Peals of excited laughter bounced off the walls at Kirsten Schramm’s house Friday night, Feb. 3, as 10 women gathered around the island in her kitchen, talking in shouts and giggles about their upcoming trip.
A little over a month ago, Peggy Tettelbach had called Schramm and eight other women to tell them her good news: she had won a cruise for herself and nine friends, sponsored by morning news program "Good Morning America" to celebrate “Girls' Week Out” and they were all joining her for a week-long cruise to the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Honduras and the Bahamas.
“I’ll need them even more now,” Tettelbach said. “This is a way to thank them in advance.”
In January, Tettelbach’s husband received a promotion in the Navy that would require the family to move to Seattle. After living in Crosspointe for nine years, and with children in Silverbrook Elementary and South County Secondary, they decided she and the children would stay in their home while he went to other side of the country.
“This is the best place we’ve ever lived in,” she said. “We’d end up moving back here in two years anyway, so we’re going to try this for a year. If we fail, the kids and I will move out there in June. If not, we’ll make it work.”
Tettelbach said she remembered the contest, in which women were asked to submit an essay stating why they and their friends deserved a cruise, the day before entries were due. While she was writing the essay, Tettelbach said she was trying to convince herself that she and her husband had made the right decision. She was also looking around at the people in her life who would be the support she’d need for the next two years.
Two days later, without mentioning the contest to her husband or her nine friends, Tettelbach got the phone call telling her she’d won.
“I really didn’t expect to win,” she said.
THE PAST MONTH has been a blur of shopping and preparation parties for the women, the last of which took place on Friday night, just two days before they left for Miami to board the Norwegian Jewel, a new cruise ship, for their vacation.
The Getaway Girls, as they’ve taken to calling themselves, were enjoying some snacks, comparing packing lists and joking about their week without husbands, children or cell phones.
“Oprah’s friend is going to be on the ship,” said Tettelbach, who will also be interviewed by Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America" while on the trip.
Fifteen groups of women are taking the trip, she said. Some are in their 20s and 30s, others are older and have been friends their whole lives.
For nine years, Tettelbach had shared carpooling duties with the other women, their children in and out of each other’s houses in a manner reminiscent of 1960s sitcoms depicting a more innocent era. They are so used to watching each other’s children that the women all thought, when Tettelbach told them about the cruise, she was going to ask them to watch her own four children.
“That’s an everyday occurrence for us,” said Pam Gordon. “All our kids know it’s OK to get into each other’s cars after school if we’re not there right on time.”
In total, the 10 women are leaving for seven days, hoping the nine husbands and one college-aged baby-sitter will be able to take care of the 23 children and seven dogs they’re leaving behind.
The one thing they all agree on is how much they appreciate being included on Tettelbach’s list of her closest friends.
“I’m really looking forward to getting away,” Gordon said. “I’ve never had a chance to go on vacation by myself with my girlfriends.”
“I just cleared the memory card in my camera,” Patty Miles said. “I’m ready to go. I’ve never been on a cruise before, I’ve been trying to get my husband to go on one for years.”
While all the women are close friends with Tettelbach, not all of them are close friends together, Schramm said. “We’re all Velcroed to Peggy in different ways.”
SPENDING A WEEK on a cruise ship will ensure closer friendships, Schramm said. “I’m looking forward to getting to know these other ladies. I thought Peggy and Clay [Tettelbach’s husband] were going, but when she said it was us I couldn’t believe it."
Darla Rivi, whom Tettelbach referred to as the “Jiminy Cricket” of the group, admitted she’d miss her children, “but not that much.”
"We all have so much in common, it feels like we’ve known each other forever,” Rivi said. “This is a great chance to hang out with these women as people, not just as moms like we’re used to.”
The women, who have been “blowing up” each other’s e-mail accounts over the past few weeks, have filled out questionnaires to get to know each other and were using the answers to play a trivia game Friday night.
“You never hear of people winning contests like this,” said Michelle Sbardella, standing in Schramm’s kitchen while '80s music played from the TV in the next room. “I haven’t done anything like this in years.”
Sbardella said it was important for women to set aside some personal time to take care of themselves instead of just focusing on their families.
“We need to do stuff for ourselves,” she said. “My husband said we all deserve to go.”
Laura Smith’s husband has jokingly asked her how many times she needs to go shopping to prepare for the cruise.
“There has been a lot of shopping and a lot of e-mails,” she said with a laugh.
The children are as excited as their mothers, she said. “This has been the big buzz at school all week, all the kids have been talking about it and their teachers all know.”
A WEEK WITHOUT waking up to get the kids on the bus, without cell phone service and without household chores left Joanna Zigrossi “smiling for three days.”
“Being moms and women around the same age, we have so much in common,” she said. “We love our kids and always put them first, but we couldn’t say no. This is the opportunity of a lifetime and it forces us to have fun with each other. We love that.”
Zigrossi, a single mother of two children, said she has a feeling her children will have a new-found respect for her when she comes home.
“We’ll come back with a lot of good stories to tell,” Zigrossi said. “I keep thinking about Peggy’s reaction when she’s being interviewed by Diane Sawyer and the celebrity status she’ll have for the week.”
Planning to spend most of the week “hanging out and relaxing,” Carol Reskovac said seeing the other women for seven straight days is bound to strengthen their relationships.
“I think we’ll have a great time,” she said. “Kirsten has signs for all our doors and lots of decorations. I’m pretty sure everyone on the boat will know us by the end of the week.”
Tettelbach is still a little concerned about the two years without her husband, but knows with her friends to support her, she’ll make it through.
“My husband keeps saying if I have to be him for two years, he can be me for a week,” she said, looking at a framed collage of pictures of the women wearing matching Navy sweatshirts, the first present she gave them towards the trip.
Tettelbach has spent a lot of time counting her blessings lately, and the nine women joining her on the trip are among them.
“I could fill the boat with friends if I had the opportunity,” she said. “I know how lucky I am. It always feels like everyone does for me more than I do for them.”
Writing the essay was easy, Tettelbach said, because she didn’t think she’d win. “Everyone here has something different to offer."
Thinking about her friends while corresponding with other winners, many of whom asked if there were any conflicts to work out within the group while on the trip, Tettelbach said she came to a happy realization.
“We have no issues to work out. These are incredibly healthy relationships,” she said. “With every one of my friends, everything is about our kids. It’s not about them.”