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Riding out the storm-don’t try this at home

I moved from sunny Southern California to Louisiana the first time in 1962 when my husband—I’ll call him Bill for privacy reasons—was discharged from the military. I disliked the year-round rains. My first brush with a hurricane three years later churned deeper emotions of fear and hate.

We lived about 300 miles north of the predicted landfall location of Hurricane Betsy in 1965, so I expected heavy rains. I could get through it with Bill’s help. But he was sent to the devastated coastal area to restore electrical utilities. I was home alone. I mopped up water from incessant rain that oozed in around the windows, ran down the walls, and puddled on the floor.

I breathed easy when we moved back to California in the late sixties —nothing to fear but wildfires winds and earthquakes. The Santa Ana winds dropped ashes from the 1970 Laguna Fire in our yard in Irvine, but no sparks. The Sylmar quake the next year shook me out of bed, but no major damage. One evening two years later, Bill said, “It’s getting too crowded here—too many people—we’re going home.”

“Home” was a disappointment. Low-paying jobs, heat, humidity, and unending rains filled my days. We moved to Southeast Louisiana where the pay was better but the rains were worse. Then we met Hurricane Andrew, a projected Category 5 hurricane in 1992. “Don’t worry,” Bill said, “it’ll slow down once it hits Florida. All we’ll get is  rain.”  Andrew swept westward. We were in the direct path.

Andrew strengthened back to a Category 5, then downgraded as he stormed our way. The voluntary evacuation order came to our parish (county to all you who aren’t familiar with Louisiana vocabulary). I left work in Baton Rouge and crept toward home in the outbound traffic. Bill was nailing sheets of plywood over the windows. “Are you almost ready to go?” I asked. “If I don’t stay looters will take all my shop tools. Gonna ride it out,” he said.

I would have felt safer in the truck high above flooded streets, but I tossed my tote and a bag of snacks in my sedan. In case Mississippi hotels were full, I added a sleeping bag, a pillow, and bottled water for shelter survival. Weather news said Andrew had slowed to a Category 4 when it hit the Bahamas. “No sense paying an extra hotel night,” Bill said. “Wait till tomorrow and see what happens.” The next morning, voluntary evacuation was replaced by a shelter-in-place order.

I peeked through silver duct tape crisscrossed on the kitchen door window panes. A neighboring pine bent double in obeisance to Andrew, the 80-foot tall branches touching our gravel driveway before returning upright, only to repeat the same bow. My view of the front yard through the kitchen window showed the ancient oak standing its ground. Between peeks outside, I hovered near the television watching the devastation Andrew had left in his path—until the lights flickered and we were left in the dark.

Without electricity we had no water from the subdivision well. We were campers, so we had prepared. We brought in buckets of rainwater from the wooden barrel for the bathrooms. We turned on the portable radio. We set up the Coleman camp stove. That evening we ate by light of the Coleman lantern. Sleeping in the heat of a boarded-up home was impossible. We soon used the last of the dozen radio batteries and the propane canisters. Then the phone died. We were cut off from everybody—our wise neighbors had evacuated.

The morning after Andrew moved on, we stood on the front porch, sheltered from the heavy rain, accessing the damage. A downed power line entangled in a massive limb severed from the strong oak sprawled across our driveway near the street. Bordered by a deep drainage ditch, we were still captives.

After a frustrating week, the rain stopped, and a utility crew arrived on our street. Their small gas-powered saw was no match for the oak limb. The saw stalled, then the chain broke. They borrowed our chain saw. My husband offered to do the first cuts. “That oak is tough,” he said. They refused citing insurance liability. He stepped back while they powered up his replacement. They made a few cuts before they broke his saw.

There were no looters in our country neighborhood. The chain saw was the only loss.

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Homophones – a viral epidemic

Homophone is a confusing word. Homo means same, similar, or alike. But phone? Nope. A homophone is audible, but not an electronic device.

After my post about the U.S. Library of Congress Trump to/too (not tutu) faux paus, editors keep a keener eye (not aye) out for homophones—words that sound alike but convey a different meaning. See if you can spot the homophone mistakes in this short prose without the use of your spelling or grammar-check program.

Homophones cantor through the computer gait. Editors, like jockeys, reigns in hand, race foreward down the tract toward the finish line in a determined manor. The words hide, stationary on screen, waiting for the editor to waiver. Instead, she knits and pearls the maize into a fashionable story that vales the queues of mistaken identity.

Grammar Police Award

Maybe farfetched that you, the savvy author, would make the exaggerated mistakes above, but here’s a BOLO (be on the lookout) from me, the grammar cop. Like drinking and driving—only not as dangerous—these common homophones can destroy your clear record.

Wind your way through these wry words to the bottom where the edited prose quiz awaits.

 

 

Base~Bass

Boarder~Border

Brake~Break

Caddie~Caddy

Canvas~Canvass

Complement~Compliment

Desert~Dessert

Dew~Due

Disburse~Disperse

Hangar~Hanger

Holy~Wholly

Hostel~Hostile

Kernel~Colonel

Knead~Need

Knew~New

Levee~Levy

Leach~Leech

Lessen~Lesson

Moan~Mown

Missal~Missile

Morning~Mourning

Patience~Patients

Phase~Faze

Pleas~Please

Reek~Wreak

Residence~Residents

Right~Rite~Write

Sleight~Slight

Sole~Soul

Stake~Steak

Tail~Tale

Taught~Taut

There~Their

Vale~Veil

Vane~Vein

Vice~Vise

Waive~Wave

Wares~Wears

Wring~Ring

 

Here’s the edited homophone test with correct words in italics.

Homophones canter through the computer gate. Editors, like jockeys, reins in hand, race forward down the track toward the finish line in a determined manner. The words hide, stationery on screen, waiting for the editor to waver. Instead, she knits and purls the maze into a fashionable story that veils the cues of mistaken identity.

Words

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Saving Daylight

When I was in first grade, my mother let my twin and me play with neighbor kids anywhere on our block in our small town if their parents were home. Her safety rule was to “be home by dark.”  I had several close calls when I dashed onto the covered front porch in the waning light of sunset. I needed more light after school.

Piggy Bank

One cool spring day at the end of World War II, I overheard my father talking about the return of “War Time.” War sounded terrible to me until he said it was a way to save daylight like people did during the war. Grandpa Carr had saved cans for dimes in the war. Maybe I could save time like pennies in my amber glass piggybank. Excited about a way to prolong sunset and play longer, I asked him what it had been like to save time.

He harrumphed and shook his head. “Like cutting off one end of your blanket and sewing it on the other end to make it longer.”

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Friggatriskaidekaphobia – Friday the 13th

black-cat-pixabay-1292960__340ladder-pixabay-510578__340My mother was superstitious. She wouldn’t walk under a ladder. Actually, that showed her common sense. On a walk through the one-block square park one evening long ago, Mama took my twin and me by the hand as we approached the far side of the shortcut and turned us a different direction because a black cat crossed the sidewalk in front of us. If it was safe for the cat, why not for us?  Our home was a shotgun style meaning that the front and back doors were in a direct line (one could see the backyard from the front porch if both doors were open).  Mama’s superstitious ways insisted a person who entered the front door, exited the back to see the garden or chickens, must reenter the house and depart through the front door, not leave by one of the backyard gates.

Today, Friday the 13th, I’m repeating portions of a blog I first posted on May 13, 2016.

Friday-13th-Pixabay

In Escape, one of my five crime fiction works in progress, I begin with a tight-knit genealogy group called Ghost Chasers (GCs) meeting for Friday lunch in the fictitious town of Pleasantville, Texas. These Friday meetings are the core of my manuscript, but writing rules insist that I minimize repetitious words in a single paragraph or close proximity. But how else to say Friday?

Weighing a decision of whether GCs will meet today, I researched superstition associated with friggatriskaidekaphobia, fear of Friday the 13th.

Now, my genealogists have a new mystery to solve when one of their members vanishes on Friday the 13th. If I need an alternate word for Friday, I’ll let one of my characters say Frigga. Frigga means Friday.

Calendar 13

 

 

 

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Penultimate Volunteer

Words

Penultimate. A strange word that doesn’t fit a writer’s day-to-day activities. When I think of P-words, I begin with procrastination, shift to progress, and end with publish. Other P-words like paper, pen, and phrase leave a positive trail to paragraph, page, and print even if they eventually disappear like Hansel’s and Gretel’s breadcrumbs. Penultimate sounds like a harsh ultimatum when a dogmatic person says, “I laid down the law and they obeyed.” The true meaning of penultimate, an adjective, is the second to last issue of a publication.

blog-397826__180Don’t worry. That isn’t applicable to my blog. I’ve resigned from a volunteer position as newsletter editor for a nonprofit writing group where May will be my penultimate issue of that publication. I’m also stepping down from several other volunteer activities to get back to writing. Until July, I hope you’ll enjoy my brief vibes, updated blog reposts, and short, short stories.

 


The Thief

Thief-PixabayHe visits me every day, this unwelcome guest. He slips in unnoticed after I brew morning coffee. He peeks over my shoulder as I immerse myself in the news. (Got to keep up with current events, right?) Sometimes he appears midday while I pay bills online. He loiters in afternoons when I settle in my recliner to read a current mystery (have to keep up with the latest crime fiction trends).

Take the day he accompanied me to several stops on the way home from the dentist eleven miles away (one trip to conserve fuel). I returned home hours later, all energy expended. I microwaved leftovers for dinner to hurry on to more important things (like writing a blog post).  Phone-Computer-Pixabay

First, I checked my phone and email and responded to a dozen messages followed by a chat with a friend (required business and social networking). I critiqued a short story for another writer (reciprocation).

Green Tea CupA tea break (soothing change of pace), then I searched though a stack of get well cards for the right messages to fit a couple of sick friends (have to mail tomorrow before they get better).

My head nodded and my eyes closed. I scratched through the date next to Post Blog, the first item on my Wednesday to-do list, and wrote Thursday.

Procrastination, disguised as productive activity, had stolen my day.

 

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Letter to Saint Valentinus

Dear Saint Valentinus,

Hearts-Pink-Pixabay
Valentine’s Day was a big deal in my first-grade class. Mrs. Buffington reminded the students to bring cards to share with the other students. My mother loved planning celebrations. My father shunned them. After school, while he was at work gardening a yard, she walked my twin sister and me to the five and dime and let each of us choose one cellophane-wrapped pack of 30 cards. That double purchase cost her about six bits with tax (that’s 75 cents in modern coins), but Mama supported our goal of giving cards to every student in our class with a few leftovers for the neighborhood kids. That year, I came home grinning, waving a stack of valentines from classmates.

Happy Valentine's Bay-PixabayThe following year, we hurried along beside Mother to the dime store to choose packages of Valentine cards, again while Papa was at work. You must have been too busy with romantic grownups to notice a second-grader in Mrs. Rigdon’s class because that wasn’t much of a celebration. Some of my classmates limited their giveaways to favorite friends. I went home with only a handful of cards and a half-smile.
Crayola stampMrs. Moore, my wise third-grade teacher, skipped the hand-out tradition in favor of individual self-expression art projects. Oh happy day!

Heart cake-PixabayAfter that, Valentine’s Day lost its shine for me. Mama continued to sprinkle heart-shaped cinnamon redhots on white-frosted homemade birthday cakes until we graduated from eighth grade. Then, no more hearts.

I inherited my mother’s fascination with holidays and special occasions, any joyous event. That intensified after my no-celebration father died following a short illness in the first semester of my freshman year of high school.  After that, I imagined a kneeling knight in shining armor in a romantic setting near a bubbling fountain,  a marriage proposal, the diamond ring glinting in the moonlight.

Red Rose - PixabayI just knew you’d do your part, Saint Valentine. But, where was the moonlit night, the fountain, hearts and roses six years later when the man of my dreams proposed to me in my mother’s kitchen on my birthday?

 

That’s cupid’s job.

Oh, I guess you’re right, but you could have given my sweetheart a nudge toward the living room instead of letting him slip the ring on my finger with the refrigerator as the backdrop.

You’re offended that I didn’t like your staging? Sorry, but that’s my line. I can see we’re getting nowhere. What do you say we call a truce? Here’s a rose to seal the deal.

 

Valentine Rose 2.14.2016 blog

What? You want red? Take my father’s advice.

Make do or do without.

 

 

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Spirit of Christmas

scrooge-1My father could have been a double for Scrooge’s in A Christmas Carol—minus the greed. Both scoffed at the hectic holiday hubbub that floated like fresh snow. Real snow never fell in Chowchilla, our small San Joaquin Valley town, but it glistened on Sierra mountain tops looking north from Robertson Boulevard. Downtown merchants became amateur artists and created snowmen from spray cans on front display windows. They painted a tophat, a plaid neck scarf, and brown twig arms. They daubed eyes and a row of coal black buttons on the white globes.  Merry Christmas in glistening red foil stretched above the winter scenes.

A few local Scrooges dampened the community Christmas Spirit, my father vying for the top position. His Bah, Humbug! list of no’s at Christmas was longer than Scrooge’s. No Christmas tree. No Santa. No gifts. Mama agreed to skip the decorations, but she silently put gifts on layaway each spring to be opened before our family meal at noon.

One December Saturday, Papa agreed to go with us to the lighting of the community Christmas tree. Anticipation built as darkness approached. The walk downtown was an easy ten blocks in the warm summer, twice as long in the winter chill. Papa bent into the fierce wind and pulled the brim of his black felt hat down over his forehead. Mama tugged the ties of her headscarf tighter and turned up her thin coat collar against the cold. My twin and I skipped along the sidewalk too excited to feel the cold.

Christmas TreeAt the City Hall, we sipped hot cocoa from paper cups while we waited. The mayor activated the lights. Colors glowed from the lowest branch to the star on top of the live tree that reached upward toward the roof of the one-story building. A siren sounded and Santa arrived, sitting high on a blazing red fire truck. Papa stiffened and cast his eyes downward, away from the smiling red-suited man waving at us. We each received a brown paper lunch-size bag filled with an orange, an apple, a handful of unshelled nuts, and two or three pieces of hard candy.

Back home, Papa sent my twin and me to bed without a word about the magical evening. I had pleasant dreams that night because he had abandoned his Bah, Humbug attitude and celebrated the spirit of Christmas.

Merry Chistmas Vintage

 

Ebenezer Scrooge, Bah Humbug, Chowchilla, California, San Joaquin Valley, Christmas, Violet Carr Moore

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