Keelhauling Anachronisms

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is ANACHRONISM. Ah! One writing topic about which I frequently harangue caution younger writers.

One area that comes to mind is words and expressions. How many readers know what KEELHAUL means? Likewise, when I see something that comes from a 70s or 80s sit-com being said by a character in the 1930s, it grates. The expression, “Been there; done that,” didn’t exist in my youth. As to our prompt yesterday, EMBIGGEN, please don’t use it in your 1920s mystery or WWII story!

Another area that comes to mind is how effective birth control has changed society.

Grandma had 14 children, spread out over 28 years — the youngest born when she was 48. Her daughter Helen had 17. We once visited a family that had eleven–the youngest six months old and the oldest almost fourteen. As I do family tree research I see evidence of this same prolificacy, even if infant mortality was high.

I also see evidence that some writers born after the 1960s seem to have little idea how things worked before the Pill. They create promiscuous girls and put them in a setting where a young lady wouldn’t have dared. Girls have affairs with no consequences. Fat chance!

Social mores kept most girls on the straight and narrow–abstinence being the only sure means of birth control. Should a girl lose her purity she risked falling pregnant. Especially before the 1920s she’d risk becoming a social outcast, tainting her family with scandal–especially her sisters–and losing hope for a decent marriage. You see this in Pride and Prejudice, where Lydia’s whole family would have been disgraced by the scandal of her running off with Wickham. Only the hasty forced marriage of those two allowed her sister Elizabeth to wed Mr Darcy.

Seldom mattered if the girl had consented or not, she was blamed. If a victim spoke up, lawyers would tear her life to shreds in court. “Shotgun weddings” were many. Thousands, if not millions, of young women lost their lives in botched back-street abortions. Babies were born in secret and confined to orphanages. (Read Oliver Twist.) Anyone who wants to write about illicit affairs in the pre-Pill era and get a good picture of the mindset back then should read the first half of Ben Wicks’ compilation, Yesterday They Took My Baby.

We had such a situation in our clan. Grandma’s sister went to teach school in a small SK town and met and became engaged to a young man. I know not the intimate details, but when she fell pregnant he left for parts unknown. Took off, as we say, and left her to face the music. She died giving birth to twins and Grandma had to go bring her body home. On her 1904 death registration “cause of death” was left blank. Great-Grandma would have nothing to do with this “fallen daughter” and wouldn’t allow her to be buried in the family plot because she’d disgraced them. The twins were given to relatives–a childless couple.

And the fellow? Apart from whatever twinges of conscience he may have felt, it was no problem for him! No, the double standard seems so unfair, but that’s how it was. A writer can’t correct history by freeing her female characters from the normal consequences women did face. Prior to WWI few young women had money, or even the means to earn any, so running away from parental wrath often meant putting yourself out on the street and into the hands of “white slavers.” Even when I was young, an uneducated woman could barely manage to pull in a wage that would house and feed her.

I see in my family tree there were a few small families, perhaps because the couple worked out some birth control, but more often because of health issues. For single girls of that era, perhaps a botched abortion might render a young woman infertile. Even so, the talk! Communities were closer; everyone knew. The gossip, upturned noses and social rejection were serious. Some families would rally round, some would cast out the sinner. Some parents quickly married off the wretched girl to whoever would have her. Some girls took that option themselves.

This is not 1800s stuff; this was the scene when I was a girl in the 1950s. Writers need to research the social mores of the area in which they’re setting their story. Please, rid your work of post-Pill anachronisms and make your stories as true to their times as you can.

Sizzles & Fizzles

Don’t you just hate it when things explode in the microwave? I was heating up a few chunks of pork in BBQ sauce for dinner, and left it a bit too long. I heard this “POP” and my meat mix sprayed all over the mike. Quite a clean up operation!

When I got up this morning at 7:30 the temp was -20 C and the trees decorated with hoarfrost. Lovely start to the day! The sun came up and soon the frost was dusting down. I took a short walk down our lane to get a bit of fresh air. While the temp hasn’t got up to -10, the warmth of the sun has been melting some of our snow and ice. I see the forecast is for warmer days to come, so spring will soon be here.

Sadly, I haven’t been feeling the best this week. Had a sore throat two weeks ago and finally got antibiotics that cleared it up. I had a few really good days this past weekend, but Wed morning I woke up with a sore throat and sinus problem again, and it’s persisting. I’ve decided to see a doctor today. Last time around I suffered for about ten days before going for help; this time I’m not going to wait. Just don’t have the immunity to get over it without help.

My energy has fizzled again, which is why I haven’t been doing much blogging. Some days I even feel like throwing out all my house plants because I just haven’t the energy to water them! “To everything there is a season,” and this seems to be my season to snail along until my immunity builds up and energy levels come back. So if I’m not posting or visiting my fellow bloggers as often, you know why. I do appreciate all of you who read my scribblings and follow this blog, and wish you all a great weekend.

Ten-day Note

Hello to all my readers. Here’s a Journal post with health update for those interested, plus a few haiku for those who enjoy it.

I started taking my anti-leukemia pills Feb 5th, so am starting my eleventh day. So far the main side effect has been headaches almost every night, sometimes quite severe and most of the night. Some mornings I’ve felt pretty rotten 😦 Last night wasn’t too bad, though; my headache only started towards morning. The pharmacist tells me this is normal and will go away after several weeks. I sure hope so! I see my oncologist again March 6th and hope we’ll see positive results in my bloodwork.

I’m often composing a haiku verse and this morning I sent ten of them to Heron’s Nest. Here are some others about bygone days. Hope you will enjoy them!

road grader
ridges our country road
grandma’s washboard
wagon wheels
rattle in the lane no more
grandpa's rocker sold
using the tea set
grandma always used
old country roses
penny candy sales
at the village store
weighty decisions

Image: Paul Lievens — Pixabay

My Week in Haiku

wrung-out dishcloth
hanging over the sink
fourth day of chemo

That’s how I felt yesterday. 😦

Not sure if I can blame the pills, which I started taking Sunday morning, or if it was “just a headache” such as I have now and then. Tuesday night I went to bed with one, which persisted until morning, giving me some queasy moments. At 4 am I prayed a desperate prayer for relief, which did come, thankfully. My headache eased up to bearable. Pain meds made me drowsy all morning, so I spent a good part of it napping in the recliner. Felt so much better in the afternoon.

sunshine after the storm a petrichor of gratitude

Sunday and Monday my oomph level was somewhere below sea level. At times like that, I read a lot. Now I’ve started Lost Luggage by Samantha Tonge. (Is it true that in England airports send unclaimed luggage to an auction and anyone can buy them?)

Thankfully I feel back to normal this morning, so I trust this will be a more productive day. I’ve already evicted some dust bunnies – returned them to the great outdoors where they can roam at will.

dust bunnies
gather in my corners
one more chapter

Tuesday morning I was having a serious problem with my Kobo e-reader when I tried to change the account’s e-mail address. I messed with it for an hour or so, but couldn’t reconnect to our Wifi here. I took it over to my daughter’s place after school; it took my twelve-year-old grandson about five minutes to get me all set up again and my latest purchases downloaded. Of course. 😉

Big-Word Issues

Clcker-Free-Vertor-Images – Pixabay

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is PERNICIOUS, a word that means highly injurious or destructive, deadly, my M-W online says.

One synonym offered is DELETERIOUS. Harmful, often in a subtle or unexpected way. A great word to describe the cold I caught last week Monday. This bug laid me low! Quite unexpected and very undesirable. It villainously derailed my plans for writing and blogging. (What delicious big words!)

I’ve always thought that pernicious carries the sense of an ongoing harm, but apparently not. Yet it’s often applied to medical conditions which are continuous. I could say that my chronic leukemia is a pernicious condition. I’m happy to report that I finally saw my oncologist Monday and she has given me treatment in the form of a pill with a huge name, ACALABRUTINIB.

A mouthful, eh? Thankfully the pill is much smaller than its name, and most people tolerate it quite well. Once I start taking this, I must take it consistently – religiously – twice as day for as long as I live. As soon as I’m over this cold, I’ll get started.

I started my month with the plan of doing other work in the daytime and blogging in the evening, but my own nature or innate rhythm interfered with that ideal. Morning’s a good time for me and I find reading and blogging fuel my brain. By evening I’m inclined to unwind; I’d rather sit with a book rather than write anything. Still, I did work on the novel I’ve been writing…and…I was able to get at some sewing projects last week.

The last time I was in the Cancer Clinic, in May of 2019, before COVID changed all my appointments to phone consultations, I was 40 lbs heavier than I am now. A lot of that weight loss has come since my diabetes changed my life in August. I haven’t sewed much in the past year, so I’m definitely needing some new dresses. (I make all my own.) I was inspired last week and got to it in spite of this pernicious cold.

Well, that’s a quick recap of the past ten days, and a response to the fitting word, pernicious. Now I hope to continue my usual smorgasbord of misc. assorted prose & poems. My omnium-gatherum. (Love that one!)


The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is NEFARIOUS.

Nefarious, flagrantly wicked or evil, has its origins in the Latin nefas, meaning crime, from ne (without) and fas (right, or divine law). Synonyms being wicked, iniquitous, evil, wrong, villainous, and vicious.

Years ago the heroes were the good guys, standing for the right. Editors went for good role models. Villains were nefarious. Driven by greed or on a power trip, these vicious types wanted to dodge the law in order to control, steal, kill, destroy. Times have changed: today’s “flawed heroes” may dodge the law, thwart justice, control, steal, and kill. Think Philip Marlowe. They may be liars, drunks and brawlers; still, we should root for them because they have some ultimate good in mind. But forget the role model angle.

Now for a haiku that has nothing to do with literature, but all to do with a villain. Dedicated to those in my family who lost the battle to smoking-related cancers.

lung cancer
nefarious villain
the ashtray overflows