All posts by Laura

Laura is Nora Roberts' personal publicist. She can be found on the Nora Roberts and JD Robb Official Fan Pages on Facebook, by Nora's side at book signings, and on the road from her home in Raleigh to Boonsboro every few weeks.

Summer

I’m always torn when the summer solstice arrives. Litha celebrates the brilliance of that longest day, that peak of power and light even as the days after are just a little shorter one by one. So I think we have to appreciate what the full-on summer and that light offer while we have them.

A lot of that, for me, comes from the garden. I spend some time every day I can in that light, with the flowers whether it’s working with them or just admiring.

This past week was–happily–butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard. A brief detour to the dentist for the permanent crown to replace the one that cracked. I had an 8:20 am appointment, got there at 8:15, and was back in my car heading home at 8:35.

You don’t get better than that.

Every day last week after work and workout, I chose a snack out of proteinpromos massive list of ideas high in protein and then took a little walk around with the dogs. Sunshine and flowers–add a glass of wine on the walk, dogs trotting along and that’s a perfect end of the work day for me.

This week, if nothing gets in the way, looks to offer the same.

Ah, summertime.

Yesterday, no work but workout, then gardening gloves and pruners.

Here’s what I saw along the way.

Purple cone flowers starting to pop among the green, green, green.


Begonias flourishing–and what’s left of some nasturtium after cabbage loopers attacked making a gradual comeback.


Monarda, vivid and feathery.


Thriving pots–even most of the ones you see Parker (and it turns out it is primarily Parker) digs in.


Whiskey barrel of coleus and sweet potato plants.


Mystery perennial. Bookstore Janeen gave me a pot of ONE of these from her yard last summer, and didn’t know the name. These sunny pretties have spread like mad. Anybody know what they are?


Snapdragons, lobelia, nasturtiums, basil, lavender, with cardinal flowers and Black-Eyes Susans almost ready to bloom.


My happy little faerie garden, or most of it. Some Solomon Seal and a bleeding heart already bloomed off, ageratum, mini fuchsia, dragon wing begonia. The sweet alyssum in the front doesn’t seem to love it there. I’ll try something else next year.


But a very happy barrel of impatiens.


One of my gardening companions.


More thriving pots on the lower patio.


And tomatoes on the vine, with pepper plants coming right along.


I didn’t think to take a picture of the hydrangeas, but since I didn’t walk back in empty handed, we have a pretty little harvest in the very cool vase Laura gave me.

After my morning workout, I think I’ll grab some clippers and cut more flowers on my walk around with the dogs.

Flowers, inside and out, make summer for me as much as long, sunny days.

Enjoy the light.

Nora

The Boy and the City

Last week we took Logan on a New York City adventure. In a newish tradition I take Kayla or Logan, on alternate years, on a short trip, giving them some fun and focused time. Kayla invariably picks NY, and happily (no plane ride!) Logan wanted NYC this year.

When I take Kayla, it’s a girl trip, but Logan wanted everybody. So we had me and BW, Jason and Kat and Laura as his adventure team. Before we left, Logan had seen a review on https://factschronicle.com/ so he said he was ready to shave.

His priority? Niketown and basketball shoes. Easy to fulfill that particular dream right after arrival and unpacking. It’s a good walk from our hotel, and really good to stretch the legs after the long drive. Logan has very specific taste in bb shoes, knew just the brands he wanted to look for. And since he wouldn’t, like his sister, dive into makeup and clothes, I granted two pair.

Happy boy! I can’t remember the players whose shoes he settled on–Laura probably will–but the guy helping him out was impressed. Apparently he covered his bases and got a pair from a player on each team in the playoffs.  [Note from Laura:  Logan went with a white pair of Kyrie Irving shoes and a blue pair of Kevin Durants.  He alternated them as day and night shoes.]

The guys headed back to the hotel with shoes, and the girls peeled off for . . . makeup and clothes shopping. Kayla has learned at our feet, after all.

Back at the hotel, Laura’s daughter joins us for a big, happy room service dinner. And Logan has people who actually follow basketball (Laura and Jason) to watch the game with. Break that up with some hot tubbing on the roof at halftime, and it’s a good arrival day in the city.

Like Kayla, Logan has a cot in the second-floor parlor. He’s told me it won’t bother him for me to workout there in the morning. So I do, quietly–and it doesn’t.

We also brought the heat. Laura, born on the Ice Planet Hoth, is not pleased. Jason wonders if she’ll melt or just burst into flames. Me? I like the heat. We get plenty of it as we head down to the High Line in the morning. And there, I see an American Smoke Tree (ID’d by Laura, the High Line interactive map and Google) in full bloom. It’s just magical, and I hope to have one for my own.

Smoketree!
Logan and his Nana.

Lunch, then back to the hotel. Logan gets his own Metro Card for the subway.

The boy likes cards, and Kat’s come prepared. Some of the games have very odd rules that can, apparently, change during play. This is no problem for Logan. We cap that off with a round of Reverse Charades–a new game for the boy, and one he’s enthusiastic about.

[Note from Laura: the hotel sent up an extra special chocolate chip cookie cake as a belated birthday surprise on Saturday evening.]

The next day is for Wonder Woman. I can’t say enough about Wonder Woman, and will say little as some reading this may not have seen it. I’ll say this: Go See It! It’s wonderful, hit every note for me. And from the conversation after the movie, hit every note for our entire group.

We walked to the movies–long walk uptown. We wanted to avoid the crush of the Puerto Rican Day parade, and managed that well, then cut through Central Park, got to the theater in plenty of time.

Shorter walk back as the parade’s done, and Logan and I discuss the movie. I want to see it again, and will own it when the DVD’s released. Though more of a Marvel than DC fan (as is the boy) we’re both looking forward to the Justice League, for Wonder Woman particularly.

Laura can talk basketball. I can talk superheros.

Back at the hotel, Laura and I do a Facebook Live chat. Easy, breezy, with cameos from some of the group.

Time for more cards, another round of Reverse Charades. I see these being popular activities during family spa week next month.

The next day is downtown again, and The Flatiron. BW and Logan subway; the rest of us walk. It’s a hot, sunny, gorgeous day. It’s fun to take Logan to my favorite building in NY, and my publisher. It’s great to see my editor and lots of the St. Martin’s Press team–and my agent comes by, too, before she has to head off to a lunch appointment. What I really like to do in NY, is going through the city on those new scooter kopen. It´s a new french model that runs on electricity and goes really fast, so it gets even more exciting on an open road with no cars.

Best for Logan–and always a highlight for me–a trip up to the roof. It’s amazing up there, the views, the feel, the gorgeous architecture. I skip the trip down and down to the boiler room (it’s wonderfully spooky) to hang with my editor awhile.

On top of the Flatiron Building.
The boiler room
A look up the stairwell from ground floor up to the 20th.

Then it’s off to lunch and the fabulous Lombardi’s pizza.

Logan capturing the beauty of his pizza before diving in.

Logan and I ride back, drop my editor back off at work. This 13-year-old boy considers the trip to the roof of The Flatiron his favorite moment so far. Thanks SMP!

I teach him to play Hearts–Jason, Kat, Logan and me. He latches on quick. Pretty sure the bb finals ran that night. Or maybe it was the night before. Whenever they did, he watched them.

Our last full day, at his request, was The Empire State Building. I haven’t been there since my boys were younger than Logan. Getting the group moving took some time, so Laura, Kat and I headed out for a little more shopping. Then it’s the walk down. I point out the NY Public Library. He doesn’t seem all that impressed. LOL.

He says at one point: I can’t even see it (The Empire State).

I say: Look up.

We’re standing on the corner directly across the street.

Our clever Kat’s arranged for fast pass tickets, or whatever they’re called. So, so worth it. We’re whisked along, and into the elevator where I try not to obsess about the numbers going up and up and up. I’m not big on heights.

I’m okay with The Observation Deck as long as I look out and not down, and God knows there’s plenty of air. We circle so we get all the views, and point out buildings. And there’s the roof of The Flatiron where we stood the day before. It’s pretty far down, and that seemed way high enough. But here we are.

On the Observation Deck.

Then up we go again–over 100 floors up. Why does anyone need to be over 100 floors up? I can feel the building sway. Why does anyone want to be 100 floors up and swaying? I’m thrilled when he’s had enough and wants to hit the gift shop. But my system swayed for much longer.

I like that he’s taking his time, being thoughtful over the little gifts he wants to bring back to his family. I approve his choices–well done–and thank God when we ride down to street level.

The sidewalk sways for a while, but eventually steadies.

We have time for a breather after the walk back to the hotel, time to cool off then head out again for the long subway ride to Queen’s and the Mets vs Cubs at Citifield.

I’ve ridden subways countless times, and have never been so packed in. Logan’s nearly as tall as I am now, but I’m pretty much literally around him, with him in front of me, and me holding onto the pole.

If I had to commute this way to work, I’d be unemployed.

It’s a beautiful ball field. There’s nothing quite like a baseball field–that green and brown and white. We’re right behind the first base dugout.

For me, it’s a beautiful, balmy night for baseball, but I wasn’t born on the Ice Planet Hoth. It isn’t such a good night for the Mets. The pitcher gets dinged with a home run in the first inning. He loads the bases (at least one with a base on balls) then walks a run in. Still, I want to see the game, and there’s this guy in the row in front of us who keeps standing up, obviously looking for someone.

It’s a lot worse when his friends arrive. One, a woman, never, never, never stopped talking. Not in a muted conversational voice, but in a loud, thick Queen’s accent. I know all about her recent vacation–ALL about it, including meals. Every day. I know her name’s Pam because the guy who kept standing up keeps talking to her, asking questions. I think one of the guys she came with is her husband, but this other guy has stars in his eyes.

I know about her work week. I know where she parked the car and why.

I wonder why this group didn’t go to a bar to catch up instead of talking through a ball game they obviously have no interest in.

By the fourth inning it’s clear the Mets aren’t likely to come back from this. It’s a rout. By the sixth, Pam has given me a headache. Doesn’t it start to hurt the throat to talk nonstop for a freaking hour? I see Logan’s not so happy–we’ve exchanged glances and rolled eyes over Pam. He tells me he has a headache. I get it.

I give him a Motrin, take a couple myself, and we decide we’ve had enough. I think the score was 11-1 Cubs at that point anyway. We head out, sit in the relative quiet, wait for Laura. It’s tough for her–a Mets fan–to sit through the sad, sad game. The others are going to tough it out, but at Logan’s request, the three of us Uber back to the hotel.

Before the first pitch, when Laura’s hopes were still high.

Logan settles down with the season final of The Flash on his phone. I have a very large drink.

When the others get back, they report a final of 14-3.

Bedtime.

Say goodbye to Laura in the morning, who’s heading off to visit a pal on the way home. Pack up, organize. Check the space a half a dozen times. And we’re on our way home.

I asked Logan for his favorite thing on the trip. The roof of The Flatiron remains his number one, closely followed by Wonder Woman.

When we get home, Kayla comes up, and before I’m unpacked, he’s got her playing one of Kat’s card games. I’d say cards ranked high as well.

My best? Experiencing the city through a 13-year-old boy’s point of view. We had some serious fun–despite the chatty Pam–from start to finish.

The Logan Adventure Squad.

Nora

Mid-year In Death updates

St. Martin’s Press continues to wow us with another fabulous cover reveal video for January 2018’s Dark in Death:

Pre-order links are up in most places — I’ll add Turn the Page as soon as I can.

Amazon
Kindle
B&N
Nook
iBooks
BAM

What about Secrets in Death — out September 5 — you ask?  Well the exclusive excerpt will be in the upcoming Nora’s News (you can subscribe in the box at the bottom of each page of the website). In the meantime you can pre-order from your favorite retailers:

Turn the Page
Amazon
Kindle
B&N
Nook
BAM
iBooks

Laura

In and Out

It rained a lot last week, and though the gray gets tiresome, I had a full week without leaving the house. Full work days without: Crap, I have to do this or go there.

That, for me, was pretty much heaven.

We did have a visitor one morning. BW found this stunned mourning dove–and afraid the dogs might go to town on it, brought it in to show me. Before he started back down, the dove pulled itself together, started to flap. So out it went, safe and sound.

And I broke a stupid crown, somehow or other.

Now, I’ll call the dentist office first thing in the morning, right before I leave for Kat’s birthday shopping trip and slumber party. We’ll see if the dentist can squeeze me in after that, and before we leave on Friday for Logan’s Excellent New York adventure.

Can’t believe my guy is thirteen.

So a crazy week coming after heaven, but much fun in there. Likely two more stints in the dentist chair, but what can you do?

After the week of work, workouts and rain, we had the sun shine for us on Saturday for the signing at Turn The Page. To my recollection, it’s the first time we’ve done a June signing, but Come Sundown’s hit the shelves, so we worked one in. We’ll still have our traditional anniversary signing in July, with the Fall Into The Story Brunch on the Sunday following the signing.

But for this past one, we had sunshine and nice temperatures–and an unexpected power outage in Boonsboro. That was interesting, and fortunately only lasted about an hour. The readers, authors and staff handled it all with patience and good humor.

Laura and I did a little Facebook Live chat–just a couple minutes, before everything got going. Maybe we’ll do another one when we’re in New York. Logan’s main wish is a trip to the Nike Store–the boy does love basketball shoes–but we also have tickets for a ballgame, plans to take him down to The Flatiron, maybe take a stroll on the Highline, eat pizza–and just give him a fun, Logan-centric time in the big city.

I need to pack for our Kat-centric overnight (Girl Fun!), but I treated myself to a walk around the gardens–without the work this weekend as I have too much else to see to–and clearly the flowers enjoyed all that rain.

Dianthus and lobelia
Impatiens in the barrel
First tomato!
Johnny-Jump-Ups pushing through one of the walkways

I expect I’ll be in the dentist chair one day this week, then it’s pack for Logan’s trip–with, I hope, at least a little writing time in there.

Nora

Fun, Family and Females

It turned into a busy week at and away from the keyboard. Away started Thursday when BW and I joined the crowd at Boonsboro High School for the Track and Field Regionals. Our Kayla ran in the 4×800 relay and the 3200.
 
We almost missed her first race as they started a little early AND had the meet going right before school let out. Boonsboro campus includes elementary, middle and high schools. Parking was a challenge with parents and busses waiting for kids, lots loaded with cars for the meet and so on.
 
But we got to the fence and saw our girl running her leg–for a personal best. And the win goes to Boonsboro! It was very exciting becasue the first place won a motorized scooters for children.
Post race
 A little break in the action during a downpour that interrupted my kind of day–hot and sunny. But the sun came back.
 
I love watching these kids, the focus and dedication, the teamwork, the fun along with the work and training. And it’s rewarding to hear the stands cheer and call out encouragement, no matter the team.
 
The 3200–two miles, and that’s eight times around the track–requires endurance, speed and strategy. Our girl has all three, places fourth and qualifies for States. You go, Kayla! The girl’s only a Freshman, finishing her first season as a runner, and she’ll represent her school and her team in States this week. Obviously, Nana is stupid proud.
 
I want to say a little something about the girl who placed first. She is a bullet. I’d seen her run another race and marveled. I don’t remember her name or the school she runs for, but kudos to her. She crossed the finish way, way ahead of the rest. Just sailed.
 
And Boonsboro, both the boys and the girls, win Regionals.
 
Another shortened work day for me on Thursday as it’s Girls Night Out in Boonsboro. It’s always a fun time, and the pretty weather makes it even better. At TTP there’s champagne and snacks, and cupcakes from the soon-to-open new bakery across the street. Mmmm.
 
It’s easy fun, hanging out with girls, doing a little shopping, showing off and signing copies of the Inn BoonsBoro Cookbook–and Kat’s there, too, so even better. This twice-a-year event has become a highlight. I love seeing the groups of women who come together, those who plan well in advance and book rooms at the inn to make it an overnight party. We even had a woman from Australia who’d come to stay at the inn with her husband on their American tour. She’d found out about the event from another guest, and extended her stay so she could come. What fun!
 
Friday’s back to work.
 
And Saturday’s for mostly indoor chores–they sure do accumulate during the work week. But I did carve out some outdoor time for a walk around the garden, to gather some flowers. The weather’s gone cool and cloudy. I have to turn on the heat in the gym to knock the chill off. Jeez.
 
 
Sunday’s a big treat. We drive to Jason’s and Kat’s for dinner. We haven’t been there since they finished their kitchen/great room addition. It’s just fabulous. I have some serious pantry envy. Jason’s made red sauce, and Kat’s made meatballs. Yum. While that’s simmering we walk around their big yard–and watch the deer come to play in the far back of it. We hang out in their gorgeous new kitchen, talk about ideas for how to turn what had been their dining room into a library.
 
And then we make pasta! Or Kat makes the pasta dough, and we take turns running it through the pasta machine. This is ridiculously entertaining.
 
Plus delicious. We have a wonderful meal in their happy, welcoming new space–and take home leftovers. Woo!
 
We can’t stay late as I have a dentist appointment first thing Monday morning, but have a really lovely day. It’s pretty rewarding for a mom to see her kids (they’re both MINE!) so happy as they make such a warm, welcoming home.
 
Monday? I get an A plus on oral hygiene. And still have two tiny cavities. Back in the chair on Wednesday, damn it. I’m not nearly as annoyed by the actual dental work as I am being pulled away from the keyboard in the middle of my work week.
 
Oh well. Better get to work and make up for it.
Nora

At Home

It’s my first full weekend home in about a month, and I’m very happy to be here.

Yesterday, in the middle of May, I turned the fireplace on and made soup–such was the chilly, rainy Saturday. But I like making soup (potato and ham at Kat’s request), and the fire added cheer.

I also had to address the matter of dealing with an incredible amount of stuff that needed putting away. This is a usual weekend task, but due to losing weekends, going here and there, coming back with more than I left with, the amount of stuff grew, grew, grew.

Plus I had a photo shoot on Thursday, which means a day of hair and makeup, a prep day of figuring out wardrobe. We had fun with it. Laura tried a little Facebook live, and that added more fun.

It takes a team…
and a lot of physical labor.

But then, all THAT stuff had to be put away, too.

On the other hand as BW, Laura and our helpful Kat, were in Boonsboro at Green Fest helping out, I had many solitary hours to accomplish it all. Plus, Thor and then The Avengers happened to be on TV, and if you’ve got to haul, carry, toss, organize, it might as be with superheroes for company.

The sun came out for about twenty seconds so I had a walk around with the dogs in there.

Adding all this domesticity to my Saturday morning workout meant ending the day with more than 20,000 steps.

Whew. (But I’m catching up with Jason who’s currently kicking my butt in Fitbit standings.)

Before the end of the day, BW and Kat arrive, tired but happy. A long day for all of us, but we have the little salad I made, the soup, and a nice round of fresh sour dough bread. And I get to hang out with my girl awhile.

Sunday’s a whole different ballgame. Once the workout’s in the bag, I can head out to the garden. I need a light jacket, but it’s sunny, at last, at last. I weed. I yell at the dogs when I discover they’ve been up and digging in a part of my beds. Parker and Atticus slink away, as they damn well should.

BW and I stake the tomatoes, and he yells at the dogs when he finds they’ve dug up a drainage pipe.

We recently had one of the guestrooms repainted, which meant everything had to come off the shelves and off the walls. I dealt with the shelf stuff during Saturday chores, so attack the walls. I know not everything that was up’s going back. Some I’m taking outside. I like outdoor art. It’s fun–if a lot more steps–to take a piece around, find where it can go, choose another, do the same.

Picking the spot’s my job. Making it so’s going to be BW’s.

I’m ridiculously happy to have all the damn boxes out of my living room.

And happy to wander, sans jacket now, around the gardens taking pictures. My peonies have started to open, like a Mother’s Day gift.

My mother loved peonies (I pronounce it like she did–Pee-O-Nees), so I think of her when I take a deep sniff.

My faerie garden’s exactly right, roses and yellow flags are starting a show out by the water feature. I have dianthus madly blooming, and much, much more. My poor basil is sad after so much wet, cool weather, but I’m hoping it perks up as the rest of the herbs are doing just fine.

Faerie garden
Water Feature

BW gave me the cute yoga frogs, and the lovely reading girl for Mother’s Day. They look happy where they’re now planted.

Yoga Frogs
Reading girl

My pots (yell at dogs again when I discover they’ve dug out a plant from one) are full and colorful. My clematis is pure glory.

Now, I’m about to go out and point so BW can hang things where I want them, then I believe I’m going to sit around with a book or a movie.

It’s Mother’s Day, after all, and I qualify!

To all moms out there, I hope you have a lovely day, as lovely as a peony opening in the sun.

Nora

 

Fun and Freezing in Kentucky

Our three days of Derby are always a whirlwind of fun. Sometimes the weather cooperates, sometimes there’s some rain, or chill. This time around May decided to revisit March.

This demanded a change of wardrobe here and there. The easy-breezy summer dress and sandals for our traditional girl day while the boys are at the Oaks? Nope. Rethink that with a warmer dress, jacket, hose (I hate cold legs!) and booties. The hose and booties to be put on an hour or so post-pedicure in the ladies room of the restaurant where we have lunch.

Anyway, it’s all too much fun to whine (much).

This year we took our pals Bill and Nicole for their first Derby experience. It’s just more fun to see the whole amazing and marathon party through new eyes.

Flight’s pretty quick and easy, and we’re met by the fabulous Kathy and the fantastic Brian, whisked off to lunch and libation–in the rain. Then it’s off to the hotel to hang out, unpack, have another libation because, hey, it’s Derby. And Kathy brought bourbon–hey, it’s Kentucky–for the gentlemen.

Time to change it up for Club Night. My party shoes stayed home in lieu of booties. This year’s venue is a museum, just blocks from the hotel and it’s awesome. Before we head up to the party, our group tours the Hunger Games exhibit. The costumes! Holy Mockingjay! Just amazing and spectacular. BW has a crush on Jennifer Lawrence. Since I do, too, I can’t blame him.

Ready for Club Night!

The exhibit is really excellent, so those of you in and around Louisville shouldn’t miss it.

Then it’s party time. It’s always great to see our Derby family, those people we share this experience with year after year. We can nibble and drink and chat and catch up. Then we can dance!

We do it all, head back to the hotel–in the rain.

BW and Bill, Oaks bound

On the chilly, rain-soaked Friday morning our men dude it up for Oaks, and look hot and handsome. While they bet, bet, bet, Kathy, Nicole and I head off to City Nails for mani/pedis. I’m still hoping to wear my cute Derby shoes so get my toes painted to match my Derby dress. My nail tech performed a miracle on my fingers and toes–both in sad shape from bare feet and gardening.

Off to lunch–shivering–change from flip-flops to booties. Let’s have some champagne!

Lunch is lovely. The weather is windy and rainy. More shivering in the dash to the car, then it’s off to Rodes for some shopping.

Kathy happened to drop by Rodes a few days before, and consulted with my usual sales person, Beth. They put aside a suede-y, trench-coat-y topper they both thought I’d like.

I loved. And more than that it’s just the right warmth and weight for March in May. Thanks, Beth!

More shopping, and as is tradition my rep in the men’s department has shoes in for BW’s Father’s Day gift. (His size 14 feet are a challenge.) She shows me her favorite, and she’s nailed it. My fave, too. Father’s Day is in the bag.

More shopping for me, and for Nicole, and I find a hat I like so much better than the one I brought with me. New hat for Derby!

Back to the hotel through the wind and rain.

Time for hair, courtesy of Sarah. Makeup, glam outfits. More girl time on a fine girl day.

Men come back. I should add it poured–seriously poured rain all day. Bill apparently had little luck. BW had some. And then as we’re all doing the glam it up, the Oaks race comes on TV. BW hit the winner. So he’ll start his Derby Day ahead of the game.

Finish getting fancy. Aren’t we pretty!

BW, Nora, Bill, Nicole, Kathy glammed up and ready for the Gala

Brian escorts us down to the gala, and I’m grateful we don’t have to go outside.

I’m not so much a gala person in my actual life, but I love this event. It has that energy and excitement that’s Derby, it’s for a wonderful cause in Blessings In A Backpack. And everyone looks so pretty and happy. BW and I do the Red Carpet, then I head straight for one of my favorite parts of the night. The Silent Auction display. Oh yeah, I see some stuff to bid on–don’t forget that most excellent cause. I have the app on my phone, and I know how to use it.

On the Red Carpet

As always the York Sisters who handle the myriad of details involved in these handful of days have done a fabulous job. The ballroom is gorgeous. We have a fun table with our pals–from home and Kentucky. We have the stupendous John Elefante (Kansas) performing (and he and his lovely wife will be at our table for Derby). We have the also stupendous Wally Palmar (Romantics) performing (and also at our Derby table with his lovely wife!)

I’m busy pushing up the bidding on my chosen items (good cause).

There’s the photo booth–pick your props and mug. Which reminds me I have to go on line and order a few of my favorites.

 

Fun and more fun–and I make a nice haul (for a good cause) from the auction.

Time for bed.

I get up early on Derby Day, and learn–according to the news–it’s the coldest Derby morning since 1984. So much for the cute Derby shoes. It’s back to booties–and thank God for that new topper.

Cold or no cold, rain or no rain, we all look Derby polished.

We go early–BW and I like to BE there. Brian drives us through the rain, the traffic, and drops us off at the Red Carpet entrance. It’s not ready for celebs yet, but we can use that route–cut off some of the rain walk.

Then we’re up to Millionaire’s Row, and I do what I always do. Head straight out on the terrace. Even on a rain-spattered day, the Downs is glorious. But we’re in time to bet the next race!

Nicole and Nora
BW, Nicole, Bill, Nora
The lovely couple

Bet, lose a little. Hey the sun’s sort of out, so that’s a win. Outside to absorb, to look at hats and horses. Take advantage of the beautiful buffet, and the champagne our pals and Derby waitresses deliver to the table.

More people coming in, more hugs and Happy Derbys. More betting, more hats and horses. I pick a horse–I go by a name that strikes me, or a gray, or some other unscientific method. I do an across the board bet, and he comes in for me. Fairly long odds, so it’s a very fine return. Flap that cash!

Our table mates are here, and it’s so much fun to see them, to meet Wally and his wife.

The day goes by so fast–but the sun did indeed come out. It’s wonderful to stand outside (still cool!) in sunshine. And before you know it, it’s time to place those Derby bets.

I have a list that includes kids and grandkids and my own picks. I didn’t know at that time one of our Derby pals had asked BW if he wanted to kick a hundred dollars into their superfecta pool. 12 years running without a win, but you gotta bet.

Excitement’s building. So much noise, color, movement. I feel so lucky to be here, to be part of it.

A tradition, even in the rain

People crowd out on the terrace, and it’s that My Old Kentucky Home moment. It just grabs my heart every single time.

Those beautiful horses on the track, the colorful silks, the red of the roses, an infield full of people. Nothing like it.

Into the gate, excitement building. And they’re off.

I see quickly my big (relatively) bet isn’t going to pay off as my horse pulls up. Turns out it was a saddle or girth issue. But really, who cares. It’s stunning. That wall of sound, the incredible athleticism of horse and rider. For two minutes that’s the whole world. Coming down the back stretch, number five (Always Dreaming) has the lead. I don’t have a penny on him, but I’m cheering him home anyway.

And for our thirteenth time, we see the winner cross the finish line below. None of my list showed, but that’s Derby.

The Winner!

Moments later, there’s an absolute explosion of cheers and shouts from behind me. I see people I know jumping up and down, swinging each other around, high-fiving. Basically going nuts.

The pool hit the superfecta.

It’s a whole big pile of money to be split, but honestly, it’s the win. It’s that moment of holy shit, we did it. And I find out BW’s in on it.

Right then and there, one of our happy group goes down on one knee and proposes to his lady. Wow!

Good thing she said yes!

It’s so adorable, so sweet, and since he doesn’t have a ring, the clever Nicole takes little bits from her fascinator and makes one for the bride-to-be.

Foil from champagne bottle, bling from hat.

That’s our Derby family.

Tickets cashed in, taxes sliced off, and the net divided up into individual envelopes. We have a little ceremony as they’re handed out. It’s a most excellent return on $100, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. But it really is the camaraderie, that moment of whee!!

We all say our goodbyes flushed with that moment. We give the newly engaged couple a ride back to the hotel, and that extends the fun just a little longer.

Back to the four of us, we get some room service, and since even party-animal BW is too tired for the after events, fall into bed.

Sunday’s sunny, of course, and a little warmer. Brian and Kathy haul us–and the considerable we picked up along the way–back to the airport. We’ll just finish this spectacular weekend with some mimosas on the short flight home.

Weather be damned. There’s nothing like Derby.

Nora

A True and Accurate Report

Throughout the magnificence of girl spa week, I read Laura’s diary with amusement, and not a little pity. Our resident Cranky Publicist and game-hater tolerates much enforced fun. I found myself pleased (as her ‘friend’) she embraced the release and comfort of a diary to express her emotional distress.

Without that release and comfort I fear I may have found her one quiet morning clutching the Wii remote, gibbering at the scoreboard while she chewed on the remains of scattered Scrabble tiles.

There’s always next year.

Meanwhile, our beleaguered Laura had a couple close calls on yet more enforced fun by barely missing qualifying for second rounds in Scrabble and Bowling. Still, a miss is as good as a mile, isn’t it?

I must add something here. I also played Scrabble–though I don’t qualify for prizes as the host. My bed of pain must also be documented. I played the ENTIRE game with two–count them–two vowels. Both Es. One in the first draw, and just one more somewhere in the middle of the game. Two. Vowels. Unless the rules open up to the official language of Pluto, a player with two vowels is screwed.

(Still I didn’t place last altogether. I will refrain from naming those who played their rounds with a reasonable number of vowels whose scores ranked below mine.)

Nicole, with her ear infection and URI and antibiotics nipped Laura by two tiny points in the first Scrabble round. And Pat skimmed by her in Bowling.

Let me take this time to add our Pat is no fan of Scrabble. It was with great compassion I approached Pat one morning, slipped my arm around her tender shoulders. I have some terrible news, I said. I’m so sorry to have to tell you. You’re in the second round of Scrabble.

She wept a little, but I was there for her.

Pat is even less of a fan of Just Dance. Once again, I had to deliver hard, distressing news. Yes, she qualified for Round Two. As the news sank in, she attacked a butler. 

However, I find it odd that someone who expresses such distaste for certain games plays well enough to move to the next round. I suspect a hustle.

We must all bow to Mary Kay Of The Golden Ball for her consistent bowling skills. We must because she reminds us regularly, and likes to point out the shine of that Golden Ball.

It is pretty.

Jeannette’s turn.
JoAnne’s turn
Mary’s turn
Laura counting all the pins, in vain
The Woman with the Golden Ball. All Hail Mary Kay!

Kat dominated Scrabble. Others may strive, may sweat and may struggle, but it’s a rare game when our Kat doesn’t lay down a full seven letter word sometime during the game, usually involving a Q on a double letter box and on a triple word score. She destroys all comers, and smiles her Kat smile.

Not Scrabble but that Kat smile.

It’s also Kat and Sarah who dominate trivia as much due to their snake-like reflexes as their knowledge of useless facts. And math. (Why are there any questions involving math?) At the end of that particular game Sarah crushed the competition with more than 17,000 points. But then Elaine comes out of nowhere in her round and nips by Kat’s impressive score.

The perfect shot by Patricia Gaffney

Going into the final rounds, we had Elaine (yes, Fearsome but also a sneakily quiet competitor) and Sarah neck-in-neck with the surprise of Nicole as a dark horse. Who would be crowned Queen?

Sarah destroys Elaine in Trivia! Will Nicole triumph in Scrabble??? Please, she had to play Kat. But perhaps she’ll reach Golden Ball status in Bowling against Elaine. Nope. The dark horse falls.

Down to the dance, Sarah and Elaine, all for the crown. Their focus is intense, their moves poetry. As the music ends, Elaine has eked out the narrowest win in Spa Girl history!

All hail The Queen!

Still, we must finish with Reverse Charades. Mostly because it’s the funniest game ever. Even there, perhaps flush from her previous victories and already insured crown, Elaine dominates. But then, I ask you, how does one (or a group as it’s Reverse Charades) act out the word Cactus?

There is truth that as Elaine (not-so-humbly) accepts the coveted plastic tiara and Bedazzled scepter, Laura must clip on (after a quick repair) the pitiful pink earrings of the Loser. In an attempt to be Solomon, I suggested she and Mary each wear one, as their sad, sad scores all but matched. But the crowd called for Laura.

Popular demand counts.

It’s not, however, all games during spa week. Jo and I–and most days Kat–started our day with workouts, and as the mornings warmed after the middle of the week, followed those with long walks with flowers blooming and the sun shining.

I’d see Laura briefly–coffee for Laura, then a round at the gym, usually with Nicole. Maybe a little breakfast in the Lounge, maybe some of us poking through the shops. Lots of: What treatment are you having today? And some contented meeting up in the Relaxation Room prior, or the locker room after where we’d compare our bliss.

Quiet reading corners, or drinks on the sunny patio, room service, naps. Ice cream night!! (Thanks, Mary Kay.) Lots of laughs, lots of hugs, lots of adult beverages.

Girl vibes–and they’re as rejuvenating as a hot stone massage. My parents didn’t give me any sisters, so I found them. Fate didn’t give me daughters, so I found them, too.

Best week ever with all my girls.

Nora

Dear Diary: a conclusion to the Cranky Publicist adventures

Dearest Diary,

I regret to inform you that I ended the week in possession of the gaudy Biggest Loser earrings.  All my “friends” turned on me in my hour of need.  The Mighty and Fearsome Elaine is the Grand Poobah Champion of Spa World with wins in Dance (poor, poor Sarah), Bowling and by getting the most answers in Reverse Charades.

When Nora added up the lowest scores, it  came down to the slimmest margin between Mary and me.  Nicole, sweet Nicole, turned to me and asked, “Wait, when did you start winning games?  You didn’t win when I was here.”  I told her I DIDN’T win, that was the point.  She nodded and said, “Ohhhhh.”

An ear infection and URI can make anyone a little loopy.

Nora said it was too close to call.  Mary said, “Oh just give it to Laura — it will fit her narrative.”  And the rest of them agreed with applause.  I guess accurate and unbiased reporting on the goings on during spa week begets frenemies willing to bring you low.

Sigh.  I need to accept applications for new friends.  The flurry of photos for Elaine’s THIRD coronation in six years ended up looking like this.  I think it accurately shows my feelings on the subject.

But let’s backtrack a bit, shall we Diary Dear?

Thursday evening was a flurry of activity.  The Mighty and Fearsome Elaine took on the Beautiful and Brilliant Sarah in a serious final round of Trivia.  I captured this moment near the end of the round:

That begat the final result:

Elaine took the finals in Just Dance by a hair’s breadth, but my video won’t upload so I can’t prove it.  Does that mean it REALLY happened?

And then she bowled.  A game like no other with seven consecutive strikes.

See what I deal with Diary?

A busy evening for the future champion who moved to the dining table for second round Scrabble  Nicole, Pat and Kat.  Nicole, still obviously somewhat alert despite her symptoms came in second and would play Kat in the finals.

Nora, the soul of tact and discretion, said at least 473 times, “Nicole is in the final!  Let me repeat, Nicole and Kat are in the final!!!!” Perhaps her shock makes her Nicole’s “friend” as well.

Elaine chose her various prizes and then said, “I’m tired of winning. I have to go now.”  Diary, I believe I hissed a little.

[From the Fearsome one’s private journal:  “Yes!  All is in place for my re-coronation!  I shall sleep well  tonight.”]

In the meantime, side bowling games abounded.  Mary Kay had set the multipin scoring record of 560 the night before, so she sat and watched us try in vain to catch her.

[Excerpted from Mary Kay’s annals of fabulousness: “I’m still the bowling queen — I have a golden ball!”]

At one point JoAnne said Mary Kay should take a turn.  Mary Kay replied, “I don’t want to keep demoralizing you.”

Diary, our egos are very healthy during spa week.

We saved Paint and Sip for the final night (though sadly, Pat had to miss it).  For some misguided reason, Diary, I decided to let all the participants have a choice in what we painted so we could send the final pick to the teacher beforehand.  Oh the opinions on color and flower and scene!  But finally I herded my squirrels to one picture with the promise everyone could personalize the colors.

We had as much fun in the 2017 session as we did last year.

And we all remembered our listening skills.

Amanda, the instructor, took this photo of everyone at the end.

And here’s a closer look at what we painted:

We ended the night with Scrabble (Kat won, Nicole placed admirably), Reverse Scrabble Charades (I’m actually not sharing THOSE photos) and the coronation.

And then, Diary, our week was over.  Another wonderful seven days with girls, wine, games (ugh) and laughter.

In all seriousness Diary, it’s a wonderful gift Nora shares with us every spring.  We all started out in different parts of Nora’s life and now all those parts blend like the paint above — we enhance, we embrace and we encourage. Some of us get together regularly, some we don’t see until spa week arrives, but the time doesn’t matter, the relationships do.

And so, I bid you farewell Diary.  Word is my “friend” Nora may try to give her own version of the week.  I would take it all with a grain of salt.

Laura