Holiday Letter 2021

Season’s greetings! We hope this letter finds you safe and well.

As with many things in 2020, the holiday letter went out the window. So, this will be a two year recap. 😉

Little did I know that taking a leap of faith into my own business in 2018 would prove helpful during a worldwide pandemic a year and a half later. I was already accustomed to working from home and had clients who relied on some of my services even more-so without in-person events. The 50-50 in 2020 organization had made the decision to dissolve after the candidate training cycle that concluded with the Blueprint for Winning Academy at the end of January 2020. We were able to wrap everything up neatly well before the pandemic hit. I knew this would be concluding when I first signed on with the organization, and the timing of everything proved to be impeccable.

Covid affected each of us differently. My favorite saying pertaining to this strange time has been, “We may all be in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat.” Each of us experienced a different reality. Thankfully my life was not disrupted to the extent others’ were. I was able to mostly work from home and stay safe and covid free. When the derecho hit Des Moines in August 2020, I experienced two and a half days without power and a fridge full of spoiled food. Once again, I counted my blessings.

My fifth niece Mary Josephine was born on July 18, 2020. With Covid restrictions in place, I was not able to visit the hospital and instead spent two days and one night as Nanny Mel for her older siblings in Bennett. We had a blast! And then, when my sister Sarah and brother-in-law-Jeremiah arrived home from the hospital, the kids surprised me by telling me that I would be the first to hold sweet Mary. So I am 6 for 6 with holding my nephew and nieces first after their parents!

The most trying part of 2020 was my mom’s 70-day stay in hospitals and rehab facilities after aspirating on food and enduring multiple complications from Parkinson’s disease. You can read previous blog posts for all of the details. She and my dad left home for routine appointments and errands on August 28 not knowing that she wouldn’t return until November 6. So thankful to have Mom at home again, albeit with a lot of new caregiving requirements.

Percy, Gemma, and I moved from Des Moines to Davenport on November 4, 2020. We found the perfect rental house in the McClellan Heights neighborhood complete with a porch and swing, fenced in back yard, and an amazing front room for our office. We love being back in the Quad Cities and closer to family. I enjoy more frequent visits from my nephew and nieces, as well as my once or twice weekly trips to Durant to see my parents.

While concert going and cross country and overseas trips were put on hold during these past two years, I was able to enjoy a few other fun times:

  • I read 67 books in 2020 and have read 55 books thus far in 2021.
  • The pups and I have explored many new trails and parks across the state of Iowa.
  • I took one weekend trip in 2020 to Omaha/Council Bluffs for cousins Allison and James’s high school graduation and great aunt Marilyn’s memorial service.
  • I visited my bestie Jen and her family, along with a few of my college friends, in Lee’s Summit, MO in July 2021.
  • I treated myself to a long weekend in Milwaukee when visiting the city for cousin Tess and Eugene’s wedding in August 2021.
  • My favorite kids resumed their weekend visits to my place in December 2020. While we were not able to venture out during the first round of visits, we are now visiting more of the Quad Cities including the Quad City Symphony Orchestra at the Adler Theater, Cafe d’Marie, Figge Art Museum, Freight House Farmers’ Market, Me & Billy, Putnam Museum, and multiple River Bandits minor league baseball games at Modern Woodmen Park.

As 2021 comes to a close and I reflect back on these past two years, I am amazed by all that has happened within a short window of time. I have learned to embrace change while becoming more resilient. By going through the tough times, I am learning how to better enjoy the good times. Let’s all unleash the joy during this holiday season, and let it carry us into 2022.

Love,
Melissa, Percy, and Gemma

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Five Years in Five Months

The last time I wrote a blog post, I was ten days away from moving from Des Moines to Davenport. And finally, nearly 90 days after moving, I have progressed enough with my life’s tasks to be making time to blog once again.

This was a pretty fast move. I had a move to the Quad Cities area in my sites for late 2021 or even 2022, but you know what they say about plans…..

My reason for moving back to the Quad Cities area was family, and specifically my mom. Her Parkinson’s has been progressing more rapidly since the summer of 2019, but with so many things, we always think we have more time.

Me and my mom enjoying an afternoon together, just one week before she was rushed to the ER in Davenport.

Then she aspirated while eating a donut on Friday, August 28, 2020, and ended up in the Genesis ER in Davenport, soon to be transported to the ICU at St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois. It was the closest ICU bed open. (So yeah, those Covid-19 news briefings telling us that we had plenty of open hospital beds in Iowa at that time…..)

I went to Peoria the next day and stayed there for two nights even though I was not allowed into the hospital due to Covid restrictions. I went to support my dad, who was the only one allowed in to see my mom. I was his chauffeur and tour guide, selecting spots for outdoor fresh air relief and good meals.

During that Sunday in Peoria, I attended mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, and that is when I was hit with a wave of “You need to move NOW.” OK, God. 10-4. Moving. ASAP.

So the next two months were a blur with rearranging my life and preparing for a move. Things seemed messy, but I knew they would work out. God told me they would. And they did, even better than I could have ever imagined.

While Mom was in Peoria, we were riding a roller coaster. She was better, and then she was sedated. She had g-tube surgery. And then a tracheotomy. She was also on a ventilator for a few weeks.

Mom was finally transferred to Select Specialty Hospital in Davenport and then to acute rehab at St. Luke’s in Cedar Rapids. While in Davenport and Cedar Rapids, I was able to visit her once a week. She was released to go home TWO DAYS after I moved to Davenport. Chills.

Pedi time!

Since moving, I have been able to continue to work from home and visit my parents an average of two times per week to help with Mom’s care. She has five g-tube feedings every day that include a combination of Parkinson’s medication and her liquid food, and Mom tells me I am a pro during my feeding shifts. She requires daily and monthly trach maintenance, and I have helped with some of that. I have also helped her shower, given some pretty awesome manis and pedis if I do say so, played solitaire, lost at UNO, colored, and baked with her.

My mom is a fighter. And she shows so much gratitude toward me every time I help her with something. I tell her that it is my privilege to be able to help her. I recently heard the term tragic privilege, and that sums up how I feel on the inside.

I am thankful that my mom is able to safely live at home, and that my dad is such a rockstar with shouldering 99% of the workload to care for her. I have a newfound admiration for caregivers and those living with Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases.

I feel like the past five months have actually been five years, based upon the emotional and spiritual journey I have embarked upon. This lady is not the same one who woke up on Friday morning, August 28, 2020.

While I wish my mom did not have a horrible disease that was robbing her of the life she once knew, I am thankful for how this experience has strengthened relationships, humbled me, and begun to transform me into a better person.

And if you are facing a really tough moment in your life, consider going to mass. You may sob the entire time and feel immensely vulnerable like I did, but you might also be quiet long enough to hear God telling you something important. 😉

The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception – August 30, 2020

Seester Sunday Returns

Welcome back to Seester Sunday! These are our recaps from Sunday, October 25, 2020.

Mel:

This morning began with prying myself out of my warm bed with my two personal space heaters:

I attended 10:30 a.m. mass at the Basilica of St. John and the monthly parish council meeting afterward. This was a bittersweet Sunday as I took in all of my surroundings, because it was my last Sunday as a parishioner there before I move to Davenport next week. I will deeply miss the basilica parish family.

After mass, I made my weekly grocery run. Trader Joe’s is my favorite grocery store, but I did not feel like driving out to West Des Moines, so I went to Hy-Vee on Fleur Drive instead. It was busier than a usual Sunday, and I realized while overhearing conversations at the check out that several people were stocking up for the pending snow storm. However, according to the forecast I saw, we are predicted to get only two inches of snow. Better safe than sorry, I guess!

Since I will be moving in ten days, I have lots of random stuff to do. Today I painted two pieces of office furniture – something I have been putting off for nearly a year! I guess it takes a move to get random things done. 🤷‍♀️

Aside from all of that, I spent a good chunk of time on my couch, snuggling with the pups. We are trying to soak in the final few days in our apartment before moving day, as we will be in Eastern Iowa for a few days later this week and early next week.

Chilly days equal snuggly pups.

Hope you all have a wonderful week! 

******************************

Sarah:

My Sunday was similar to Mel’s, but add in getting puked on by the baby and forgetting to take any pictures!

We got up and were out the door, driving by 8:05am with extreme difficulty, mind you, and with 7 kids. I stayed up way too late the night before and Mary was up at 6…so I was tired to say the least. We attended Mass and Kateri threw a huge fit when we were in the front of the Communion line, so that was fun and I got to take her out of church after that. After Mass we ordered and picked up a breakfast pizza and went home to eat it, which didn’t take long with 6 kids eating!

I did some house chores and the kids were all just so crazy. What is it lately?! Is it just me?! I don’t know but my kids have been nuts. SO, we decided to mandate a 1 hour quiet time for everyone, not just the nappers. And can I say…..It. Was. Glorious. I read out of 2 separate books and cuddled Mary for a solid 1.5 hours. After that it was time to make dinner and do that whole routine. We ended the evening with watching part of a Lego documentary on Prime that was really good! Lego has an awesome story!!!! Now I’m about comatose and thinking about ice cream….we shall see. 

Have a great week!

My journey across the globe to help people see

My journey across the globe to help people see

Three months ago today, I returned from the trip of a lifetime. I was part of a OneSight global clinic in India.

While I journaled regularly while in India, once I started my long journey home, it was difficult to put pen to paper. Thus, it was even more challenging to think about how I would even begin to blog about my trip to India.

I fully intended to blog while I was in India, but alas, the internet and wi-fi there is spotty. So I stuck to my once or twice daily 140 words or less posts on Twitter and Facebook. And thankfully I had a paper journal that my dear friend Beth had given to me specifically for the trip.

So here I am, three months later, finally starting to share everything I saw and felt while experiencing life on the other side of the world. It will take multiple posts to cover everything I want to share. I somehow managed to condense my thoughts and photos down into a twenty minute presentation for the Durant Lioness Club on St. Patrick’s Day just a few days ago, so I will kick off my series of India posts with a small section from that presentation titled “My journey across the globe to help people see.”

By the numbers:

360 days of counting down

40 people from 8 countries on our clinic team

20 of those people flying from the United States

2 – 15 hour flights, in addition to the domestic connecting flights

11.5 hour time difference

1 broken exit sign on the departing plane

1 – 24 hour delay due to cancelled flight after broken sign

10 clinic days

432 near accidents while riding to and from anywhere (animals, other vehicles, you name it)

23 photos taken with random Indians because they asked me to pose with them

7 compliments on my nose ring from Indian women

1 almost glorious meal at McDonalds in Jodhpur (no beef and no ice!)

956 times I told myself how thankful I am to live in the United States

5,000 patients seen, with most receiving Rx eyewear

5,000+ pairs of sunglasses donated and distributed

7 offers to refill my plate each time the villagers fed us lunch

321 “namaste” greetings

3: the number of people we were required to have in groups when exploring the city of Jodhpur solo – and my native New Yorker friend Helen actually counted as 2 people 😉

36 hours spent traveling to get home

5 days to fully recover from jet lag

1 redhead whose life has been changed forever

indian girl

I look forward to sharing more of my journey with you!

Downtown Davenport Adventures: One Year

One year ago today, I moved into my apartment in Downtown Davenport.  The saying is very cliche but true: “Time flies when you’re having fun.”

While I have some Downtown Davenport Adventures yet to post from this past year (my blog has suffered as my life has become increasingly busier), I have quite a few posts that explore the range of experiences that come with living downtown in a small city.

I’ve endured an early morning fire alarm as well as a semi-disastrous impromptu walk along the river.  I’ve enjoyed River Roots Live and BixBrai 2011.  I’ve made comparisons between this home and my last home.

Aside from the collection of narratives, the thing that strikes me the most about living downtown is something that strikes me with all good changes I have made in my life thus far.  I feel as though I have been here for much longer than one year.  After the initial adrenaline rush, it feels comfortable.

I thrive on change, and every change is a little bit different, except for those really positive changes I make.  Moving to Downtown Davenport was one of those positive changes.  Others that rank right up there are choosing Simpson College, diving into my first paid political job, moving across the country and then back again, and giving a boy or two the boot when it was time to cut my losses.

Will I live in Downtown Davenport forever?  I am 90% sure I will not.  That’s the fun part of life: being open to change.  After all, change led me here.  I may be here another year or another ten years.  Regardless, I will have a lot more adventures to share.

December Recap

December definitely went down as one of the best months in 2011.

1. Bestie Jen got engaged on Christmas Eve, and I will be a bridesmaid this year!

2. Cousin Kris had a baby girl on Christmas Eve (her due date) – Lena Helen.  Yes, Christmas Eve was full of surprises.

3. I accepted a new position as a Business Development Associate (BDA) at Rainbow International of the Quad Cities.  I spread the word about the company, manage their social media, meet with insurance agents, and network at various chamber and community functions.

4. I left Target Optical and A-PLUS Recruiting, which was bittersweet.

5. Our Davenport Target Optical store finished #1 in our region (the entire states of Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas) for 2011 sales.

6. Final official Friday with G and L was on December 30.  The posts will continue under a new name.  Aunt Mel will be babysitting nights, weekends, and whenever else I can.

7. Attended bestie Lexi’s baby shower.  She is due any day now!

Stay tuned for my end of year recap: “2011 from A to Z”.

Fridays with G: Making Room for L

Fridays with G will never be the same again.

First, there’s this hiatus with Sarah, G’s mom, being on maternity leave after the birth of little Lucy and me feeling an obligation to pitch in at optical on Fridays since it’s one of our busiest days.  So, Fridays are sometimes Thursdays or Tuesdays, or even Sundays now.  We will go back to Fridays in a few more weeks though.

lucy
Sweet little Lucy

Second, and more crucial, is the presence of a little sister with G now.  The boy adores Lucy.  It’s amazing how a big brother can be so protective even when he is not quite two years old.  But you shouldn’t be surprised because by now I should have conveyed to you just how exceptional G is.  🙂  G always needs to know where Lucy is, and when he and his mom went to her bassinet yesterday morning to find her not there (Sarah knew where she was), G had a look of horror on his face.  Then they found her with Daddy and all was well.

While G loves his little sister, he now has to share his parents, and also Aunt Mel.  He seems to be adjusting well, so the young age is a good thing.  I, on the other hand, was six years old when my sister was born.  It took me a little while to change my ways of expecting to be the center of attention.

Because of my personal experience, I have decided to try to get a little bit of one on one time with G here and there.  When Lucy had her first doctor check up at three days old, I met Sarah, Jeremiah, G, and L at Target.  Of course I had to be there for Lucy’s first trip to Target!

baby, Target

Gabriel, fire truck
G making himself at home at Target! This is his new big brother toy from his mommy and daddy - a new fire truck. Or, as G would say, woo-woo-woo-woo!

Then, when the others went to see the doctor, G and I played at Middle Park in Bettendorf.  I managed to get a sunburn, but it was totally worth it.

Gabriel, park

After we all had a picnic lunch, we parted ways and G and I continued on with our Friday in separate places.  I can’t wait to watch both G and L on Fridays soon.  If people thought I was a humorous site with one kid, I can only imagine how it will be with two.  Then again, I will have double the stories.

godchildren
Lucy and Gabriel, my godchildren. I am looking forward to Fridays with both of them soon!

Appreciating Home

“A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.”  – Benjamin Franklin
While at cousin Tess’s 21st birthday festivities this weekend, the subject of home came up a few times.  Of course, small town Iowa and Minnesota were mentioned in the mix, but mostly as a launching ground more than a home.  Past, present, and future home cities Chicago, Davenport, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis, Seattle, and New York City were all mentioned.  (Now, I know Davenport isn’t even close to the size of the rest of those cities!)
When visiting another city or home, one can’t help but to compare it to his or her own home.  We realize we often take our own homes for granted, whether they offer solitude, city life, mountains, or great scenery.  Cost of living is another factor that inevitably makes its way into the discussion.
Last night, I realized that I am pretty comfy in my new Davenport home as I looked out the window at the Mississippi River and small city lights.  Each place I have lived has offered a different element of home for me.  Fredericksburg was the childhood home of familiarity.  Indianola was my college home.  Des Moines was my first adult home.  Houston was the out-of-my-comfort-zone and warm-weathered home.  And Durant was the transitional home to help me determine my next step. 
Not sure what the official role of my Davenport home will be.  I just know it was a welcome site on Sunday evening.

Chop, Chop! (Channeling my inner Emma Watson)

I walked into Salon Luce yesterday knowing I would walk out a completely new woman.  I was taking a chance on a brand new hairstylist, but I knew karma was on my side when I found out her name was Amanda – the same name of a rock star hairstylist I had in Des Moines for a decade.  And then when they offered me complimentary wine, I KNEW I had the right place.

My mission and hers:  to transform my blah hair into a sassy pixie cut.

long hair
Before: Back

long hair
Before: Front

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have talked to a lot of people about one’s choice to cut or not to cut long hair.  Some people – especially girls – are very attached to their hair length and the image that goes along with it.  I was making a big change, but at the end of the day, it is only hair.  It will grow back eventually if I want to do something different with it.

I mentioned this to Amanda, and she agreed.  She was excited to do a drastic chop, and I was happy to add a little bit of excitement to her day.

I warned Amanda that I would want to take a few photos for my blog.  She was happy to help.

So, we took the two before photos.  Then Amanda asked if I wanted to donate my hair, because there was enough to donate.  That made me even more excited!

 

hair to charity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reaction from bystanders was entertaining when we chopped the ponytail, but it became even more fun to see their faces when they realized we were going further than that.

The end result is absolutely fabulous.  The new haircut has added some more spring to my step.  Thanks, Amanda!

pixie cut front
After: Front

pixie cut back
After: Back

Main Street Davenport vs. Main Street Durant

Day 9 in my new digs at 324 North Main Street in Davenport, and I can’t help but compare and mostly contrast my new surroundings with the old.

I’m taking on a Letterman format with this one.

Top Ten Differences between Main Street Davenport and Main Street Durant, Iowa:

10.  On Main Street Davenport, I can open my windows.

On Main Street Durant, I could only open two of my twenty windows because they were either painted shut or too broken to open without losing the entire thing.

9.  On Main Street Davenport, I am within walking distance of the Figge, Redstone Room, restaurants, library, St. Anthony’s church, and a tattoo shop.

On Main Street Durant, I was within walking distance to nearly everything in town, with the hot spots being the Dew Drop, Westfair Drug, Jeff’s Market, and the American Legion.

8.  On Main Street Davenport, my apartment is small and cozy.

On Main Street Durant, my apartment was large and cozy.

7.  On Main Street Davenport, I am greeted by lots of people on the way to my car in the morning – apartment staff, the deli guys, a random homeless person, and a new person who wants to chat.

On Main Street Durant, I was greeted by people honking their horns thinking I noticed who was driving by.

6.  On Main Street Davenport, my new apartment was spotless when I moved in.

On Main Street Durant, I had to clean my apartment multiple times before it was suitable to live in.

5.  On Main Street Davenport, everyone seems to want to swing by and say hi.

On Main Street Durant, only friendly stalkers would want to swing by and say hi.  Everyone else would say, “Where’s Durant?”

4.  On Main Street Davenport, I hear random city noises, but the inside of the building is relatively quiet.

On Main Street Durant, no city noises existed.  I’d hear the occasional fire truck since the station was across the street, along with a teeny bopper squealing tires.  Inside, I could hear downstairs neighbor Kathy yelling at her grandson, arguing with her daughter, or talking to her dead husband.

3.  On Main Street Davenport, I say hi to the property owner in the hallway and the next day I have a discount on my rent.

On Main Street Durant, my landlord only visited the property when something had been broken and I repeatedly called to have it fixed.  And then I had to fight just to get my deposit back.

2.  On Main Street Davenport, I have some anonymity.

On Main Street Durant, everyone was watching.

1.  On Main Street Davenport, I feel at home.

On Main Street Durant, I felt at home for almost four years.