Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cough, Snort, Wheeze

Her dreams are bad,
And when she wakes,
Her throat is raw,
Her left ear aches,
Her mood is cranky
Her brain is soggy
Her body hurting,
Her movement loggy.

As you can guess,
Fiorella's sick,
And she darn well better
Get well quick.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Maternal Eternal

As Fiorella was putting away groceries, she picked up a ten pound bag of birdseed and automatically cradled it in her arms to distribute the weight. Immediately a pang of longing raced through her.

The birdseed felt exactly like a baby in her arms. It's a wonder she didn't start lactating.

Now you know her secret. Fiorella adores babies. She always has, which is a little odd because her mother didn't. "I prefer children when they're older and you can teach them things," Mater explained.

Now Fio likes older children too and thinks teaching them things is nice, but she likes cuddling best. She loves the feel, the warmth, the smell of children in her arms or on her lap or by her side. Physical closeness is just her thing. And what can one do with babies but hold them close?

Fio's children are grown now, but not reproducing; thus Fio is bablyless. So please don't raise your eyebrows if, the next time you're in HEB, you see her pick up a ten-pound bag of birdseed, lift it lovingly to her bosom, and maybe give it a little kiss.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Feral Fiorella

Fiorella was the wild child of the family, as her father once informed her. And she still is. Here's the proof:

She wears red Crocs in public, drives a little two-seater, eats her steak so rare it moos, dangles gypsy hoops from her earlobes, and even moves to the Musak in the supermarket, singing along in harmony if she can find it.

Obviously, Fio is a public menace.


Fiorella, as you've probably already guessed, is obsessed with fires--in their proper place, that is.

Her first childhood home sported a working fireplace which her parents, with a big, coal-eating furnace in the basement, seldom used. Although Fiorella was at the picturebook stage and developed fantasies of a roaring fire sprouting from stacked logs in that space, all she ever saw in it was a few lumps of coal generating weak tonguelicks of flame.

Fiorella's first, second, and third marital homes did not boast fireplaces, even fake ones, but she hit the jackpot on her fourth one, and Husband proudly demonstrated his Scoutmaster skills with one-match fires when the gas jet went out of commission. Fio was in fireplace heaven. She especially loved it when the children gathered on Christmas mornings, claimed their gifts from beneath the tree (stationed next to the fireplace, of course), and opened them on the couch in front of a picturebook fire. Unless, of course, it was eighty degrees outside.

And now, in Fio's fifth house, she has TWO fireplaces, although only one is real. One mustn't push Husband too far. After all, he is also the one who cleans out the ash.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

High Flyin'

Fie on the fly that will not die!

Every day Fiorella swats a single fly into oblivion and the next day another fly buzzes her contemptuously again. Not a couple, not a horde, just one single solitary totally irritating fly. Is it the same fly? Is it a zombie fly? Is Fio cursed by the ghost fly of Christmas Past?

Well, Fio can curse back! Take THAT, you %*&# fly!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Fiorella hates taking pills. More accurately, she hates having to take them, being dependent on them. She would rather swing from vine to vine on her own--high, wide, and handsome,

On the other hand, swallowing little pink, orange, and white tablets is a minor price to pay for better health and relief of pain.

Uhm, while you're up, hon, get me another hydrocodone, will you?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Lime-Green Luck

Two years ago, Younger Son had a bad dream involving a lime green Beetle, and "Beware the lime green Volkswagen!" became a family catchphrase.

Not that Son held it against the brand. In fact, a couple months before he left for college, and with our assistance, he bought a slightly used Beetle with warm seats and a skylight--not lime green, of course, but a nice light blue.

He had a stroke of bad luck a month out when he ran over a cinder block in the middle of a back road one dark night, and, as soon as that was repaired, encountered a shredded truck tire in the inside lane of the highway in broad daylight.

Then the car's motor started dying at irregular intervals. Not only did the extensive repairs not hold, but there were problems with a replacement car rental contract which Son had to go all the way up the Enterprise line to get resolved.

After dumping a small fortune into further repairs, he drove the car to California, where it died completely and has been sunning itself in lonely, immobile splendor in front of his landlord's house for eighteen months. We're still making the payments.

That %*&# car's skin may be blue, but I think its heart is pure lime green.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fat Snippets

I've had a yen for a can of fudge frosting for the past couple of days, but bought myself a bag of Hershey kisses instead. That way, instead of effortlessly spooning down the chocolate, I have to use compensatory calories unwrapping and chewing.
I did the math and discovered that I have to charge eighty dollars to my credit card to earn one dollar off an airplane ticket. Which is exactly like dieting--it takes eighty times more effort to lose a pound than to gain it.
Having spent the first twelve years of my life tall and skinny, I'm always shocked by the the little dumpling who faces me in the mirror every morning--short arms and legs, belly fat, but no hips or rear end. Egad--she's shaped exactly like my mother!
I have no problem dieting--except, of course, when food is involved.
How did I get so big when I'm always spreading myself too thin?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Nursing Home Visit

I am so tempted not to visit him,
This zombie in my father's form.
He does not know me,
He will not miss me,
He is not my father.

But, oh, he is, he is.

Friday, January 23, 2009

To Build a Fire

Fire is surprisingly fragile, which is what I learned one recent morning when I spent half an hour, a long match, two short matches, the stove burner, a candle, and the morning newspaper starting one in the fireplace.

It was below freezing outside and not much warmer inside and, entranced by the idea of pioneer living, I decided to make a fire. Husband, the former Scoutmaster, has it down to a fine art and has shown me how to do it several times so I thought it would be a cinch.

The minute you read those words, you know there's going to be trouble.

I emptied the kindling box and set up a little stack of twigs, then braved the cold outdoors to grab three smaller and one larger log from one of our wood racks. Inside, I placed them appropriately around the firehole, stuck a piece of crumpled newspaper in the middle, and extracted a long match from the box.

The match wouldn't strike so I took it over to the kitchen and lit it from a stove burner, but it went out on my return journey to the fireplace. After due consideration, I took a candle down from the cupboard and, after spilling several drops of wax on the stove top and kitchen floor and nearly burning my thumbs off, got enough drip from the candle to secure it into the holder. Then I lit it from the stove burner and, moving slowly, my eye constantly on the wavering flame, I made it across the room with fire intact.

Why didn't I carry the candle over to the fireplace and light it there with a short match? I don't know. It didn't dawn on me till hours later.

I lit the remaining stem of the original long match from the candle, but it went out the second I thrust it into the fireplace so I tried a blazing twist of newspaper, which stayed lit, but none of the wood caught from it. I tried again, stuffing more shredded newspaper into the breach. Then I wound individual sections of the paper into tight rolls for substance and tore another section into strips to keep the fire going until the wood caught.

Suddenly I realized the room was filling with smoke so the last section of the paper went into making a torch to thrust up the chimney to inspire a proper draft.

Half an hour later the fire was still burning, and I was so proud!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Deer, deer, deer. Kill them or feed them?

Mostly, Husband and I just watch them.

Husband defends deer rights, saying the deer were here before we were. Indeed, our builder told us his crew had to shoo a small herd off the concrete foundation every morning before work could start. And the deer still hang around--to nibble at my red-tipped fotinia and anything else that doesn't have a fence around it.

I don't agree with Husband's argument; after all, he wants to clear off all the cedar even though it too was here first. The reason I vote thumbs up is that deer are a part of nature and, personally, I enjoy watching them and occasionally interacting with them--from from a distance, of course. I'd never touch them. They're not pets and haven't been checked out for lice, ticks, mites, or rabies. And the stags, one of which once tried to confront my car in the driveway, can be dangerous.

But I think deer, as sentient beings, deserve to live. I want to preserve their lives the same way I want to feed Wendy Dog, care for people who are down and out, and make everyone's life better.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Will Mikey Eat It?

Nutrition is in the eye of the beholder. Every time Fiorella turns around, an old villain has been redeemed and a former hero discredited. Thus red wine is in now, red meat is out.

Philosophies of ingestion have flip-flopped again recently and our daily bread is now being analyzed, evaluated and regulated more even than when Fio was growing up, when conscientious mothers carefully balanced all meals according to the food pyramid of the time. In between, when Fio's children were growing up, the idea was that children, if left to themselves, would balance out their own diets so Fio didn't carp at Daughter's about her all-french fry meals.

It sort of worked. Daughter is now an exercise-and-lettuce health nut, stocky son is still stocky, and skinny son, who Fio thought would never gain an ounce, is scheduled for a gastric by-pass in March.

And, left on her own, Fio has developed a taste for fish, something that never figured in her mother's meal plans. Who knew?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fiorella's Flawed Appetite

My mother did her best to prepare well-balanced, nutritional meals. Unfortunately, I disliked (1) all cooked vegetables except corn and potatoes, 2) mixtures, (3) anything red. Many an evening I sat at the dining table after everyone else had finished, the string beans having gone cold before I would finally force down my requisite forkful.

"You'll be sorry," Mother admonished me. "Not eating what other people eat will really handicap you."

My children were also strange eaters, but I declined to fight them and, as time went by, they all managed to develop better palates than their mother. I'm glad for them because Mother was right--it's been hard to explain to various hosts that I don't eat (1) any cooked vegetables except corn and potatoes, (2) mixtures, (3) anything red.

Which hasn't prevented me from developing exactly the same roly-poly belly that my mother had.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Got Milk?

I was brought up drinking milk, which I was assured is Nature's most nearly perfect food. It's a family obsession.

My paternal great-grandfather is supposed to have said that the difference between the Poles and the Galitsians is that when a Pole makes money, he buys a showy horse, but when a Galitsian makes money, he buys a cow so the children can have fresh milk. You can pretty well guess which ethnicity my family claimed. In fact, my father's family was so besotted with the nutritional value of milk that it is still the preferred beverage of not only me, but my five paternal cousins.

I remember once when, at age twenty-five, I was taken out to eat by my parents and ordered a Coke to go with my lunch.

"Honey, don't you mean milk?" my father asked, his eyes sad, his voice solemn.

Hastily I explained I'd learned that restaurant milk never made it to the table cold enough for my taste and was sort of forgiven. Sort of.

He needn't have worried. My calcium level is so high that an osteoporosis test reported my bone density is fourteen percent higher than a woman's half my age. No wonder I've never broken a bone.


Husband found a geode in the dry creekbed on the edge of the property and Fiorella is thrilled. Fio will add the geode to her rock collection, which, in fact, has grown so large that she is not quite sure what to do with it, but which she absolutely refuses to winnow.

Flint is Fio's specialty. It is so basic--fires are made with flint, and thus each piece of flint is a romance to Fio, a connection with bygone, mayhap ancient, peoples. The Tonkawas, or later, the Apaches or Comanches, might have lived along this creek for a while, manufacturing arrowheads and scrapers. Maybe someone older than they, along the line of the Clovis culture, lived here and touched these very same rocks and stones. Maybe some of their DNA still lingers and Fio can soak it up somehow and experience some of their lives--only the best parts of course. Fio does not want to soak up death, destruction, or disease.

She has quite enough of that in her current world, thank-you.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ho-hum Evening at the Palace

Love, Sex, and the IRS was a valiant try, but it didn't quite make it.

Miscasting was part of the problem, probably a continuing one for a small-town civic theater with a limited pool of actors. Thus "Leslie" looked too young and, well, spindly to be making out with the well-developed Kate or the valkyric Connie, and the humor that was supposed to result from a more mature man dressed in women's clothing was only luke-warm. "Leslie" wasn't tall enough either, according to one of the lines in the script.

Also, "Mrs. Trachtman," a Palace regular, needed better direction in order to establish her character as unique, different from other roles in past shows. And her make-up was almost frightening: the red lines hollowing her cheeks on top of the clown white pancake made her look three days dead.

My pet peeve was the use of those stupid-looking mini-mikes that you're not supposed to notice but that stick out like sore thumbs. The Palace is a small theater with good acoustics. Why the microphones?

I also didn't like the tall guy sitting in front of me and obscuring my view, but there's nothing anyone can do about that.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Romeo, Wherefore Art Thou?

Husband and I have a very nice balcony opening off of our bedroom and overlooking our back yard.

I had lots of plans for the balcony--sitting there sipping hot chocolate on chilly mornings, lying on a chaise and reading on lazy summer afternoons, looking out over the railing on magic evenings and watching the stars come out.

We did get as far as equipping the balcony with a charming wrought iron table cum chairs from HEB and a lightweight adjustable chaise lounge from Academy Surplus, but so far no chocolate mornings, literary afternoons, or stargazing evenings.

Husband does wander out there every now and then to breathe a little fresh air, care for the bird feeders, and maintain our wireless weather station, but I myself have been horribly remiss. The most I've ever done is sit at the wrought iron table to apply and remove nail strengthener to avoid asphyxiating myself in the bathroom. Oh, and I did lug my laptop out one mellow afternoon and set up shop on the chaise, but it was hard to balance everything on my belly and a fanciful gust of wind made off with the notes I was writing from, whirling them down into the yard and causing me to go into a Lucille Ball-type frenzy of rushing back inside, dumping the computer on the bed, and shrieking for Husband to save my notes before they landed in the fishpond.

But I still love our balcony. It's the romance of it. Maybe someday a troubadour will appear and serenade me from beneath it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

New England Primer Addendum

Child with disdainful eye,
Regard me kindly ere I die--
You too will grow as old as I.

Your brain will slow, your vision fade,
Your posture stoop, your head be grayed,
Your hearing fail, your sweet voice quake,
Your hip will hitch, your sure hands shake.

Child with disdainful eye,
Regard me kindly when I die--
You too within a grave will lie.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

And Yet More Worse

Now Fiorella will tackle the pater and mater familias of For Better or for Worse, John and Elly.

Retired dentist John, a model train enthusiast, will seem to be settling down into grandfatherhood, but actually he's been coupling on the side rail for while with another type model, one with big headlights and a cute caboose, for whom he will leave his wife. Elly, lonely and desperate, will take up cartooning. The full circle--what else?

A few other characters also need to be given more interesting futures. It will turn out that Gordon's business empire was terribly overextended and he will flee across the border and, ever the entrepreneur, set up a series of chop shops to finance a life of licentious luxury. Lawrence and his partner will break up and duke it out in court over their gardening business and the three Chinese children they have adopted. And April's old friend, Rebecca, becomes part of the Paris-Britney-Lindsey crowd and gets her shaved crotch featured on the Internet.

And you didn't know Canada could be that interesting!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

And More Worse

Having given Elizabeth a soap opera future in the comic strip For Better or for Worse, let's start on her brother, Michael. Lynn Johnston left Michael happily married to Deanna, his grade school sweetheart, with two children and a literary career.

But with the economy being what it is right now, I think Deanna's wealthy father would lose all his money and hurl himself off a bridge somewhere, thus leaving Deanna's meddlesome mother nothing to do but move in with her daughter's family, which would, of course, drive Michael to drink, a common affliction of writers. Like Fitzgerald before him, he'd end up in rented rooms in Hollywood, slugging down the whiskey and eking out a living penning minor screenplays.

Then there's April, the third Patterson child. Johnston left her still in high school and planning to become a veterinarian, but Fio has other ideas in mind. How about having April hitchhike through Canada during the summer before college and end up joining a commune? And what if she meets, Eric, one of her sister's old boyfriends, there and they started making sweet music together? Of course, their relationship would strike a dischord when Eric runs around on her, as he did her sister, and April would have to take off for England, where she would meet Prince Harry. Hmmm--Princess April.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the future of Elly and John, the parents of the family.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Even Worser

Lynn Johnston ended the comic strip For Better or for Worse with Elizabeth Patterson marrying her high school sweetheart, Anthony, which I thought was something of a cop-out, despite the realism of him being divorced with a child. But I know how to fix that.

I suggest killing off Anthony in a horrible automobile accident half-caused by Elizabeth's negligence so that, with stepdaughter in tow, she flees back to the North (remember, For Better or for Worse is a Canadian strip) to ponder her conscience while teaching in a First Nation schoolhouse again. Then she'll fall in love with the Territory doctor and, after a tortured courtship, they will marry. But he will fall through the ice trying to come to her side for the birth of their first child, and she, widowed again, but with two children now, will flee back to Toronto (or wherever it is her family lives) to ponder again.

Then she'll run into her old beau, Warren, whom she will get pregnant by, then marry, then lose when he crashes his helicopter into a mountain somewhere. So she flees to the North again, now with three children to care for.

Eventually she'll be a single mother living in a shoe with so many children she doesn't know what to do.

Hey, I'm good at this! Maybe I should approach a syndicate with my own comic strip.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Far Better and Far Worser

Fiorella is an addict of the newspaper comic strips and, until its recent demise, Lynn Johnston's For Better or for Worse was one of her favorites, although it did get a little sappy toward the end.

Fio liked the way the characters were born, aged, and died, even the dogs, and she liked the way the lives of Johnston's characters resembled real life--always the unexpected, nothing for certain. Given, Fio was a little irritated when Michael wrote his first novel and, without a bit of revision and without even querying the publisher, stuck the whole manuscript in the mail and had it accepted forthwith, but Fio just assumed Johnston did not know any neophyte novelists.

Anyway, Fio misses For Better or for Worse so much that she is dreaming up alternate endings for the characters. Stay tuned for the figments of Fio's fertile imagination.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Okay, Fiorella has screwed everything around. Remember, her computer skills are somewhat lacking, although more than made up for by her spectacular figure and stunning beauty.

Fio tried to move things around so the "New England Primer Addendum" wouldn't come out for a while and she could sneak in a little paean to sleep she wrote that very morning, but it didn't work right (translation--Fio didn't work it right) and "Addendum" came out on the January 10, but labeled January 15. So what you should do is read the entry about sleep, then file "Addendum" in your mind as Fio's January 15 contribution. Got it?

Except that now Fio has written a four part dealie on the comic strip "For Better or for Worse" and the posting date for "Addendum" is now January 16.

Postscript an hour later. Fiorella figured out how to delete "Addendum" for today so it will come out again on January 16. When you see it again, pretend you haven't read it before.

And if you wish to let Fio know what an idiot she is, just use the "comment" option at the bottom of the entry. In fact, she would appreciate responses now and then so she knows that other people else really do exist somewhere out there in the ether.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Singin' in the Mornin'

Fiorella woke up feeling good this morning. She even sang "My best to you this morning" to Husband from the upper landing, which is a miracle because of the wake-up frog which usually prohibits her from even croaking decently right after arising.

There's nothing like a good night's sleep. Handel wrote a charming song about it, which Fiorella, in her salad days, sang beautifully, if she dares say so herself.

O Sleep, why dost thou leave me?
Why they visionary joys remove?
O Sleep, again deceive me,
To my arms restore my wandering love.

Not that Fiorella is bereft of love, but she is sometimes bereft of sleep, and a good night of sleep presages a day of energy, activity, and accomplishment.

Friday, January 9, 2009


Wendy dog, Wendy,
You did not defend me
When the squirrel invasion occurred--
Hungry and eager,
They raided the feeder
And left not a seed for a bird.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Russian Roots

January 8, time to start taking down Christmas. Fiorella always leaves her decorations up later than most, partially because she never finishes decorating till the day before Christmas and wants to enjoy the fruits of her labors a while, and partially because she wants to recognize her father's religious heritage. Yes, Russian Orthodox.

Not that Fio's dad ever paid much attention to Orthodoxy. He flunked out of the church Russian class as soon as he could and never looked back. Acculturation was the name of the game. Of course, Fio, a full generation removed, is fascinated by the roots and even took three years of Russian in college mnogo lyet tomu nazad. So, to everyone who celebrated Christmas on January 7, S Rozhdyestvom Kristovim!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Darn! Just when Fiorella plans on getting all bold and beautiful, the roof starts leaking again. Yes, the flattish roof on the four-year-old house, which was the kind Fio wanted because she is insane.

And Fio is also dealing with the mess she has piled on top of her downstairs desk, which consists of several very important items she really needs to get to one of these days. And then there's the mess piled up on the coffee table in front of her, which she must get to today--or some day soon. And the mess in her study upstairs, which she hopes to get to sometime in this century. On the other hand, she has written two deep, deep poems and another short story so far this month, so all is not lost. Fio does tend to forge ahead to the future rather than tidy up the past.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Embracing Who She Is

Fiorella wasn't planning on a New Year's resolution this year, but one came rushing down on her of its own accord, like Vesuvius exploding. Yes, low bridge, everybody down--Fiorella is going to stop pretending to be normal and will just be herself.

The whole concept is frightening since Fio has spent most of her life trying to act like everyone else, although little pieces of her real self kept squeezing through her fingers like Silly Putty. It's hard to be different, but even harder to be different and pretend to be the same.

Ignoring what other people think and say and do
She'll spread her wings and to her own strange self be true.
Up up, and away!
It's a new day!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Ode to T-Rex

I'm questioning,
O Tyrant King,
If it was worth
Your winged rebirth
To search the skies
When your future lies
In red-striped buckets
And frozen pot pies?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Primeval Appetites

Fiorella is again thinking about the demise of the Neanderthals, although she is convinced she has met quite a few personally in her lifetime.

Maybe it was a disease that the CroMagnons brought in, something like measles or chickenpox, that the Neanderthals had no immunity to.

Or maybe they just tasted like chicken.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Change in Process

Fiorella is endlessly fascinated with the English language.

Remember how you learned in school about words that stay singular in form even when they are plural in meaning? Words like deer and fish? Well, Fiorella's ever-attentive ear has been catching a lot of people talking about seeing "thirteen deers beside the road today" or catching "three fishes in the Pedernales."

On the other hand, Fio's noticed that several words are losing the the final -s in the plural. Just today she heard a woman refer to "two pair of pants." And Husband regularly talks about "two aspirin" or "three Advil."

A related phenomenon is that many people refer to that popular cutting tool as "a scissor," when it is, in fact, plural: "scissors." That situation, I think, results from not understanding that each of the cutting edges is a "scissor" in itself, that together they are "scissors." (The word scissor is probably related to the word scythe.)

Anyway, that's Fiorella's linguistic exploration for the day. She's not going to rail against any of it because language change is natural and unstoppable. Otherwise we'd all still be speaking Ye Olde English.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Speaking of Naked Emperors

Fiorella sees clear, Fiorella speaks true,
Which isn't the smartest thing to do;
She's not the type who gets carried away
By whatever's down the pike today:
Part of a lynch mob she'll never be,
But she just might end up as the lynchee.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

This is going to be the year Fiorella wins the lottery.

She has lots of plans for the money, aside from the obvious plastic surgery. Most important, she'd like to fund a study to find out what's the problem with young people committing to marriage nowadays. I mean, Fio wants grandchildren one of these centuries.

What are your plans?
Wendy Dog as at last happy
We've had her to the vet
And gotten her some happy pills
Yes, Wendy Dog is stoned.

bone, condoned, phoned, honed, loaned, moaned. toned,