Tag Archives: Garden

Only Child on rebooting your life

House front of my childhood home

Growing up an only child can often unleash a myriad of feelings. In me, the negative ones  were fear, loneliness, and often being the victim of bullying. My late mother used to help combat this by setting up a restful situation which I now call “rebooting my life”.

I was still in grade school, around eight years old. On sunny summer mornings when no one was around to play with, Mom would set up the card table, a chair, my big box of crayons, my colouring books and me outside on the front veranda. I could colour to my heart’s content. But more so, I got the chance to look around at the green grass which my Dad (sometimes with my help) mowed with the push mower, at the shrubs and  roses and at the quiet neighbourhood. Occasionally I heard a bird chirp. Seldom would a car whiz by on the street which I faced and never would a wasp dare to come near me – at least  not that I remember. But once in a while someone, maybe a neighbour I knew or didn’t know, would walk by on the street below. We would give each other the friendly eye and smile.

Today I do my own version of Mom’s rebooting my life. When things get overly problematic and/or busy (which they have this summer) I go out into my garden. I may dig in and remove weeds, pick berries or collect vegetables, but often I sit outside to eat my meals at the patio table in the backyard. Sometimes I sit in the shade of my neighbour’s overhanging black walnut tree and look out at the garden or read. Sometime I take photos of my garden. And yes, I do sometimes sit out front on my veranda, but I don’t colour. The recent trend (probably now passe anyway) of adults colouring in adult colouring books never caught on with me. Could be because I am a professional writer and amateur photographer. You really wouldn’t want me drawing anyway. I can’t even draw a straight line – with a ruler.

View of today’s backyard garden from patio

Dusk view from my current front veranda

However, looking back at my childhood (I know – my age is showing), I realize Mom had cottoned onto a good idea. We all need to reboot from all the stuff in our lives.

Only Child’s home and garden for her health circa 2011

Do you reboot? If you reboot, how do you reboot?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1950s, Crayons and coloring, Gardens, Life Balance, Mom and Dad

Only Child says don’t order me around

My Mom and Dad

When I was a child my mom and dad told me what to do. And so they should – that was part of their job being parents. Fast forward too many years to now and people are still telling me what to do – or trying to. I’m a senior and should be able to make up  my own mind, including weighing in on pros and cons of different situation.

That doesn’t mean I don’t ask for help, for suggestions from friends and family – the big word here is “ask”. It is the unsolicited advice – sometimes almost like orders I’m talking about.

That also doesn’t mean that I don’t listen to experts talk/suggest in well, their area of expertise. For example, with my handyman, Mike, if I call him in with yet another house repair problem. Sure, we can get into a discussion. But I listen to what he says and will probably have him do what he suggests – as long as I can afford it. Sometimes, the work just gets postponed until I can afford it – like the old rec room window that last month just started letting water ub during heavy rainfalls. That’s a closed window, folks.

And for medical/health advice, I listen to the experts and read expert info – although in the end,  a lot of that is up to me. But I don’t pretend to know everything. As a former journalist I am very familiar with the word “research” and do lots of that.

It’s when people who think they know what I should do start in. For example telling me to get the basement waterproofed now. When I explain there is the window to see to first, then they try to draw up a schedule for me to get it all done. They know I am a writer and have my third Beyond mystery novel to promote, etc., etc., so…

News flash: I don’t have a husband or any other type of partner. I’m in this myself so that means I have to do and/or organize everything in my life.

Not that I wouldn’t want some help and sometimes friends gift me their help – but they are not ordering me around. My son is also a big help, not just with computers but with a few practical things that surprise me. But he doesn’t push it.

Tbe big one that really gets my goat is this: If I am having so many house problems why don’t I sell it and move into a condo?

Oh, For you-know-whose sake! Is that the answer for us seniors living in our own homes? To those  who think this, I think “Get a life – preferably yours, not mine.”

Throughout my life I  have lived in apartments, townhouses, two-storey houses and bungalows. I live in a bungalow now and it’s the only type of home that appeals to me. So, I have a short answer for these meddling busy-bodies who ask “Why don’t you sell the house and move into a condo?”

Because I would rather be dead than give up my garden.

That shuts them up.

Sharon on patio backyard garden

Of course I have more practical reasons. But I am tired of going into them.

So, I say, I am a senior and as long as my brain is still working, I think I can decide what to do and when to do it. And I reserve the right to change my mind or move the timing of it and when to ask for help.

What do you say?

How do you deal with unsolicited advice to well, run your life?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under Aloneness, Decision Making, Family and Friends, Garden, Help and Support, Life Balance, Only child, Problem solving, Seniors

Only Child can’t wait for spring weather

From my front veranda March 2018

When I was a child my dad shovelled the snow. We never had eaves trough problems, freezing ice on the ground (except for the skating rink my dad made in the backyard). Perhaps a few icicles. But that was the extent of our winter weather. No worries and none of the rigamarole I have to go through with when it snows more than a few centimetres. I’ve had to get heat cables on the roof and into and outside the downspouts tand downspout extensions  – the latter several revisions by  my handyman until something (hopefully) worked. He also had to extend the downspouts on both ends in the backyard way out, placing them on top of bins. So getting onto the patio, etc. is a winding exercise. Plus I have to calculate when to turn on the heat cables, and roof and downspouts ones can’t be on at the same time or it will shut that circuit off. I’m forever looking up a tthe roof to see the level of snow still there, salting parts of the driveway, veranda, etc. The list is endless and so is my time wasted. I do have someone hired to shovel the snow. All this costs money, my money. No wonder as the month gets closer to the end, I have, as they say, more month than moneyals

It it isn’t house-related, it is health-related that steals my money.

So, while the above photo may look bleak except for the sky, I prefer the dry no snow on the ground to snow. It has been dry on the ground in Toronto for a few weeks. Sure there have been traces of rain and a few snow flakes, but they are not staying on the ground. So it looks dismal, but hey, not snow or ice – at this point.

Spring arrived today (12.15 p.m. noon with the Equinox) according to the calendar. The meteorologists’ predictions call for more snow and rain  as we get into April. Some rain I can handle (as long as it doesn’t get into my house. The gardens need the rain. And I need my gardens  0utside – soon.

Meantime, I’ve finally planned my outdoor garden, sent in my seed order to the seed catalogue company, bought a few heirloom seeds at a garden show (indoors) at the Toronto Botainical Gardens last month, attended Canada Blooms, and in the food department bave some basil varieties just starting to grow in a sunny window, am growing potato plant indoors (I get a few potatoes, albeit small), and one of the three rosemary plants I brought in last fall  is still doing well (so far). Plus tending my other indoor plants such as coleus, palm, various Spring cactus and the one begonia that has survived (so far) being brought indoors last fall. Some of these latter two are starting to bloom.

And I’m taking photographs of the dead gardens, live ones indoors (like at Canada Blooms) and looking at last year’s garden photos. Here’s one below.

How do you survive winter?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

Sharon’s Day Lily summer 2017

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Dad, Only child, Snow, Uncategorized, Winter blahs

Only Child remembers friend who died from cancer

Black raspberries - which I shared with Tanya

Black raspberries – which I shared with Tanya

It is coming on to the first anniversary of my close friend, Tanya’s death from lung cancer February 3, 2016. The first indication that she and her husband Alex had moved in next door was when I heard than talk just outside my office window. Yes, our houses, our properties are that close.

Perhaps this was a sign of how close Tanya and I would become. I went over and introduced myself to them and later their orange cat, Marmalade when they brought him home.

Alex came from Russia and Tanya from the Ukraine. They had lived in England for nine years and one year rented a house down by Lake Ontario in Toronto before buying the house next door. The house next door required a lot of updates – Alex and his friends gutted and renovated the basement and the main floor. It was a small house, smaller than mine, so in 2010 they added a upper part – which after getting the proper city permits, Alex and his friends did most of the work for – except for a few things like electrical and the like.

Because  theirs family had increased when their son Anton was born 13 years ago.  You would see her and Alex pushing Anton in his baby carriage along the street. When Anton was walking, he would be out in their backyard and later when he started at the school at the end of the street, Tanya would take him to school. After school he would be out in the backyard playing with his friends. Some times Alex would be mowing the lawn or fixing something with the house.

But it was Tanya who was the heart of her family. Although she had asthma and had to stay in on very hot summer days or extremely cold winter days, still in spring to fall she would be out in her backyard, hanging out laundry, sometimes doing a bit of gardening, sometimes just sitting and enjoying the view. We always had long chats over the fence and helped each other out – if someone needed an extra egg and Tanya often offered to pick up for me heavy groceries such as apple juice. She also helped me get my garden soils bag back from Home Depot. She used to say she loved looking at my garden, even from their back window. Sometimes I gave her plants from the garden. But the big annual ritual was to give them containers of the black raspberries and tomatoes that grew in my garden. One summer, when Anton was getting really fussy about his food, he would eat the raspberries. I remember when they were headed up to a rented cottage with some friends, Tanya said that Anton sat in the back seat and ate some of the raspberries.

We looked after each others’ houses, properties, and in their case their cat, when either they or I went away on holidays. Whomever was away would bring back a little treat for the one(s) looking after the property. Usually I visited my cousins in southwestern Ontario and brought back a small box of chocolates from Chocolate Barrs (yes, that’s the name of the owners) in downtown Stratford, Ontario. We also exchanged Christmas presents, some of which I would buy on my holidays. And visited each other for lunch and for my annual Christmas party (which I stopped doing after 2013 – too much work).

One of the things they did that was beyond the call of duty was to help me when my basement flooded the first time in November 2005 – this was around six to eight inches of water in the recreation room, hallway, laundry room and up part of the stairs. Tanya let me borrow her cell to call a friend and my ex and later the insurance company because at first my phone line was all static because of the water downstairs. The phone service came back the next day.

But Alex came over right away when I banged on their door for help. For some reason he had brought home the heavy-duty Shopping Vac from work (he works in construction and has a small company which subcontracts out). Alex cleaned up all the water downstairs. So when the city works department people came to check it out they only saw the ravages and figured it was a drain problem. So did the insurance people and the drain company that replaced and upgraded the main drain outlet on the floor in the laundry room.

Fast forward to late fall 2015 when I got a call from Tanya who told me she was sick. I mentioned something about the asthma. I remember her words: “It is much worse than asthma. I have cancer of the lungs.” She was on a special macro-biotic diet and wanted me to get her some special foods from the health food store on the Danforth. So I did, with pleasure and sadness when I brought the food and saw her at home. She was up and about but attached to a portable respirator with a very long cord. She explained her dietary regime and was always cheerful. Alex and another of their friends, Linda, also got her food for her.

Then we had Christmas – her last. I was glad I could go over for a short visit with Christmas presents Christmas Eve and that she called on Christmas Day and talked to me and my son. Tanya, Alex and Anton were going to that rented cottage (winter heated, naturally) for a week after Christmas Day. But Tanya was rushed to the local hospital because of breathing problems, Alex told me the next day as he was loading the car to take Anton up to the cottage as his friends were there too. Alex was coming back to be with Tanya.

The day Tanya was to come home her doctor took one look at her and had her transferred to Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. She never came home. I was able to talk to her once on the phone but when I called the next time I wasn’t allowed to speak to her but they would give her my message. She started chemo but it made her so sick the doctors had to take her off it. It was too late anyway; she was diagnosed too late – if it acts like asthma doesn’t necessarily mean it is only asthma.

Whenever I saw Anton or Alex I asked how Tanya was doing but was careful what to say to young Anton. Both were optimistic, but the last time before… when I spoke to Alex alone, he wasn’t so optimistic, making that gesture that means so-so. He said she couldn’t swallow and couldn’t talk.

February 4, Alex phoned me and said “Tanya passed away yesterday.”

The memorial service was held a month later in a big room at a legion hall. Friends brought food and non-alcoholic beverages. There were words from friends. I went with one of my other friends, Al from across the street. Carol, his wife, a close friend, couldn’t make it because she was sick with the flu. But all of Anton’s friends were there sitting with him at a table. And the neighbours came out in droves. There were pictures – print – displayed of the three of them. It was very moving. The following May we all helped plant a tree in Tanya’s memory on the grounds of the grade school Anton had attended.

Tanya, I will never forget you. You died too young – 51. I hope in summer you can look down and see and enjoy my garden.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Chives in my front garden - here for now

Part my front garden which Tanya enjoyed seeing

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Filed under cancer, Friends, Gardens, Only child

Only Child loves the B bugs

Butterfly on Only Child's cap

Butterfly on Only Child’s cap

I love bugs, insects and the like whose first letter is a “b.” So that includes bees and butterflies. As Wikipedia states about the latter:

“Butterflies are insects in the clade Rhopalocera from the order Lepidoptera, which also includes moths. Adult butterflies have large, often brightly coloured wings, and conspicuous, fluttering flight.”

Last week I saw thousands of butterflies up close when on holidays in southwestern Ontario. My cousin Anne took me to the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory in Cambridge, Ontario. The actual conservatory itself runs from April to October and is an amazing and beautiful butterfly and moth sanctuary. There are also birds such as dove and quail peaking out from the many plants and shrubs. You can see butterflies in their pre-stages of larvae; ugly beetles which are not butterflies, and get the grand tour from knowledgeable staff.

But the best part is walking around in the conservatory and just letting whatever will happen do so. Butterflies land on your hands and for some reason my beige cap was a big attraction. Anne took the photo above. I also took some photos – obviously not of butterflies landing on me – I am not ambedexterious.

There are also two rooms outside of the conservatory which have photos of butterflies with information posted near them, a gift shop and a cafe.

I think I got interested in butterflies 30 or so years ago when I lived in Aurora and went to an  art and craft shop which held monthly openings for its current exhibiting artists. Then I would write a story about it for the local newspaper. One artist had captured butterflies in an artistic arrangement. While I prefer to let butterflies be free or be set free, the arrangements were beautiful.

Then in 2003 I interviewed a fellow Ken McGrath who raised butterflies in his apartment and then in a rented room. It was his own business and he would mail them out to clients who wanted the butterflies to set them free at weddings, memorial services and the like. My very short story on Ken was published in Toronto Life magazine. Four years later when I interviewed Ken again for another magazine story, he had acquired a business partner and expanded his business – so I interviewed  her as well. That story, a longer one, was published in the now defunct Centre of the City magazine. After that Ken moved his butterfly business to rural Ontario. Today he is an artist who has traded butterflies for spider webs, which he uses in his pendants. He is now nicknamed Spider Web Wrangler. More info on Ken at the Pazan Gallery site where his creations have appeared.

Meantime, when out in my garden I look for butterflies landing on my ecinaccea, fennel and black-eyed susans. And check out my blog’s garden page here.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Gardens, Only child

Only Child Grateful for Garden and Friends

Raggedy Annie guards Only Child's front garden

Raggedy Annie guards Only Child’s front garden

You’re getting some garden photos today. From this spring and summer. Friends’ photos coming up in a future blog post.

But both are connected in one way. I am grateful for both.

Let me clarify.

First my friends, my real friends, not the so-called friends like “Lois” who think they can control my life. On Saturday, my friend Bob picked me up at the Finch subway station. We were en route to Aurora for an old newspaper journalist reunion. While driving, Bob told me he was glad I was finding some peace with that church I had blogged about recently.

My first thought was “church.” I’m not a church-goer. I’m no longer Catholic or even Christian. Then my aging-brain kicked in. The Buddhist temple I had visited and meditated in during Toronto’s Doors Open May 23. I had blogged about it just after

https://onlychildwrites.wordpress.com/2015/05/26/only-child-finds-a-little-piece-of-peace/

 

Bob said that he knows I have been through a lot in my life and he was hoping I would find some peace and that might be with that church. I replied “I plan to go back but there hasn’t been time.” He said he hoped that I would. I’m planning to this Saturday.

Thank you Bob. I meant to tell you this on the way to Aurora, but the conversation got distracted and old minds sometimes operate like the proverbial gnats.

Bob and I have been friends for years. He was one of my first editors at one of the community newspapers I wrote for in York Region when I lived in Aurora (not quite in the grey ages – the latter is my school days). He has listened to me rant about everything from house problems to nasty people in my life (Lois doesn’t quite fit in that bad category, but the boarder that lived here from summer 2013 to October 2014 does), to – well you name it. He has also come to many of my son Martin’s gigs with the various bands he has played in over the years

The garden is my refuge and my delight (weeds and all – you don’t want to know the number of containers and bags of weeds and tree and shrub branches in the last yard waste pickup). As I daily pick the many black raspberries, pot plants, water potted plants and just sit out and enjoy the garden while eating meals or reading or just sitting, I am grateful. Sure, we have had a lot of rain, but it has eased off the last week or so. Some rain and possible thunderstorms due later today so I hope I won’t be eating my words here. But when I see on TV and the Internet all those forest fires burning out of control in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatoon and find out the number of people being evacuated, I guess we are pretty lucky here in southern Ontario, at least up to now. We have greenery, lovely flowers, and fresh food growing in the gardens and on the farms. Out west it is fire and smoke and air pollution and fear of losing your home.

The Weather Network showed a map of the fires and within listed the culprits causing the fires. The furthest east was “Person caused.” The rest were caused by weather (read “God”). The sense of justice in me wants the guilty parties to pay. But we’ll never find the person who caused some of the fires. My hope is that God will bring the necessary rain (sans thunder and lightning) to put all the fires out. And keep the wind away. Unfortunately, current weather forecasts show T-storms and wind.

Meantime, back in gardenland here, I will continue to enjoy my garden. But still keep a couple of wary eyes on the weather.

 

Cheers

Roses early summer in front garden

Roses early summer in front garden

 

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Family and Friends, Forest Fires Western Canada, Fresh produce, Friends, Gardening, God, Help and Support, Meditation, Only child, Peace and quiet, Raspberries, Weather

Only Child’s good, bad and ugly 2014 list

Only Child's damaged evergreens and new growth

Only Child’s damaged evergreens and new growth

As 2014 soon ends, many people are making resolutions for 2015. Before I do that, I have to let go of 2014 with my summary of what I thought was good, bad and ugly. Here is a partial list. Some individuals/organizations/ things are on both because they behaved both well and badly. The ugly are the worst offenders – what I never want to see again.

The Good:

  1. My son Martin – he is at the top – for helping his old mom out so much, not just helping with computer stuff, but helping with house stuff, including offering to pay for a much-needed living room chesterfield when I get one this coming spring. Hot on his heels is his girlfriend, Juni, for helping me sort out my digital camera usage and photos. More on Martin’s goodness in last week’s post (for what he did in December 2013). See https://onlychildwrites.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/only-childs-meaning-of-christmas-2/
  2. My garden (spring, summer and fall) for providing a sanctuary of colour, fragrance and creativity.
  3. My health – what is good about it. I can still walk most days and garden and still am able to live in my home.
  4. My home, especially now that the boarder has moved out and I have my home back.
  5. God, for when he does listen to me – on a few big things such as getting the boarder out and making my new novel publication and book launch, etc. happen.
  6. My city councillor, Janet Davis and her staff for helping me out when city departments don’t do their job and/or are rude.
  7. The incredible Grace in Bell Canada’s resolution department for straightening out bad service issues including incompetent, unfriendly and rude technicians and call centre and billing department staff. And for taking $50 off on my Bell bill for the company’s screw-up and bad service.
  8. My bank branch for being so helpful, especially when one of their tellers screwed up when I paid a bill and took it from Utility (water and waste) instead of Property Taxes. The manager went out of her way to get the funds transferred back to me, including the interest charges for “late payment” and wrote a letter to the City of Toronto Property Tax Department about teller error not any non-payment on my part. So I still have my stellar paying-on-time status here.
  9. Mike, the handyman, for being top-notch and quick in repairing/upgrading in plumbing, electrical and also painting, etc.
  10. My friends who help me, especially Bob (who recommended Mike), Tanya and Alex, Marlene, Kathy, Carol and Al, and the librarians at the Toronto Public Library branches who are supportive of my books, doing readings and teaching workshops at library branches.

The Bad:

  1. God, for the too many times when he doesn’t listen, for the horrible weather he brought us worldwide in 2014 (and December 2013 too) and not repairing all the damage he caused to all our trees and gardens from the December 2013 ice storm in southern Ontario, Canada .
  2. The boarder for turning into a pain in the ass, taking over rooms in the house she wasn’t entitled to, leaving a dirty mess when she moved out – she was a boarder, not a renter.  Note here: I did take her in when she had nowhere else affordable to go. She overstayed her “welcome.”
  3. Any of the six utilities and their staff who screwed up with service.
  4. Toronto 311 call centre for one person’s rudeness and patronization and at first not even going to put in a complaint and request. I sicced Janet Davis’ staff on him.
  5. Toronto’s garbage collectors – or two from the garbage truck that picks up the green bin (veggie and the like scraps, used facial tissues) who missed one bag (not the same bag each time) three times in October and even after my complaint, did it again in December. Don’t have these problems with the actual garbage bins and recycling bins as they are handled by machine from the garbage truck.
  6. Telemarketers and their comrades in email. The pox on them.
  7. The weather itself – it is extreme all over. Nowhere on earth is good and safe to live.
  8. Time for running off at more than the mouth with the result we are running around in circles.
  9. Any stressors who interfere with people’s health.
  10. Health again – not just mine but many of my female friends between 50 and 70 have so many health problems, some big, some not. But all interfere with our quality of life. I don’t believe this is just from getting old.

The Ugly:

(the worst from the Bad list): the extreme weather, God (the bad parts), the former boarder, health issues and time-stealers.

So, what will 2015 bring? We shall see. I’m planning on tackling the time issue and will be deleting and delaying as much as I can. And focusing on what is important.

Happy, prosperous and healthy 2015 to all.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Bank service, Extreme Weather, Family and Friends, Garden Destruction, God, Health, Health Seniors, Home and Garden, Ice Storm Southern Ontario, Ice storm Toronto, Martin Crawford, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford, Stress, Time, Time management, Toronto