Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Another Five Things

As the New Year approaches and the memory of my mother berates me with everything that I haven't accomplished in my life, I console myself with lists of what I have done:

1) I earned a Ph.D. in a prestigious field.
2) I was a city-wide PTA president for two years.
3) I taught on the college level for twenty-some years.
4) I made a run for the city school board.
5) I wrote a year's worth of an influential newsletter for a teachers' union.

And I write a blog.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bella and Fella

Okay, Fiorella has read all but the last seventy pages of Twilight, which she will dutifully slog through before she posts this review, but so far she is not impressed.

The author handled the high school scene well, I thought. And I liked the way she got into the protagonist's mind. For me, the story started foundering when it centered almost entirely on the two lovers.

First of all, the story is too drawn out. One can only be on tenterhooks so long without getting bored. Second, the vampires are unbelievable. They're too perfect, too talented, too--well--nice. Third, the situation doesn't make sense--everyone knows everything in a small town, and the vampire family's differences would have been noticed and commented on and soon rallied up a mob with flaming torches. And how does one stay under cover when one's skin glistens like diamonds every time one goes into the sunlight? Even when the sky looks cloudy in the morning, it can unexpectedly brighten in the afternoon.

As an educator, I have a real bone to pick about Bella and Edward missing so much class time with no consequences. Doesn't Oregon (or Washington, or wherever it is) have any attendance requirements? And what about those low, LOW-cut gowns the vampiresses wore to the prom? Doesn't the school have a dress code?

As a reader, I am disappointed that the story did not set up a situation which prompted my ever-fertile brain to come up with its own variations and scenarios. As a writer, I wanted to blue pencil scenes like Edward racing through the forest at top speed with Bella on his back and him lurking in Bella's bedroom overnight just to watch her sleep.

But then, I don't enjoy vampire books (like Laurell Hamilton's series) which involve alternate universes, and I do see a vampire sub-culture being set up in Twilight. The problem is that if one establishes an omnipotent character--Superman, vampire or whatever--one has to set up an equally strong opposing character so the story carries some tension. (Thus Superman's opponents became ever weirder as time went on.) I prefer using the human element, like, well, the vampire book I wrote which has--ahem--not yet found a publisher.

Obviously I'm in the minority. Daughter, from whom I borrowed the book, and half the young women in America adore Twilight and are eagerly gobbling up the whole series. I much prefer The Historian.

Monday, December 29, 2008

To My Children

When I am old, so very old I stink
Of unwashed underarms and brain cell death,
So old I shake, my spine and stature shrink,
I whistle, quake and rattle with each breath--
When I am old, so very old I drool,
And age spots big as elephants appear,
When I forget my name and act the fool
And talk too loud because I cannot hear--
Even when I'm angry, trapped in rage,
Become a miser, call each dime misspent,
When I am cruel and stupid with my age,
When I reject you, scotch your good intent--
Remember once I loved you of my will,
And in my heart of hearts, I love you still.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Snippets

Somehow Fiorella thought that, with the monstrous new TV that she and Husband gave each other for Christmas, the shows would be better, but all they are is bigger. And she still can't find anything she wants to watch.
Christmas dinner was a feast. For seven people, Fio ended up with three meats, five side dishes, four desserts, and massive indigestion caused by massive over-ingestion.
Later in the afternoon, Fio had to do a little clever slight of hand when stripping the dining table in order to hide from her guests the fact that under her white linen table cloth was a plastic sheet decorated with Strawberry Shortcake.
Three days later, Fio is finally starting to come to. Her brain is recovering from mush state and her body is demanding she stop lying around on the couch all day. But, oh, she needed that respite!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Do Not Feed This Woman

Fio's Christmastide this year
Was full of laughter and good cheer
And also of good things to eat--
Every kind of chocolate sweet--
Which means our Fio will dieting be
From now until Epiphany
So she again her toes can see.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Think Mink, Ma'am

There's something about slipping into the mink jacket that does it. Fio, who you know, is something of a dorky cut-up, instantly becomes Gracious Lady. Her voice becomes softer, her smile more beneficent, her gait more graceful. She strives to deserve the mink, to act worthy of it.

Fio's like that. She always dresses in costumes, then acts them out. Or, to put it another way, she tries to suit what she wears to whatever role she will be playing. Maybe it has something to do with the three years, ages eight through ten, she spent in Baylor Children's Theater. Or maybe she's just a natural-born ham.

And she wonders why people say she is dramatic.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Rejoice, rejoice, for Christ is born today
In Bethlehem, by ancient prophecy--
The son of heaven, sleeping in the hay.

Let angels sing and tuned musicians play
A clamoring of happy harmony--
Rejoice, rejoice for Christ is born today.

Let shepherds leave their wandering sheep to pray
Before his rustic throne, on bended knee--
The son of heaven, sleeping in the hay.

Let wise men from the East be shown the way,
And with their aged eyes, their savior see--
A Rejoice, rejoice, for Christ is born today.

Let all mankind observe a holiday
To celebrate his sweet nativity--
The son of Heaven, sleeping in the hay.

Let planets, suns, and twinkling stars display
Their promises of immortality,
Rejoice, rejoice, for Christ is born today
The Son of Heaven, sleeping in the hay.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Husband doesn't understand Fiorella's incessant Christmas decorating and is even rather peeved about it. She's always teetering on top of a ladder or messing up the floor with paper snippets or taping strange stuff onto the wall.

But everyday Fio's world gets worse, and moments of respite are far between. Her house and yard are not as she would like, her family situation is not as she would like, her country is not as she would like, and Fiorella herself is not as she would like.

She must do something about it. Therefore she decorates. It's a form of plastic surgery.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Exponential Proportions

I read that the amazingly fecund Michelle Duggar has just given birth to her eighteenth child. A century ago, this large a family wouldn't have been quite as remarkable as it is nowadays, when birth control is readily available. Husband objects to the size of the family on the grounds of population control. I just wonder how the parents keep all the names straight. I myself have been known to go through husband's name, all three of the children's names, and the dog's name before hitting the right one.

I also ponder the math. If, as seems probable, the Duggars end up with at least twenty-five kids, and if each of these kids marries and, following the Full Quiver Baptist dogma, produces at least twenty-five kids, ol' Jim Bob and Michelle will have 625 grandchildren to remember the birthdays of. If the pattern continues, their great-grandchildren will number 16,625, and so on, until in the not-so-distant future, the country's name will have to be changed to the United States of Duggars.

Of course, at that time they'll have to pay full-price for everything instead of getting it used because everyone will be Duggars.

Monday, December 22, 2008


The ever-energetic Fiorella is exhausted. It might have something to do with her manaical Christmas decorating, the Direct TV man running around on the roof for four hours yesterday hooking up the satellite while the maid did her best to make the house presentable for Christmas visitors, or the fact that Fio and Husband drove an hour plus across town to pick up Younger Son from the airport at 11:00 p.m. and stayed up till 1:00 to catch up on all his activities.

Arising at 6:30 this morning may also have something to do with it. Fio and Husband trundled over to the nursing home and spent about half an hour putting together a clothes rack for her father, who slept in his wheelchair the whole time. Then they went shopping at HEB, using one of the BIG baskets and racking up a bill over $150, with only one meat item in the cart. They got home about 2:00 and Fio started setting up a late lunch for everyone. That's when she began to go under. After lunch, it was obvious she could hardly speak intelligibly so Husband and Son put her on the couch with intructions to rest.

Yeah, sure. Not for four more days.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Body ESP

When outside it's wintery
And inside it's seventy,
I'm still cold and shivery.
When outside it's summery,
And inside it's seventy,
I'm sweating like a piggery.

No matter what
The thermostat shows,
When the sun shines hot
Or the north wind blows,
My body knows.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Fiorella is in holiday hyperdrive, which means she doesn't have time to spend half an hour every morning critiquing her face in the magnifying mirror.

Ever since Fio got her vision fixed, she has been fascinated--and horrified--by what she has discovered about herself. Thus the eyelid surgery and the minor facial clean-ups. And the decision to have a face lift as soon as she wins the lottery.

Fio understands she can't look sixteen again--it might get her husband arrested if she did--but she'd rather not look like Methusalah's grandmother either. Or like her father's sister, which is what the people at his nursing home seem to keep thinking she is. I mean, Aunt Julie is dead.

But such pondering will have to wait a week. Yesterday Fio set up two deer in the front yard and finished off the Christmas cards. Today she has three wreaths and four swags to hang. Then it's off to the airport at 11:00 p.m. to pick up Younger Son.

Merry Almost-Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday Snippets

My theory is that all the Christmas ornaments that didn't sell last year were shipped back to China, swashed with gold paint (probably toxic) and glitter, marked up, and shipped back to us again for sale this year.
I stare at the fire and think it is no wonder the ancients worshiped it. Think of its power. Fire provides light and heat. It consumes whatever it touches. It can kill us. We do not control it--it controls us. We both depend on it and fear it.
Times are tight, but Fiorella refuses to cut back on charitable donations. Tight times are when donations are most needed.
Fiorella will, though, review her Christmas card situation next year. She's been designing her own for years, to save money and vent her creative impulses, but this year she was blindsided--and staggered--by how much her vanity cost.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Kubla Khan, I Know You

Fiorella awoke this morning with a wonderful story floating through her brain, a two-level romance, heart-warming and funny, featuring a younger couple and an older couple, a clever story somehow involving e-mail. It would be her break-through novel, she was sure. Immediately she reached for her trusty pen and paper, always nearby for when she awakens with brilliant ideas. But first she wrote down some Christmas notes she didn't want to forget. Then, when she tried to retrieve her story, it was gone, only a faint wisp remaining, like smoke from dead fire.

Was there ever anything there? Was it just the afterglow of a good dream? Or was it a masterpiece interrupted, like Coleridge, but without the opium?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dylan and Me

It seems appropriate for Fiorelle,
Who's in a literary mood,
To write about the villanelle.

And thus would start one of poetry's most convoluted forms, the villanelle. A villanelle is five three-line stanzas plus a sixth, four-line stanza. The rhyme scheme is aba for the first five stanzas, then abaa at the end. In other words, the first and third lines of each of the three-line stanzas rhyme throughout the poem, and all the second lines of each stanza rhyme with each other.

Duck soup, you say, but there's more. The first line of the first stanza is repeated as the third line of the second, fourth, and sixth stanzas; meanwhile the last line of the first stanza is repeated as the last line of the third, fifth, and sixth stanzas.

Wowsie! That means one must come up with a two recurring lines that will make sense throughout the poem, then together will give you a socko ending. And don't forget those other rhymes that have to be worked in. All in iambic tetrameter (four strong beats per line) or pentameter (five strong beats per line).

Fiorella looked over several villanelles, good and bad, before she tried one on her own and realized that her best chance of success was to make a list of something, one item per stanza. Thus, after announcing the Nativity in the first stanza of her Christmas poem, she covered the angels, the shepherds, the wise men, mankind, and the universe in the subsequent stanzas.

The best-known, and I think the best-written, villanelle in literature is Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night," which, typical Thomas, sounds good even if you don't understand a word of it. It's a real tour de force. Look it up and note that not only does Thomas adhere to all the rules the Frenchies set for this very challenging form when they invented it, but he also adds another twist by setting up his initial rhymes as polar opposites, "night" and "day."

Fiorella isn't that good yet, but she's done okay. The one she wrote this Christmas is her third, and it's better than her first one, which was better than her second one. Maybe the fourth one, whenever it arrived on the doorstep of her mind, will be better yet.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hangar Sale

My father was not a union man. In fact, he sat on the other side of the table in collective bargaining. But he respected unions, realizing that they were vital for the protections of the workforce. Check into the abuses of early manufacturers--there were good reasons that workers joined together to protest their pay and working conditions.

So I'm not blaming the UAW for Detroit's current mess. Given the volatility of the employment situation in the auto industry, with lay-offs coming every time one turns around, I don't resent high wages for assembly line workers. After all, one has to be able to store nuts away for the winter.

What I do resent is the high salaries of management, plus the multi-million-dollar perks and bonuses. Why should management's poor decision-making land on the backs of workers?

Sell the fleets of private jets.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hard Times

First my computer went down and was out of commission for two weeks. Then our water was turned off for a day. Then the printer cartridge died on me and it took almost two weeks to get it replaced. Now the brand new, very expensive TV that Husband and I are giving each other for Christmas won't work!

Husband bought it from Best Buy last week, it was delivered on Tuesday, and the Geek Squad arrived yesterday at 5:00 p.m. to install it, a four-hour job. But by 9:00, it still wasn't working.

Today, with a good night's sleep behind us, we called in all our resources. Older Son advised us from Minnesota and Older Nephew drove up from Austin on a rescue mission. Husband and Nephew are out buying cables now.

I know eventually the TV will work, just as eventually my computer was repaired and the water was restored and the printer cartridge was replaced. But I get tired of the meantime. In modern life, nothing mechanical or electronic should ever go wrong.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Deck the Halls

She gives each wreath a velvet bow
And tops the doors with mistletoe,
Tapes snowflakes to each windowpane
And drapes the walls with colored chain,
Ties cardboard bells along the stair,
Adds fake-o greenery everywhere,
Puts tiny houses above the fire,
Peopled by a tiny choir--
Yes, each year, when it comes Yule,
Fio's a decorating fool!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Come the Christmas season, I finally understand the difference between married couples and cohabiting couples. Married couples divide up the holidays, this Christmas with her family, next Christmas with his. Cohabiting couples divide themselves up, each spending the holiday with his/her respective family.

Committed, but not quite--always leaving an escape route open.

Friday, December 12, 2008

King of the Nursery

Younger Son weighed 11 pounds, 7 ounces, when he was born. During my fourth month, I had been so big that the obstetrician sent me for an x-ray to find out if I was having twins. No, it was just one BIG baby.

The hospital nursery wasn't prepared. The nurses had to send out for larger diapers because the newborn size was too small. We have a classic photo of a nurse with a startled look on her face because he raised his head when he was just a day old.

I liked to hang around the observation window because people would look at their babies, then spot the king of the nursery and say, "And look at THAT one!" Which was when I would glide forward in a queenly way and modestly announce, "That's my baby."

I was proud of him then and I'm even more proud of him today, on his birthday.

Happy birthday, Lee!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Traveling Pantsuits

Did I ever tell you how nervous Fiorella was about what to wear to the RWA conference in San Francisco last summer?

"Dress professionally," her RWA guru had said, so Fio went shopping for neato pantsuits. But it was campaign season and Hillary had already bought up all the neato pantsuits.

Fio settled for a not-so-neato pantsuit, but when she packed her bags, ended up leaving it at home in favor of some old-favorite slacks and shirts.It was just as well. When she got to the conference, the only person she noticed in a neato pantsuit was Nora Roberts.

She probably borrowed it from Hillary.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Time-Tight Tidings

Did Fio almost miss a day? This month is passing much too quickly!

My schedule is too tight; I don't have time
Each Christmastide to sound and count and beat,
Reciting every year a well-turned rhyme
Replete with inspiration, form, and feet.
You know, of course, the truth of what I say--
Commitments ring me round like silver chain
Hung on a Christmas tree, and hour and day
Run faster than the currents of my brain.
In truth, I'd rather have the time to write
Some gracious greeting, giving you my best,
To wish you joy, good health, your heart's delight--
My love to you and may your year be blessed.
As I've explained, my time is much too tight,
So read top down, far left, to read me right.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Melancholy Snippets

Somewhere in there I decided to ignore aging, assuming aging would ignore me. But it hasn't. Yes, Fiorella is having a hard time facing the inevitibilites of growing older, of which her father is a semi-living example.
Now that Dad has started wandering into other residents' rooms and going through their belongings, I'm more charitable of his original roommate, a 96-year-old I thought was a klepto. No, he was just old.
Every Thursday and Sunday I visit my father and see my future. Surely a better way can be found to depart life than this.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Boob Tube

I want good TV, that is, shows I want to see. I want Harry Dresden to return, and Wolf Lake too. I want more shows like Absolutely Fabulous, Couplings, Keeping Up Appearances, and The Kumars at No. 42. I want more Will and Grace featuring Debbie Reynolds.

Enough with the reality shows. I admit to watching Project Runway, but that's getting old too. I still watch Little People, Big World out of habit, but the family's free-spending lifestyle is a bit obscene in today's economic climate. How about some nice, happy fiction?

Please, someone--come up with a bunch of clever, fast-moving shows that knock my socks off.

Don't drive me to watching old Lawrence Welk reruns.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Academically Speaking

Academia is a hotbed of--well--hot beds. And other available surfaces.

I first became aware of that in Graduate School, when it was common knowledge that several of my more ambitious female peers were trolling after their professors--and snagging them. My own experiences involved an Arab wannabe stud who tried to corner me in my carrel and an eminent Indian scholar who got drunk and attempted to kiss me.

When I started teaching, my officemate dumped her old boyfriend for a higher ranking professor and asked me to handle the loser's phone calls. Nothing like being on the inside track. The new guy's wife was mad.

Of course, there's always the danger of someone walking in at an inappropriate time. I know of two public school principals who got--uh--nailed that way. And then there was the principal who, when he was en dishabille, got his trousers snatched by the young teacher he was attempting to become better acquainted with and had to be escorted across the street to the administration building wrapped in a raincoat.

And then I think of the anthropologists who maintain there was no sexual contact between CroMagnons and Neanderthals. Yeah, sure.

Where there is propinquity, sex happens.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Winter Fly

Do not bug me, pesky fly!
The mighty swatter hangs nearby--
One more buzz and you will die!
Take that!

Friday, December 5, 2008


When my mother was a girl, she would paddle a canoe across the lake to visit her friends. She had lived on the Portage Lakes outside of Akron all her life, and the water was her highway.

Sometimes a storm would come up, the black clouds rolling across the lake, the angry water swaying her bark. Then she would lean low in the canoe and paddle more strongly because she didn't know how to swim.

Mother was in deep enough water anyway. First of all, her appearance went against her. Tall for her age, she was expected to act more mature than she was. And her long, coal-black hair and striking dark eyes frightened her grandmother: "Schwartze Augen," the old lady said, gesturing against the evil eye.

Also, my mother's father was an alcoholic, a man's man but a woman's nightmare. The family lived a nomadic life, moving all around the lakes wherever "Pop" could pick up a job for a while. Her older brother died of a burst appendix when he was fourteen. Her younger brother was an alcoholic by the time he hit high school.

My mother's eighth grade class photograph says it all. Mother, her black hair cut in a flapper bob, stands curiously apart from the rest of the students--beside them, but tilting her head away, as if she is looking at the world from a slightly different angle.

School was her sanctuary. She graduated as valedictorian of her high school and college classes. Then she taught for a few years and married my father, who did not drink. As was required at the time, she quit working when she became pregnant with me, her oldest child.

Mother was sentimental about old people and other people's children. But with my brother and me she was tough, because that was how she thought a parent should be. I remember taking her to meet my older son's second grade teacher, expecting her to say all sorts of sweet, grandmotherly things about her grandson and encouraging, teacherly things to the teacher. Instead she sneered and told Mr. Tedford that in her day male teachers never could keep discipline. Years later I realized that she had not known what to say, that she was afraid anything nice would sound weak, so she hung tough.

Mother was afraid of a lot of things, of seeming soft, of drinking, of swimming, of driving, of flying on an airplane, of leaving Ohio. She was rarely soft and she never did drink, swim, drive, or fly, but she did have to relocate when my father was transferred to Waco.

And when she died, she was buried in the tough, no-nonsense soil of Texas.

But sometimes when the night is dark and the moon is high, I think there is a shadow far out on the Portage Lakes, and if you look at it long enough, you will see a tall girl with long, dark hair, paddling a silent canoe toward the distant shore, as if against a rising wind.

The storm is gone, Mother. Your skies are clear. Rest in peace.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Intimations of Winter

It's coming winter in the hill country. Within the past week, the leaves have been falling like golden rain, baring the bones of our forest.

We've spotted two bucks in our area, one with a magnificent six-prong rack, the other a tender spikeling. They tend to pose on the side of the road, looking, for all the world, like paid advertisements for Hartford.

There are so many brush piles along our driveway that it looks like we're preparing for an auto-da-fe. Now you know what we do for winter entertainment.

And Husband has been getting his money's worth out of the new chain saw. I like the idea that our fallen trees are burned in our fireplace rather than chipped and trashed. I think the trees like that too-it means they didn't die in vain. (But then, I tend to personify.)

Meanwhile, I dream of snow.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

All Creatures Small

Husband and I have different attitudes toward insects. I step on them, swat them, or smash them. He carefully scoops them up on pieces of cardboard and carries them outside. Even scorpions.

I think it comes from his mother, who, having read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, the first big ecology book, banned the use of any pesticides in her house. I remember going into her kitchen late one night, turning on the light, and seeing a million big river roaches dive for cover.

Husband isn't that extreme. He sprays for roaches and obliviates flies. Ants also receive no mercy from him, especially the ones that attack him in the yard. But caterpillars, pill bugs, and stray wasps all get the royal treatment.

And so do I, even when I bug him. (But he lets me stay indoors.)

All creatures small-husband rescues insects, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Even More Snippets

This was one of those mornings when I tried to open the garage door by pushing the button that closes the car windows.
I love a fire made with our own wood. But I also love to look out the front door at our full wood racks. It's the age-old problem: I want to burn my wood and keep it too.
Money talks. When I say, "I placed second in a short story contest," people say, "That's nice." When I say "I won seventy-five bucks in a short story contest," they say, "THAT'S GREAT!"
Just learned that Felix Salten, who wrote Bambi, also wrote a porno novel--Debbie Does Dallas?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sticks and Stones

"Erase the R-word" the big billboard advertising the Special Olympics screamed. I would guess the "R-word" being referred to is "retard," used as a pejorative noun, derived from the adjective, "retarded," as in "mentally retarded."

"Retarded" is a euphemism, a nice word for something we want to pretty up, like "sex worker" for "prostitute." The problem with euphemisms is that they still have the same references, which means they soon acquire the same connotation. Today's euphemism is tomorrow's epithet. The new euphemism for "retarded" is "special," which has already gone down the garden path.

But I don't think words are the problem--or the solution. The problem is attitudes; there are always going to be people whose egos require them to insult and belittle other people, but it doesn't mean we have to pay attention to them, and we certainly don't have to overinflate the English language to try to counteract them.

My take? I think Special Olympics should save its billboard money and invest in more ribbons and trophies instead.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Against my usual wont, I dropped by Koehler's Drugstore on Twenty-fifth Street.

The store was a small stucco building, old, overstocked, and underserviced. The few times I had been in the store, Mr. Koehler had looked at me as though I was a spy who had slipped through the Confederate lines. He would probably have barred the door if he had known I was the Yankee girl who supported integrated schools and equal opportunity employment, the one who had been involved in a battle-to-the-death debate with his son in our high school American history class. In the early sixties, those were radical concepts in Waco, where old ways died hard.

But changes were in the air. I had grown up with the the idea that one's agemates, no matter if they were in the nursery or teetering on the edge of the grave, were all referred to as either "boy" or "girl." But Black Pride and the Women's Movement were insisting that we all, black and white, were grown-ups, "men" and "women."

The change was necessary because "boy" was a term used not just for agemates, but also for any black man, no matter his age. In fact, "uncle" was the most respectful term of address a black man would ever hear in Waco, and that was when he was old, crippled, and harmless.

I was moving methodically up and down the rows of the drug store looking for nail polish remover while Mr.Koehler, his pasty-faced sales clerk, and the delivery "boy," a broad-shouldered black man, lounged at the pharmacist's counter, authoritatively discussing the Baylor Bears' chances of making it to the Cotton Bowl that year. Becoming more and more irritated, I kept shooting narrow-eyed glances at the three idling sportsmen.

Suddenly the heavy glass door swung open and a wave of eyeball-baking Texas summer heat burst in along with a sweaty stranger rattling a city map. He spotted the three men huddled together at the back of the store and lumbered toward them like a substitute with a message from the coach.

I had a straight-shot, fifty-yard-line view of the whole scene down the center aisle.

Focusing on the black man, the stranger barked "Hey, boy, where's Fulkes Ave at?

The three sportsmen stared at the intruder. His greeting hung in the air like a forward pass with no down-field receiver.

The delivery man looked startled for only a moment. Then black came into his eyes and his broad shoulders sagged. It was common knowledge that colored people knew where every street in town was, just as naturally as they ate watermelon and kept good rhythm.

He took a deep breath and opened his mouth to answer, but Randy Koehler was quicker. "Three streets to the north and turn left, sir," he cut in, flashing a quick professional smile.

"Thanks, buddy," the stranger said, a little confused by the unexpected interception, but gamely shifting his attention to the white man. With another whoosh of the automatic door, the traveler departed.

The sportsmen turned to each other and resumed their conversation.

I waited respectfully until they finished to be rung up.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Fiorella, the mighty writing machine,
Eats up rainforests by the ream--
Fiorella is kind, Fiorella is keen,
Sometimes she's blue, but never green.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The High Road

Despite having been VP candidate on Al Gore's losing ticket--or maybe because of it-- Joe Lieberman declared himself an Independent Democrat and cozied up to the party that did win. Cozied up so close that reportedly he was McCain's first choice for VP.

The Republican "core" insisted on Palin, but, nevertheless, Lieberman, wily and smiley, was a featured speaker at the nominating convention in Minnesota.

So it was no surprise that the new Democratic majority wanted to dump him from his chairmanship of the powerful Senate Homeland Security committee. What was a surprise was that President-elect Obama decided he should stay.

What a contrast to the Bush administration's firing of federal prosecutors who didn't toe the party line.

Obama took the political high road. If that isn't change in Washington, I don't know what is. Another thing to be thankful for this weekend.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I am thankful for cold weather because our forest clears out and its beautiful bare bones show.

I am thankful for cold weather because we get to have a fire in the fireplace.

I am thankful for cold weather because then I can snuggle up next to my honey at night without sweating like a pig.

I am thankful for cold weather because it invigorates my soul.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rainy Day

Under a green umbrella,
Just we two--
Laughing and giggling,
Me and you.

You're my brother, Billy,
I'm your sister, Jay;
And we're under a green umbrella
Because it's a rainy day.

The rain goes "splash"
On the umbrella top
Which protects us from
Each tiny drop.

But still we each
Are a little wet
'Cause two under an umbrella
Is mighty hard to get.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Better and Better

If you've followed Fiorella from the beginning, you might have figured out that that several published blogs have been adjusted post-publishing, sometimes for typos, sometimes for style, sometimes because notes were inadvertantly included.

Fio is a constant editor. Nothing is ever finished with her. She is always readjusting what she has written, what she has painted, what she has said.

She also readjusts herself. Yes, Fio is a work in progress.

And so is Jeanell.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dreams of Snow

I love it when the weather turns and the restaurants start planting pansies in their flower beds. Then I know it isn't long till I'll be able to see my breath in front of my face.

My breeding is not appropriate to constant sunshine, I think. I freckle easily and sunburn at the drop of a hat--quite literally. My body longs for cooler climes, northeastern Europe, to be exact. Emotionally, I long for real seasons, anywhere that it actually snows.

Of course, I have a romanticized notion of snow gleaned from TV, movies, and childhood memories of Ohio. To me, it's that fluffy white stuff that falls as manna from heaven while Bing Crosby sings "White Christmas." That stuff that I used to roll into snowmen when I was six. But to my father, laboring with the heavy shovel to clean the front walk, I think snow was something less benign.

All the same, I don't understand people who retire to places like Florida and South Texas. My ideal would be Iceland.

I never did forgive daughter for breaking up with the guy whose family owned a ski lodge in Vail.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Where My Money Goes

HEB is taking over the universe, at least in Texas--and where else matters? It ran A&P out of state years ago, and is in the process of beating down Randall's and Albertson's.

In the process, HEB has moved from being a mere grocery store to a department store. In fact, I'm thinking of having my paycheck sent directly to its corporate headquarters and cutting myself out as the middleman.

Husband and I shop at one of the super-stores, and it sells everything from clothes to electronics to furniture to medical care. If we want to get fancy, we can always drive into Austin to shop at HEB's upscale Central Market, which features every exotic fruit and vegetable I never knew existed, a wonderful bakery, meat and fish to die for, an amazing spread of prepared food, and even cooking lessons.

I'm planning on being buried out of HEB. Surely one of those smiling, red-aproned employees is selling coffins out of the back room.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Glitz Glut

I guess it's time for Fiorella to weigh in on the economy since everyone else has. Fio doesn't have any solutions yet, but she does have a historical perspective.

She thinks it all goes back to the Reagan era, when Hollywood went to Washington. Jimmy Carter had ideals and values, but he also seemed a bit dorky. Reagan, on the other hand, had glamor--and the rest of us decided we wanted that too. All we had to do was use our credit cards. We deserved that bigger house, those snazzy duds, that car one step up from our neighbor's. We aspired to jobs we actually enjoyed, and the feel-good gurus told us all things were reachable. All we had to do was believe.

"Updating" was the name of the game as we eased ourselves into the HGTV world, in which perfectly good kitchen appliances are tossed in favor of more stylish stainless steel, perfectly good counters tossed in favor of more stylish granite.

Fiorella would like to tell you she hung back and said "Fie upon you and your false values," but she has always known she deserved to be a princess. That's why her appliances are stainless steel and her counters are granite and she's a little panicked about the future.

Oh well, Fio and Husband can always live off the land. Already they're harvesting lemons from the little trees on their back porch and gathering firewood from their acreage. Hmmm--maybe they can develop a taste for venison too.

Friday, November 21, 2008


It's snapped back.

Yes, the girdle has returned, but now it's called a "shaper." You've seen them all over television and the tabloids--various sorts of elasticized fabric undergarments that supposedly reduce you by two sizes. Even plastic surgeon Robert Rey is hawking them.

First there were corsets, then there were girdles; then, in the '60s, we tossed our girdles into the fire with our bras and let our fat flab free. The bras were sheepishly retrieved within the decade, but the girdles remained in the ash bin till just this year. (Probably some kind of space technology development.)

Myself? Call me retro, but the last thing I want to do on a hot summer day is encase myself in a skin-tight sausage wrapping.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Canine Gourmet

Wendy, Wendy, in the woods,
Eating acorns by the score--
Wendy, Wendy, in the house,
Vomiting upon the floor--
Wendy, Wendy, I implore,
Don't eat acorns any more.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Heart of Gold

How nice to glance at the front page of Monday's Wall Street Journal and learn that the top execs of at least one financial institution are taking the high road, and at their own cost. Yes, the seven top officers of Goldman Sachs are forgoing their annual multi-million dollar bonuses this year. Other investment firms, please take note.

It's more than a grand gesture--it's a small readjustment of the playing field. The millions that those executives are not squirreling away in their own private bank accounts will show up in other places, not just in money that is available, but in money that is not being drained from the economy. Okay, I'll say it--it's a spreading of the wealth, which the country needs, given the increasing gap between the haves and have-nots.

But don't discount the gesture. It also means that the plutocrats are aware that there are other people in the world, people not as--literally--fortunate as they are, people whose pain should be respected and, as much as possible, alleviated. We're all in this together, guys.

And while I'm on the subject, I want to report that Husband was given a commendation and a cute little lapel pin for being one of the top contributors to the office charity drive this year. We're doing our part too.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hello, World!

Fiorella has her mojo back!

Being of unsound mind and body, Fio periodically goes down, down, down. A searing critique of her latest novel did her in. She struggled with it for a while by throwing herself into intense and unaccustomed physical labor (translation: cleaning the house), then switched gears completely and started working on other stuff she had stockpiled for "later."

As of yesterday, Fiorella is completely recovered. She finished off two poems that had been hanging fire for a couple of years--a Christmas villanelle and a sonnet about mother-daughter relationships. And today she answered all her old e-mails, redid an old painting, and found a pretty rock in her driveway. And she's been getting herself organized again. Up and at'em, Fiorelle!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Retail Relations

Thursday night Husband and I went to Home Depot, where we had lately been receiving very good customer service, to look over bookshelves. We decided on unassembled six-footers, three of them, costing almost $100 apiece. No sales people were anywhere in evidence so we started calling out for assistance. Another couple, also standing around waiting for help, joined our yodel.

Finally a smiling, aproned employee arrived, answered our inquiries, loaded the heavy boxes onto a cart, and towed them up to the front of the store for us. We were very grateful.

As our sedan's trunk is not built to accommodate six-foot lengths, we got in the line to sign up for delivery. It would cost more than $50, we were informed, and the store would tell us the day but not the time. Okay, we said, planning to set a date when I could stay home all day.

Then came the rub. Explaining that big flatbeds can't negotiate our long, winding, narrow driveway, I asked about the vehicle that would be used. We were then told that Home Depot's deliveries are only to the curb, which meant our bookshelves would be off-loaded on the road, at the entrance to our driveway. Husband and I would have to figure out a way to get them the 100 or so yards to the house ourselves.

I balked, Husband balked, and we departed, leaving the bookshelves still on the cart beside the check-out.

We won't lose out. We can find the same shelves somewhere else with better delivery services. But Home Depot did lose out, not only a quick $300 sale, but our good will.

It's no wonder retailers are going under.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Living off the Land

True bliss is sitting in front of a fire made from wood which we've cut ourselves. Husband and I now have more than half a cord stored on circular iron racks in front of our house, and I often go to the door to look at the fruits of our labor in wonder and awe. It's a big deal to this city girl who thought firewood grew out of plastic wrappers stacked in front of HEB.

Right now we're working on a downed oak that was probably struck by lightning a couple of years ago. It's huge, so we'll have our racks completely full after another couple days'labor. Maybe we'll even have to buy a third rack.

And just think of all the money we'll save--next year. This year we still have to justify the cost of two (or three) $25 racks, a $65 electric chain saw, and extra blades at $5 apiece.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Missed It

In all the flurry of Suzy's car trouble, I forgot to visit my father Thursday morning. And I didn't make it up in the afternoon.

I don't think Dad knows whether I am there or not--or cares. To him I am just someone who drops in twice a week, shouts at him, and hauls his wheelchair around.

I will go to see Dad tomorrow. Husband accompanies me on Sundays, which makes everything a little easier.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Yesterday, my initial engagement of the morning was with friend Suzy.

Her car broke down before we could meet at Dan's for breakfast so I drove to where she was marooned on Guadalupe and 45th, then made a trip to Dan's to pick up breakfast to go for both of us, stayed with her till the tow truck came, followed the tow truck to the garage, then tripped off with her to Jason's Deli, where we spent a pleasant half hour bringing each other up to date on our lives. It was not only a nice visit, but an adventure--although nothing compared to when my heart started beating too fast in Dan's a couple of years ago and Suzy hauled me off to the hospital and stayed with me till I was in the clear.

But that's the sort of thing friends do.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Snippets Again

Just when I think I have have everything figured out, everything changes.
That congestion I have every morning could be just my brain leaking out.
All in all, I thought old age would be more interesting.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Five More Things

My desk has never been as neat and tidy as my mother's was. On the other hand:

1) I have written poetry, short stories, novels, and plays
2) I have edited newsletters and literary publications
3) I have published in local newspapers and magazines
4) I have composed songs and a children's opera
5) I have established Fiorella on line

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gone Tomorrow

Fiorella doesn't know whether or not she and Husband are going to renew their Austin Lyric Opera season tickets next year. Now that they live out in the sticks, it's something of a pain to spend forty-five minutes driving into Austin, sometimes in heavy traffic, then another forty-five driving home through the rural darkness.

Besides, despite shelling out for the orchestra section every year, and lately sweetening the deal with a yearly $250 donation, Fio and Husband have not been happy with their seats ever since the ALO moved from Bass Hall to the Long Center. First they were stuck front row center, which gave them a riveting view of the sweat beads sparkling on the back of conductor Richard Buckley's head. After Fio complained in her own inimitable style, she and Husband were moved to more acceptable seats, although they would have preferred being a little closer to the stage. This season, Fio et spouse were moved further down front, but to one side, which they do not like.

Fiorella thinks that the basic problem is the Long Center itself. The front row of seats is too near the orchestra pit, and slant of the floor is wrong, not rising until about row six. Also, the rows are placed so close together that it is hard for audience members to pass each other to reach their seats, and six-foot tall Husband can't stretch out his legs during the performance. Besides, the chairs are too small-- and not cushiony enough for Fio's tender derriere.

Other amenities Fiorella and her spouse had grown accustomed to at ALO's former venue are missing, such as the large couches in the enclosed loggia. And where are those neato golf carts that transported people to and from?

Fio and Husband adored their old seats at Bass, fourth row center, and assumed they'd have comparable seats at Long, but such was not to be. Oh well, judging from the unusually large flocks of tuxedo-clad men a and black-gowned women in evidence at Cenerentola, red-dressed Fiorella and her money will not be missed if she disappears into the night.

Let them have their convention of crows. Fio will stay home, put on her comfy crimson robe and listen to the stereo.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Fiorella has a nostalgic fondness for Rossini's Cenerentola (Cinderella)because years ago she participated in an excerpt from it. Besides, Rossini's battiness has always appealed to Fio, who has something of a batty streak herself.

Fiorella and Husband thoroughly enjoyed Saturday night's Austin Lyric Opera performance. Because Rossini's music is so frenetic and the libretto is so sparse (the same phrases repeated about fifty times, building and building and building), constant inventive action is a must. Yes, it's comic romp.

The voices were first rate. They had to be, to handle Rossini's exuberance, yet keep up the pace. Agility was the name of the game. Top-notch was Sandra Piques Eddy as Cinderella, a true mezzo with deep, plummy tones, not a soprano singing down because she couldn't make the cut. Every syllable, every pitch in every wiggly melody line was clearly articulated, The tenor hero, Ramiro (Michele Angelini), was also quite good, with beautiful high notes, although stage miking or something lost him every now and then. Baritone John Boehr, playing Dandini, a Figaro kind of role, was also great, although not quite as articulate. The audience's favorite was probably the bombastic bass Magnifico (Steven Condy), who provided a wonderfully bravura comic performance. Almost sinister, bass Alidoro (Kritsopher Irmiter) anchored the cast with what struck Fio as overtones of Zauberflote's Sarastro.

Before the opera started, the audience was asked to stand and sing the national anthem, which Fio thinks was a common practice at movie theaters during the '30s. As you can imagine with a theater full of music-conscious people, it sounded good. Not like at office birthday parties, where half the staff can't carry a tune. A few brave soprano voices even went up the decorative octave on "land of the free-ee".

During the overture, the cast presented a mime show that was supposed to establish the back story. Husband thought it worked great, but it just confused Fiorella. The opera was reset into 1930's Hollywood, which, again, Husband liked and Fio didn't.

All in all, the sheer stamina of the singers overwhelmed Fiorella. So much intensive coloratura crammed into so little time.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Time Off

Fio has a lot to say,
And she says it every day,
But most of all she likes to play--

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Passive Aggressive

Years ago, when I took singing lessons, the instructor tried to teach me the proper stance. I stood up straight, arranged my feet just so, relaxed my knees, tucked in my bottom, stretched my waist, raised and expanded my chest, clasped my hands out in front of me, lifted my chin--and fell over.

It was a millipede-who-couldn't-walk-once-he-was-questioned-about-how-he-did-it moment.

I think something of the same sort is happening in the world of romance novelists right now. Fifteen years ago, the question that defined the worth of your story was whether it was "character-driven" or "plot-driven," and your answer had darn well better be "character-driven."

Now there are more questions, like whether you know your characters' GMCs, which I always fleetingly think refers to gross national product. Then there's the story arc dealie. And eliminating all adverbs. And restricting dialogue tags to "said." And the business of sticking like glue to a limited third person viewpoint.

Some of the above are helpful. Others are downright silly. It's all a way of trying to capture a will-o'-the wisp--success--in a bottle. But a brief perusal of works by popular authors will show that they feel no such compunctions.

So I think I'll just lock myself in my tower room and write the stories I want to write the way I want to write them. Maybe lightning will strike and I'll get published; maybe it won't. But at least I won't fall over.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Commitment Blues

Marriage: while homosexuals rush towards it, heterosexuals rush away from it--in droves. Fiorella doesn't understand the couples who, surrounded by a houseful of bouncing babes, explain they are not yet ready for marriage.

Daughter sees the situation this way, that while women are looking for THE one, men are looking for ANYone. And, as previously mentioned, someone better might be right around the corner.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Save the Republicans!

I am still puzzling over the hijacking of the Republican party.

I remember when Democrats were considered the wascally wabbits, and Republicans, in contrast, were seen as--uh--wespectable--maybe a bit staid, but educated and reliable. Now the party's base seems to consist of hate-mongers and religious zealots.

What happened? My Aunt Julie, who voted straight Republican until she died at age 95, would never have recognized today's GOP. And neither would Abraham Lincoln.

Ditch Sarah Palin.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Reality Check

Possible reasons why Cheney endorsed McCain so publicly last week:

1) He wanted McCain to lose.

2) He was trying to pull in the misanthrope vote.

3) Sarah is a better shot.

Or maybe it just never dawned on him that he is even more unpopular than his boss.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Traditional marriage was no bed of roses. Couples married in the first throes of lust, discovered they'd married real people, and, for the most part, made the best of it, getting to know their spouses as human beings rather than plastic figures on top of a wedding cake. It was a matter of commitment, of fulfilling a vow. Sometimes it took a lot of work.

Then came the sexual revolution, with women becoming as sexually active as men, sometimes moreso. And, with sex so easily available, who wanted marriage anymore? After all, there might be someone even better around the corner.

We're gonna end up with a bunch of old people with no partners. Turning forty all alone is no fun.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Political Snippets

Modern communications have redefined politics. McCain and Palin will be the first national candidates defeated by television comedy. Yes, Letterman and Fey did the job.
The Palin family's $150K clothing haul was nothing compared to Cindy McCain's $300K Marie Antoinette outfit for the Republican convention. Again, whatever happened to Pat Nixon's good cloth coat?
Since when did the Republican Party become the choice of the ignorant and intolerant? My parents, life-long Republicans, were neither. Friends of mine who call themselves Republican aren't that way either. But, according to the party's own pundits, the "base" is redneck. That's why Palin, anti-science and quick on the draw, was selected for the vice-presidential slot.
On the topic of tolerance, how odd it is that tolerant people bend over backwards to protect the rights of the intolerant, then get slammed when the intolerant achieve power. Of course, the intolerant, by definition, cannot tolerate the tolerant.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Paternal Roles

Dad tried on several roles after Mother died. He invented a few things, like paper sandals to wear indoors, and he wrote a story about going to heaven after he died and reuniting with his parents, who assured him he had been a good son. He also tried his hand at being the beneficent paterfamilias, mailing Husband a totally unappreciated list of procedures to follow when buying a new car and giving Mother's elderly cousin totally unappreciated advice on how to handle her personal relationships.

I wish I had been more accepting of his geriatric foibles, but they just irritated me. He kept repeating the same stories over and over, as if on a recording. He embarrassed me by discussing personal matters in a carrying voice in public places. And when I tried to do nice things for him, like tote a huge pumpkin into his room at the retirement residence and carve it into a jack-o-lantern, he sneered.

Sometimes he made me very angry. All I wanted him to do was to be like he used to be, before he grew old.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Paper plates or napkins, yes,
Cardboard boxes, I confess--
Kleenex, papered hangers too,
Toilet paper in the loo,
Paper towels, their rolls, junk mail,
Advertisements of a sale,
Newspapers, deposit slips,
Lists of dues and memberships,
Candy wrappers in my purse,
Bulletins when I'm in church.
No paper scrap is safe from me--
I'll write on anything I see.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Our gap-toothed pumpkin face is carved and lit,
A witches' squadron rides our windowpane,
As vampires, devils, ghouls, in counterfeit,
Seek treats or trickery at our door again.
My children hold me tightly by the hand,
As I escort their Halloween debut;
They shrink from every boisterous beggars' band
Because they fear the trumpery is true.
So I explain and soothe and hold them close
And show them all is clever-made deceit:
Each Frankenstein, a playmate grandiose;
Each ghost, a neighbor child wound in a sheet.
But yet a sound, a touch, a shadow--hark!
I glance behind my shoulder in the dark.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fully Accounted For

The man walked carefully down the dark street. He had been out with friends and was still a little drunk, so they had dropped him off a few blocks from home to walk it off. Even after midnight, his neighborhood was notoriously safe.

He marked his progress by the halogen streetlights that gleamed periodically through the slight haze. His door was only three short blocks away and the cool wet air felt good in his lungs.

Another figure emerged from the dark ahead of him--a woman, he thought. He strained his eyes to make her out. She looked vaguely like his mother, he realized. No, more like his ex-wife. His daughter? His girlfriend? The waitress at the corner cafe? She seemed familiar but he knew he'd never seen her before.

The woman was almost on a level with him now and he openly stared at her. Her face was slack and expressionless, her eyes unseeing. Dark hair hung lank to her shoulders. Who was she? What was she? A feeling of apprehension swept over him.
Suddenly, never slackening her pace, she swerved into his path. "Are you fully accounted for?" she asked in a hollow voice.

"What?" He slowed for a second as his mind replayed what she had said. What did it mean? His heart started pounding loudly and a frisson of fear shook him.

The woman glided by him with no sound of footsteps and he knew without looking that she had turned and was now walking only a few feet behind him. He picked up his pace a little, but not too much. It was important for some reason not to show fear. After all, only two more blocks and he'd be home.

Another figure materialized out of the mist and he was somewhat relieved. Safety in numbers. He smiled. The sidewalk was unusually well populated tonight.

His blood ran cold. It was another woman, similar to the first--in fact, identical. She swerved in front of him as before and repeated in a voice from the tomb, "Are you fully accounted for?"

"What do you mean?" he sputtered. But she didn't answer, just glided by, and he knew she had joined her sister behind his back.

He walked even faster and another woman appeared out of the mist. My God, what was going on? Was he being stalked? Why? Who?

"Are you fully accounted for?" she asked, turning her pale head in passing. He felt her join the pair behind his back.

The pack was gathering, he thought. Were they vampires? Their mouths seemed strangely cavernous and gaping, but there was--as yet--no attack. He rolled up his collar as he walked. Maybe it was all his imagination. Maybe he was still drunk, drunker than he had thought.

Another woman appeared out of the dark. "Are you fully accounted for?" she asked, then passed him by to join her sisters.

Why were they all the same? Was he going crazy? Haunted by quadruplets? What had he done to deserve this? Why him? Another woman joined the throng, and another, each with the same cryptic question.

What was he supposed to answer? Would they leave him alone if he answered? Why didn't he turn around and confront them?

He was almost at a trot now, but the women were coming thick and fast, as if to match his pace, and each one with that same damnable question. How many were there behind him? He'd lost count, but he knew they were there, like a tribe of madwomen.

Ah, he was safe! There was his door. He felt in his pocket for the key and had it ready as he mounted the stoop.

This was the bad part, having to stop as he unlocked the door. Damn, it was the wrong key. He could feel the women gathering around him. They seemed to suck all the air up. No, don't look up! Don't acknowledge them! He went through his key chain, finally found the right one, then inserted it in the lock. The door opened smoothly and he swung it open, turning to give the women a triumphant grin.

The street light twinkled onto an empty street. He breathed deeply and stepped into his dark, quiet house, flipping on the dim hall light as he did so.

From the end of the hall a female figure materialized. Her lank hair framed a pale face. Her eyes were shadowed and her mouth seemed cavernous.

"Are you fully accounted for?" she asked as she glided past him.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fio's Pen Name?

Fio has to think up a pen name for when she hits it big as a romance writer.

What a trip! It's like when she was a little girl and would make up fantasies in her mind, the heroine of which always had a wonderful, beautiful name, like Theodora or Penelope or Victoria Anastasia.

To be able to name oneself is the ultimate power. Our parents named us when we were infants, little knowing what we would become--priests, serial killers, or naked movie stars. As adults, we know who we are, or at least who we want to be, so supposedly we can rename ourselves appropriately.

Hmmm.... how about Victoria Anastasia?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Crash Magnet II

As my experience goes, it's not unusual to have the same sort of auto accident a certain number of times in a short time period. Several years ago I was hit three times within a month--when my car was parked! About five years ago I was hit three times during the Christmas season--all of them by people backing out of parking places at stores.

And then there were a few periods, better forgotten, when I did the hitting--three times within a couple of months.

My automobile luck seems to work by the Rule of Three. Since Husband's vehicles have been rear-ended twice this week, let's hope his luck works by the Rule of Two.

Ooops! Late-breaking news: Husband's rental car was scraped on the side earlier in the day, which fulfills the Rule of Three. He's in the clear from now on.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Crash Magnet

Husband was just rear-ended on Burnet Road this morning. The woman who hit him said she was looking down for a second and didn't realize the traffic in front of her had slowed. The same thing happened to him earlier in the week, with a different woman, on the freeway.

Usually I'm the one involved in auto accidents. My last one was a year ago, when I ran a stop sign and hit a brand-new SUV. I didn't do much damage to the SUV, needless to say, but my little MX-5 was very nearly totaled. I couldn't figure out why I had missed seeing the sign until my peripheral vision was tested--I was about 33 percent occluded.

Now, thanks to eyelid surgery, I am bright-eyed, literally, and bushy-tailed, figuratively.

Meanwhile I have told Husband that I understand his magnetic attraction, but, in the future, would he please keep these forward women off his tail.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Take your toys and go away--
Fio does not want to play
Because she is depressed today--
What about she cannot say.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Masks and Tails

I think every book is, in essence, a mystery novel because the way to keep a reader interested is to throw out hints of things to come, things the reader wants to know the answer to. If nothing else, what in the world is going to happen next?

For instance, in "Little Red Ridinghood," we wouldn't have a story if the wolf hadn't approached Lil' Red early in the game. The mystery is what the wolf will do next. Or, even more basic, why in the world did the author introduce a hungry wolf, and how will the leering lupine satisfy his horrible hunger in a way that involves our hooded heroine?

Ooops, --do I feel an erotica coming on?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Dead Man's Chest

His ship is a-sinkin' so John is a-thinkin'
What might happen in nuclear war--
Which reminds us of Palin, so John, keep on bailin',
But I don't think you're gonna reach shore.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I don't doubt that Ritchie wants to dump Madonna. She looks very uncomfortable to live with--all bone, sinew, and embalming fluid. Whatever possessed her, a fifty year old woman who looks seventy, to wear her hair down around her cadaverly-sunken face in golden ringlets? And all the kohl in Egypt outlining her eyes?

Wise up, woman! Reinvent yourself! Try for a little class this time. Put on a few pounds; zaftig is in. Cut the red string. Whack off the hair and dye it a more natural color or let it go stark white, if it will. Remember how good John Kerry's wife looked at age sixty-three? Take her as your role model.

And don't adopt another baby. There's no way you can convince us you're still ovulating.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

God Bless Dogs

A student once told me one of the hardest things about living in the country was seeing the dogs people had dropped off waiting day after day near their drop-off point for their owners to return. A friend recently told me how her newly-adopted dog would whimper in anxiety every time she turned down the street to the shelter to which she had been twice-returned after fostering.

Tears prickle behind my lids at even recording these stories. Then I look over at our Wendy Dog sprawled across her brand-new dog pillow in happy slumber and my eyes overflow.

God bless dogs.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Theoretical Snippets

I'm not sure one political party is any better than the other. But it does seem that when any one party is in power too long, it starts concentrating more on aggrandizement while the other party starts getting more in touch with the people. Yep, time for a change.
I have a theory that light and sound are basically the same thing, but maybe sound is slower. The reason I think this is that until I took a music theory class and had my ear trained, I could not tell if one pitch was higher or lower than another; my ear was quite good--I could discern quarter tones, but I perceived the differences between the various pitches as differences in colors.
Another of my theories--not especially new, I guess--is that time does not always move in a straight line. Thus I think deja vu is actually a flash to the future, seeing the present as past. And think about those weird times when we actually know what is going to happen next, like when I stood at the door of a neighbor's house and suddenly knew I would win all the Tupperware party games--and I did.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Shoo, Fly

We're down to one fly now, and I think it has a little Jeff Goldblum in its genetics. It's a wily one. Its five brothers and sisters have all been successfully swatted, but this one seems to have--well--eyes in the back of its head.

Last night I tried to lure it with a dab of butter on the kitchen island, but it saw through my simple ruse and refused to light. This morning, when I went into the kitchen, it was perched on the business end of the fly swatter, probably breakfasting off the squashed remains of its siblings. Needless to say, it got away.

If the machines don't take over the world, the insects will.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tarantula in the House

Oh sh#t, oh sh#t! They've spotted me! And I was staying so still, hoping they'd think I was just a dark shadow in the corner.

The short one is shrieking and running for the fly swatter, but the tall one yells at her to open the patio door. She veers from her path toward the kitchen to fling open the sliding door, then heads toward the fly swatter again. As she grabs that instrument of evil off its hook, the tall one quickly scoops me up in a curled magazine and hurries to the open door. I scoot up and down his arm briefly in thanks and leap to life and freedom in the great outdoors.

I'm grateful to the tall man for saving my life-- and very happy that it is in his house all my babies will grow up.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cold Turkey

I am going through computer withdrawal. How did I, a dedicated Luddite who doesn't even know how to operate her own vacuum cleaner, end up being so dependent on a machine? The only thing that is keeping me going at all is my methadone--the system Husband has rigged up whereby I can still write Fiorella on his computer, although I have no idea whether or not she is hitting the airwaves.

Of course, I had been telling him for a couple of months that my computer was sick unto death, but he refused to believe me, saying it must be something I was doing or not doing. In all my pain, at least I can utter those sweetest of words: "I TOLD YOU SO!"

Friday, October 17, 2008

Auf Wiedersehen, Kenley!

Kenley got cut.

That was the whole purpose of watching the last episode of Project Runway, to see Kenley, blaming and complaining all the way, get cut. Loved Leanne and Korto, but Kenley was the star. A dark star, to be sure, but the star.

In order to continue its high ratings, Project Runway has to come up with a different plot each season, and this time it was a nasal-voiced egotist whom we kept wanting, week after week, to get "offed."

Well, Kenley finally got her come-uppance. Leanne won the big prizes, Korto will get loads of job offers, and the TV fashion world is safe from Miss "I don't pay attention to what other designers are doing" for now.

What plot will the show come up with next?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Back to Basics

The television, computer, and automobile are down, all at the same time. It's obviously a conspiracy. Without access to the ARWA loop and and Project Runway, I can no longer postpone doing the laundry, cleaning out the workroom and my study, and washing my car.

But if it gets any worse, we're going to have to start living off the land. It's a good thing Husband has Boy Scout training and I collect flint.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I don't understand about prayer. We are enjoined to pray constantly--and I do: I pray, I ask, I beg, I promise, I plead.

But we are also told that God is omniscient, knowing our needs and desires even before we do.

Why, then, do I pray?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mechanized Attack

It's happening as moviedom predicted--the rise of the machines--right here in my own house.

Last night, after a couple of months of erratic behavior, my computer went down. This edition of Fiorella is like an SOS in a bottle. I don't know if you will ever see it, or if it will float forever in the ether, lost to eternity.

The television screen has been going black at decreasing intervals and I have to continually leap up and push the power button on the front of the TV to get the picture back.

This morning Husband's car battery went dead.

And did I mention the black plastic thing my laptop has sprouted from its side? I think it's an arm bud. Arnold, save me!

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Inevitable

I don't mind growing older. I just don't want liver spots, sagging skin, thinning hair, crabby handwriting, faulty vision, diminished hearing, raspy voice, aching joints, shaking hands, bobbling head, unsteady gait, chronic insomnia, embarrassing incontinence, and . . . and . . . I don't remember.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Danger, Will Robinson!

My trusty laptop seems to be dying. I've suspected it for a couple of months now. First it objected to me opening something I had just written, saying it was a for-observation-only file. Then it would flip me off to a blue page, the clutches of which Husband would rescue me from. Then it would stick on various things, like the New York Times info page when I wanted to check out funny news items about Sarah Palin. Then I had a problem transferring stuff from my files to Fiorella.

This evening, the computer stuck on a "welcome" page and lost all my profile information. Husband spent about half an hour jerry-rigging a connection for me, but I will be first in line at the computer repair shop on Monday morning. The repair people may need to keep my baby for a while so don't be surprised if Fiorella temporarily goes off the air.

In the meantime, think about it. A new computer costs about a thousand dollars, which is a lot more money than it was a year ago. Can we all afford spending a thousand dollars every two years on a regular basis?

I cannot believe that I am so dependent on something so undependable.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Five Things

I've never been the housekeeper my mother was. On the other hand:

1) I drive--and my car is in my own name.

2) I designed the house Husband and I live in.

3) I have friends who are French, British, India Indian, and--lo and behold--Canadian.

4) I've visited Mexico, England, and Scotland.

5) I scored a good maid.

Friday, October 10, 2008


The ground is hard, the brown-branched trees are bare
The sobbing wind alone disturbs the air
And shrieks aloud its grief, unreconciled,
Thus Ceres searches for her missing child.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Wednesday Evening

How interesting it was to see
The competition cut to three--
Leanne, Korto, and Ken-lee.
What a gimmick, what a call--
A female final, all in all.
So next week we will see which
One will survive the final stitch--
The sweetie, thinker, or the bitch.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Bye, Bye, Birdie

Almost every day I hear the thunk of a bird hitting one of our windows. Often I peer outside and spot the injured avian, out cold on the concrete floor of our back porch. I keep the dog inside for a while, and half an hour later, the bird is gone--I assume to fly another day.

Maybe the birds are addled by their own reflections in the sunlit glass. Or maybe it's the same bird each time, its brain turned to mashed potatoes by serial concussions. Or maybe it's just stupidity--after all, they are relatives of T-rex.

Which gives you another theory as to the reason dinosaurs disappeared off the face of the earth.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Zombie Driver

After I started my car last night, it took over and drove me halfway to Austin before I got control of the wheel and backtracked toward my original destination. Yes, my little MX-5 has a mind of its own.

Usually it does a very good job. I can travel all thirty-five miles to Austin without even being aware of it until suddenly I'm there. My baby car stays on course, keeps in its lane, dodges semis, and adjusts itself to the traffic speed, all without me being conscious of it.

When you think about it, driving is a very complicated business. Unlock and open the door, ease into the seat, shut and lock the door, check the seat and the mirrors, fasten the seat belt, insert the key into the ignition, step lightly on the accelerator, turn the key and hope the engine catches, then release the brake. Next comes pressing the the button to open the garage door, putting the car in Reverse, backing out slowly (veering slightly to left to avoid knocking the side mirror off again). Once out of the garage, close the door, cut back sharply to the right, pause to move gearshift to Drive, then cut to the left and turn in order to head down the driveway face first. Along the way, adjust the air conditioning and recheck the mirrors.

Sometimes I mentally click off all the steps--1,2,3 . . . .

It's very complicated maneuvering that is second nature to any experienced driver, but nothing compared to highway driving, which is nothing compared to city driving. The signs, the traffic lights, the ebb and flow of the vehicles around us--we rarely register them consciously, because our cars automatically know what to do.

Which leaves us free to dial up the world on our cell phones.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Runway Revisit

The lure of Project Runway is that of an old-fashioned serial: Pearl Pureheart has been tied to the railroad tracks--will Tom Trueblood get there in time to save her or not? Will my particular darling survive the cut this week?

It's the same lure American Idol uses, but Project Runway adds two other dimensions--the actual construction of the fashions and the interaction among the contestants. Heroes and villains develop before our eyes. To hell with their fashion designs--we all love Korto and Leanne, who've depicted themselves as decent human beings, dislike Kenley, who's acted like a real skank, and feel ambivalent toward Jerell, who seems somewhat ambivalent himself--amorphous, really.

Of course, our viewpoints of the contestants have been formed entirely by the clips the director chooses to show us. Hmmm- I wonder if Kenley is actually a mole, an actress hired to make this season more interesting. Maybe she was inserted into Project Runway for much the same reason Sarah Palin was planted into the Republican presidential ticket.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Visiting Dad Again

Dad is usually asleep when I arrive, lying on his back with his toothless mouth agape. He looks like a corpse. I check his breathing--it is shallow. I identify myself and try to wake him, but he does not hear--he is almost entirely deaf. Even if he does awaken, he cannot really see me--he is almost entirely blind. He rarely speaks because he does not remember words--he has Alzheimer's.

I sit beside him for a while and hold his hand. I notice that his hair has finally turned gray.

My strong, vital father is a frail old man. He will be ninety-five on his next birthday. I no longer pray that his life may be long.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Debate Take

Okay, people, what's all this nonsense about Biden and Palin acquitting themselves equally well in the debate? Biden answered questions, discussed topics, and spoke knowledgeably. Palin didn't fall on her face.

Come on, everyone! There has to be more to a candidate than mugging shamelessly into a camera!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Plastic Surgery Postscript

One more note and then I'm through--
I just realized I hadn't told you
That although my eyelids are red in hue
I now can distinguish between black and blue!

Yes, people, I could never tell whether something was black or navy blue before the eyelid surgery allowed the sunlight to shine in! It's a whole new world!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Leanne and Korto and Jerell and Kenley

I, who have not worn size two since I was two, can hardly wait for the next installment of Project Runway tonight.

Why am I watching this crap? It has nothing to do with my life--I live in shorts and tees. The last time I wore a dress was to a memorial service.

And yet I watch so faithfully every Wednesday night that I can even recite the designers' names. It's down to Leanne and Korto and Jerell and Kenley now, and I think Kenley has to go. She's a one-trick pony, as everyone has been saying, and she's been rude to Tim.

And yet, I know I'm being manipulated by the director's choice of candid clips. We didn't like Keith much, remember, but we liked Terri less for the way she treated him on their "joint" project. What if we had never seen those clips? Would we have been indignant at Terri being booted off?

Would I be as eager to see Kenley booted off if I had seen everything that happened, not just those damaging clips?

Three hours later:
It's all moot anyway. I just watched the show and no one was booted off. All four will design collections, though only three will show. I'm still rooting for Leanne and Korto and Jerell. Anybody but Kenley.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Neanthderthal Granddaddy

The other night I watched a two-hour National Geographic television presentation on the most recent developments in the study of Neanderthals. There is new evidence that Neanderthal genes might have entered the Cro-Magnon bloodline.

When the Cro-Magnons came out of Africa, they encountered several pockets of indigenous humanoids--mostly (or all) Neanderthals, apparently--in Europe and Asia. The previous supposition has been that either the Cro-Magnons annihilated the Neanderthals or that the Ice Age wiped them out, but recent discoveries have pointed to some degree of assimilation.

This is all well and good and interesting, and the results of the ongoing Neanderthal DNA studies should make another enthralling television presentation. But I was left with another question which had never occurred to me before--where did the Neanderthals come from? How was it they were scattered over Europe and Asia before the Cro-Magnons ever set foot out of the Dark Continent? Were the Neanderthals an earlier, hardier migration? Or did their evolution happen somewhere else, outside of Africa?

National Geographic, please appease my inquiring mind.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What Jimmy Neville Was Like

Somewhere along the line, it became stylish to beat up Jimmy Neville. I think it was Darrell Coates who started it all, but Jimmy deserved it. Everyone knew what Jimmy Neville was like.

There was just something irritating about Jimmy--the way he laughed, the way he talked, the way he looked at you. Yeah, he could make people mad just by looking at them so he deserved whatever he got.

Jimmy tried to fight back at first, but then just gave up and took it. I mean, even Jimmy knew he deserved it. And it's not like anybody was gonna kill him or anything.

His mother whined to the principal, but Mr. Embry told her it would be better to let Jimmy fight his own battles himself.

Darrell was really good at playing jokes on Jimmy, like writing "FAG" all over his locker and telling everyone Jimmy was molesting his little sister, which was funny because Jimmy was an only child. We all played jokes on Jimmy. He deserved it.

Jimmy had a girlfriend for a couple of weeks. We were pretty sure he wasn't banging her so Darrell and a couple of his buddies took her out to the park one evening and showed her what real men were like. Her family moved out of town right afterwards. Served them right for letting her hanging out with Jimmy.

Yeah, Jimmy Neville was just plain irritating, like a dog you take out in the backyard and shoot because you're so tired of seeing him around.

Except Darrell took Jimmy out in the woods.

At one time or another, almost everyone in school came out to see Jimmy. He had never been so popular. I thought it was pretty funny, the bugs crawling all over Jimmy's face and everything and him not even moving. Finally, when he began to stink, someone--probably one of the girls--called the cops.

Darrell was arrested, but he'll never be convicted. After all, everyone knows what Jimmy Neville was like.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Why I Am Voting Democratic

1) In just eight short years, the Republicans brought the country from a balanced budget to the brink of bankruptcy.

2) Cindy Bush's yellow outfit at the convention cost $300,000, a slap in the face to people who have been foreclosed on for $150,000 mortgages and a far cry from Pat Nixon's "good cloth coat."

3) Sarah Palin

Sunday, September 28, 2008

New Outlook

What a surprise!
You would not believe
The size of my eyes.
What a view--
And eyelashes too!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Dinner for Wendy Dog

Sit, dog Wendy, sit and stay!
You will get your food today--
Just hunker down and keep away
Until you hear me say "okay"
Then, refueled, go bark and play
And keep marauding squirrels at bay.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Stepford Fruit

I'm always disconcerted to see piles of pumpkins in front of the supermarket when it isn't even October yet. I don't want to buy a pumpkin too early for fear of rot, but I'm afraid to wait till later because all the good ones will be taken.

Or will they? I look more closely. All the pumpkins look good, every single one of them. There are no bad ones--none misshapen or lopsided. In fact, the pumpkins are so uniform that they have no individual character whatsoever.

I go inside the store and look over the strawberries. I've been eating a lot of them this summer, and they've all tasted good, uniformly sweet--every single one of them. Not a sourball in the bunch.

I choose a couple of potatoes to add to my shopping cart and I don't even consider adding an extra one in case one of my picks is rotten inside. I haven't seen a rotten potato in years. They just don't make them any more

What's going on here? Produce shopping is no longer the crapshoot it used to be. Are potatoes being cloned in that mysterious back room with the "employees only" sign on it? Has the genetic engineering of strawberries sneaked past Prince Charles into HEB? Have whole fields of pumpkins been dehydrated, then reconstituted in identical molds?

And if so, would you please do something about the bitter apples I seem be bringing home lately?

Thursday, September 25, 2008


The darkness of the night draws close about
And midnight voices whisper in my ear--
A rushing rumble swells into a shout--
The race is almost won, the mark is near.
The running is the winning of the race
And every lane unequal from the start--
I will not stumble, will not slow my pace
Or let the course defeat my faltering heart.
Fettered by commitment, I race free--
Million-crowded, yet I race alone--
Flicked by minutes, I race timelessly--
The day eclipses just beyond my zone.
Before my sun is swallowed by the night
I must - do - what - is - right .

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Eyelid Snippets

Fifth day out: As autumn leaves turn to gold, the red on my lids is fading to yellow, nicely contrasting with the blue-colored stitches, which, until yesterday, I thought were black.
As I check myself out in the bathroom mirror for the umpteenth time today, I remember that old saying--a watched eyelid never heals.
I cannot help but wonder if eyelid surgery is a gateway drug--in the distance I hear the siren song of a browlift.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Literally and figuratively, Fiorella has a new outlook.

First the literal new outlook:
At some time in the future Fio assumes she will be LOOKING more like Eternal Springtime than Bride of Dracula, but right now she is just thrilled to be SEEING so much better. At first it was somewhat frightening--all that light assaulting her from every side. In fact, Fiorella wondered if she had made a big mistake because her world was so vastly enlarged from the day before and the colors were almost painfully bright. But then, during her first solo driving expedition since the surgery, Fiorella realized she was more aware of the traffic around her than before. And when going through her wardrobe, she discovered a dress she had previously thought was black-checked was actually blue-checked. So now Fio, who prefers reality--and safety--to disaster-ridden shadowy fantasy, is more than reconciled to her choice.

Now the figurative new outlook:
Fio has been converted to plastic surgery. She is thrilled that the sagging flesh above her eyes is gone and, when her ship comes in, is planning other procedures. Nothing drastic--just a full body make-over. Also, Fio is so pleased with the possibilities of her new look, her second chance, that she has decided to live up to it by losing weight. Nothing like looking in the mirror for inspiration.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Big and Little

We have taken control of many aspects of our world, but two that keep giving us trouble are very basic--weather and disease.

Weather is a big sort of thing--hurricanes, droughts, blizzards, and the like. We can try to prepare for these natural devestations, but there is really nothing we can do to vitiate them. They control us rather than the other way around. In fact, some people theorize that the Ice Age was what finally did in the Neanderthals.

Disease, on the other hand, is a little sort of thing--microbes and germs and fleas on rats. We develop vaccinations and treatments, but it seems that as soon as we polish off one of these little devils, another one, even more deadly, pops up. Considering how deadly chickenpox and measles were to the American Indians, I'm wonder if a disease carried by CroMagnons might have been what killed off the Neanderthals.

And if the Neanderthals could be eliminated by either weather or disease, what about us?

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Fiorella leaps out of bed every morning with brilliant ideas which she jots down on a tablet on the bathroom counter. She is just hopping to start writing on her new novel. But her ardor cools as she brushes her teeth, fixes her hair, dresses, and makes the bed.

Downstairs, there's the newspaper, which includes the daily crossword and the jumble, to which Fio is addicted. Then breakfast. Then she looks at her desk for communications that need to be handled immediately, which she proceeds to do. Finally she opens up her laptop and checks out the weather, the latest news, and her e-mail. Then she goes to her blog to proof and edit whatever is coming up. Sometimes she writes a new piece--or two or three if she's really rolling, like today.

Meanwhile the dog needs in and out every time a squirrel runs down the back fence, and sometimes there are phone calls to make or receive. And there's usually some kitchen clean-up too, which Fio does bit by bit as she fetches herself a Kleenex or indulges in her mid-morning orange juice.

By then it's almost eleven and she decides to take a break and read a little in Dearly Devoted Dexter or whatever else she has at hand. Finally, about 11:15 she goes to Documents and pulls up the file generically titled New Story. She works on it for four hours without blinking, which is the reason she procrastinates so shamelessly: writing captures Fio, compels her, sucks her in, and she is not a girl who enjoys being controlled.

But now Chapter One is finally straightened out, the Styrofoam peanut bomb having been disposed of so the story can actually lead in the direction Fio wants it to go. She can rest on her laurels for today.

You can tell why Fio projects her top book-length output for the year will be just three 80K-word manuscripts.

Not all writers are as good at procrastinating as Fio. She knows of some who turn out virtually a book a month. She suspects they do it by never getting up in the morning, just lying in bed all day and writing, writing, writing-- like Colette, but without the threatening husband.

Maybe Fiorella should try that some time--nawh, she'd just go back to sleep.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Update on Uplift

My Name's Jeanell, I look like hell,
But I can't resist the urge to tell--
My lids are red, my eyes are green
The scariest Christmas you've ever seen--
In fact, I look like Halloween!
So I can hardly wait till I am healed
And my new look will be revealed.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dexter Dreams Delightfully

Fiorella has been reading again, reading and writing rather than keeping up the house. Her mother would have been strongly disapproving.

Fio's mother would have preferred her to be more like Dexter Morgan, who is very neat and tidy. Of course, Dexter also happens to be a serial killer, but we'll let that little personality glitch pass us by because his victims, as our Arnold claimed for his character in True Lies, are "all bad." Besides, Dexter's creator, Jeff Lindsay, is a marvelous writer. Not only is the main character skillfully drawn and the plot tight, but the words just seem to trip off Lindsay's tongue. The prose is beautiful, poetic even.

Younger Son alerted me to Dexter on television last year and I peek-a-booed a couple of episodes--which means I flipped channels whenever stuff got too gory, then came back a few minutes later to find out what had happened. Now that I've read one of the books, I am amazed at how well the whole idea transferred to the tube.

Anyway, I highly recommend Darkly Dreaming Dexter, and Husband and I plan to further enrich the overflowing coffers of Barnes and Noble by purchasing the rest of the series.

The housekeeping will just have to wait. Sorry, Mom. At least I don't litter the place with severed limbs and headless torsos.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Naming Characters

Fiorella puts a fair amount of time and thought into naming the characters in her literary endeavors. Unlike new mothers, she knows what her characters are going to be like as adults, and she can name them accordingly. That's a perk that writers have.

In "The Cask of Amontillado," Poe used his characters' names as a kind of shorthand to tip us off as to their--well--characteristics. Fortunato, the antagonist, has money and luck. Montresor ("my treasure"), the protagonist, contends that everything Fortunato has should have been his. Since Montresor is a wascally wabbit, Fortunato's name becomes ironic, thus adding to Poe's gallows humor.

In Roth's "The Conversion of the Jews," the protagonist's name is Freedman, an obvious choice for a young adolescent who challenges closed-mindedness. His rambunctious best friend's name is Lieberman, which a German exchange student told me is sort of like "homey." Ozzie Freedman's inhibiting rabbi is named Binder. Seems obvious, but I taught this story for two semesters before I caught on.

In "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," Bierce doubles back on us by giving his protagonist a name promising Tara-type romance--Peyton Farquhar. It's a hero's name, the name of someone who wins every battle and the girl besides. Then Bierce turns the tables on us.

This is the parade in which Fiorella marches. After all, how do you think she herself was named?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Vanity, Thy Name Is Fiorella

Fio has finally come of age--of a certain age that is. She keeps a perm in her hair and gets it streaked regularly. She paints on nail strengthener and has actually had a manicure for the first time in her life. She rubs Hydroquinone on three tannish spots on the back of her left hand. And her eyelid surgery is scheduled for tomorrow.

All day she has been looking in the mirror and lifting the skin in front of her ears and wondering.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I have a dog
Whose name is Frog--
He can hip
And he can hop--
He can do
The Dirty Bop,
Or any other
Dance required
That darn dog
Is really wired.
That is why
I wrote this blog--
To tell you about
My Frog-named dog.

(Except I admit
It's all a lie
Manufactured by
My fevered brain
To amuse, confound,
And entertain.) Fiorella

Monday, September 15, 2008

Glittered As She Walked

I would have given my right arm to be Micki Greene, which would have completely invalidated my purpose because Micki Greene lacked for nothing.

Eighteen-year-olds aren't mature enough to be called beautiful, but Mickey was headed that way. Her eyes were blue slate, her short, coiffed hair riotously blonde, and her complexion clear. She had the most adorable way of talking, in excited, almost lisping bursts that absolutely entranced me. There was something vulnerable and charmingly confused about Mickey. Pehaps she cultivated it, but it worked.

It was the first time I had encountered an actual person named Michaela, although nowadays, of course, the name is fairly common. But her name was not the only thing that made Micki unique. One way or another, she could always make everyone aware of her. I remember how we all laughed when Micki sneezed thirty-one times in a row from the upper back side of the auditorium during a particularly boring philosophy lecture. The teacher called her down, saying she was deliberately disturbing class, but we knew it was just Micki.

It was a wonder that this magical creature and I both lived in Cranfill, the oldest women's residence on campus, but I was there for economy while Micki was there for tradition. Her family was prominent and her father was rich. She wore pearls in her pierced lobes when no one else was even wearing earrings. She pledged Pi Phi and zoomed around in a powder blue MG sports car--illegally, of course, since only upperclasmen were allowed to have automobiles, which only added to the legend. Her handsome father regularly appeared to escort her and her roommate to dinner, and she talked casually of visiting her mother in places like Monaco and Madrid.

Micki may have acted confused, but she was no dummy. She was in the liberal arts honors program, although everyone knew she wasn't destined for Phi Beta Kappa. This was the era when prizes like Micki considered their college time well spent when they left after their sophomore year to marry up-and-coming young lawyers.

I think I ran into Micki on campus once more after our Cranfill stint, and she was as gracious and charming as ever, almost remembering my name.

Oddly enough, I was the one who married following my sophomore year, although, after getting my ears pierced for pearls, I did stick around long enough to pick up a history degree, magna cum laude, thank you very much. Somewhere between the laundry and the senior thesis, I have a dim memeory of reading in the newspaper society section that Micki had married an up-and-coming young lawyer in a lavish ceremony worthy of her.

My husband, who had gone to high school with her, said she was crazy.

Ten years later, my next bit of information about Micki came from a friend telling me about a total stanger, a woman named Micki, who had sat next to her during thir children's swim class and poured out her breaking heart about her cheating and abusive husband. Micki told my friend she had hired a lawyer out of Houstion who would cut her husband's balls off.

My friend's husband, who had known Micki's mild-mannered spouse since childhood, said Micki was crazy.

Ten years further down the line, when my oldest was in high school, I saw Micki again, at a high school football game. Her daughter was a cheerleader and my son warmed the bench. Micki entered the bleachers two rows ahead of my husband and me, and I recognized her immediately. Her short silver-blonde bob was now a long pewter-blonde braid, and her slender teen-age shape had rounded out into womanly curves. She was beautiful now, with that same charming aura of fragilty and confusion. Going with the current fashion, her skirt was romantically ethnic and she had topped her embroidered Mexican blouse with a long, trailing scarf.

Micki didn't have anyone to sit with at the game because by then she was divorced from her second husband too. I knew this from my friend, who passed on all the lawyer gossip, and because the year before I had seen a newspaper feature on Micki and her daughter--hard to tell which was which, of course--and Micki's house in a stylishly gentrified area of the city. The photographer and writer were ovbviously as entranced by Micki as I had been.

She picked her way down the row and finally set her stadium seat down beside some people she knew, expensive people with whom she could make references to old friends and old times. I caught a thread of their conversation now and then, but the couple seemes to tire of her and their replies became shorter and shorter. Finally they ceased altogether. At halftime the couple moved three rows down and across.

Micki, all alone, rocked herself back and forth on her stadium seat, lisping softly to herself as she played with her long, trailing scarf.

Micki was crazy.