Tag Archives: Family and Friends

Only Child warmed by strangers’ kindness

Originally published on my author blog. But it also fits here as it deals with something an only child/adult runs into. And yes, it has to do with that trailer/shopping cart causing me big grief. I will add one thing to the story. I was able to return it to Canadian Tire and get my money back. Read all about it and how this author blazed unexpected trails here.

All thanks to the kindness of one friend and many strangers.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Books, Family and Friends, Gratitude, Help and Support

Gardening helps heal this troubled soul

Tulip poking through euonymus shrub in Only Child’s garden spring 2017

One of the few things keeping me going this spring is my garden (the others are my writing, my son and friends who help me, reading, and even some TV shows). The latter two are much needed diversions and distractions from bad health with pain of some sort at some time during each day), and the Noah’s Ark-like weather – the latter worry mostly to do with that Nigel Applewaite the construction worker who messed up his contract and work to fix the basement leaks. And didn’t fix his mistakes. But that’s another post.

With all the rain we’ve been getting in southern Ontario (and elsewhere too), everything is coming up green outside – including the weeds. The latter are very prolific this year. So are the flowers and onions coming up from some planted last year, and the herbs and rhubarb. Already eating those latter three.

I remember my late mother’s garden – vegetable and flowers and the big shrubs. She and Dad would be out there digging up the garden and planting in April. That was in the 1950s. The world is a much wetter and colder place now. The latter doesn’t just refer to weather, although that was cold in April and for the most part (except for two or three days) this May, too.

So, I plan my gardening around the weather and all the other stuff I do. Doing a bit of gardening at a time is the way to weed a somewhat large garden and get things planted. And weeding gives me a safe outlet to deal with the oppressors and oppressions in my life. I have lost count how many weeds I’ve pulled with the name Nigel Applewaite.

Gardening also seems to revive my energy and provides some purpose. So does enjoying what is in the garden. Unless pouring with rain, daily, I take a walk around and in my garden. And sit out on the veranda and/or patio to eat, read and just enjoy the view.

The patio also brought forth another hurdle to get over. I needed a new umbrella to provide shade at the patio table – the one I had for seven years – second hand and a gift from a friend – finally stopped working late last summer so it went out to the curb for pickup.

You would think that getting a new umbrella would not be a major operation. Well I did check them out at Home Depot – too pricey and way too heavy to carry home – even thought it was only four blocks. So I checked Canadian Tire on line for selections and sale, then I asked one of my friends if she could drive me  – we had talked about his possibility before and she has helped me before (and her husband helped me get my bags of topsoil at Home Depot). She said she could do it on last Monday but when I phoned Monday morning to see about a time suitable to her, I got her husband and he told me in no uncertain terms that she couldn’t do it because they were going away for a couple of weeks and they would be busy for a week after they got back. And she had too many things to do before they went away.

Excuse me? Can’t she speak for herself and if she said she couldn’t do it because of time problems I could understand that – although a refusal when I first asked would have been best.

So, I asked my son if he could pick one up at Canadian Tire on his way here Saturday and I would pay him back. He said “no” because of having to lease a car to do it but offered to pay for a cab so I could come home with it. I said okay and I’d have to find out how to go about doing that from a store with no pay phone (remember I’m too poor to have a cell phone).

But I got lucky. Most of the patio umbrellas at Canadian Tire were light enough and packed in one of those carry bags (like you get fold up cloth patio chairs in) and I could carry it. Also the clerk I spoke there gave me info about getting a cab – if you need one when you pay tell the cashier and she or he will call a cab. So, I ended paying about half the price of those at Home Depot and got the umbrella home for free. I slung the umbrella pack over my shoulder and walked  block and a half to the bus stop and took the one bus home. When my son was here this Saturday, he set up the umbrella and showed me that it also can slant  (which I didn’t know). So the umbrella is there on the patio and if it is warm enough for lunch I just might sit out there with it open. The weekend was not good for that – too windy Saturday and yesterday and raining on Sunday.

So, I guess despite all the crap happening in my life, I still am a persistent stubborn so-and-so.

When I stop being that, then it is time to worry.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Extreme rainfall weather, Garden, Gardening, Gardening health benefits, Mom and Dad, Spring

Only Child says Memoir reads like fiction

Only Child and Dad few years later

In today’s Memoir Writing session I deal with the different ways you can write your memoir. It can be humorous, serious (or both), in chronological order (or not), but most of all it contains emotions and feelings and people. Although the people are real, from your life, there is a resemblance to fiction – in the way you write your memoir.

You don’t just want a list of events. You want to engage your reader. You want your reader to see your life and the family, friends, and enemies, too, in it.

So write it fiction style. Emphasis on the word “style.” The difference here is memoir is not fiction, it is your truth, your story. So the characters, the people, must be real, and the events must be real. Unlike fiction, you are not making it up. The emphasis is on how you tell your story.

Probably the best way to see how that is done is to read published memoirs. The list of memoir authors would cover several blog posts and I’m not going to post my starter list here. Just Google “memoir writers.”

Below is an excerpt from my memoir-in-the works, but I have shortened it and reworded it some, so it is not exactly as in the memoir. This particular piece of prose deals with being bullied as a child. But it covers a lot more as you will see.

The Bully Gang – Vera, Mare, Shannon (the Bully’s younger sister by two years), and the Bully – line themselves against Dorothy and me. They pursue us up and down the street. Then we run throughout the Harmon front yard, onto the street, back to the yard. This time Dorothy and I chase the others and we trap them inside the yard.

They are jumping up and down, and through the steel gate, yelling, “Nah. Nah, Nah.” I am rolling on a high and nothing and no one can stop me. I pick up a fist-sized rock from the ground, glare at them, squeeze the rock as if it is my new best friend. You’re in for it, Bully. I raise my arm over the gate and throw the rock… smack into Mare’s forehead.

No. No. Not Mare. I like Mare. I can’t understand why she’s hooked up with the Bully. I stand still and shocked. We seem lost in this sudden limbo second. The rock falls to the grass and we jolt into screamland.

Then the Bully Gang breaks free.

“You’re in for it,” they say. “We’re gonna get you now.”

Dorothy and I turn and fly towards my place. The Bully Gang is a posse on our tail. My Dad, on holidays from work, shoves Dorothy and me downstairs. He locks the outside doors for our safety. I look up and peek towards the basement window. The Bully and her followers shake their heads and waggle their hands. Then the Bully flattens her face against the window and ugly intent and uglier looks mesh into what could pass as road kill. I shiver and turn to Dorothy. If we looked in a mirror, our facial expressions would show us resembling twins. We back away and I wish Mom had made curtains for the window. But there is no bright light, no feeling of freedom in running around inside an unfinished basement with its white cement pillars and tarred concrete floors. Dorothy and I are the victims. Why are we the ones confined inside?

Excerpted and shortened from Chapter 4, Protecting the Princess – from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2017 Sharon A. Crawford).

What are some of the fiction techniques used in the above passage?

Until next week.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Dad, Family and Friends, Memoir writing, Only child memoir

Only Child on research for your memoir

Grandpa’s farm back when

“Have you found Grandpa’s farm?” my cousin Leona asked me when I called her just after arriving in Walkerton, Ontario.”

This is all part of my research for my family history on my mother’s side.

Today’s class is on doing research for your memoir and beginning your memoir. In this post we will briefly focus on the research part.

Research can vary depending on your memoir’s content. For example, if you were born in another country from the one you now live in – you will be doing research in different countries. And if you are going back to your ancestors, that likely means another country.

I’m in Toronto, Canada, so some of the points I cover below will be from that perspective.

Last week’s post on family photos and how to use them to write your memoir, have another purpose. They not only can kick-start memories, but can provide possible people to interview about your shared past – and in the case of family – your ancestors. When I first began researching for my memoir, I went to my cousin Anne who is the family genealogist (on  my mother’s side). Anne and I went to visit her father – my uncle and godfather – in the nursing home. Now, I’m a former journalist, but Anne did most of the work, showing her dad old photos (which I did supply) and asking him who was in it and to tell us a bit about what was going on. The photo showed a group of then young women, including my mother’s older sister who appeared to be waving a book around. At any suggestion that this aunt of mine was being frivolous, my uncle basically said that no, she was a good girl.

So photos can lead you to point people to interview and in turn they can lead you to others to interview, a good thing with me as only two uncles remained alive then (both since died) to interview. But another cousin, Anita, who used to go with her mother to visit extended family, put me on to one of her mother’s best friends who was still living. Got a lot of family information from her.

Besides photos of family and friends, there are diaries (maybe like me, you kept one or two or more). I went through most of them (I keep them in a box) and pulled out one or two with excerpts that could be used. You might also have access to family letters and documents such as wills and house sales. I have some of the latter.

Anita was a big help in my search for Grandpa’s farm where I used to visit with my parents every summer. They could drive there – the two miles from Mildmay, Ontario, but didn’t know the exact lot and plot numbers. You need that to find out who currently owns the property. And we had no intention of just landing at the farmhouse and banging on the door.

The search taught me two things.  Serendipity plays a big role and your research is never all online or all in person and phone.

Churches and the area assessment office often have records. So I phoned both – no luck with either. So onto the Internet and to the area’s main library branch in nearby Walkerton, Ontario. Yes, they had land registry info so I booked a day’s use for the micro fiche machine, contacted cousins Anita and Leona for our actual visit to the farm after, b00ked a motel room in the main area of Walkerton (no hotels), got a bus ticket, packed my bags and off I went.

The librarian who booked the micro fiche wasn’t in that day and the librarian who was didn’t know how to work the micro fiche machine. Neither did I, but she figured it out and handed me six possible micro fiche rolls. If you have ever used micro fiche, it is labour-intensive, not easy like digital (Note: some larger libraries in big cities have their daily newspapers digitized from when the newspaper began to up to two years ag0 and with a library card you can access it from your laptop anywhere). I found the info in the sixth roll but did discover another couple of properties that my grandfather owned. I was so excited until I discovered the info went up to the early 1980s  and we were now in the 21st. century.

So I asked a librarian for the Land Registry phone number, phoned them for their hours and location.

They were still open for half an hour and were one block from the library.

I paid for the micro fiche copies, gathered my belongings and ran out the door. And stood on the corner.

Which way to go? I asked somebody and charged down the street, just in time to get inside, look at the latest piece of information, get it photocopied and pay for that. Then it was back to the motel to make some phone calls to the current owners and my cousins.

I had an answer to Leona’s question and she and Anita met me at the motel the next morning. And we were off. But that’s another research story.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Family and Friends, Memoir writing, Memoir writing course

Only Child on using photos for memoir writing

Only Child and friends

One way to remember your past is to look at old photos. The old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” can be translated here to “a photo is worth many memories.”

Take that photo here. I am on the right and two of my friends are beside me. The fourth in our summer play group isn’t in the photo because she took it.

If you are writing a memoir – whether you are trying to figure out what to focus on, or trying to remember the past, look at your old photographs – or those from family members – you never know what is lurking in their drawers, photo albums or yours. Remember, we may be going back before digital and before selfies, although many of us scan our old photos.

Look at the photo and identify who is in it. Go from there and see what stories about the people and their relationships, the location of the photo. The possibilities are endless. Write them all down in a list to start and then write a short scenario – dialogue included – about what the picture conjures.

For more detailed information about photos and writing memoirs, go to one of my much older blog posts right here.   That one says a lot more.

Now, I have to get moving to teach the first session of my Memoir Writing Course.

Out into the rain – yech! We get more rain, too much (so I’ll be on basement watch) Wednesday overnight and Thursday.

And rain can also bring back memories.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Family and Friends, Memoir writing, Only child memoir

Only Child on gratitude – for a change

Sometimes we get into overdrive in complaining about what’s wrong in our lives and the world – mea culpa here. But a few recent events and also some info learned have made me stop and think – hey, I do have some things to be grateful for. Below are a few.

One with a problem that could have escalated into a big roadblock. For a change I’ve started early doing my year end business accounting – all the adjustments and then seguing to tax returns. But one, the info sheet for tax credits hadn’t arrived – credits for travelling on public Toronto transit with my pass. Usually the info sheet arrives mid February – this year it hadn’t arrived by early March, so I called. The customer service lady said that they had just sent them out the previous Friday (which was March 3) so to give it a week. I gave it to yesterday afternoon so I could check my mailbox. Only a magazine and junk mail, so I called – it was five minutes after they closed for the day. For some reason I looked in the mailbox again a bit later – another magazine and the TTC tax credit list. But the envelope was date stamped February 27. Post office or pre-stamped at the TTC. Go figure. Just thankful it is here and I have all my tax slips.

I now have a new guy shovelling my snow when we get a lot – which we are now although a temporary lull right now. Also I have lots of people who for a reasonable price, will do repairs, etc. around the house. No one to clean the house – can’t afford that although with my dust allergy it would be a good idea to have someone to clean the house weekly.

The two tooth extractions (although not welcome or wanted) were successful. Now it is on to the next medical issue – annual eye testing and wondering what that will reveal.

My son’s US tour with his band Beams went very well on all counts. They had a work visa, so no border problems. They had great gigs, met a lot of interesting people and the weather, unlike now, was good all over – and they travelled through New York state, did gigs in Chicago, Cincinnati, Oklahoma, Austen and Dallas. And their new van didn’t break down, although Martin flew home from Dallas because of work (his day job) commitments.

And after hearing stories from friends about their house and finance problems (sorry, what they are and who they are is confidential. Not my place to spread it around), I guess I’m somewhat lucky. Sure I still live below the poverty level (although that may show otherwise when I do my taxes), but I seem to know how to manage my money to suit my situation (so far; toes crossed).

Despite much juggling and bellyaching, I do like the life I have and what I like least I am endeavouring to cut back and/or eliminate doing. And I prioritize. That includes setting a timer every morning when I do email.

What are you grateful for?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Balance, Family and Friends, finances, Gratitude, Help and Support, Life Balance, Life demands, Life learning, Only child, Prioritizing

Only Child debunks attitude factor with seniors’ stress

Sitting in my garden relaxes me

Sitting in my garden relaxes me

It’s ALL in your attitude, we seniors are told about how we handle the stress in our lives. My emphasis on the word “ALL”. Attitude may have something to do with it, but not “all.” And some of the research on attitude and seniors’ stress is somewhat questionable.

Take the study from North Carolina State University, for example. Sure the research shows that seniors who have a positive attitude about aging can handle stress better. Read this article about the study

One big factor from this study stands out. THE NUMBER OF SENIORS INVOLVED IN THIS STUDY.  Are you ready for this? Forty-three. That’s 43. That sure covers a lot of seniors and wide spread over demographics. Come on researchers, get real. Even professional pollsters use over 1000, if not close to 2000 people. While not near perfect in numbers it is much higher than the paltry 43.

I question the widespread validity of a study that uses only 43 people.

There are certainly many other factors in seniors’ lives besides their attitudes towards aging. Here are a few factors, given at random:

  1. The health of the senior – not just cancer, heart disease or diabetes, and loss of or diminished sight, hearing and/or mobility, Health includes mental health. If you don’t consider depression and/or high anxiety (with our without intolerance to uncertainly – disclaimer here – I have this  – see this previous blog post), it doesn’t paint a realistic picture. Also, often physical illnesses can cause depression and anxiety.
  2. What is happening in a senior’s life?
  3. What has happened previously over many years in the senior’s life?
  4. Is the senior financially secure (as much as anyone can be these days) or living near or below the poverty line?
  5. Does the senior live alone?
  6. Where does the senior live – in their home (house, condo, apartment) or in a long-term care facility?
  7. Does the senior have supportive family and/or friends?
  8. Does the senior have some passion/some interest in life – something that gets them going every day?
  9. The senior’s innate personality – i.e., some people are hard-wired to be positive and some the opposite.
  10.  We must not forget the Pollyanna effect. You know, the “everything is great and wonderful in life” and ignoring the bad that does happen (and I know “bad” can be subjective). Remember the 1960 Disney movie “Pollyanna” starring Hayley Mills? She played Pollyanna and gave a good take on it. However, in the movie Pollyanna, a 12-year-old-child, fell from a tree when sneaking out at night. From that she became crippled.

Maybe the best way to get through the senior years is to be realistic. If something upsets you, acknowledge this and maybe you need to do something about it. I find that helps me. What I am still learning is to pick my battles. You can’t fight everything.

And have some passion/some interest (or two or three or more – mine are writing, helping other writers, acting in comedy skits, gardening, reading, TV, cooking and walking, socializing with close family and friends, and apparently the weather). Try to find a balance between being alone and socializing. Lighten up a bit sometimes. For example, so far in one month I’ve had to have two molars (different locations) extracted. For my first “meal” with my son who was at the first  dental appointment and drove me home, I heated up solid food for him and said, “We can eat as soon as I heat up my gruel (chicken broth).” Confide your problems to someone you are close to, but not someone who is judgemental or orders you around. And if necessary, see a therapist, even if only for a short time to get over the hurdle. Eat healthy, get some exercise, get enough sleep and try not to do too much.

I’m still working on the latter two.

My $5.00 worth anyway.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Aloneness, Anxiety, Family and Friends, Health Seniors, Only child, Seniors