Just in time for Christmas comes a collection of the very best holiday essays from the bestselling Mother/Daughter writing duo. Whether their shopping for matching reindeer dog sweaters or having second helpings of egg nogg, Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella will keep you warm with their humor and heart. So give yourself some holiday cheer in the midst of all the shopping, cooking, wrapping, and baking madness…you deserve to get a little Happy and Merry!
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About the Author
LISA SCOTTOLINE is the New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty novels, including the Rosato&DiNunzio legal thrillers (beginning with Accused). Her standalone novels include Save Me, Don’t Go, and Dirty Blonde. Scottoline has won an Edgar Award and Cosmopolitan magazine’s “Fun Fearless Fiction” Award; multiple Earphones Awards for her nonfiction book recordings; and a “Paving the Way” Award from the University of Pennsylvania. She has served as the president of Mystery Writers of America and teaches a course on justice and fiction at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, her alma mater. She lives in the Philadelphia area.
FRANCESCA SERRITELLA graduated cum laude from Harvard University, where she won the Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize, the Le Baron Russell Briggs Fiction Prize, and the Charles Edmund Horman Prize for her creative writing. She lives in New York with only one dog, so far.
Scottoline and Serritella write a weekly column, “Chick Wit”, for The Philadelphia Inquirer. The columns have been collected in Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog; My Nest Isn't Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space; and Best Friends, Occasional Enemies, among others.
Lisa Scottoline is the New York Times bestselling author of novels including Look Again, Lady Killer, Think Twice, Save Me and Everywhere That Mary Went. She also writes a weekly column, “Chick Wit,” with her daughter Francesca Serritella, for The Philadelphia Inquirer. The columns have been collected in Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog and My Nest Isn’t Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space. She has won an Edgar® Award and Cosmopolitan magazine’s “Fun Fearless Fiction” Award, and she is the president of Mystery Writers of America. She teaches a course on justice and fiction at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, her alma mater. She lives in the Philadelphia area.
FRANCESCA SERRITELLA graduated cum laude from Harvard University, where she won the Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize, the Le Baron Russell Briggs Fiction Prize, and the Charles Edmund Horman Prize for her creative writing. She is working on a novel, and she lives in New York with only one dog, so far. Francesca is the coauthor of I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere But the Pool, Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat? and many others.
Date of Birth:July 1, 1955
Place of Birth:Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Education:B.A., University of Pennsylvania, 1976; J.D., University of Pennsylvania Law School, 1981
Read an Excerpt
Happy and Merry
Seven Heartwarming Holiday Essays
By Lisa Scottoline, Francesca Serritella
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2012 Smart Blonde, LLC, and Francesca Scottoline Serritella
All rights reserved.
Thanksgiving is about family, so I thought I'd ask daughter Francesca for her thoughts about the day. We spend so much time talking to and teaching our children that sometimes it's nice just to ask them what they think, and listen to the answer. So take a minute this Thanksgiving to ask your own baby birds what they think about the day, and listen to whatever they chirp up with.
Because I bet that the thing that you're most thankful for is them.
My family is small. Since it's only my mom and me at home, our Thanksgiving has never been the Martha Stewart production it can be for some other families. My dad's family has Thanksgiving in New York; my grandmother and uncle have Thanksgiving in Miami. My mother and I buy a last-minute turkey, make up some wacky ingredients for a stuffing, and eat together with Frank Sinatra playing in the background and a lot of warm, furry dogs warming our feet. It has always been nice, and I know we're lucky to have each other, but sometimes it has just felt small.
Harry is our neighbor, he's in his eighties, and we got to know him from running into him when we walked our dogs. He used to go for a long walk every day, waving a white handkerchief so cars would see him. He would stop to chat with us, always cheery and warm, even when the late-autumn wind made his nose red and his eyes tear.
A few years ago, my mom invited Harry to our Thanksgiving dinner, and he arrived at four o'clock sharp, wearing a cozy, Icelandic sweater and graciously removing his Irish tweed cap as soon as he came inside. During dinner, my mom asked him about his hobbies, and to be honest, I didn't expect this to be the most thrilling conversation topic. After all, my grandmother's hobbies are crosswords and yelling at my uncle. But Harry's face lit up at the question.
"I'm a Ham!" he said.
We didn't get it.
And with that, Harry turned into a live-wire. He talked about his hobby as a Ham Radio operator, a mode of amateur radio broadcast first popular in the 1920s. Harry told us all about using radio technology while serving in WWII, and we sat, rapt, as he described sending a signal into the air, bouncing it off the stratosphere, and bending it around the earth. He seemed like Merlin, hands waving in the air — his fingers had lost their quiver and his watery eyes were bright and shining.
Well-meaning, but being somewhat of a teenage buzz kill, I asked, "Have you ever tried email? Wouldn't that be easier?"
No, he said. He enjoys the effort — a foreign concept in my wireless Internet, instant-messaging world. Even though ham radios can communicate through voice, he still uses Morse code sometimes, just for the fun of it. Most of all, he enjoys belonging to the community of Hams. "I get to meet people I would never meet. I have friends around the world."
That night, it didn't matter that Harry and I didn't share a last name, or that we didn't share the same relatives or the same nose. That Thanksgiving, he was family. He still is.
What Harry and my mother taught me that Thanksgiving, whether they knew it or not, was that you don't just get your family, you can create your family. We do it all the time without realizing it; we form bonds with the people we work with, live with, learn with. I've felt homesick up at college, but I've also created my own little family of friends at school. I hope all those brave soldiers overseas have found second families in their comrades, people to support and lean on when they're forced to be away from loved ones at home.
These second families don't replace our first one, they just extend it.
It wasn't until that Thanksgiving with Harry that I really got it: there are no rules for what or who makes a family, no limit on love. The holidays especially are a time when we can reach out and say "thank you" to all the people who make up our many families. And sometimes, if you're lucky like me, Thanksgiving can even be a chance to set an extra plate at the table.
Looking out the dining room window, I can barely see Harry's house for the trees. But inside that house is a man who is not alone. There lives a man who is an expert at reaching out to people, whether by angling radio waves around the globe, or by flagging us down on a walk around the block. He has us, he has our other neighbors, he has friends around the world. Even better, we have him.
And for that, I am thankful.CHAPTER 2
We all have so much to do around the holidays, and it can be hard to prioritize. But I have a secret weapon that you might like, too, so I'll fill you in:
My secret weapon is guilt.
I no longer try to free myself from guilt. Instead, I welcome guilt and put it to work for me. I built myself a Guilt-O-Meter with a 1–10 scale, which I consult whenever a task presents itself. If it's a task I'd feel too guilty to ignore, the needle on the Guilt-O-Meter goes to 10, and I do it right away. For example, work scores a 10 on the Guilt-O-Meter, so I work a lot. This is good for my mortgage payments, if not my social life, but whatever. Life is too short to live with guilt. I say, do what your guilt tells you.
On my Guilt-O-Meter, all housework scores between 1 and 3, except for ironing or cleaning my closet, which are both 0. Recycling is a 10, but rinsing the bottles first is a 2. Working out is supposed to be a 9, but it's secretly a 5. Accumulating late fees at the library is a 7, but at the Blockbuster, it's a 2. Why? The former is guilt-inducing, and the latter merely annoying. This isn't about the Merely Annoying-O-Meter.
Of course, you don't have to agree with my scores. Use them as guilt guidelines. Feel free to customize your Guilt-O-Meter.
Pimp your guilt!
My Guilt-O-Meter malfunctions during the holidays because there are too many tasks for its sensitive needle. There's no guilt like Christmas Guilt. Just ask Ebenezer Scrooge. And it's not only Christmas Guilt. I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood, and when my friends told me they got Hanukkah gelt, I thought they said Hanukkah guilt. Now I have Hanukkah Guilt, too.
During the holidays, my Work Guilt conflicts with so many other guilt options. Not-Sending-Out-Greeting-Cards Guilt is a 6. Cat-Hair-in-Scotch-Tape Guilt is a 5. However, Gift-Wrap-Without-Ribbon Guilt is a 0.
Let go of the ribbon thing, people. We can only do so much.
My Guilt-O-Meter failed me recently, and it was all because of the holidays. One morning, I woke up in a paroxysm of Gift Guilt because I hadn't bought a single present yet. A paroxysm is off the Guilt-O-Meter, scoring a 283,949. Paroxysms are usually reserved for Forgetting-Your-Mother's-Birthday Guilt, which I don't have, or Accidentally-Cutting-Your-Dog's-Ear-When-You-Clipped-Her-Fur Guilt, which I do.
Anyway, when I woke up in the paroxysm, I knew I had to get to the mall immediately. I hurried to the bathroom, where I noticed that the toilet flushed too slowly. I needed to get it checked, but calling a plumber scored only a 1 on the Guilt-O-Meter. I made a mental note to call him later, then clean my closet and iron something.
I dressed, hurried downstairs, and got a drink of water. Oddly, the garbage disposal was backing up, so I took another Guilt-O-Meter reading. A broken garbage disposal rated only another 1. I figured I'd call the disposal guy after I called the plumber after I cleaned my closet and ironed something.
So I went to the mall, shopped all day, and bought so many presents that my Gift Guilt fell to 0. My Credit Card Guilt upticked to 3, but that's comfortable for me. I left the mall happy, or in any event, much less guilty.
But when I got home, there was bad news. I'll try not to be disgusting, so I'll just say that the toilet had exploded and my first floor hallway was awash in human waste. I called the plumber and told him what happened, and he asked:
"Is it an emergency?"
Hmmm. I knew why he asked that. Because he was taking a GuiltO-Meter reading of his own, and Exploding-Toilet-on-a-Friday-Night Guilt was only a 2. Especially when it was Somebody-Else's-Toilet-Around-the-Holidays Guilt.
I bet I reached him at the mall.
For a crazy minute I was stricken with Asking-For-Help Guilt. My Guilt-O-Meter needle shot up to 8, and the wimp inside me said, "Lisa, you meanie, you're asking him to work on the weekend."
Then I flipped it.
I work on the weekend, so why shouldn't the plumber? Work = 10. His Guilt-O-Meter was clearly on the fritz. Anyway, I was pretty sure that if you looked up emergency in the dictionary, you'd see a picture of my first floor hallway.
I told the plumber, "You're darn tootin' it's an emergency, buddy." Then I put on my galoshes, grabbed the Clorox and a mop, and started cleaning.
So take a lesson from me. This holiday season, let your guilt be your guide.
Except when it comes to plumbing.CHAPTER 3
Lots of people travel around the holidays, and I'm no exception. I've been driving around like crazy, and if I'm driving, that means I'm getting lost.
Luckily, my car isn't.
I have one of those navigation systems, so my car knows where it is at all times. Yesterday, when I missed the turn for I-95 and found myself in Saddle River, New Jersey, it told me to take two left turns and a right, which set me instantly back on track. It even located me near the rest stop, so I could go to the bathroom. I think it knew I had to go to the bathroom.
In fact, it's so smart it could probably go to the bathroom for me.
Not only that, if I press a button, my navigation system will tell me where all the other rest stops are in New Jersey, so I have a complete array of rest stop options. After all, I may be feeling more Joyce Kilmer than Vince Lombardi.
I love my navigation system very deeply. It's always there for me, wherever I am. It asks nothing of me, but does its job competently and professionally. It even has a cute little accent, of indeterminate origin. And though it's always right, it never says I-told-you-so.
If I could marry my navigation system, I would.
I would even vow to love, honor, and obey it. Because the only times I've gone wrong are when I haven't obeyed my navigation system. In fact, my navigation system is the only thing in the world I will ever obey.
I feel almost as good about my cell phone. The other day I realized that I had forgotten the date of a doctor's appointment, but I didn't have the doctor's phone number to call them and ask. I called 411, but they didn't have the number either, for some reason.
Luckily, my cell phone is smarter than I am.
It remembered that I had called the doctor once before and it kept the number, even though I didn't. So I called the doctor and found out that I had missed my appointment.
If my cell phone had had the appointment, it would have been there.
And now there are cell phones that not only remember your doctor's number, but even have a navigation system. Those cell phones are going to take over the world. I advise you to get one, before it gets you.
My TV is a brainiac, too. I was watching it when all of a sudden a little sign came on the screen, reminding me that I had wanted to record a show that was playing on another channel. Of course, I had totally forgotten that I wanted to record the show, but my TV remembered. Unfortunately, it couldn't remind me why I had wanted to record such a dumb show. But that may be too much to ask of a TV.
Until next year.
Then, our TVs will record shows that we meant to record, but forgot to. And shows that we didn't want to record, but should have. And shows that they don't even make, but they should. Like funny ones.
The other day, I got to thinking about how lucky we are to live in a country in which we are so well taken care of. Our navigation systems, cell phones, and televisions are working hard for us, when we aren't. They have our lives in hand, so we aren't bothered. They ask nothing in return. They don't even resent us when we don't say thank you.
They free us to do what we want to do.
They give us peace of mind.
This holiday, we'll all be giving gifts like crazy, tons of navigation systems, cell phones, and TVs. I'm going to be giving them, too, so my family and friends will always be able to see whatever dumb show they want to see. So they'll be able to talk to whomever they want to talk to, and say what they want to say. And so that no matter where they go, whenever they get lost, they can always find their way back home.
And this holiday, when I give gifts to the people I love, I won't forget for a minute the people serving so far away in Iraq, Afghanistan, and all around the world, who are giving all of us the gift of their very selves.
They do not ask to be thanked, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve to be thanked. They are paying for our gifts with something far more precious than money.
Thank you, soldiers everywhere, this holiday.
We love and appreciate you.
May you find your way home soon.CHAPTER 4
Here's what we don't have anymore that we need, especially during the holiday season: A busy signal.
Do you remember the busy signal? It may still exist, for all I know, but I haven't heard one in ages. It was a horrible beeping noise that you got if you called somebody on the phone, but they were already on the phone talking to somebody else.
This was before voicemail. And before computers. Spanx hadn't yet been invented, and telephones were two empty cans on a cotton string.
Let's slow down and analyze the purpose of the busy signal.
Here's the idea behind it, which is now itself extinct: If you were doing something, you couldn't be doing something else at the same time.
Silly. Quaint. An antique idea. Of course, nowadays we know you can do plenty of things at once. Like driving, drinking coffee, texting, eating a take-out salad, and changing the radio station.
But back then, if you got a busy signal and you wanted to talk to someone, you would have to do something else that no one does nowadays:
You had to wait.
And wait. Then try again, and wait some more.
I like opera, so let me remind you of a scene in Puccini's Madama Butterfly. It's the story of a woman who's waiting for her lover to come home, but he got married to someone else, unbeknownst to her. So she's sitting there, kneeling with their child, both with hands in their laps, waiting for him. The entire opera stops while we, the audience, wait with her, in real time. You actually feel her waiting, and if you want to feel waiting these days, you'll have to buy a ticket to Madama Butterfly. Because nowadays, that's the only place that anybody waits.
Nobody waits anymore, for anything. Waiting was rendered obsolete by multitasking. We do five things at once so nobody has to wait, and now we hate to wait. We're trained to hate to wait. We can't wait. We don't have time. And especially not during the holidays. There's no time.
Peace on Earth, but I gotta go.
I'm that way, now. I buy a gift and can't wait for the salesgirl to go find a box, which is another thing that doesn't exist anymore. You could spend a fortune on a cashmere sweater, and it's guaranteed they'll still ask you if you want a box.
Here's what I want to say: "No way! Why would I need a box, for a Christmas gift? Nah, I'll just take that cashmere sweater and shove it ..."
So instead, I answer, "Yes, thanks, I need a box."
The salesgirl will say nothing, but merely blink.
And I will say, "You see, child, a box is a cardboard thing with a top and bottom. We used to have them in the old days, before menopause."
She will nod to humor me, then say she has to go find a box "in the back."
But I have no time to wait, so I'll take the lovely sweater in a paper bag and grumble. And my gift sweater will turn out as wrinkly as I am, teaching me a lesson.
We're all of us doing too many things at once, especially during the holiday season. So I say, take it slower. Wait for the box. And if they don't have one, go to gift wrap. Guaranteed, in gift wrap, you'll learn to wait.
But flip it.
Enjoy your wait. Breathe it in.
Still your head, and your heart.
This is the time of your life.
Think of it as your own personal busy signal.
And in your head, it will sound like opera.CHAPTER 5
'Twas The Night Before
For Christmas, I got broken pipes.
Let me explain.
Just before the holidays, I went down to the basement.
First mistake, right?
Going down to the basement is asking for trouble.
There was water all over the basement floor. It didn't take a plumber to figure out that one of the overhead pipes was leaking.
Correction. Actually, it did. It took four different workmen to figure out what was leaking, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
I called my plumbing and heating company, and they sent over a plumber, who said I needed a heating guy instead, and next a heating guy came over and said I needed a plumbing guy instead, and then a third guy came over who could do both and told me it would take four thousand dollars to fix my problem, which was a combination of plumbing and heating problems.
That's all I understood, as I stopped listening after the four-thousand-dollar part.
But it had to be fixed, so I said yes, and they put me "on the schedule."
Excerpted from Happy and Merry by Lisa Scottoline, Francesca Serritella. Copyright © 2012 Smart Blonde, LLC, and Francesca Scottoline Serritella. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsThanksgiving (Excerpted from Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog),
Holiday Guilt (Excerpted from Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog),
Thank You (Excerpted from Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog),
Busy Signal (Excerpted from Best Friends, Occasional Enemies),
'Twas the Night Before (Excerpted from Best Friends, Occasional Enemies),
Lisa Hits the Eggnog (Excerpted from Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim),
And Many Happy Returns (Excerpted from Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim),
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