This Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day

I am pretty accustomed to being single on Valentine’s Day. Most years I don’t really think much about being single. And then during other Valentine’s Days past I had:

A few years when I was casually seeing someone, found myself to be “miraculously” on my own when Valentine’s Day rolled around, and then became a hot item again a few days later. Remember that book “He’s Just Not That Into You”? Yep. Here’s your sign.

A few bitter years.

A few lonely years.

A few years where I was the “coupled up” girl and received flowers from great guys.

Valentine’s Day 2019 comes after a personally brutal January 2019. It’s been tough to process, let alone put into words.

My brutal month involved removing a few toxic people from my life whom I still love but had to separate myself from for my own mental health and self respect.

Simply reaching these decisions was messy, as I had to come to these conclusions on my own. And I am the person who often has to push the envelope one more time, test my boundaries one more time, to get to that point of saying, “enough.” This naturally had a ripple effect on others outside of the situations.

Thankfully my friends and family who know me best and love me unconditionally were able to give me enough rope, stand just within reach, and trust that I would find my internal strength to do what needed to be done. For that I am eternally grateful.

We often think of Valentine’s Day and love in romantic terms, but I challenge all of us to think of it a little differently. We should also see it in terms of all of those who mean the most to us and stand beside us during thick and thin.

My best friends are my valentines.

My mom and stepdad are my valentines.

My siblings are my valentines.

And my nephew and nieces are most certainly my valentines.

Today my dogs are also my valentines.

This Valentine’s Day, I raise a glass to everyone in love, recovering from heartbreak, navigating through some tough stuff, finding peace in solitude, or anything in between.

You are loved. Happy Valentine’s Day!

When I Win the Mega Millions

It’s so much fun to dream.  And as I traveled my territory for work and strategically purchased Mega Million tickets at various small town gas stations a couple of weeks ago (total expenditures being $7), I could not help but to strategize what I would do with the money.

First, I would pay off everything: student loans, you name it.  I would pay a year ahead on my phone bill and rent just to be ahead and not have to think about writing checks here and there all of the time.

Second, I would give money to my closest friends and family members.  I would give a big enough amount to each person that would pay off their houses, vehicles, weddings, etc. and then give them a little cushion.

Third, I would donate money to charity.  Having all of that money would be overwhelming, and giving a bunch away might actually lift a little weight from one’s shoulders.

Then, I would move on to my few splurge items.  First, a brand new Chevy Camaro.  Second, a beach house.  Third, a coffee shop and/or winery purchase.

After that I would travel around and hang out and do stuff.  For instance, I would be able to go visit all of my friends scattered across the country.  And I would have time to help with everyone’s projects.  When I grew tired of them, I could just hire someone to finish the job while I would have a cocktail with my friend or family member.

And, while not nearly as glamorous as so many other things I could be doing, perhaps the best thing would be having the time and freedom to lie by the beach and read for hours on end.

There’s always next time, right?  🙂

High Heeled and Low Maintenance

“Fortune does favor the bold.” – Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO

I thrive on girl power, real girl power.  I am sure I have driven more than one co-worker nuts with this enthusiasm at one time or another.  I was probably at my height of my own version of feminism when I worked on political campaigns.  When surrounded by men and analyzing a commercial, I would notice different things than they would.  I honestly wasn’t trying to pick a fight.  I was simply being honest.

As I have encountered various situations both professionally and personally, I have learned that girl power is found in a variety of forms.  I like the bold form. The form that takes no prisoners.  The form that does not apologize.  The form that is accountable and is willing to admit mistakes.  The form that embraces the full scope of being a girl.

I have also realized the forms I do not like.  The form that takes things too personally.  The form that nitpicks.  The form that is highly critical of fellow women but not men.  The form that says we must hide what makes us different and unique.

I am a firm believer in doing what I think is right, being myself, and letting the chips fall where they may.  I can always improve, learn, and re-evaluate.  But I am not going to constantly second guess myself as I get things done every day.

While I don’t agonize over how I am perceived, it helps to receive some positive reinforcement now and then.  One day, while working with a congressional candidate in Minnesota as part of my consulting duties at Victory Enterprises, the candidate turned to me and said,

“I told my wife we need to find another one of you to work for us: high heeled and low maintenance.”

SO proud of that.  It still warms my heart.

Fridays with G and L: It Takes 2

Yes, Fridays with G and L is back!  With the exception of Black Friday, we have been spending every Friday together since the last post eons ago.  I have just been all consumed with Target Optical work and preparing for the Iowa Caucuses, as well as my reign as 2012 – 2013 President of Scott County Republican Women.  Now that my to do list is down to one page, I am making time to blog once again.  This story is from Friday, December 16, 2011.

G was waiting for me at the door.  Standing on the step stool I gave to him for his first birthday.  Peering out the window.  And then a big smile as I walk up to the door.  Seriously, can this kid make me love him even more?

Waiting…..
I have arrived!

I arrived a bit later than usual, but not because I slept in.  This time G’s dad had a later morning start, late being 7:15 a.m.  Early is relative to one’s state in life.  I used to arrive at Target by 6:00 a.m. after commuting for an hour.  I don’t care who you are – THAT was early.

I am constantly amazed by the bond that has so quickly developed between G and L.  I remember G being a little out of sorts for the first couple of days after L came home from the hospital, but I think that was largely because G had to be away from his mom and dad for a couple of days.

Hiding under the blanket!

While we all still have to remind G that his sister is a baby and he needs to be gentle with her, any borderline smothering he engages in is obviously due to love.  And now that L actually responds to G, he is only more encouraged to get in her face.

Sibling love

L is going to be a tough girl because she has learned to roll with Gabriel’s craziness from day one.  And G is not naughty – just your typical rambunctious two year old.  L seems to love his craziness most of the time.  She smiles at the sight of G, squeals at his antics, and undoubtedly is taking mental notes for when she is more mobile.

G tries a new trick with the fire truck
And then Lucy decides a ladder in the mouth is a good teething remedy. She is smiling! And G is proud.

Watching G and L interact is so heartwarming.  My siblings are six and ten years younger than me, so it is intriguing for me to watch this close interaction at their young ages.  G is already protective of L when out in public.  If a stranger gets to close to her, he proclaims “my woo-woo (Lu-Lu)” and gets in her face.  I pity the fool who tries to date her in a few years.

While G and L’s antics are all fun and games now, it’s going to be a challenge once they are both old enough to co-conspire against Aunt Mel.

August Recap

Happy Final Day of August 2011!

Time really does fly by faster with every passing year, and I want to pause and remember what has happened during the past month.  We often do this at work with monthly reports (and on campaigns with daily/weekly reports), so why don’t we do it for ourselves?

My August Highlights:

1. Met two more presidential candidates: Rick Santorum and Ron Paul

2. Attended my third Iowa Straw Poll

3. Made the evening news on two local TV stations

4. Babysat G and L four Fridays

5. Saw the Gin Blossoms and Blues Traveler for free in Davenport

6. Set up my Red Goose Solutions Facebook page

7. Discovered Starbucks Kenya coffee beans – yum!

8. Went on non-disastrous first and second dates

9. Celebrated friend Beth’s birthday (and my 1/2 birthday)

10. Named Social Media Director for the Scott County Republicans

11. Finally read the final Harry Potter book

12. Celebrated Grandma Schulz’s 80th birthday

Bring on September!

The I in Fashion

Fashion matters.

“This… stuff’? Oh. Okay. I see. You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select… I don’t know… that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise. It’s not lapis. It’s actually cerulean. And you’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent… wasn’t it who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.”

Miranda Priestly – The Devil Wears Prada

I was quite a bit like Andy Sachs, the recipient of the above tirade, as a youngster and into high school.  I accidentally stumbled across a nice classic every now and then, as I managed to do with my senior picture wardrobe (thank God!).  But I was one of the last in my demographic to let go of the tapered leg jeans.  And then it took a full semester of college, at that.  They had to have been out of style for a good year or so by that time.

My first wave of fashion education came when I began a part-time job at Vanity during the fall of 1998.  It wasn’t Runway magazine by any means, but it did wonders for me.

But I wasn’t there yet.  I basically pulled stuff off the racks and threw it on, not really trying to personalize it and only dismissing an item if a co-worker shook her head no.

My friends Kate and Lexi were the first to challenge my fashion boundaries.  I worked with both of them at Vanity – first Kate, then Lexi.  Kate point blank told me if something looked good or not.  Usually, it didn’t.  She also had a unique way of selecting items off the clothing racks.  Kate had lots of tie dye items, which I have grown to love.  The best part: Kate let me borrow her clothes a lot.

Lexi could (and still can) spot something across the room and say, “That’s you, Melissa.”  And she is ALWAYS right.  She can connect my personality to an item of clothing instantly.  That’s why she was such a diva in retail for so many years.  Lexi introduced me to halter and tube tops.  I falsely assumed I needed more on top to wear those, but that wasn’t so.  And Lexi took me out of the frumpy medium shirts into small shirts.  Not too small, just right.

I by no means have fashion and/or my personal sense of style all figured out, but I knew I was darn close when one of my friends told me back in 2003, “You don’t dress like a Republican.”  I know many Republican ladies who have a sense of style, but we normally don’t associate Republicans with the cutting edge of fashion.  From that point on, I thought about the comment when buying work clothes.  What could I find that was professional and had a little bit of sparkle?

My current job at Target Optical requires that I care about fashion.  Our motto there is “Simple, Fun, and In Style”.  I constantly strive to find ways to rock the red and khaki.  When I am dressed well, I sell more.  Who wants to buy stylish frames from a frumpy looking chick?

I am excited to see women finding their personal style every day at optical.  And I enjoy seeing smart women in the public eye who have a sense of style.  I recently read the book “Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style” by Kate Betts.  The author explains that women used to be considered smart or fashionable, but now we can be both.

My style is something between cute and sassy.  I like to wear a variety of colors.  I like to make dramatic hair style changes every now and then.  I don’t care what the size on the tag says, as long as it looks good on me.

Remember, there is an “I” in “FASHION”.  Make it your own!

Fridays with G: Personality in Progress

G is nearly two years old, and his personality is beginning to shine.  I thought he had a great personality since day one when he arrived, but now others are able to see it too.

Gabriel Day One
I knew hours after Gabriel was born that he has a neat personality!

G is an explorer.  This may be partly his age along with personality.  But I have known kids his age to be much more timid.  As long as I am within arm’s length, G is happy to walk around the corner and see what is there.

G is a social butterfly.  I am so proud!  He smiles and waves to nearly everyone, and if he recognizes you, you might even get a hug.  G likes to win new people over.  When we were eating our weekly cupcakes at Cupcakes, Muffins and More this past Friday, he even melted a city worker’s heart.  G was really into his truck pulled up to the curb, but he made time to acknowledge the worker, give him a high five, and then wave bye and smile at him from inside the window when he left.  The guy said G made his day.  Too cute.

G is a negotiator.  About half of the time, G wants to do something different than what I want to do.  This difference in opinion can be as simple as the door we need to use to go outside.  Most recently, I was at the back apartment lobby door, and G was at the front.  He stood at his door responding with a “no, no, no” when I said to come to the other door.  Then he spoke in his very own language, likely saying something like, “But Aunt Mel, I want to go out this door because there’s a big truck across the street.  And it’s not much further to go around the entire building outside.”  I broke this by using my super excited voice to exclaim what we were going to do next if we went out the back door.

I sometimes give in to G’s opposing ideas, but not all of the time.  I want him to learn that he can’t always get his way with Aunt Mel.  Most of the time, yes.

Overall, G is pretty easy going.  He will make the simplest things fun.  He found a drinking fountain in my apartment lounge and nearly took a bath in it.

Fridays with G

He also finds entertainment in putting Panda and Lion in fun spots in my apartment.

G's imagination

I can’t wait to see what new personality traits come to surface as G gets older.  I have a feeling he may be slightly Type A like his Aunt Mel, as he is often seen lining up his tractors, machinery, and farm animals in a perfect row before leaving them to go to bed.

Back to the Daily Grind? Maybe not.

After three days off from everything – church lady, optical, my own business, and babysitting G – it was tough to get going this morning.  Back to the grind, I thought.

But maybe not.  Signs often become apparent after the fact. 

The first random anti-grind thing was a Facebook message with a request to ask me a personal question off the record – from an old surface acquaintance.  Since I like to push boundaries every now and then, I said “sure”.  Famous last words.

Halfway through brushing my teeth I noticed an emerald stud earring in the drain.  I rarely leave earrings within reach of my cat Jag, and now I know why.  The first earring was long gone, so I threw the other one in the trash.  They were a gift from an ex over 11 years ago.  He’s married and has a kiddo, so I have no reason to worry about the loss.  Except I liked the earrings! 

On my way through the apartment lobby, I spotted a cute blonde boy, likely in his mid-20s.  I smiled, and he gave me a nervous smirk.  Then he exited the first set of doors and let them slam in my face.  Hmmm.  As I followed him down the hallway, I noticed he was carrying a plastic bag and seemed a bit out of his element.  Walk of shame, perhaps?  Ahh, I understood then.  He also held the next door open for me, so he redeemed himself.  And even if he hadn’t, I would understand.  He probably had other things running through his head at the moment.

When I pulled up to the window at the Starbucks drive thru, the partner with my latte said the lady ahead of me got my drink.  I thought she meant that either the lady in front of me mistakenly received my order, so I would need to wait a minute while they made another; or the lady in front of me ordered the same thing.  When I handed her my card to pay, she explained further that the lady paid for my drink.  She said that happens every now and then – random acts of kindness from strangers.  How cool!

While I have the church lady and optical busy work to do today, I really can’t complain about the daily grind.  Each day is very unique.  We just have to take a minute and appreciate the special, seemingly little things that happen.

Being the Oldest Child

My nephew Gabriel will have a new little brother or sister in May. Then he will officially be the oldest child and assume a whole new realm of duties, experiences, and viewpoints. As a first born child and his godmother, I write this post for his benefit.

Aunt Mel and Gabriel
Oldest children rule. 🙂

Being the oldest child means….

– Yelling a little louder to focus people’s attention on you. This is part of the reason why Aunt Mel has a loud voice today.

– Parents expecting you to take responsibility for anything that goes wrong involving you and your siblings. After all, you are the one old enough to know better.

– Being a trailblazer. You are the first child to do new things, and your parents will likely react with firm black and white decisions. Since they will allow little wiggle room, you will develop your negotiation, persuasion, and timing skills. It’s not surprising to find many first borns to be successful leaders.

– Accepting the blame for anything crazy that comes out of your younger sibling’s mouth. Ask your mom about the time she asked someone to “pass the damn mashed potatoes” when sitting around the dining room table at Grandpa Fosaaen’s house. When Granny asked her where she learned it, her little pointer finger went directly to Aunt Mel. I know I didn’t teach her to say that! But my defensiveness was interpreted as guilt. Game over. Just suck it up and put your energy into the battles you can win.

– Having a tendency to be a bit bossy.  You will start to take charge of your younger brother or sister without even realizing what you are doing.  Since your parents deem you to be ultimately responsible for anything they do when you are around, it makes sense to try to take control to avoid any mishaps.  Just take it easy with the instructions.  You don’t want your younger siblings to dread being around you.

– Wondering how your parents could possibly be so laid back when your younger sibling gets older and you have left home.  Your curfew may be 10:00 p.m., but your youngest sibling’s curfew is sure to be at least midnight…on weeknights.  Just chalk this one up to a character builder.

– Being a role model for the younger ones.  Even if your younger siblings seem to not care about you, they are watching every move you make.  No need to be perfect – just keep in mind they are assessing whether they want to be like you or not.

– Learning from a younger brother or sister.  Your mom and Uncle Mitch teach me things all the time.  They may not know it, but I learn more from them than they learn from me, hands down.  You may be the oldest, but you will never know it all.

– Being protective – a la Momma Grizzly Sarah Palin – of your younger siblings.  Even though they will drive you nuts a lot of the time, you will love them more than you realize.

Realizing you are awesome.  More than 1/2 of our U.S. Presidents have been first born children.  Twenty-one of the 23 first astronauts were first born children.  Two thirds of entrepreneurs are also first borns.  And we are in the company of Oprah, J.K. Rowling, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Walter Cronkite.  Not too shabby.

Born to Be Red

If you had to pick a color to describe you, what would it be?  No cheesy quizzes here – just think about it.  Each color is connected to a mood or personality in some way.  However, we are connected to colors in ways other than the typical definition.

Red Rose
My favorite flower!

Until recently, I associated my personal color with the colors I was attracted to the most – pink and green.  I naturally gravitate toward pink and green clothing, and I loved the pink and green color combos in my sister’s wedding and my cousin’s wedding.  Pink was my first favorite color, and it was an even better fit when my favorite band Aerosmith came out with the song “Pink” on their Nine Lives CD.

I’ve begun to appreciate brown and black as both modern and classic colors that can stand on their own.  But I’m too carefree to adopt black or brown as my own.

I was accessorizing my outfit with a red scarf last night when it hit me: RED!  I hadn’t been thinking about my color at all, when it jumped out at me.  Red is my color.  Sure, its definition is cool, but it’s more than that.

I was born with fire red hair.  It has since toned down to a light red, almost strawberry blonde, but I’m definitely a redhead.

Red Christmas Ornament
No “Melissa” or “Mel”: It’s RED!

The Anderson family back in the Burg nicknamed me Red during grade school, and it stuck.  Susie even made me a Christmas ornament with my name – Red – on it.

While I very rarely wore red once I began selecting my own wardrobe (because I assumed it would clash with other things or be too loud for my taste), I chose a red dress for my senior year composite photo.

When I briefly cheered at Simpson College, our uniforms were red and yellow.  I did struggle with this, as every bone in my body wanted to switch it out for black.

I worked in politics for nearly a decade.  Since I worked for Republican candidates, I eagerly awaited for counties and states to appear red on general election nights.

When I worked at Victory Enterprises and ordered yard signs for candidates, the most popular color for campaign logos was PMS 186 – Fire Red.

Target Executives
Lots of red and khaki!

And then I went to work at Target……wearing red and khaki daily, and viewing everything red in my sleep.  Yes, Target’s official red is PMS 186.  It seems I can narrow my red down to a specific hue now!

In the meantime, toward the end of the Victory gig and during the Target adventure, I started using SendOutCards.  I’ll give you one guess what the staple logo color is for that brand.  And now I sell the product.

I recently signed on as a volunteer for the American Red Cross in the Quad Cities.  Obvious redness, but it goes with my recurring theme here.

Elizabeth Dole and Melissa Gesing
EHD and Me – 1999

What’s more: my first political position was with Elizabeth Dole’s presidential campaign, just after she resigned as President of the Red Cross.

My favorite holiday is Christmas, and red is half of the color theme.  (Never mind the”White Christmas” and “Blue Christmas” craziness.)

This red thing could all be a grand coincidence.  However, since I am unable to tie another color so deeply into my being, I am viewing it as a sign.  I was born to be red!