Saturday, February 28, 2009


Sometimes I need a sparkly toy,
A trace of hope, a hint of joy,
To make it through the day,
To hold the dark at bay.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Gay Times

I now realize that a number of my teachers, male and female were gay, but then the field of education, has long been receptive to homosexuals. And it certainly did make for dedicated professionals who weren't distracted by their own families. That old maid school teacher may have been visiting Lesbian biker bars on the side, but in the classroom, she was completely focused.

One of the best teachers I ever taught with was gay. We had office hours at the same time, and I remember once, before I got to know her, a handsome, charming young male student came in to talk to her about how advanced he was and how he deserved special consideration, etcetera, etcetera. I wondered if I should say something to her after he left, but decided to keep my mouth shut. Later I realized his unsubtle flirtation had not moved her in the least.

One of the nastiest teachers I ever taught with was gay. He was well-known around campus for favoring male students and giving female students a rough time. Then he became department chairman and gave female teachers a rough time.

I guess it all evens out, slant or straight.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ash Wednesday

When Fiorella attended church for the imposition of ashes, she was feeling all properly contemplative and subdued until the pastor instructed everyone to leave the church without talking. Like Good Friday, he said, Ash Wednesday is a day of silence.

Immediately Fiorella felt the urge to babble in tongues. The truth is, she can't stand to be hushed. In fact, she had to stop attending Good Friday services when she finally realized that nobody else was impelled to sneeze loudly as soon as the injunction of silence was delivered.

Fio was born with rebellion in her blood, of course, but why against silence? Maybe it has to do with needing a constant outlet for all her weird thoughts--now provided by this blog, thank you. And she does like attention.

Or maybe it has to do with her thinking she had killed her great-grandmother--by talking--when she was four, a secret she harbored for thirty-five years until one day she realized how ridiculous it was and began talking about it.

Or maybe it's because silent people are dead people, and Fiorella is very, very alive.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Testosterone Heaven

Now that they're over, Fiorella can weigh in on the Oscars.

Not that she knows anything about Slumdog Millionaire, but she does have a few comments to make about The Dark Knight, whose Oscar loss every red-blooded male in the country still seems to be lamenting. She has a few choice words for Iron Man too, another male fantasy feature. Not exactly sacred cows--more like sacred bulls.

Son insisted we sit down with him and watch Dark Knight, which had generated a lot of good publicity, especially centering around the performance of Heath Ledger, who died of an overdose soon after the movie was wrapped up. Fio's take was that Ledger did a good, albeit rather hammy, job reinventing Joker, but the posthumous editing played him up so much that it put the story out of balance. Dark Knight became a Joker movie rather than a Batman movie. And, a word to the wise--loads of graphic gratuitous violence, including the death of the leading lady, does not a Chinatown make.

Son gave Iron Man to Husband for Christmas so after he (Son, not Husband) returned to college, Fiorella had to sit through that cherry bomb also. The star here was Robert Downey Jr, newly clean and functioning. But, to tell you the truth, I couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about. He looked like a grubby little monkey to me, not quite as tall as his leading lady and certainly not as pretty. And his character's supposed brilliance never rang true--why was it he didn't realize what a babe Gwyneth Paltrow was until he spotted her at an outside event barely wearing a backless dress? In addition, the movie wasn't paced right, sometimes too fast, sometimes too slow. By the end of it, I didn't care whether Iron Man survived or not.

Husband and Son loved them both, but for my money, if you want a great action movie, go to the video store and rent The Terminator. Or just turn on the news as Arnold battles with the California legislature.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Morning with Fio

Fiorella's morning routine is as ritualistic as a Japanese tea ceremony, but much less graceful.

After coming downstairs, she glances at the front page of the Wall Street Journal to see if the feature story is interesting, then turns to the local daily, reading it in order, omitting sports, business, and advertising, of course, and saving the funnies for last, like frosting on a cake. Next she solves the crossword puzzle and the jumble, resorting to pen and paper if the anagrams are having a hard time coming that morning.

Then she opens her trusty laptop and, again in order, checks out the news, the weather, Fiorella, and her e-mail. After that is breakfast, always the same: milk, a cup of spoon-sized shredded wheat, and six pills.

Then she panics. She knows she should be writing--that is her job now--but sometimes she has to lure herself into it, which she is doing at this very moment. If she writes a Fiorella column, her eager fingers will be much more likely to open up her documents file and continue working on the paranormal novella she is currently laboring over.

I mean, writing sex scenes is really a bitch!

Monday, February 23, 2009


When Fiorella's mother made her clean up her room, Fio would pretend she was a French maid wearing a frilly apron and a cute little cap. Now, when she gathers kindling in the woods, she is an ancient Indian woman whose tribe has set up camp down by the creek. And every time she drives the freeway, she decides how she will allocate the lottery money she will surely win someday.

Fio lives in fantasy, a fairer house than prose.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


The dog is more responsive to me
Than he, my father, in his chair,
As, determinedly. he inches on,
Eyes glazed,to only God knows where.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


What Fio wants someone to invent:

1) A single, simple controller to handle all TV functions.

2) A mechanism by which automobile window wipers will automatically and appropriately respond to the amount of rain striking the windshield.

3) A "finder" mechanism which, on demand, will sound an alert as to where car keys, TV controllers, and eyeglasses have hidden themselves away this time.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fiorella, the Old Hag

First an assault on Fiorella's bones and now on her age. Yes. Fiorella has been accused of having one foot in the grave.

It happened at her father's nursing home, which Fio visits every Thursday and Sunday. After bouncing around her cardiologist's office that morning and being pronounced fit as a fiddle, she hopped in her little sports car and sped out to Sagebrook. Fio was feeling extra good because she was wearing one of her smarter-looking outfits, black slacks and a slick red blouse embroidered in black along the yoke.

She strolled into the reception desk to sign the log. The receptionist identified her to another employee as "Nick's sister."

Fio froze into place. "What did you say?"

"I said you're Nick's sister," the woman artlessly repeated.

Fio's face turned to stone and her voice dropped into depths she didn't know it could reach. "This is the third time I have corrected you. I am not Nick's sister. I am his daughter and I'm almost thirty years younger than he is."

The woman started babbling an apology as Fiorella walked down the hall to visit her father. He was asleep, of course, and her heart wasn't in it, so she walked back up the hall and into the first open office door she saw, waited for the woman behind the desk to get off the phone, and complained long and loud. Supposedly the receptionist will be admonished by the nursing home administrator.

But Fio is still upset. Does she really look thirty years older than she is? And how does one get Blue Cross to pay for a face transplant?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Show Me the Bones!

Fiorella has a great deal of pride in her bones. Yes, fifteen years ago, a technician told Fio that she would never get osteoporosis because her bones were fourteen percent denser than those of women half her age. This led to a number of clever remarks from her family about the thickness of Fiorella's skull, but, as the only family member who had never broken a bone, she tossed all comments off as sheer envy.

So it was a bit of a shock a couple of weeks ago when Fio's doctor handed her a lab order for a bone density test. Fio had grown to treasure her extraordinary bone density as her only superpower, and now it was being challenged. Would her bones hold up? Or was Fiorella destined to spend the remaining years of her life with her head cocked forward further than her belly?

The results are in. Despite Fio's diminishing height, her bone density is not in peril. "Within normal range" was the verdict, but Fio wants to see the exact figures, which she suspects will show her as still having extraordinarily dense bones. I mean, all that milk she drinks must be going somewhere.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

In Praise of Odd Logs

Husband and I are not as adept as the supermarket firewood suppliers in forming logs of standard length and appearance. In fact, many of our logs are completely misshapen. I'm watching a hollow log burn in the fireplace right now that looks like the head of a feral hog with mouth agape and flaming tusks. Saffron tongues leap out from under and above, from in front and behind. Its belly is a cave of flame. Maybe there are small Neanderthals inside it, celebrating a mastodon hunt.

Yes, Fio likes the odd logs, the crooked and twisted ones, the crotched ones, the ones with weird angles, the unconventional ones.

But then, as you may have guessed, Fiorella is somewhat unconventional herself.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Hope is a snake that curls within my breast,

A sharp-tongued viper aimed against my heart,

A blood-cold serpent, most unwelcome guest,

That strikes from time to time when I'm off-guard.

Hope is Scaramouche, a clever fool,

A honeyed braggart, slick, a worthless flirt,

A quack deceiver, lord of ridicule,

Who gulls my brain when I am not alert.

Hope is a misshaped bloom, a crooked tree,

Which grows unbidden in my dismal yard,

The soft, sweet fruit of which will poison me

If I desert my post, let down my guard.

But do not slay it--let the villain be;

For murder hope and murder all of me.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lament of the Ice Maiden

Husband made a fire for Fiorella today, maybe our last fire till next winter. He deliberately used some of the more misshapen logs that she loves so much. They make odd, wonderful images in the fireplace and burn at weird angles. Just like, Fiorella, you might say. Just like Fiorella.
Springtime approaches. The trees are budding out and Wendy Dog has been insisting on being let out on the porch lately to bask in the afternoon sun.
Fiorella is not happy about the oncoming season. She was not born for sunny climes. There are untold centuries of ice and snow behind her pale, easily freckling skin. Not only does she freckle, but she burns--a prime target for skin cancer. The heat gets to her too. Fio wilts as the temperature reaches its afternoon zenith. Then, like a vampire, her energy level rises as the hot sun sets. Don't get her wrong--she likes the light, just not the heat.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Blitz of Fun

Friend Marion bestowed upon me a cheer-up gift of a wonderfully entertaining little book called Ignorance is Blitz, a compendium of hilarious student solecisms compiled by Anders Henriksson. I've had to limit myself to three pages at a time because I start laughing so hard that I hover near apoplexy.

Fiorella saw plenty of these mishaps during her college teaching career and enjoyed every one of them. There's something so solid about things being "taken for granite." At first she wrote down the best ones, then decided she was being mean and chucked her list. Now she wonders if it would have bought her fame and fortune.

The spell-check errors we always have with us. For instance, students misspell "definItely" as "definAtely" and the unthinking computer corrects it to "defiantly," which is definitely not what the writer meant at all. And then there is my personal favorite, a sad widow being described as "melon colony."

Other mistakes were carefully thought out by students, like the one who wrote about the "lonely sole." I corrected her to "soul" and she promptly hauled out a dictionary that defined "sole" as being "the only one." I finally retreated to grammar, pointing out "soul" was the noun she wanted, while "sole" was an adjective.

Not that teachers don't screw up sometimes. Friend Paula, who had a student who memorably invited her to "please bare with me," confesses to once thinking "notary public" was a "note of republic" and euthanasia referred to "youth in Asia."

Fio must add one of her own gems: she once described the wooden floor of her home to her late mother-in-law as "parfait."

"I think you mean 'parquet,'" M-in-L said, without batting an eye.

Bless her. But then, she was the one who pronounced "ga-zee-bo" as "gaze-bo" all her life.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

His Valentine

I know that Husband loves me
And here's the reason why:
Early in the morning
When he says good-bye,
He locks the door and sets
The code on the alarm
To keep me, while I'm sleeping,
Snug and safe from harm.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sleaze Factor

It really irritates me when a perfectly good rant target disappears from view.

I'm talking about Robert Rey, Dr. Rey, the sleazedog plastic surgeon who used to be ubiquitous on medical reality shows.

But then, Roberto needed to disappear. When he wasn't cupping his patients' grapefruit-sized breasts and rhapsodizing about what a good job he had done, he was practicing martial arts at the local dojo or touting girdles on the shopping networks.

At first he seemed charming, and he certainly was a looker. But he also was a poser--I mean, BLACK scrubs? And SLEEVELESS? I figured he liked to show off his biceps, but, please! How would you like your your doctor's armpit foliage to be the last thing you focused on as you went under?

I never trusted him. He certainly was away from home a lot. Would his kids have recognized him if he came through the door?

It doesn't matter now. He's given TV a rest for a while. Probably needs time to heal from a facelift courtesy of Dr. Jan Adams.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Dinosaur Ate My Homework

How embarrassing. Fiorella has been misspelling the name of that big dinosaur who ate the man sitting on the Jurassic Park toilet (sort of an Elvis figure, one might say). It has two N's in it, "tyraNNosaurus," and she's been according it just one.

Now she'll have to go back through all her blogs and correct herself.

"Tyrannosaurus" isn't the only word Fio's misspelled in her life. Generally her spelling is reliable, but she shudders to remember the words she has not only misspelled, but forced her poor captive students to misspell. For years she thought there were two R's in "harassed," for instance. And she spelled "renown" as "reknown."

Sometimes Fio lies awake and frets about the errors of her ways. Other times she tells herself that if a few misspellings were the worst things she's ever done, the world is lucky, then sleeps the whole night through.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Speaking of Housework

I see a house with fluted columns and all I can think is that I wouldn't want to have to keep those suckers clean. Yes, one thing Fio insisted on in the current house was no grout in the bathroom.
Twice a month the maid comes, sighs, and goes about setting us straight again. My mother would have sighed the same. She had a place for everything and everything was in its place, but I was born to disorder, to be always in the middle of something messy, or even two or three things. I really should change my ways--hmm--maybe get the maid to come three times a month.
Husband is complicit. When I expressed sympathy for his insomnia one next morning, he asked how I knew he had been up. Well, maybe four kitchen cabinet doors agape, two drawers half open, and an empty milk bottle on the island. Ya think?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Essence of Fiorella

Some people have muses. Fiorella has monsoons. Inspiration hits her like an unrelenting sledgehammer and she writes and writes and writes. One day the laptop is going to sling out strange new connections and attach itself to her navel, a new umbilical.

Nothing there is that is safe from me,
Nothing I hear or read or see--
I am a person of constant ideas,
Usually in overflow,
A veritable Vesuvius of the brain--
Beware, take care--watch out below!

Of course, once I've written everything down, I'll start the housework--whoops, too late, new idea coming down the chute.

Monday, February 9, 2009


We used to have a big Rhodesian Ridgeback-type dog named Hugo. Hugo was a gentleman, even to the household cats, but you'd never know it by his bark, a ferocious, roaring basso.

Hugo's special concern was thunderstorms, from which he dutifully tried to guard the household:

We close the windows and the doors,
Prepare for rain today,
As Hugo banks into the wind
To hold the storm at bay.

Hugo was my special dog, and he knew it.

And I was the one who found him dead before his time in our backyard. His mouth was foaming. There was trouble in the neighborhood at the time and I think he was poisoned.

An ignoble end to a noble spirit.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Optical Conspiracy Theory

In the past six months, Fio has lost three pairs of glasses. Her theory is that they self-destructed.

They were cheap glasses--two pairs for $65--because Fio's eyes won't be fully adjusted from their summer surgery until a full year afterwords and because Fio is cheap. But Fio usually doesn't lose things, especially since nowadays she seldom leaves the house.

Given that the lost spectacles were mostly transparent and thus blended into everything, they shouldn't have disappeared so completely. Unless, of course, they were meant to do so.

Yes, just as appliances are factory-programmed to break down the second the warranty is up, Fio's glasses must have had disappearance built in.

It wasn't her fault.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Fire Superwoman!

Fiorella made a fire today-- on the first try!

Let ranks of silver trumpets blare,
Let all the world admire
First a flicker, then a flare--
Fio has lit a fire!

Of course, fifteen minutes later, it tried to die on her, but Husband came home at the last minute and saved the day.

Some people learn things quickly and are great right off the bat, like some of the girls in Fio's long-ago college horsemanship class. They were prancing their mounts around the ring like old pros while Fio could hardly keep her seat in the saddle. So much for her Walter Farley-inspired dreams of horse-girl communication.

Fiorella, though, has always been a bit of a slow learner, the only recompense being that she also learns extremely well. Yes, once she's got that concept, she can apply it like a son of a gun.

Forget about the equines, but fireplaces of the world, beware: your time is coming!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Purse Snatcher

Wendy Dog stole Fiorella's purse today, the cute little purse made out of a frenzied pink, red and yellow print which has taken the place of the huge black leather satchel Fio used to carry the world around in. With children grown and no papers to grade, her world is much lighter these days.

But the little purse is also more attractive to Wendy because she can lift it off Fio's desk in one quick, furtive move and make off into another room with it before anyone realizes what has happened. Her goal is the nose-wipers stuffed in the side pocket. Yes, Wendy's none-too-secret vice is tissues. Husband, who pooper-scoops the yard at irregular intervals, says she must be keeping Kleenex in business.

Fio realized the purse had been snatched when she discovered her credit cards, auto insurance card, the pill box, three pens, and a twenty-dollar bill on the floor beside her desk. Aware there had been ten more twenties in her purse and a bit concerned that Wendy might have extended her appetite for paper to include folding money, Fiorella searched the house, peering under tables, chairs, and kitchen cabinets, and into dark, obscure corners. Finally she located the purse, in the front room, blending serenely into the colorful Persian carpet. The cash was intact.

Wendy is in the figurative dog house now and the little purse is on a high perch above her reach. All is well in Fiorella's world again.

At least it wasn't as bad as when Fio was talking to a friend on the phone and the resident cat at the time peed in her satchel right in front of her.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Potential Prey

Madly barking, Wendy rushes out to guard

Me from the tousle-tailed invaders of the yard--

Her catching an occasional squirrel would be quite nice

If one ignores the chance of rabies, fleas, or lice.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ghosts of the Past

Fiorella is sorta down today. Sometimes she feels like the locus of all the bad luck in the world. She could quote chapter and verse to you, but prefers not to. In fact, she tries to forget all that has gone before. She also tries not to dream about tomorrow, a sure way to set herself up for disappointment.

Each day as it comes, each day as it comes. And stay busy.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Firemaking III

After an hour of trying, and completely emptying the kindling box, Fiorella finally got a fire going. If she were an Eskimo, her family would have long since frozen to death.

Husband takes fifteen minutes at the most, even with wet wood. On the other hand, whenever Husband has to write down the home phone number, he still has to ask Fio what it is.

I guess we each have our areas of expertise.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Accredidation, Schmaccredidation

Fio has been getting a lot of spam recently advertising the advanced degrees she could get from "prestigious NON-ACCREDITED universities."

Yes, those are the exact words. "Non-accredited" is all in caps, as if it is the most important aspect of the ad. Now, I assume the spammers are not trying to deliberately warn people away, all but specifically stating that any degree from this place is bogus, so what's going on?

My theory is they're trying to catch the same people who get suckered into buying Kevin Trudeau's books, all of which advertise they are providing information which "they" do not want "us" to have. "They," of course, is the government or the doctors or any other establishment group.

So here we have degrees from NON-ACCREDITED non-institutions, which must mean they're better than any degrees from ACCREDITED institutions because they are free from any regulatory restraint. Just like the miracle weight-loss supplements advertised on TV.

And if you're interested in those degrees, might I suggest you also immediately send a check to Fiorella's Fun Fund, a completely non-accredited, unregistered, illegitimate charity. Sock it to the establishment!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Firemaking II

1) Do not open the match box upside down. The matches will fall out.

2) No matter now many sections of the newspaper you use, sometimes the damn fire will not light. (Especially if you use the financial section, which won't light a fire under anything these days.)

3) Blowing on a barely-lit fire to encourage its flame can just as easily put it out.

4) When it comes to starting a fire, third-time-lucky does not mean a thing.

4) You can always turn up the heat or put on a jacket until Husband gets home.