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.