Tag Archives: Short Story Collection

Only Child on living barely above the poverty level

Only Child  contemplates some harsh financial realities

Only Child contemplates some harsh financial realities

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

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

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

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

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

“But we can’t afford that,” Mom says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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

Only Child on weather and moods

Only Child on patio - not quite like this in January but warm enough for a light jacket.

Only Child on patio – not quite like this in January but warm enough for a light jacket.

What a difference a day’s weather makes. Last Saturday I woke up to the sun shining and the temperatures rising. Toronto hit a record high of 15 degrees Celsius and the next day temperatures reached the same. Only difference was Sunday started out grey and rainy – but that soon dissipated into sun patches. Didn’t matter to me. I noticed a big boost in my mood and attitude especially when I saw the snow melting.

I took full advantage of the day – walking to and from the grocery store (about a mile and a quarter all tolled), and went out in the garden. In January I dug up some of the turnips and carrots still out there, found two green onions, and clipped some euonymus branches (a pretty pink, white and green blend) which I placed in small vases to eventually replace two poinsettias which will soon be finished for the season.

And I sat outside on my patio to eat lunch and read the newspaper.

In  the middle of January.

Sure beats the winter blahs. I don’t get it as bad as those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and need to use artificial light therapy to raise their spirits (see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/seasonal-affective-disorder/DS00195 for more info). The most I get is feeling cranky about the dark days with some energy loss at different times. I also resent the short days and long nights so when we get sun (even with the cold weather) the whole day looks different…as long as we don’t get snow.

Snow may look pretty when it first falls down – until the road ploughs and salters do their work. Sloshing through slush and skating on ice patches don’t sit too well with me – in fact that is the position I sometimes end in thanks to these weather conditions.

I don’t do winter sports – skiing, snowboarding or even ice-skating. I used to do the latter in my “earlier years” (and that includes as a young adult) but gave it up because it was too cold for my comfort and enjoyment. Twenty years ago I gave away my figure skates to a co-worker for her daughter.

It wasn’t that way when I was a child. My father hosed down the front part of the backyard and overnight it became instant skating rink. Mom was determined to teach me to ice skate – it took two winters, when I was seven and when I was eight. I’ll leave you with this brief excerpt from my memoir about skating as a child.

Like a dance instructor trying to teach steps to a nervous wannabe, she grabs my hands and tries to get me in motion.

“Come on Sharon. Just slide your feet, one foot in front of the other.”

My feet, tucked tightly into new white figure skates, scrape and totter along the ice and my fingers dig into her hands, my mittens no protection for the hard petrified squeeze they give her. I do not want to fall. I might break a leg. I’m terrified of losing control, so I continue to cling to Mom as she steps backward, sometimes in her rubber boots and sometimes in an old pair of Dad’s black hockey skates. I follow forward like a drunken clown.

Two winters of this private slide and lurch pass. The December I turn eight arrives.

“You’re ready for Dieppe Park,” Mom says. (excerpted from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford)

Happy winter.

During the dark days of winter, please check out the video of my interview about my short story writing and mystery short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, October 2012). Interview was with Hugh Reilly on Liquid Lunch (thatchannel.com) which my son finally edited and my publisher posted to You Tube. Here is the link – you can watch it here or click on the You Tube button and watch it on You Tube

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Beyond the Tripping Point, Family, Gardening, Ice Skating, Mom and Dad, Only child memoir, Sharon A. Crawford, short story collection, Snow, Winter blahs