Seester Sunday: Flashback to February

This Seester Sunday occurred on February 23, 2020. I am writing this post in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic and realizing just how much I took for granted just two months ago. My seester Sarah has been super busy homeschooling four of her five kids, while also caring for the fifth and getting ready to give birth to a sixth child in July! I am posting this without her, as she may or may not add her piece later. 😉

Mel:

I enjoyed this last pre-quarantine, in person Seester Sunday surrounded by family. I stayed overnight with Mom and Dad in Durant, since we celebrated Dad’s birthday on that Saturday night.

We kids were also surprised with a set of DVDs for each of us with old family movies on them! Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Dad cooked me an awesome ham, egg, and cheese sandwich on King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls for breakfast. So good.

Then I attended mass with my sister and her family at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Wilton. This was a special Sunday, as it was nephew Gabriel’s first time as altar server. Of course this godmother had to take a few pictures. 😉

We stuck around for donuts after mass while the kids had Sunday School. Niece Amelia also took a few photos for me.

And Kateri was on the move during the entire time. This girl is growing so fast!

After the pups and I went back to Durant and lounged with my parents for a bit, we were off to Bennett to take my nephew Gabriel and two oldest nieces Lucy and Amelia to a birthday party in Tipton.

Once the birthday party was over, we dropped the kiddos back at home in Bennett and then headed home ourselves.

Such a fun day!

Seester Sunday: Groundhog Day

Melissa:

Well, so much for posting again “next week.” Ha ha. (See our last post from A MONTH ago!) Life happens, I guess. 

This Sunday is a big day for a lot of people. Not only is it Super Bowl Sunday, but in Iowa, it is Caucus Eve!

I worked at Barnes and Noble during the day today and afterward took Percy and Gemma for a nice, long walk around Gray’s Lake.

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Then we stayed in and watched the Super Bowl. I can’t remember the last time we had a night in. With holding a final 50-50 in 2020 three day candidate training for women running for office, wrapping up the 50-50 in 2020 organization as a whole, lining up new clients to begin work for on February 1st and after, attending caucus events, and dating (Yes, the first date at Centro has turned into several dates now!) during the past three weeks, this lady has been on the go a lot. 

Today I wore a sweater, tank, and Pixie pants from Old Navy. This was the perfect outfit for today: practical and comfortable for work, and something I could keep on for the rest of the day at the lake and at home. Not sure if I’ve mentioned it a million times yet or not, but I like to get dressed once for the day and call it good. 

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I accessorized with my main thing: earrings. These I bought from a Lia Sophia consultant eons ago:

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I wore my tall brown boots to Barnes and Noble and then switched to my waterproof ankle boots for lake time. Both pairs of boots are from – you guessed it – Target! 

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While life has been crazy lately, I have continued to stock up on books for the slower days ahead. Today’s Barnes and Noble purchase:

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Hope you enjoyed the Super Bowl, and if you live in Iowa, please caucus tomorrow! I recommend caucusing for Amy Klobuchar. 🙂

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Sarah:

Happy Candelmas/Feast of the Presentation, Eve of Jeremiah’s birthday, Superbowl Sunday, Groundhog Day, National Tator Tot Day, and the first global palindrome day in 909 years. How’s that for a great setup for the day?!

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Today’s outfit consisted of a white maternity tshirt, jean jacket and thrifted black maxi skirt with black Old Navy leggings underneath. I wore boots as well. I also, like my sister, like to get dressed ONCE for the day, and I hate changing during the day, so this is what I wore for everything! My legs were warm and I like having the option to remove my jacket as I tend to get quite *warm* these days! I wore this outfit for church, brunch, walking to the library, folding laundry, making food, soothing a fussy toddler, photographing handstands, delegating jobs, loading the dishwasher, overeating Superbowl food and visiting at my parent’s house. Gabriel was a gift bearer at church today and Lucy read half of the prayers of the faithful as it was 3rd and 4th grade Mass ministries today. It was a good day!

We will hopefully be back again soon with another installment of Seester Sunday!

Seester Sunday: Happy Halloween!

This “Seester Sunday” article is being posted a full three months after the fact, as I have been busy with all things 50-50 in 2020 and caucus related! Thanks for your patience as I catch up on posts!

Sarah:

Happy Halloween! This week’s Seester Sunday is a little different as we were together all weekend! YAY! Mel arrived to our house Thursday evening and we got to do all kinds of fun things together until Sunday night! We had close to 6 inches of snow on Halloween so our trick or treating was postponed until Sunday evening, which ended up being a beautiful day. It worked out well. We got to go shopping, paint pumpkins, watch movies, celebrate a birthday, rake leaves, hike, eat a lot of yummy food, go to Mass (twice!) and trick or treat! Mel is a much better historian than me, so I’m sure she can fill in the details of the rest of the weekend in pictures, if she wishes 😉 . We got to go to Mass together on Sunday morning, and here we are afterwards, ready to eat brunch!

I got dressed before I got Lucy out of bed, and she decided we needed to be twins after she got up. I do enjoy this, as I’m pretty sure she won’t want to match me so much in a few short years! So I’m wearing a navy/white dress **with pockets** from HERE.  I also put on fleece lined tights from Target (so cozy!), a thrifted jean jacket and brown boots that I’ve had forever. Lucy’s entire outfit is thrifted, all from Once Upon a Child consignment stores (striped dress, jean jacket and boots), tights are from Walmart. Lucy’s always so adorable. The pic turned out good, but our first take looked like this:

Classic. Aunt and Mom fussing over Lucy’s hair to get it out of her face. Lucy’s cute regardless!

Brunch at our house was not complete today without Sunday Mimosas! Kateri was eyeing these pretty hard!

Later that night we went trick or treating. We had quite the crew!

Costume contest winners Snoopy with Charlie Brown and Sally; Anna from Frozen; a mermaid; a blue man; Tinkerbell; Waldo; a strawberry; Snow White. We now have way more candy than any family should ever own! 

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Melissa:

Yes, Happy Halloween! I have been thrilled to be able to dress up with my favorite little people and trick or treat with them for the past six years! This weekend marked year seven. You can check out our previous costumes at https://melissagesing.wordpress.com/2019/10/31/halloween-costume-history/.

In addition to our Halloween tradition, I try to attend mass with my sister’s family a few times a year outside of holidays. As a godparent to all of her kids, I think it’s important to partake in the sacraments with them, visit their parish, and try to be a spiritual role model – or at least a sounding board – as they get older. 

This Sunday I wore a new sweater and skirt outfit by A New Day at Target. My tights and boots are also from Target – surprise, I know! 😉 

Spending time with my sister’s family is truly a blessing. Here are a few more photos from our HalloWeekend:

Lunch with Amelia at Chick-fil-A!

 

Gabriel reading and snuggling with my pups. ❤️

Lucy painting her pumpkin.

Playing in the leaves with Ruth!

Finding Kateri playing in a box.

Happy Sunday Funday, everyone!

Halloween Costume History

Six years ago today – October 31, 2013 – I put on a Halloween costume for the first time in several years. I was inspired by my then four-year-old nephew Gabriel and two-year-old niece Lucy to find a fun costume and trick or treat with them. In 2012 I had trick or treated with them and decided then that the next year I was finally going to get into this costume thing.

I was never the kid who really got into costumes. Finding a costume was a task I had to do in order to get to the fun of parties and trick or treating. I had a couple of moments of costume brilliance in my 20s, such as when I dressed up as a devil:

I tried Wilma Flintstone once, but that doesn’t count because I botched that costume by not having the right dress with the right neckline due to very last minute shopping in between a Hawkeye football game and the Halloween party for which I was purchasing said costume:

So when I decided to go all in during 2013, I wanted to get it right. Gabriel was dressing up as Iron Man, and Lucy was going as Belle. I wanted to tie into one of those. As a real life godmother, I thought being a fairy godmother would be fun. However, I did not want to be the elderly godmother from Cinderella. I wanted to put a Lucy spin on it. I came up with what I thought Lucy would love her fairy godmother to look like:

Yes – lots of pink! 🙂 We had a blast on Halloween night, and now I was hooked.

By the time Halloween 2014 rolled around, I had adopted Percy the puggle. Since Percy was a part of the family and went everywhere with me, I knew he and I had to be a duo on Halloween night. I cut it close with the online shopping, but our costumes managed to arrive just in time:

Catwoman and Batman!

In 2015, I had to engage my artistic side and free hand a Starbucks logo:

Starbucks Barista and Pugkin Latte!

I was tempted to go with food costumes in 2016 but then found a classic costume that also seemed to be a fun tribute to my brother Mitch who was serving in the Navy at the time:

Sailor Girl and Sailor Dog!

By the time the fall of 2017 rolled around, I was wondering how on earth I could top the last few years. It always came together at the last minute, and this year was no exception:

Princess Leia and Chewbacca!

Last year I had a new challenge: One more dog to coordinate!

The Incredibles!

Now I was REALLY getting into this Halloween thing. We participated in our first Spooky Paws Parade, in addition to going on our annual trick or treating night with our favorite little people.

So that brings me to this year. I had it down to two themes well over a month out from Halloween – planning ahead for the first time ever! – and ended up choosing the Peanuts theme. I bought a human 3T t-shirt for Percy and managed to find a dress for Gemma. And my costume is proving to be perfect for the especially cold weather:

Charlie Brown, Sally Brown, and Snoopy!

We participated in our second Spooky Paws Parade last Sunday and will be dressing up to go trick or treating in Bennett tonight. Stay tuned for more photos!

We also entered our very first online costume contest this year. Percy and Gemma’s doggy daycare, The Barking Lot, is announcing the winner later today. Thank you to everyone who liked, loved, shared, and commented on our photo! We had a blast during the process, so win or lose, we will definitely compete again next year.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Seester Sunday: Keeping It Real

Welcome back to Seester Sunday! Today I had every intention of wearing a cute outfit to Mass and documenting our day. Instead…..I woke up at 4am to Lucy announcing she had been sick in her bed and it was all in her hair….I digress, you don’t want to read about that. The point is that I didn’t get to go to Mass today due to having sick kids. I also didn’t get to go to Mass last weekend because I was on day 3 of a terrific fever, body aches, headache and general I-feel-like-crap virus that never ended. I ALSO didn’t get to go to the weekday Mass I’ve been attending due to a sick child. *sigh* We have had sick kids for 3 weeks. They’ve shared viruses and all have taken their very own days to get through the illness, instead of all just doing it at once (my preference, but no one asked me)!

Anyways, today I took a shower right after J left with the ‘well kids’ for Mass and this is what I wore the rest of the day with 3 girls at home with me. Real life right here, folks. Adidas pants that are just about my favorite and a tshirt that we tie-dyed as a family a few years ago. At least I’m clean! I did change later in the day to do some painting. So this is as good as it gets. Kateri either wants me to hold her 24/7 or she’s climbing on me like a jungle gym, literally, OR shes unrolling all the toilet paper. If you’re wondering why there’s a pile of blankets behind me, it’s because there has been a kid on our floor almost every night for 3 weeks. They rotate, depending on who’s sick. It’s quite a trip…

Maybe next week I’ll have a decent What I Wore Sunday post. Until then, I hope we can get well and STAY well!

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Thankfully we have no flu virus at our place, but I did have to refill Percy the Puggle’s allergy meds last week. He was getting itchy again, and this time I caught it before we had full blown hot spots and all of that mess. The vet said that this has been a crazy season for pet allergies.

Rather than post my going-to-mass outfit today, I’ll keep it real like my sister and post another option: my Snoopy costume!

Percy, Gemma, and I participated in the Spooky Paws Parade in the East Village of Des Moines on Sunday afternoon. The weather was a bit chilly, but I was plenty warm in this year’s costume. I had the idea for Charlie Brown, Sally Brown, and Snoopy a month or so ago, and the theme came together nicely. I ended up buying a child’s size 3T shirt for Percy and then found an actual dog dress for Gemma. While we did not win a prize for our costumes, we did win a random drawing for a $25 gift card to Jett & Monkey’s pet store. So cool!

We have entered this photo into our doggy daycare’s Halloween costume contest, so Percy and Gemma will win a huge gift basket full of awesomeness if we get the most loves/likes on the photo. If you click here and love or like the photo, we would appreciate it!

Wishing better health to sister Sarah and her family! Stay tuned for a Halloween post on my blog Mel’s Musings later this week!

Seester Sunday: Happy Fall!

Seester Sunday: Happy Fall!

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Seester Sunday – also referred to as What We Wore Sunday! These posts will be co-authored by my sister Sarah and yours truly. We both enjoy getting dressed up for church on Sundays and thought this may be a fun way to showcase that! We both have various things happening on Sundays, so we will give you a glimpse into our weekend activities too. According to my sister, I have great taste in fashion. She also manages to wear everything well and prides herself on finding a good bargain. Yes, we are quite the pair! We hope you enjoy following us in our common faith and routines, as well as our very different lives as a small town mom of five and a single city dweller with two fur kids. 😉 Check out my sister’s blog here.

Sarah:

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So today it was pretty chilly when I woke up. It was 36 degrees! I knew it was a sweater kind of day! I had just gotten a new sweater this past week, so I was excited to wear it. And it’s super cozy! It caught my eye at Walmart of all places. I love the mustardy/tan color and I think it screams fall. Jeremiah told me it reminded him of Velma from Scooby Doo when it was on the hanger *ahem*–not the look I was going for–…..but then he told me it looked good when I put it on. Whatevs. I like it. My pants are black skinny jeans from Target, the A New Day brand. I bought them specifically for work but I actually really like them otherwise and find myself reaching for them a lot. Confession–the last time I wore black jeans was probably 4th grade so it was really weird to put them on at first! Boots are from Famous Footwear I believe, and I wear them ALOT. Some Sundays I dress up more than others, it just depends on what I’m feeling and the weather!!

I didn’t get a pic of the kids dressed up, but may try to do that sometimes. Lucy had several instances of high drama with her clothing choices (Mom! I have no long sleeves! Why are all my cardigans so itchy?! Why don’t I have any winter dresses like Amelia?! Blah blah blah) but settled on a cute outfit. Amelia complained the whole Mass about how itchy her tights were. (Maybe my kids all need some lotion?!) Ruth rocked a pair of sparkly pack boots with a dress I had originally made for Lucy when she was 3 or 4. Yep. Regardless, we made it to Mass before 8:30am, always a win!

The kids did pretty well during Mass. After Mass we always have coffee and doughnuts while the kids go to Sunday School. It was my week off of teaching so I got to sit around and visit too. All the kids go to Sunday school this year except for Kateri, so it’s kind of quiet, which is nice. After that we go to brunch at the in-laws and it’s a good time and good food!

Today we came home around 12:15 to change clothes and leave again for an outdoor work day at the preschool playground. Let’s just say things went well for awhile and then all of a sudden it was apparent that the 3 youngest girls definitely needed a nap! So, home I went. The rest of the day we were at home resting, doing things around the house, getting ready for the week and preparing food: the usual!

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Melissa:

When Sarah asked me about doing a joint blog post on Sundays, I did not hesitate to say yes. Sunday is my favorite day of the week. I love going to 10:30 a.m. mass at the Basilica of St. John in Des Moines. I love usually being able to take a full day for myself. I truly try to put the “Funday” into “Sunday Funday.”

This morning was one of those crisp, fall mornings that I long for during the dog days of summer. I knew it was going to be a boots and tights day, and I welcome that. I bought a new Prologue dress at Target a few weeks ago, and today was my second day wearing it. I love this dress because it is one of those throw on and go items that is super comfy and practical for mass, as well as my day full of activities. Oddly enough, I too had someone give me a hard time about my wardrobe choice. When I wore this outfit for the first time a couple of weeks ago, an elderly man outside of the Urbandale Public Library asked me what I was dressed up as, and then said, “a pilgrim?” I replied with, “No, this is just my outfit for today!” – with a big smile on my face.

I get dressed once for the day, and that’s what I wear all day, so versatility is key for me. Lately I like to get up earlier than needed in the morning so I can drink coffee, read my morning devotion, and snuggle with the pups on the couch. Sometimes I get partly ready for the day, pause for this, and then resume with makeup and hair, etc. Other days I stay in my pajamas for way longer than I should and then find myself in a mad dash to get out the door on time. Fortunately, today was one of the former.

Sunday mass is my reset button for the week. I sit on the “Joseph side” of the Basilica, in a small pew. While I do not sit directly beside anyone, I have people all around me. I enjoy fellowship during the sharing of the peace and after mass, but otherwise, I am a solo worshipper. I really try to be present and often find myself tearing up during certain hymns or right before and/or after the Eucharist. I have accepted that I am a weepy girl, and I feel so blessed to be so touched by something that it stirs up such an emotion in me.

Our parish has coffee, juice, and donuts on Sunday mornings, so I sometimes stay afterward for that. Today we had a raffle drawing, and while I did not win anything, it was fun to be a part of the fundraising project for the Basilica.

After mass, I took the fur kids to the dog park. At a balmy 51 degrees, it was a nice fall day, but it did require a coat and scarf for this girl who is almost always cold. Percy and Gemma love the dog park for the socialization with other pups, as well as the wide open space to run, sniff, and roll in disgusting things. I love the fresh air and quiet time to recharge.

Today we also swung by the Starbucks Drive Thru on the way home: Pumpkin Spice Latte for me, and pup cups for them. Once home, I settled in with my PSL and my current read while they snoozed.

This evening was our annual Basilica Foundation Autumn Wine and Cheese Fundraiser. The Basilica Foundation exists to provide funding for the upkeep of our beautiful building. I first attended this event last year, when I was brand new to the parish and just beginning RCIA classes.

How fast this past year flew by! I enjoyed a few glasses of tasty wine, some amazing cheese and chocolate, and great conversations with fellow parishioners. I love my Basilica family!

I get a C grade at best for capturing a full length photo of my outfit this week. After all, this dress HAS POCKETS! I was just having too much fun enjoying the day to worry about it (but yet I managed to take a ton of other photos!). Oh well! There’s always next week. 😉

For All of the Dads Who Chose Their Daughters

This Fathers’ Day is bittersweet for me. As a girl with two dads – one biological and one stepdad – Fathers’ Day has often been a balancing act. Whenever it became difficult, I reminded myself that I was fortunate to have the problem of two dads to honor.

My relationship with my biological father has often been strained, with long periods of time not speaking with him. While my parents divorced when I was a young three year old girl, and thus I have few memories of that time, the negative fallout over the years has been a struggle. As I have grown older and pieced more things together, I have realized that my mom had incredible courage to leave my biological dad and forge a better path ahead for us both.

I have strived to find a healthy way to have my biological father in my life during my adult years, and through many ups and downs – trying to figure out frequency of contact that would keep things positive and not destructive, celebrating when I thought I had a successful visit with my dad, apologizing for things I should not have apologized for, calling my father on Christmas Eve/Day to wish him a Merry Christmas during the past two years and then crying because he berated me on the phone, sitting silently by while he spoke ill of my family, trekking up to far Northeast Iowa multiple years to visit him when he never once left his farm to visit me or even meet me anywhere as an adult – I have determined that in an emotionally abusive relationship, there is no healthy balance. And so, with the turn of the calendar to 2019, I was done. I could no longer carry all of this on my shoulders.

Of course I will always love my biological father. That goes without saying, even if I cannot have a healthy relationship with him. He has good traits that were passed on to me, and I wish it was possible to have him in my life. At this point, it is not.

But wait, I led with the sad part of the story. The happy part is on its way!

After my mom divorced my biological dad, she met a wonderful guy named Dave and married him. At that point, Dave was my dad too. He never treated me as anything less than his daughter. Same with his family: I was their niece, granddaughter, cousin, etc. My stepdad even attempted to adopt me, but my biological father said that would never happen. So rather than go through a big battle, my last name remained Gesing. But to my stepdad’s family, I was a Schulz anyway. I didn’t need a document saying it.

As I have grown older, I have come to appreciate just how much strength and love it took for my stepdad – whom I call Dad – Dave to not only accept me, but to love me wholeheartedly, as part of a package deal when he married my mom. And when they had two kids, Sarah and Mitch, they were immediately my full sister and brother. We are all close, and I love it.

Dave was the dad who was there for it all: my first day of kindergarten, when I lost my first tooth, reassuring me when I was terrified to start driving (Crazy, right?! It’s true!), rebuilding my first car – a sweet red 1990 Plymouth Sundance with a sunroof, smiling proudly when I was named valedictorian at my high school graduation, helping me through the process of buying my first new car, patiently listening to my political rants, giving me a hard time so I laugh when perhaps I am taking things a little too seriously, and the list goes on.

So, on this Fathers’ Day, I say thank you to my dad Dave and all of the dads who chose their daughters and sons. Your positive impact in our lives cannot be measured.

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!

A Holiday Letter (with a two year update)

Greetings from the south side of Des Moines!

Since I have blogged very sporadically for the past two years, I will try to somewhat briefly catch you up on the “Life of Mel.” 🙂 A lot has happened since I blogged more consistently before the crazy election year of 2016! If you want the crazy election year details, you can find a few of those in my past blog posts.

My niece Ruth Gianna was born on September 23, 2016, and I was overjoyed to become an aunt and godmother for the fourth time. To illustrate how crazy that time of the year was: I left the hospital in Muscatine on the day she was born to travel across the state to Council Bluffs for a Republican women event early the next morning.

I returned to the Target Optical world in December 2016, and that brought me back to Des Moines. Jag the cat was excited to return to his old stomping grounds of his youth, and Percy the puggle loved moving into our new apartment near his new favorite walking trails at Gray’s Lake. I was excited to be blocks away from a Starbucks and a winery!

I managed the Target Optical Urbandale location and kept my toe in politics, as I joined the Board of Directors of 50-50 in 2020 the Friday after Election Day. I was excited to have an opportunity to help recruit and train women to run for office in a bipartisan atmosphere. You can check out more about 50-50 in 2020 at www.50-50in2020.org.

My brother Mitch married wife Hannah in California in late 2016, and we celebrated their union “back home” in June 2017. I love my new sister in law! We had a great party in Cedar Rapids, complete with most of my best friends and many family members joining in on the fun.

I enjoyed a couple of road trips and concerts with my best concert buddy Jen that summer also: U2 at Soldier Field in Chicago; and New Kids on the Block and Boyz II Men at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

And that brings us to 2018.

Unfortunately, last year had a rocky start, as my 15 year old cat Jagger Q passed away on January 21, 2018. I was devastated. He was my first adult pet and traveled across the country to Houston and back with me when I moved there from 2004 – 2006. Percy even missed his feline brother, roaming from room to room searching for him during the days after his passing.

While Jag will forever be irreplaceable, Percy and I knew we needed a new family member. Gemma Louise, a spunky three year old Corgi / Chihuahua mix, joined our family on February 7, 2018. Whereas Jag and Percy took a year to simply peacefully co-exist, Gemma and Percy were instant soul mates.

In late February, I visited my brother Mitch and his wife Hannah in Camarillo, California. Mitch was stationed at Point Mugu when I visited, and he is currently deployed overseas with the U.S. Navy. Mitch and Hannah will be moving back to Iowa after his enlistment ends this coming fall. I am so excited to have my little brother close by again!

Summer 2018 concerts included Counting Crows and Live at the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, as well as Billy Joel at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. If you ever get the chance to see Billy Joel in concert, do it. He is an amazing talent.

My niece Kateri Elizabeth Ann was born on August 1, 2018, making me an aunt and godmother for the fifth time. I am so fortunate to live just over two hours away from my sister Sarah, brother-in-law Jeremiah, and their five kids: Gabriel, Lucy, Amelia, Ruth, and Kateri. I always say that if I don’t have my own kids, being an aunt is truly the next best thing.

I left Target Optical in September to pursue my long time dream of starting my own consulting business. The Executive Director of 50-50 in 2020 was retiring, and they were looking for someone to take the reins. With it being a contracted position, it was a natural fit for me. I set up my new business, Red Goose Solutions L.L.C., and began my work with 50-50 in 2020 on October 1, 2018. My spare bedroom “Hotel Mel” has now been converted into my headquarters for everything girl power. 😉

When I am not on the road spreading the good word about 50-50 in 2020, traveling to see family and friends, or going to concerts; I can be found in Des Moines plugging away in my home office, networking at various area social gatherings, trying out new restaurants, playing outdoors with my fur kids, sipping wine with friends, or curling up with a book. Life is not just good – it is great. I hope this letter finds you happy and healthy. From our home to yours, happy holidays!

Mel, with Percy Power and Gemma Louise

Reading My Way Through 2018

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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!