Category Archives: Mom and Dad

Only Child and the Do Not Do List

Only Child and Dad

My late father was a fanatic about time. He would drive my mother crazy at the dinner table when he did a time check with his watch and the wall clock. But the height of his time fanaticism was when he, Mom and I went on holidays. En route to Toronto’s Union Station by cab, he always mapped out the quickest route there and insisted the taxi drive follow it. We also left a couple of hours earlier than train time and were always the first in line to get on the train. Daddy also kept an eye on all the train procedures and he was always saying “typical CNR”. I suppose he had some rights here as Daddy worked as a timekeeper for the CNR (And it gave us free train rides).

Which might explain my penchant for time, including keeping a daily “to do” list. It doesn’t seem to be helping with all the stuff I seem to have to do. I constantly run around in overwhelm, get cranky and am up way too late doing things around the house. And not getting enough sleep. It is now affecting my health. So I am putting my foot down. I decided I am doing too many different things and some have to go – or at least get postponed. I know; I’ve been this route before. But I have come up with a new idea that might work and that I would like to share.

Teddy reminding me to slow down

Starting with this month of November, I am now doing a monthly “Do Not Do” list . The list has things I will not do this month but will do next month. The list has things I will never do, including things others want me to do, and one off events that I really don’t have time to go to and aren’t important in my life, at least now. This is an ongoing list as no doubt more of these events and other things will pop up as the month goes along. It is my incentive to say the big “NO” more often and focus on what I need to focus on this month.

The big three to focus on doing this month are finish rewriting my memoir for my publisher – it is due the end of November and I am fed-up with just doing bits and pieces of it at a time. The rewrite is coming along, but I can do better. No. 2 is to catch up on the bookkeeping for this year for my writing and editing business. Number 3 is also something I’ve been doing in bits and pieces – but not just because of time, but the weather. I’m talking about preparing the garden and house for the season I hate with a passion – winter. I don’t do all the prep. myself as I have hired a fellow who cleans the eavestroughs and Mike, the main handyman. Of course I  have to organize all this and I even have hired a new fellow to shovel the snow when that four-letter stuff arrives. What they do and what I do are on a couple of “to do” lists – one for house prep. and one for garden prep.

Yesterday I was outside on a rare afternoon when it wasn’t raining. But it was so cold. Among other things I had planned to plant the rest of the bulbs, but only got one planted. However, I managed to do three things: cut down some plants hanging over into the driveway (in the way of snow shovelling), do a little more with the tool shed (I’m clearing out most of the stuff in there as the shed is in bad shape), and I brought in my mannequin, Raggedy Annie, who sits out in the front garden in the summer.

Raggedy Annie

So, from that I learned to do three things each time outside and hopefully  it will all get done in time. But it is the “Do Not Do” list that may be my saving grace. As long as I stick to it.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Home and Garden, Life Balance, Life demands, Mom and Dad, Time management

Only Child prepares house & garden for winter

Daddy & Mommy in charge of house and yard winter prep

My parents had rituals for preparing our house and garden for winter. They would do it all themselves, unless there was a plumbing problem. Dad was in charge of the windows. Back in the 1950s and early 1960s, windows were not all-inclusive. In autumn, you had to remove all the screens (we had at least a dozen) and replace them with the storm windows, stored for the summer in the garage, with the reverse in the spring. So Daddy had to climb up on a ladder and do the switch. Obviously I don’t get my Vertigo from him.

Mommy focused on clearing out the garden and finishing the canning. She canned some horrible concoction with green tomatoes (I didn’t eat them), rhubarb strawberry jam, currant jam and jelly, and pickled yellow beans, among other things. I’ve never been one to try canning as I’m always afraid of messing up and poisoning everyone. So, I stick to freezing extra vegetables and fruit and drying herbs.

Somewhere in the fall, Mom ordered a delivery of manure which she and Daddy spread on the lawn. Most of my lawn has been turned over to garden – flowers and some vegetables and herbs. So if I cut the little lawn left, I consider the job done. I focus more on bringing in the rest of the tomatoes when the weather gets too cold, which I did last evening.

One of Only Child’s pepper plants in a pot

The pepper plants (grown in large pots) are inside right now but if and as the weather warms up a bit, they will go back outside, at least for during the day. And they are still getting peppers – all sizes as they grow, mostly green, but some turning red if I don’t eat them right away.

I find there are many fall preparation for winter tasks with my house and yard – besides the garden. Although it is a bungalow similar to the one I grew up in, and windows and screens don’t need to be switched, there still seems to be more things to do. Over the weekend I finally made the list for this year. Some things have been done; some still to be done. I don’t do them all as I have a couple of handymen who do some of these jobs, like cleaning  the eaves troughs (remember, I have Vertigo and standing on a chair is as high up I climb). And one of the handymen just measured for the new bathroom window so that should be here for him to put up in a few weeks. It will be nice to have a bathroom that isn’t freezy in the winter (despite a radiator spewing out heat). I’m slowly replacing all the house windows, one every fall (can’t afford more than that at a time). Most are done, but still a few more to go.

And I have a new snow shoveller for when that dirty white stuff (snow is a four-letter word) arrives. The fellow literally landed on my doorstep looking for customers and he has a few in my neighbourhood. So hope he works out. I deserve a pleasant person who does a good job shovelling my snow after last winter’s bad experience with the Bully from down the street. It started out with the teenage son shovelling my snow – he was a recommendation from another neighbour. The teenager was fine and also friendly…until his Dad marshalled in and bullied him and me.

I’ve been talking to the neighbours at various times during and after this bad experience, and find they see Mr. Bully the same way. Good to know my journalistic skills at reading people still works, albeit after the shovelling started. Now I just need to turn psychic so I can sense what will happen before it does. My consolation is knowing that what goes around comes around. My feeling is Mr. Bully is not having a good 2019.

Now back to some yard prep including planting some of those narcissus bulbs I finally got around to buying two days ago. Here’s a fall photo from my garden taken over the weekend.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Home and Garden, Life demands, Mom and Dad, Only child, snow shovelling, to do list

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