Tag Archives: Beyond the Tripping Point

Only Child pays tribute to Dad for Father’s Day

My Dad

When I was growing up, dinnertime for Mom, Dad and me was sitting around the table in our small kitchen. Mom and Dad would sometimes be talking about the household budget while little ears lapped it up as well as the food – often leftover roast. But Dad had one habit that drove Mom crazy.

He looked at his watch, then up at the wall clock above the table, then back to his watch, lifting up the expansion band. I expected it to go “boing, boing,” but it was silent.

Not  Mom.

“Albert, do you have to keep doing that?” she would ask.

“Have to take it in to get regulated,” Dad replied. He had good reason for this.

You see, my late father worked for the railway, CN (or CNR as it was called back in the 50s and 60s). He was a timekeeper but he worked in the head office, then in downtown Toronto. As far as I know he wasn’t out on the tracks timing the trains. But who knows. The trains came in right by his office at Toronto’s Union Station.

Only Child loves train travel although engines aren’t steam anymore

He carried this penchant for time when the three of us rode the rails travelling in the summer. It was a free ride, and not just for Dad. Mother had the spouse’s free pass and until I turned 19 I had the child of the CN worker’s pass. Mom got unlimited free rides; I was limited to seven a year. But we never took more than three or four trips a year – and one would be not really a holiday. There were a lot of funerals in my family and a few weddings.

But that’s for another post. Today’s post is all about Dad and time. When we rode the rails, Dad made sure we arrived at Union Station early – sometimes two hours before train time. Did Dad think we would miss the train?  No. He was just doing his job outside his job. No one missed his scrutiny – from the cab driver who drove us to Union Station – via a different route than Dad had dictated to who carried our luggage (not the red cap porter) to the trainman who collected our tickets once we had boarded the train. Dad’s favourite expression was “Typical CNR” which could be taken as either a bad review or I suppose even a small compliment. At any rate Dad and his watch kept close company.

But riding the rails had its fun, interesting and now looking back – nostalgic times. Nothing like the murder and other crimes that occur on the train to Hanover in my short story “Porcelain Doll” (Beyond theTripping Point, Blue Denim Press, 2012).

Consider the times we were travelling in – mid to late 1950s and early 1960s. Right when train travel in Ontario was still in its heyday – although not for much longer with the almighty automobile starting to take over. (Note: my parents didn’t drive so we had no car).

Our main annual trip was to visit the farm relatives on my mother’s side of the family. That took us to Mildmay Ontario (a few miles from Walkerton, the town that had the bad water scandal in 2000), and Lucknow, Ontario. Then we had to take three trains, which meant two changes. But what rides and what differences. The trains from Toronto to Guelph had diesel engines. The one from Guelph to Palmerston still had a steam engine whose noise used to scare me and my constant travelling companion, my doll Darlene. Guelph was also an interesting ride through. As that second train started out from Guelph, looking out the windows you could see the train was running on a track right in the middle of a street. It is still that setup today (although the trains are more modern) and it still makes me hold my breath when travelling through. The third train, with its short ride from Palmeston to Mildmay, was the most interesting. The “coach” we rode in was actually a sleeper car and Daddy would go into a short talk on the closed dark wooden bins above which came down and turned the area into a bedroom. I also remember the texture of the seats – they itched the back of my bare legs.

Only Child at 13 with Mom and Dad at the Lucknow farm

Dad has been long gone (he died of brain cancer, at 66. I was 16). However, I have inherited his penchant for time. I must get what is on my daily to-do list done that day and God help anyone or anything who interferes (Telemareters and long-winded acquaintances on the phone pay attention). But I also go after transit that is not on time, but not the CN, or VIA rail which has taken over the railway passenger service in most of Canada. No, it’s the city public transit, the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) which more times than naught, messes up on its schedules. So I sometimes complain online about the incident. Couldn’t do that back in the day.

Guess I do have my father to thank for to be aware of time. And in line with that, on this upcoming Father’s Day I will honour my late father by thinking of him and toasting him – not with his favourite drink – beer, which I don’t really like – but wine. It’s the thought that counts. I’m sure Daddy would understand.Happy Father’s Day Daddy (wherever your spirit is), from your little railway brat.

How are you honouring your Dad this Father’s Day?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

 

 

C

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Dad, Father's Day, Only child, Time management, Train travel

Only Child’s third Beyond mystery novel published

Cover of my new mystery novel

When I was a child in the 1950s and early 1960s, I got hooked on mysteries – novels and TV programs. I read Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and Trixie Belden. My late mother got me hooked on Perry Mason. We spent Saturday evenings sitting in front of the TV in the living room watching the old Perry Mason black and white TV series. My dad, a dire-hard Toronto Maple Leafs hockey fan had to take a small radio down to the basement to watch hockey. He complained loudly, but no doubt the few bottles of beer he brought down with him, helped.

Pushing into my teens, I started reading Agatha Christie.

So, it is no wonder that all these years later I write mystery series – so far books – the Beyond series – Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012), Beyond Blood (Blue Denim Press, 2014). And now the latest, just out – drum roll… Beyond Faith (Blue Denim Press, 2017). The cover of Beyond Faith is at the top here.

And I’m going to link to my author blog, my latest post last Thursday there for you to see what all the fuss, joy, etc. is about. If you like you can read other posts there and perhaps follow it. Here’s the main link.

And since then, my mystery novel reading has increased to so many different authors such as Maureen Jennings (she of the Murdock Mysteries TV series), Peter Robinson (Alan Banks mystery series set in Yorkshire, England), Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardiner, Marcia Mueller, Sue Grafton, etc. etc. etc. for a wealth of Canadian readers go to Crime Writers of Canada.

Crime Writers of Canada have a quarterly e-publication called Cool Canadian Crime which lists recent books published by members. And it’s free.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, Beyond Blood, Beyond Faith, Beyond the Tripping Point, Books, Mom and Dad, mystery novels, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford, Uncategorized, Writing

Only Child searches for Dad’s history

Only child's Dad when he worked for the railway

Only child’s Dad when he worked for the railway

I am trying to piece together my late father’s history – his ancestors and his life in Toronto before I came along. Not too easy when Dad was born in Montreal and the family moved to Toronto when he was a child.

A year ago I began this quest – one of my cousins had started a trace on the Langevin (and Verey – the latter her direct family connection, not mine) ancestry on www.ancestry.ca. I’m not on there yet but one of my friends is and she offered to do some checking there. She found my cousin’s partial family history and also an anomaly – further digging by my friend found another last name (maiden one) for my paternal grandmother. Which is the correct one?

I am not close to my Dad’s side of the family and it has been over five years since I talked to some of my cousins. But I emailed the family genealogist using an old email address. You guessed it – the email bounced back as no one at that address.

However, life jumped in, including dealing with the horrible boarder living here last year, house and house-related problems, plus one pleasant thing – finishing rewriting my first mystery novel Beyond Blood (published fall 2014 – Warning: plug coming. See my publisher’s website www.bluedenimpress.com for more info and my other blog www.sharonacrawfordauthor.com).

As 2014 drew to a close and 2015 rushed in, I feel much urgency to continue on this quest for Dad’s history. I have been spending some Saturday afternoons at the Toronto Reference Library looking in old City Might Directories to find where Dad lived and to try to nail down when the Langevin family did move to Toronto. (I had some idea what street so that was a start.)

And found myself on a very enjoyable but puzzling journey.

Picture me sitting at a table on the library’s second floor with Might Directories piled up in front of me. The shelves where they are stored are behind me, but I can only carry four books at a time. It is difficult with my health issues to get down to the floor to pick out the directories on the bottom shelf but I am compelled to do so.

You are not allowed to photocopy the contents – not a copyright issue but the delicate nature of the pages. These are old directories, circa early 1900s (Dad was old enough to be my grandfather) and the pages are amazing. Almost like parchment with back to back pages which appear glued together. Back then, the “technology” did not allow for any other way to do this. The print is around the same size as print telephone directories, perhaps a smidgeon larger. With my bad eyes and old glasses I have to use a small magnifying glass to read the type.

It is worth it – this going back and forth from the street listings to the name listing and I finally find my late grandfather. Thanks to my cousin’s information on ancestry.ca I now know his first name. But another Langevin surfaces in the Might Directories – a Charles Langevin and I have no idea where he fits in, except my grandfather and grandmother and their offspring lived with him for a few years. My grandfather (Eugene Langevin) shows up in the street address listing at some point and then in a later year, Charles has disappeared. Then my aunts and uncles and my dad show up living at the same addresses, including my cousin’s great grandfather (she is a cousin once removed to me). And it lists where they worked and the position they held. The listing criteria seems to be it didn’t matter if you were male or female as long as you held a job.

I find my father not only worked as a clerk at Canadian National Railways but that previouslyhe worked with the Grand Trunk Railway before CNR gobbled it up. I finally find where his office was located – as I suspected right in Union Station in Toronto. One of his brothers, Uncle Paul also fought in World War 1, which I never knew. The directory has him still at the address but they classify him as “away on service.” And yes, he came back from the war. I also discover the Langevin family moved to Markham St. (where my cousins, their parents and my late maternal grandmother lived when I was a child) many years earlier than I suspected.

Then I get carried away and start to trace my mom’s time from when she moved to Toronto from the family farm near Mildmay, Ontario. Not sure which year so I’m working back from 1938 the year before she and Dad married. The address she lived at then (renting in a house) is in the area of Toronto where she and Dad lived when they were first married. Next investigation is to find out if the addresses are the same. An old photograph I have might give me the answer.

I can see my memoir will need some changes.

And I finally realized why I am compelled to do this family history investigation now. 2015 (November) is the 50th anniversary of Dad’s death.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Only Child and her late dad on the veranda of 139 in happier times

Only Child and her late dad on the veranda of 139 in happier times

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Filed under Beyond Blood, Beyond the Tripping Point, Canadian National Railway, Dad, Family, Hereditary, Libraries, Memoir content, Mom and Dad, Nostalgia, Only child memoir, Railways, Research memoir writing, Toronto

Only Child’s novel to be published fall 2014

Only Child reading from her writing.

Only Child reading from her writing.

My prequel mystery novel, Beyond Blood, will be published this fall by Blue Denim Press, the publishers of my mystery short collection Beyond the Tripping Point. As one of my friends says, “you must be over the moon.”
Yes, but writing is what I do, what keeps me going. Along with gardening, writing helps keep me (somewhat) sane…if writers can even be called sane. Let’s say eccentrically sane.
My writing goes back a long long way – to grade school when I was 11. The Knights of Columbus held an essay writing contest and I came in second. No clue what I wrote about. But I learned a great lesson in friendship. I write about it in my memoir:
My friend, Leslie, is not a writer. After everyone has submitted essays, Leslie and I are walking home.
“My friend, Josie, who’s 13, wrote mine,” she says.
I don’t know what to say.
“Don’t tell anyone,” she says.
A few weeks later, Mrs. Jones announces the winners. My essay came in second and Leslie’s came in first.
Do I rat on her and lose one of my few friends? She cheated. She didn’t write it. I could be first.
She’s your friend. And like you, she doesn’t have many friends.
She’ll dump you..
But she cheated. I wrote my essay myself. She didn’t.
Maybe I could slip Mrs. Jones an anonymous note.
Leslie will know it was you. She won’t want to be your friend.
But I wrote mine myself and she didn’t write hers. She came in first with her fake entry and I came in second with my real one? Is that fair?
Over and over in my mind, the pros and cons teeter and totter….
I keep my mouth shut. Leslie wins the cash prize; we both get to go to the Knights of Columbus District dinner with our parents. Mom and Dad are proud of my accomplishment – my coming in second; I don’t tell them about Leslie’s big cheat. (From You Can Go Home – Digging Up the Dirt, copyright Sharon A. Crawford 2014)
With the publication of Beyond Blood, there are also lessons to be learned. The obvious is to persevere – in writing and pitching your work. For example, this novel went through many, many versions and even the one submitted wasn’t good enough. But my editor and the publisher at Blue Denim Press gave me the benefit of the doubt and let me do another major rewrite and it paid off. Now, of course there are some minor rewrites – but that is par for the course when you get a book published.
The big lesson here unfolds from a synchronicity if you will.
Another mystery novel being published at the same time by Blue Denim Press is one by a longtime writing colleague and also an editing client. My task here is to help him with his book promotion, including doing some joint promo. Two years ago when Beyond the Tripping Point was published I asked for promo help from other writers and got it. Now it’s my turn to flip the coin and do my part to help him make the connections and get the word out there about his book and get some sales. We don’t live in the same city, but that can be worked around.
That’s what it is for writers (besides writing) – we help each other.
Check my other blog for info on Beyond the Tripping Point and its characters – some of them – the fraternal twin PIs are the stars in Beyond Blood. http://www.sharonacrawfordauthor.com

Cheers.
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1960s, Beyond Blood, Life learning, Only child memoir, Sharon A. Crawford, Writers Helping Writers, Writing

Only Child runs into outside obstacles

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

Me in 1950 – up against the barbed wire fence, but I won’t let that stop me from removing obstacles

The past few days I’ve run up against screw-ups from “outside” – organizations, businesses, and individuals who have messed up in whatever they are doing connected to me. As mentioned in my last post, lack of money causes me lots of stress. But so is what causes the lack of money – or at least the worry about it.

The biggest screw-up is with CRA (Canadian Revenue Agency – the Canadian equivalent of the US IRS). First CRA messed up with my return which went in on time (April 30) and I paid what I calculated as owing even though I had to “steal” the amount from my fast dwindling RRSPs.

Six weeks later I receive a Notice of Assessment. That’s customary. But mine had recalculated the Canadian Pension Payment for my self-employment and they wanted $148. more payable by June 30, 2013 or I’d get charged interest.

Huh? It was obvious they didn’t calculate it on my net income but what amount they used I can’t figure out. Their Notice of Assessment explanation didn’t enlighten. June 13 I called the CRA customer service (or whatever it is called) and Lisa told me there was definitely something wrong with the amount calculated and not to pay it. She said it would take at least four weeks to sort it out and in the meantime until the computer system was updated the “payment” could come off my GST etc. rebated in July.

The payments didn’t come off and I received my list of future payment dates and the amounts.

Then I got embroiled in a lot of other issues (some shoved at me that I had to deal with). There was the construction going on outside include digging up a small area in my front lawn. This nonsense even interfered with another issue – my appointment with my lawyer to update my will because one of the beneficiaries had to be changed. I moved the lawyer’s appointment to the next day. Because I was in the same general area of Toronto, I stopped into Service Canada to hand in my application for Old Age Security. I do this because it’s faster to get it rolling and for someone to check over the form. Yes, I had missed something which the Service Canada clerk caught. (Some of them are pretty smart – it’s the higher ups who seem to be screwing up). And it has been approved – payments to start January 2014. Then I got a boarder (two, counting her cat) temporarily until she can get into Public Housing. This is a friend and I didn’t want to see her stuck. There has been some adjustment but we work it out – so far anyway.

Fast forward (which seems like my summer this year) to last Friday when I suddenly remembered I hadn’t heard back from CRA. Over the weekend I checked my files – nope, nothing. So I worried about getting stuck with paying some outrageous sum with interest.

Monday (yesterday) I phoned CRA and found out as I figured, Lisa did her job – she sent it on to the Tax Centre. But the jerks in the Tax Centre just started looking at the inquiry last Friday, Sept. 19 – a little over three months since I inquired. (I can see the synchronicity or whatever about the timing when I thought about it.) The customer service rep could only tell me that much. For the status until they actually do something and it shows up on the computer system, she had no info. She suggested calling in a few days. She also answered my questions about paying interest. If it is $2 or less it isn’t considered. But there is a form to fill out if you want to dispute paying the interest. I had told her this wasn’t a Sharon Crawford mistake but a CRA mistake and I would pay any correct extra I owed but I’m not paying any interest.

Last week I switched my annual high payment of house insurance premium to monthly off a credit card. Thought that was all settled when yesterday I received a letter (regular mail) from the insurance agent that there is a $.75 monthly service charge and a $2. Setup charge. Neither is a lot and I don’t mind paying them. But why wasn’t I told about those service charges in the first place? One more phone call to steal my time

No wonder I’m jaded, cynical, pessimistic (some of the time) and angry. I have a right to be. I don’t know if my late mother had to deal with crap like this.

On a brighter note, I finally picked up the time management book I had on hold from the library. This one I requested in print instead of e-copy because unless there’s a hold on it, I get nine weeks (two renewals) to read it. Should give me enough time to read it Yes, I see the irony.

But I ran into an obstacle there. The library system couldn’t check out my books (I added a mystery fiction) because my library card would run out during that time. I spoke to a librarian and first she added a temporary three week extension and suggested I come in next week with some ID with my address on it. None of my cards has that. I don’t drive, so I guess I’m discriminated against here all over. But I did some fast talking, mentioning that one of the main branch librarians could vouch for me and I taught workshops at this branch (both true) so she automatically renewed the card for a year. I don’t get nasty with librarians. However, why don’t we get email notifications of library card renewals due. The library sends other notices – holds (e-books and print) and book dates coming up.

But I have started using another tool to tame time. Will report next post next week.

I’m currently living on sales from my mystery short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point which is a good thing for sales but what does it say about the overall income picture?

For those interested check out my profile on amazon.com Just click on the book icon below.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Beyond the Tripping Point Cover 72dpi

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Filed under Anxiety, Beyond the Tripping Point, Life demands, Money, Only child, Persistence, Problems, Sharon A. Crawford, Short story writing, Worrying

Only Child robbed of time etc. by poverty

Only Child  contemplates some harsh financial realities - again

Only Child contemplates some harsh financial realities – again

Living around the poverty level has another bad effect on people. Not only does it kill you but before you die your cognitive functions will nose dive and your time management will fly out the window. I’m living (so far) proof as my poor (pun intended) brain is drowning in trying to get around living like this.

This year seems to be the worst as work has dried up since early July, although there are lots of promises of work to come from next week – writing and editing plus I’m teaching a memoir writing workshop Oct. 1. Hopefully all those readings with other writers (which I’ve been helping plan) will boost book sales or I will be going way Beyond the Tripping Point (the title of my mystery short story collection, Blue Denim Press, 2012). I even have a boarder, temporarily, a friend who needed a place to stay until she gets into public housing (long story and it’s her business). She is paying room and board and helping with buying groceries beyond that. For this I am grateful.

It’s the lacks that are eating away at my brain and my psyche. And I never had that as a child. I’ve blogged about that recently. This year I couldn’t even afford to go to the Canadian National Exhibition, which I usually attend annually. And it’s only $12 for seniors to get in.

A recent study published in the journal Science backs this up. Among other things the study says that poverty uses so much brain power that people living in poverty don’t have enough mind juice to deal with other areas of life, such as good steps to get out of poverty because they are too busy with poverty-induced issues such as finding ways to cut-costs, borrowing etc. to try to pay bills. All this steals from your time, time better spent trying to improve your situation – education, job training, or in my case, marketing my skills. As a result, they make bad decisions which can keep them living longer in poverty. The study was conducted by researchers at Harvard and Princeton Universities (USA) the University of Columbia (Canada) and the University of Warwick (UK).

You can read more about these studies at http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265501.php and http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/health/2013-08/30/c_132676023.htm

I have only two more points to add to this poverty situation – house repairs and continually spiralling utility bills. This month, for the first time I have all utility bills (and property taxes too) to pay and two have their rates gone up. To add insult to this injury, I’m paying the gas bill in two parts – the regular leftover year-end bill and the sort-of –last bill of the year – the one which bills for the difference in the monthly equal billing and the actual usage. Unfortunately, the winter was harsher and we had a long cold spring, so usage was higher. I phoned Enbridge Gas and complained. Apparently they were too stupid to gauge that winter just might be harsher than the one for 2012 and they no longer automatically adjust your equal billing to reflect higher amounts used. I pulled the senior’s card. That got me a division of payment – but I’m not sure it makes much difference if I had paid it all last month or part then and part now. I still have to steal from so-called senior savings (RRSPs and the like) to pay for basic food and some of the bills again this month. It would help if the promised work would come in.

Are you listening God, Universe? Sometimes I have to shout very loud to be heard. So do many others I’m finding out.

It would be interesting to discover if those not being heard are predominantly those living around the poverty level.

Next study on poverty please?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under finances, Life demands, Only child, Poverty, Seniors, Time management, Uncategorized

Only Child on living barely above the poverty level

Only Child  contemplates some harsh financial realities

Only Child contemplates some harsh financial realities

I received a shock on Sunday when I was interviewed for a survey at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. For one question, “What is your income level?” the lowest category started at $40,000. I just looked at the guy and asked, “Could you repeat that?” My reply? “Below the lowest category.”

I almost had to laugh when he asked how much I was spending that day at Harbourfront. Should have said “nothing, because I can’t afford to.” Instead I said “I don’t know.”

This is the way it is for those of us who live barely above the poverty level. In case you are interested, the poverty level for a single person on his or her own in Toronto is just under $19,000 annually.  Sometimes my monthly income from all sources is below or at the level that some of my friends have to pay monthly for renting a two-bedroom apartment. So, despite all the crap with the house, I am grateful that I do live in a house and have no mortgage.

I’m reminded of my parents and the everlasting budget, no doubt instigated by my practical-minded mother. In my memoir I write:

Late at night, long after my parents think I’m off in the land of nod, they discuss the family finances. Their loud whispers seep under closed hallway and bedroom doors.

“But we can’t afford that,” Mom says.

“We need . . .” Dad’s voice seems to hit the hallway door.

I throw off my bedcovers, sit up and strain to listen. I never get a clear idea about their plan until it happens or my parents discuss the revised version at the dinner table the next day, (Excerpted from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford)

We didn’t live beyond our means but we were never in debt. Not so with me. My only ongoing debt is that line of credit but I try not to get into it if I can help it. All other credit purchases I pay off in full when due.

What irks me is those unexpected expenses coupled with client work expected to arrive and it doesn’t because it is not ready for editing or evaluating.

That’s what happened this month. I budgeted to pay for those  two new window blinds, long needed. (The kitchen one fell on me last summer and the bedroom one was falling apart bit by bit for years). I ordered the service at the annual Home Show and Sears gave me 10 per cent off. This month I did receive a couple of extra payments including the final fee from a client whose worked I finished late in June. There should have been enough for the regular expenses and to pay Sears for the blinds.

However, I had to buy a dehumidifier, pay my lawyer for updating my will (he does give me a discount because I’m an old childhood friend), and the city water and waste bill usually coming in August arrived this month. (Is this a permanent schedule change that the city officials forgot to tell us?) When I totalled all that up, guess what? It’s about the same amount as I owe Sears for the blinds. So without the new work and its deposit payment, I have to hit the few and dwindling RRSPs – again this year – to pay my Sears bill on time.

The race is on which will go first – me or the RRSPs. No bets on this end and at this point I’m not sure I care.

My garden and writing are my salvation – the former for many things including a food source and the latter to help earn a living and to write about the highs and lows of living poor and also writing fiction – sometimes with ideas from my life, often creating disturbing stories.

Maybe you have to live hard in order to write good stories. My mystery short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, fall 2012) attests to this. Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC505OMPiVNy27zCFfND_8WA    which has videos of me being interviewed about my book and one (three minutes long) where I read from one of the short stories, “The Body in the Trunk.”  A disclaimer here. No, I have never transported a body in a trunk or any other way for that matter. After all, I don’t drive and can’t afford a car.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Budget and budgeting, finances, Gardening, Home and Garden, Mom and Dad, Money, Only child memoir, Sharon A. Crawford