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.