Tag Archives: Violet’s Vibes

June bugs, Little Orphan Annie, and Leapin’ Lizards

It is the month of June,
The month of leaves and roses,
When pleasant sights salute the eyes,
And pleasant scents the noses.

Nathaniel Parker Willis

Mr. Willis didn’t mention June bugs. Perhaps because he was a Yankee (no offensive intended) who spent much of his time in New York.

Wikipedia defines a June bug: “Cotinis nitida, commonly known as the green June beetle, June bug or June beetle, is a beetle of the family Scarabaeidae.”

My dislike of June bugs is not poetic. They left June, the month of leaves and roses, with an unpleasant sight to my eyes—devastation in my garden.

They hid in the daylight, waiting until I went inside in the evenings to can or freeze the vegetables I had harvested. They targeted me when I rested on the front porch swing. They swarmed toward the floodlight when I ventured to the back yard to dump the trash. But I finally rid myself of those pests. Not with pesticides. By moving to Northern California.

I propped open my front door to enjoy the fresh air. Leapin’ Lizards! James Whitcomb Riley never put Little Orphan Annie in danger like this. I am invaded by geckos. The late spring rains push the lizards inside to dry comfort. Not the cute little critter from the insurance company ads. Skinny, from babies to foot-longs, they slip through the smallest gap where my security screen door doesn’t reach the metal threshold.

I haven’t seen an alligator since I departed Louisiana. I’m grateful my insect-eating invaders are petite compared to this AP news article about a full-size Florida reptile with an appetite for red wine.

 

 

 

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Flying Holiday Flags

My father disliked holidays. My mother cherished them. My father’s rule was to treat every day equal. Mama made holidays something to remember. Not with elaborate decorations but from basics.

On New Year’s Day, we ate black-eyed peas and ham hocks with cornbread. Maybe because of Mama’s superstitious ways. Probably because there was no work for farm hands in the winter and that was the cheapest menu that would spread to two meals. I suppose the flag flew over the local post office and City Hall to declare it a holiday, but we didn’t venture out on that cold day.

The next month brought Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12 and George Washington’s birthday on the 22nd. Flags flew again, on each day, declaring it a holiday, a day to stay home from school.

Spring brought Easter. Mama gathered eggs from our backyard chicken pen for several days. On Saturday, she filled an aluminum canning pot with water and carried it to the old gas range. She deposited the eggs one by one and hardboiled them. She rinsed the cooked eggs in the kitchen sink and spread them to dry on flour sack dishtowels on the mottled gray linoleum countertop. While the eggs cooled, she arranged a row of cups.  She filled the cups halfway with water, dropped one round colored tablet into each, and stirred until she achieved colors worthy of celebration. Hours later, the colored eggs rested in two Easter baskets, ready to be hidden in the yard for our personal egg hunt. Lots of fun but no flags.

On Decoration Day, we rode to the local cemetery with a brother-in-law to watch the somber task ahead. Young World War II veterans and a few survivors of World War I placed American flags on each veteran’s gravesite. A ceremony followed at ten o’clock. We listened to more somber words. Marines marched in precision, flower arrangements peeking between shined black shoes as they passed civilian graves along the paved route.

“Why, Mama?” I asked. “Why do those graves get flowers instead of flags?”

“Because it’s Decoration Day,” she said.

“It’s called Memorial Day now,” my brother-in-law said.

“Who named it that?” I asked.

“The gov’ment,” Mama said.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson established June 14 as Flag Day. Not a holiday, but our neighbors displayed flags from the size on veterans’ graves to five-footers angled from flagpoles on porches. We would have joined them if we had owned a flag.

“Why all the flags? Is this another Decoration Day?” I asked.

“No, it’s Flag Day,” Mama said.

“Who named it that?”

“The gov’ment,” she said.

Armistice Day on November 11, brought another federal holiday. A somber tribute to the end of World War I in 1918 brought more parades and flags.

Today, May 27, 2019, is Memorial Day in the U.S. I clipped a six-inch flag to my door. There are no parades in the city where I live now. A few people will gather at the local cemeteries for brief ceremonies, a few words from a city official, and a military-style presentation of flags. Boaters fill the lake south of the city. Picnickers lounge in the sun, if it appears on this cloudy day. On the west side of town bordering a neighboring city, the freeway and city streets near the premium brands outlet mall are jammed with cars and tour buses transporting shoppers, some visiting from as far away as Asia.

Wait. Who moved Decoration Day from May 30 to the last Monday of May and renamed it Memorial Day?

My mother’s words echo the answer.

“The gov’ment.”

 

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Discount Exclusions, Limitations, and Stratagems

Discount coupons abound. Most are accompanied by limitations such as “Limit one total purchase discount per transaction.” Some say “No photocopies” or “Reproductions not accepted.” Most say “Must be surrendered at time of transaction.” That fancy phrase means you have to give the coupon to the store associate. Then there’s the familiar phrase, “Excludes clearance items.”

But wait! It gets more complicated. There’s a list of other items that don’t qualify for the discount. Here’s a sample quoted from a craft store $5 off coupon (capitalization is theirs).

“Offer excludes clearance items; doorbusters; previous purchases; all gift cards; classes; custom & personalization services; Sample Swatches; all patterns; irons & steamers; AccuQuilt Go!® products; sewing machines & sewing machine department merchandise; remnants; all cutting and laminating machines & accessories; all Cricut® products; all cameras, film, printers & accessories; Hatchimals™; LEGO®, LOL & other kids’ products; all magazines; all As Seen on TV items; all Purchase with Purchase & Gift with Purchase items.”

What is that Purchase with Purchase tongue twister?

And don’t forget the “Taxes not included” disclaimer.

The stratagem ($5 off) is part of a battle plan to get me into the store. It’s similar to the first paragraph of a book that compels me to turn the page. Both are like fishing. I am lured by the discount. I’m hooked. Browsing turns to buying.

I’ve become a master of using discount coupons, (I used the $5 off coupon in the knitting department), but I don’t dare read beyond the cover of a full-price book.

 

 

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Doublespeak – Say what?

Goodreads credits Alan Greenspan, Chair of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006, with this quote.

I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

Brainy Quotes shows this from Greenspan.

I guess I should warn you, if I turn out to be particularly clear, you’ve probably misunderstood what I’ve said.

I kept these quotes in mind while I read the news from the Associated Press (AP) website on Saturday, May 4, 2019. The doublespeak quotes are linked to AP. Common sense Say what? translations are mine.

When a chartered plane traveling from Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with military and civilians aboard overshot the runway and landed in the St. Johns River, Boeing said in a tweet Friday night that it was investigating: “We are aware of an incident in Jacksonville, Fla., [Florida, USA] and are gathering information.”

Say what? We’re waiting to see if it’s our fault.

AP reports that Warren Buffett speaking about the revenue loss from the joint purchase of Kraft by Berkshire Hathaway and the Brazilian 3G Capital said, “. . . he and 3G underestimated the challenges branded foods face from retailers and the growth of the private label products.”

Say What?  More people are buying store brands because they’re cheaper.

And the whopper of the day is about the anticipated birth of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s first child. It’s filled with words that reveal limited information. “ . . . Meghan said months ago that the baby was due in late April or early May.”

Say what? We’re not going to tell you until after the baby arrives.

This announcement is in the same article. “On Friday, Buckingham Palace postponed a planned May 8 trip by Harry to Amsterdam for ‘logistical’ reasons.”

Say What? Harry is staying close to Meghan because the baby is due soon.

See what Alan Greenspan meant about misunderstanding?

 

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Spring Rituals

Warm weather has replaced winter chills in Northern California. Spring is here.  I made the transition with my tradition of replacing flannel sheets with cotton. The switch brought memories of my first encounter with spring rituals in Louisiana. That introduction wasn’t the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival or the Étouffée Festival. It wasn’t fishing in a bayou where porcupine quills replaced my red and white plastic bobbers. It was my mother-in-law’s spring cleaning tradition.

One April Saturday shortly after my husband and I moved to Louisiana, she insisted that the throw rugs be cleaned. They were carpet style, not the crocheted rugs my mother made, so I vacuumed them. Not good enough.

“Carry them outside, hon, and hang them on the lines,” she said.

I pinned the smaller rugs to the clothesline and draped the larger ones over the stretched wire. She handed me a carpet beater and told me to whack the rug as hard as I could to get the dust out. I’d never spanked a rug before. Good exercise with little results on the stiff rugs.

She watched as I returned each rug to its proper location in front of rocking chairs and beside the beds. While we rested with a glass of iced sweet tea, she told me the beds needed airing. “A good housewife does this every spring,” she said. This was when mattresses were identical on both sides, so I stripped the beds. I fluffed the feather pillows and placed them on a chair near the open window. Not good enough. She told me to pin them to the clothesline to air the feathers.

Next, she instructed her husband and son to carry the mattresses to the backyard for “sunning.” Questions filled my mind like popcorn exploding over high heat. How long does sunning take? What if it rains? What about the flying insects and crawling bugs I had fended off at the Sunday barbecue?

When Maw-Maw, as her grandchildren called her, was satisfied that the mattresses had soaked up enough sun, my husband returned the mattresses to the beds. I finished the spring ritual just before dinner (that’s supper in Louisiana) with clean, sun-dried linens—after I brushed off a few flying insects that had chosen to nap on the clean sheets and pillows.

My spring tradition doesn’t follow her advice for a “good housewife,” but it does include celebrating with a cup of tea when the flannel sheets are put away.

 

 

 

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Castoffs, Misfits, and Misused Words

Words, like clothing, become castoffs when they don’t fit, when they’re worn, or when style changes shift. Outdated words in a conversation may soon be forgotten. Misused words in electronic formats and print copies haunt the writer like a closet full of misfits.

Under wraps indicates a secret project or one withheld from the public, but “undercover” means a secret investigation involving spies.

Lay low means to intentionally hide or stay out of sight. Laid low (past tense) indicates that a person was out of action from circumstances.

Off the radar, often used to identify lack of presence or communication or action, sounds like a missing person’s report. Off the grid indicates one who functions without input from others, but some conversationalists—and writers—use it to indicate standoffishness.

Long, long ago I puzzled over “tootle-do,” when visitors misused the British saying of “tootle-oo” for goodbye to other travelers. It was our home. We weren’t leaving. They were.  I had no trouble distinguishing that saying from Toora-Loora-Looral, the Irish lullaby to sing a baby to sleep.

Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater,” has endured five centuries.  A catchy phrase, but who would do that?

“To each his own,” some say, but the English translation of the Latin Suum cuique to imply personal preferences was aimed at the disparity of wealth vs. poverty. Hmm. Perhaps that is fitting because some writers use worn out, trite phrases for current publications when there is a wealth of new words waiting to hit the page.

Words

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Punxsutawney Phil’s Weather Predictions

The second day of February isn’t a holiday, but tradition has named it Groundhog Day. After more than 130 years, Punxsutawney Phil continues to make his prediction of an early spring or six more weeks of winter.

That unreliable groundhog has been wrong more than half of those years. I gave him the benefit of the doubt because his mind must have been foggy when he was pulled from solitary darkness and held aloft before a large crowd of people.

Less than forty years ago, Staten Island Chuck, another groundhog, began his predictions. Chuck has a better record than Phil. Today, Phil and Chuck agreed on an early spring.

My father had his own weather prediction method. On Groundhog Day, he sat at the breakfast table in our kitchen warmed by the oven where Mama’s biscuits waited on the pulled-down door and consulted the Farmer’s Almanac. He checked the moon cycles and early planting dates before Easter. Often, when Phil predicted an early spring, my father shook his head in dismay and mumbled, “Six more weeks of high PG&E bills.”

 

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