Tag Archives: christmas

Only Child’s meaning of Christmas

The Christmas tree decorated brings Christmas joy to Only Child

The Christmas tree decorated brings Christmas joy to Only Child

Christmas means different things to different people. To show what Christmas means to me, I’m going to take you back to last December 2013. Close your eyes and remember.

Early morning December 22, 2013, the lights, the furnace, the fridge, the freezer, the heat suddenly went off. Ice pelted down on southern Ontario and Toronto was badly hit including many fallen trees on power lines. Toronto lost about one-third of its tree canopy. It was like the wrath of God was unleashed full force and we were being punished.

The boarder and her cat (still living with me then) and I were stuck. We had water, including hot water because that is a separate utility here and the hot water heat is gas-run. So is the furnace but years ago turning on the gas furnace switched to an electric-turn on.

Mid-day Sunday, my son Martin phoned. He still had power; so did downtown Toronto. He wanted to put us up at a downtown hotel. We resisted at first – partly because of the boarder waffling and partly because I was worried about leaving the house. He gave me advice about removing the ice from the veranda and driveway (put down salt and a couple of hours later go out with a shovel and hack away/shovel it). I did that.

Next day, the Monday, the phone woke me up (a land line, my life line then). Martin again insisting we had to go into a hotel downtown because the temperature was plummeting later in the day. The room included the boarder and her cat. So, after talking to some of my friends on the block and elsewhere, I got the house situation straightened out (except for no power and no heat, so I left a tap in the laundry room on dripping).

We took a taxi to the hotel and Martin met us there. He got us checked in and helped me set up my laptop with the hotel’s Internet while the boarder fed her cat. Then Martin took us out for dinner at Fran’s Restaurant and left me with a Starbucks gift certificate for hot chocolate for the boarder and me. Much later after Martin returned home, he phoned me at the hotel. Tanya, my friend next door had just texted him that the power had just gone back on. I called Tanya.

We stayed in the hotel for the two days booked. Christmas around noon, Martin in a leased car arrived, paid for our stay,  and drove us back home. That wasn’t all – he brought Christmas dinner – ham, potatoes, cream cheese, rosemary and cooked it. I supplied green beans and the dishes.

Looking back, I realize this is the true meaning of Christmas. Friends and family helping each other and celebrating Christmas together. To me, that includes taking time through the year to get small but useful presents for those close to me. I do it bit by bit when on holidays and afterwards. The only mall part was going to the Hudson Bay Company – but in a smaller mall and I focused on the department and the person I was buying for. To me Christmas is not about playing shopaholics at the mallChristmas is not about sitting in a church for Christmas services. You might say my take on Christmas is secular/spiritual, but definitely not religious. My Christmas spirit is (no, not in a bottle, although I like the occasional glass of wine) connected to family and friends, and helping others when and where I can. My Christmas spirit is listening to Christmas songs – secular and religious – it’s the music I like, watching Christmas movies – old and new – on TV, looking at decorated Christmas trees and decorating my two foot high artificial tree,  and walking around outside looking at the Christmas lights. May not be able to do that this year either as according to weather forecasts we are supposed to get very high winds with rain. Not happy about that and I’ve told God what I think about that and what is the right thing to do.

That’s my Christmas story and I’m sticking to it.

Happy holiday to all. And may it be safe, especially from bad and extreme weather.

 

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Christmas, Christmas spirit, Extreme Weather, Hydro power outage, Sharon A. Crawford, Toronto

Only Child on Christmas and other year-end expenses

tree01

Ho-Ho – are we all running around malls etc. doing last-minute Christmas shopping? And maxing out the credit card?
Not me. While I enjoy choosing gifts for family and friends, I don’t like crowded stores and malls. I don’t like all the buying frenzy and overspending in today’s world. Despite online shopping, the in-person furor still occurs. And I cannot afford to spend a lot of money. When you have limited finances you have to watch it. For the past few years I’ve made sure that I paid cash – whether crisp bills (now plastic in Canada) and coins or debit for Christmas presentst. I don’t want to pay for Christmas in January and February. Those two months are dismal enough without throwing Christmas debt into the picture.
Back when I was growing up (the grey ages, of course), gift-giving was much simpler and had more meaning than in today’s overly-commercial world. Mom would be at the kitchen table wrapping my presents and Dad’s presents and I would be at the dining room table wrapping what I had bought for her and Dad. We were separated by a closed door. When Mom needed the scotch tape she would give warning and I would quickly cover the presents with wrapping paper. None of us spent a lot of money. We didn’t have a lot, but my parents, Mom especially, were good at budgeting. I remember hearing bits and pieces of their late night budgeting talks after I had gone to bed and they thought I was asleep.
Today I try to emulate Mom’s frugality and generosity. Back in the summer while on holidays I start buying small gifts and try to match the gift with the person. Some shopping is left until December, but except for the wine, I’m done.
Just as well. December also brings a lot of year end expenses – both business and personal. I have the invoices for the business ones but I’m still waiting for two mammoth utility bills – hydro and water/waste. It’s hard to budget when you have to gestimate costs.
And I probably will need new glasses this year as it’s been four years and I’m squinting as I write this. My eye exam is this week. Fortunately I have funds left over from my holiday savings as I didn’t use them all up (didn’t travel to one place I had planned to) and my son, bless him, gave me a Hudson’s Bay department store gift certificate for my birthday this month. So, these two source should cover ¾ or even more of my glasses cost at Hudson Bay’s optical department. I’ve been there to get – you guessed it – a gestimate of the cost.
There is always the worry of unexpected emergency costs with house and computers and I keep my toes crossed. Can’t type with crossed fingers.
Next week’s post I’ll talk about what this holiday season means to me and what it doesn’t mean.
What do you think about the current Christmas spending frenzy? And Boxing Day?

Cheers.
Sharon A. Crawford
Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Christmas, Debt, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child on Christmas Grinches and Gratitude

Only Child  rests before doing more battle with companies screwing the consumer

Only Child ponders Christmas Grinches and Gratitude

This is turning into a Christmas to forget if I can. You have all probably heard about the terrible ice storm that hit southern Ontario and has now moved into eastern Canada and Michigan. Of course it hit Toronto and hard. Toronto’s hit was in patches and of course where I live got hit at 1.10 a.m. Sunday morning. I’m writing from a hotel in downtown Toronto and if you think I suddenly got rich in money think again.

The only good thing about all of this unacceptable and unwanted nonsense is that my son Martin and my ex-husband Colin (the latter out in British Columbia with his wife Lynda) decided that my roommate/boarder, her cat and I had to go to a hotel. My son is footing the bills for that and some meals (breakfast at the hotel and he took us out to dinner last evening and is meeting us for lunch today). The other good thing is my friends Tanya and Alex next door to me (my home, not the hotel) who are checking on the house. I left the cold water running a bit in the laundry tub downstairs to try to fend off frozen pipes and Alex was to check on that on his way out early to work and after he got back. And check the freezer as I didn’t want to open it – it’s full so that is supposed to help keep things frozen for a couple of days.

Tanya phoned last evening just after ten p.m. and said the power had gone back on. But because the weather got much colder the ice on the power lines and trees remains, so there could be more trees and their branches falling, power lines falling some more, etc. etc. It is very unstable, scary, unacceptable and unnecessary.

So, who am I labelling Grinches – with a capital G – you’ll see why the capital in a minute.

Toronto Hydro for not working fast enough and for the priorities to get customers back on grid. Hospitals first I agree with, but we the average consumers are at the bottom of the list. Of 300,000 households that lost power initially, still 90,000 without power – it is over 48 hours and of those, 50,000 will need to be put back on the grid house by house That is not acceptable. The TTC – Toronto Transit Commission is working harder and got everything but the short subway line up and running by late yesterday afternoon. And they have shuttle bus service on the surface of that subway line,

Of course Toronto Hydro is hindered by Toronto’s egotistical Mayor Rob Ford – he of all the scandalous who won’t resign – because he won’t declare the City of Toronto in a State of Emergency which means the province can’t enforce emergency measures. So the province is hampered in what they can do to get around this but they are doing what they can including bringing in employees from Forestry to help cut down trees. Ford thinks just calling in hydro crews from other areas of Ontario, Manitoba and Michigan are enough. Well, Michigan may not make it because they got the ice storm in some areas too and without declaring Toronto a State of Emergency, the armed forces can’t be called in to clear some of these trees. I know it’s power line down dangerous but more numbers helping would help.

The other Grinch is God – partly because I believe he has something to do with this weather. Even if you don’t believe my take here, consider this – I prayed to God not to let it happen and if it did to keep the power on. We can see where that got me, Praying is out of my vocabulary and instinct is in, but more on that in my next week’s post to wrap up a very bad year.

Meantime I’m hanging onto my two (and maybe three areas of gratitude if the power has stayed on (and stays on) and all the food lost is in the snall freezer over the fridge and  the stuff in the big  freezer is still frozen and stays frozen, and the food that I didn’t put in the “second fridger” – the milk chute stay cold and safe.. I will find out when I make a trip back home this afternoon I guess.

And meantime I’m not celebrating Christmas anymore, You might want to consider that Christ was not born on Christmas Day. Centuries ago Dionysius Exiguus, a 6th century monk, declared Christmas Day as Christ’s birthday. And wonders of all wonders, the current Catholic Pope Benedict XVI is disputing December 25 as the day of Christ’s birthday in the third installment of his trilogy on the life of Christ. See the story at http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/11/22/pope-benedict-disputes-jesus-date-of-birth/

So Christmas is now Xmas to me.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Gratitude

Only Child prepares for Christmas

Only Child's vision of the Christmas tree

Only Child’s vision of the Christmas tree

Ho Ho Ho or is it a little of Bah Humbug as I go round and round on the Christmas merry-go-round. Gee, it was so much simpler when I was a kid (back in the grey ages, of course). Probably because Mom and Dad had all the responsibility and I just had to enjoy it all while providing a little help. I posted the below excerpt from my memoir last year about the Christmas tree, but I think it is worth posting again – because it brings back the awe of Christmas, which we often forget in the mad Christmas rush.

When Dad drags the Christmas tree into the house, I inhale the pine fragrance. It fills me with anticipation made longer and harder to hold inside as Dad attempts to fit the tree trunk into the stand.

I can’t watch the agony, so after Mom and I haul up the boxes of lights and ornaments from the basement, I sit in the kitchen and listen to the wall clock tick away time. I hear “Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,” but it is only the green radio. I poke my head inside the living room.

“Is it ready yet?”

“Patience,” Mom says, handing Dad a screwdriver.

“It’s coming along.” He twists the red tree stand. “Okay, Julia, let’s push it up.”

And my parents heave the tree up to its majestic six feet, spreading dark green bristles in the corner by the archway and just brushing the mantle. Finally. I crouch down and dig into the box of ornaments.

“Wait a minute,” Mom says. “The lights come first.”

And she and Dad twine the lights throughout the tree and I hold my breath one-two-three until I think I’ll pop, as Dad plugs in the lights and . . .

Nothing. One light has burned out and the only way to find the culprit is to remove each light, one at a time, and try a light that you hope might work. It is worse than waiting for Santa Claus. But when the miracle occurs, when the lights shine red, blue, white, yellow and green, throughout the tree, Christmas leaps days closer. Mom and I tackle the ornaments. I’m like a dog given the “yes,” for a walk, prancing around, reaching my paws down and up, and placing big coloured balls, small bells, and white plastic icicles on the sharp branches. Mom and I wrap tinsel – thin wavy light and big gold, which almost hides the lights, but they sparkle through. Then, I suck in my breath and look way up while Mom stands on the stepladder and places the angel in the top spot. (Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2012 Sharon A. Crawford).

Today, I have a tiny (under two feet) fake tree that sits on an end table. It has LED red lights which I leave in their sockets year round when I pack it away plus a few miniature decorations. Putting up these and other Christmas decorations isn’t the big stressor.  Running all the errands, trying to get client work done, doing PR for my debut mystery short story collection  Beyond the Tripping Point, and rewriting my prequel mystery novel, sometimes make me feel like I’m on a runaway train. Of course there are all those Christmas parties and other socials (which I like) and wrapping Christmas presents and signing, addressing, etc  the few Christmas cards I still do (both of which I don’t like doing  – when my son was growing up he wrapped all the Christmas presents except for his. Not child labour. Martin just wrapped presents much better than my messy job of it). I prefer to buy the presents to fit the receiver and then opening my own presents.

Then there are all those unplanned added “happenings” to mess up your days – such as computer problems, transit delays, sometimes weather, and annoying sales people on the phone or at the door. A few minutes ago I just rudely sent one on her unmerry way – she deserved it after trying to get into my house to check my water heater…and she isn’t even from the utility company I rent my water heater from.

So, I gave the clients notice last week that I’m taking a three-week break from client work to do some rewriting of my novel, spend time with family and friends, and yes, to do some book PR. It’s either that or find my own rabbit hole or bum a lift on Santa’s sleigh back to the North Pole. Probably not the latter – I hate winter weather.

How do you deal with the Christmas rush?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Christmas holidays, Christmas spirit, Christmas stress, Christmas tree, Clients, Memoir content, Mom and Dad, Only child, Santa Claus, Sharon A. Crawford