Category Archives: girl stuff

Vegas Revisited


Usually, the phrase “so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk” is a hyperbole. Not so on the Las Vegas Strip in the middle of July. I meant to bring an egg with me to try it out this time, but you know how tight TSA carry-on baggage regulations have gotten lately. And believe it or not, there’s nowhere on the Strip to actually buy a single egg unless it’s already cooked into a fifteen dollar frittata, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. It was hot.

Not that the heat was a surprise to Tracy, Regina, and I. This was, after all, our second July trip to Vegas, which made us experts of a sort, if there is a field of expertise that specializes solely in finding great places to eat and shop and indulge in innocent entertainment in a town built mostly around naughtiness.

I suppose we might have been a little naughty, if you count the sin of gluttony, because we ate, and we ate well. Hoo, boy, did we eat. We made a return visit to our favorite buffet of all time at the Bellagio, enjoyed sushi again (several times) at the site of my own maiden sushi experience, Ra, and together polished off four large boxes of gourmet chocolates from famous Ethel’s Chocolate Lounge (it was buy three get one free–what were we supposed to do?) Without a doubt, though, one of the gustatory highlights of the trip was lunch (courtesy of Regina’s wonderful husband, Chris, who paid the bill) at The Mesa Grill, a hotspot owned by celebrated chef Bobby Flay. I had the amazing Barbecued Lamb Cobb Salad and we ordered and split three desserts that defy the powers of my usual catalog of adjectives. This morning I got on the scale to tally up the damage and was pleasantly surprised to see that I didn’t gain a pound! I guess all that toiling up and down hot Vegas sidewalks had its rewards, after all.

We stayed at the luxurious (and I don’t use that adjective lightly) Venetian hotel, possibly the most pampering place in which I have ever parked a suitcase. With big fluffy robes and slippers, fresh flowers in the bathroom, three flat screen televisions (including one you could watch while stretching out full length in the enormous tub), and a panoramic view of the Strip out of our picture window, our deluxe suite made me feel like the rock star I always wanted to be.

And, of course, we shopped. It didn’t seem to matter that everything cost half again as much as it would at home. It was only Vacation Money, after all, so it flowed rather more freely than the real kind. The kids’ favorite purchase of mine was the dice-shaped lollipops I brought home for them. As of this writing, they’ve sucked most of the dots off, and are working diligently at making the rest disappear as well.

Oh, and I’m sorry to disappoint you gambling teetotalers out there, but I did take my turn at the penny slot machine. I lost a whole dollar! At one point, I was up to a dollar forty; I just knew I should have cashed out then. So much for my plan to pay off our student loans with my ill-gotten gains.

I should mention that this lovely and relaxing girls getaway was only made possible by support from the troops at home, particularly Paul, who took my place as pancake-maker, tucker-inner, boo-boo-kisser, and all around nurturer in addition to performing his own duties as spider-killer, entertainment-coordinator, and transportation-provider. Thanks, babe. You totally rock! (And I don’t mean like Wayne Newton.)


Tracy, me, Regina:

The famous Bellagio fountains! I recorded this on my tiny purse cam, so please excuse the tinny sound and the Blair-Witch-esque camera work. I highly recommend seeing it in person:

Thank You for My Girlfriends


It’s after eleven o’clock at night, and I’ve just finished watching the most recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy online. Typically, I’m in a dither. “What is the deal with George and Izzy?” I ask the universe. The universe doesn’t answer, and in the next second I’m dialing up my friend, Kathy, whose fault it is that my emotions are invested in the events of a fictional Seattle hospital in the first place.

“Hello?” she answers.

“What is the deal with George and Izzy?” I splutter, and without asking why I’m calling so late or what I’m talking about, she proceeds to explain in great detail exactly what the deal is. A lively half hour discussion of various characters and subplots ensues, followed by a conversation that touches on all our latest news and thoughts, and finally I hang up, a little enlightened and a lot entertained.


It’s hard to imagine life without them.

Today I’m dishing with Kathy over trivia, six years ago I was floundering around in the deep waters of personal crisis, and her hand was one of those that reached down and grabbed on to keep me from going under. A good girlfriend is equally at home in your life on your best day and on your worst.

It’s been my joy and privilege to enjoy the friendship of some amazing women.

Tracy. I met Tracy on my very first day of college classes. We were both freshman, and I knew from the first moment of talking to her that we were going to be life long friends. Her calm serenity and even temper were a balm to my flighty and fidgeting spirit. When we accidentally dyed our hair pink in a Clairol experiment gone awry, she was the one who helped me see the funny side of it. She’s spent holidays at my house, we’ve gotten tattoos together, and we’ve walked each other through the jungle of dating disasters. I confess, when she got married, I felt a little jealous. Not of her, but of her husband, Perry. How dare he step in and break up the team? I consoled myself with being her maid of honor, and a year later, she was mine. Our friendship has not only survived marriage, but grown over the years. Though she lives a thousand miles away, every time we talk on the phone, we’re roommates again, alternately cheering and commiserating in equal measure.

Regina. Regina, another college buddy, makes me glad that first impressions are often wrong, because it definitely wasn’t love at first sight when the two of us met. Where at first I saw a flirtatious, hairsprayed Southern cheerleader-type (to say nothing of what she thought of me), I soon learned to see an indispensable friend–and to stop making snap judgments! We’ve been through a lot–car trouble, boy trouble, and just plain trouble. Our friendship has run hot and cold, and we jokingly refer to the Three Day Rule (the period of time we can be together without getting on each other’s nerves) but she’s been around through thick and thin, and I wouldn’t trade her for anything. Every couple of years, she and Tracy and I get together to catch up, spill our guts, and eat good food. They’re the sort of girlfriends to whom time and distance don’t matter.

Kathy, Jen, Marci, and Kim. One December day, just after we had moved here to Idaho, I got a phone call. It was a big deal. See, we’d landed in Coeur d’Alene in a maelstrom of chaos and emotional struggle. I was hurting, and I was lonely, and even though we’d come here to visit Paul’s parents at least once a year throughout our married life, I felt as if I knew no one, and no one knew me. I was sinking. Then the phone rang. It was Kathy and Jen, and they invited me to go Christmas shopping with them. I said yes before the question was finished and they picked me up for a whirlwind tour of retail hotspots, lists in hand. There, in the middle of Toys R Us, unknown to my shopping companions, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the feeling that everything was going to be okay. Their asking me to come along was a simple gesture, and they probably didn’t know how desperately needy I was (or they would have run the other way!), but it was the beginning of some of the sweetest friendships of my life. Kathy is outspoken, honest, genuine, and funny. Jen is warm-hearted and gentle-spirited and one of my spiritual heroes. Marci is a devoted friend with a wry sense of humor who reaches out to draw everyone into her circle. Kim is quirky and fun, saves everything she’s ever owned, and can talk the ears off an elephant. One year somebody (I’m still not sure which one of them it was) wanted to plan a trip to Seattle for a girls only getaway. The invitation was open to anyone, and the five of us were the ones who ended up piling into a van and striking out for the coast. It turned out, somehow, that we had perfect chemistry, and the most satisfying weekend chick trip ever ensued, complete with getting lost, eating at a fancy restaurant, endless road trip chatter, and laughter, laughter, laughter. Since then, we’ve cried together, prayed together, faced health crises and marriage problems, worked side by side in ministries, and basically entered into each other’s lives at the deepest level. They’re dirty house friends, every one. Each of these girlfriends totally deserves her own blog post.

Amber. A sister is girlfriend and family all rolled up into one. Amber and I are five years apart in age, and our relationship has gone through different stages as she’s grown from pesky little sister to cherished friend. She’s lived with me, fought with me, borrowed my clothes and checked out my boyfriends. She’s seen my bad habits, my temptations, and my disappointments up close and still she’s there for me. Not all sisters turn out to be friends, but mine has become one of the best.

I am blessed with other wonderful girlfriends, too. Girlfriends from my Bible study group. Girlfriends I call when I want to go shopping. Girlfriends who like the same movies that I do. Girlfriends who watch my kids, and ask me to watch theirs. Girlfriends who are up for an adventure. Girlfriends I exercise with. Girlfriends who are just easy and fun to be around. Even a few girlfriends I only know from the internet, whose encouraging words and shared emotions are no less real for our having never met in person. Some of my girlfriends I’ve known for years, and some I’m just starting to know, waiting and watching the delightful and gradual intertwining of experiences that makes up friendship’s rich history.

Even one good girlfriend is a gift of inestimable worth, and I am blessed with many. I only hope I can bless them half as much.

Thank You, Lord, for my girlfriends.

Summer Lovin’


My friend Marci, of scenic Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, gives me this blogging assignment straight from a recent late night game of Truth or Dare*:

“Tell all about your first kiss.”

Frankly, I wish there was more to tell. I could scintillate you with romantic details about any number of first kisses with this guy or that guy (for example, smooching a cute Dutch backpacker, whom I had met at the youth hostel and had known for all of perhaps three hours, beneath a sky full of fireworks in Orleans, France, on Bastille Day**), but the details of my Very First Kiss Ever fall a bit short of schoolgirl fantasy.

I was 13, I think. I was away at camp for the summer. Not just your normal “cabins-by-the-lake” sort of camp, but Sea Camp for brainy kids on Georgia’s beautiful (and primitive) Cumberland Island. We dug our own latrines (where we had to chase ghost crabs away before we could do our business), “bathed” in the surf, dissected a shark, cast nets for our dinner, and ate mussels that we dug up out of the marsh mud and boiled ourselves. We each had to come up with a science project involving the native ecosystem. Mine was about the locomotive apparatus of living sand dollars. It was my first long trip away from home, and it was a turning point in my life in terms of confidence and ambition. If you ever get the chance to send your kids on such an adventure, do it.

But back to the kiss.

It was free time, and we were swimming in the ocean, killing time between our lesson on the microscopic life of tidal pools and a planned moonlight hike through the island interior. There were around a dozen of us, boys and girls, and on this particular day, we were playing Truth or Dare. I can’t remember anything that happened before it was Blair’s turn. He chose Dare, brave boy. So quickly that I’ve always suspected it was arranged ahead of time, his friend said, “I dare you to kiss Katrina.”

So he did.

We were all standing shoulder deep in the warm coastal water, and it seemed like Blair was moving in slow motion as he made his way over to me. The kiss was mercifully quick, a mere peck, and then it was over, leaving my lips tasting of salt water. A little anticlimactic, I thought. And a lot more public than I imagined my first kiss would be.

Later, as we walked down the beach, Blair told me that he liked me. Clumsily, we held hands. I think he kissed me twice more before camp ended, each time an echo of the first–short and sweet.

Years later, forced to recount the straightforward details to girlfriends in yet another Truth or Dare game, it occurred to me to be embarrassed that the guy who gave me my Very First Kiss Ever was named Blair.***

*Which is an interesting coincidence, as you will see.

**Don’t tell my high school French teacher, who was supposed to be chaperoning us. It’s not her fault, anyway. I was incorrigible. And seventeen.)

***No offense if your name is Blair. It just didn’t jibe with my teenage ideal of a romantic hero. He was supposed to be named Max, or Derek, or Jack. “Blair” makes him sound like one of those obnoxious rich kids from “Pretty In Pink“.

Dirty House Friends


“Company’s coming!”

As a child, I knew what that meant. My mom would put us to work picking up clutter, vacuuming the carpet, and cleaning the kitchen, while she ran to the pantry to survey our stores and choose ingredients for a meal worthy of visiting dignitaries. The house took on a shine that it never wore when it was just the five of us, and we gathered around the table to marvel at the pristine tablecloth and the regal centerpiece looking like some foreign piece of art sitting there, where, on normal days, we folded laundry, did homework, and played with Legos.

Now, as an adult, I also love to invite people over for dinner, and the ritual is much the same. I press Paul and the kids into service to clean the apartment from stem to stern, trying to see it through a stranger’s eyes and discovering dirt in places I usually overlook, like on the baseboards and inside the stove’s fume hood. I scrub the toilet, sweep the floors, eradicate the rapidly reproducing dust bunny population, clean the tub (as if dinner guests are going to take a shower while they’re here), and order all the kids’ toys confined to their room for the duration. I even light candles to make it smell as if I bake.

Then, since I used up all my time cleaning instead of cooking, we order pizza. But that’s another post.

The point is that while I enjoy special occasions and inviting new friends and acquaintances over to showcase my masterful housekeeping and pizza ordering skills, when it comes to socializing, my favorite moments are those I spend with my Dirty House Friends.

Dirty House Friends are the ones you call up on a whim to ask, “What are you doing? Come over and watch Phantom of the Opera with me!” And they come, despite the fact that you’ve made them watch Phantom of the Opera six times already (rewinding all the good parts with Gerard Butler.) They sit on the couch next to your unfolded laundry with their feet resting on the wooden blocks and puzzle pieces and Happy Meal toys that are scattered around the living room like shrapnel from an explosion in Santa’s workshop, and they don’t see a thing. You never say “Sorry about the mess!” to a Dirty House Friend, because they don’t care, and when you’re with them, neither do you.

Dirty House Friends let you glimpse their clutter, too. I always rejoice when a friendship crosses the boundary of company clean into the intimacy of Dirty House-ness. When I walk, invited, into a friend’s house to see crusty dishes in the sink and stacks of papers scattered over the dining room table, I smile inwardly, knowing that I have stepped into the inner sanctum of my friend’s genuine living space, her real and disheveled and authentic life.

And that’s what I love most about Dirty House Friends. A friend who’s not put off by my messy house won’t be scared away by my messy life. A friend like that can take it when you lose your keys, lose your temper, lose your mind. A friend like that will be around when you’ve really screwed up, passing over recriminations in favor of a much needed hug and some help in picking up the pieces, knowing that you’ll be there when the pieces are hers. A Dirty House Friend won’t think you’re a bad mom when you drop the kids off at her house just to get an hour or two alone. She isn’t freaked out when you burst into tears, and the word “overshare” doesn’t apply to her. She’ll take you seriously when you tell her to call anytime, and the resulting conversations will cover everything from peanut butter brands to deep spiritual struggles.

A Dirty House Friend sees the clutter in your home, in your mind, and in your life, and loves it all. Loves you, the you that lies beyond your Yankee candles and your clean baseboards.

So if you’re thinking of inviting me over, do me a favor. Don’t bother to clean. Let’s just clear a space in the mess, pull up some chairs, order pizza, and talk.

Let the dust bunnies live to see another day.


*Dedicated to my own dear Dirty House Friends. You are such a blessing to me!

Dear Girl Doctor


*Warning* The following post uses the words “cervix”, “naked”, and “origami.” Proceed at your own risk.

Considering that I already told you all about my disastrous pregnant home bikini waxing experience, my first parental sex talk, and the horrors of bathing suit shopping, it might surprise you to know that there are still a few things that I don’t feel are entirely appropriate fodder for my blog. Things like acerbic political mudslinging, breathless reports on the latest misadventures of Britney Spears, or detailed accounts of my annual woman’s health checkups, for instance.


I’m going to strain the (self-imposed) confines of good taste for a moment, and open the blog door on my Monday appointment at the women’s clinic. Leaving out the most uncomfortable details, I do have a few tiny requests to make of my OB/GYN, and here they are:

1. Although I appreciate your desire to save a few pennies in these times of financial uncertainty, I do think you could splurge a bit more on the paper products you provide to protect the modest sensibilities of your patients. The paper tunic you instructed me to don (“opening in the back, dear”), while wide enough to cover two of me, was so thin I could count the freckles on my belly. Someone with origami skills might be able to fold it into a passable two-ply garment, which is something I will certainly look into before my next visit.

2. I don’t mind waiting in the waiting room, where I can quietly enjoy magazine articles until my name is called. I don’t mind waiting for the nurse to come take my blood pressure and check my pulse and write my weight and height down on her little chart. I don’t even mind waiting in that sterile, sunless, white examination room for a doctor to be available. Unless I’m naked. (And, as I addressed at length in point #1, that flimsy paper towel draped across my lap doesn’t count.) One naked minute is approximately equivalent to ten fully-clothed minutes. I waited for nearly two and a half hours in naked-time. That’s too long.

3. Two words: speculum warmer. They make them. Really!

4. Small talk before the examination may be useful for making your patients feel more at ease, it’s true. But when it’s time to get down to business, please just do your stuff and get out of there. Having to answer questions about where I went to college while you’re swabbing my cervix with a Q-tip feels like participating in some nightmarish reality quiz show.

5. Yes, I did scoot down. No, I can’t scoot down any more, or I’m going to fall off the table.

6. I know it’s kind of frivolous, but how about a picture or something on the ceiling? Considering the usual position of your patients, it makes a lot more sense than decorating the walls. I spent a lot of time looking up there, what with all those naked minutes. Oooh! You know what would be even better? Flat screen TV!

That is all. Feel free to implement any or all of these suggestions, dear doctor. You don’t even have to give me credit. A pre-warmed speculum will be thanks enough.

p.s. Yes, I know #5 is not really a suggestion so much as a whine. I just needed to get that off my chest.

Running the Race in High Heels


Last night was my first night to teach the women’s class at church. We’ve split the sexes up for several weeks so that the men can attend a series on pornography, and I was asked to take the ladies’ class.

First reaction: I think I’d rather roll around in a pit of rattlesnakes with my shoes on fire.

Second reaction (and the one that actually came out of my mouth): Um, okay.

I hope nobody saw my knees knocking together. It’s funny; I have no fear of speaking up in class when I’m sitting safely in the crowd, but something about standing up in front of all those eyes requires a Herculean effort.

Did you know that, in surveys, the majority of Americans list “public speaking” as their greatest fear? It ranks at number one, just above “death”. Why is that, I wonder? It’s not as if you’re in physical danger (well, unless you’re Ann Coulter speaking at the University of Arizona, in which case you have to watch out for airborne pies.) Most people don’t bite, and, in fact, want to see the speaker do well.

Anyway, class went swimmingly, helped along by a wonderful discussion and a very friendly audience. I’ve known most of these women for years, and not one of them has ever bitten me. The series is called Running the Race in High Heels, and is about the unique challenges that Christian women face in their lives of faith. Last night’s session was about lust, and specifically dealt with pornography, extramarital affairs, and the hypersexuality of American culture. That’s a lot to cover in an hour. Also, I had to say “sex” out loud in the church auditorium. Many times. That’s not usual.

The discussion brought up a lot of good points, some of which I may go into in a later post, but right now I have to get back to working on next week’s lesson, which will deal with the lovely womanly habit of overcommitment. We fill up our days, end to end, with activity, become giant lumps of stress, and still have trouble saying “no” to more without guilt. I’m convinced that a billboard message I read is true: God’s To Do List for us is much shorter than ours.

Feel free to share your thoughts; you know I love them! (And I might actually be able to work them into my lesson!)

Death by Dressing Room


Last week, someone finally flipped the Idaho Summer Weather switch, and the temperature soared from the low 60s on one day to the 90s on the next. Since then, I’ve dug my few pairs of shorts out from where they were languishing at the bottom of my drawer, made generous use of the sunblock in my purse, and thanked God many times from my heart for the blessing of our hardworking, energy-efficient window unit air-conditioner.

And there’s another blessing this summer. For once, I own a bathing suit that a) fits and b) does not look hideous on me; thus, I can enjoy a free pass on that dreadful, dehumanizing ritual that is bathing suit shopping.

The girls know what I’m talking about. The boys, with their smug little way of walking into the store and buying the first bathing suit they see off the rack, don’t have a clue. They’ve missed out on a whole facet of the quintessential human female experience: standing naked* and alone in front of the relentless 3-way mirror, wearing a scrap of Lycra that busily accentuates exactly what you’ve been trying to hide for the past six months under all those bulky sweaters and carefully chosen jackets.

Every mole, every pocket of cellulite, every clandestine slice of forbidden cheesecake is illuminated in the harsh glare of the unforgiving fluorescent lights. The illusory mental image you keep of yourself (and protect at all costs by refusing to allow people to take photos of you and squinting your eyes when you look in the mirror after getting out of the shower**) is, in one unguarded moment, shattered. Truth sculpted in lime green nylon.

And to add insult to injury, you notice with embarrassment that your bikini line needs some serious attention.

One after another, you try on suits. This one cuts into your shoulders; that one is all flappy and loose around the bottom; the other one threatens every moment to burst into glorious wardrobe malfunction. Finally, mentally and emotionally exhausted, you grab the boring black tank suit that covers the essentials and doesn’t cause outright weeping when you put it on and you head up to the register to check out.

A girl can be pardoned for indulging in a whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby after such a grueling experience. (Meanwhile, the Chubby Hubby himself is cavorting around happily in his twelve dollar board shorts, oblivious to your mental anguish.)

But not this year. This year, I already have the perfect suit. It’s a navy blue tankini, with green and blue fish on it and a cute little gauze sarong to wrap around it. I’ve had it for years. Last summer, it squeezed. It pinched. It gapped. It bulged. I hid it deep underneath my pajama pile and tried to forget that I had ever looked good in it.

This year, it fits.

You can’t see me, but I’m doing cartwheels.***

*Metaphorically, if not (entirely) physically.
**Or maybe that’s just me.
***Okay, not really—but I am grinning like a monkey.

Our Handbags, Ourselves


As questions go, it’s a bit personal, but for Taryn, I’ll answer it:

What’s in my purse?

Where do I start?

In the movie How To Lose a Guy In Ten Days, Benjamin Barry tells his friends that a woman’s purse is her “secret source of power.” How right he is. Whether she carries a tiny clutch or a tote bag equal to half her body size, a woman’s purse can reflect a lot about where she is in life, what roles she plays, and what’s important to her.

Or, it could just be a catchall for her junk.

Here’s a picture of my current purse (yes, I’m sorry to say, Perfect Purse: Mark Two disintegrated, so I am using New Purse, brought forth from the deep and dusty recesses of my closet.) Please tell me that it doesn’t have Frumpy Mommy Purse written all over it, even if that is, in fact, what it is.

When I started digging stuff out of all the pockets and compartments to take photos of it, I was amazed. I felt a bit like Mary Poppins unloading her bottomless magical carpet bag. Turns out I have some of everything in there.

For example, no geek’s wife could go walking around without a full compliment of personal electronic gadgets and doodads with her. I carry around my iPod, Sony Clie organizer, cell phone, and that little yellow thingy is the nifty 1 gigabyte USB memory stick Paul gave me for easy transfer of data files from one computer to another (very nice if you like to share photos with friends and family, or take documents you’ve created at home somewhere else to print or use them.)

And it might be a result of my brief stint with the Boy Scouts (as an Explorer Scout, actually), but there are a lot of items in my purse that fall loosely under the Be Prepared category: sunblock, ibuprofen, bandaids, lotion, safety pins, a Swiss Army knife, kleenex, an assortment of sanitary items we euphemistically call “girl stuff” at our house, and a protein bar that I can dig out triumphantly on the day my car goes over an embankment and I have to survive in the wild for a week while waiting, with a broken leg, for rescue. That protein bar will definitely buy me at least another…eight hours.

The Smarties candy, on the other hand, is for Katie, who is on a gluten-free/casein-free diet, so that when someone is handing out treats in her class or when Caleb is scarfing down free Costco samples that she can’t eat, I can pull out something for her to enjoy, too. (Of course, I’m sure she won’t mind if I eat them instead while I’m lying there alone in my wrecked car.)

In this photo, you’ll see something I rarely ever have in my purse: cash. Four dollars, to be exact–oh, the riches! For most purchases, Paul and I use our bank cards.

At the top middle of the photo is my little Bible, originally bought years ago to take on backpacking trips, but now leading a newly purposed life in my purse. Since I always have it with me, that’s one less thing I have to remember to pack up and bring to church along with crayons, fruit snacks, and books for the kids. And, to be honest, there are some times when having the comfort of well-loved Bible verses at hand makes the difference between a merely challenging day and a disastrous one!

I also have scratch paper (although Paul, who gave me my handheld organizer, can’t understand why I’m still hung up on that whole pen and paper thing) and my purse pens, which are sacred and untouchable. Woe unto the child or man who removes one of them from its convenient side pocket and spirits it away. They will incur the wrath of me. I can be frightening, let me tell you.

Random other items: scratched notes I’ve made of book recommendations from friends (they’re en route to the library), a zipper pouch with iPod charger and earbuds in it, business card holder, and wallet. If you look carefully at the wallet, you’ll see not only my Costco card, debit card, and insurance info, but the green of my incriminatingly crisp and new-looking gym membership card. I just can’t bring myself to throw it away until it expires.

Somehow, I know not how, all of that stuff fits quite comfortably inside the inner sanctum of my twelve-by-eight-inch personal inventory transport device. I even have room to tuck a can of diet Coke in the top and still zip it closed. How? It’s a mystery. I guess it must be some of that secret feminine power at work.