Archive for December, 2011

Christmas 2011


From the desk of a Real Housewife of Marion, Iowa


Whew!  What a year we’ve had!  The Kardashians are in turmoil, political candidates are getting all caught up in their own goo, Osama bin What’s-His-Face lost his game of hide and seek, and those wild and crazy Occupy Wall Streeters are snuggling to sleep in the snow in their comfy Eureka tents.   I mention all of that so you can see that by comparison my family is NORMAL.  (I love it when you can mention other folks in this Christmas letter as a diversionary tactic for the cuckoo that goes on around here.)

First of all, I’d like to say that this year we seem to have been given the freedom to call this a “Christmas Letter”.  In previous years it may have been called a Holiday Letter or maybe nothing at all, since who the heck knows what we were to call it.  Anyway, I wanted to be clear this year, this is your “Christmas Letter”.

This Christmas Letter has a dual purpose: it serves as the Gries Travel Log.  We’re good at traveling so we should keep doing those things at which we excel!  This year we took a trip in July to the Deep South, specifically to New Orleans and places along the Gulf coast.  The most important thing that I learned is that sand there can get so hot that you should not sit on it.  My fanny blisters have finally healed by the writing of this letter.  By the way, who vacations in New Orleans in JULY?  The messed up people who are sending you this Christmas Letter, that’s who!

Mike and I went to Mexico in February (don’t drink the water no matter what “they” say) with some friends and then we also took a west coast trip this fall.  Emily was lucky enough to visit England and France with a tour; Abby visited Washington D.C. with a group of school friends.  Will stayed home and worked so he was our only non-traveler this year.

Will is a junior (20 years old) at the University of Iowa.  His majors, as of today, are Computer Science and Political Science with a minor in either Math or Economics.  He hasn’t quite sorted that out yet.  He worked for the third year as an intern at Rockwell; he is also working there during the school year.  Working there while going to school is keeping him very busy!

Emily is a junior (17 years old) in high school.  She is involved in so many clubs and organizations that at this advanced stage in my peri-menopause I can no longer remember what they all are.  I’m sure that she is doing fine; no one from the school has told me otherwise so that is the premise that I am operating under.  I try to keep myself as clueless as possible; it’s a coping mechanism.

Abby is in 8th grade (13 years old) so it’ll be no time at all before she is grown-up and gone off to college where I won’t know what she is doing either.   I see how this goes: I’m so busy not paying attention to my kids that all of a sudden you are 85 years old.  It happens.

I have no idea what I am going to do when they all get out the door for good.  I guess that I’m supposed to take up knitting or cross-stitch or something; I have less than five years to figure this out so the race is on as I contemplate all my options.

Mike is doing well and continuing to enjoy his favorite hobby- wine.  Wine futures, wine collecting and as a by-product, wine consuming.  He also is enjoying cooking wonderful meals accompanied by…you guessed it…the perfect wine selection.  This works well for all of us who happen to be hanging around the kitchen.

I am doing great for a mid-lifer.  (Sounds sorta like I am serving time in the Pen, doesn’t it?)  In addition to my questionable eyesight that I filled you in on a couple of years ago, this year I learned that I have hearing loss caused by allergies.  I went to an allergist who told me that I have developed allergies to several things but the biggies are dust and five of the eight major molds.

Mold is crucial because there are molds in wines; however, I have finally decided that life is not worth living without wine.  (Oh yeah, and without Mike the Wine Drinker, too.)  When I drink wine, I get an allergic reaction which stuffs me up which in turn adds to my hearing loss.  Throw in my ever-dusty house and the next thing you know I am hearing impaired.

We took our 4th trip to California and Oregon this year to find more wines to stuff me up.  I think that we bought like 24 bottles of ear stuffer-uppers.  I really don’t care; I can be a blind and deaf wine drinker.

The good news is that my sense of smell is SPECTACULAR so even if I can’t see it when they bring it to me or hear when they set it down on the table in front of me, I am going to know it because the guy who sets it down on the table will smell like he showered this morning with Dial soap, used Crest Toothpaste and ate some questionable Mongolian barbeque yesterday.  “They” always say that when one sense fails, the other senses will make up for it.  I have been given a gift; it all depends on how you look at it, doesn’t it?   In all seriousness, we are very well and happy as I write this.  That is something for which we are truly thankful.

Half-way through our CA-OR trip we had to make a trip to a laundromat.  We did our best to find a small, dumpy yet marginally clean one so that we would have a something to write about in this “Christmas Letter”.  There was a big sign that said, “DO NOT wash your horse blankets in our machines.”  Hello, duh!  Who would bring a horse on the Stuffer-Upper Tour 2011?

Mike and I were the only two people in the place.  I was zoning out on my iPhone because I finally had cell/internet service.  It was very quiet except for the hum of the washers and dryers.  Suddenly the door to the laundromat came flying open with a BANG! and there stood the Keebler Elf.  Or maybe he was one of Santa’s Elves on hiatus because he was about 5 feet tall and had a floppy hat on and a big slouchy bag slung over his shoulder.  He bellowed, “hello, Hello, HELLO!!” and then whipped out a harmonica which he proceeded to blow at full force making no musical tune whatsoever, just loud harmonica blowing sounds.

I barely raised my head, just moved my eyes to see him.  Mike smiled at him and the elf demanded, “Like my music?”  Then he proceeded to examine every garbage can in the place for empty soda cans.  When he’d find one, he’d place it in his bag and move on to the next garbage container.  Finally he found a Diet Coke can; I guess he must have been a Diet Coke drinker…you know how those types are…particular.  He gave the can a little shake and you guessed it- he gulped down the remnants of the soda.  I think you probably work up a thirst hunting down empty pop cans.  It’s not for me to judge.

I’ve just about decided that I must be the only one to whom these little oddities happen.  When I read your Christmas letters you all sound more or less normal; knowing most of you as I do I realize that this cannot be true.  Come on people!  When the Elf walked into my world I turned to Mike and said, “The Christmas letter is in the bag.”  Of course I meant the proverbial bag, not the Elf’s bag, let’s just be clear.

In closing, I’d like to say that I watched a show the other night on the History Channel about how the Mayans predicted that the world is going to come to an end on December 21, 2012.  If that is true then this will be your next-to-the last Christmas letter from me, of course given that I am able to get next year’s letter out before 12/21/12.  You can either look at that as a good thing or a bad thing depending on if you enjoy “Christmas Letters” from this wacky Real Housewife of Marion, Iowa.

Just in case, it’s been nice knowing all y’all.