Friday, December 31, 2010


Fio is endlessly fascinated by the constant stream of slick-paper catalogs that stuff the mailbox every day. Not fascinated by what's IN the catalogs, but by the fact that they actually exist, and apparently prosper.

When Fio was a child, her mother bought a lot of things by mail--the Sears, Roebuck catalog, to be exact. Everyone did. Then the malls proliferated and the catalogs died. Now it's mail-order again, and we all do a lot of ordering on-line.

What's old is new, and what's new is old. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Down to Earth

Fiorella caught a documentary the other night on the thirteenth birthday of the McCaughey septuplets. You remember them, the first set of septuplets to survive infancy. They were all over the news thirteen years ago, but you rarely hear anything about them now. And that's how their parents want it.

Kenny and Bobbi Mccaughey are remarkably well-grounded. He works full-time outside the home, and she works full-time in the home, feeding her family of ten on $300 a month by thrifty grocery shopping, growing all their vegetables, using a meat co-op, and cooking, cooking, cooking. They still attend church, and their kids do too.

Fio's sure they have their ups and downs, but, all in all, the family seems to be healthy, happy, and thriving.

Too bad one can't say that about the Gosselins.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Life as Fio Sees It

It's not just crossword puzzles--Fio also adores jigsaw puzzles. In fact, if she looks a bit bleary-eyed, it's because she's been working on one for two days now during her post-Christmas break.

Jigsaws, to Fio, are representative of life. All the pieces are there; she just has to put them together right. Time, effort, and a good eye--that's all it takes.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Peace in 2011

Brought up in a church that talked more about sin than grace, Fiorella always felt "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others" hanging over her like a cloak of doom.

But the petition is really quite comforting if one thinks of it as a prayer that we all be forgiven our blunders and stupidities even as we forgive others theirs. It's a plea for peace.

Mother was good at that, living in peace. She grew up with her own mother's relatives not speaking to each other for various reasons, but, as an adult, refused to shun people herself, even ones she was mad at.

It's a matter of always leaving the door open. A matter of grace.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Post Christmas

Fio just ate three cookies left over from Christmas, the ones Daughter calls crack cookies because they're so good they're addicting.

You know the ones I mean, those soft sugar cookies that are ubiquitous in the supermarkets and drug stores any time of the year. The ones whose icing and sprinkles vary by the holiday and sports season. The ones that never get hard or crumbly.

Hmmmm . . . . Wonder what sort of chemical actually IS is them?

Sunday, December 26, 2010


As Fiorella told you, she was a little blue just before Christmas. Then, on Christmas Eve, after a little party at the home of Daughter and boyfriend, she and Husband drove off to church with Daughter, Great-nephew, and Brother and wife. The service consisted mostly of carols.

Fio used to have a good voice, but she has been having trouble singing for the past several years, more especially since the open-heart surgery. However, on this year's Christmas Eve she sang--and sang well.

Fio is in ecstasy. Surely, if God cares enough to restore Fio's voice, he will also be generous to those whom she loves.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Winter Dawn

The naked trees define themselves anew
As separate from the slowly lightening sky
And dark clouds fade to gray and then to blue
While one lone brilliant star hangs high.
The sky turns bright, yet deathly cold and chill
But in the winter forest far below,
A single branch moves slightly and is still
As morning's warming blush begins to glow.
Suddenly, through the band of winter trees,
A spark, a glint of gold, a burning fire
Reflects its yellow in the oaks' live leaves,
Escapes the woods' confines, and rises higher.
The sun has risen. Welcome, joyous morn,
For night is dead and Christmas Day is born.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Blue Yule

It's the evening before the day before Christmas, and Fio is a little blue. Where is the picture book Technicolor Christmas season she's always wanted to be part of? The parties and caroling and holiday activities? Why does she receive fewer and fewer cards every year? Where is everyone? Where are the children?

Is this the way it is for everyone, or is it just Fio?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fio's Obsession

Okay, Fio will admit it--she's addicted to crossword puzzles. Which means that when she and Husband packed up for California last weekend, she bought a puzzle book and stuffed it in her carry-on so she wouldn't have to quit cold-turkey.

She worked crosswords in the airport, on the plane, when she couldn't sleep at night, and when plans got scrambled and there was nothing else to do. All in all, it was a forty-two puzzle trip. And when she got home, there were five newspapers awaiting her so she clipped all those puzzles out for a rainy day.

One-across is Fiorella. One-down is fanatic.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Fiorella's sick and tired of pop-up ads on the internet, especially the ones with sound tracks. And of the unremitting stream of sex ads on her e-mail--viagra, penis enhancers, Russian women who want to strike up conversations with her. Not to mention the "replica" watches, discount drugs, Nigerian financial opportunities, and quickie college degrees.

Whatever happened to the promise that computer communication would enlighten and educate the world?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mighty Fio Strikes Again

Even Fiorella is amazed at her super powers. Less than a week in California, and she practically destroyed the place--rain, snow, mudslides. Apparently Fio's mere presence can screw up not only electronics, but also weather.

Just think what might have happened if she'd stayed there a month.

Monday, December 20, 2010

LA in Brief

Her second day in LA, Fiorella nearly destroyed a rabbit-headed, peacock-tailed, angel-winged byzantine ostrich charmingly concocted by Younger Son's friend Pam. Trying to snuggle up to the cutie, Fio bumped it off balance. She grabbed for the neck to stabilize it and the head came off in her hands. Fio was aghast at what she had wrought, but Pam said it was repairable. (Thank you, God.)
Fiorella does not like the protective glass imposed over artwork in museums such as the Norton-Simon. Not only does light glare off the glass, but the barrier muddles the depth. The paintings look flat, dead--dead and embalmed. Fio thinks paintings should be allowed to breathe.
If you haven't gotten an e-mail you were expecting from Fiorella, it's because she seems to be able to receive messages, courtesy of the motel's hook-up, but not to send them. Chalk it up to either Fio's electronics-negating super power or the Rocky Mountains.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Girl in the Swirly Skirt (end)

Finally he got out and raised the hood. Maybe the poor thing had died of old age. A sudden breeze hit him and he shivered.

Reaching into his pocket, he realized his cell phone was still sitting on the kitchen counter in his apartment. There wouldn’t have been anyone to call anyway. It looked like he going to be spending Christmas Eve huddled in his broken-down car in the mall parking lot. He’d never felt so lonely in his life.

A low-slung MX-5 pulled up beside him.
“Need a ride?’

Rem looked up so quickly that he banged his head on the open hood. It was the girl in red again, but this time she was smiling.

“That--that would be great,” he stuttered, rubbing the back of his head.

“It’s the least I can do after giving you such a hard time. I’ll just call my mother to tell her what’s going on.” She reached for her cell phone and unlocked the passenger door. “Hop in.”

He crammed himself into the tiny two-seater and buckled the seatbelt.
“Hi, Mom. It’s me. I’m taking Remington home so I’ll be a little late for dinner. His car won’t start.”

He stared at the girl. “How did you know my full name?”

She laughed, put the car in gear, and headed out of the lot. “Remington Villalobos: tall, blond, chemical engineering major with a radiant smile. You were on my list.”

“Your list?”

“I’m your third mystery shopper.” She stopped at a light and fixed him with her own radiant smile. “I’m Meredith Montano. The mall hired my mother’s firm to ride herd on cart employees, and she asked me to check you out. I was really stinky and you did a great job. You can have a nice Christmas Eve on that hundred dollar bonus I’m about to give you. What are your plans?”

Rem moved his hands in a gesture of futility. “Nothing, really. I’ll just sit around and watch some TV.”

“You’re going to be alone for Christmas Eve?” Horror was in the angel’s voice.

“Well, yeah.

“Just a minute.” Meredith pulled to the curb and got on her cell phone again.

“Mom? Set another place for dinner.” She winked at Rem. “I’m bringing someone special home to meet the family."


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Girl in the Swirly Skirt (continued)

“No, no,” she complained. “It has to be orange.”

“Here’s an orange one that has a soccer ball on the front.”

She grimaced. “I don’t like that one. How about the one with the soccer player on it? Do you have that one in orange?”

“No ma’am, I’m sorry. We’re out of the orange shirt in that design. Maybe after Christmas.”

She glared at him. “That would be a little late, wouldn’t it?”

“Maybe your brother would like a cap,” he suggested, trying to save the sale. “We have several designs available.”

“No, I don’t think so.” She gave him a contemptuous snort, stuck her cute little nose in the air and walked away, her red skirt swirling around her.

Rem blew out his breath. Nasty customers were part of the job, but pretty girls should act pretty too. What a disappointment. His Christmas angel was a devil from hell.

Three customers later, it was time to leave. He locked up, tucked his hat in his pocket, and walked out of the mall into the Christmas Eve darkness.
The weather was a little brisk, but his old Chevy was parked close enough to the door that he didn’t need a jacket. He unlocked the door and slid in, turned the key, lost the engine, then tried again.

And again.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Girl in the Swirly Skirt (continued)

Rem took a few minutes to straighten his stock in preparation for closing. Suddenly, there she was, right in front of him, the girl in the swirly skirt. He waited a couple of minutes, then approached her with a friendly smile. “Looking for something special for tomorrow?”

She didn’t even glance at him. So much for his fatal charm.

“I need a T-shirt for my thirteen-year-old brother,” the girl said, pulling an orange shirt out from the bottom of a pile Rem had just straightened. She glared at the shirt, sneered, then stuffed it back into the wrong display. “Don’t you have, like, anything decent here?”

“Uh, what size does your brother wear?”

“Medium, of course! He’s just thirteen!” she answered, her dark eyes flashing. “Don’t they give you people any training at all?”

Rem told himself to stay calm and professional. Maybe Angel had had a bad day. “What are his interests—sports, computer games, skateboarding?”

The girl looked at him like he was crazy. “What does that matter?”

“Because then I might be able to find something that would work for you.”

She rolled her eyes upward as though trying to locate patience. “He’s into soccer. He lives and breathes soccer.”

“Let’s see what we have.” He walked the girl around to the other side of the cart and presented a shirt for her inspection.



Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Girl in the Swirly Skirt

There she was again, his Christmas angel, the same girl he’d seen yesterday and the day before. A real hottie--slender but curvy, with a cloud of shoulder-length dark hair. Today she was wearing a red dress with a skirt that swirled around her like dancing flame.

Rem watched the girl’s progress down the center of the mall. Probably doing some last minute shopping before an evening of holiday partying.

His own Christmas Eve was going to be spent alone. This was his first year in grad school, his family lived half a continent away, and he hadn’t socialized much. In the long run, he knew the straight A’s were worth it, but right now all he could think of was the pretty girl in the swirly skirt.

He checked his watch. Another half hour and his temp job selling t-shirts would be history. Some of the other carts had already closed, but he was keeping Treasure Chest open till the last minute. The mall management sent mystery shoppers around who could write him up for leaving early.

Rem touched the two gold buttons pinned to the rim of his Santa hat. The third button, the one that would have given him a bonus, had eluded him. One never knew who the mystery shoppers were, but Rem was pretty sure his third one had been the guy who lectured him yesterday about the wages paid to garment workers.

“Garment salesmen aren’t paid much either!” he’d finally told the man, who’d stormed off in a huff.



Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Cool Yule

Sparkling ice is cold and slick, I know,
A driving hazard lurking in the gloom,
And, lovely in the dawn, the pristine snow
Turns to dirty slush by afternoon.
I know the winter winds rush swiftly by,
To chill the hands and chap the scarfless face,
And that the sheep-backed clouds that graze the sky
Will block all travel for the holidays.
But I am tired of the constant glare,
The usual boring sky, banal and blue,
Iced tea, short sleeves, and artificial air,
Last summer and her laggard retinue
Just a little winter, God, I pray--
Just a little frost for Christmas day.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Leave It at Home, Santa

There seems to be a lot of talk about 3-D television lately, but Santa can leave that one in his pack as far as Fiorella is concerned. She doesn't like the feeling of having spears thrown at her or blood gushing out at her. In fact, truth to tell, Fio, who is all too empathetic, prefers a little separation between herself and whatever drama she is watching. In fact, she'd often prefer more distance from her own life.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Looking through the stores this Christmas season, Fiorella has noted that little girls' clothes aren't as slutty as they used to be. In fact, the skirt length of children's dresses is just below the knees, and the dresses themselves seem to reflect an earlier era. Women's clothes too seem more, let us say, "classic".

Maybe the sleazy look had gone about as far as it could go.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

So Big

Today is Younger Son's birthday, and Fio will follow a long-honored family tradition and tell you about the day he was born. Younger Son was two weeks overdue and, we knew, a big baby. So big, in fact, that--well--he got stuck, and Fio was wheeled into the operating room for an emergency C-section. So big, in fact, that the nursery's newborn diapers were too small for him and the nurses had to send out for the next larger size. So big, in fact, that visitors would look their the window at their babies, then say, "And look at THAT one."

Not 7-11, but 11-7. Eleven pounds, seven ounces.

Happy Birthday, big boy!

Saturday, December 11, 2010


The Nutcracker Doll may still be broken, as was the refrain in the recording of Tschaikowsky's ballet that Fiorella heard as a child, but Wendy Dog is in top-notch form. After Husband left for work yesterday morning and before Fio got up, Wendy invaded the pantry, pulled down a bag of walnuts, cracked them open with her mighty Weimaraner teeth, and left a trail of shells throughout the house.

Fio learned what had happened when she walked downstairs and her foot crunched on one of said shells, then another. Even after a thorough brooming, she's still discovering hidden caches.

Fio would punish Wendy with a lump of coal for Christmas, but she'd probably eat that too.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ground Out

Fiorella was quite pleased that she was able to stake her four Christmas deer into the ground firmly this year--you know the kind, twenty bucks (heh heh) apiece at HEB. But apparently their time had come and gone--only two of them would light up, the front end of the stag and the rear end of a doe. And the doe was the only one who would work.

It figures. She's a woman.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

To Help, Not to Rescue

Friend Janece, a psychologist, explained it all to Fio. She says Fiorella is a born rescuer, as indicated by some of her dreams, and that Fio should consider pulling back. Helping is okay, but out-and-out rescuing is not good for Fio or the object of her attentions.

It's like the old Chinese adage--Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

PC vs. Biology

Political correctness has reached the level of absurdity. Recently Fio read that former politico John Edwards "fathered a child WITH his mistress," a physical impossibility and an incorrect idiom. First, it's impossible for a child to have two biological fathers, especially if one of them is a female. Second, a man fathers a child ON his mistress not WITH her.

Which reminds Fio, she often reads or hears of a husband announcing that he and his wife are pregnant. Nice try, guy, but unless you're Schwartzeneggar or trans-gender, that's impossible. SHE is the one who is pregnant. You merely, uhm, fathered the child.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Farewell Matt and Amy. Fiorella will miss the gorgeous photography, the LPA conventions, Jeremy's girlfriends, Zach's soccer games, Molly's good sense, and Jacob's . . . well, Jacob.

She won't miss Matt's ever-increasing megalomania. In the final episode, he railed at the family for not taking care of the house and farm the way he thought they should. Yes, after building a monument to his own glory, Matt wants everyone else to maintain it. But what else did we expect from Matt Roloff? Remember when he set up the international dwarf soccer team in his name, and then, the second his foot hit European soil, scooted off for a fun tour with Jeremy, leaving Amy to pick up the pieces?

The hook for the last episode was that the Roloffs might sell the farm. Actually, Matt was using the threat to manipulate Amy and the kids into take over more responsibility for the monster he's created. It worked, supposedly, because at the end of the episode, Zach and Jer pledged to help more, in addition to their college classes and part-time jobs.

However Fio couldn't help but wonder about Molly and Jacob. Amy kept talking about "the boys" growing up and leaving home, as if the twins are the only kids in the family. Did she and Matt even consider their two youngest when they were prancing around to various mansions they might buy if they sold the farm? Did they really want to uproot Molly and Jacob from their home and school? Fio thinks M and J need to grow up on the farm like their older brothers did. Especially Jacob, the forgotten child who longs so desperately for his brothers' attention, his father's approval, and his mother's notice. Thank goodness Molly is there for him.

As a final note, Fiorella has some advice for Matt. First, see a shrink and get some pills. You're going around the bend. So what if Amy's car splattered oil on the driveway? That happens to driveways all the time--that's what they're there for.

Second, don't expect Jeremy and Zach to follow in your footsteps. Just because you were independent at age twenty doesn't mean they will be. They're in college, which you weren't.

Third, hire a staff. Not just a flunky to do the footwork on your projects, but a couple of maids and a gardener. Don't expect your children to act as your servants.

And a note to Amy: don't get so involved in saving the world that you forget about your two kids still at home.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Blues

Fiorella has always done Christmas up grand decorating-wise. Not a wall, window, door, fireplace, mantel, or table was safe from her. But this year she's lagging a little. Who is there to enjoy and appreciate her creations?

After all, Fiorella, Husband, Older Son and his wife, and Daughter will be celebrating an early Christmas while in California to attend Younger Son's college graduation. And if she gave a party when she and Husband got home, no one would come because she lives too far out.

Maybe next year.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

December Fifth

Mother was the prize of her family, the first one to go to college. After graduating as valedictorian, she became a high school teacher, married a man who didn't drink, and made a safe, secure home for their children.

Her own childhood had been less stable, with the family moving every year or so as her father picked up and lost various jobs. He was an alcoholic, which made life hard.

Mother was determined to give her children a better childhood, and she did. Thank you, Mother, and happy birthday.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Ever-fertile Brain of Fiorella

The ever-fertile brain of Fiorella Plum is stimulated by sleep. Her theory is that sensory deprivation concentrates the brain. She also gets brilliant ideas while driving, which she explains as her subconscious roving while her conscious mind is involved in getting where she is going.

Husband's explanation is that Fio is crazy and that she'd better start paying more attention to what is happening on the road or she's going to send their insurance rates up again.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Royal Engagement

Some critics seem horrified that Prince William will not be marrying a member of the nobility, but Fio thinks the royal family will benefit from the infusion of a little common red blood into the rarefied blue.
Judging by how his sons have turned out, Charles seems to have done a far better job as a father than he ever did as a husband.
Elizabeth must be thanking her lucky stars that Kate has a classic name. Just think what the royal family could have ended up with--Princess October.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hope Blooms

Fio hasn't washed her hair in a week, hasn't fixed dinner for five days, and can't sleep at night because the dialogue keeps running through her head. She's been concentrating on polishing off a manuscript for a big national RWA contest. And when Fio, concentrates, the rest of the world disappears.

It may pay off, it may not. Fio's given her full attention and effort to a number of projects through the years that haven't panned out. But one of these days . . . .

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Real Xmas

I've placed the proper plastic on the door
And wound the newel post with ersatz holly;
I've bought some flavored cookies at the store,
Commanded all the children to be jolly.
I've flocked the tree with simulated snow
And stained the mirror glass with cellophane;
I've stacked some carols on the stereo
And sprayed ice pictures on the windowpane.
I've listen to the store-front Santa's tale;
My duty gifts are underneath the tree;
My hundred slick-faced cards are in the mail
Signed "love" with holiday sincerity.
My halls are decked with manufactured zeal,
But the Christ Child in my Christmas heart is real.