is springing

Only Child’s spring garden 2018

Today, spring officially arrives. Exact time depends on where you live in the northern hemisphere. Here, in Toronto it is today at 5.58 p.m. and I plan to celebrate – not with a drink, but with buying a plant, a pansy, providing the garden centres (read Home Depot here) have some in. I want to put the plant front and centre on the small red table on my front veranda. Pansies can survive temperatures down to 26 F and it it gets too cold temporarily, I can bring the plant inside for a bit.

Back when I was a child (in the grey ages of course, i.e., mid-1950s), my mom and dad were already out in the garden digging and doing other prep work to plant vegetables – well in early April, not March. But April is coming soon. I was not far behind, waiting to get into the garden and learning what to do from my mom. Guess that’s where I got my gardening bug.

But I am doing some gardening preparations. Finally got my seed order into the seed company – as usual in mid-March. But all those problems (which still keep coming) stole and steal my time from what I want to do and need to do. Often those coincide but when the latter means fixing big problems, I resent that.

So, I hope the sun, spring and warmer weather will kill all the problems and maybe “burn” the perpetrators a little. And “burn” can be taken in other ways than fire. I don’t wish the latter on anybody.

Enjoy the spring. Meantime, here are a few photos from my gardens past to enjoy.

Four-year-old Only Child ready to garden in April

 

Only Child in her backyard patio

 

Backyard Garden 2018

 

Tulips in bloom spring 2018 backyard garden

Happy Spring.

Sharon

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Filed under 1950s, Gardens, Mom and Dad, Only child, Spring

Only Child on Losing a Parent to Cancer

Sharon at 13 with Mom and Dad

When your mother or father is terminally ill and dies when you are still a child, you lose a part of your life, but more importantly you lose a part of yourself. Your mother or your father is no longer there and the hole that was once him or her follows you around like a bad omen.

Especially if you are an only child like me. Yes, I know, I’m a senior now, but that happened to me when I was growing up. Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer at age 58 and I wasn’t quite 10. That was back in the late 1950s when the treatment options for cancer were limited to cut and burn. The link between smoking and cancer was known then, but a lot of it was hidden from public view. Tobacco companies were keeping their mouths shut about it. Here is a much later than 1950s study that covers that issue.

Dad had half a lung removed for the cancer. But that wasn’t the end of it. Two years later cancer spread to his brain and he had to cope with that for four more years. So did Mom and me. I inadvertently found a unique way for Mom and me to do so. But it wasn’t until later years when I was around Dad’s age of death , that I realized what Mom and I were doing back then. What had been foremost in my mind after Dad’s cancer returned was me pulling away from him emotionally because I was afraid he would die. Deep down that was probably something I knew. It scared me and as a pre-teen and teenager that was how I coped. I am not proud of this.

I wrote a personal essay about Dad’s cancer and something Mom and I were doing at the same time after he returned home from his second stay in hospital. The memoir piece was just published in the online magazine The Smart Set which is a publication of Drexel University in Philadelphia. Perhaps what Mom and I were doing did help, maybe even my Dad. We don’t always know or realize these things at the time.

Here is the link to “Don’t Look Down” in The Smart Set Magazine.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Only Child’s Dad when younger

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Filed under 1950s, Albert Langevin, cancer, Death and Dying, Health, Mom and Dad, Piano

Only Child on problems and anxiety

Pondering problem solving

A couple of weeks ago I had a fast lesson in something I believe in. It is something a bit off kilter from the usual psychological thinking about anxiety and problems. A lot of the thinking is on getting the anxious person to calm down, meditating, etc.

Well, folks that never worked with me because that doesn’t make the problem go away  or solve it. And I have almost a lifetime experience of being anxious and worrying. I come from it honestly – both my parents (my mother, in particular, were worry warts. Mom, could have won a prize as Biggest Worry Wart). So, maybe it is in the genes.

First, a disclaimer here – if the above don’t count as disclaimers – I am one of many people who have too many problems to deal with – often at once, at minimum one right after the other.

So, my lesson.

It really was something stupid. As often happens for whatever reason – health issues getting in the way again, too many things to do – I was running late to get out of the house and get to something very important – a TV taping for my latest book Beyond Faith on the Liquid Lunch at thatchannel.com. I am known for being really early or somewhat late, but this time I wanted to be a bit early.

After piling on all the winter outer clothing (another reason to hate winter), I raced outside. I had checked online for bus times, but of course, I got a later bus – but didn’t have to wait long for it. On the bus, I was practically having a panic attack, demanding that I get there on time to you-know-who.

For some reason I looked at my watch and had to look again.

According to my watch I was one hour early. I had to check the watch several times to make sure it was running. The second hand was going around at its usual speed, so the watch was working.

That was confirmed by the digital time at the subway station when the bus arrived there and I went down to the platform.

Somehow, while on the computer doing work before leaving I had misread the time on the computer.

Thank you, God, I said in my head.

And the worry, the anxiety suddenly left me and I felt calm and relieved and I had extra time, so stopped in a shop to get something I was going to get afterwards and did a bit of walking. I arrived about 20 minutes early – plenty of time to chat with the producer and sign the form and get inside the actual studio for the taping.

And I didn’t meditate or do any calming exercises. The problem disappeared and that was that. Not that all problems will disappear this easily. Many require a lot of work. But I still believe solving the problems is better medicine than meditation, etc.

Now, I have to apply my beliefs with two problems I now have – the guy I was paying to shovel my snow  didn’t show up this morning to shovel yesterday afternoon’s/evening’s and overnight’s snow – just under 10 cm. And of course with my precarious health, I am having more respiratory-virus related problems.

So, I will have to shovel the snow, which is not good for my health. Also I am a senior, so add that to health issues.  I may do some shoveling today and some tomorrow.

As for that snow shovellng guy – unless he is sick or his kid is sick, he will get the “gift of my wrath.” Those who follow this blog know I tend to treat people as they treat me – good and bad.

And that interview about my book? Here’s the link to where thatchannel.com posted it to You Tube. It is also archived on their website.

Meantime I’ll be doing this.

And this is how I feel about it all.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Actions Consequences, Anxiety, Health, Health Seniors, Life demands, Meditation, Mom and Dad, Only child, Problems, snow shovelling