Reading My Way Through 2018


This year I read 20 books out of my Goodreads goal of 35. Sigh. I wish news articles and RCIA class reading counted toward my goal! Nevertheless, I read more books in 2018 than in 2017, so I can be proud of that. Note to self: Must read more books this year.

Here are the 20 books I read in 2018, in the chronological order that I read them:

“Scrappy Little Nobody” by Anna Kendrick
This book was a great way to kick off my 2018 reading. It was a lighthearted view of Kendrick’s life and career, and also an informative insight into the not-so-glamorous behind the scenes lives of actors beginning to achieve fame.
“Wonder” by R.J. Palacio 
This book touched my heart in so many ways. I think this should be recommended reading for all kids in upper elementary school.
“Sisters First: Stories from our Wild and Wonderful Life” by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush
I bought this signed book at an event with the authors in Kansas City in November 2017. I enjoyed every minute of reading this book. The Bush twins have forged their own paths and are refreshingly authentic.
“The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter than You Think” by Brian Hare
This book was a little too academic for me. It had interesting content but read like a textbook. I was looking for more fun stories of dogs in day to day encounters. I did take away some interesting tidbits, such as why dogs always wrap themselves around things when they are on leashes or tie outs.
“What Happened” by Hillary Rodham Clinton
I encourage people of all political persuasions to read this book. Reading all sides of a story is important. I still think “Living History” is Hillary’s best book. “What Happened” is a close second.
“The New One Minute Manager” by Kenneth H. Blanchard
While this book provided a great management philosophy, it was a bit too brief and did not have enough meat for me.

“Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng

Celeste Ng has become one of my favorite authors. She weaves a wonderful plot with complex characters. I love books that make me question how I feel about the “good guys” and “bad guys.”

“Barbara Bush: A Memoir” by Barbara Bush
I had purchased this paperback years ago at a garage sale and finally picked it up after Mrs. Bush’s passing. It is a long one – 562 pages – but totally worth it.

“Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman

I think I giggled the most of any of the other books while reading this one. The quirky Eleanor is easy to mock until you peel back a few layers and begin to understand what makes her tick.

“Leaving Time” by Jodi Picoult
This book had a slow-ish start, but after the first 100 pages, I was hooked. The plot twists were awesome.
“Lilac Girls” by Martha Hall Kelly (Not pictured as I gave it to my sister to read!)
This was my second longest book read and worth it. I loved the author’s approach of showing us World War II and its aftermath through the lives of three women with very different lives. This book is unique in the war ending long before the book ends. So many people struggled for many years after the war, and I appreciate the author’s attention to this.
“A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman 
I loved this book so much and knew who had to read it next: my brother Mitch. So this book is not pictured, because it is currently aboard the USS John C. Stennis! Mitch rated the book ten out of ten stars and has passed it along to another shipmate to read.
“Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple
Such a fun book! I am looking forward to watching the movie when it comes out.
“My Story” by Elizabeth Smart
I attended an author event with Elizabeth Smart at Iowa State University. After hearing her tell her story, meeting her, and having her sign the book, I was both excited and nervous to read this. I found this to be an empowering read.
“I’ve Been Thinking” by Maria Shriver
This book reads more like a devotional than a novel. I read a section each day and really enjoyed the topics covered.
“You’re More Powerful Than You Think” by Eric Liu
For a political science junkie, this is fantastic. And if you are just beginning to learn about political organizing, I would recommend reading this book.
“The Woman in Cabin 10” by Ruth Ware
This is the best thriller I read this year. If you want an edge-of-your-seat page turner, this is it.
“The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic” by Matthew Kelly
My sister recommended this to me as I pursue my journey to join the Catholic Church. It is a good leadership and involvement book and left me inspired.
“Joan Garry’s Guide to Nonprofit Leadership: Because Nonprofits are Messy” by Joan Garry 
As a new Executive Director of a political nonprofit, I was told by my predecessor that this is a must read. Yes, it is!
“The Snow Child” by Eowyn Ivey
This was my final book finished in 2018. The first half was slow going, and then the second half explodes. Great story line.

I am looking forward to reading my way through 2019. My first book in progress: “Through the Eyes of Santiago” by Pedro A. Salazar. I started this just a couple of days before the new year and love it so far.

I would love to hear about the books you read in 2018! Cheers to reading more books in 2019!



The Paperless Quest Continues

I am SO excited for the Jobs movie to hit theaters. Our Iowa boy Ashton Kutcher plays Steve Jobs and recently made us extra proud with his Teen Choice Awards speech. Wow.

Before the Ashton thing though, I was looking forward to wrapping my mind around the “i” phenomenon. Last year I read the Walter Isaacson biography and immediately knew I needed to finally purchase an iPad. I had the iPhone 4, and of course it was not enough.

Ten months after joining the iPad world, I am still discovering new features and apps and trying to completely wean myself from my netbook. I most recently discovered the Google Drive and Adobe apps. Now I just need to find a way to master Constant Contact and SendOutCards from the iPad. Oh, and I need to get a wireless printer. And, full confession, I need to get better used to this WordPress app. (My last post published multiple times when I thought I was merely saving drafts.)

And then there’s my whole “going paperless” thing. Easier said than done. I love, love, love the Evernote app. It’s just getting everything in there and not clicking the print button, three hole punching papers, and placing them in my secure three ring red binder that is the multi-faceted problem. Old habits do die hard, especially when you randomly stumble upon a cute Vera Bradley “Lime’s Up” Miller bag at the Aurora outlet mall. The bag to paper/binder is like a dealer to crack. Seriously, so cute!


And I think I might have just published this post, unfinished nonetheless, while uploading the beautiful photo above. I am a work in progress. On with the quest to go paperless. I will keep you all posted!


I am in love. I knew I would be. I waited patiently for over a year, spending money on the responsible things like bills, work clothes, and tires for Smurfette. And then I was tired of waiting. I needed to treat myself, just like Donna and Tom on Parks and Rec

So I did it. I finally bought myself an iPad! I don’t consider myself to be materialistic. This is the most excited I have been about buying something in a long time. Concert tickets are probably the next closest thing I have been excited about throwing cash at.

I was practical with my timing, as Target was running a fabulous sale when I purchased. Since I purchased my new toy only four days before Election Day and had lots of tasks on my list that didn’t include the iPad, it has taken me a little bit of time to fully come to realize how much I use this thing.

There’s something about not having to open a contraption or wait for the laptop to turn on that makes this machine so much more approachable. I used to come home at night and justify not doing work because I didn’t want to fire up the HP Mini. We are probably talking about a whole three minutes, yet that is a three minute window when I can lose my ambition.

I knew I would love the iPad. During the past year, I listened and watched while iPad users made the case for it. So many people who know me said I would love it.

Today I discovered Evernote. Wow. My quest to go paperless is easier than I ever thought it would be! To me, less clutter is less distraction. I am always busy with one project or another, and Evernote makes me feel like I really can do it all seamlessly.

Each day I gradually transition from my old way of completing tasks and storing information with the netbook, flash drives, battered up folders, and scraps of paper into a new world of cool apps and the cloud. This is a major technological step, my generation’s telephone.

The organizing fool in me loves it!


Just Be

I nearly always have to do list items running through my head.  True, I am a busy person.  Lots of people are busy.  And I am pretty sure a lot of those busy people have a switch to turn off the to do list once in a while.  I struggle with finding the switch and then leaving it off.

During our Scott County Republicans Texas Hold ‘Em Tournament on Saturday night, I worked on data entry.  I was not playing cards, but yet I could have put the netbook and phone away to instead enjoy the company of those around me.  I participated in conversation here and there and did eventually shut down the netbook.  But that was at least an hour or so into the event.

Then on Sunday night, I was at it again.  I used the birthday get-together at my mom and stepdad’s house as an opportunity to upload some You Tube videos.  True, I just checked on the computer a handful of times.  But I was still thinking about checking the uploads while I was hanging out with the fam.

It seems that I am always thinking about items to do.

I suppose it is a good thing that I have a tough time just watching TV without doing something else.  And my to dos keep me organized.

But I don’t want to miss out on the really good moments because I am too distracted to enjoy the current moment with 100% of my being.  While my lists of to dos are part of me, I need to just be sometimes.  Just be what?  Just be still.  Just be relaxed.  Just be happy.  Just be excited when the Donald fires the right person.  Or simply just be.

2011 from A to Z

A big squeal of delight when bestie Jen told me she was engaged on Christmas Eve

Bus captain for the Iowa Energy Forum on Iowa Straw Poll day in August

Cards – still selling them, love SendOutCards

Downtown Davenport resident, as of February 15

End of long hair

Found snipers on nearby rooftops when Obama stayed two blocks away from my place, at the Hotel Blackhawk

Gabriel, or simply “G” – LOVE him and so blessed to be an aunt and godmother

Headhunting for A-PLUS Recruiting

Iowa Federation of Republican Women secretary

Jagger Q greets me at the door every time I come home.

Kathie Lee & Hoda, guilty pleasure

Lucy, my niece, was born on April 26.  Sweetest little girl ever.

Mel’s Musings

National Federation of Republican Women Biennial Convention in Kansas City

Organizing.  Constantly.

Photos with presidential candidates

Questioning the status quo every day

Red Cross Picnic on the River event decorations and signage

Scott County Republican Women veep and Scott County Republicans secretary

Target Optical

U2 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis

Ventured into accepting a new job at Rainbow International of the Quad Cities

Wine 🙂

X‘d off many to do list items, and that makes me happy.

Yoga (Hot) with sister Sarah

Zoom – 1st speeding ticket in 10 years.  Let’s hope it’s another 10.

Not-So-Glamorous Spontaneity

A Sunday to myself.  Quiet bliss – after the 5:00 a.m. fire alarm, of course.  I dozed on and off to the Today Show.  I brewed some coffee and watched Meet the Press.  I did not venture across the street to church.  Bad girl, but I vowed to read some religious stuff before I went to bed that night (and I did).

Does anyone else put their bikini on under their clothes on a super hot day, even when water activities are not in the plans?  Yes?  Good.

I was in one of my organizing and cleaning moods and accumulated a pile for the Salvation Army.

Then I decided to go for a walk on my favorite trail along the Mississippi.  I needed to get outside and take a break from my mad cleaning.  I was hoping to find a gift or two in the East Village, about 1.7 miles down the trail.  Perfect.  A 3.5 mile walk would be great on a day when I didn’t feel like running but needed to keep up some activity so the next Bix at 6 wouldn’t be so painful.

I grabbed my shoes and purse and was on my way.  By the time I was about a half mile down the path, I realized I had no sunscreen on me or with me.  Disaster.  32 years of gingerhood, and I still forget.

And I was wearing normal glasses.  Sure, our Target Optical best lens on the planet has a UV filter, but it’s not nearly as good as sunglasses.  Fail #2: not practicing what I preach, as well as making myself more vulnerable to cataracts.  Wonderful.

Then my heels started hurting.  No Wright Socks on (which are amazing).  Welcome back, blisters!

I could find The Loop route and ride that the rest of the way to or from the East Village.  No cash or change in this purse, and I refuse to pay money to get my own money at a random ATM.  And why did I bring a full-on purse anyway?  I have pockets.

By the time I walked into Blue Sky Gifts, I was a sweaty mess.  Then I didn’t find anything I really wanted to buy.  That’s OK.  Now I can go to Lagomarcino’s for a sundae.  Lagomarcino’s: closed.

Famished and needing a drink, so I buy a pop from Rudy’s Tacos.  $2.89.  WTF?!  I can get a nice, big, spicy bloody mary at Boozie’s right now for a full 89 cents less than that.  Learning experiences are priceless, especially as I walk past a sno cone shop on my way back out of the village and toward home.

On the upside, I saw a ton of sailboats out on the Mississippi during my walk home.

And I completed a long walk on a day when it would have been easy to just veg.

Most importantly, I will learn from my spontaneous mistakes as I lather lotion on my sunburn.

When It Rains, It Pours

Deep breaths, Melissa.  This has been my mantra for the past week.  Everything is due at once.  I love all of my jobs and business ventures, as well as my volunteer activities.  I can usually juggle it all seamlessly…..until it pours.

A lot of my stress is self imposed.  I strive for a level of perfection that is often not realistic.  But I don’t do anything less than 100%.  If that means I get a few hours less sleep, so be it.  I can sleep when I am dead, right?

And then when I talked to my friend Jen on the phone this morning, I realized I have it a lot more together than I think.  It will all be OK.  Just a few more days, and these big projects will be completed.  My progress is steady and deadlines will be met.

I must squeeze in five minutes to purchase a bottle of wine – to be opened when all of these items are checked off the to do list.

Must Allow for a Little Messiness

‘Tis the season for a lot of things – especially messiness.  For this Type A gal, the messiness drives me a bit crazy.  What to do?  Embrace it!  After all, life itself is a bit messy at times.

Disclaimer: This is not a free pass to let your dishes pile up disgustingly high or bathe only once a week.

I have a tough time resting if even one thing is out of place, but I must let some of it go.  Some tidying up is good, but I tend to take it to a new level of organization.  Guidelines are a must.

Take 15 minutes per day to just pick up.  Put things away, or at the very least, in piles.  Immediately toss trash.  Then, when you have free time after the holidays, tackle one area of the house/apartment at a time.  I typically start with my home office, since lots of clutter gravitates there.

Floors need to be clutter free but during busy times, mopping them regularly can be optional.  When vacuuming, hit the highlights and come back to the nooks and crannies later.  Dusting is unnecessary.  If you must, swiffer the most visible areas or just blow the dust off.  The one non-negotiable area to clean is the bathroom.  Just clean it.  Use Clorox wipes (may be purchased at my favorite store, Target!) and the strong toilet cleaner and call it good.  Clean, but no sweat required.

Next, the on-the-go busyness: We could double the day to 48 hours, and I still wouldn’t have enough time to do everything.  And I don’t even have kids!  Remind yourself that being busy is a good thing.  I’d rather be busy than bored.  Of course, less busy is desirable.  During this time of the year, being less busy is often not optional.  Accept that you are only one person, prioritize, and hang on tight.

Be smart with your time.  Use a checklist.  Knock out a few errands on your way out to shop.  Select your holiday recipes during commercials while watching The Office (yes, watching this show IS a priority).  Ditto with wrapping.  And the recipes and wrapping need not be Martha Stewart quality.  It’s also resourceful to let the stores wrap for you, as well as cook for you.  Have fun, but don’t stress yourself out with being perfect.

It’s OK if you are gone all of the time and the house is a semi-disaster area.  Just block out a little bit of time once a week to clean the main areas.  It’s better to have a messy house and lots of friends than to have a sparkling clean house and no friends.  The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but if a choice must be made, choose the fun and socializing over the need to clean.

Finally, enjoy the moment.  Stop thinking so much about tomorrow and the next day and your to do list.  Listen to the people around you, drink a glass of wine, and RELAX.  As Lexi, my former roomie for 3+ years, used to remind me, “What cannot be done today can usually be done tomorrow.”