Category Archives: Spa!

Dear Diary: a Cranky Publicist’s private record of spa week 2017

Dear Diary,

It’s lowering to admit that my spirits fell in the approach to spa week. The company is wonderful, the setting lovely, the services superb — and yet.

The specter of the Stupid Scoreboard loomed with all the inherent horrors of last year’s Biggest Loser status.

I bravely persevered in the face of such agonizing memories, packed up the soft clothes, the books, the magazines, said goodbye to the dh and headed to the Fortress of Silence (aka Nora’s house). The drippy Saturday weather narrowed the day’s goals to cozying in nest to a roaring fire in a lovely suite.

First though, I had to run the gamut of happy dogs.  I haven’t been up to the Fortress since February so my arrival was my first interaction with Atticus.  His human woman proudly reports he’s house broken but they’re still working on not jumping. Apparently I was that perfect storm of new human AND wearing a white sweater.  He jumped. Lesson learned.

Nora and BW had already loaded the car with her clothes, champagne, workout gear, the Wii (blech :0) and Fabulous Prizes.  JoAnne, Mary Kay and I arrived at the same time so we completed the loading in and got on the road.

I felt a prickling on the back of my neck and when I looked over my shoulder there was the Scrabble box, staring down at me.  The memory of the Stupid Scoreboard mocked me, but I resolutely ignored it for the drive.

Nora navigated through increasingly bad rain over the mountains and gaps from Maryland to Pennsylvania and got us to our home for a week before 12:30 (her personal goal). We piled out of the car, happy to let the hotel staff deal with unloading the intricate puzzle of bags and stuff.

While we waited for the keys to the suite, Nora began the dread discussion: “what games should we play tonight?” Then my “friend” looked directly at me and said “Laura, you should play Scrabble tonight so you can get it over with.”  JoAnne and Mary Kay laughed.

I sulked, Dear Diary, I sulked.

We toasted the week of friendship (Diary, I had reservations about who my true friends were at that point), unpacked, snacked and then those who had treatments went on their way.  I’ll admit, Diary, that I stewed about the Scoreboard, games and the perfidy of “friends” during my treatment, but then a revelation struck:  what if I embraced the Stupid Scoreboard and became One with it?  (What can I say, when you’re floating on the clouds of a treatment, the brain opens up to all possibilities.)

Kat arrived with her 2017 edition of The (Non) Stupid Scoreboard, drawn free-hand.  And this time she created a rebus for the title:

Drug + Inns + paw + grills + turnip + mint = Drunken spa girls tournament

I contemplated this new idea of accepting the scoreboard through dinner, then accepted the inevitable when I was part of the first Scrabble group which included the fearsome and mighty Elaine (past Grand Winner and killer Scrabble player — the last time I played with her, Elaine scored 47 on the first word.  I suggested we stop playing right then, but my “friend” said we had to play.  Elaine won by 47 points.  Who was right Diary?) But I digress.

With my newfound Zen attitude: One with The Scoreboard, I concentrated on words, ignored the score.  At one point, Nora — who was organizing the Just Dance portion of the tournament — wandered over, checked the score and was amazed I was competitive.  I didn’t actually know the score so I just kept going.  The highlight of my round was Peaky, which I tied into dog to make Doge.  And came up with a boatload of points

My “friend” Nora, took a photo to commemorate.  I had to contort myself to fit in the frame but it was done: 

Diary, I completed the round first!  As Elaine tallied up the score, she commented, “Laura, you’re just three points behind ME.”   She swears she didn’t mean it the way it came out.  But I wonder if I have another person to put in the “friend” category.

So I came in second, three points behind the mighty and fearsome Elaine.  Not a win, not a loss.  Very Zen.

Nora, Kat and JoAnne worked out the Just Dance song for the week. They practiced with Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), then chose Don’t Wanna Know as the song we all have to perform.  JoAnne stunned us with a win in her round.

[From JoAnne’s Spa Notes:
Dear Diary — who was that holding my Wii remote tonight??]

Sarah and I danced — me against yet another Grand Winner — and I handled it respectably.  Meaning I came within 1,000 points of Sarah.

The final act of the night was bowling.  Nora decided to capture all the moments in the round:

JoAnne didn’t like the shot.
Sarah, strike. Of course.
Me, dancing during bowling.
Mary Kay, the winner of this round.

[Excerpt from Mary Kay’s Girls Spa Week 2017 diary:
I won my round in bowling!!!]

And that was the end of Day 1, Dear Diary.   Much more to come.

Laura

Time and Time Away

After the rush and fun of the holidays, BW and I spend a week away with friends and family at a resort/spa a convenient couple hours drive from home. We’ve been doing this, we figure, for about fourteen years.

The front entrance. Photo by Laura
The snowy landscape. Photo by Laura

It’s a lovely, lovely break. It’s familiar for this creature of habit, it’s comfortable, and it’s pretty.

This year it’s also COLD! Seriously cold, and we’ve had a pretty (since I’m not out in it) snowfall. I had my first spa treatment a few hours after our arrival, and just let everything go. That’s the best. It’s relax and recharge time for me. Read lotsa books time, work a little here and there time, and cook not at all time. And it’s an extra gift to spend that time with people you love and enjoy.

I’ve finished two books, and will start another this afternoon while I wait for my mmmmm deep tissue massage. Which I earned  as I went full out for a two full hour cross-training workout this morning.

I’ll come back, pour myself a glass of champagne then think about what to order for dinner, the one I’m not cooking.

I had a good, solid stretch of writing one day between workout and a facial. Good deal. I worked on a non-book-related project and did a little shopping. When I go home, I have a routine doc’s appointment, and then an event on the weekend, followed by hosting at our house our Kayla’s State champion girls cross-country team.

Girls rock!

Squeezing writing in there as I go. But that’s days away.

I love what I do for a living, love the time and the effort I’m required to put into crafting a story I hope readers will enjoy. I love being able to take some time off with friends and family, love spending the weekend making soup and bread or whatever appeals in my own kitchen. Because I love all of that I’m bound to do a better job of it than if I disliked or resented it.

Here’s what I don’t much like, and more have no real skill for. Handling social media. Coming up with topics for Facebook that will engage readers and make them happy. Laura is queen of all that. If I had to handle it? I wouldn’t have FB pages. Simply wouldn’t. I’d resent every minute I had to scratch my head over what to write, and detest every minute it took away from the work I love. So I’d simply eliminate the annoyance and distraction, and focus on what I love, what I’m good at, and what I owe the reader. My best work.

That’s the bottom line. A writer of fiction owes readers this: The best book he or she can write at that particular time. She also owes them gratitude, of course, for reading, owes them basic courtesy if and when she engages with readers IRL or on line.

And, that’s it.

Though some may disagree I don’t owe readers FB pages or blogs or contests and give-aways to repay them for reading my books, whether they buy them, listen to them, borrow them. I owe them a good book. FB is a marketing tool and a great way to communicate. Laura does an amazing job of crafting posts, selecting photos or quotes that springboard reader conversations. I would not, though I do scan the posts, sometimes the comments, and if it applies, add a comment of my own.

I enjoy writing this blog when I have something to say, or can document through words and pictures something I think readers will have fun with. Otherwise I wouldn’t do it. Actually my Jason gave me the basic thrust of how to handle blogging here when years back I whined about it. Days in the life, little bits and pieces with photos, fun stuff, personal stuff.

Okay, I think I can do that, and so far, so good.

In the normal course of events, I write 40-50 hours a week. Parts of that schedule maybe eaten into now and then by the business that surrounds writing. Generally I proof galleys in the evening, not during work hours. I sign, routinely, four tubs of books three times a week, not during work hours.

In there I live a life I really enjoy. It’s a really good balance for me.

If I added in what the amazing Laura does, that balance would tip, and tip hard. I’d be unhappy, and believe me, so would you, the reader.

So for those who might wonder why I don’t write all the FB posts, there’s the answer. It’s certainly not because I don’t value the reader, new ones, or ones who’ve read me from day one.

It’s actually because I very much do.

Anyway, I think I have time for a glass of champagne before that massage. After all, this is time away.

Nora

Courtyard chairs waiting for spring. Photo by Laura

Note from Laura (did you expect anything else?):   Since the very first FB post in 2008, I’ve signed what I post though many speed readers do miss it.  For everyone who pays attention, they know it’s me.  And that NR chimes in when time allows.

While neither of us would ever want to live the other’s life, Nora and I have developed a rhythm and understanding and synchronicity over the past 12 years works.  I know what it’s like to be a faithful reader.  I also see clearly how routine and hard work built a career that spans three decades of quality storytelling.

I see the (imo) whiny “why doesn’t Nora love us?” comments and think “she does — she gives you multiple books every single years.” And so we’ll continue to not fix what ain’t broke.

 

Girl Rites and Rituals

This weekend a friend of mine married the woman she loves. The wedding, held in their hometown of Philadelphia, culminated the wonderful weeks and months of planning, of excitement, of hope–and began a marriage. For various reasons, BW and I couldn’t make the trip, but were able to enjoy the day in posted photos thanks to the brides and several mutual friends.

I love weddings, the romance of them, the symbolism, the traditions. Flowers and music, rings and vows–the personal, intimate rite shared with friends and family. I hated to miss this one, but got my share of awww moments through those pictures. My favorite shows the brides, one in her lovely white gown, the other resplendent in her police uniform, standing face-to-face, hands holding each other’s arms. And the look in their eyes–love, happiness, promise.

It’s those moments–those snapshots–that push tears into my throat. Every single time.

Marriage is a leap of faith, and there’s something truly beautiful in that. Of course a rocking reception after the sweetness and sweep of the ceremony doesn’t hurt a thing. The newlyweds had one (I saw videos!).

And did a little happy dance of my own.

I spent my friend’s wedding day prepping for another ritual, for another friend.

My friend (and fellow spa girl) will be married at the end of the month. It’s delightful to me that one pal begins the transitional month of October as a bride, and another will end October as one. Sweet and sentimental bookends, two leaps of faith, two fun and festive rounds of tradition.

Another tradition I’m big on is The Bridal Shower. I’ve thrown several in my time, and enjoy it a great deal. Girls of all ages gathered together to celebrate a friend’s, a daughter’s, a sister’s moment. It’s so much about the bride–and it should be.20161002_121510

Champagne, pretty food, flowers, cake, games, gifts! What could be better on a Sunday afternoon? I’m fortunate in my friends, and especially lucky that my friends are friends with each other. We make a pretty happy group of girls.

And on this occasion we fete the bride-to-be by starting off with that champagne, the happy buzz of female voices. Food, more conversation. I had someone take a picture of the spa girls to mark the moment. We’re missing three–Nicole and Jeanette had mom obligations, and Kat’s hiking in Hawaii with her cousin. But they’re here in spirit.

Spa girl reunion
Spa girl reunion

We move onto games. Laura, who hates games, skates out of playing by being time-keeper. [Note from Laura: I’ll bet this comes as a surprise to all.]  No chance of a fabulous prize for her, but there’s always more champagne.

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Elaine, the bride.

Then the gifts. It’s fun watching the guest of honor open her haul, seeing the reactions as the gifts range–as they should for a wedding shower–from the gorgeous to the pretty and practical to the snickering risque. Everyone in the room loves the bride–she’s the center, the hand that joins all of us, friends and family, in this female ritual. It’s memories made–memories brought back as others think of their own ritual, their own leap of faith, or wonder when their time might come.

The bride and her family.
The bride and her family.

It’s a girl thing.

And it isn’t complete without cake. Beautiful, creative, delicious cake. I feel cake, especially one made by Lacy the amazing baker, is an excellent tradition, anywhere, any time.20161002_121520-220161002_151451

Why not have more champagne with that?

A lovely day of rite and ritual, previewing the rites and rituals to come. The flowers and music, the rings and the vows, the promises made to each other witnessed by friends and family. A leap of faith made in the case of my two pals, in a white dress.

Marriage is a series of promises, compromises, joy, annoyance with plenty of thick and thin layered on. It’s snuggles and spats, mutual goals and hopes, and the work that goes into them.

But it starts with a wedding and its rituals. It starts on a day, however the couple has designed it, filled with memories that can and should be lifted out and laughed and sighed over for, well, ever.

And because it starts with that leap of faith, I wish Suz and Jen, Elaine and Enrique, a happy, happy landing.  

Nora

Fun, Friends, Frivolity

It began, of course, with packing. And after checking the weather forecast, packing a lot of sweaters. The packing also includes a couple cases of champagne, a BIG Bag ‘o Fabulous prizes, a scoreboard, books and many other necessary goodies for a week of fun with girls.
 
Then there’s the drive up which included passing the new, sweeping, seriously gorgeous entrance twice. Then there’s arrival when everything related to reality just falls away with one big sigh.
 
This is Drunken Spa Girls Week.
 
Unpacking is so much more fun than packing. That first glass of champagne is ambrosia. There is some tech work, ie figuring out the Smart TV and hooking up the Wii for the tournament, but it’s followed by the first glorious treatment in the spa.
 
And best of all, friends trickling in with that same look of bliss.
 
Lots of hugs, chatter, more champagne, ordering room service for multiple women–the really marvelous staff has this delivery down to a science now.
 
Then the games begin. If memory serves the first rounds of Scrabble and Wii Bowling for the first night’s competition. Moans, groans, cheers, sarcastic comments.
 
The first stickers slap onto the scoreboard.
 
Mornings–and they prove cold–mean workouts for me, and with the cold DVDs in the room. My pal Jo joins me every morning at 7:00 for an hour or so before we wander down to the communal lounge and fall in with the others for a light breakfast. Breakfast is not usually on my list as at home no one prepares a lovely display of fresh berries for me. So it’s a special reward for that workout.
 
Some of us scoot off to morning treatments, others slide into a book, some poke around the shops or hit the gym before afternoon treatments. Massages or facials or mani/pedis. We might run into each other in the locker room or the relaxation room pre-treatment.
 
Some make sure they’re back for tea time and scones and strawberries. Some nap. But we’re all together again at cocktail hour(s), a thoroughly relaxed and happy group once again ready (or not) for room service and the next round of games.
 
So it goes through the week, eleven women with pretty toes and happy, naked faces, ranging in age from their 30s to their 70s, writers, professionals, MBAs and Art Majors, wives and daughters, mothers and grandmothers–and all of us sisters.
 
Elaine’s mom has sent along adorable bandanas she made for us. Some of us wear them as do-rags, others as little scarves, still others as headbands or as actual bandanas. It goes to show.20160406_183844
 
The Just Dance round hits high on the adorable scale. Four women trying to coordinate their bods and movements to the animation on TV–with Laura shaking her remote, certain the computer isn’t picking hers up. (Yeah, yeah, I hear you, Laura!) My fave here might be the old Tom Jones number–It’s Not Unusual–we chose. And watching everyone do this little scoot left, scoot right. And this all with infusions of adult beverages.  [Note from Laura:  the remotes worked MUCH better when there were only two dancers.]
 
Competition increases as the week goes on. Those stickers and scores mount up. The weather pretty seriously sucks, so we miss our walks and hikes, but settle in.
 
One day I wandered over to the gym and found Mary Kay, Mary and Elaine having a healthy little lunch at the counter, Pat working out. Another I run into Sarah at the spa shop, Kat in the locker room. Here’s Jo and Jeanette in the relaxation room, and Nicole just back from a treatment. Laura, apparently, in one.
 
We’re going to paint and drink wine. The painting portion of this evening draws reactions from glee to dread. Pat and I discuss our personal talents, which we judge equal. We know how to do box houses and suns–circles with rays–clouds, trees that are lines with what look suspiciously like clouds topping them. And squiggly lines that are birds.
 
But we’re up for this.
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We opted to choose one painting to copy–a fallish woods with a path through it. You can picture eleven women sitting around long tables facing a canvas. We have an that art major (Kat) and have discussed  requiring her to hold the brush with her teeth. But we let that go.
 
Carolyn, our instructor is a marvel. Somehow she herded all these women, walked them through steps and stages, encouraged, praised–and kept those wine glasses filled. I’ve researched how to paint for characters, but doing is different. And fun. A lot of fun. And fascinating. When I get up to walk around the tables and see what others are doing, I’m amazed. Everyone’s look really, really good. Not Kat good–or Elaine good–but really good. And different. Like the bandanas everyone has the same base, but interprets in their own way. Jo’s is vivid, Nicole’s is delicate. Some of the paths are distinct, some mysterious, some straight, some curved. Someone says mine has movement, and when I step back from it, I see my trees lean a little. But I can say I meant to do that!
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Paint night is now on our annual agenda. In fact Elaine and Kat (those show-offs) went back the next day to do another.
 
Next round, more stickers, more prizes. We complete the Bowling and Dance sections, and the final round of Scrabble proves intense as always.
 
At this point, Kat’s leading the tourney, with Sarah and Jeanette right behind her.
 
Another annual is meeting up in the jewelry store. So you’ve got eleven women trying on earrings, pendants, bracelets, rings, giving each other advice. No one leaves unhappy, and it’s time to top that off with more treatments.
 
More books to read and lazing around, more scones and cookies. Advice and demonstrations of stretching and its importance pre and post workouts. More room service! And more adult beverages.
 
It’s time for Trivia. We do that three at a time as there was whining–that is a discussion–last year claiming the computer didn’t read four remotes well. We use the Wii You Don’t Know Jack here, which is full of silly, punny questions, where leaders can easily fall into minus scores by the final round. I think Nicole had a minus 25,000.

 

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Intense trivia
On our last day, winter came back. Blowing winds, blowing snow–about four inches before it finished. It looked like February. A hot stone massage can counteract that kind of insult.
 
We save Charades for last. Reverse Charades courtesy of Jo. Teams–chosen by eye color in our case–compete by three women acting out the phrase at the same time (unable to consult, it’s see the phrase and go) for the fourth member. You’re scored by how many phrases you guess in a minute.
 
No question we saved the best for last. Competition, frustration and hilarity spike high. I’ll add the rules say you can use actual objects. Seeing Jo stumped, stuck on Apple when Laura grabs an iPad (for Laptop) stood as one of the highlights. But the best, and never to be forgotten moment: Kat instantly leaping onto Laura’s back, waving an invisible crop in her hand. I think Elaine was the guesser, and really who could blame her for not getting Jockey when everyone in the room was howling with laughter. 
 
I regret not having a picture of that one, but who knew?

[Note from Laura: I think Kat got her cue when I dropped down to all fours without saying a word.  We are psychic.  Nora has also forgotten  that I hoisted Jo onto my back for piggyback.  What can I say, I threw myself into it.} 

In the end, Kat was crowned our Queen, and Laura as her lowliest subject. We have a crown and scepter for our queen, and a pair of tacky pink plastic earrings for the lowliest.

 

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Stupid Scoreboard (as per Laura)

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And so the tournament ends for another year. 
 
The morning is packing, stretching out the moments over breakfast, saying goodbye. We see each other off and on during the year–some of us see each other a lot–but this is farewell to the girl spa, and that’s bittersweet. Laura announces it’s 376 days till the next one (we’ve already booked it), so that’s something.
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I treasure my circle of women, their humor, their wisdom, their eccentricities, their innate kindness, their common ground and their differences. My fabulous prizes from this week are, as always, the memories and the moments we made and shared.
Nora
Just two more notes from Laura:  the last official act of the week is the official toe photo.  And the load was much lighter going home.20160409_213320 20160410_124032

Another peek into Laura’s Drunken Spa Girl diary


Thursday, April 7

Dear Diary,

Today we tried something brand new: Create & Sip. We actually left Command Central in the late afternoon to try our hands at painting while drinking wine.   I’d done it here in January with our pal Nicole. and we had such a good time we used the tried-and-true method of peer pressure to make it happen.

I’d herded the squirrels to a group decision on what to paint beforehand so our instructor was ready to guide us through the process.  Two hours of laughter, self-critiques and stepping outside 11 comfort zones later we stood back and admired the results.

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Armed but not dangerous.
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When in doubt, hold several brushes.
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The sofa gallery.

Then it was back to the suite for dinner and games.  I won a small prize for bonus bowling.

It’s still a stupid scoreboard.

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xoxoxo

 

Excerpts from Laura’s Drunken Spa Girl Diary

Sunday, April 3

Dear Diary:

Nora’s SUV was so packed on the way to the spa I had to sit in the narrowest seat and hold back the deluge of stuff sliding about with my left shoulder!  But since I didn’t have to drive and the first treatment loomed, I held back my complaints with heroic inner fortitude.

We arrived as hordes of guests were leaving.  Excellent!  More room for the Spa Girls, also for getting all the treatments, I know they have an excellent foot massage, because I read foot massager reviews about them.

Before any of us even unpacked, the empty scoreboard went to its place of honor on the fireplace.  Did I mention I’m not fond of games, dearest diary?  The blank slate looms over me like a thunderhead on the horizon.20160403_124104

But I will somehow survive.  Sigh.

Off to my first appointment! xoxoxoxo

Monday, April 4

Dear Diary,

Nearly everyone arrived yesterday, thrilled to be among friends for a solid week.   Since Nora is Master and Commander of the games, she’d arranged the fabulous prizes in the entry of the suite that serves as Command Central for the week.

I didn’t allow myself to look at them.  Stupid scoreboard.  I didn’t suck at Wii Bowling, but I didn’t win either.  Good, I’m on the middle of the road.

We arrived to cold air and brilliant sunshine yesterday, but the weather took a wet turn today.  I ran out to take photos of the brilliant tulips just before the rain set in.20160404_103224 20160404_073921

And yes, that’s snow!  A good day to be inside — I think that’s how most of the week will go.

The game for me tonight was the first round of Just Dance.  Stupid scoreboard.  xoxoxox

Tuesday, April 5

Dear Diary,

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I hate Scrabble.  *Sigh* Stupid scoreboard

But the week is wonderful otherwise.  We start our days in the lounge on the floor — everyone trickles in at their own pace for coffee and sustenance. Mary pointed out we all bring something to read then abandon it as soon as conversation starts.  Nora supplied us with ARCs of The Obsession and Bay of Sighs.  But I’m talking so much I haven’t finished Annika and Sawyer’s story.

AND Nora dedicated The  Obsession to the Spa Girls.  Fun!

Then we separate and head to different treatments or quiet spots for reading for most of the day.  Evenings are spent in Command Central, laughing, playing games and eating food prepared by other people!

xoxoxoxo

Wednesday, April 6

Dear Diary,

Ever wonder what a room service order for 11 women looks like?This:

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Piles of plates and abandoned pool shoes are the order of the evening.

Cookies and milk are more sedate.

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I thought I’d be game free tonight since the latecomers had to catch up, but Mary Kay chose me to dance for her in the semi-finals.  It didn’t go well for either of us.

Stupid scoreboard.

But I cheer myself up with the photos I love to take.  Here’s the view from the lounge the other morning.

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And one of the floral arrangement in the lobby.

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More to come.

xoxoxoxo

Laura

One Whole Glorious Week…

is about to begin. The minute I finish this blog, I’ll head for the shower, get dressed, slap some makeup on a face that hasn’t seen any throughout winter hibernation. My strong, considerate husband will load the rest of my stuff in the car.
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I’ll have timed it fairly well to the arrival of my traveling companions, Laura and Mary Kay. Then we’re off. Off to girl week, spa week, Drunken Spa Girl Week. Friends, pampering, exercise, laugh, games, prizes, cookies, and courtesy of Mary Kay two nights of ice cream sundaes.

 

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Mary Kay, Nora, Laura
This is a long spring tradition, and one all of us look forward to like kids at Christmas. Probably more.
 
I’m leaving behind greening trees, sprouting blooms (and weeds), dogs and man and work. I took this shot of my cherry trees yesterday, and hope I come back to them in bloom. I hope to start digging in the dirt before much longer, taking after-work walks with the dogs, filling tubs with weeds. But for now, it’s pals and massages, room service and morning workouts.
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I expect my man and my dogs will enjoy their week in a female-free house, too.
 
My girls will trickle in to the big room that serves as a kind of HQ for the week. We are eleven women of varying ages and backgrounds and interests–and game-playing skills. We’re young mothers and grandmothers, wives and daughters, writers and professionals. And we are friends. As a woman who grew up outnumbered by men (four brothers) and had two sons, having this wonderful circle of girlfriends is a rich, shiny treasure.
 
And this week we can all celebrate girlfriends.
 
When you have smart, savvy, loving, interesting women in your life it deserves celebration.
    
Can’t wait to start.   
Nora
Note from Laura:  There was so much stuff in the car, I had to sit in this small space.  🙂20160403_100323
Will post details about the week from my perspective too!