Archive for the ‘Christmas Letters’ Category

Christmas Letter 2012


Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah!  Happy New Year! Happy end-of-the Political Season!  You name it, I am happy about it!!

Well, not really.  Many of you know that I am an Ebenezer Scrooge about Christmas.  The idea of decorating my house, making four billion cookies, and wrapping presents are all things that raise my blood pressure and make me want to run screaming down the decked halls like a maniac.  I really want what Christmas looks like on a Hallmark holiday special.  I get what Christmas looks like on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (think the squirrel in their Christmas tree).  It sounds like I need to stop watching TV, it skews what I think my life should look like.

This year I turned 47.  I’m not exactly sure what that means yet but I think it means that I am on the cusp going from trying to please everyone to entering the stage when you are done taking grief from people and suffering fools and idiots; I have earned the right to say what I really think.  I don’t know, that seems a tad early, don’t you think?

Apparently this is also the stage in life when instead of someone saying to me, “Wow, your (insert body part you are most proud of) is soooo hot!” they say, “Wow!  You have really great veins!  Now hold still when I insert this needle and soon we will have the results of all your lab work”.  And the even dumber part is that I get all super proud of how great my veins look. This represents a sad change in my mentality and a lowering of my standards.  Welcome to Age 47.

As I write this it is December 2012; only a few more days until the Mayans have predicted the December 21st end of the world.  And wouldn’t you know it but I still don’t have my book written, the pictures from the last twenty-one years sorted, or my bathroom cleaned.  I’m not a fan of the world ending, I’d like to categorically state my opposition to it.  Anyway, I’m not going to worry too much about getting all my shopping done in a timely manner this year.  I mean, if we are done-for why bother?  (Alternately get out of my way on December 22 when I am running like a maniac trying to find gifts).

The first few months of 2012 I volunteered weekly at the local middle school working with a French boy who had moved here with his family and who did not speak English.  What started out as me helping him morphed into him correcting my French speaking skills.  I’m done with volunteering, it’s not so good for my self-esteem.

We traveled several times this year.  In May, Mike had business in New Jersey so we spent a couple of days in New York City.  I decided to examine NYC through the lens of history.  As I have mentioned before I LOVE history, especially American history.  So we spent a few days seeing things like Theodore Roosevelt’s boyhood home, touring the Tenement Museum, and visiting Ellis Island.  Of course, no quality trip to NYC would be complete without spending several hours in genealogical research at the New York Public Library and the NY Historical Society Archives.  It was a great trip spent by two geeks in the big city.  Well, maybe just one geek.  The other geek had to work in New Jersey.

A momentous event was set to happen this year when, after wanting a summons for years, I received a call to jury duty that was directly in the middle of the trip to New York City.  I value my American citizenship probably more than anyone, I am just that into my American-ness.  If you doubt me, please read my Blog post of July 2012  ( Anyway, when the postpone date rolled around I called in and “they did not need me.”  What???  They did not need me?  Seriously, you must be kidding because I have so much to offer the American court system they have no idea who they turned away.   As I said, I have a few things to say at age 47.

In June, we decided to re-visit the Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, the location of our 1999 trip with our friends Mark and Kate.  You name it, we saw it this trip: black bears, a grizzly bear, moose, elk, deer, antelope, and of course, the aforementioned idiots.

I don’t enjoy idiots.  A massive grizzly bear left the woods and started to amble across the road.  An idiot jumped out of his car carrying an infant to get up close to the grizzly, presumably so that the bear could eat his baby.  What was especially entertaining is that we would have caught the live show right off the front bumper of our car.  Mike kept yelling, “Get back in the car!”  He is a master of the obvious.  It did no good.  Fortunately the bear wasn’t hungry so we avoided that situation. This would have been an entirely different Christmas letter if the grizzly had done what bears do.  Kill idiots.

I thought that you might like a 2012 run-down of what is going on around here:

Will is a senior at the University of Iowa with a double major in Computer Science and Political Science.  He will graduate in December 2013.  He did not come with us on vacation this year as he worked as an undergrad technical intern at Rockwell in Cedar Rapids, thus no picture of him on the Christmas card.  He’s not too broken up about not being on the card, he assures me that at age 21 he does not need to be on our card.  Sounds like it’s time that he gets his own dang card.  Ingrate.

Emily, a senior in high school this year, is looking forward to starting at Iowa State in the fall 2013.  She has been busy volunteering at a local elementary school this year in addition to her classes, clubs and other distractions.  Her big news is that she had her wisdom teeth out in March.  As she recovered from her anesthesia she began to speak in French so as to let us know that she wasn’t intellectually compromised in any way.  (You know, like some of those people who wake up from a trauma with a cockney English accent).   Too bad I did not have that French boy with whom I worked there with her; he would have had a wealth of things to correct.  It was pretty amusing and I may post the video to Youtube soon, because being the great mom that I am…I filmed the whole thing.

Abby is in 9th grade and she continues to be involved in band, jazz band, track, and several clubs at school.  In addition she has started volunteering once a week at a local hospital.  She has seen a few interesting things there that should not be revealed in a Christmas letter.  By the third kid I have learned that it’s good for her to be there as long as she doesn’t catch nuthin’ funky.

For my part this year I have undertaken a couple of new hobbies.  The first is freshly ground black pepper.  Maybe I shouldn’t really call it a hobby, maybe just an addiction.  I have acquired multiple different pepper grinders and I am searching for the perfect pepper to grind for each meal.  Stay tuned on this fascinating new development in my life.

My other new hobby is crock-pot cooking.  Did you know that you can cook almost anything in a crock pot?  I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the one of you this year that sent me recipes for beaver and also for squirrel done in a slow cooker.  Very funny.  But thank you… that’s what you might get served if I ever ask you over for dinner again.

By now I guess that you are wondering about Mike.  Well, he is doing fine but I am slightly concerned about his mental health this holiday season.  You see, one day early this fall I heard him scream, “Get out of my yard, you Fat Ba$#*rd!!!!”  I ran to the window to see who had caused his head to explode.  It turns out that Mike was yelling at a squirrel that comes to raid his bird feeders of expensive bird feed.  I don’t understand why we are spending big money on expensive bird feed, but then again I am not going to criticize his choice of bird feed or he might begin to question my new pepper obsession.  I’ve learned after 25 years of marriage (we had our 25th anniversary in July) that there are just some things that you should shut up about.

Anyway, “Fat Ba$#*rd” is what Mike has named the squirrel and of course you can bet I am eyeing him for my crock-pot for anyone who is interested in dining “Chez Kork and Mike” in 2013.  C’mon over!  You know that since Mike is around the perfect wine selection will compliment the slowly roasted Fat Ba$#*rd.  And for my part the correctly chosen pepper will be ground, dear holiday reader, for your culinary delight.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year from our wacky family to yours!










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.