Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thoughtful Gift

Fio had a delightful time playing around in the snow yesterday. Elder Son and his wife gave it to her as a Christmas present.

Oh, not the kind of snow that falls from the sky and covers the ground. It's a chemical concoction that expands into semi-packable stuff with the addition of water.

It's the kind of snow that love provides.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Obama calls it a catastrophic security breach. Fio calls it life.

It's impossible to set up a perfect security system because human beings are involved, and human beings are notoriously fallible

The great thing is that human beings also foiled the Christmas bombing attempt. Bureaucratic checks may have failed, but individual airline passengers took the initiative and handled the situation quite well.

One point against us, one point for us.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Now You Know

Now you know some of the inner workings of Fio's scrambled brain.

Sorry about that, but Fio didn't check her site after she posted yesterday morning and didn't realize that most of her notes, which she keeps on the blog by assigning them a future publication date, had been published. She's spent the last half hour deleting them and assigning dates a year off to the others.

If this makes no sense at all to you, ignore it. Fio probably doesn't make much sense anyway.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Treacher's Credo

1) Meet the students where they are
2) Prepare, prepare, prepare
3) Keep a steady course
4) Be wise, be kind, be fair.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Puzzling Time

Fiorella has set up the card table and is working on a 750-piece jigsaw puzzle of Dubrovnik. All those red roofs and blue waters--aargh!

Jigsaws are Fio's secret addiction, her own private crack. The puzzles take time, patience, and a good eye. Fio would like to think of them as metaphors for life--that if one is clever and diligent, everything will work out.

But right now Dubrovnik is driving her crazy.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Political Rant

It's the day after Christmas and Fio is tired and feeling grumpy so she's going to rant a little.

LAY OFF OBAMA! During his campaign, he told you what he wanted to have happen, from bringing our soldiers home from Iraq to instituting universal health care to to fixing the economy. And now he's being criticized for not waving a magic wand and accomplishing all those things in less than a year.

NEWS FLASH--he's president, not king. It takes cooperation and time for all these things to happen, and there are people out there who are literally praying for the worst possible outcome just because it's more important to them for Obama to fail than the country prosper.

Jesus was crucified for his endeavors. Let's not do the same to Obama.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Dress

Fiorella's parents didn't speak of love. In fact, they were deeply suspicious of of people who did. We were supposed to be a tough lot, practical to the bone, holding no truck with the softer emotions.

Practicality meant that Daddy sacrificed his creamy white tennis flannels for Mother to cut and sew for my Christmas dress. Practicality meant that the only decoration on the dress was the red and green yarn which Mother painstakingly backstitched around its square neck and cap sleeves.

After all, it was just after World War II and good fabric was hard to come by, much less nice Christmas dresses for little girls.

My parents may not have spoken of love, but they lived it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Written in Stone

Every day, after Husband comes in from taking Wendy Dog for her walk, I notice a new collection of flints washed and drying on a paper towel beside the sink.

Husband has never been that crazy about flint, but he knows I am, so he gathers it for me, like one of those birds that courts his mate with pretty stones.

Thus I know I am beloved.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Greek Guidance

I learned everything I know about pacing from Sophocles.

Remember Oedipus Rex? First off, the townspeople come to King Oedipus and detail how everything is going to hell in a handbasket. "I know," says he, "and I've sent my bro-in-law, Creon, off to consult the oracles at Delphi (the local psychic hot line) to find out what's coming down. Oh, look--Creon's just gotten back!"

How's that for a quick five minutes of script?

The story builds and builds, with the the audience catching on quickly. Finally, at the climax, Oedipus learns what everyone else has long since figured out and the denouement is swift. His wife/mother hangs herself while he skewers his eyeballs with the pins from her robe.

And that's the technique my romantic novels are based on. Less the blood and gore.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Gratitutudes

Fiorella is at peace this morning, and she's going to tell you why.

1) She's grateful that all three of her offspring want to be with her and Husband for Christmas, even though it means thousand mile journeys.

2) She's grateful that all three will insist on attending church on Christmas Eve, even though some no longer attend any other time of the year.

3) She's grateful that she and Husband can house the two out-of-towners with no problem. In fact, if push comes to shove, they can even set the third one up on the couch.

4) She's grateful that she had the time and energy and determination to decorate early enough this year that everything was finished in time to do leisurely shopping.

5) She's grateful that she and Husband have enough in the bank to pay for Christmas.

6) She's grateful that the weather is cooler and thus more comfortable--exciting even.

7) She's grateful for firewood from the acreage.

8) She grateful for her writing successes this past year.

9) She's grateful that Husband's health has held steady.

10) She's grateful that her sons' machinations led her into rediscovering art this year.

11) She's grateful for e-mail, through which she's reconnected with her extended family.

12) Finally, she's grateful for Fiorella, who provides an outlet that keeps her semi-sane.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Update

Four days before Christmas and one son is here
Another, with wife, is on the way
Daughter has said that she'll arrive
Early on Christmas Day.

Brother, his wife and mother-in-law
Will be joining us when we dine
All in all, from start to stop
We total up to nine.

I promise we'll be a merry crew
And hope your Day will be fun too
Merry Christmas to us, Merry Christmas to you!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday Morning

'Twas five days before Christmas and all through the house
The decorations were up, the tree was alight,
The dinner was planned, the gifts were bought,
The rooms were cleaned, the bathrooms bright.

How different from usual, was something wrong?
Or is this how NORMAL people have lived all along?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Caroling, Anyone?

The voice is everyone's own personal musical instrument, the one we are are all born with. In olden times, singing was often the only form of entertainment people had.

What's going on nowadays? What's happened to singing? It's given way to the I-pod. We've become a world of listeners rather than doers.

How sad. There's so much joy in singing, alone or in a group. Fiorella grew up in a singing family and tried to pass the tradition on to her children, but she's noticed that the number of singing venues available seem to decrease year by year.

Welcome to the mute world of music.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Iago and Montresor--Twins Separated at Birth?

Fiorella has been thinking literary again. In a past life, she taught English Lit, and it's all still roiling around in her brain.

In particular, she's been thinking about the story construction in which the villain tells the story. Shakespeare used this plot device in Othello, with Iago announcing in the very first scene that he was a dirty dog and was going to bring the noble Moor to his knees. Poe did the same thing in "Cask of Amontillado" when Montresor tells us from the get-go that Fortunato is in for it.

Hmmm. Wonder if Fio could set this up in any of her own stories.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Historical Precedent

There's always been tumult and trouble, ever since the world began--nation vs. nation, parent vs. child, brother vs. brother, husband vs. wife.

As Tiger Woods has demonstrated once again, we're all animals underneath our skins.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fio-stradamus Predicts:

Fiorella is fascinated by the currently stylish notion that the world will end in 2012 because the Mayan calender leaves off at that date.

Now, in the first place, the Mayan world itself ended a long time before 2012--more like 1697, when the Spanish subdued the last Mayan stronghold. In the second place, even during Fio's lifetime, the world has survived a fair number of similar disaster predictions. The first one she remembers was back when she was in the sixth grade and the local Davidian sect said the Apocalypse would occur on May 27th. Fio was a little nervous walking home from school that day, but nothing happened.

The most recent prediction was at the turn of the millennium, when everyone was stocking up on dehydrated food and bottled water.

Nostradamus is usually pulled into all these messages of doom, but he's vague enough to be used for anything. Natural catastrophes and socio-ecnomic political upheavals are also cited as proof of the coming whatever, but think about it--there has seldom been an era in the history of the world in which there WEREN'T natural catastrophes and socio-economic/political upheavals.

Actually, Fio thinks what we have to be wary of is a time that no one has predicted and all is going well. Sort of a surprise package.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

On a Personal Note

Younger Son's birthday was on the twelfth so Fio is running a few days late in mentioning it. But then YS was two weeks late himself.

Yes, he was born two weeks overdue and weighed eleven pounds, seven ounces. You read that right--not seven-eleven, but eleven-seven. YS was so big that the newborn diapers were too small and the nursery had to send out for the next larger size.

Fio has gotten a lot of satisfaction using her own personal factoid to stop other women's big-baby-boasting in its tracks, but she's gotten even more satisfaction seeing YS grow to (normal-sized)adulthood, decide on a career of his heart, and pursue it with everything that's in him.

Happy Birthday, WNLB.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Clinton, Cosby, Edwards, Clooney

Why did Tiger do it? Because, as Bill Clinton explained about himself, he could.

Success is power, and power is a a psychological pheromone. Women are drawn to it.

But remember, guys--in the end, you're just a trophy, a gold-plated notch on a bedpost.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas ANNIE

Fio and Husband drove off through the winter darkness Friday night to see ANNIE at Georgetown's Palace Theater. The show was an enjoyable respite from the pressures of the holiday season. Sometimes constructing glittering deer, climbing the ladder again and again to adjust a recalcitrant cardboard bird, and discovering the dog has eaten all the candy canes gets a little old.

The cast was huge, although it was fun to spot the same actors showing up as different characters from time to time. To complicate matters, there were three different casts, probably because of the large number of children involved. Fio has no idea which cast she saw because she forgot to bring home her program, but she was impressed that the girl who played Annie, who has to carry the show, didn't flub a single line, sang on pitch, and kept her smile going.

Of course, everyone's favorites were the character roles, like Rooster and Lily. Fio adored the Hannigan-Rooster-Lily "Easy Street" combo.

In the back of her mind, Fio was still running the movie, which was richer than the play. First off, Carol Burnet owns the Miss Hannigan role, and there's little any actress can do to take it any further. Second, the movie added in other iconic characters, like Punjab and The Asp. Third, the movie featured dog Sandy, while the play uses him only for two scenes, then drops him like he's been carted off to the pound.

The theater was stuffed, SRO, which was a bit claustrophobic, but Fio survived. About a third of the audience gave the play a standing ovation, but Fio and Husband remained in their seats. ANNIE was enjoyable, nice holiday fare, but not spectacular.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Einstein's Brain, Yours, and Mine

Fiorella has some clips in the back of her to-write tablet about scientists slicing through the bumps and furrows of Einstein's brain to find out how he came up with E=MC2.

That's nonsense. It's not what he thought with that was important, it's what he thought. Focus is the key, and that's in the personality--nature shaped by nurture. Just enough obsessiveness to get the job done, not enough to land him in the local shrink's waiting room.

The people Einstein hung around with were also key. They always are. Think of Shelley-Byron-Keats and their crowd. Think of today's political Tea Parties. Think of homicidal motorcycle gangs. Interest groups support and empower their members.

Which is why Fio finally joined Romance Writers of America.

I think her brain is safe from post-mortem examination.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Gratifying News

Fio has been grousing and grumbling about the amount of news space given to Tiger Woods' sexual shenanigans lately, but she should be grateful. That means Al Qaeda hasn't blown up any more New York skyscrapers, no huge airplanes have crashed, mass murders have been kept to a minimum, and that Britney, Lindsey, and Paris haven't come up with any new, even more shocking, behavior.

For all of which, Fio gives thanks.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Paper Dreams

Has Fiorella ever told you about Mrs. Ruebright, her kindergarten teacher? Armed with that most wonderful of all devices, a stapler, she could make anything out of paper.

Fio remembers how honored she felt when selected to try on Mrs. Ruebright's prototype Pilgrim lady's hat and apron for the Thanksgiving program.

Yes, Mrs. Ruebright was an inspiration to Fio, which is why Fio requested a stapler for Christmas when she was six years old.

And why her Christmas halls are always decked with boughs of paper.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Don't Eat the Kleenex!

Wendy Dog, I know it's hard
I know that you have issues
No squirrels to stalk, too cold to walk,
But please don't eat the tissues.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

O Tree of Green Unchanging

Fiorella had promised Husband that this year we'd discard our old fake Christmas tree and get a real one. So we looked around a little.

But the real trees seemed puny in contrast to our steel-armed fake one, they were quite expensive for one time use, and Husband was nervous about transporting one of them home on the top of his shiny new car. Besides which, there's be all that business of straightening the tree in the holder and keeping the water bowl full.

Yesterday evening, Fio started reconstructing Old Faithful.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Holiday Recipe

No more parties, no more sweets,
No more tastey Christmas treats--
Times have been too good of late
And Fiorella has gained weight.
So stay away from her, beware--

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Planting Deer and Other Tails

Fiorella had a wonderful time yesterday planting deer.

Yes, she is putting up Christmas decorations, and yesterday she tackled the outside stuff--the deer, the small fake tree on the front porch, and the snowflakes in the real tree out front.

The stag was the hardest one to deal with, of course--you know how men are. Finally Fio commanDEERed a sharp stick, malleted it into the ground, and attached his leg to it. Stability at last. The two does were more amenable, although both had mental problems--one had lost her head and had to be reconnected, and the other had developed a bobble in her head when she moved it up and down to graze.

The lights on the fake tree had gone out so Husband drove off to Walgreen's for a small supplementary string. He also picked up more silver garlands. Fio drapes them from branch to branch along the driveway, to make visitors feel more welcome.

The snowflakes were the most fulfilling. Husband and Fio worked together. He went up the ladder and she disentangled each glittering flake and handed it to him. Then she went up the ladder and tied a big red velvet bow around a branch above a patch of mistletoe. Then he kissed her.

Fio likes Christmas.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Aching Dogs

It's a wonder Fiorella didn't give birth to three-horned monsters. After all, she spent half her childhood staring into the ghostly green hues of the x-ray machine in local shoe stores, checking out the fit of her Mary Janes.

So it's no wonder that her feet hurt like heck this morning. All those rays must have done things to her bones.

And for those of you who don't know what Fio is referring to, x-rays were chic in the first half of the 1900's--until the technicians' fingers began falling off.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Predicted rain--
Rain came.
Predicted snow--
No show.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

News Coverage

Is it just me? I couldn't care less that Tiger Woods is having an affair or that Meredith Baxter has decided she likes women.

On the other hand, I'm really glad to read that Susan Boyle's first album hit it big and that Roman Polanski is still under arrest.

Personal is personal but justice is justice.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fair Enough

Husband is not much for throwing things away. I'm not sure he understands the purpose of waste baskets or trash cans. On the other hand, he hasn't dumped me either.

I guess I can handle garbage duty.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Little People, Big Problems

All of that reality show money seems to make for bad bedfellows. Will Matt and Amy go the way of the Gosselins, or are their current marital troubles just a ploy to rev up interest in their aging show?

They've always had their differences, of course. Matt is egocentric and, discounting Amy completely, can justify anything he wants to do as being for the family. Amy used to be somewhat blustery and preachy, but that's calmed down as time goes on, at least in front of the camera. Now she's just syrupy and disgruntled.

The episodes this season have shown them becoming increasingly estranged. Is divorce in the future? When they had a young family to take care of and a strained budget to boot, they were more likely to pull together. But Jeremy and Zachary are heading off to college next year, Molly has blossomed into the most mature person in the family, and Jacob is finally coming into his own.

Fio hopes the Roloffs will work out their differences. No more solo flights, Matt. And Amy, learn some grammar--if you say "for he and I" one more time, I'll leap through the plasma and throttle your little dwarf neck.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cleaning Up

Fio's an incremental type of gal, at least as far as housekeeping is concerned.

She does it on the fly, in bits and pieces, in between stuff that is actually important to her, like writing or painting. Or fetching a Kleenex. Yes, on her way to the kitchen to get a tissue (the box is on top of plates inside a cupboard so Wendy Dog won't indulge in her favorite feast), she picked up paper cups rolling loose on the floor (Wendy snags them off the counter to tongue the last drop of milk from them), rehung Wendy's leash on its hook, and checked the healing sore on her passenger side forearm.

It's painless that way, just another instance of female multi-tasking. If only the dog would would learn it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Rah, Team, Go!

I'd enjoy sports a lot more if my team always won.

Fio usually avoids sports programs on TV because she doesn't want to get involved. The glory of victory is just great, but the agony of loss is--well--agonizing.

On Thursday, Fio's alma mater, The University of Texas, played Texas A&M. Now, UT has been going great guns this year and is sitting toward the top of the polls, while A&M's record has been so-so. But it was a grudge match--UT and A&M are traditional rivals, and the Aggies were all geared up to take Texas down.

And they nearly did.

UT, who had romped over Kansas State 51-20 the previous week, faced its biggest challenge of the season, and it was nip and tuck all the way. Fio decided she couldn't take it anymore and went to bed when the score was 42-39, with Texas barely ahead. Besides, she was afraid she was jinxing the Longhorns long distance, just as, years ago, she had jinxed Columbia in the only lift-off she ever watched on TV.

She went to bed, but couldn't sleep, then couldn't stay asleep. The next morning she woke up terribly depressed--until she saw the newspaper report. UT won 49-39.

Fio is happy again. She is so shallow.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fitting Memorial

Fiorella had the most wonderful time yesterday. She attended a memorial service for Oliver Bernard Gastler. The whole thing, from pre-service music to the final hymn lasted exactly two hours, but Fio wished it had been longer.

Bernie Gastler was a church organist/choir director. But he was more than that: he was a good man, a kind man, a teacher, and a top-notch musician. He founded the Austin Children's Choir and, after collecting a Ph.D. from UT in his later years, taught on the college level.

And during the five years his health was failing, he planned a bang-up memorial service, a celebration of music. Memorial concert would be more like it, and with full participation by all the attendees. The balcony housed a small orchestra, a giant organ, and a sweet-singing choir, while the sanctuary was stuffed to the gills with people who sang long, loud, and heartily.

The liturgy, prayers, and sermon were all there, but the glory was the music--eight hymns in all, every last verse sung. Also, two choir pieces, plus descants and orchestral interludes every time you turned around. The church resounded with beautiful, joyous, inspiring music.

The sermon was a bummer, all about how Bernie had died because of sin and so would all the rest of us, with nothing left behind.

I disagree. Bernie Gastler did leave something behind. Because he lived, the world is a better place, a little kinder today than yesterday. And in his death, he left a wonderful paean to his own personal passion, music.

Go to God, Bernie. Hark, the herald angels sing.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Living Arrangements

When Fiorella was a teen-ager and money a mere abstraction, she planned to have four homes as an adult. One of them was going to be at the seaside.

Not that Fio had ever seen an ocean--or any other body of water large than Lake Waco, but she read a lot, and authors were always rhapsodizing about the bounding waves. It all sounded so good.

Then Husband drove her down to the coast one year and they camped out on the beach. Fio stayed awake all night, anxiously awaiting the tsunami.

Yes, as it turns out, Fio is none too fond of the seaside. In fact, it makes her nervous. She's seen far too many weather reports featuring typhoons and hurricanes and rogue waves and she just plain doesn't trust all that limitless liquid to stay in its proper place.

Scratch the seaside bungalow. And since Fio already lives in her woodland paradise, that only leaves the Aspen chalet (not that Fio knows how to ski), and the New York pied-a-terre (not that Fio knows anything about the big city).

Somehow Fio thinks the chalet and the pied-a-terre aren't going to work out either.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


This year Fiorella gives special thanks for Friend Sharon's recovery, for the drought finally breaking, and for herself finaling in seven romance writing contests.

As always, she gives thanks for the medical miracles that have kept her and Husband alive and kicking so far.

And for RWA, the San Gabriel Writing League, Carol and Ashley.

And for both the joys of life and the strength to continue when life isn't so joyful.

And for Brother Bill, whose birthday it is today. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BILL!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Well-publicized Turkeys

A leading political turkey is Sarah Palin, who's heavy on criticism but light on solutions. Fine feathers do not a bald eagle make.

As for entertainment turkeys, let's take a formerly mated pair, Jon and Kate. They made lots of money off their kids, spent it on mansions, fancy cars, diamond rings and such, then split up. Expect to see them together again on your local street island holding up mismatching "God bless" signs.

For beauty turkeys, Carrie Prejean takes the prize. Of course, her breast has already been carved--and stuffed. Too bad her brain cavity was left empty.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Turkeys I Have Known

First of all, Fiorella has to list the Sunday School supervisor who wouldn't let Younger Son visit Older Son's class. It was six-year-old YS's first foray into Sunday church school and he wanted to be with his brother. I saw no harm in it as a one-time, getting-used-to-the-idea thing, but the supervisor saw it as Fio not "having control" of her children. Fio did somehow control her temper, but then packed up a very upset YB and his sister and headed home. "Suffer the little children" took on a different meaning that day.

Next, Fio lists her pet Geo, the purple plum, that let her down again and again. Yes, the cutest little hatchback in the world stopped dead on her in drive-through lanes, at red lights, in front of her parents' home 100 miles away, just wherever it chose. Finally Fio had to face facts: that turkey was a purple lemon.

Her final turkey is anonymous, and probably a flock. Fio does not appreciate whoever it was who bashed in her rural mailbox for the umpteenth time, this time cracking it open across the top. The final damage was done the night before her father's funeral, and Fio cried.

Monday, November 23, 2009


During his brief year and a half with us, Albert the Guinea pig captured every corner of our hearts as we watched him grow from a tiny squeaking fluff ball to a rather majestic adult boar. We taught him to sit up and beg for food, to trumpet a loud warning when he needed off our laps, and to stop whatever he was doing and clear out of wherever he was when a powerful "No!" reverberated across the room.

But Albert fell ill one day and nothing we could do seemed to help. Finally Fiorella lined a wicken-woven baset with soft towels and took Albert to the vet. That gentleman seemed fascinated by his tiny patient and, divining Albert's obviously important position in our household, put his whole heart into his task, pumping his patient full of antibiotiocs and appetite stimulators.

Nonetheless, Albert died soon thereafter. However, he made his everlasting impression on it at least one part of the world. When we received the vet's bill, Fio noticed that under the title "breed of animal" the vet's receptionist had carefully printed A-L-B-E-R-T.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

As Charged

Fio has an exaggerated sense of guilt, perhaps the natural consequence of being brought up Missouri Synod Lutheran.

For years she thought that when she was three years old, she had killed her great-grandmother by talking too much. And she has fretted for a decade about having signed the release for her father's brain operation, which didn't help much and may even have made matters worse. And now she wonders if the reason he finally died at age ninety-five was because she didn't visit him for almost two weeks--she had the flu.

And then there are the students she should have handled better, and her own children, all of whose problems she lays at her own feet.

Of course, all this guilt also implies a sense of power and control.

Yesterday, Husband couldn't find The Wall Street Journal when he came home from work. Fio realized that she must have thrown it away. In fact, the more she thought about it, she had a dim but growing memory of tossing it.

Today the newspaper carrier delivered two WSJs because he missed yesterday.

So much for power and control.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Great American Desert

Is it Fio's imagination, or is Project Runway getting old? And is Little People, Big World growing whiskers? And is The Little Couple, though new, seeming all too predictable?

Fio watches little enough TV as it is, and she'd like to have a few programs to relax with aside from specials on Neanderthals, conjoined twins, and various strange medical maladies, all of which she loves, but which are endlessly repeated.

Oh well, there's always AztecAmerica, which she's been keeping on as background noise during her recent housekeeping frenzy in hopes she'll learn Spanish by osmosis.

Friday, November 20, 2009

About the Author

How did Fiorella get into writing, you ask?

Well, contrary to those who penned novels in their cradles, Fio spent her time reading, reading, reading. She did try her hand at short stories occasionally, which, looking back, were pretty rank. And then there was the novel she started while she was in junior high. The first chapter (the only one ever written) contained a nude bathing scene surreptitiously observed by the hero--yes, Fio had read all he mother's book-of-the-month club selections and knew what was de rigueur for the genre. But apparently having a nude bathing scene on your daughter's desk was less acceptable than having one in your library. The chapter disappeared during one of Mother's periodic exorcisms of Fio's room. So much for fiction.

Fio wrote a lot of poetry, though. And she also was a crackerjack non-fiction writer. But she couldn't settle in to write a novel--too long, too much time. Besides, what she wanted to do was LIVE these wonderful fictional lives, not write them.

Finally it dawned on her that these wonderful fictional lives were wonderful only on paper. In real life, they would be extremely uncomfortable.

So now she writes wonderful fictional lives into novels, and lives every second of every character's life. The best of both worlds.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Homey on the Range

Fiorella's essential equipment pack would include fingernail scissors and a hair dryer. Not for cutting her fingernails or drying her hair, but for all the other million and one uses she puts them to.
After years of accumulating everything under the sun, Fio and Husband are now trying to de-cumulate. Of course, that doesn't include their ever-growing rock collection. Yes, their children will inherit an absolutely valueless assortment of flint, pretty stones, and interesting limestone shapes.
We're stacking the firewood and Husband is building fires in the fireplace again, to Fiorella's delight. She must have been a firebug in a past life.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I know that animals dream. I remember watching Tina, our first dog, romp and bark as she chased squirrels in her sleep.

But do they daydream? Do they create fiction?

Or are people the only beings who imagine flying around with red capes billowing in the breeze behind them, lucking into extravagant fortunes, or encountering all sorts of supernatural beings?

Are we the only ones who dwell in possibility, a fairer house than prose?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Taking Chances

Fio's never taken to casinos. She doesn't understand laying bets on horses, sports, or politics either.

She's not making a moral stand. She's just not interested. It's pointless and boring.

What Fio gambles on is life.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Innocents Abroad

Growing up, Fio always planned to be a cosmopolite, but a brief seven-year delayed honeymoon in Mexico was as far as it went until she and Husband gathered up the kids, then twelve, fourteen, and eighteen, and headed off for England.

What Fio and Husband didn't know is that Brits are child-apartheid, as a British friend later told her. They don't take their children out in public. In fact, Friend Suzy said they go out in public to get away from their children.

Fio did notice that in a restaurant her family was always seated as far away from the rest of the other patrons as possible. And that just by playing a rousing game of Uno, Fio's kids cleared out the whole first class car of the Flying Scotsman. And that hers were the only cchildren in sight not wearing uniforms.

But she's glad they didn't leave the kids at home. Travel is education and education is the one thing that can never be broken, lost, or stolen. Her children's two weeks in England are part of them forever.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Snippy Snippets

Wendy Dog went through three cones, several leg wraps, and four sprays. The only thing that kept her from licking the hotspot on her leg was--you'll love this--Ben Gay.
Saw a sign advertising "organic mattresses" when I was in town yesterday. What are they stuffed with--corn shucks?
I hear that writing for Harlequin is like living in Sun City—rigorously circumscribed—or maybe circumcised, but I don’t want to get into that.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Fiorella's parents, being children of the depression, were careful with money. Fio's father was a tightwad from a family of tightwads, and her brother is even more so. Fio admits to being somewhat fretful about money herself. She's even gotten up in the middle of the night to check that the family bank balances are exactly what they should be.

A lot of people's personal economies are in trouble right now because the national economy is in the tank. Other people just plain don't know how to manage their money. Fiorella wonders if the trend toward banking on line is part of the problem. It seems to her that sitting down with the bills and writing checks to pay them, then figuring out one's current bank balance, makes the money somehow more real.

Of course, no matter how one is banking, in order to have stable personal finances, one has to keep track of them and live accordingly. That's probably a problem for all of us.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hot off the Press

Hummers are bummers
And GM is sad,
But Impalas are selling
So it can't be all bad.

Chrysler is struggling,
Financial blues--
It might not survive,
But what else is news?

The top of the heap,
At least for today,
Is Henry's Ford's namesake

Guess which manufacturer Fiorella has stock

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Re: Fort Hood

Fiorella understands people dying for their faith, but what she does not understand is people killing for their faith.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tardy Posting

Sorry that she's running late--
But Fio's on a roll today.
Write, rewrite, edit, save--
Bestseller on the way!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Back to Basics

It's that time of year again. Husband saws the wood while Fiorella cleans up the brush and stacks the logs in the rack.

Husband has already built one fire in the fireplace this year, but he used store-bought logs so it didn't really count. The next fire will be fueled by our own wood.

And that counts.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nature or Nurture

Sometimes they end up being nurtured, like Mowgli, like Romulus and Remus. Other times they end up being savaged, like Little Red Ridinghood.

Yes, entering writing contests is like throwing your children to the wolves.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

She Strikes Again!

Fiorella has often apologized for the fact that she is electronically challenged. But say it loud, say it proud--it isn't a DISABILITY, it's a SUPERPOWER!

And she demonstrated it again the other day at HEB, when paying for spicy chicken wings at the buffet counter. The clerk ran her credit card, but no receipt emerged. He was forced to write a receipt by hand so she could get out of the store without being nabbed for shoplifting.

Maybe Fiorella's secret supername should be LuddLady.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ever Wonder Why?

Ever wonder why we say "I am" and "he/she/it is" but "we/you/they are?

In older English, the pronouns were declined as follows:

singular first person: I (am)
singular second person: thou (art)
singular third person: he, she, it (is)

plural first person: we (are)
plural second person: you (are)
plural third person: they (are)

For some reason, English dropped the "thou" and extended the use of "you" to include the singular as well as the plural of the second person.

Since "you" is plural, it kept the plural form of the verb "to be." Thus we have ended up with the following conjugation of "to be:"

I am
you ARE
he/she/it is

we ARE
you ARE
they ARE

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tim Gunn, I Hardly Knew Ye

There once was a Project named Runway
That I watched faithfully until one day
They tossed out Shirin,
Kept Christopher in,
So Thursday's no longer a Gunn day.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Getting After It

Fiorella is currently laboring over the umpteenth revision of her latest manuscript. Yes, Fio believes that practice makes perfect, which goes hand in hand with her somewhat obsessive personality.

She demonstrates the same behavior in everything she does. Her paintings are built up of layer after layer of experimenting, adjusting, correcting, and then doing the same thing all over again. Her poems are constructed the same way, as is--Fiorella!

And that's why Fiorella hopes for reincarnation. One of these lives, she wants to build up enough experience to get it right

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

End of Drought

It's incredible--
The lakes are full,
The grass is green
The air is clean.
Never again
Will I complain
About the rain.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

J&K Postscripts

I heard that Jon recently consulted with a rabbi and announced he is half Jewish. The Korean half?
Jon and Kate were well-matched. She's anal and he's an a******.
Maybe there's hope. I hear he's gotten rid of the ear studs. Now if Kate would just stop tanning and doing weird things to her hair.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Telephone Tip

Fiorella learned something recently that she has to pass on.

While some workmen were using an air hammer upstairs to shore up the boxroom insulation, Fio was on the phone trying to work her way through the standard maze of instructions to get to a human being at a credit card company . The phone voice asked a mechanical question, and Fio attempted to answer, but was interrupted by the machine gun cadence of the air hammer. Apparently unnerved by the rat-a-tat-tat, the automatic phone immediately connected her to a real live person.

So the next time you want to bypass an endless list of choices, shout BAM BAM BAM into the phone and see what happens.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Narc Bark

Wrapped and treated yet again,
Totally unconed,
Wendy Dog's content, at last,
To sit and gnaw her bone.
The vet prescribed some happy pills--
Yes, Wendy Dog is stoned.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Driving Forever

In the future, I think cell phones/tracking devices/watches will be implanted into our wrists at birth. And I think our movies will star people like Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe through holographic technology. And I think cars, hover cars, of course, will be controlled by computers and guided to their destinations by magnetic stripes accessing every highway and byway in the country.

That means Dad won’t have to spend Saturday afternoon washing and waxing the car anymore because he won’t own one unless he is very rich. Instead, the family will lease a vehicle to be computer-summoned to their home as needed. Mom will program their trip to Grandma’s beforehand, and then she and Dad and Susie and little Johnny will step out the front door and into their shining new family cab.

The old paved highways will have been jackhammered and replaced with a smooth carpet of grass. Gasoline as fuel and a pollutant will be a thing of the past. Garages and carports will be left to their real purposes—storage.

Because cars will be computer controlled rather than driver-steered, they can travel at high speeds cheek-to-jowl without mishap, switching off through streams of traffic from time to time as the computer efficiently maneuvers them toward their destinations.

Of course, because the cars are so close, windows will be minimized for the sake of privacy. Who will need them anyway, with the selection of current games and movies (extra charge for new releases) available in every car? One window protected with a solar shade should be enough for little Johnny to look out of every now and then.

It will certainly be more than enough for whoever sees our family again.

Perhaps it’s a movie-weary traveler who, for a change of pace, zips open his own solar screen. He glances around the dark, lonely countryside. A battered old family cab catches his attention, mainly because he’s surprised something that antique is still in use.

He peers closer as the car comes up behind him. It‘s running quite fast, he notes, and its interior lights are burning brightly.

There’s something in the window. Is it a young boy? The traveler smiles and leans into his own window, prepared to wave and nod as the car passes.

The old car charges forward, riding alongside the lonely traveler for a few vital seconds.

The traveler’s face freezes into horror as he realizes what he has just seen: a vehicle which had somehow long ago become lost in the circuits of a misfiring computer. And trapped inside the battered old car, Mom and Dad and Susie and little Johnny still speed on.

But it’s a million years to Grandma’s house.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Good Mourning

Fiorella didn't realize she was in mourning.

Yes, her father had died, but she didn't cry. He had been dying inch by inch for five years and wasn't even aware of himself. Besides, her parents had taught her to hang tough, to plow on through, despite everything.

But her world turned gray, literally. She couldn't bring herself to wear the vibrant reds and pinks that constitute the bulk of her wardrobe. Blues, lavenders, blacks, whites--those were her choices, day after day.

And she dropped off the RWA e-mail loop for about a month because she didn't feel like saying anything. And after fulfilling her outstanding social obligations, she didn't feel like going anywhere. And, wonder of wonders, she didn't even feel much like eating.

Looking back, Fio understands that she was mourning because she never accepted the idea that her father would die. In fact, she was still praying for the miracle cure. His death was not a blessing.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Addicted to Corn

Fio and Husband bought Halloween candy on Sunday--five bags of Snickers (Husband's choice) and five of Milky Ways (Fio's). One bag of each is in the freezer as decoys, and the rest, in knotted bags, is stowed in a hidden cupboard.

Then there's the small bag of candy corn Fio tossed in the grocery cart as a treat. Fio eats each kernel slowly--first the white, then the orange, then the yellow--and she swears each color tastes different. And she can't quit eating it. Yes, no matter how sick it makes her feel afterwards, Fio keeps on eating--white, orange, yellow.

Candy corn, the new crack cocaine.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Yes, Fiorella is high as a kite.

The results of the hanging-fire contest came in. Fio finished SECOND. That makes four thirds and two seconds so far this year.

Fio is dancing, Fio is singing, Fio is chortling to herself with glee. Fio is insane, but you knew that anyway.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sis, Boom, Bah!

Fiorella is ecstatic! She placed second in a romance writing contest! That means she's moved up from bridesmaid to maid of honor!

Yes, of the six contests Fio has finaled in, she's placed third in four, one is still hanging fire, AND ONE IS SECOND!

Fio is so shallow. All it takes to make her happy is something nice to happen.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Golden Template

Everyone is looking for the golden template of romance writing. Authors want to know how to write a romance that agents/editors will love and love and love. Agents/editors want to know how to identify a romance that readers will buy and buy and buy. Time is of the essence so all short cuts are embraced.

Current trends call for more use of contractions and personal pronouns, with the justification that people talk in contractions and pronouns. But if we really write the way people really talk, dialogue will be a mess. Listen to conversations around you--they stray all over the map.

Another trend is the elimination of passive voice, as if it is somehow "wrong." Actually, passive voice is a legitimate grammatical form and, in many cases, the most appropriate one. A concomitant trend, though, is the misidentification of passive voice as any usage of any form of "be." "Be" in all of its forms (be, am, is, are, was, were, being, been) is called the copula, the connecting verb and is used with predicate nominatives and predicate adjectives. It is also necessary to express certain verbal aspects. As such, it is the most common--and vital--verb in the English language, and eliminating it from one's writing severely limits expression.

Some templates even identify "had" and the suffix "-ing" as "passive," which borders on the ridiculous.

Another trend, a strictly limited point of view, seems to be abating somewhat, thank goodness. Many successful books use multiple points of view; literary types call it omniscient voice.

What do readers want? If they're like me, they want interesting characters and a good story told in an interesting way. As a multi-published author recently told me, "The important thing is how a book makes a reader feel." And there's no golden template for that.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Awkward Age

Despite her good intentions and best efforts, Fio has always been gauche.

Like when she was sitting at the same table as Victoria Alexander, a well-known romance writer. The others around the table were shamelessly chatting her up so Fio tried her hand, and, of course, she was honest.

Fio announced how thrilled she was when VA walked across the stage at Nationals to deliver the keynote address. "I realized you have the same body shape that I do," Fio said. "It gave me hope I could be successful too."

VA smiled weakly and may have even said thank you.

A couple of months later, it finally dawned on Fio that perhaps she had not delivered the accolade she was trying for.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

More TV Snippets

Fio confesses she reneged on her vow and watched the last ten minutes of Project Runway this week. It didn't bother her to see Nicholas leave--his personality did not project well on TV--but it did bother her that Christopher is still hanging on. And again she repeats--BRING BACK SHIRIN!
The Little Couple will start again next week. Will Jen and Bill decide on in vitro? Or will we see an increasingly rotund Jen this season?
Did I tell you that Fio is watching King of the Crown religiously? It's funny, it's interesting, and Cyrus has ethics. Which is more than can be said for the mothers in Toddlers and Tiaras.
And all of this information is from a person who swears she doesn't watch reality shows.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Judging Sweet

Not only is Fiorella entering writing contests, but she is judging them. Not the categories she is entered in, of course, and only the lower tier.

Most recently, she worked her way through a stack of sweet entries. "Sweet," in romance-writing parlance, signifies that there are no explicit sex scenes in the manuscript, but several of the authors took it to mean sickly sweet--cloying. Never before in her life has Fiorella met such a collection of characters: every child was a dimpled cherub while the heroines were complete milksops, and the heroes, effeminate. In the "inspirationals" (stories aimed at Christian publishers), godliness was demonstrated by people muttering Bible verses under their breath (complete with citation), and sending up little prayers like magical incantations.

Now Fio likes to think positively about everyone she meets, has been known to toss Biblical verses into conversations, and prays constantly, but she hopes she is not cloying. As she notated on the manuscripts she was judging--even Jesus was able to work up enough testosterone to chase the moneychangers out of the temple.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sexy Snippets

Thirty years ago clothes became unisex--jeans and t-shirts. Then the jeans got tighter and were cut lower, and the t-shirts began to look like they were painted on.

Women's magazines used to run stories on how to decorate a home or cook nutritious dinners, on how to be good wives and mothers. Now the stories concentrate on dressing, acting, and being sexy.

"Naked movie stars" are a reality now. Full frontal naked, that is.

Isn't it all a little much?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In Memoriam

When everyone else in Osceola Mills was poor, Dad's family was poorer. So poor, in fact, that the county tried to take him and his brother and sister away from their widowed young mother.

His mother worked hard as a cleaning woman for the family's daily bread, and the children did too--paper routes, cow herding, chicken killing, whatever was needed. His older brother dropped out of school to work on the railroad with his uncle before he was sixteen.

Thanks to him, Dad and his sister were able to graduate high school. The next step was immediate employment, and Dad's best chances would be in a big city two hundred miles away.

His mother walked him to the bus station. He almost turned back, back to his mother and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends and everything that he knew. But when the time came, he got on the bus.

And always looked back.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Whistle While You Work

The Roloffs are back. What a contrast to Jon and Kate.

Jon and Kate are tall while Matt and Amy are short. Jon and Kate have eight children while Matt and Amy have half that many. Jon's a slacker while Matt can't sit still. Kate's a meticulous housekeeper while Amy--well--isn't.

I don't know about you, but Fio will take the dwarves any day. Matt may be grandiose and egomaniacal, but he's faithful to his wife and kids. Amy may not be the best housekeeper in the world, but her kids seem to have thrived in a more relaxed family atmosphere.

Roloffs win, hands down.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Holiday Preview

Fio didn't know whether to be amazed or aghast.

While Husband searched out a new weed trimmer at Lowe's, she sashayed over to the Christmas decorations to check out this year's offerings. Yes, Fio knows it isn't even Halloween yet, but she does Christmas up big and likes to keep a weather eye open for stuff she might want to add to her own holiday decor.

Again, Fio didn't know whether to be amazed or aghast. Whatever happened to the glass ornaments in the shapes of fruits and vegetables that she used to collect to hang from her dining room evergreen swag, the extra-sized Christmas characters and house-shaped ornaments? Instead, all she saw were footballs and skunks and typewriters, mostly plastic.

The worst of all was an outside decoration--three illuminated penguins bearing gifts, which to her verged on the sacrilegious. How about having Donald Duck lying in the manger?

Maybe it's time to get back to stringing cranberries, whatever the heck they are.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

TV and Radio Snippets

John and Kate Plus Hate
Kate spends her time gilding the lily in tanning salons while Jon seems determined to kill the TV program that lays the golden egg.

Rush to Judgment
More and more, Rush Limbaugh is the articulate voice of the mean, ignorant, arrogant, and spiteful.

Leave it to Eddie
What a disappointment that Eddie Haskell grew up to be an LA cop. If life were true to TV, he'd be in jail now for a Ponzi scheme even worse than Bernie's.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Out of Steam

To be frank,
Fio's mind is blank.
All she can say
Is "Have a good day."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bring Back Shirin!

How in the world can they toss Shirin off? She's done some very nice work, even in horrible circumstances--the two-yard wedding dress, for instance. And now she's gone because of one mess-up.

And stupid Christopher stays, mainly because he's developed weeping to a fine art. Or maybe Pretty Boy has formed some--uh--connections.

Fio's not watching Project Runway anymore.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rush to Judgment

Fio is amazed at all the vitriol regarding Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. If it was awarded to our president, it was awarded to us, and the least we can do is be gracious. It's not as though Obama solicited the honor or we had a vote in it.

Perhaps the complainers wanted the Prize to go to Limbaugh?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Fio's heart sank when she came home to notice the red light beeping on her phone--something else she had to attend to in addition to the laundry, the dog's wound, the collapsing attic insulation, the busted mailbox, the out-of-order vacuum cleaner, the message from Brother regarding the inheritance taxes Pennsylvania is demanding of Father, the contest entries she agreed to judge, and the final rewrite of her latest romance.

Fio has often speculated that all the electronic beeps are triangulating so they can zot her with the death beam.

And right now it would be a relief.

P.S. The phone just went out.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Timely Contemplation

Ideally, the clergyman officiating at a funeral can speak knowledgeably of the deceased from personal acquaintance, like Pastor Olsen at Fiorella's mother's funeral several years ago. But he was twenty years younger than Fio's parents.

Things are different when when people outlive their clerical relationships.

At Mrs. Paule's burial service, the young whippersnapper of a rabbi, obviously at something of a loss, said he didn't know Mrs. Paule well but had heard she liked to play cards. Thus a woman Fio regarded as a second mother, a woman who was warm and loving and accomplished a lot in life, was reduced to a card shark in death.

At Miss Osborn's funeral, the youngster officiating had the effrontery to refer to Waco High's iconic Latin teacher as "Sister Elor" and mispronounce her name in the bargain. Fio fully expected Miss O to rise from coffin, rebuke him with one of her trademark stares, and state, "It's Miss Osborn to you, young man!"

The clergyman officiating at Fio's father's recent funeral had never met him. Pastor Olsen had moved on and the replacement knew Dad, whom Fio and Brother had moved to a nursing home near them, only from church records.

But what about Fio, when her time comes? She's always pictured Pastor Gronberg, who knows her, conducting the rites. But he's not much younger than she is and may shuffle off this mortal coil long before she requires his services.

No smart-mouthed wind-up to this one. Guess she'll just have to take luck of the draw.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Super Fiorella

Fiorella had her first full night of sleep in three days Saturday night and woke up Sunday morning at nine, full of vim, vigor, and vitality. She bounced around for a couple of hours doing all sorts of useful things, then headed off with Husband for a late lunch at Fish Daddy's. An hour after she was back home with a list in hand of other useful things to do, lights started flashing in front of her eyes--yes, the dreaded migraine aura.

The aura usually lasts about twenty boring minutes, then disappears, but not yesterday. All evening the headache played ping pong with the halved hydrocodones Fio doses herself with.

Fio woke up today feeling good again--despite dreaming last night that she had had a stroke and couldn't remember her name. She still has that list and is determined to cross off every item on it.

Whether she remembers her name or not, Fio is invincible.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


In the olden days, Fiorella's thrifty mother did a lot of mail-order shopping from Sears, Roebuck. Just before Christmas, several big, bulky packages would arrive which Brother and Fio were not allowed to see unwrapped.

Then Sears built a store in town and there were no more mail orders. In fact, catalog sales were dying out all over the country.

Only to rise again. But the catalogs are different now because ours is an age of excess. Clothes and shoes and books don't do for gifts these days because we are all well-stocked. Which means we must now peruse specialty catalogs for the new, the different, the unusual--the useless.

Uhm--Brother, whatever happened to that giant inflated version of Munch's "The Scream" that Fio gave you a couple of years ago?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Return Visit

Her left ear aches
Her throat is sore
Exactly like
It did before--
Again, Fio is sick,
And wants to get well quick.

Friday, October 9, 2009


My wings are bent, my heart is sore
And I shall sing my song no more
For I have been this way before
The sea is wide, and far the shore.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Protective Headgear

We call it a bonnet,
A dog hat, a hood,
A halo she's earned
For being good.
Whatever the name,
It's all the same--
Till the wound has healed
And the fur's regrown,
Our Wendy's head
Is in a cone.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Judicial Snippets

Fiorella is judging entry level contestants in a romance writing contest, which has turned out to be quite encouraging. She has always thought her own synopses were bottom of the barrel, but compared to the ones she's reading now, Fio is Shakespeare.
Fio has received critiques back recently from a couple of contests that she DIDN'T final in, but she tends to ignore them. One judge will say she didn't give enough detail and another will say she gave too much.
What really irritates her is when some idiot judge doesn't give her full points on punctuation and grammar. If there's anything Fio knows, it's punctuation and grammar.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Son in Retrospect

In high school, Older Son had a boom car, the kind with a bass that vibrates your fillings from three blocks away. We always knew when he was on his way home—so did all the rest of the world.

We pointed out the danger to his hearing, but he persisted in increasing his volume by adding even more speakers. Apparently he didn’t hear us.

A more immediate danger was burglars. His car was broken into several times, twice during the day in the school parking lot, once at night in the same lot, and a couple of times in our own driveway. On the last occasion, a passing patrol car decided there was something suspicious about two guys working on a car at 3 a.m. under an on-and-off security spotlight.

The cop nailed the thieves in the act, then rang our doorbell. The whole family got off to an early start that day.

Older Son finally got a car alarm, but the insurance company dropped him for excessive claims. I was threatening to do the same.

Needless to say, my son had a small fortune tied up in that car. It ate up all his Christmas and birthday money, whatever he could earn, plus whatever he was able to wheedle out of his father, a closet car stereo nut himself.

Then there was the fellow student who promised stereo heaven, but disappeared after Older Son forked over an eighty-dollar down payment. Checking the stereo shop where the friend supposedly worked, Son found out the guy had been fired. And his roommate had kicked him out for not paying rent—which made Son realize his friend did not, as he had said, live with a wealthy father and a garageful of show cars.

The whole experience seemed an unnecessary pain to me. Not until I visited high school one morning did I really understand about the booming bass stereo.

My pride and joy had parked out in front and was sitting behind the wheel with both doors open and the speakers blaring. A couple of guys and six giggling teen-age girls were gathered around.

“He uses it to lure women,” Younger Son explained. “He’s like a fisherman. The car is the hook and the bass is the bait and all he has to do is sit there and reel them in.”

No wonder he didn’t care about his hearing.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Follow the Light

Rays of light shine through the gloom. Husband wrote a sweet comment note last week after one of Fio's particularly depressing blogs. And, out of the blue, friend Joy raved about Fio's entry which made the finals in a local writing contest. And when Fio entered a Houston contest, the coordinator turned out to be the same nice person, Pat, whom she had dealt with last year--and Pat told her she was following Fiorella on line! What a surprise--Fio had talked herself into believing nobody read her blog, that she was writing only to herself.

And today is Oldest Son's birthday and thirty-eight candles will be lit. Thirty-eight rays of light.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Stiff Upper Lip

Fio's parents were from a tough generation. They didn't indulge themselves in useless emotional displays, such as mourning.

Fiorella is trying to follow their role modeling. No weeping, no brooding, no coddling of herself.

But she can't help but feel a little down--something her parents might have felt too, in similar circumstances. However, she can't help writing about it--something her parents would never have done, in any circumstances.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Cassandra Spoke, but Did Anyone Listen?

Ah, the financial geniuses have finally figured out that the reason people aren't upping the economy by buying stuff is that they don't have the money to buy stuff because they don't have the jobs to provide the money to buy stuff. Well, duh!

Fio has an idea. She reads a lot of British novels and she's noticed that everyone with an extra dollar (translation: about half a pound sterling) hires someone to tend the lawn, someone else to clean the house, someone else to cook the food, whatever, which spreads the meager wealth around as far as it will go. Not that the hirer is that wealthy either--but then clothes closets are smaller in Britain.

Anyway, Fio proposes that we stop enlarging our wardrobes and start enlarging our hearts by hiring people to do whatever they can do around our homes and business.

I have to say that Fio predicted all this years ago when she realized how the labor opportunities available were being diminished by labor-saving devices. At home, why send clothes out to be washed when you have a great washer-dryer in the utility room? On the job, why hire twenty people when five--plus computers--can handle the same workload? Maybe Ned Ludd had something when he led a revolt again that new-fangled mechanized loom way back when.

Down with machines! Up with people! (Says she who's using a computer to writing this blog and everything else she produces.)

Friday, October 2, 2009


When I was young and hinkty, I told my students that if they heard I had requested no extreme measures should be taken to keep me alive, they should shout murder because I wanted to cling on, no matter what. Where there was life, there was hope.

But now, I feel differently. Maybe it has something to do with the living death my father was involved in. Or maybe the example of my friend's father, who couldn't remember his wife's name, but wanted his gun because he was convinced someone was trying to kill him.

As far as I can tell, eighty-five is the cut-off time.

All in all, getting older is a whole lot less interesting than I thought it would be.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Deja Vu

Okay, Fio has just looked over her line-up and discovered she ran the same blog twice, the one about what Bob Wilson taught her. Sorry, but her brain has been a little overloaded lately. She owes you one, but you're not getting it today.

In addition, she notes the red message at the bottom of her screen saying could not be contacted and the posting may fail.

But such is life. We try, we fail, and we dissolve into nothingness.


Ten minutes later:
But Fio can't help but keep on trying. She's replaced the original of "Bob Wilson" with a poem called "Nursing Home Visit." Check out Sept. 21.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Better Off Dead

Pain and sorrow--where did we get the idea that life is otherwise? Think of the ancient religions that see the nothingness of death as a welcome relief from what we have to endure in life--starvation, disease, injustice, random atrocities . . . the torture of old age.

So many pains I carry within,
So many tears of sorrow--
All my dreams of yesterday
Are nightmares of tomorrow.

Fio's having a bad day.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


During visitation, the casket was open. Fiorella wanted one last look at Dad's face magically restored to its real self. But she didn't recognize the man in the casket. His skin was taut and his color waxen. Something was wrong with his lips. Death is a cruel deceiver.
Only about ten people attended the funeral, as opposed to the overflowing crowd at Mother's, seventeen years earlier. Dad was better-known than Mom, and her aged mourners came to comfort him. But he outlived his contemporaries, and there aren't many people around in Waco anymore who remember Brother and me.
Two joyful notes. Lois, a college friend whom I haven't seen in years, attended the visitation to extend her sympathies to me. My heart warmed. Also, Glenn, whom I went to junior high and high school with and who attended the same church, was at the funeral. He always was a nice guy and still is.
I am grateful to God for my three wonderful adult children, for their compassion and love for their grandfather and their parents. And I am grateful for a wonderful, loving, compassionate husband.


Monday, September 28, 2009

What Bob Wilson Taught Me

Fiorella had a bad night. Every insecurity in the world ganged up on her. She is often waterlogged this way, and the only thing she's found to counter it is self-absorbed focus.

She learned the technique from Bob Wilson, Nathaniel Mayfield, Bill Clinton ,and Richard Nixon. Bob, Fio's old high school duet acting partner, is now New York's leading avant grade dramatist. He is also a goof--but a single-minded goof who, by virtue of his never-look-to-the-side vision, convinced the drama world to see things his way.

Nathaniel, one of the world's top trumpet players, is on more solid ground than Bob, but he too has tunnel vision. Nothing stops him once he's committed himself to a goal. Fio used to car pool with his mother, and she remembers third-grade Nathaniel laying out his detailed plans about how he was going to beat out everyone else in the class book-reading competition. And he did.

Fio is also inspired by Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, both disgraced politicians. Nixon resigned; Clinton, against all odds, stayed in office. But neither of them quit moving forward. Nixon redeemed himself with the Chinese thing, and Clinton buoyed along like a water balloon, refusing to sink, and is still riding high.

So maybe Fiorella can make it to. So what if she's worried about her family? So what if she doesn't have the time for things she should do, the money for what she wants to do? So what if she's aging by the minute and her brain is turning to mush even faster?

She needs to concentrate on finishing her current manuscript. Focus, Fio, focus!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Comfort Food

When my mother died, we were overwhelmed with visitors and food. Little old men my father had worked with years ago tottered up the front walk bearing casseroles and sat with with father for a while and talked about their "prostrates." And neighbors brought over cakes and molded gelatin. Fried chicken poured in by the bucketful. It was nice, both because of the love and the practicality. Father and Brother and I were simply too shell-shocked and to arrange for our own meals.

Now my father has died and no one brought us food. Husband and I don't live in a tight little neighborhood like my parents did. My best friends are thirty-five miles away in Austin, and it would be awkward to call them and say, "Hi, how are you? My dad just died. Bring food."

So Daughter-in-law and I troop out every day and pick up a few things we think everyone might eat, usually deli stuff, because nobody feels like cooking. Cooking is for happy occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas, not for deaths and funerals. But cooking or not, our household has swollen in size and everyone needs to eat--Husband and I, Older Son and his wife, Younger Son, sometimes Daughter. But no fried chicken is forthcoming.

Welcome to modern living.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Head Shot

A month or so ago, Fio received word that she had finaled in the New Jersey RWA romance writing contest. Soon afterwards a head shot was requested of her .

Resisting the temptation to send a photo of Michelle Pfeiffer or of Daughter (who is even prettier), Fio got Younger Son to take a picture of her with his cell phone. It turned out great (translation: Fio looked basically humanoid) and Fio e-mailed it to NJ. Early last week she got a request for a more focused picture, one that wouldn't blur on Power Point, but, as you know, Fiorella has been sick as a dog ever since, her father has died, Younger Son's student loan request has been rejected, and Fio is trying to be a good hostess to Older Son and wife and will add Younger Son to the melange today.

Fio has not sent in a new picture yet. Fio may not ever send in a new picture. New Jersey may have to make do with her as she is at the moment: blurry.

Friday, September 25, 2009

An Inconvenient Death

My father died on Wednesday, very inconveniently. On my plate I have a set of poems to judge for the local writers'league, 100+ pages of a romance manuscript to critique for a friend, and my latest novel to edit and revise. And I am still hacking and coughing from this stupid cold, the dog is still in her cone, and the guest room is not yet set up.

Older Son and wife have flown in and must be accommodated. Younger Son is flying in this afternoon. Everyone is helping, but there is too much to consider, too much to be done. The world's turned upside down.

To top it off, yesterday we received word that Younger Son's application for a college loan to finish off his final year had been turned down, and even after a series of frantic phone calls on our part, no one would tell us why. At this rate, Fiorella expects a terrorist attack any minute.

Dad died at such an inconvenient time. But then, death is always inconvenient--it happens in the midst of life.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Into that Good Night

My father died yesterday at about 5:00 p.m. Gathered around were Brother and his wife, Husband and I. Daughter had been with us for the better part of three days. Older Son and Younger Son were in constant communication.

The loss has not hit me yet, perhaps because it has been hovering for some years, but, against all odds, never seemed to happen. Dad had five roommates over the past four years, and all but the last one went first. "He always bounces back," one of the nurses said. Yes, Dad seemed to be eternal.

Maybe he's still eternal. Husband and I had to go out for laundry detergent after getting home from the nursing home, and stretched over the highway in front of us was one of the most brilliant rainbows we have ever seen. Every color was clear--red, orange, yellow, green, blue--and the arc was complete from one side of the road to the other. Not only that, but beside it was a second fainter arc.

Hiya, Dad. Got the message.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Too Tough to Go Gentle

As if he could ever die, a man who, in his late eighties, was tough enough to rip out a catheter, a feeding tube, and all his IVs.

Yes, Dad's heart has stopped racing and he has beaten the twenty-four estimate. "Two or three more days," the nurse said, but I doubt it. More like two or three more years or two or three more centuries.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Storm Warning

The family gathered at the nursing home yesterday afternoon, and Brother and I will be there again this morning. These are the last twenty-four hours.

Bon voyage, Dad. The storm is coming up the Caddie.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Nursing Home Visit

This sonnet is a substitute for the original blog, which Fio accidentally posted again a week later. She hopes she hasn't run it before.

Nursing Home Visit

He sleeps, but does he dream, my father? When
I visit twice a week, he wakes with eyes
near blind and looks, then nods to sleep again.
He sees my shape, but does not recognize
his oldest child, his baby girl all grown,
who shouts her name into his better ear,
who warms his death-cold hands within her own,
who scrubs the crusted food from off his chair.
Father beloved, where have you gone? You sleep,
but do you dream? I kiss his innocent face,
smooth back his unkempt hair, loudly repeat
my name again, and pray to God for grace
that he may dream within his cobwebbed brain
of righteous battles won and dragons slain.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dear Esteemed Friend:

Fio has problems understanding African poverty when she daily receives e-mail missives from charming Nigerians wanting to shower her with untold riches for small favors.

Today it was a Ghanian, a Mr. Fuzzy Attah, who wasn't the usual saintly widow or dying businessman, but a sly embezzler trying to make off with twelve million dollars from the SG-SSB Bank of Ghana. He was willing to give Fio thirty percent of the loot for a little assistance with his "noble" undertaking (as he termed it)--all she had to do was allow him to take control of her computer.

"I got your contact during my search for a reliable, trustworthy and honest person to introduce this transfer project to," Mr. Attah told Fio. Very flattering, but she couldn't return the compliment. Mr. Attah struck her as neither reliable, nor trustworthy, nor honest.

She also found it odd that Mr. Attah was slick enough to fleece his bank without detection, but so dumb that he was soliciting a confederate by means of a spam e-mail. But who is Fio to decode the criminal brain?

She thinks she'll pass on this one, but maybe that Mugabe guy would give Fuzzy an assist. From what Fio reads, Zimbabwe could do with a few extra shekels right now.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


About six weeks ago a notice popped up on Fiorella's computer screen that her print drum was about to go out. She promptly ordered a new one from Dell, scared to death that the old one would give up the ghost before the replacement arrived on the scene. But, whew, it didn't.

Then a notice popped up that her ink cartridge was about to run dry, so she whipped out the ol' credit card and ordered a new cartridge from Dell, which arrived within a week.

Both of the boxes are still stacked on the floor under the computer table. Yes, despite, Fio's usual heavy usage, the old drum is still rolling strong and the old cartridge has yet to gray out.

On the other hand, Dell's financial figures are looking better.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Revisited Runway

Project Runway is the TV highlight of Fiorella's week, which doesn't say as much about Fio's interest in haute couture as it does about the rest of the programming available.

It seems to Fio that the quality of programming has decreased in inverse proportion to the increase in the number of channels. Instead of having three or four channels to choose from, Fio now has about a hundred, most of which she automatically bypasses. Re-runs are a major turn-off--Fio will watch really interesting things twice, but not thrice. Tasteless shows like "Girls Gone Wild" or "Girls Next Door" are also bypassed, as are shows in which people put themselves or others in danger She doesn't watch religious shows either, although she may stay tuned for the gospel singing. Somewhere along the line, she stopped watching sit-coms too--the plots seemed so forced.

Anyway, Fio is picky. But why pick Project Runway? Especially since Fio generally doesn't like "reality" shows either, especially competitive ones?

It's not because she likes Heidi--Tim Gunn is more fun. And, Lord knows, it's not because she's a fashion afficianado. It's probably because of the creativity involved. And creativity never grows stale.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Third Day

Aches and pains, coughs and sneezes,
Snuffling, blowing, choking wheezes--
Garden variety, bird or swine,
Heed the message of this rhyme.
Fly, flu!
Away with you!
And make it PD quick--
Fio's sick of being sick!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Second Day

It's a fact; yes, it's true--
Fiorella has the flu.
Or maybe it is just a cold
Or allergy to irksome mold.
Whatever it is, she wants it gone,
So little microbe, toddle on.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cold Awakening

Scratchy throat,
Stuffed up head--
I think that I'll
Go back to bed.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Coming up the Caddie

Years ago my father told me that the most beautiful thing he had ever seen was a storm coming up the Caddie when he was a boy.

The Caddie, as I understand it, was a by-water of his hometown river. The river was dead, killed by lumbering and the paper mills, but the Caddie was apparently still safe because the community cowherd drank from it.

And that's why Dad was there at sunset, to get the cows home, or maybe just to claim the family cow.

And that's when he saw the storm coming up the Caddie.

Yesterday I visited Dad in the nursing home. He was unresponsive, slitting his eyes open when I bellowed in his ear, then closing them again. I noticed his breathing was irregular: ten strong breaths followed by about fifteen seconds of no discernible inhalations. Then his breaths went down to eight between the periods of immobility, where it stabilized. Finally I rose to go.

I thought about notifying a nurse, but decided not to. Dad is ninety-five, past his time--deaf, half-blind, wheelchair-bound, incontinent, unable to feed himself, unable to communicate, unable to remember. I doubt if he'll make it to ninety-six.

The storm is coming up the Caddie.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Keeping Up

Fiorella knows you have been waiting with bated breath for her update on various news topics, so here it is:

Jon and Kate. She's a diva and he's a lout. A pox on both their houses.

Sarah Palin. She didn't like it back on the farm once that she'd seen Paree so she quit the governorship to jet hither and yon across the lower forty-eight making speeches, reliving her campaign glory.

Britney Spears and Whitney Houston. The former has forgotten how to dance and the latter has forgotten how to sing.

Ellen DeGeneres as the new American Idol judge. Please, Simon, get down on bended knee and beg Paula to come back. Ellen is a nice girl, but music is not her forte.

2008 Census: Household income is down and poverty rates are up and people aren't spending the way they used to. Well--duh.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Exclamation Points

Rain! It rained last night!

Fio, half awake in the middle of the night, thought she heard rain, then decided the sound was just the rumble of the air conditioner. But it was rain--real rain, wet rain--and today's temperature is in the 70s and threatening to go no higher than the 80s!

If this keeps up, maybe we'll even be allowed to flush our toilets sometime soon again.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Long Time, No See

While Fiorella was driving home yesterday, two drops of moisture landed on her windshield.


Several more drops fell. Rain! But not enough that she had to use her windshield wipers, thank goodness.

She's forgotten where they are.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Genome Q&A

Fio is terribly interested in all the DNA research that's occurring nowadays, but she doesn't think we have all the answers yet. She is currently furrowing her forehead about differences in skin color and the origin of her old favorite, the Neanderthals.

Differing skin colors are usually just tossed off as superficial--all-consuming to bigots, but unworthy of scholarly study. But Fio doesn't buy the LaMarkian scenario that Europeans were all the color of modern-day Africans and that their skins lightened up as they moved into northern, colder climes. Look at the Eskimos and the Lapps; look at the dark-skinned populations living in heavily-shaded tropical rain forests.

Perhaps the original African population had more of a variety of genetic possibilities color-wise, like dogs and horses. Isolated groups then could have bred out one or the other extreme. Or perhaps there was a beam of radiation from a sunspot that altered a gene or two here and there. Whatever, it's an interesting topic and Fio doesn't think it should be ignored just because it's politically incorrect. Skirting the issue in itself implies an embarrassment, a latent prejudice.

On to Neanderthals. Fio wants to know: if they aren't part of our line or lineage, where do they fit in? Where did they come from? An earlier migration out of Africa? Spontaneous whatever? Adam and Eve before the Fall?

You'll notice Fio never asks a question without suggesting some directions for research. Go for it, science geeks!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Where our Fio/ would like to go/ some day/ some way:

1) Canada, to visit friend Nicole in Montreal and, if she's in residence, friend Marion in picturesque Guysborough

2) England, to visit friend Suzy in Northumberland, if she's in residence; also Ireland (the parts that don't randomly explode), Scotland, and Wales

3) Holland and Scandinavia, where she knows nobody; maybe France and Italy, which frighten her a little

4) India, maybe, although Fio is wary of teeming multitudes

5) The future, because she is unbearably curious about what will be happening a hundred years hence

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Works in Progress

Fiorella is nothing if not consistent. She follows the same procedure for her art that she does for her writing that she does for her music.

In art, first she looks at the big picture, literally. She makes a quick sketch on the canvas to set up relationships, then splats paint on rather crudely, lights and darks--anchors for the next overlay and each succeeding overlay/adjustment until the painting is finished--although, Fio never really regards any painting as finished. Last year she repainted the mouth of a portrait she had "finished" forty years ago. (Amazing, considering that Fiorella, as she constantly informs you, is just forty-three years old.)

In writing romances, she starts with an interesting relationship and quickly writes down the general idea, then starts fleshing it out as her over-fertile imagination dictates--where the story is going and how it gets there and a few of the more dramatic stops along the way. Then she starts with the overlays. Yes, most of Fio's fiction writing is not writing, but rewriting. And this is true of her poetry too. In fact, some of you may have noted that she often goes in to her blog and edits what she was previously posted.

Fio is not a musician, but she has been practicing the piano a lot since January because she set herself the task of learning to play several carols before Christmas 2009 to entertain her Christmas guests, improve her sight reading, and ressurect some long-lost proficiency. The method will sound familiar: she chose six carols, practices them all twice a day, then adds more carols as she progresses, but playing the new ones only once a day until they are decent enough that she doesn't feel she would be wasting her time playing them twice a day. Somewhere along the line she added in "Gertrude's Dream Waltz" by Beethoven. Splat, splat, splat, then refine, refine, refine.

She treats herself the same way, always correcting, correcting, correcting, and the job is never finished.

And why is Fio telling you all this? Lord only knows. One thing for sure--she'll edit it all tomorrow.

Monday, September 7, 2009


The sky is bright,
No clouds in sight--
The creeks are dry,
And so am I--
We pray for rain,
Alas, in vain.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Mitt

I have been waxing nostalgic about my father the past few days, maybe because I couldn't sleep Wednesday night, then was so drowsy on Thursday that I forgot to visit him--probably a good thing for the safety of local motorists.

I have been thinking about the baseball mitt he let me use in high school, his own high school mitt. It was a turning point in my life because then I could catch balls and play second base rather than outfield. And I started hitting balls too--homers even.

This was important to me because I had always been the last one chosen for teams in elementary school. Every recess the teacher would send us out with a kickball or a jump-rope or a ball and bat, and I was lousy at all of them, which meant my social status was nil.

Now at last, thanks to my father's mitt, I had my peers' respect. I was proud of the mitt and didn't want to lose it so I printed my full name and address on it--including "United States" and "Earth." But it must have been picked up by an alien from another universe because after I left it on the baseball field one day, it disappeared forever.

But the respect stayed with me. Thanks, Dad.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Batter Up

Once I asked my father what he had wanted to be when he grew up. "A baseball player," he told me, his voice wistful with the memory.

Dad was a lifelong athlete--golf, tennis, bowling, whatever. Maybe in another day and time, he could have pursued his diamond dream, but he was born into poverty and the Great Depression dominated his early adulthood.

He's being scouted now, and sooner rather than later, heaven will be signing him for the home team.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Theological Question

How many millions, over time,
Have early met with their demise
Whose only fault, whose only crime,
Was seeing God trough different eyes?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Control Issue

Fiorella grew up in an era which touted the power of positive thinking. She thought anything was possible if she totally believed in it, and being Lutheran--saved by faith alone--reinforced this viewpoint.

Of course she was a little discouraged when she leaped off of the porch step with a Mary Marvel cape tied around her neck and didn't fly, but she figured the fault was hers--she hadn't believed hard enough.

Other things didn't work out in her life either. In fact, she noticed that whatever she wanted to happen or thought would happen didn't happen so she revised her strategy, stating the negative to invoke the positive. Thus now she cheerily says things like "when I go senile . . ." as a charm against doing so.

It's a sort of magic to control her own private universe, but deep inside she remembers falling off the porch step and knows she has no control. What happens to her is both random and inevitable.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fiorella Vents

Last week the water outage, this week the phone outage. Fio is expecting the electricity to go down next--which it frequently does anyway. The world is going to hell in a handbasket, whatever that is.

To top it off, Fio is frustrated. She was just informed that she entered the same story twice in a writing contest, which gets more tangled every time she tries to straighten it out. And when she was half-way to the post office to mail off an entry to another contest, she suddenly realized she hadn't separated the four copies of the submission by colored paper as required, nor had she included the entry form. Fio is a dunce.

To double top it, Fio is still writhing from the scathing comments of the baby agent who was the final judge of her entry in another contest--the bitch! Yes, Fio is shallow. When anything good happens, she is joyful; when the sun goes behind a cloud, she is down in the dumps. It's as simple as that.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lion Tamer, I Never Knew Ye

According to the Wall Street Journal, Dick Cheney has said that in the waning days of the Bush administration, he advocated a military strike to destroy Iran's nuclear-weapons program, even as President Bush preferred diplomacy.

Hasn't Cheney ever heard of consequences? Does he really think our tanking economy could finance yet another mid-Eastern military front? Does he really think the other Islamic states would stand calmly by while the US invades their region yet agin? Does he really think the US military invasion of Iraq has done more than kill a lot of innocent people and upset the political apple cart? Does he think?

My guess he would have ultimately wanted to take out all the rest of the world and half of the population of the US. In fact, by the end of his term he even wanted to nuke George W.

So now we know that as the circus came to a close, Bush had to spend his time flicking the whip to keep his in-house lion in line. Kudos to George. But now that the cage door is open, the lion is roaring against his master.

The great thing is, he's toothless.

Monday, August 31, 2009

One Hundred Plus

The cattle on the ranch down the way are massed together and motionless under giant oaks, the cedar are dying everywhere, and I'm carrying an extra bottle of water to wet down the steering wheel after I've had to park in the full sun.

Will this summer never be over?

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Spoonful by pureed spoonful I feed him, soon remembering how to turn the spoon just so, to scrape up the extras that didn't quite make it off his lip and get them into his mouth on the next try. Coaxing, cooing. Once a skill is developed, one never forgets it.

Just as I fed my babies, now I feed my father.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Rose by Any Other Name

Romance writers are always looking for a formula, a template, a golden list of do's and don't's that will lead them down the yellow brick road to publishing Oz.

Through the years, Fio has noticed a number of strange pronouncements--such as that an author should never use any dialogue tag other than "said". Apparently a current mark of Cain is the so-called cliche, as in "Let's get down to brass tacks," a figure of speech which Fio used in one of her recent contest entries.

Now, Fio's contest entries have been doing quite well lately so she isn't going to raise a ruckus with the judges, but she will vent a little spleen.

So said, let's get down to brass tacks.

Languages don't work by dictionary definitions alone. Over time, people work out clever ways to say things and they stick to them because these semantic constructions have become part of the language--everyone in the culture understands them. We call these figure of speech "idioms." The line between an idiom and a cliche is very fine. In fact, the line, if it exists, probably devolves down to this: if the figure of speech irritates you, it's a cliche.

I doubt if "Let's get down to brass tacks" was especially irritating. I suspect the situation was more that some conscientious person was trying to apply an unyielding template.

But it is impossible, Fio thinks, to judge the worth of a story by a set of rules. There are certain guideposts along the way, like the lamppost in Narnia, but the author has to figure out the rest of the way herself.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Ten little pills I take each day,
Five white, two orange, one pink, two gray--
To keep me healthy, brain and bod,
Ten little miracles of God.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Reality Confessions

Okay,okay, after her rant of yesterday, Fio admits she watches some reality shows herself, notable the dwarf shows, the one about the Roloffs in Oregon and the one about the newlywed couple in Houston.

But what she enjoys about them is their normalcy. Sure the Roloff boys are hard to get up in the morning, sure Matt is an egomaniac, sure Amy's house is a mess--but Fio's sons were hard to rouse also, and Fio herself is something of an egomaniac, and she'll take Amy's messy house in preference to Kate Gosselin's squeaky clean house any day. Now, sometimes the newlywed dwarves' overabundance of cash is irritating, but Fio enjoys watching how they (especially 3'2" Jen) cope with living in a world too tall for them.

On the other hand, Fio has also been following Toddlers and Tiaras, about which nothing is normal.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Peep Show

That does it! We have become a nation of exhibitionists and voyeurs!

I read in news this morning that the Jackson family will be featured in a "reality" show. Yes, Joe will be making more money off Michael dead than he did alive.

Because we have too many channels and too little programming, our airwaves are full of the travails of Jon and Kate, the sleazy adventures of Hugh Hefner's girls next door, horny men sizing up dates. Have we no taste, no shame? For heaven's sake--our CHILDREN watch TV!

Bring back Leave It to Beaver. It may not have been reality, but it was at least a decent role model.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Questionable Snippets

Why does Michael Jackson's family keep delaying his funeral? Do they think he's gonna rise again?
How long do you think it's gonna be till The Sun runs a story saying that Michael faked his death, that he's actually living in Nova Scotia under a different name?
Have you noticed how the media, which previously delighted in running the most bizarre photos of Jacko they could get, are now using the ones that are more flattering? Think they're afraid he might pull a THRILLER on them?

Monday, August 24, 2009


I've got to tell you something that has me all excited--and a little anxious. That NJ contest I finaled in has asked me for a head shot. I don't have one so tomorrow Husband is going to stand me up against the wall and shoot me--oops, unfortunate wording--and take my picture. But I'm still considering sending a very old picture of myself (so old that I'm young in it) or a picture of my beautiful daughter. Or maybe a picture of Michelle Pfeiffer, whom I'm sure you all have noticed I strongly resemble.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Eye, the Hand

Younger Son and Fio are planning to paint together sometime this week while he is visiting from California, where he is studying at Pasadena's prestigious art college. Yes, in another one of her past lives, Fio painted portraits professionally.

She hasn't painted for years, though, and decided to look over her supplies to make sure she had some decent brushes left--which of course, she didn't, so she'll drive off to Hobby Lobby later this morning to buy whatever is cheap.

Which brings her to her comment for the day. There are some very nice, very expensive brushes on the market, but Fio considers them to be for the tourist trade, wannbes who are just visiting their artistic side. It isn't the brush that's important--it's the artist.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Batten down the hatches--Fiorella has been thinking philosophically again.

This is not the best of all worlds. It is a place of hardship and sorrow, of cruelty and injustice. That is the reason, she thinks, why religions propose a life AFTER death, be it streets of gold, sexual delights, a blending with the universe, or comporting with mythic heroes.

Whatever, it's an escape.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Recently Fiorella confessed to friends Carol and Ashley that it took her three years of YWCA swim classes, at ages six, seven, and eight, to learn how to float on her face. She just couldn't trust the water.

She did get the hang of floating on her back right off, though, but she always had to keep sculling because otherwise her legs would sink lower and lower until she was virtually upright in the water. Apparently even back then her feet were heavier than her head--which gives one pause.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Calling Esther Williams

Fiorella went swimming for the first time in years the other day, in a friend's pool. Well, actually, it was more like she hung onto the side and talked to friend Ashley, who also hung onto the side while they both watched friend Carol, who dived into the deep end and swam a couple of lengths without even breathing hard--but then, it was Carol's pool.

Fiorella doesn't own a standard swimsuit anymore so she put on a pair of red, white, and blue plaid seersucker shorts and a red T-shirt with an American flag on the front of it and called the outfit her drugger--er, Dugger modesty swimsuit.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Can't Take It with You

Dad's hearing aids (two pairs), belt, glasses, and now his false teeth have gone by the wayside in various nursing homes. Now I understand why they say we go out of this world as naked as we came into it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

As Go the Boomers . . . .

Viagra and Cialis, facelifts and anti-aging creams, new treatments for Alzheimer's and familial tremor, hearing aid shops on every corner, older admen on TV, older lovers on TV . . . .

The baby boomers still dominate the national scene.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Choosing Feathers

Fiorella is a nestbuilder. The girl can't help it.

In college, she and Roommate Cornelia designed an African room, with spears constructed by Roommate's brother, dorm chairs recovered in leopardskin print, and bedspreads a coordinated orange. Her nestbuilding since then has encompassed, in turn, a small duplex, a rent home, and three family homes. She's still going strong; however now she's into fireplaces, leather sofas, and Persian carpets.

But Fio's nursing home of the future had better beware. She may revert to spears and leopardskin any second.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


People believe what they want to believe.

Some people insist the Holocaust never happened. Others insist that George W. Bush was the best president ever. Still others say the moon landing was filmed in Arizona.

And Fiorella describes herself as young, slender, and beautiful.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Coming Soon to Your Bookstore

Fio has been reading about Dick Cheney writing a book attacking his former boss.

We used to have a dog that kept attacking Husband--sent him to the emergency room twice, the last time with his hand looking like hamburger. We finally had the dog put down.

Give you any ideas, George?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Night Life

Visited Dad yesterday morning and noticed his current roommate's name was off the door and his bed was all made up. Checking with an aide, I learned Mr. Laurentzen had died over the weekend.

That makes four of them--George the klepto, Joe who never talked, the army hero whose wife and daughter visited, and now the music lover. Daughter's theory is that, during the night, her grandfather has been sucking a vital life force out of them. I think she's been reading too much Twilight. On the other hand, it is odd that Dad, at 95, has outlasted FOUR of them, three of them younger than he..

Maybe he's determined to have a private room.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New TV

Older Son and his wife introduced me to a TV show that is probably familiar to everyone else, but new to me--America's Got Talent! I enjoyed the old-fashioned variety show concept as opposed to American Idol, which showcases only aspiring singers.

Two of the judges are just fine with me, Pierce Morgan and Sharon Osbourne, but I have to turn away from the TV when "The Hoff" comes on. He's over the top. How about replacing him with Paula Abdul?