Category Archives: Problem solving

Streamlining my life or why no blog post last week

Only Child is doing this in her life

Life is getting too complicated and I am running around in overwhelm too much lately. That is why I didn’t even have time to write my weekly blog post here last week. This is the first time ever I have missed doing a blog post. I also missed doing my author blog post last Thursday. A lot of it seems to be things coming at me from other people and other things – what I supposedly can’t control

Well, maybe I can. If something or someone is stealing my time with their demands, maybe it is time to dump them or dump the organization I’m involved  in or at the very least cut back on what I do when for them. Because what is happening is I am not doing what I want to do because of all this outside stuff coming in.

Last Friday I started to draw the line and did that with someone who was actually helping me and the writers’ group I run with all the stuff to get a special event going. But she does want things done right away. I can’t do that anymore so emailed her that I can’t deal with anything related to that until Monday. She was fine with that and I am grateful that she has been dealing with the city bureaucracy involved in one aspect of it. In fact another organization had the same problem with the city so I’m wondering if it isn’t the same city jerk there causing all the problems.

I am also emailing a potential new client that I cannot evaluate her manuscript until fall  – originally I had estimated June but I just  finished the third rewrite of Beyond Faith and am now back to doing a very heavy edit for the novel of a very understanding client. I had also suggested this this PC (potential client) could also go to another editor near where she lives and someone she, as well as I, know. When I didn’t hear back either way from the PC I presumed she had gone to the other editor. Meantime a repeat client emailed me that she would like me to do another evaluation of her manuscript since she has rewritten it based on my previous evaluation – of course for a fee. Not hearing anything from PC and realizing that my considerate client’s ms was again behind schedule (he knows and is not upset), I gave her a tentative July to meet with her. However, imagine my surprise when last week PC emailed with wanting to email the manuscript, although she did ask if she could email it now. As for fee (and I had mentioned that in my previous email), she mentioned she could mail a cheque or a gift card. Huh. No way for the latter and I don’t just start an editing job without a deposit and without a signed contract.  Guess I will have to email her this week. And if she decides to get another editor, that’s fine with me. Today I also have the handyman here fixing house and property stuff plus deal with the writers’ event planning and do some more editing on the considerate client’s manuscript.

You can see some of the stuff I’m dealing with, some which I don’t really have time to deal with. Last night was the first night  in months I got seven hours of sleep – if you count the half hour I fell asleep watching the news and weather on TV. Sleep is important to me and I’m tired of being tired and not being able to think straight some times.

So, in my quest to decide what to scrap, what to cut  back on, what to put in pending indefinitely I am re-reading this wonderful book by Elaine St. James called Living the Simple Life. She has other books in the same vein and I have one of them – if I can find it in my overfilled bookshelf by my bed. Although the book is written in the mid 1990’s, it is still relevant – she does a whole list of possible time stealers for people and except for Publishers clearing house junk  mail, she is right on. Yes, email and the Internet are on her list, but we can just add more up-to-date time -stealers like our cell phones and other devices and social media. Her chapters are simple and short and very helpful and you can pick and choose which chapters to read.

So with Elaine’s help and my determination (and stubbornness and persistence) I am going to cut the crap and try to live doing things one foot at a time, one thing at a time and where possible I decide the priority. If people don’t like it they can lump it.

And that’s enough cliches for now.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Garden serenity when things get hectic

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Filed under Decisions, Overwhelm, Planning, Prioritizing, Problem solving, Uncategorized

Only Child ponders wisdom of longevity

Sharon office 2014-04-19As we boomers escalate towards older and old age, what may help us live longer becomes a big concern. But is it all worth it?

Lifestyle looms large as a positive factor. Studies show that if we eat healthy, exercise enough, don’t smoke, get enough sleep, avoid/manage stress, we can extend our life. Sounds good? Right?

Not exactly. As with everything in living I have learned the hard way that there are mitigating circumstances. We might be able to control the no smoking, but the others? And why didn’t I include exercise in what we can control? Because many people have diseases, injuries that get in the way of enough exercise to help them.

What about eating healthy? We can do this until the cows come home, but as we age, our bodies don’t absorb nutrients as well. Then there are the medical conditions, such as IBS, that make nutrient absorption even less.

Getting enough sleep is a big issue with us older folk. I’ve covered this in detail before, but in a nutshell as we get older we find it more difficult to get the 7 to 8 hours sleep we need.

Then there is stress – that is the biggie. Stress will directly or indirectly reduce life spans. How many heart attacks are caused by stress? How much sleep is lost because of stress?

Stress is a catchall phrase. Actually there are stressors which cause the stress and stress which includes our reaction to the stressor attacking us. Experts talk about managing stress but I wonder if they are referring to the stressors or our reaction or both?

I have learned that you cannot manage most stressors. Or should that be “control” stressors. My experience (and that of many people I know or read about) is that a large percentage of stressors come from what I call “outside.” That is, we don’t cause these stressors to well, happen to us. And despite what I have blogged about before, God is not responsible for a lot of our stress. Human stupidity and technological problems (for want of a better word) are.

Let me give a few examples. If I dawdle around and don’t take care to be ready to leave on time for somewhere, so leave late and worry about arriving late, I’m causing the stressor. If I run into transit problems, that’s not my fault. No matter what time I leave I can hit transit delays. However, if I get myself ready so I leave early enough to allow for transit snafus, I can control the stressor/stress to a certain degree.

Errors in utility bills, life insurance premiums, computer problems, continual missed garbage pickup (all of which I have experienced) are examples of human stupidity and/or technological problems causing stressors/stress.

Then there is the cancer cause. A recent John Hopkins School of Medicine study shows that only one third of cancers are caused by environmental issues and genetic factors. The other two thirds, the study shows, are caused by what they call “bad luck.” I call it the “God factor.”

According to the study, that can explain why some people who never smoke get lung cancer and some people who smoke a lot never get cancer. (See the article at http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/twothirds-of-cancer-cases-caused-by-bad-luck-johns-hopkins-medicine-study-20150102-12gs7g.html or info on the John Hopkins Medicine website http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/bad_luck_of_random_mutations_plays_predominant_role_in_cancer_study_shows)

That’s scary. All the lifestyle changes to healthy won’t keep cancer way. I’m not saying to drink regularly until you pass out or smoke five packs of cigarettes a day and forget about exercising. I’m saying to live a healthy life but never take diet, exercise, sleep, etc. as lucky charms to keep cancer at bay. Won’t work.

Personally I believe that if we could keep much of the stressors and resulting stress out of our lives we .could live happier more content lives. Not easy when most stress comes from outside.

We can try to work around this stress. We can look at our over-busy lives and see what we can delete, delay or ignore. Be selective in what stressful situations you are going to tackle and what you can ignore or better yet, delete from your life. For example, last fall I evicted the horrible boarder living here. When someone pushes me on the subway (providing it is not towards the ledge), perhaps I can ignore that. The other stuff, the real crap in my life coming at me, I’m trying to deal with it one thing at a time, based on urgency and emergency – if possible. The rest go on hold, if only for a few days.

And the hell with what the people causing the stressors think about it.

It’s not easy. And I’m not sure I want to live into my 90s or even 80s – unless you are like actress Betty White. She just celebrated her 93rd and is going strong.

How many seniors are like that?

Not me and I’m still in my mid-60s and dealing with 10 health issues – those that I know of.

Maybe the answer is to try to live your life as fully as you can now.

I’m just saying.

What do you say? Comments please.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, Baby boomers, cancer, Computer problems, Delay tactics, God, Health, Health Seniors, Life Balance, life spans, Malabsorption, Old Age, Only child, Prioritizing, Problem solving, Problems, Seniors, Sharon A. Crawford, Sleep and Seniors, Sleep deprivation, Stress, Uncategorized

Only Child hits the stress factor

Only Child's relaxing corner  in the backyard - when the garden finally flowers

Only Child’s relaxing corner in the backyard – when the garden finally flowers

There are many studies and articles about how stressed-out we are. It seems to be the norm to be over-busy and stressed out. It’s the so-called remedies that I don’t agree on. One in particular – change your attitudes on your life.

Yeah, right. As if that would get rid of the stress in your life. If it would work, I would try to change my attitude. However, as I mentioned in last week’s post, as one stressor goes, another one pops up to take its place.

Let’s consider changing your attitude. There is a big risk here of going into denial, i.e., you don’t have any problems so you don’t solve them. You might also fall into the Pollyanna attitude. And we all know what happened to Pollyanna. In the 1960 Disney movie of the same name, Pollyanna fell from a tree and was crippled.

So attitude change won’t work for me.

I’ve decided on a three-prong approach:

1. Take a long hard look at just what my stressors are and try to eliminate what I can. I know I said that one will pop up as one is deleted. But there just might be some that can go for good – so that would be one or two less included in the stressor list.
2. Learn to relax – that’s the biggie – but meditation has helped me in the past. It won’t eliminate the stress but might help the cortisol level and my immune system. Because of some physical medical conditions, I already have a compromised immune system and stress capulted it into high gear. No wonder I’m having a hard time getting rid of a viral respiratory condition in my neck and cheek glands, which started as sinusitis and is threatening to include that again. Here, my garden (whenever this weather decides it is actually spring – plants are about a month late this year) can help, both gardening and sitting in the garden and reading.
3. Solve the damn problems – and pick and choose wisely, which ones to tackle. And try not to tackle all at once – if it can be helped.

Here are a few articles and studies on ways to eliminate or reduce stress. I don’t necessarily agree 100 percent with them, but here they are anyway.
Stress and Positive Attitude
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950
Stress and Aging http://www.economist.com/node/18526881
And my favourite – Eliminating Stress Brings Pain Relief
http://www.everydayhealth.com/pain-management/stress-and-pain.aspx

 

How do you tackle stress? Is it killing you? I’d like some comments.
Cheers.
Sharon A. Crawford

 

Only Child Writes
Sharon A. Crawford teaches memoir writing workshops and courses in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Her next workshop, Getting Your Memoir off the Ground is Saturday, May 10, 2014 at Hugh’s Books and the Studio @ Hughs in east end Toronto. If you are in the Toronto area and want to learn more about writing memoir, this might be the workshop for you. More details on at http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/SpeakersBureau.html

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Filed under Gardening, Healing through gardening, Health, Only child, Overwhelm, Pain, Problem solving, Problems, Sharon A. Crawford, Stress

Only Child cranks up the worry wart feature

Me in 1950 - up against the barbed wire fence, a good analogy for worrying

Me in 1950 – up against the barbed wire fence, a good analogy for worrying

Lately I’ve been worrying a lot – maybe more than usual. The poverty issue (see last week’s post), work-related concerns (some of them $$$$-not-coming-in issues), and living with a boarder who has so much stuff. I live in a tiny bungalow as many of you will know from previous posts showing  a picture of the outside of my house. So I tend to gravitate towards my tidy room, somewhat tidy office (which we share – no problem with that part), living room and outside in my garden. Now that there are tomatoes, turnips and carrots in the garden, just bringing them in to eat is positive – it digs into the poverty part and also nurtures the soul and the body.

Worrying can affect your mental and physical health. I know that. But I find if I don’t worry about something then something catastrophic happens. I’m not saying you should worry about everything but going along in life that everything will be okay, why worry, doesn’t cut the cake or even the bread for me.

In the article “Steps to End Chronic Worrying” by Denise Mann http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/9-steps-to-end-chronic-worrying, experts weigh in on worrying. They say that the worriers get it genetically. I grew up with two worry warts – my dad and my mom, especially Mom. The experts also say it can be your environment and give the example that if your mother didn’t nurture you and provide a safe haven for you, that can do it, too. Right. Blame poor Mom for everything. No mention of Dad. My dad had cancer for six and a half years of my childhood and finally died of brain cancer when I was 16. That will pull the security rug out from under anyone.

The article also says worriers tend to see their doctors more often. Not me – at least not for the last few years. My doctor is an insensitive jerk and if I could afford a naturopath (not covered by Ontario’s primary health care system) I would see him or her regularly. So, I read a lot about health and try to live a healthy life…yes, even with worrying. Worrying often motivates me to do something about the situation. Solve the problem now – that’s my mantra. Of course, when you are “blessed” with too many problems at once, you are overburdened.

Living with uncertainty is another area covered in this article. It uses the example of worrying about getting cancer. Despite my dad’s dying of cancer, so far I have rarely worried about getting cancer. There are too many other problems in my life to worry about.

One interesting thing I read – if you cry or get angry you are not worrying. I do a lot of the latter – much of it based on the actual worries I’m dealing with. I also do a lot of weed-pulling in the garden and the weeds get names of people or things causing the worries.

Worrying has taught me a few things:

  1. There is uncertainty in life but instead of accepting all uncertainty and going on your merry way (we all know what happened to Pollyanna in the Disney movie), it is better to try to obtain some certainty with these issues. For example, face some of those demons.
  2. Worrying brings to my mind more clearly the problems I have to deal with and I have to deal with them pronto.
  3. Worrying brings out the anger sometimes and that can lead me to focus that anger on the person or issue that is angering me. Again, face those demons.
  4. And stop blaming Mother for your worrying habits. That’s a copout.

I’m interested in how all of you deal with worry. Do you agree with any of the points in the article mentioned above?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Aka Ms Worry Wart

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Decisions, Life demands, Mom and Dad, Money, Only child, Poverty, Problem solving, Problems, Sharon A. Crawford, Stress, Worrying

Only Child’s Creativity comes from where?

Only Child’s late Mom – a creative influence

I’m continuing in this creativity vein from last week’s post. There are other areas where my creativity has saved me many times in many areas of my life – problem-solving, juggling clients, and of course writing.

This got me wondering. Just where did my creativity come from?

My mother? She tended to take after the practical side of her family – the Schefters and was good in the business and budgeting end. However, she was also a Strauss (no relation to the 1800s’ composer Johannes Strauss – but our Strauss ancestors came from the same Black Forest neck of the woods). Mom’s creativity showed up in how she approached honesty and got me involved in it. In my memoir, Chapter 5 , “Mom’s Ten Rules of Honesty,” Mom was determined that I would get my just desserts, so she created this story.

“Eat your dessert or the police will come and get you,” Mom says. She points to the front door and nods her head like I better do it or else the Black Maria will roll up the driveway and scoop me up into its dark interior.

I stare down at my bowl. Stewed huckleberries and apples. Black smashed berries and their dark juice seep through the apples. Yuck. Smothering the stew in vanilla ice cream can’t hide the taste of huckleberries, a taste that sits in the middle between sweet and bitter. But Mom insists on growing these strange berries in her garden.

“Sharon, did you hear me?” Mom gets up from the kitchen table, scurries into the living room and stares out the front window. “Oh, I can see a police car coming up the street; it’s turning into the driveway.”

I start to shovel the mixture down my throat. Then I jump up and take my turn at the living room window. Down the street, Mare’s father cuts his front lawn; Mrs. Armstrong sits on her front veranda, with her collie dog at her feet, and a couple of finned cars cruise up the road towards the dead-end street. Our driveway at 139 lolls in its usual empty state. When I finally get the nerve to look straight down at the veranda outside the window, all I see are the two Muskoka chairs – vacant. (Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2012 Sharon A. Crawford).

Mom was also supportive of my creativity – writing and teaching. Maybe that’s partly it – heredity and support. The rest is my own doing.

I try to live my life creatively. When you are an “only person” and have to depend on yourself, you have to be creative. Finances and budgeting are especially important. Sure, there are financial planners and advisers and I do get advice from the experts. But I have to decide how to bring in the money and how to use it best. Sometimes I do well at it and other times not so well. Perhaps the biggest most recent hurdle was last December when I had to live on under $1,000 – including “stealing” from the money saved to pay off my glasses when the year’s financial payment grace period ran out. Fortunately that turned into 13 months because of the timing of ordering my glasses the previous year and Sears billing date.

It also meant working hard to get more clients so in January things turned around and I got out from under.

Juggling clients when you are running your own business also requires creativity. I’ve had to learn tact (definitely not inherited from Mom), time management (still learning), and when to say “no” (especially to clients and would-be clients who want freebie work done). Then there is the bane of most of us unless we live in the dark ages – computer problems. I can’t solve most of mine – but I use my creativity to figure out what to do (after swearing a lot) – call in a computer techie, figure it out for myself, etc.

House and property problems require the same type of creativity – to do or to delegate. I do both but the former has tried my creativity and I’ve learned that sometimes what you think you can’t do, you can. However, I still won’t climb up on a ladder beyond my height (5’ 1”) because of Vertigo. That’s being practical so I can survive to be creative.

What are some of the ways you live creatively?

I may delve more into creativity in next week’s post.

Meantime, take a look at my latest creative effort – my debut collection of mystery short stories Beyond the Tripping Point. Click on the book cover below for more information.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Only Child aka Sharon A. Crawford’s debut short story collection

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Filed under Beyond the Tripping Point, Budget and budgeting, Computer problems, Decisions, Living alone, Memoir content, Mother, Only child memoir, Problem solving, Sharon A. Crawford, short story collection

Only Child cut off from communication

Only Child wonders if we should go back to simpler technology, like the rotary phone

Both my phone line and Internet suddenly went dead yesterday. I’d spent most of the morning emailing and then stopped to put dinner in the crockpot, something I should’ve done earlier. When I returned to the computer I couldn’t get to any website on the Internet. Then the ISP reboot menu popped up. But rebooting didn’t work this time (It has before). I picked up the phone. Dead. So were the extensions. So I panicked.

I felt like I was living a version of the new TV series Revolution but the electricity, gas, and water continued to function. Some of you may know I don’t have a cell phone. I refuse to be plugged in 24/7 and on a practical level I cannot afford the high cell phone rates charged in Canada.

I don’t remember the phone service being cut off for any reason when I was a child. Ever. Even during the big electrical blackout of 1965 on the northeast coast of the United States and going into Ontario, the phones worked. That was back in the grey ages when everything wasn’t electrical. Fast forward to the big blackout in Ohio and Ontario in August 2003 and my phone still worked – providing I used the “old fashioned” wall phone in the kitchen. If I had tried the electrically-connected phone in my home office, then I might have disconnected the phone service.

The situation gets weirder. I ran to my friend’s across the street (the one next door wasn’t in). Maybe just as well as the one across the street has the same telephone service provider as I do and next door doesn’t. The former’s phone worked fine and I booked a technician to come and fix the service for later yesterday.

I returned home to more weirdness. The Internet was now working. Okay. But so were the phones. (I have a DSL service which splits the Internet and phone service so if one is down the other usually isn’t). So I had to contact the phone company repair again to say – “It’s working.” But I requested the technician come anyway to check all the wires. They complied because I have phone care warranty. An hour or so later someone else called me from the phone company to say that all was working and they were cancelling the tech call. No. No. No. I went into my concern blurb and the phone care. This person said it could be one of their roving (as in a vehicle) repair people stopping to fix something and that would shut off the service for an hour or so. I’m supposed to guess that this is what happened? I’ve had phone disruptions/problems twice before in the past year and a half so I take no chances. When the tech person arrived and checked it out he found some bees in the phone box outside (he chased them out) and a frayed wire which he fixed. Scary stuff especially as I was stung three times by insects this summer.

The whole situation makes me think…again. I believe in conserving my use of utilities, but not to the point where I’m left in silence in the dark. That situation, or even partial situation, sends me into a big panic. Being an only person here doesn’t help…at least for moral and emotional support. However, no matter how many people are around when a utility stops working, the bottom line is you are isolated. Some people may want to go out and congregate with a lot of others. I tend to go out to get help only if I can’t phone for help. And stew and steam about it until it is fixed. That part comes from being alone.

Another thought: have we as a society become so wrapped in too much technology that when it goes it affects us more than say during the 1965 blackout? (I didn’t panic then. But I was a teenager at home with my mother; it actually happened while we were in a grocery store.) Has too much technology too fast doomed everything (appliances, computers, phones, sound systems, utilities, etc.) to a short shelf life filled with snafus and bumps along the way?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1960s, Living alone, Only child, Phone and Internet problems, Problem solving, Technology problems

Only Child finds problem solver from roses

Only Child finds deadheading roses leads to a new way to deal with problems

I spent more time this morning in my garden than I had planned and I’m glad I did. As I deadheaded the dead roses on my rosebushes, I pretended each dead flower I snipped was a problem. Yes, I did run out of problems and was still clipping away.

But I found a tactic to deal with some of these pesky problems that seem to have no answer.

You probably know The Serenity Prayer – God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the ones I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

While in my rosebushes I thought of fourth and fifth options…”the courage to know which ones I can delay and the courage to delay them.” For me this applies to answering email whose content is imposing on my time now and in the future – I have to answer them sometime, but I don’t know what to say; waiting for answers to important emails I sent; and waiting for payments for work I’ve done. With the latter I seem to be getting screwed by the powers that be. Two cheques from clients, already processed and sent out, have not arrived. A few months ago a client from a city not far from me mailed me a cheque. It took a month to arrive by regular mail. But the one that may take the stupidity cake is a money Interac transfer that got lost in cyberspace. The sender had to redo it and resend it. That second one arrived. At least with Interac transfers, the money doesn’t come out of the sender’s account until the recipient correctly answers the sender’s question.

For the money delays, my hairdresser says there is something in the energy worldwide with money. Probably true, but I have other ideas for the personal level. No matter, I’m trying to put this one in the “delay option.” Not easy.

Does anybody else follow the ideas in the Serenity Prayer for all the stuff coming at them? Or does anyone have another way to deal with these roadblocks to getting on with your life?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Decision Making, Decisions, email overload, Gardening, Home and Garden, Horticultural Therapy, Life learning, Only child, Overwhelm, Problem solving, Problems, Roses, Sharon Crawford