Column Classic: Clipped

By Lisa Scottoline

If you raise your daughter right, eventually she will know more than you.

Which is the good and bad news.

We begin when Daughter Francesca comes home for a visit and finds me engaged in one of my more adorable habits, which is clipping my fingernails over the trashcan in the kitchen.

This would be one of the benefits of being an empty nester. You can do what you want, wherever you want. The house is all yours.


In my case, this means that everything that I should properly do in my bathroom, I do in my kitchen.

Except one thing.


I keep it classy.

Bottom line, I wash my face and brush my teeth in the kitchen. I’m writing on my laptop in the kitchen, right now. My game plan is to live no more than three steps from the refrigerator at any time, which gives you an idea of my priorities.

Anyway, Francesca eyes me with daughterly concern. “What are you doing?”

“Making sure the clippings don’t go all over the floor,” I tell her, clipping away.  Each snip produces a satisfying clik.

“It’s not good for your nails, to clip them that way. You might want to use an emery board.”

I know she learned that from Mother Mary, who carries an emery board everywhere, like a concealed weapon. “I don’t have one.”

“I do, and you can use it.”

“No, thanks.  It’s too much trouble.” I keep clipping. Clik, clik. Hard little half-moons of fingernail fly into the trash. My aim is perfect, and wait’ll I get to my toenails. Then I prop my foot up on the trash can and shoot the clippings into the air. Now that’s entertainment.

She adds, gently, “You clip them kind of short.”

“I know.  So I don’t have to do it so often.”

“But your nails would look so pretty if you let them grow longer.”

“I don’t care enough.”

Francesca looks a little sad. “I could do them for you, Mom. Shape them, polish them. Give you a nice manicure. Look at mine. I do it myself.”

So I look up, and her hands are lovely, with each fingernail nicely shaped and lacquered with a hip, dark polish. It reminds me that I used to do my nails when I was her age. I used to care about my nails, but now I don’t, and I’m not sure why I stopped. Either I’m mature, or slovenly.

“Thanks, but no,” I tell her.

She seems disappointed. It is a known fact that parents will occasionally let their children down, and this will most often occur in the area of personal grooming or bad puns. I’m guilty of only one of these. All of my puns are good.

But to make a long story short, later we decide to go out to dinner, and since it’s a nice night, I put on a pair of peep-toe shoes, which are shoes that reveal what’s now known as toe cleavage, a term I dislike.

If your toe has cleavage, ask your plastic surgeon for a refund.

Anyway, both Francesca and I looked down at unvarnished toenails, newly clipped though they were. I had to acknowledge that it wasn’t a good look.

“I can polish them for you,” she offered, with hope. “I think it they would look better, with these shoes.”

“But we’re late,” I said, and we were.

“It won’t take long.” Francesca reached for the nail polish, and I kicked off the shoes.

“I have an idea. Just do the ones that show.”

“What?” Francesca turned around in surprise, nail polish in hand.

“Do the first three toenails.”

Look, it made sense at the time. The other two toenails didn’t matter, and no one can find my pinky toenail, which has withered away to a sliver, evidently on a diet more successful than mine.

But Francesca eventually prevailed, and did all five toenails.

Like I said, I raised her right.

Copyright © Lisa Scottoline

I’m a Little Teapot

By Lisa Scottoline

Once again, I learned something from Daughter Francesca.

I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be the other way around.

Either she’s a really smart kid or I’m a really dumb mother.

We begin last month, when Francesca had a cold and comes home with a neti pot.

If you’ve never seen a neti pot, it looks like the small pot they serve tea in in restaurants, which is cute.

Except a neti pot is not cute.

This is where it gets disgusting.

If you’re eating, move on.

But if you want to change your life, keep reading.

When Francesca came home, I asked her to show me how to use a neti pot.

So she fills the neti pot with distilled water, puts in a little packet of God knows what, and screws the cap on. Then she inserts the spout of the neti pot into her right nostril, tilts her head to the left over the sink, and pours water up her nose.

You know what comes out her left nostril?

Water and snot.

I almost threw up. It gave me nightmares.

Until I got a cold.

And I bought a neti pot.

And it changed my life.

My sinuses felt clean for the first time ever.

And my cold went away.

Meanwhile I didn’t even know I had sinuses beside my nose.

But my neti pot did.

I get more oxygen now than ever before.

I breathe like a champ.

My sinuses sparkle.

So I’m addicted to my neti pot. I use it every night, whether I need to or not. I can’t even wait until bedtime to clean my sinuses.

It’s sex for middle-aged women.

Meanwhile I barely shower.

I can’t be bothered.

And my hair never gets greasy like it did when I was young and normal.

It’s straw now.

At this point, I’m pretty sure it repels water.

Anyway to return to point, it’s easy to use a neti pot, once you practice.

All you do is stick it up one nostril and start pouring.

At first you’ll feel like you’re waterboarding yourself.

Don’t worry.

You are.

I forgot to mention, you have to keep your mouth open and breathe.

I forget that sometimes at night.

Basically I drown myself before bed.

If you forget the directions, remember the song:

“I’m a little teapot, short and stout.

Here is my handle, here is my spout.

Now stick it up your nose.”

Okay, that’s not the song.

I remember on the show Welcome Back, Kotter, when Vinnie Barbarino used to say “up your nose with a rubber hose.”

My mother always thought that was hysterical.

But that’s exactly what using a neti pot feels like.

It’s like a douche for your nostrils.

Meanwhile, does anyone even douche anymore?

I found a website for, which said that about a fifth of women between fifteen and forty-four still douche.


Why did anybody ever douche?

Way back when, Mother Mary did. She told me that women were supposed to so they were clean down there.


The sinus of the south.

Are you throwing up yet?

I remember there were commercials for douche on TV, telling you in sneaky ways that your vagina was stinky.

But I’m pretty sure it smelled like a vagina.

I checked online, and all the websites I found recommend unanimously that women should not douche.

Your vagina is self-cleaning. Like your oven.

But not like your sinuses.

It reminded me of another memory of my mother, and I have so many I think of them as mommaries.

Mother Mary was in a hospital gown being wheeled into surgery, and when the orderly moved the sheet aside, there was spotting underneath. The orderly hastily covered it up, embarrassed for her.

Mother Mary shrugged. “Don’t worry, it’s rust.”

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2024

Peach Forever

By Lisa Scottoline

There’s something worse than losing a dog.

Losing two dogs.

Which just happened in my family.

But this column isn’t about death, it’s about life.

By way of background, Daughter Francesca lost her wonderful Pip during the holidays. He succumbed to cancer at the age of fifteen, and we were able to be with him at the end, which was blessedly peaceful. And then, unexpectedly, my dog Peach fell ill last week when her kidneys failed, and we were able to be with her at the end of her fourteen years, which was also peaceful.

It was the worst instant replay ever.

But losing both Pip and Peach got me thinking that the sadness over their passing is part-and-parcel of the unique happiness they gave us, as the older generation in our dog family of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Pip, Peach, and the late Little Tony were the older generation, and Pip and Peach were even half-brother and half-sister, having the same father. I still have Peach’s two sons, Boone and Kit.

At two human beings and five dogs, we were outnumbered.

Leg-wise, that’s four to twenty.

Though my legs are hairier.

People say dogs are a member of their family, but in our case, the reverse was true – we were members of their family.

And it was a hoot to watch them relate like a human family.

Peach was the smallest, but she barked nonstop, keeping everyone in line. If she smoked, she could have passed for Mother Mary.

Every night starting at 7:00, she would stand at the window overlooking the backyard and bark until 11:00 at night. The window was in the family room, so it was impossible to watch TV.

Bottom line, there was too much family in the family room.

Most nights I would let her out in the front yard so she could bark at the backyard, and the only thing missing was a side yard so she could bark at the front and the backyards at the same time.

Like stereo agita.

All of this barking kept squirrels, birds, deer, and passing clouds in order.

In fact, I’m pretty sure the world is safe from atomic warfare because of Peach.

And don’t think my neighbors hate me, because they’re too far away to hear.

Even as she got older, she never stopped barking. She had heart issues severe enough for the vet to tell me not to walk her anymore, but she barked forever.

Meanwhile her barking never bothered me.

I have nothing against a woman speaking up.

And she bore two terrific puppies, then got to live with them all her life, a terrific mother from day one. All of her feistiness was reserved for anything or anyone who tried to mess with her puppies. We whelped them in my bedroom, and just once Uncle Little Tony stuck his head in to see what was going on.

Peach got busy.

Mother grizzlies have nothing on mother cavaliers.

And she barely slowed down as she got older, except that she got mitral valve disease, which caused her heart to enlarge.

She was a little dog with a big heart, literally.

She slept on the pillow next to me, and because her heart was too big, I could actually hear it beat at night, in the stillness of my bedroom.

And I could feel its vibration on my pillow.

It was a comforting sound that lulled me to sleep, like nature’s lullaby.

To love a dog, or any animal, is to fully realize what it is to be a human being.

And how connected we are to animals, and honestly to everything in the world.

I have a dog family, but I believe there is a much larger family we all belong to.

That family includes people of kinds, and dogs, and trees, and various bugs and even the sky and the stars.

It was my little dog with the big heart that brought me to that realization, every night from my pillow to the sky entire.

I will miss my little Peach.

But I will always have her with me.

And so will you.

Love each other.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2024