Gretchen Szemreylo of Ellington, CT

I guess it's only natural to start my story at the beginning. I was born two months prematurely. My mothers due date was in January but instead I was born in November, as was my son (charm #2734-11). I was born the day after Thanksgiving, which my mother often jokes that it was either the turkey or me that had to go... guess it was me! I had two older brothers that loved to tease me, as many older brothers tend to do.

Growing up we had many pets, mostly cats and dogs. Although, in my teens I developed a love for turtles (charm #8173). I collected anything and everything that was a turtle. I even, at one point, had a few turtles in my back yard fenced in with a “kiddy” pool for them to swim in and bask in the sun. Later in life I had another named Toby.

Growing up I was always proud of my heritage. My paternal grandparents were Ukrainian and I was pretty fascinated by that. My grandfather was deceased before I was born but my grandmother remarried. We used to go to their house for Christmas Eve dinner every year. My grandmother would cook us a dish that she called “cutletti”, that we still cook to this day as part of our tradition. When she passed away my grandfather gave me the Russian nesting doll (charm #2328) that I played with as a child.

When I was thirty years old I was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure. It was a very scary time for me and my family. But, with help from a great cardiologist and electro physiologist, I was given a pacemaker and medications that made my heart (charm #6086) stronger and healthy. Now I am married with two children of my own and three stepchildren. My son Christopher, who I mentioned, was born in November and my daughter Caitlin was born in August (charm #0473-8). My husband and I were married last June with our friends and family. All of our children were in the bridal party. We were married at the oldest windmill (charm #1408) in Cape Cod, Massachusetts-the Eastham Windmill. The reception was a beach theme, with sea glass on the tables and sand dollars (charm #6036) with the guests name on them for seating arrangements. I had such an amazing time planning our wedding. I loved shopping around and getting amazing ideas and bargains! I designed our wedding cake and had it made at the local Stop-n-Shop. On top of the three-tier cake was a pair of Adirondack chairs (charm #3800) and all on the tiers were white chocolate starfish (charm #0532), sand dollars and shells, and beach-style fencing wrapped around them. It was beautiful!

In our spare time, we love going to the Cape where we go to the beach and enjoy boating, fishing and clamming. My husband, Conrad, also has a Wellfleet oyster license (which are world famous) and one day he actually came home with an oyster that had a pearl (charm #2009) inside of it... how lucky!

I am lucky. Everyday that I am alive and healthy and able to spend with my family and friends makes me very lucky...

Gretchen Szemreylo Ellington, CT

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