Tag Archives: Helping Others

Helping lost people turns into something personal

GO train on the go

GO train on the go

This summer I am making it my business to help people who are having difficulty finding their way around Toronto. I don’t actively seek doing this but when I see someone who appears lost – or if they are asking for help getting around – I do my best to help them. Some days when I’m out nothing happens; some days there are a couple of instances. But last Saturday it got personal as my friend K. from Oakville had to return home by GO train and the situation for boarding was very vague.

K, N and I had spent a day at Harbourfront and N and I walked K back to where she figured she would go to get her GO bus. It was where she had exited.

The long waiting room with windows on one side and entrances to stairwells to some of the platforms on the other side was not very helpful. Neither was the Departure schedule on one of those changing digital boards. All the upcoming GO trains and Go buses were listed, but the boarding platform was not listed until five or 10 minutes before boarding time. Instead, you saw the word “Wait” beside the trains and buses. There were no officials around to ask; no indication where the nearest washroom was, and no seats to sit on.

K has back problems and other medical issues. N has a hip problem and I have a couple of digestive disorders. We would have appreciated at least a place to sit and someone official to ask if we were even in the right place. With this Union Station in construction flux, this latter part isn’t unreasonable. Last time K came to Toronto in the fall, she boarded her GO train at the other end of the large Union Station. So it wasn’t inconceivable that there was another place with platform entrances, particularly as the ones we saw here didn’t go up very far in numbers. The wall maps were useless.

So we waited, fretted and oh, did I forget to mention – no air conditioning so it was hot and humid inside. By continually checking the departure board I figured out that all GO bus platforms were numbered in the 40s. I also figured to get to them, you would go to the end of this long room, through the doors and there would be an indoor walkway to take you across the street to the GO bus terminal. Not for trains, though.

Five minutes before K’s GO train was scheduled to leave (they were running every hour only on the weekend because of construction) a platform number appeared. By that time, there were a number of people huddling around and they all proceeded through that numbered door. K hugged N and me and followed the others through the door to board her GO train.

I was so outraged by this major consumer service flaw, that I filed a complaint with GO online using their complaint form. Besides what I mention here, I also suggested they take a page from VIA rail (also goes through Union station but in the main area), i.e., that they list the platforms for all GO trains and buses departing – all the ones on the screen as they appear. The one word “wait” which they have, should deter people from entering the platform ahead of time in case there is another GO train or bus departing or arriving there before then. VIA does this and it is not unusual if you arrive early for your train when you go to the place to line-up, there is another line-up for an earlier departing train. VIA rail also has updated announcements via loudspeaker. That wasn’t happening a this GO waiting area. So that makes you wonder what blind people do? Maybe GO is in some violation of accessibility laws.

There was a notice in the waiting area and GO online that the platforms would be changing August 10 for construction so I also suggested they implement my suggestions when they do their construction.

If they can’t get their heads around giving good customer service to regular GO riders, they need to remember this is the big tourist season in Toronto and if regular riders (K does take the GO but in her area only, not into Toronto usually) get confused, what about tourists?

What do you want to bet that the powers that be at GO Transit all drive cars?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Consumer action, Friends, Getting lost, Helping Others, Only child, Public Transit, Union Station Toronto, VIA Rail

Only Child does stay vacations

Sailboats at Toronto Harbourfront Centre on Lake Ontario

Sailboats at Toronto Harbourfront Centre on Lake Ontario

When I was a child, my mom and I used to travel around Toronto by public transit (TTC) – buses, streetcars, and then the subway when the first line was opened. Some TTC galavanting was for shopping but Mom picked good and interesting areas, such as the Danforth, which had the big “dime stores” as they were called. You know Kresge’s, The Met and Woolworth’s. Yes, that’s dating me, but it was an adventure to go into all three stores before Easter to get that Easter hat. And stopping at the restaurant counters at The Met for a hot dog and ice cream was a treat. We also stopped in butcher shops and greengrocers. Sadly, the “dime stores” are all gone although Woolworth’s upgrade Wal-Mart is still around, in malls. And “dime stores” would never fly in these expensive times. Instead we have the Dollarama and Dollar Tree chains – which I actually like. They are the 21st. century’s Kresge’s and Met.

Mom also took me to places like the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) and to visit family and friends.

So, recalling all the above, and for the sake of my almost empty wallet, I’ve decided I’m doing a lot of visiting local touristy sites in Toronto, the free ones. Sure, I still hope to do my annual visit to my cousins in southwestern Ontario, but there is still the rest of the summer.

Besides my once or twice a week trip down to the Danforth for groceries, I also head for some of the events there, such as Taste of the Danforth – a celebration of food (yes, I’m a foodie), not just Greek in this Greek area of Toronto, but Italian and Asian. The nearby park, Withrow Park has several weekly evening events such as a Farmer’s Market and Shakespeare in the Park.

On Sunday I headed down to Toronto Harbourfront Centre on the shores of Lake Ontario. Since the street has been made more pedestrian, cyclist and streetcar friendly, it is easier to get around and also looks better. The Car doesn’t rule here anymore as cars are confined to two lanes. In fact all the traffic – pedestrian, cyclist, streetcars and cars – have their own lanes. There is also art in two buildings, although the outdoor art seems to be missing this year, a boardwalk to walk along the lake, lots of boats and ships – some you can book rides on. If and when I can afford it I’d like to take a two-hour tour on the Tall Ships.

Each summer and early fall weekend, Harbourfront has a theme and the foods and music are tied into that. Last weekend it was Latin music. And there are craft booths, two stages, grass (the fake type, which might be a blessing in this summer’s drought-ridden Toronto), and some restaurants. One building which used to have two or three restaurants and several small shops is now down to one restaurant – a pub and grill – and the Sobey’s grocery market (now expanded) on the main floor. It looks like the rest is being renovated but gone is my favourite – Tilly’s – you know the company known for travel clothes, especially the Tilly hat. The beaches are clean of mess and overcrowding. And it is fun to sit on a bench along the boardwalk and people watch.

But  my favourite part of Harbourfront is the Toronto Music Garden. Every other Sunday at 4 p.m. and one evening a week, classical music is presented by various musicians from all over. It is relaxing to sit on the grass steps (real grass here) or benches and listen and watch. And just walking through the other parts of the garden and looking at the flowers is amazing. I spent a lot of time trying to take photos of bees landing on the echinaccea.

Perhaps the highlight of this afternoon was helping a family from Cincinnati find what they were looking for. I was walking from Union Station (where I exited the subway and I prefer to walk from there than take the streetcar – the lineups are too long) to Harbourfront and waiting for the light to change when I heard a woman from behind call out something about needing direction “Any locals?”

I turned around and went up to them and started chatting with the woman. She had her smart phone out and said there was supposed to be an LCBO Market on the corner here. After I found out from her that she wasn’t looking for a Farmer’s Market (there are lots of those around closeby), but that she meant an actual store, I explained that the LCBO is the Liquor Store outlet but there was a Sobey’s Grocery right just down the street in Harbourfront.

“I’ll walk with you as I’m going that way, too,” I said.

She introduced me to her husband and their two daughter and we all shook hands.

We asked each other questions such as how long had I lived in Toronto and how long were they here for holidays. They asked about Casa Loma and I told them how to get there and also mentioned another historical place, a house set up in the early 1900s, Spadina House, just across the street from Casa Loma. When we arrived at the corner with Sobey’s, she said, “That’s the place.”

I looked at the sign: “Sobey’s Urban Market.”

We parted ways at Sobey’s, but it was good to help someone to find their way – literally. As I did explain – I get lost too.

Afterwards I thought of so many other places they could look into and the dine Toronto  blog for restaurants that are rated.

One of those slapping your head for forgetting situations.

But, I’ll be going to some of the places I wanted to tell this Cincinnati family about.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

Part of the Toronto Music Garden including some echinaccea

Part of the Toronto Music Garden including some Black-eyed Susans and Lavender

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Filed under 1950s, Cities, Getting lost, Helping Others, Holiday Travel, Holidays, Mother and Child, Only child, Public Transportation, The Danforth

Only Child on friend’s unsolicited advice

Only child contemplates living life her way

Only child contemplates living life her way

Should friends impose their advice on what you should do? Unsolicited advice. If you ask for their advice, that’s another story.

Over the weekend a friend of many years phoned me and began to tell me how to run my life and then had the nerve to criticize how I do it.

“Lois” as I’ll call her, decided she had information about a “cure” for my long time digestive disorder. She went into a long spiel about her dental hygienist who saw this medical practitioner who had her change her diet, that it wasn’t all just eating fibre, and…

But I’m coming to the sick part shortly. I didn’t just sit here and let her go on without saying something.

“It’s not diet with me. I’ve changed my diet a lot. It’s stress. I need to relax.  On the Doors Open weekend last month I went to a Buddhist Centre on Crawford Street – not sure if that name is an omen. It was so peaceful and I intend to go back. It’s just been so busy lately.”

I did ask her for the doctor’s name and if he was covered by OHIP. She gave me his name and I did write it down. (Since then I ripped up the piece of paper and threw it in the recycling bin). Yes, he is covered by OHIP, she said. But I couldn’t find him listed in the Ontario Physicians and Surgeons  registry online.

“Does he rely on drugs?” I asked.

He didn’t, but what Lois said that he did to her dental hygienist is sickening.

“She had surgery and he froze part of her intestines.”

Triple yuck! I don’t even want to imagine any side-effects or damage to the intestines.

The conversation continued with Lois saying something about how anti-depressants have helped her.

Was that a hint about how she sees me?

So, I jumped in with, “I’m not depressed (haven’t been for years) but go to the other side – anger.”

“You have a lot of anger in you,” said Lois.

“Yes, but it is all for good reasons. Sometimes I use my anger to do something about my problems.”

She didn’t say any more about that but when I got into what I want to do with my life and what I want to stop doing, she struck again.

Me: “I’ve been spending a lot of time promoting my books.”

Lois: “You won’t make any money that way.”

Me: “Well I enjoy doing that and want to refocus some of my business on doing some of that for authors. Maybe make some money that way. I’m kicking a lot of things and people out of my life.”

I’m beginning to wonder if she should be added to that list. I did wish her a happy birthday as that is coming up later this week, and mentioned that I couldn’t afford to take her out to dinner for her birthday. What I didn’t say was that I had planned to invite her here for dinner, which I would cook. No way now.

Operative word is “had.” She doesn’t deserve that. I’ve wished her a happy birthday and that’s it.

She’s on hold until at least the fall.

Late last night it occurred to me why her derogatory comment on promoting my writing. I am happy about what I do in my writing life (except maybe the straight editing manuscript part. I still like evaluating manuscripts. But that’s fodder for another post). I’m sensing she is not happy with her lot in life. Without going into details about her career, let’s just say she has been doing the same thing for at least 30 years. All lateral.

At least with my writing, I develop and change what I do, learn and improve and also help other authors.

But I don’t tell them what to do about their health and other personal problems. If they ask for suggestions, maybe.

And I have other friends who are not writers and I don’t get this “get a life” attitude. They are respectful and accepting of what I do as I try to be about what they do.

The truth is we are all individuals with individual life paths and it is up to us to decide where we want to go with our life.

So, Lois, take that in your pipe and smoke it.

Oops. Forgot, you quit smoking a few years back. And while I’m glad you did, I never told you to do so.

What do you think about friends who try to run your life? Do they have the right to do so with unsolicited advice?

 

Cheers.

 

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anger, Consideration, Digestive disorder, Friends, Health, Help and Support, Helping Others, Life demands, Only child, Problems, Stress, Uncategorized

Only Child turns new leaf to kindness

Winter weather still causing problems

Winter weather still causing problems

Late last night or early this morning – depending on your time take – I had just finished reading the newspaper and was heading for bed when the power went out.

Instant panic. After the big Southern Ontario power outage of summer 2003 and the ice storm-induced outage starting Dec. 21, 2013, I do not take kindly to power outages. Especially when I have put it out there to God (or whomever you believe are the powers that be) to please keep all utilities working 24/7. And I’m not listened to.

Immediately I went into action. Phoned Toronto Hydro to report the outage but couldn’t get past the “hit No 1 to report an outage.” When I hit “1” the phone went dead on their end. I was using my trusty landline phone on the wall – no electric connections there. The next half hour was spent actually going outside and looking to see where the outage was and more phone call attempts.

Surprise. It was a small pocket on part of my street and the street my house faces. My friends next door had power and the street light on our property line was on. Back into the house with another try to get Toronto Hydro. This time it didn’t ring and nothing at their end, but all fine at my end of the phone. In my panic, I decided to try 311 – the city help line – but they were backed up with calls. So I hung up and decided to call 911 – maybe the police could report the outage to Toronto Hydro; maybe they could get through to Toronto Hydro.

Well, I got the rudest person – a civilian – in police communications. He kept rudely repeating I had to call Toronto Hydro and despite my saying I tried but couldn’t get through to them, he kept saying that 911 was for fire, police and medical emergency. On the rude scale he hit above the 10 mark. Even if not his place to help me, he could have been polite and soothing.

I finally did get through to Toronto Hydro – after getting through the main line and listening to the recorded message of current power outages being attended to (mine, not mentioned), I hit “2” instead of “1” and got a live person. What a difference from the asshole civilian at police communications. This Hydro fellow said they already had one notification from the other street here and said he would add my street to the list. I asked how long before power is restored and he said as soon as they could as they had crews at a big fire (Note: thanks to the weather – not Toronto Hydro’s fault – there are problems with the transmitters up the poles and elsewhere – come getting on fire and so the power goes out.)

I thanked the fellow and then got busy with my own emergency stuff. Moved all my “delicate” fridge food (eggs, milk and the like) except for the rest of a casserole (which shall hit the green bin) to my “second fridge” – the old milk chute from the 1950s when milk was delivered – it’s a mailbox now. Put the fridge thermometer in and a later check showed it at fridge temperature. Made several more forays into the fridge to remove fresh fruit and veggies, bread and peanut butter – stuff that could stay out of the fridge in case that was going to be part of my meals today (along with the tinned stuff I stock up on). I even managed to take a shower by candlelight. The hot water heater is gas-fueled. So is the furnace but the thermostat is hydro induced. Apparently years ago, maybe even before my time, gas furnaces started up without the hydro connection. Obviously somebody screwed up when changing that setup.

I took some valerian (natural relaxant/sleep tablet) and crawled into bed under the covers.

And if it sounds like I was composed, no. I kept getting up to check this and that. But finally fell asleep but woke up. Just after my second wake-up, and my mind was going through how I could get through my day without hydro and get my morning coffee, the power went back on. I got up and wandered through the house, enjoying the lights and being grateful.

This morning I phoned Toronto Hydro to leave a message to thank the fellow I talked to and the workers for taking the time from all these hydro fires to restore power in a small pocket where I live.

All this has made me re-think something I had tried to do a few months ago but it got lost in the swarm of bad stuff coming at me. I will now live in a more kindly manner and try to do more random acts of kindness (I have actually managed to do a few, despite all my troubles).

That doesn’t meant that those who give me a hard time get off the hook. I will just be more selective and focus on the important.

Like the rude police communications civilian. I’m contacting Toronto Police Services and complaining about his attitude. Chances are I’m not the only one he treats so callously. And as all 911 calls are recorded with the caller’s location, they shouldn’t have problems figuring out who is the guilty party here.

 

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Civility, God, Gratitude, Life demands, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford, Toronto Police Services Communications, Winter Weather

Wind storm prompts Only Child to random acts of kindness

Trees  bleak fall wind stormSouth and southwestern Ontario, Canada got hit with a horrible windstorm – gusts over 100 km in some places and much wind damage including trees down and power outages. Some places such as Kitchener and London, Ontario received flooding from the heavy rain. As I watched the videos about it on the weather network and listed what I did and didn’t want to happen, something good came out of all of this.

But first some background.

As many of you know I take the weather situations around the world seriously. No matter where you live you get plummeted with what I call the wrath of God, weather-wise. If you think I am nuts, just check out The Weather Network www.theweathernetwork.com or watch it on TV. The Force of Nature video clips are especially interesting, not just because they go round the world, but because of that title. Think about it “Force of Nature.” Really? Nature in that sense doesn’t seem appropriate. And then there is my favourite “Mother Nature” who in my mind doesn’t exist, especially when you think of all the extreme weather conditions as the norm worldwide. For those interested in the earliest recorded info about Mother Nature (not the Bible folks), and some variations through the ages, go to http://www.gotquestions.org/mother-nature.html

In previous posts I have also mentioned my takes on praying to God and the shakiness about “ask and you will receive.” So, with this storm coming and while it was here, I decided to lay it on the line, so to speak, to God about what I didn’t want to happen – not just for me but for everyone in the area being hit by the windstorm.

Those videos and stories on The Weather Network show that he didn’t listen completely. However, as I was checking for damage here and so far found I was lucky (We still have somewhat higher winds here in Toronto but not nearly as bad as last night, buy I’m keeping toes crossed), I made a decision.

We are all in this mess of weather God sends us. Some worse than others. As I watched some of the videos I felt badly for the people who lost homes from floods, winds, and in the Buffalo, New York area, from way too much snow last week. The latter claimed a dozen or so lives

Not right.

While I will continue to make my take on it all to God, etc., I plan to do some good. No I’m not rushing out to the damaged areas to help remove trees and restore hydro service. That’s for the experts.

Instead, I’m going to try to do random acts of kindness – once a day – all spontaneous. It may be as small as opening a door for someone or giving directions for someone trying to find a location. (I like to do the latter, perhaps because I have gotten lost before and just the thought of it is frightening).

Just to be clear, I am not doing it as Christian or Catholic duty. After all that has happened to me and what I have seen happen to others, I don’t consider myself Christian or Catholic anymore. Not sure what you would call me here – not agnostic or atheist and probably not even humanist, as I do believe in God – what I believe about him is just not any conventional belief. So what I want to do has nothing to do with God, religion and anything related.

I’m doing it because we are in the same leaky boat (any pun intended) in this life and if we don’t help one another some way, who will do it?

You probably can guess whom I think won’t do it.

 

Cheers.

 

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Floods, God, Only child, Prayer, Rain and wind storm, Sharon A. Crawford, Snow, Trees and Shrubs, Weather, Winter Weather

Only Child tries good deeds by serendipity

The teenage Only Child with her late mother who inspired her to do good deeds

The teenage Only Child with her late mother who inspired her to do good deeds

I’m taking a page from my late mother, with my own twist on it. As I write in my memoir:

When Mom’s baby sister, my godmother’s first husband died and she had to raise seven children under nine years in age, my Mom stepped in to help. She couldn’t be physically present 24/7 – she had my Dad and me to look after in Toronto, the house and garden, and her sister lived miles away on the farm near Lucknow, Ontario. But we had Canada Post.

The sisters wrote back and forth a lot and Mom used to show me my godmother’s letters, but not her replies. Instead she made a big fuss out of playing Goodwill to help her little sister, something that people did then.

When the snow piles up in Toronto and stacks up on the farm, boxes of hand-me-downs, mother’s old clothes, my no-longer fitting clothes, and I suspect some store-bought ones find their way from our house to theirs. (Excerpted from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford)

I would seem to be on the “needing to receive end” of the stick. However, to perhaps balance the bad karma of all the crap coming at me, I’ve decided to do some good deeds – but on my terms. So, I don’t seek out situations and people but let them show up in my life and then act. The deed must not require a lot of time to do. I watch out for anyone I think might be taking advantage of me – for example, as a “seasoned writer, editor and writing instructor” I get people trying to get my help and services for free – beyond what I would do within the writing groups I belong to in person and online.

The deeds all happens by serendipity. It doesn’t occur every day and maybe not for days. So far I’ve helped a woman open a glue packet so she could glue her suddenly falling-apart boot, loaned my friend next door $3 so she could take public transit for an important appointment (her car died a few months ago), and moved someone’s green bin off the road onto the sidewalk – no doubt thrown on the road by the garbage collectors and/or the automatic collection arm from the trucks.

It’s little things like that. The people and their situations find me. And the key, so far, seems to be to  quickly access the situation and act spontaneously. Almost didn’t pick up the green bin until I had walked on a few metres, decided I better do it, turned around and walked back.

Some of it has been automatic. A couple of authors from one of the writing organizations I belong to (Crime Writers of Canada http://www.crimewriterscanada.com/) have been helping me, a newly published first-time author (Beyond the Tripping Point short story collection. See http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/BeyondtheTrippingPoint.html) For a panel I’m moderating in May with another writing organization (Canadian Authors Association Toronto branch http://www.canauthorstoronto.org/) I chose those two authors as panelists. Ditto for a CWC-sponsored reading in a coffee house-pub). Automatic give and receive?

Even if I can’t afford to give $$ to charity, I can do a little good deed now and then.

But I still reserve the right to rant about what stinks in my life – something about not holding it in which can build up and make you ill.

That’s my toonie’s worth – no more pennies in Canada. But my rant on that is for another post.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Balance, Help and Support, Helping Others, Karma, Mother, Only child memoir, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child on creativity and the word “no”

Only Child again in contemplative mode – this time on  creativity and the word “no.”

It might be hard to see a connection between the words “creativity” and “no.” However, I’m finding a few associations here. “No” can be a big factor and word in order to do whatever it is you do to be creative. In my case it is writing; more specifically, rewriting my prequel mystery novel to meet my publisher’s deadline to look at it.

I do have third and fourth factors to consider – my freelance work, particularly freelance editing. Ideally it would be a good idea to take three months off to finish rewriting the novel. However, I need the money to eat and pay bills. I also like editing. So, I’m comprising – I’m taking two and a half to three weeks off around Christmas to not only spend time with family and close friends, but to do some rewriting of my novel. Right now I have to steal a few hours here and there from regular work. My eyes do not do late at night at the computer well and my weekends are filled with catching up on personal email and phone calls, seeing family and friends, a bit of housework (I can’t afford to pay someone to do it), and now Christmas decorations, food shopping and the rest of the present shopping. I also want time to read the newspaper and books, walk, and watch TV.

The fourth factor is being an only person – no partner/husband or siblings to help out (financially or otherwise).

Here is where “no” comes in. When I was growing up and long after, my modus operandi was to please others. Some of that still remains – and it is a good thing where clients are concerned. However,  I am learning to say “no” to more things than I used to.

For instance, I have clamped down on clients/former clients looking for freebies, something I alluded to in last week’s post. Long after the contract work is done they want me to monitor their query letters (which I wrote under contract) to literary agents or look at part of a book proposal they wrote or they go on an extended email campaign to get a hold of a publisher via me. The first one I quit working for, the second one I sent the format outline for a book proposal but politely declined to look at the book proposal part; and the third one I just stopped returning emails – something I should have done sooner in that particular correspondence once I gave the person one piece of vital information. (I did say, I’m learning to say “no.” I just need to make a better decision when.)

Now that I’m a published author I’m refusing to read an unpublished author’s full manuscript for free. Later, I might do a trade – when there is time. I also keep my mentoring of other writers to members of the Canadian Authors Association – I am the Toronto branch Writer in Residence and there are obligations here to honour.  The other group is my own East End Writers’ Group which I run. It’s a writing critique group so we do group critiques and I bring in speakers (and also speak myself) on different writing and publishing topics. At my meetings I willingly give any suggestions/advice I can (and ask for it from others). One thing that came out of this (I did the asking) is a trade – one member is helping me organize my marketing for my short story collection and in turn I will evaluate one of her short stories.

Perhaps that is the answer to some of the “no” issues. Do a trade with the other person. Or refer them elsewhere.

In my personal life there are also time issues – such as housecleaning. As I can’t afford to pay for cleaning services, I’ve decided my house can live with being not so clean and not so tidy as others so I do minimal weekend cleaning (although I do a big houseclean before the East End Writers’ Group comes or before family and friends come over for dinner, etc.). Now, I just have to live with the setup and not feel guilty.

And for pseudo-no issues, I use the “delay” tactic. For example, more purging of stuff (mostly paper) in the house, gets scheduled in winter when I do only indoor gardening. In summer, the “stuff” inside takes the trunk (below even the back seat) to my garden outside.

Now, if I could just get my mind to stop its whirling about what to do and what not to do… Have to consider my health too.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Aloneness, Balance, Creativity, Delay tactics, East End Writers' Group, Family and Friends, Help and Support, Helping Others, Living alone, Money, Only child, Prioritizing, Sharon A. Crawford