Mother is a Verb

Mother is a Verb

Monday, October 29, 2012

Think of Will

One of the more distinct pleasures of parenting is bearing witness to the unique individuals who our children become.  The letter below was written by my twenty-two year old son.  Will is a funny, warm, talented, hard-working actor, director, and playwright. He also happens to be gay.

Three weeks ago my husband sent an email to the four children who are old enough to vote, encouraging them to become educated on the issues of this upcoming election. Not surprisingly, his namesake took this missive to heart. Given that Phil and I stand together on just about everything but politics, Will has probably taken more time to look at both sides than most people. After reading articles, researching policies, watching debates, and discussing the myriad issues, he wrote this letter to not just immediate members of our family, but to his more conservative grandmothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins as well.  

While Will's political beliefs have historically been in line with my own, his personal experience as first a gay teen, and now a gay man, is something neither I nor most of you can truly fathom. I am both proud and humbled to share his words and hope you will consider sharing them with others who may still be on the fence as this election nears.

I feel an obligation to reach out to you, my family, to speak about this upcoming election.

We determine our culture when we choose our policy makers. The economy, jobs, and foreign relations (for example) are all incredibly important issues that will continue changing indefinitely. New wars will be had, taxes will go up and down, leaders will succeed and fail. What IS permanent, is the culmination of our choices. This culmination is our culture. It is something we all represent, that we are all responsible for.

Hatred is a cultural issue globally. It is the root of terrorism. It is the root of war. But hatred does not only exist on a global level. It exists on a personal level. I face hate on the daily because of my sexual orientation. Being called "faggot" by strangers is so frequent that it doesn't even surprise me. I am sad and afraid for my future and the future of this country when I look at what lies ahead if Romney is elected.

On a personal level: A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote to make my dream and choice to marry and have children impossible. He wants to constitutionally ban gay marriage and make it nearly impossible for same sex couples to adopt. Here is some more information about his history with this:

On a national level: A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for a culture defined by discrimination and hate. It sends the message to every politician, business person, employer, teacher, colleague, stranger and child in our country that discrimination is okay. 

On a global level: A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote in favor of an America that tells the world, "some people are worth less than others." Not only are some Americans worthless, but Syrians, Libyans, Israelis, religious sects, and races. We would be declaring by example that if someone doesn't share your beliefs, they are worthless. This is the same principle terrorist groups advocate, the same kind of hatred that has made our world a terrifying theater of war.

Here are a few resources with more information about this election and the impact it will have, particularly on the LGBT community. (bravely written by a friend of mine)

President Obama has made huge progress during his presidency, especially having inherited a disaster. Take a minute to read the NY Times post above that breaks down his work very succinctly. It is not just the LGBT community that stands to lose rights. Think of the women in our lives, our brother in the army, and the Seefried and Campbell kids in the education system when you cast your vote. All of our rights are at stake.

I urge us ALL to think about the cultural repercussions of the proposals each candidate makes. Not just what our gas prices will look like next year or the difference on a tax return, but what our culture stands for globally. 

Many of you in Florida and Colorado have a lot of power in this election. I will be thinking of you all on election day and hope you will think of me too. Thanks for reading.

Love to you all,

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bleepin' Beep

Remember that ground-breaking documentary, What The Bleep Do We Know? , a big dose of quantum physics contemplating the universal state of being?  My question is what the bleep we actually did to achieve a universal state of beeping!

 With continual beeps emanating from my computer, microwave, dishwasher, and cell phone, not to mention the sound of the trash truck backing up, it feels like I’m in the middle of a Loony Tunes cartoon with Wile E. Coyote on my trail.

Who decided we needed to be notified every time an email arrives or the laundry finishes spinning. I’m beginning to seriously resent it.  Yes, I do know how to fix the sound settings on my computers and phone, but the microwave, oven timer, and dryer all have permanent settings.  One of my biggest pet peeves is the sound that greets me every morning as I shuffle to the kitchen for coffee.  The dishwasher insists on telling me it’s finished, just in case I forgot that it did its job, and now it’s time for me to do mine, and that I shouldn’t get too comfortable with my coffee and my Facebook.  

Even worse than being bossed around by a lowly appliance, is being bullied by a sinister %$ ^%#* battery-operated smoke detector.

Like girls in a college dorm, detectors that share a home inevitably all end up nearly on the same cycle.  Which means that about two and a half days after I’ve replaced the batteries in the one it took a sleepless week to find tucked back in the top corner of my closet (after disassembling and reassembling the three others scattered around the bedroom), one of them starts to beep.  You get the picture.  

With every problem Steve Jobs solved in his lifetime, couldn’t someone have nudged him to create an immortal battery …or at least a GPS for ailing smoke detectors?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Friggin' Guilt

I never used to get it when my mom would talk about feeling guilty... in fact, I thought it was ridiculous.  Then I had kids.  And not only did I start feeling guilty about two thirds of the time, but I also had pro-rated guilt from not respecting my mom's guilty feelings!

  I'm not Jewish or Catholic; well actually, I'm probably both based on what we know about our family's roots, but I wasn't raised with a lot of fire and brimstone. (One time I went to a Catholic church with a boyfriend as a teen, and after hearing the priest refer to us as lambs that were sinners, I indignantly swore I'd never set foot in a Catholic church again). 

Trying to decipher when the guilt is appropriate and when it is not is something I continue to struggle with.  This morning my eleven year-old is home sick from school.  He came home with a fever yesterday.  The day before his sister was home sick. And that was the same day that my older son and his partner finally went back to school after a 5 week winter break. It's been about two months since I've been home alone with my computer and my dog.  And I'm getting cranky.  It's not that I'm surprised that the winter crud, which our family has dodged for the most part, has finally landed here; it's just that I don't want to play Florence Nightingale this week. I want to play Emily Dickinson and hide in my room and write.
 Alas, there would be no blog, if there were no Plan B...

So let me take this opportunity to share another Plan B...

As I shared last week on my other blog, On a Wing or a Pair, I have recently met and fallen hard for mayoral candidate, Theresa Spahn!  Theresa is that perfect bridge between business and government that the city of Denver (and so many other cities) need at this moment in time.  She has the experience needed to understand the real implications of budget decisions, and the ability to implement plans while building and maintaining strong relationships with key players on all sides.

In order to devote enough energy to Theresa's campaign, I have decided to put my "book in blogress" on a new time-table; that may mean I have to change the title to 22 Years of Plan B, but how appropos...

I will be posting when I can, but not when I should.  I am pumped about this new focus and look forward to sharing the story of Theresa Spahn's successful campaign!  

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Reflecting Back on the First Plan B

In the 13 months since my Dad died, it's funny how many things I've realized we had in common. My nose, for instance. Used to be, I'd look in the mirror and think, Jesus, how'd I get saddled with this honker? (And it is a honker, believe me). But now, when I see my reflection, I see my Dad, and am grateful for this daily reminder of the man who made me.  

My Dad always kept a tiny datebook in his left breast pocket. And when I say tiny, I mean tiny. He had neat, precise writing - that, I did not inherit! He held onto these calendars the same way he held on to other stuff...from the rusty coffee cans filled with used nails, to his 40-plus year Playboy collection, Dad was a keeper. We found nearly 60 of those datebooks among the things in his study.

Having long prided myself on being a 'tosser', it was with equal parts excitement and chagrin, I realized that I, too, have saved every calendar since 1989, though back then
my days were pretty simple compared with what would come!

On January 13th, there were 4 reminders.

Dr. Sassoon 1:15. Sassoon was my OB. (He was what might now be referred to as a DRILF. Contact me privately if you need translation. Of course, when you're eight and a half months pregnant, that's kind of a waste.)

Call Bellini to see if bumper is here 212-362-3700. Bellini was one of the few high-end stores I'd ever set foot in. With gender being a mystery, yellow and green were the default colors of the day, and I'd been smitten by a two hundred dollar yellow ducky bumper. I loved that bumper. Ducks have always had a special place in my heart, though I'm not quite sure how that started... maybe it was some prescience of MidChix, or more likely the beak-like qualities often associated with that memorable nose I received from Dad!

Last Day of Work. With just a couple of weeks 'til my due date, I'd decided to err on the side of caution, and give myself a little wiggle room before the baby was due. And good thing, as those two weeks represent the only span of white space on my calendar in the last 22 years.

Stock up on Wine. Being on the wagon for a good part of the past nine months, I was eager to become 'legal' again.  Though I'll admit that the one glass per week rule was interpreted in my house, as one tankard.

Waking up on February 1st, I had a feeling that wasn't just my belly digesting the usual 2 a.m. snack of milk and cookies.  After a few hours, I hoofed it 23 blocks up 1st Avenue to see my heartthrob of a doctor.  My trek must have moved things along, and by early afternoon I'd managed to get checked into the hospital, and settled in a nicely-outfitted "birthing room" boasting a bed with stirrups for me along with both a television and recliner* for Phil.

When Dr. Bob decided to speed things up by breaking my water, Kris gave us our first taste of  Plan B.  Apparently that round thing that had felt like her head, was actually her bum, and I was whisked off for an emergency c-section.  Our oldest entered the world with her own agenda, and as we begin planning her wedding, we're bracing ourselves for whatever Plan B might have in store.

*That was the end of reclining for Phil...for a very long time!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas 2010

 In 2010 our family logged enough frequent flier miles to fund our very own airline, affectionately named for our friends at TSA, Don’t Touch My Junk Air.   

While some families’ mission over the holidays is to make a difference in their community, we decided to make a difference in Cozumel, Mexico. Concerned about their over-abundance of rum and tequila products, we descended upon the cheapest all-inclusive we could find to help correct the situation. In the spirit of true humanitarianism, we stooped so far as to insist that not-quite-18-year-old Kev, do his part, along with slightly less illegal Kris & Will.

Returning to a legal drinking age of 21, plus an accepted cocktail hour that was not only, literally an hour, but 10 hours into the day, rather than two, was quite a shock to five of our systems.

Personally, I spent the rest of January in detox, while trying to keep track of all the user names, passwords, email addresses, and screen names I’ve acquired since launching MidChix. My aliases include 475Gretch, Ginger27, gretchen27, Javamama27, gretchen174, ChiefChick, ChiefChick27, Georgie27, and Macaroni. Plus, occasionally, Sam.

For a short month, February sure packed in its share of miles. I flew to Philly to help Kris celebrate legitimate legalness, and Nicki flew to Hawaii to lose her driver’s permit (more on this later). Then Kris flew home for Villanova’s winter break, which began a week after Cam’s winter break ended.

February turned to March only a week before Will’s spring break started, coincidentally, the same week of Kevin’s school trip to Peru. In another somewhat questionable coincidence, possibly engineered by those sneaky TSA agents or probably Kevin himself, his flight home arrived at DIA @ an hour after Cam, Nicki, and I departed for 5 days of playing tourist with mom in NYC. Besides seeing Will perform, we tackled Central Park, Radio City, and a very intimate security line for the Ellis Island Ferry.  When Nicki, a new theatre major, begged off so she could get an infusion of Broadway, I’m not sure if my trepidation was over her going to a show solo, or that the show, Next To Normal, is about a mother and her worsening mental illness!

On the last day of March, I finally found the strength to endure an afternoon at the Denver Department of Motor Vehicles in order to replace Nicki’s lost permit. Unfortunately for Phil, there is nothing to do while waiting at the DMV... except surf the internet on your iPhone. So, after spending the requisite 10 minutes playing Your Team (see Christmas 2007), Nic and I began checking out dogs at the Denver Dumb Friends League. (In case any of you don’t actually know us well enough to know that Phil long ago said “absolutely not” to a well as a fifth child, moving from Elm Street, buying a bay house,  and getting a trampoline*, well let’s just say you better go back and start from the beginning).

 So, lo and behold, that’s how we found Augie, formerly named Dilbert by some dog rescue dude with a sense of humor. Nicki and I hot-footed it over to the DDFL as soon as she had that flattering permit photo taken … and twenty-four hours later, appropriately, April Fools' Day, Augie was a part of the family.

A dog was not exactly the 18th birthday present that kynophobic Kevin was hoping for. Luckily his acceptance letter to Claremont McKenna arrived the following week and he began his transformation into the-glass-is-half-full kind of guy. Unfortunately, his glass seems to be half -full on a fairly regular basis these days...

The youngest of five, Cam has been the first kid we took to PG-13 before hitting double digits, the first on Facebook at age 10, the first to have a cell phone at 11, and the first to get stitches, after Augie took issue with the proximity of his face. Despite blood pouring down his chin, Cam's main concern was keeping Augie. So keep him we did, and spent a good chunk of money diagnosing his "possession aggression" and his aversion to training.

Come late May, Kevin's graduation was bittersweet. We missed Pop-pop and Grandpa, who both would've been bursting with pride; fortunately, Lollie and Grandma were on hand for the festivities and, even better, with both being on East Coast time, cocktail hour started promptly at 5 (which isn't such a bad thing when three matriarchs are sharing a kitchen...).

A few weeks later my sanity took a road trip along with Nicki, Cam and Augie in a remake of the Summer of '04.  It was totally worth three solid days crammed into the Highlander when an elderly woman in our Chicago hotel mistook Cam for Nicki's daughter!  I'm not sure which of them get the biggest Good Sport Award...

Driving cross-country was a breeze, given the destination was a two and a half week long sleep-away camp where I dumped the kids in the rain before high-tailing it down to the bayhouse for five, count 'em,  five days of complete freedom... except for Augie, the doggie.  Then Phil arrived for a  second honeymoon of sorts, (though he still insists I didn't live up to the contract he'd drafted, and I'd signed, during the dog negotiations).

I had to giggle a couple of weeks later when he got his first taste of hospital gown indignity after the doc decided his appendix had to go. This photo was sweet payback for all those labors when he kept telling me to " just relax, honey".

Kris threatened to forego her own future labor after working the delivery unit at Jefferson Hospital. To add insult to injury, after seeing where babies actually come from, as a summer nanny, she also saw what happens when they get old enough to talk back! She's considering requesting a tubal ligation in lieu of a graduation gift!

California dreamin' took on new meaning in August, when we dropped Kev at his new school. Phil was racked by feelings of insane jealousy as he stared longingly at the perfectly manicured fields, the signs announcing upcoming keg parties, and the slew of cute co-eds, moving in down the hall of the dorm.  I spent the rest of the trip trying to console him by bringing up memories of our own college years in frigid Williamstown... to no avail.

In keeping with the year's frequent flier theme, the day after we arrived home, I headed back East to see Will perform at Radio City.  It was a memorable trip in more ways than one.  Although it's nearly 4 months since my wallet was stolen, Phil still won't let me head over to the DMV to replace my license for fear I'll come back with another dog!

In September, he did make an exception for 16 year-old Nicki...praise the lord. She is now the designated driver to Denver School of the Arts. With Cam finally at the same school, I now spend mornings at home in my jammies! Tho' I must admit to missing some of those early morning car rides with Nic.  She taught me plenty, including how to cut back on word waste...  no kid. she is into abbrevs . having a convo with her is worse than coit interrupt. soon i may be texting my blog...except if i do it via my iphone it'll just b garble. i knew i had to stick with typing on a real keyboard after it changed "forgive me" to "f$ck me".

October was marked by an eventful fall break with Kris home, and  Phils' brother and wife here for their first visit in years.  We decided to fly Kev in as a surprise, and soon found ourselves hosting a family beer pong tournament on the patio. When I suggested that he may have had one too many and Kev good-naturedly protested, I gently reminded him that he'd had his arm around me for nearly half an hour.

November found us back in NY to see Will perform again; I won't be including a link to this it was our first exposure to... well,  full exposure as one scene of Take Me Out is performed in a locker room, and in the nude! In typical fashion, Phil gave Will a pretty powerful pep talk before the show "Now don't forget, this is a reflection on me too!" To which Will replied " No worries, Dad...I'll do you proud."

December descended with travel vengeance!  Kris headed to El Paso for a week of midwifery training, Nicki wowed them at State Thespian Convention, scoring her the dubious honor of a June trip to Lincoln, NE for Nationals, and  Cam and I flew back East to be with Mom, as we marked a year since saying goodbye to my Dad.

Then, December 16th, Kris and her long-time beau, Jeff, starred in their very own romantic comedy in Cancun. Down on one knee, Jeff glanced over to see why Kris was laughing, and realized that the rose petals he'd paid the Mexican concierge to arrange on the beach, spelled out Married Me?

Phil tried to top Kris' engagement news by turning 50 last week.  He was a good sport, and has set a high bar for me to follow three months from today.  Being the competitive types that we are, we've decided to best all of our friends having 50th birthday celebrations this year and are planning a 100 years party sometime soon.  (all of my blog followers will be invited, so do us all a favor and  subscribe via email by clicking here! pressure, no sirree...)

*Santa pulled off The Miracle on Franklin Street  when (s)he scored a Craig's List trampoline purchase, disassembly, move, and reassembly surprise on Christmas Eve, with the help of two pretty-handy-considering-being-right-brained elves.

Cameron's face made it all worth it, not to mention Phil's...

We want to wish you all a healthy, happy, and humor-filled  2011...and remind you: don't hide weapons in your underwear next time you fly...

P.S. Reminder for all you gals that are "mid" chix ... please humor me and sign up  here!  With @1700 members
across 50 states and 13 countries, MidChix has recently relaunched as an online community for women who aren't just social, but also socially conscious! We urge you to check us out, sign yourself up, and spread the word to your friends.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas 2009

In the first month of ’09, my true love refused me… start-up funds for my new company.
Throwing caution to the wind, I pointed to him, declared “You’re It!” and cashed in my life insurance. The fact that the policy would have paid some poor slob over a hundred thousand dollars a year to do what I have done for free the past twenty was mildly offensive…but not nearly as insulting as the pittance with which it rewarded me for surviving all of those hazardous years! Nevertheless, it was a start.

In the second month of ’09, my true love shook with jealousy… when my attention was devoted solely to my brand new company.
Imagine finding out that not only are you not the father of the new baby, but she turns out to be the most demanding yet! To top it off, home-cooked meals are a dim memory, clean clothes a virtual fantasy, and the mention of date night produces a guffaw.

In the third month of ’09, my true love prevented me…from hurting some admissions grunt for rejecting strumming, crooning, high school bound Nicki.
When the anticipated acceptance letter from Denver School of the Arts was nixed due to a last minute decision to cancel the guitar program, I had what some might refer to as a Phil moment (minus the vein). Thus it was quickly decided that Nic would make a damn good double bass player. And I wonder what the hell I was thinking as we load the 6 foot instrument in the back of my Highlander every ^$%&%^# morning.

In the fourth month of ’09, my true love made a plea… “end the eight consecutive weeks of school break revelry”.
Not one to be dissuaded by the lack of a vacation fund, Cam ponied up scads of allowance savings (i.e. about forty two bucks). With a little help from Mom, and a lot more help from Dad, he & I spent his spring break road tripping from Massachusetts to Rhode Island to Connecticut to New York to Pennsylvania. As a last hurrah, we treated my brothers’ family to the pleasure of Cam’s company while I unselfishly sacrificed one final weekend of parental bonding for the demands of my annual Girls’ Weekend. We did our best to challenge the world Bananagrams record, while supporting dairy and grape markets from France to California.
In the fifth month of ’09, my true love was set free… when graduation ended our indentured relationship with day school, Graland Country.
After 27 total tuition years, we were rewarded with…a six second mention at the graduation ceremonies. Oh yeah, and an alumni giving appeal that arrived in the mail the following week. But in an effort to ensure us that at least he was still pursuing higher education, Cam informed Phil that he had learned a new “bad word” tho’ he wasn’t sure what it meant. Even Phil was stumped on how to explain to a nine-year old a simple vocabulary word spelled “H-O-R”.

In the sixth month of ’09 my true love waved good-bye to me, as we headed east for summer
A month alone, (or actually not so alone) in the bay house gave Kristen the laughable notion that the house belongs to her. She had a rude awakening when the rest of us descended in late June, and challenged her and Jeff to play Housus Interruptus. Of course now that she is practically a full-fledged nurse, she or one of our family members have suffered from a rash of life-threatening illnesses ranging from a latent TIA to an enlarged (and possibly ready to rupture) spleen, severe hypoglycemia, as well as her personal favorite-a big ole neck goiter.

In the seventh month of ’09 my true love had good company…when Kevin stayed home, supported Subway, the Rockies, and generously worked for free.
Kev began the college exploration process by kindly informing us that it really wasn’t any of our business where he applied to school. Hmm, I guess he has a full-ride scholarship he’s going to surprise us with. Meanwhile, Will earned enough money directing to cover nearly all of the ATM fees he incurred during his freshman year in NYC. Apparently, in New York, they charge you a fee not only to withdraw money, but also to just fantasize about withdrawing money. And for those of you who don’t know Will, he has a very rich fantasy life…

In the eighth month of ’09 my true love bared his chest quite gleefully…after months of lifting he could show off - finally.
After devoting numerous workouts to preparing his body for the display opportunities of daily boat excursions around the bay, Phil was bitterly disappointed to find that the more money spent making a boat sea-worthy, the less sea-worthy it was. By the time said boat was repaired, it was time to dry-dock for the winter…and pay our next installment on the maintenance-free guarantee.

In the ninth month of ’09, my true love sighed with ecstasy…when MidChix launched and he thought I just might make a little mon-ey.
Then I found that the only thing being a stay-at-home mom had in common with being a stay-at-home mom with a full-time job was that they both paid nothing. Nevertheless, I love my new status as Chief Chick, and have learned more than I ever imagined (including the fact that people who get paid the most, usually do the least). While I have chalked it up to “live and learn”, my personal banker, Phil, continues to be saddled with “live and lend”.

In the tenth month of ’09, my true love gave to me… a trip to the local room of Emergency.
When October found Phil doing ten pull-ups too many, and ending up in the ER, we realized that life had become far too stressful and that it was time for a major change. After much in depth discussion, we made the joint decision to switch to screw-top wine. Things have improved dramatically since then. Though Phil was a bit put out when cleaning out the fridge he discovered my emergency supply of two snack size containers of chardonnay hidden behind the Joint Juice.

In the eleventh month of ’09, my true love gave to me…the dubious but highly-prized present of a super-duper squeaky clean alley.
November got off to a good start when Daylight Savings ended and we got an extra hour sleep. Things continued on a positive path as membership on MidChix grew, Kevin was accepted at Tulane, and Phil had multiple opportunities to use his commercial grade leaf-blower. Then, I began a ten-day East Coast trip at my parents’ house, and that was the luckiest thing I ever did. After complications from surgery the following week, my Dad was moved into ICU on Thanksgiving, and we lost him ten days later.

It may seem contradictory to say that the past two weeks have been both the worst and best of my life. There are few things worse than losing a loved one. But having the opportunity to hold his hand, tell him I loved him, and honor his memory is the greatest privilege that I can imagine.

In twelfth month of ’09, our family sends its wishes for warmth, love, health and peace to you and your families. With love, Gretchen, Phil, Kris, Will, Kev, Nicki & Cam

PS. If you are 40+ and female, please join (if you do it before 12/31, you could win a free flight on Frontier). If you don’t do it, you could be removed from the Christmas Letter List. ☺

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas 2008

Detroit and Wall Street aren’t the only places begging for a bailout this year. The Seefried clan is right there with them! We have first dibs on Change too.

Sure, maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised…it’s not like Kris hasn’t changed her mind before…4 years ago her room was plastered with posters of half-dressed rap singers. Now she’s in love with a Westpointer who is actually whiter than she is. She headed to Villanova to study business, I mean education, I mean nursing. Yup, the child who has come closest to an “assault on a nurse” conviction is going to BE a nurse! Can you say Karma? What’s another semester or two. She also has joined a sorority. I wonder what will happen if she treats her new sisters like she treats her old sister…

Will’s tuition went from zero to 60 faster than you can say “actors don’t make much”. In keeping with the campaign theme this year, he changed schools, cities, and animal phobias. Ever since his encounter with a friendly squirrel on a park bench in NYC, mice are a breeze. Senior Year hoopla characterized the earlier half of Will’s year. That and an epidemic of T-Ping houses. Including ours. Twice. Apparently this is a sign of affection. Boy, did I feel loved.

Remember how last year’s letter talked about how happy Kev was at his new school? We lied. We bailed him out 3 weeks after last year’s letter was mailed. He is now back at Fountain Valley in Colorado Springs and as content as any sixteen- year- old boy can be. He currently holds the title for most expensive sophomore year in history. Kev spent the summer scooping at Cold Stone but somehow managed to drop 25 lbs. Sorry, but no, I don’t know her name.

In the most bittersweet story of 2008 , our little Nicki bailed on childhood. She left for camp a sweet-talking, guitar-playing, parent–pleasing thirteen-year-old. When I picked her up (in the middle of flippin’ nowhere) 2 and a half weeks later…the boys were ‘smokin’, the music was ‘jammin’ and Carlie from Alabama had taught her how to ‘cuss’ in several octaves. Fourteen was only a few weeks away and I was experiencing a severe case of déjà vu…

Our biggest struggle this holiday is Cam’s daily change of list for Santa. He has definitely decided…that he can’t really decide. Which might lead to a new role for Santa in ‘Bi-Polar Express’. In our most recent attempt to win the “worst parent of the year award” (we long ago bailed on best), Cam is an avid member of Facebook and connoisseur of YouTube. We’re tired, okay???

Speaking of YouTube, you can catch Phil on there in a ‘Death of Credit’ speech that was spookily accurate. Fortunately, he did not have this revelation about the market before he had bought me my long-coveted…and long-denied BAYHOUSE ! (in Stone Harbor). Our very own. With a boat. I am a very happy camper. And the best part is, that everyone else is too. Including Phil. Even tho’ we are now more broke than GM (and even tho’ my brother and I outscored him on the boating license test). Tee-hee.

I wish I had bailed from my bike 10 seconds earlier when I hit a rough patch in Stone Harbor last August. My road-burned face was a frightening sight for the upperclassmen helping Kris and Will move into their respective colleges the next day. Unfortunately a broken wrist and finger didn’t make me much help. Never one to accept the glass as half empty, it didn’t take me long to master the left-handers corkscrew. Thank God, we finally got Phil cleared of the abuse charge … right around the time my cast came off.

With the financial world crumbling around us, I’m preparing for the potential of Phil needing a bailout too. Let’s face it folks, I may have to become the breadwinner. It’s OK; just between us, I have a plan. No kidding. I am now the proud owner of my very own domain. For you lucky female friends who are over 40, look for this spring. Think Facebook for the 40+ crowd (girls only, sorry guys!). And if you are not over forty…fear not…you will be. ☺

On that note, let us end with heartfelt wishes to you and yours for a warm, wonderful, gratitude-filled holiday.

Peace on earth, goodwill to all,

Gretchen, Phil, Kris, Will, Kev, Nicki and Cammy!