Chick Wit

  • Column Classic: Bizarro Birthdays June 4, 2023

    By Lisa Scottoline

    I just got off the phone with Mother Mary, who’s lost her mind. Or maybe it’s Scottoline birthday madness.

    Let me explain.

    She told me a story that happened to her that day, when she was going outside to do the laundry.

    Yes, you read that right.

    She lives in Miami with brother Frank and she goes outside to do the laundry because they keep their washer and dryer in the backyard.

    This makes no sense to me, but she swears that it’s common in Florida to keep major appliances in the backyard, like shrubs with twenty-year warranties.

    Still, it’s hard for me to believe. I suspect that my mother and brother are redneck Italians.

    But never mind, that’s not the point of the story.

    So Mother Mary is going outside to put in a load of laundry and she sees one of her neighbors, a nice young woman, walking her two-year-old son by the hand. My mother stops to say hello, and the little boy looks up at her with big blue eyes and says:

    “I love you, Mary.”

    So of course my mother melts, because she loves kids, and she even gets choked up telling me on the phone. The whole story is sounding really sweet until she gets to the next part, which is when she asks the mother of the toddler when is his birthday, and the woman answers:

    November 23.

    Okay, means nothing to you, but that’s brother Frank’s birthday.

    And on the phone, my mother tells me: “I looked at that little boy, and I thought he was like Frank. Like he has your brother’s soul.”

    I thought I heard her wrong. “Pardon?”

    “When he said he loved me, I looked into his eyes and I could see his soul, and it was Frank’s soul.”

    “You mean they’re alike?”

    “No, I mean they’re the same.”

    I tried to deal. “You’re kidding, right?”

    “No. I’m telling you, he has the same exact blue eyes as Frank and he was born on the same day. He has Frank’s soul.”

    “Ma, Frank still has his soul. He’s not dead yet.”

    “I know that,” she said, irritably. “They share the same soul.”

    “Ma, that’s crazy.”

    “Sorry, but I know, I can tell. Remember the earthquake?”

    This shuts me up, temporarily. It’s matter of public record that Mother Mary was the only person in Miami to feel an earthquake that took place in Tampa, and the South Florida newspapers even dubbed her Earthquake Mary. Ever since then, she thinks she’s Al Roker, but supernatural.

    She said, “It’s the same soul. Absolutely.”

    “Ma, just because they have the same birthday doesn’t mean they have the same soul.”

    “Hmph. What do you know, about birthdays?”

    She was referring to something I’ll never live down, which happened to me over twenty years ago, when daughter Francesca was three years old. I had taken her in a stroller into an optician’s shop in town, and a man walked through the door, pointed directly at Francesca, and said: “Her birthday is February 6.”

    I was astounded. “How do you know?”

    “I just do.”

    I went home that day and called my mother. “Ma, some guy just guessed that Francesca’s birthday is February 6! Isn’t that amazing?”


    “Why not?”

    “Because her birthday is February 7.”

    I blinked. “It is?”

    “Yes, dummy.”

    Look, I have no idea how it happened, but for the first three years of Francesca’s life, I celebrated her birthday on the wrong day.

    Sue me.

    Maybe it’s because I was in labor for 349,484 hours, so the exact day she was born seemed like a technicality. And since then, it was just she and I celebrating a day earlier, with nobody around to know better.

    So now I can never say anything about birthdays, ever.

    But at least I know where everybody’s soul should be.

    And their washer-dryers, too.

    Copyright Lisa Scottoline

  • Column Classic: Color Me Mine May 28, 2023

    By Lisa Scottoline

    I’m two months from getting the house painted, but I’m already fantasizing about paint colors. If the real estate classifieds are porn, paint chips are a kinky subculture, the S & M of home décor.

    The pain is exquisite.

    My fantasies began when my painter dropped off a big black case that contained huge books of paint chips. I’m not dumb, I’ve seen the paint chips that you get from Home Depot, but I’ve never seen one of these books. Each one weighs about three pounds, and the paint chips are bolted together with a single fastener, so you can slide the chips out to make a circle, like a merry-go-round of color. The painter gave me three books, each with hundreds of pages, and each page has seven paint chips. By my calculation, this equals four billion eleventy-seven gillion different colors.

    It hurts so good.

    In no time, I’m sliding the paint chips out in a circle, the tangerines overlapping the marigolds, the cobalts eclipsing the limes, the pinks complementing the purples, all the colors fanning out from the center, making a 360° fountain of acrylic excitement.

    I had no idea what color I wanted to paint the house, but all of a sudden, the books opened up a spectrograph of chromatic possibilities. The paint chips whirled together like spin art on the boardwalk, and all the colors of the rainbow were mine. I flashed on a childhood filled with Crayola crayons, from the starter eight to the big-girl double-layers of sixty-four. I thought of old-fashioned tins of watercolor paints, with rectangular wells for dirty water. I could paint the house any color I wanted, and the thought made me giddy.

    There was nobody around to exercise good judgment. No saner head to prevail.


    I should point out that there is precedent for my temporary color insanity. After my second divorce, I painted my kitchen the color of vitamin C, merely because nobody could stop me.

    So I gazed at the paint chips and imagined golden shutters against the tan fieldstone of the house. Creamy ivory clapboard in the sunshine. Colonial molding painted classy forest green. Fascia the gentle hue of daffodils. I spent hours looking at the colors in all different kinds of light and made lists of the letters and numbers on each paint chip, a cryptic code that added to its tantalizing mystery. For example, Corinthian White was OC-111.  I looked in vain for the meaning of OC, but the book kept its secrets.

    I even found myself carried away by the names of the colors, some of which were delicious. I imagined shutters of Sharp Cheddar (2017-20). I considered doing the trim in Pale Celery (OC-114) and Carrot Stick (2016-30), low-carb colors. I could finish my molding in Peach Sorbet (2015-40), which was like eating windowsills for dessert.

    Some color names struck an emotional chord, as in True Blue (2066-50), and others were adorable, like Tricycle Red (2000-20). Growing up, I had a red tricycle and a red wagon. I looked for a color named Red Wagon, but there was none. I made a mental note to email Benjamin Moore.

    Still other names made me think of vacations – Caribbean Coast (2065-60), South Beach (2043-50), and Blue Wave (2065-50). But Asbury Sand (2156-40) didn’t look any different from Serengeti Sand (2164-40), and it’s probably easier to get a hotel in Jersey.

    I was bothered by the names that made no sense. What’s a Jeweled Peach (2013-30)? Or Smoke Embers (AC-28)? There’s no such thing as smoke embers. Smoke comes from embers. Anyway, it was a Boring Gray. And between us, Adobe Dust (2175-40) looks suspiciously like the dirt under my bed, which I call Philadelphia Dust

    Still other color names were a little precious. Roasted Sesame Seed (2160-40) isn’t a color, it’s a recipe. Mantis Green (2033-60) is just plain creepy. Dollar Bill Green (2050-30) is for pimps only.

    Some color names confused me. Nantucket Gray (HC-111) is green. Gypsy Love (2085-30) is maroon, which has nothing to do with either Gypsies or Love. Soft Cranberry (2094-40), which should be maroon, is beige. And Milkyway (OC-110) is white like milk, not brown like the candy or black like the galaxy.

    Kelp Forest Green (2043-30) is distinctly unhelpful. Shore House Green (2047-50) begs the question. Cherokee Brick (2082-30) is historically inaccurate. Distant Gray (2124-70) is emotionally unavailable. Amber Waves (2159-40) panders in an election year. There was no Purple Mountains Majesty.

    Other names reveal that whoever thought them up was drunk. There is no other explanation for Perky Peach (2012-50), Springy Peach (2011-60), or Limesickle (2145-50). Maybe they were drinking Moonshine (2140-60).

    By the end, I was supersaturated with color, hues, and tints, dizzy from my myriad paint fantasies. But at least I found the perfect color for the house.


    Copyright Lisa Scottoline

  • Can This Marriage Be Saved? May 21, 2023

    By Lisa Scottoline

    Breaking up is hard to do, especially with a credit card company.

    Our melodrama begins when I’m paying bills and notice a $50.00 balance on a credit card that I hadn’t used in a long time. When I checked the statement, it said that the charge was the annual fee. I was wondering if I needed to pay fifty dollars for a card I didn’t use when I clapped eyes on the interest rate.


    Yes, you read that right. In other words, if I had a balance on the card at any time, they could charge me 30% more than the cost of all the stuff I bought.

    Like a great sale, only in reverse.

    I’m not stingy, but I could get money cheaper from The Mob.

    I read further and saw that the Mafia, er, I mean, the credit card company, could also charge me a late fee of $39.95, which was undoubtedly a fair price for processing the transaction, as I bet their billing department is headed by Albert Einstein.

    So I made a decision.

    I called the customer service number, which was almost impossible to find on the statement, picked up the phone, and as directed, plugged in my 85-digit account number. Of course, as soon as a woman answered the phone, the first question she asked was:

    “What is your account number?”

    I bit my tongue. They all ask this, and I always want to answer, “Why did you have me key it in? To make it harder to call customer service?”

    Perish the thought.

    So I told her I wanted to cancel the card, and her tone stiffened. She said, “May I ask why you wish to close your account?”

    For starters, I told her about the annual fee.

    “Would it make a difference if there were no annual fee?”

    I wanted to answer, Is it that easy to disappear this annual fee, and if so, why do you extort it in the first place? But instead, I said only, “No, because you have a usurious interest rate and late fee.”

    “Will you hold while I transfer you to a Relationship Counselor?”

    I’m not making this up. This is verbatim. You can divorce your hubby easier than you can divorce your VISA card. I said for fun, “Do I have a choice?”

    “Please hold,” she answered, and after a few clicks, a man came on the line.

    “Thanks for patiently waiting,” he purred. His voice was deep and sexy. His accent was indeterminate, but exotic, as if he were from the Country of Love.


    Suffice it to say that the Relationship Counselor got my immediate attention. I was beginning to think we could work on our relationship, and if we met twice a week, we could turn this baby around. He sounded like a combination of Fabio and George Clooney. You know who George Clooney is. If you don’t know who Fabio is, you’re not old enough to read what follows.

     “No problem.” I said. I did not say, What are you wearing?

    “Please let me have your account number,” he breathed, which almost killed the mood.

    So I told him and said that I wanted to cancel my card.

    “I’m sorry to hear that,” he said. He sounded genuinely sad. I wanted to comfort him, and I knew exactly how.

    But I didn’t say that, because it would be inappropriate.

    “I have a suggestion,” he whispered.

    So do I. Sign me up for 5 more cards. You have my number, all 85 digits.

    “We can switch you to the no-fee card.”

    I came to my senses. “Can you switch me to the no-highway-robbery interest rate?”

    “Pardon me?” he asked, but I didn’t repeat it.

    “Thanks, I just want to cancel the card.”

    “I understand. And I respect your decision.”

    He actually said that. I made up the 85 digits part, but the rest is absolutely true.

    I knew what I wanted to say before I hung up. That we’d had a good run, but like a love meteor, we burned too hot, for too short a time.

    Instead I said, “Thanks.”

    Honestly, it’s not me.

    It’s you.

    Copyright Lisa Scottoline

  • Column Classic: Love and Worry May 14, 2023

    By Lisa Scottoline

    I have a scientific theory that the bonds that tie mothers and daughters are love and worry, like the two strands in the double helix of some very twisty DNA.

    In other words, if I love you, I worry about you. And vice versa.

    Let me explain.

    The moment Daughter Francesca was born, I started to love and worry about her. And my worry, like my love, had no bounds. I worried if she was sleeping too much. I worried if she was sleeping too little. Same with crying, nursing, and pooping. If I was breathing, I was loving, and worrying. And my biggest worry, of course, was whether she was breathing. I’m not the only mother who has watched her baby sleeping to see if her chest goes up and down.

    I still do that.

    My theory also applies to grandmothers. Because they’re mothers, too. Just grander.

    Mother Mary worried about Francesca, and all of our conversations back then were consumed with my worries and hers, and together we aimed our laser beams of worry on this hapless infant, which is undoubtedly why she turned out so great.

    Or guilty.

    But that’s not the point, herein.

    The point is that Francesca knows we worried about her. Uh, I mean, we loved her.

    Likewise, I know, in turn, that Mother Mary worries about me. She worries that I work too hard. She worries when I fly. She worries when I drive. She worries when I’m not at home, and even more when I am at home. For example, she worries that I could put too much food on my fork and choke.

    Let me suggest that this last worry isn’t so dumb. You’ve never seen me eat.

    I used to feel guilty that she worried about me, but now I don’t.

    She should worry about me, constantly.

    It proves she loves me.

    I realized this when I understood how much I still worried about Francesca, even though she’s living in New York, on her own. I don’t mean to make her feel guilty, and she shouldn’t. But I can’t help it.

    Motherhood has no expiration date, right?

    And what just happened is that the worry has boomeranged, so that I’m starting to worry about Mother Mary.

    Well, not starting.

    But recently my worry, and my love, has come to the fore, because of Mother Mary’s health. In particular, her nose.

    It’s blue.

    No joke. The last time she came to visit, the first thing that I noticed was that her nose had a distinctly bluish tinge. I told her so, in a nice way, and she told me to shut up.

    But still, I worried, big-time. Her circulation has never been good, due to a lifetime of smoking, but she finally quit at age 82, when she got throat cancer.

    Better late than never.

    Anyway, she beat cancer, which is remarkable enough, but she’s supposed to use oxygen at night, according to her doctor. But she won’t do it. Our conversation today on the phone went like this:

    “Ma, why won’t you use your oxygen?”

    “I don’t like the tube. It smells like popcorn.”

    “So what? Popcorn is good. Who doesn’t like popcorn?”

    “I don’t, and that’s what it smells like, so forget it.”

    “But it’s doctor’s orders, Ma.”

    “The doctor? What does he know?”

    I don’t know where to begin. “Everything?”

    But Mother Mary wouldn’t listen, even though I eventually raised my voice, which is another thing that mothers/daughters do to prove our love.

    If I’m yelling at you, you know I love you.

    Because I want your chest to keep going up and down, whether you’re my daughter or my mother.

    Or whether I’m your daughter or your mother.

    It’s all the same emotion, which is worry.

    Or love!

    So the next time your mother is worried about you, don’t tell her to shut up.

    And don’t feel guilty either.

    Try and understand. She can’t help it. It’s in her DNA.

    Chalk it up to mom genes.

    Copyright Lisa Scottoline

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