Category Archives: Reading

Only Child plans to hibernate this winter

shovelling-colorThis winter I plan to do like a bear – hibernate. Not entirely, but I plan to limit my outside time. I hate winter weather – cold, snow, ice storms, blizzards, heavy winds, etc. – with a passion.. Winter sports don’t interest me either. About the only things I like about winter are Christmas and winter fashions.

And it looks like I have picked a winter to do just that. Winter started in Canada over the past weekend in all but eastern and western Canada. Snow, extreme winds and extreme cold – all the ingredients that make me want to hide away inside. That is about three weeks earlier than usual – except maybe for the odd few days of a cold-snow spell the first week of December. It is only November 22 for whomever’s sake.

And The Weather Network’s winter forecast broadcast yesterday (and parts of it online at their website) forecast a more traditional winter for the Canadian Prairies and Ontario and Quebec. That means more Colorado lows (like the one we got over the weekend in Ontario, and maybe worse), lake effect snowstorms, colder temperatures (although not as cold as the winter of 2013-2014). But still too cold for my liking. The screwball part of the forecast (and not faulting the forecasters here, but what they found) is where the warmest parts of Canada will be – the northern territories. All upside down. Climate change? Maybe in part for the northern Canadian areas. But I also factor in what the lady on the bus in May 2015 said – “God controls the weather.” I leave all that for you to ponder.

As for me, once I’ve finished all the extra winter grocery stock-up buying, I am going to try to limit my grocery shopping outings. Not easy when you don’t have a car and can’t afford cabs. After the end of November I’m also limiting social, business and business social outings to two a week – one evening during the week and one day on the weekend. I will try to get out once a day (weather permitting – I don’t want to skate on sidewalks or roads) for a short walk in the neighbourhood. However, I suspect that a lot of my so-called outings will be shovelling the damn snow and putting down salt. (Note to self: ask my son to bring more bags of salt when he and his girlfriend come here for Christmas dinner).

I am also cutting back on what I do. Something I have already started. By weather default, outdoor gardening won’t be on  the agenda. That’s the one I don’t like to eliminate. But I can peruse gardening websites and garden books and catalogues for next spring and summer and experiment on what I try to grow in pots inside (and I don’t mean Mary Jane). Also off the agenda are any reunion lunches, etc. with former classmates, community newspaper colleagues and the like. As I seem to be the one who ends up organizing these (and my attempt at one early this past summer didn’t pan out), that’s out. There will also be a few other things off my list or in the case of email time, sitting with a timer for business email and leaving personal email (unless family emergency or urgency time-wise) until after my business hours.

So, what’s left  not mentioned? Well, writing, writing, writing, client work, and getting teaching and book promo gigs for next spring and afterwards in 2017. Already I have April 2017 booked up and another possibility for either April or June to be sorted out and finalized. Also want to do more reading –  not just books – I do manage to read many books, although my Goodreads account doesn’t indicate this. Hey, that takes time to manouevre through Goodreads to do so – but also magazines and for the weekend newspaper (Saturday and Sunday Toronto Star) finish reading all the sections I do read. I also want to watch TV, try some more recipes (I love to cook and eat too), and do some simple and cheap home decorating like re-arranging, adding a few small accessories.

With some things cut back or out the window (so to speak), I hope to do three things: get back to tracing my ancestry on my late father’s side and continue sorting out shelves, cupboards and drawers in various rooms in the house. I have been doing some of that latter sporadically lately. But I really need to tackle that drawer in my office that is overflowing with old outdated business cards collected over the years. The third thing to do is finish the preparations for my funeral and the like. And just the details like type of memorial (nothing even remotely religious). After all I am not getting any younger and you have to be prepared for these things. Preparing a will and powers of attorney (done here) are not enough these days.

I also intend to get together for a few dinner or lunch or brunch outings with my son and his girlfriend and close friends. Friends include some of my old school buddies. But as part of my twice a week social outings. And no big reunions. No big conventions or shows until the big garden one in mid-March – Canada Blooms.

That’s the plan. But unfortunately the best-made plans get screwed up by outside sources – like weather.

What was it the late John Lennon once said? Something about life being what happens when you are making plans? Actually it comes from a song he wrote about his older son,  Julian – Beautiful Boy.

Cheers

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under Dad, Family and Friends, Home and Garden, Life Balance, Only child, Organizing and Deleting, Reading, Snow, Time management, Weather, Winter Weather, Writing

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 says Carpe Diem

00240021If the unsettled weather in the world teaches us nothing else, we need to grab the good-weather summer days and get outside. (Winter is another matter, better left swept under the carpet for now).

This beautiful long Victoria Day holiday weekend in Toronto, Canada got me outside in my garden. I enjoy gardening but there is always lots to do. The trick is to pace yourself over time, even within the time span you are currently out in the garden. So I did a “to do” list, but didn’t tie myself to what I did when. I started in the front garden, but I had been already out there, 30 minutes at a time or so when possible during lunchtime, evenings on workdays the past couple of weeks. So some areas were weeded and just needed fresh topsoil and the plants planted. One area I had even put down the topsoil. As I did this, I also yanked out a few dandelions that had sprung up. My neighbour next door was rotor-tilling one area of his garden and gave me some strawberry plants. They went into the front and some in the back. Later that day when I was out only for a short walk to Shopper’s, I did what any garden fanatic would do.

Bought some more perennials I saw outside a convenience store I passed by. So I had to plant them.

The rest of the day I spent sitting outside in the backyard, reading a mystery novel and snoozing.

Sunday, was much the same – except this time I dug up the area (weeds) for onions and lettuce, put down some topsoil in the front part of the area, and planted some onions and lettuce. There is still more onions to be planted but I’ve been sneaking some of the onion bulbs in with the flowers in both front and back. I use a lot of onions and like to store the remaining ones in the root cellar in the fall, so the more the better. (But we won’t think of fall now because we know where that leads).

I’m trying to be innovative with the garden this year, partly because I’m still dealing with the aftermath of God’s winter (make that two winters) destruction outside. But we won’t think of winter now. Also I’m removing a lot of what is mostly weeds and planting new perennials. So, I have a few areas in front where it looks somewhat weedy in back and is cleared with new perennials in front. My excuse? I’m waiting to see what perennials come up from last year so I don’t dig them up by mistake. Two hostas up and spreading and those two spikes might just be the third hosta poking through the weeds.

It has been dry here lately – we got some rain Friday evening but not enough to loosen the ground where the false sunflowers are starting to come up for this year. I need to remove some of them so I can get at my compost bin and also promised Tanya and Alex next door at least once clump. And I have another place in my renovated garden for a clump too.

Oh well, hopefully next weekend. It’s getting cold again before then.

Meantime the garden club I go to is having its annual plant sale this Thursday evening. Carol and I hope to get there. I need more sedum and lavender and a new sage plant. My old sage plant didn’t make it through the winter.

Enjoy the flowers, the greenery you see around you. Remember – carpe diem – seize the day. You never know what disaster will land on you tomorrow.

 

Cheers.

 

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Carpe Diem, Gardening and depression, Home and Garden, Only child, Peace and quiet, Reading

Only Child’s overwhelm leads to insomnia

Only Child catching some much-needed zzzzs.

Looks like my new motto to put off until tomorrow what you don’t need to do today isn’t solving my overwhelm problem. Now the overwhelm has moved into insomnia. Not good for doing client work during weekdays. I don’t usually suffer from insomnia. I may go to bed very late but at least I sleep until the alarm rings or if I wake up, I fall back to sleep within a few minutes.

Not for the last few days. I know I’ve inherited the worry wart syndrome from my late mother, but don’t recall her suffering from insomnia. But how would I know? I didn’t sleep in her bedroom at home. And when visiting cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents, if Mom and I shared a room, she slept.

Maybe I’ve inherited it from my late father. He could give Mom a run for her worry money.

Or maybe it’s secondary factors – anxiety over too much to do (and all seeming to need doing at the same times), pain from physical health conditions acting up, and unfortunately age. It might also be because dawn arrives much earlier in summer, but I don’t think that is really the reason as dawn has been arriving early for over a month and my insomnia just started late last week.

An article on the University of Maryland Medical Center website http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/insomnia-000096.htm/  lists those three (not the dawn one) as well as the expected ingesting stimulants like caffeine too close to bedtime, menopause, menstrual cycle hormone changes, circadian rhythms disrupted, sleep apnea, snoring partners, decongestants, and the one that surprises me – computer work. Snoring partners definitely isn’t my reason and neither is computer work. My writing and editing work has me on the computer on weekdays and some weekends I spend a few hours checking and replying to personal email. If computer use was the cause for me, I’d have constant insomnia.

I don’t know if this insomnia will turn into constant. To avoid adding insomnia to my lists of problems and things I’m not grateful for, I am attempting to make some changes. For beating insomnia, the sleep experts say you should go to bed the same time every night and get up the same time every morning. I do the former – it is just very late because of all the household stuff I am still doing late at night. A partner would be helpful here. I am trying to have a cut-off time for doing housework and follow my last week’s blog posting rule – leave it to another day. Now, if I could just get my mind to wind down (and it’s not caffeine. My last cup of coffee goes down before 11 a.m., more than 12 hours before I hit the bed). I walk and/or garden during the day as breaks from work and/or before and after work and get the afternoon sun. Before I go to sleep I do relaxing things – take a shower and read from whatever book I have on the go. The experts say don’t read anything too startling and I suppose mysteries could come under that. This is often my only time to read one of the many books stacked up in the bookshelf by my bed. My room is quiet and so is the neighbourhood I live in – until a bunch of racoons start fighting and crying. Or the newspaper is plunked inside the front door. That  woke me up Friday morning and this plunk never does.  Unlike other times when some noise awakens me, this time I didn’t go back to sleep.

The article at the University of Maryland Medical Center has some other ideas but I don’t agree with them. For example, it says don’t read in bed or watch TV in bed. I don’t have a TV in my bedroom but I do fall asleep in front of the TV in the living room in the late evening and it’s not boredom.  I figure if I read my book sitting up in the kitchen or living room – I would fall asleep. When I transport my body to my bed, guess what? Awake. The article also suggests getting 8 hours sleep; I’m having trouble landing over 5 hours lately. However, experience tells me that 7 ¼ hours works for me.

Now I just have to get the 7 ¼ hours.

Do any of you suffer from insomnia? How do you deal with it?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, Books, Burnout, Only child, Overwhelm, Pain, Peace and quiet, Reading, Sharon Crawford, Sleep deprivation

Only child goes out into the garden

Only Child and her late Mom in the backyard garden. Mom is sitting in a Muskoka chair.

This morning before starting work I went out into the garden. I do this every day to relieve the stress before it gets to me. The plan was to transplant some basil, nasturtium and a coleus, and put the hose away because we are supposed to finally get some rain. Then I planned to sit out on the patio and eat breakfast.

Instead I stared at some of the many weeds and started yanking them. I know weeding is therapeutic (especially when you pretend the weeds are your problems and/or the problematic people in your life). However, weeding is turning into a routine almost every time I head out into the garden. This helps with decreasing the weed population – for now. But there is more to gardening than pulling weeds.

I am enjoying the lush early display of roses thanks to our early hot weather and snapped a few photos this morning. I do “tour” the garden (and snatch up weeds as I walk around) and I do sit out in the garden and actually do nothing but drink wine or water and read a book. And eat my meals out on the patio or on the veranda while sitting in my new Muskoka chair (a holdover from my childhood when that’s what you sat on in the backyard or on the veranda).  Maybe the weed yanking is also a family holdover. My mother was a gardener and she did a lot of weeding. She also grew beautiful rose bushes, including red roses climbing around an archway.

Still, I can’t help thinking that I need an attitude change here. I need to go into the garden to enjoy it – whether I am weeding or reading or planting or touring. This is my escape from the harsh realities of my life. Heck, most of the time I don’t even take the cordless phone outside. If anyone wants me they can leave a message – unless they are telemarketers – they can go, to put it politely, where the sun doesn’t shine.

And speaking of gardening and reading. A study at Wageningen University and Research Center, The Netherlands featuring people spending time in the garden and spending time reading shows that gardening relieves stress more than reading. I wonder if reading in the garden would relieve stress even more. Check out the study published in 2010 at http://hpq.sagepub.com/content/16/1/3.abstract

I did transplant the nasturtium and basil but left the hose lying in the driveway. We’ve had so many wrong forecasts of rain in the past two weeks. I’ll believe it’s raining today, when it actually rains.

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

Only Child’s late Dad under Mom’s rose archway

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Filed under Gardening, Gardening health benefits, Healing through gardening, Home first memoir, Mom and Dad, Muskoka Chair, Only child memoir, Problems, Reading, Roses, Shopping

Only Child considers a bucket list

Only Child's home and garden respite - part of the "bucket list" already done.

One of my cousins has a bucket list  – you know a list of things you want to do before you die. Up to now I haven’t really given it much thought. My parents died in their sixties and I’m getting very close to the age when my mom died. And when you are busy dealing with the daily crap coming your way, it almost seems redundant to consider a bucket list.

But my cousin has got me thinking. I have a bucket list, for want of a better word, for my writing, but it doesn’t go beyond a year. I think I’m afraid to think beyond that because it might throw a curse on it. Looking at her and other cousins’ travel photos, I started asking myself – where would I like to travel? I’ve been across Canada both ways and the only provinces I haven’t seen are Saskatchewan and Newfoundland; I also haven’t been to any of the three territories. I would like to go to Newfoundland and Nunavit Territory (both preferably in summer). I’ve also been to England and Wales. And I like to ride on the train. I’d also like to return to the other Maritime provinces – a grade school friend is travelling in his RV to the Maritimes and I read his blog and I think I would like to go back there. You can take a train into the Maritime provinces. You can also take a train out west – takes a few days but the scenery and the experience would be more interesting than a five-hour plane ride where you look down and maybe see toy-sized buildings if the clouds don’t get in the way.

That is some of what I would like to do. I know I don’t want to jump from a parachute or go bungie jumping but I’d like to ride in a helicopter, even though I chickened out 15 years ago. I don’t want to go canoeing, camping, but maybe I’d like to go fishing. Perhaps the clue here is to brainstorm for a so-called bucket list and then prune it down. As for “scheduling” when I would do what – that would depend on time and money. Right now I just don’t have the money to travel a lot beyond southwestern Ontario to visit my cousins (but I get my train ride and some interesting visits with my family). And there is my house and garden, something on the “bucket list” already achieved. I’m living where I want to in my retirement home, a small bungalow and have slowly cultivated my garden of perennials, vegetables, fruit and herbs. The garden also provides a serene place to sit and read or just enjoy the flowers, butterflies and birds.

And maybe that is part of the answer. Try to take each day as it comes. If you plan too far into the future you can get screwed.

What do you think?

And my friend’s Maritime travel blog is Thinking Inside the Box at http://phil-brunette.blogspot.com/

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Bucket List, Cousins, Death and Dying, Family, Gardening, Home and Garden, Maritimes, Newfoundland, Nunavit, Only child, Only child memoir, Peace and quiet, Reading, Retirement experiences, Risk taking, Seniors, Train travel, Travel, Trust

Only child on why we read

Only Child in front of some of her books, obviously some she bought, not borrowed.

There’s been much hoopla about Toronto’s mayor and his executive committee wanting to cut Toronto Public Library services, like closing branches. I’ll cover that in another post. But it’s made me think. Why do we read? Why do I read?

I’ve been a book-lover and reader since I learned to read in grade one (back in the grey ages, of course) – from the Bobbsey Twins books and Nancy Drew books my mother bought me to when I discovered the library – the then brand new S. Walter Stewart Branch and began to visit it frequently, borrowed books and read them. Since then, thanks to the library, I’ve increased my unwritten list of authors. Most of what I read is mystery novels, memoir and some non-fiction best-sellers that could be loosely described as dealing with today’s social conditions. “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell is one example. This latter category I read to be informed, but the two m’s, I read for the enjoyment, to get out of my life, to escape from the crap continually shoved my way.

True, the people in both types of books have their problems and conflicts, but they are THEIR problems and conflicts, not mine. I can get out of my sometimes miasma of living and get caught up in someone else’s life whether fiction (the mysteries) or real (memoir). Unlike life, often a solution to the character’s problems is found. Even when it isn’t, I still can take comfort in knowing I’m reading it, not living it. And sometimes I can find a solution to what ails me in my often ridiculous life, although that is usually from the non-fiction social conditions books.

When reading a book that grabs my interest, I do get tangled in the various characters’ lives and can love, hate, emphasize and even think, “that character needs some come uppance,” and know that a good author will have this happen. Real life can be a different matter. Sometimes I believe what goes around comes around, but not seeing it happen can raise doubts.

Not in a well-written book – you see it all happen. When you have to put the book down, or shut down the e-reader, to get on with your life, the book’s characters stay with you and you can’t wait to get back to them. When you’ve finished reading the book, you get that feeling of closure, that things have been sorted out (usually – a few leave you hanging which I don’t like) . In real life, often the same crap keeps happening no matter what you do and it can all be very worrying.

Reading a book – print or e-book – can take  you out of  yourself and your misery if only for awhile. My cousin buried her mind and soul into reading novels when her husband was dying. But if you have money problems, health problems, even time problems, reading a good book can help ease the pain. And the public library branches have so much to choose from. And it’s free with a library card…as long as you return the book on time.

Why do you read books (print or e-books)? I’d like to know.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Bobbsey Twins, Books, E-books, E-books vs print books, Escaping problems, Libraries, Life demands, Malcolm Gladwell, mystery novels, Nancy Drew, Only child, Only child memoir, public library services, Reading, Toronto service cuts