Martyrs to the Net?

A Martyr to Pain

I find it intriguing how the older English books use today’s Word Press prompt, martyr, in a rather unique way. Unique to folks in this part of North America, that is.

“My wife wasn’t able to come today. She’s a martyr to headaches,” the character in one book explained. Someone else may be a martyr to back pain or varicose veins. We here in Canada tend to phrase this type of affliction as, “She suffered from chronic headaches or back pain.”

Can’t you just imagine them lying in bed, moaning in pain? So why doesn’t this bring a rush of sympathy to my heart? Because the word martyr, while it has a legitimate sense of suffering unjustly, also carries the sense of someone putting on a show of suffering. Letting the whole world know about their grief or pain to gain sympathy. My folks called this “putting on the dog” and had no patience for that.

Got Your Martyr Pin?

When I was young, volunteering to suffer, and usually letting everyone around you know about it to gain sympathy, was called “putting on your martyr pin.”

A martyr pin can actually turn into a much-admired fashion accessory. “Judy has to slave away all day long because her husband and children expect so much of her and none of them will lift a finger to help. What a hard worker she is — and so brave about it! I’d have laid down the law to my family long ago.”

A martyr pin may be the only thing holding some people together. I remember reading the account of the poor abused wife of an alcoholic. When her husband had a serious accident and subsequent encounter with God, he was convicted of his erring ways and gave up boozing. He quit beating his poor wife. Was she thankful? No. She’d lost her moorings, her role in life. So she kept taunting him, trying to make him hit her again, telling him he wasn’t a man anymore. Sad.

A Martyr to Blogging?

But back to chronic suffering. I could say my housework is a martyr to my blogging and/or writing. The house suffers constant neglect while I’m off on a cyber-voyage around the globe, or editing my latest WIP. Just this morning I woke up enthused, ready to give something a good cleaning, but got lost on a ramble around the Internet instead.

Oh, well. I met two nice Irish gentlemen on my travels. The one, Niall O’Donnell has a blog about the joys and confusions of our beloved English. Among is posts is one about one of my pet subjects, the SEMICOLON. Read his post here at English Language Thoughts.

The other, Robert Doyle, is an enthusiast of music and photography. You’ll find him at Soundtrack of a Photograph. We discussed his photo of Halifax and my great-great-grandfather’s arrival there back around 1850.

A Martyr to the Press Gang

I could say my great-great-grandfather was a martyr to the English navy, like many young men in his era. He suffered much at their hands, losing every connection with his family. The roots of our family tree stop at him.

John was a nine-year-old lad on the streets of a large English city — he thinks it was London — when a navy press gang got hold of him and dragged him on board a ship, forcing him to serve as cabin boy. One can only imagine what all he must have endured. Seems he must have been a husky lad for his age; surely they wouldn’t have taken a puny little thing? Was his name actually John Smith, did the sailors dub him that to make it harder for relatives to find him, or did he not even know his last name?

At any rate, they kept him aboard, never allowed on shore, for over four years. At age fourteen, while his ship was docked in Halifax harbour, he managed to escape. The sailors saw him and turned the ship’s gun on him, trying to shoot him down as he fled, but he escaped by hiding in the woods. From Halifax he made his way to Ontario, married Ruth Dobson in Oxford County, and settled down on a farm near Listowel.

How We Suffer!

Someone has said that we in North America today have so much more going for us than people ever have had, yet we’re the most discontented bunch ever. We are freer than any other people ever have been, but get so bogged down by all our options. We expect life to deliver more goodies than any other people in history ever have.

Personally, I think folks today suffer much from not knowing history. Perhaps if we studied history more we’d see just where we fit into the big picture. And we’d realize just how good we have it. When I get to feeling like I suffer from a lack of life’s little pleasures, or haven’t been treated very well by my peers, I try to remember what John Smith had to endure.


A Saucy Post

I had to look up today’s Word Press prompt word: vegetal, since it wasn’t formerly registered in my memory banks. Now I’ve deposited it, but my memory banks aren’t what they used to be.

Merriam-Webster gives the first meaning as vegetable and the second as vegetative. Well then I had to look up vegetative, which means of, or pertaining to, plants. No surprise there. So vegetable is the noun, vegetal and vegetative are the adjective form. Handy to know.


Since I’ve eaten vegetables all my life, I could say I have a partially vegetal diet. At our house we eat pasta with a vegetal sauce. Oh, wait a minute! Tomatoes are technically classed as a fruit so tomato sauce wouldn’t be vegetal in the true sense, would it? Would onions and garlic redeem it? What about mushrooms?

I’ll have to clarify my original statement. At our house we eat pasta with a fruit & vegetal sauce with fungi added at times. At this rate we might as well throw in the ground beef, too.

It would be perfectly correct usage to write, “All attempts to get our dog to accept a vegetal diet have met with failure. Since he totally rejects soy substitutes, he gets the T-bone steaks and sirloin tip roasts while we consume a healthy, planet-saving diet of legumes and vegetables.”

Correct — but not the best use for those juicy steaks and roasts I’m rather fond of myself. Which reminds me of a story…

I read an account once of a young NY couple all gung-ho on vegan food who tried to persuade their new pup on the matter. The pup just didn’t thrive so they took him to a vet, who soon determined the problem. He explained to the pair that dogs are built to be carnivorous creatures; their digestive system is naturally designed to handle a meat diet.

Some time later he saw this couple in a restaurant and went over to say hello. They grinned at him when he eyed the hamburgers they were chowing down. Their answer went something like: “We decided if our dog can, we can too. And we discovered we LIKE meat.”

Vegetarian, mixed, carnivorous. To each his own, I say.

Welcome vs Irksome

Though our mornings are usually frosty, the snow of late September is long forgotten here in Sask. November is starting out unseasonably mild for us; Saturday was not only warm and sunny, it was a record high for these parts, beating the high in 1948. I was happy to get at some neglected housekeeping and was outside on my ladder cleaning the kitchen windows. Seeing the weather is supposed to remain quite warm all week I hope to clean more windows.

Today our sunny afternoon was perfect for a walk, though the wind is cool. I made it to the railroad track and back — which isn’t so very far but I can always do this trek again. Every little bit counts toward getting my energy back after my chemo-therapy.

We’ve had a special treat this past month as three blue jays have made our woods their home. They come to check out the bird feeder every morning and several times during the day. Since our feeder is built for smaller birds, I spread seeds on the ground to accommodate them even further. They’re rather noisy at times but we love their colors brightening up the yard and they must realize they’re welcome, for they aren’t easily frightened away..

Today’s daily prompt word is irksome, which brings to mind thoughts of the gluttonous magpies that also show up whenever seeds are offered. One night I spread feed on the ground for the early morning arrival of the jays and the next morning saw 7 or 8 magpies polishing it off. Grrr… They make a big mess rooting through the hanging feeder, too. Seeking their favorite nuts and seeds, tossing everything else to the four winds, they can empty a feeder in short order. Grrr again! A blue jay’s call may be screechy, but magpies have a combination squeal/grunt/oink that sounds like a bunch of pigs are biting each others’ tails.

Cats find magpies irksome because magpies love to tease and torment cats, also to steal their catches. I’ve seen magpies prancing a couple of metres in front of a cat trying to lure it into a chase, especially if the cat’s just killed a mouse. The birds often work in a team; one magpie tries to distract or irritate the cat, inviting a chase so the other can gab the mouse.

One day some years back I saw two magpies teasing our big fluffy cat, Panda, in the back yard. I watched as one bird strutted a metre in front of her while the other snuck up behind and grabbed at her twitching tail. She whipped around to face that one and the bird in front edged closer, wanting to pull at her ears. And those brutes have pretty vicious beaks!

Magpies know people find them irksome. As soon as you show your face and make a few motions they’re off into the trees. Folks say the crafty birds can spot a gun barrel half a km away and they don’t stick around to see what you’re aiming at. I’ve many times threatened to get a rifle and learn how to shoot magpies, but I’m a timid sort and fear for my windows, car tires, etc.

On a cheerier note, I see this blog has its 500th follower. Ta-da! Welcome! I appreciate everyone who drops by to read my posts and to express a LIKE — and special I thanks to all 500 of you who FOLLOW my posts.

Saturday Journal

Saturday Journal

Early this morning I was busing through the east side of Montreal. Trouble is, I needed to get to the northwest corner of the city which meant I needed to change buses and I had no clue. I asked a few drivers which bus I needed to take to get across the city and one said, “Follow me and I’ll take you to the right bus.” I was following along behind him when, for some reason, I stopped to talk to someone — and a moment later when I looked around the driver was nowhere in sight. I scurried around in a panic, but never found him again, nor the right bus.

However, by this point my conscious mind kicked in enough to tell me, “You’re being silly. No matter where you want to go, just take the bus to the nearest Metro, then the right subway line to the main thoroughfare closest to your destination, then get off at that stop and take the metro bus to where you want to go. Simple.” (One of the chief joys of living in Montreal was the efficient transportation system.)

And then I woke all the way up. With a headache. Have you ever noticed how a pain that starts in your sleep — be it a headache or tummy ache or a cramp, will often give you a weird dream? I’ve experienced this many times over the years.

I’m hoping for a nice walk after supper. Today started out as our second day of rain but the clouds seem to be traveling on now and the sun’s peeking through on the western edge. Hopefully there will be some good days ahead when I feel good enough to tackle cleaning the windows. Apart from meals and dishes, so far today I gave Panda a special grooming, washed & put away the laundry and changed our sheets on the bed.

We went into the city yesterday. We left here at 9:15 am and I said to Bob about ten minutes later, “My 9:30 alarm will soon be going off. I wonder if it shuts itself off after so long?” When we got home just before 3pm it was faithfully tinkling its little tune. Bob said, “There’s your answer. Pity the poor cats listening to that all day.”

Memo to self: If you’re going away before 9:30 am, SHUT OFF the computer.

On the way home from Saskatoon we saw our first bunch of snow geese browsing in a field. So we can’t deny that our autumn season is moving right along. The sandhill cranes seem to have gone.

Each day gets a little better for me, though I’m surprised at how long this sick feeling after eating is lingering. Now it’s more a problem when I eat certain (especially oily or greasy) foods. I had peanut butter & honey on my toast a couple of days ago and I won’t do that again for awhile! The Yucky taste/feeling hits me about ten minutes later, but it’s been easily enough controlled by antacids. I consume a LOT of Rolaids. 🙂

Pam, my very good friend and former Robin’s Donuts co-worker, called this afternoon just to chat. Knowing she was thinking of me really made my day. 🙂  She moved to Calgary fifteen years ago but we were such good friend when we worked together and have kept in touch all this time. One of those “Just pick up and carry on from where you left off last time,” friendships. The very best kind, right?

Have a nice “day of rest” tomorrow.

Daily prompt word: Panic

Darkness: Not my favorite thing

Yesterday’s Word Press prompt was Darkness and I started to put my thoughts down, then wimped out. Even though we now have the light of a new day — and a new prompt — maybe I’ll just continue with what I started.

Darkness is something we don’t have a lot of right now. When I woke up just after 5am this morning it was already broad daylight, and we enjoy our evening light until about 10:30 pm these days. A couple of weeks ago I looked out to see the last rays of sunset lingering in the western sky at 11:45. I enjoy being outside in the dimness of twilight time, or at the first crack of dawn. And I love the inky blackness of the sky pierced by the zillions of stars and the crescent of a new moon such as we had last night.

On the other hand, we’ve seen a lot of dark storm clouds these past two weeks, and a couple of them have dropped hail in our yard. Last Thursday afternoon I took note of a huge dark sculptured cloud formation coming our way — I’m guessing it was about 2 km in circumference. I was fascinated by its color, shape and movement as it drifted in from the northwest. The west side of the cloud bank was darker with very dark shredded clouds hanging below the central mass and moving toward the south. The east side of the cloud bank was more white, clearly defined rings swirled like soft ice cream in a sundae dish, and turning slowly toward the north.

When the eastern edge of this cloud moved into the field between us and the highway I called my husband to come and see this giant tornado in the sky. He came to watch for a few minutes, too, but the lightening flashes zapping out of the rather chaotic clouds in the center seemed too near for his liking. We came in and I continued to stare out the window at this phenomenon, though I wasn’t too thrilled when icy chunks of hail started pelting down on us.

Hubby googled this apparition and learned that meteorologists call this a super cell. It often leads to things like tornadoes and we later heard there were a few isolated touch-downs in this part of the province, plus various reports of funnel cloud sightings. Thankfully the hail didn’t do much damage here, no twisters fell out of the sky, and we got an intriguing “sound and light show” out our west window for 30 minutes or so.

Darkness is something I don’t have much use for. First thing I do when I get up is open all the blinds. Even in the daylight hours I’m quick to turn on lights if the room gets dim. We have visited in homes without electricity, where the folks have used kerosene lamps as their main source of lighting in the evening. I’m not sure how I’d be able to bear that lifestyle. Seems it would bring constant eye strain, especially in winter.

There are a few types of darkness I really do appreciate, like dark chocolate —YUM! Or rich, full-flavored coffee pouring into my mug. I add cream, though, which totally ruins its darkness. (Some people frown and call this polluting good coffee. Too bad.) I like dark brown sugar. I always choose to buy that kind if it’s available, instead of the “golden yellow” variety. However, it isn’t very dark after all, more like the color of wet sand. (I use it to sweeten my coffee — further polluting it, some folks will say.)

And we have two black cats. This works out fine unless I’m wandering around half asleep at 2 am and step on Panda. She’s taken to spending her nights lying on our cozy plush bath mat right in front of the toilet in the main bathroom. If I don’t happen to think of this, she may get an unwanted nudge when I stumble in. And Angus likes to curl up in my black leather office chair in front of my computer. Sometimes I’m in a hurry to check something out, swivel out the chair, and am almost sitting on him before I realize he’s there. One can easily understand why people over the years have gotten this attitude toward black cats.

So there we are. My thoughts on darkness. I had chemo treatments Monday and Tuesday, so my thoughts and/or feelings have been as muddled as some of these dark clouds passing over. The chemo week is a yucky time, but I feel more upbeat now for having gotten something written. Hope you all have a great weekend.

One Girl’s Compassion

Hunger: 1934 Version

Alice was only fourteen when she got a job at a café in Vancouver, B.C., but she was a “big girl” as they used to say, and most folks took her for sixteen or eighteen. She was earning $4 a week putting in twelve-hour days. Tips were unheard of in 1934; for all her hard work Alice never received one tip. But she was grateful for her wage; she knew there were lots of other desperate girls who’d gladly take her job for even less pay.

Alice proved to be a generous girl with a kind heart. She found a way to give plenty of ‘tips’ in those hard years and they were gratefully received.

You see, in the Thirties ‘assistance’ was only doled out to married men with dependents; there were no relief payments for single men – and very few jobs available. So a lot of single men ‘rode the rails’ as hoboes, going back and forth across the country hoping to pick up a bit of day work– a few hours here or there — trying to survive for another day or two. Come late fall when work was even more scarce quite a few of them headed for Vancouver to spend the winter months where they weren’t as apt to freeze to death. But they could — and did — starve.

The café where Alice worked served a lot of sandwiches during the average day. Most of them sold for five or ten cents. According to Alice, if you bought a 20¢ sandwich you ate really well: open-faced roast beef smothered in gravy.

It was the practice of this establishment to cut crusts off the bread before making the sandwiches. (I’m not sure if only her café did that, or if it was a general practice in cafes at that time.) This gave Alice an idea. She began to save all those crusts and divvy them up into little brown bags. After work she took these little bags to the back door, where she offered them to hungry men hanging around hoping for a scrap of food.

Word spread quickly and men started to line up and wait for her to appear at 7 pm when the café closed. She says none of the men ever gave her, or each other, any trouble. They waited respectfully and didn’t fight over the food in spite of their dire need.

Of course her boss took note and grumbled about these men hanging around out back, but she persuaded him that he’d never get business from them anyway, broke as they all were, and the fellows desperately needed the food. It was a shame to throw perfectly good crusts in the garbage when some of these men hadn’t eaten for days. Pretty brave for a young teen girl who badly needed her job! However, he listened and allowed her to continue.

Alice says some evenings she saw up to a hundred men standing in those lines, hoping to receive one of those little bags of crusts. Some would even arrive three hours early so as not to miss out. She knew they were starving; some were so weak they keeled over right in front of her. So she kept on doing what she could, though it grieved her there were only so many bags to give out.


I first posted this true story at Christine Composes in August 2012. I think it’s a suitable offering for our Daily Prompt word: deprive.

I’m 100% in favor of young people learning our country’s history. It makes me really sad to see young people growing up today deprived of an understanding of the past, including what people lived through during the Depression years.