Category Archives: Sharon Crawford

Only Child roars about sleep deprivation

Only Child catching some much-needed zzzzs.

Only Child catching some much-needed zzzzs.

In this fast-paced overwhelm world getting enough sleep is a pipe dream for many of us. I’m at the point now where if anyone – expert or so-called well-meaning “friend” suggests I need more sleep, I will hand over my “to do” list (or rattle it off) and say,

“Here, take care of all this and maybe I might just enough sleep.”

Maybe is the key word here. I have other sleep stealers going on. I’m a senior and as you age your quantity and quality of sleep diminishes. Copy that – at least in the sleep beyond 7.30 a.m. or 8 a.m. area. That is if I don’t get woken up by the boarder getting up from her room to feed her cat anywhere from 5.30 a.m. to 6.30 a.m. I don’t hear them every morning.

Or one of my many medical conditions either keeps me awake or wakes me up early. Or something unknown – maybe a bad dream – wakes me up during the night. If I don’t get back to sleep within 10 minutes it’s a lost cause as my mind starts thinking of my too many problems, some of which are on that “to do” list.

I’ve tried getting to bed earlier but between what I call housework shit (no, not dusting, just the routine daily stuff like lock doors, make the coffee and set it up for the next day, etc.) and the bedtime rituals (shower and sometimes washing and drying hair) I’m lucky if I make it to bed by 12.30.

Amount of sleep needed each night is different for each individual. I need at least seven and a half hours sleep each night for my health and I would love to get it. Sometimes I think about when I was a child sleeping in my room and hearing the comfort of my parents talking about budgets of all things down the hall in the kitchen. Or sleeping in on weekends until I heard my mother yelling, “get out, get out,” not to me or Dad, but to the roast stuck in the very small freezer atop the small fridge.

I know all my nights in childhood didn’t have 100 percent sleeping with no worries. In high school I would worry about finishing studying for exams and get up really early for more studying. Life as a kid and teenager was not stress-free.

Somehow, over the many decades since, the stress has piled up and up and turned into a constant overwhelm – even when one problem gets solved another one pops up.

And it all affects my sleep.

I’m not alone here – we are a sleep-deprived society with our hurry-rush-rush lifestyles. Smart phones (what a misnomer) and all the other technology that keeps us “connected” 24/7 is partly to blame. Although maybe not in my case as I don’t have a smart phone; I don’t do “Twitter” (for the birds is my take on that), and I make sure I have off-the-computer time where I actually shut the computers off. I do have an e-reader but reading is one of my so-called relaxing pastimes (whether print or e). I say “so-called” because finding time to read for pleasure is almost as hard as finding time to sleep.

Despite my dig at sleep experts and other health experts above, they are right about the downsides of not getting enough sleep. I do agree, but sometimes I feel like shouting “stop the world I want to get off.”

Check out these articles on sleep deprivation.

Insufficient Sleep is a Public Health Epidemic http://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/
Sleep Centers Increase to Highest Number Ever http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/03/sleep-centers-highest-number-american-academy-of-sleep-medicine_n_2366719.html

We are a sleep-deprived world and we resent it.

How do you get enough sleep or do you get enough sleep? Comments please.

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 Memoir writing course, Mom and Dad, Only child, Overwhelm, Problems, Sharon Crawford, Uncategorized

Only Child on Daylight Savings and Winter

One of Only Child's teddy bears sits on time to try to tame it

One of Only Child’s teddy bears sits on time to try to tame it

When daylight savings comes around the medical experts are quick to list all the health problems associated with losing one hour’s sleep. Newsflash: some of us get little sleep as it is. This year the bigger bugaboo is the winter weather.

Don’t get me wrong. I prefer daylight savings time and when Canada decided to follow the United States in moving the start date up a month, I was (and still am) all for it. The evenings are suddenly daylight longer and the daylight hours will continue to expand into late June and the roll-back after that won’t be obvious until mid-August.

Of course this year, the extra evening daylight will light up the sidewalks and driveways so we can shovel snow. Yes, southern Ontario is getting hit with another big snowfall late tonight and into Wednesday. The only plus is it’s not rain as there still wasn’t quite enough snow melted to stop potential basement flooding from a too fast liquid-added meltdown. But we are getting somewhat warmer weather and a somewhat slow snow melt. It’s actually coming along fine. Now this. Is it no wonder that I have no faith and trust in God or whomever is out there running things.

But back to daylight time and the so-called health hazards – stroke and heart attacks. Another newsflash for these medical experts. Stress can cause strokes and heart attacks too and I’ve been buried under hundreds of avalanches of stress. All this business with potential basement flooding is more than enough to cause strokes and heart attacks.

The expert interviewed for “Time change Could be Bad for your health, expert warns” (by Sonja Puzic for CTV News http://www.theloop.ca/news/ctvnews/article/-/a/3409057/Time-change-could-be-bad-for-your-health-expert-warns) puts the root of all this health business at losing one hour’s sleep. The expert takes it further saying that 10 to 15 per cent of us are sleep-deprived and for us middle-aged and elderly folks we need more than six hours’ sleep per night.

I agree with him 100 per cent here. However, there are factors that get in the way of many of us getting enough sleep. We don’t have the time to get enough sleep. Even if we did, stress butts in. And another newsflash: as you get older sleep patterns change so that you don’t sleep as long. The National Sleep Foundation says:

 “Along with the physical changes that occur as we get older, changes to our sleep patterns are a part of the normal aging process. As people age they tend to have a harder time falling asleep and more trouble staying asleep than when they were younger. It is a common misconception that sleep needs decline with age.” (Source: Aging and Sleep, National Sleep Foundation, Reviewed by Michael V. Vitiello, PhD, December 2009, http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/aging-and-sleep)

We may be able to do something about the time problem (I’m deleting things from my life) but stress that comes from outside ourselves (and don’t give me that crap about attitude and perception) and getting older are something we don’t have much, if any, control over.

So, what’s the answer?

I don’t know. Not using Daylight Savings Time (the Canadian province of Saskatchewan doesn’t change to Daylight Savings time) isn’t the answer.

For me less outside crap shoved at me would help. And back to normal weather would be a good start.

But that’s a subject for another post.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Extreme Weather, Floods, Health, Old Age, Only child, Rain, Seniors, Sharon Crawford, Sleep deprivation, Snow, Time, Weather, Winter Weather

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

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 revisits overwhelm

The teenage Only Child with her late mother

After enjoying the holiday weekend for Canada’s birthday I am now back into the daily grind. And another bout of overwhelm is trying to take over.

I don’t know if my late mother ever felt like she’d spiralled into overwhelm. However, she could have won the title for Worrywart Incarnate. She had a lot on her life plate – Dad dying of cancer and after his death, her own health problems plus going back to work and raising a teenager, and a house. Mom may have come close to overwhelm when she decided to sell the house. And at 19, I wasn’t much help to her here. As I write in my memoir:

I am lying on that living-room chesterfield. My ears are tuned to the top 40 bleating from the radio and the rest of my face and mind are buried in an Agatha Christie mystery.

“Sharon, help me clear out this stuff downstairs. What are we going to do with it all?” Mom shouts up from the basement.

“In a minute,” I reply, as I tell myself I’ll just read to the end of this chapter. At 19, I am Mom’s confidant and unwished-for helper.

“Sharon.”

“Be there in a minute.”

“Sharon.”

“All right.”

I shove a bookmark in the Agatha Christie, place it on the end table and stomp down the basement stairs, around the sharp curve midway. At least I won’t have to look at the orange stucco stairwell walls much longer. What was Dad thinking when he painted them?

I am ashamed of my thoughts and as if to make amends, I dig into the latest box of stored possessions. This carton, tall, narrow and heavy, contains my school exercise books, drawings, high school yearbooks and newspapers.

“Do you want all of this?” Mom asks. “You decide.”

 (Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2012 Sharon Crawford)

Today I am thinking of a recent phone conversation I had with my friend who has the back problem. She’s been laid up with it for over a month as it goes through ups and downs. While she’s been literally on her back from the pain and sleeping off the pain meds, she’s had time to think. Like me (or worse) she was always trying to accomplish way too much. (And of course, she is alone, as well). She’s decided to focus on what is really important to her and let the rest slide or wait. She is drastically changing her life, including moving closer to her brother and sister.

She’s right – not just about the family part, but about figuring out what is important in your life and ditching or postponing the rest. I’m taking that to the micro. Each day I am now deciding in my work, (including answering those sometimes pesky emails), in my personal life, just what is absolutely necessary for me to do today. With client work, deadlines help here. If a client needs an invoice so I can be paid, that is necessary for today. I look at all the emails and decide which ones are necessary to deal with today – family, friends and work. I already don’t work weekends except for the occasional workshop so rarely answer business email on weekends. I will also now stop apologizing for being so slow to reply to an email even if I don’t get to it until four or five (or more) days afterwards. I will do as my hairdresser does – just reply to it when I get to it. I have also removed myself from some email subscriptions that were merely getting filed for possible future story ideas. I’m staying on my LinkedIn groups, writing organization groups forums and listserves and blogs I’m connected to, including writing this one. Connecting with other writers is important – we can all help each other. The intent now is to actually connect with them more often. I know – where is the time? It might not be every day, but I’ll do it.

I’ll also shove more stuff in “pending.” To take the reverse of an old axiom, I will “put off until tomorrow what doesn’t need doing today.”

That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it – for today, anyway.

Any comments? Ideas on dealing with overwhelm?

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Burnout, email overload, Life demands, Mother, Only child memoir, Overwhelm, Prioritizing, Sharon Crawford, Time management

Only Child muses on raspberries and roses

Burgundy Iris among the white roses in Only Child’s front garden

I’m discovering new ways to relax in my garden. I don’t have to just sit out in the garden, looking and reading. I can relax while I’m doing. Just as well because my raspberries have appeared two weeks early this year because of our early summer weather. So for the next few weeks I’ll be out there almost daily picking raspberries.

Then there are the roses. The white ones in front were spreading their branches and flowers all over the place including over my driveway. I don’t drive but some of my friends do, so to avoid any vehicles brushes against the roses, I cut the bushes back.

It hurt me to do so. But as I trimmed them back, the process turned into almost a meditation, a ritual. And this morning when I went out in full raspberry-picking gear (long pants, long sleeves and wide-brimmed hat to avoid getting scratches from the branches) much the same thing happened. Instead of rushing through it all like I was battling time, it turned relaxing – even when I dropped a berry; I thought, “That’s one for the birds.”

I’m not sure my late mother actually sat and relaxed in her garden, except when I was a toddler –and here the photos tell that story. Mom was always out in the garden picking red raspberries, beans, and currants, until she persuaded me to do so. I loved picking beans and raspberries, but not the currants. They don’t taste good raw and they seem to attract bees. Mother’s busyness in her garden paid off in the many fresh raspberries, plus her own version of canned currant jam and jelly and mustard beans – the latter I’ve never been able to find since. And unlike me, she pruned her raspberry bushes properly so she didn’t have to pick in a maze the next season. I use the “hit or miss” procedure although I do keep in the new shoots for next year’s berries and cut back the deadwood – what I can reach. Somehow I don’t get it as smooth and clean as Mom did.

Maybe, Mom did relax in her garden after all – by picking berries and trimming the bushes.

Then there were her rose bushes – but that’s for another post.

For now, those of you in Canada, enjoy the July 1 Canada Day holiday weekend coming up and those in the United States, enjoy your July 4 holiday…in a garden, if possible. Next week I’ll get more serious. Meantime, I’ve added a few more pictures of my garden.

Enjoy.

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

Fushia pink roses by the sidewalk of Only Child’s house

Poppies popping up among the chives by Only Child’s veranda

Front view by steps to veranda shows yarrow, coral bells, chives under the boxwood. Raggedy Annie among the rosebushes is in the background.

Only Child as a toddler in the backyard with her late Mom who is sitting in the Muskoka chair.

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Filed under black raspberries, Fruit, Gardening, Home and Garden, Memoir writing, Mother, Mother and Child, Muskoka Chair, Only child, Raspberries, Roses, Sharon Crawford

Only Child looks at serendipity

Only Child contemplates serendipity

In my short story, Road Raging, I ask the question “Do we land in situations by chance or does someone out there direct the traffic?” Events this weekend in Toronto vis-a-vis where I was had me thinking seriously about this question. And growing up Catholic also factored in.

As most of you probably know we had a shooting at one of Toronto’s largest malls, The Eaton Centre, Saturday evening. One man died and six were injured, two critically, not to mention the fear, panic etc. when it happened. I’m not going into more details except to say that Toronto Police Services arrested a suspect yesterday. If you want to read more details, you can go to online newspaper stories such as those at http://news.nationalpost.com, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2012/06/04/toronto-eaton-centre.html, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news, http://ca.news.yahoo.com/toronto-police-made-arrest-eaton-centre-shootings-112342482.html

Toronto also had another situation Friday and into the late evening. After a dry spell, Toronto received torrential rains which flooded a main subway station – Union Station, which is also the hub for Go trains and VIA rail and Amtrek trains. The railway train tracks were okay and except for some water on the lower Go train commuter waiting area, the main part of the station was basically okay. The flood was on the subway tracks, subway platform and main area of the subway station– some rain pouring down the stairs from the street. A sewer problem either compounded or caused it.

Both Friday and Saturday I attended the Bloody Words crime writing conference in downtown Toronto. I was bemoaning the location being just a bit out of the main downtown core until the Friday. When travelling on the subway I heard the announcement about the flood and that subway trains were not running under the main street (Yonge St.) from Union Station to Bloor Station and were turning back on the other line at Osgoode Station. My stop for the conference was Osgoode Station and then it was a three or four minute walk to the hotel. The service resumed while I was on the way home – after I exited the subway for my bus.

Fast forward to early Saturday evening with the pre-banquet reception. As I milled around and chatted with other crime writers and readers I heard somebody mention that a shooting had occurred at The Eaton Centre. She said  that maybe we should go there (because of our writing focus) but none of us did.

Just as well. After the banquet I caught up on some of the news. The subways were not stopping at Dundas Station and Queen Station  (the two stations encompassing The Eaton Centre) and The Eaton Centre was closed. Being a writer I had to nose around a bit even if from a subway. I took the subway line around Union and up Yonge. At Union I leaned into the window (can’t lean out – windows don’t open) to check the platform. No water remained but I could see a big mop. Queen and Dundas stations looked eerie in their emptiness. At Dundas I could see a police officer by one of the exit doors to the subway platform.

Back home I watched the news – full screen (those small iPhone screens don’t cut it with me) and realized the seriousness of the situation. I saw the panic; the terror and when I heard that one of the random victims was a 13-year-old boy, I think that’s when it hit me.

There but for some grace I go. If the conference location had been at its former place there would have been no subway running by it Friday and Saturday and we’d have surely been in the crowd outside –  that hotel is right next to The Eaton Centre.

Makes you wonder – is somebody out there looking after us?

Being an ex-Catholic who is a skeptic/optimist and sometime pessimist, I have to say. “Maybe some of the time.”

Comments?

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Floods, Gratitude, Only child, Public Transportation, Railways, Rain, Serendipity, Sharon Crawford, Shooting, Toronto public transit, Train Stations, Union Station Toronto