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.

Melissa, Percy, and Gemma


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

Fridays with G and L: Haircut Time

December 9, 2011

G and L were so sweet this day, beginning with amusing their Aunt Mel and posing cute in their pajamas.

Posing pretty back in December. G and L are even cuter than usual in their PJs.

And then, all of a sudden, G was ready to go.

G’s hat and bag. What else could you possibly need to go out in December?

This trip to Davenport was going to be a good test of just how good G and L could be.  I was desperate for a haircut, as I had a second job interview at Rainbow International of the Quad Cities the following Monday.  When I walked into Salon Luce in downtown Davenport, the receptionist was super sweet to us.  And so was my stylist Amanda.  However, I received a few uneasy glances from a few of the customers.  I can’t say that I blame them.  I would have reacted the same way if I had seen someone like me walk in the door with a two and a half year old and an eight month old.

We brought the DVD player equipped with Monsters Inc. for security.  And these were the days when L was content sitting in her carrier.  But there were lots of strangers and no real comfy place to sit immediately by my side.

But this is G and L we are talking about.  They popped a squat on the floor against the wall near my stylist’s chair and were good to go.  Never screamed, never complained.  I have no photos, only physical witnesses.  I was stunned and did not want to ruin the moment by busting out the camera.  L even made some cute faces to get some more attention.

OK, I must confess.  I had bribed G with a cupcake if he was good also.  And I had talked all about this haircut repeatedly throughout the morning.  But if you have ever known a two year old, you know that it’s still a gamble.

True to my word, G enjoyed a cupcake afterward.

G was so good that I even let him keep his hat on and eat on the futon.

Then it was time to color!

It’s fun to color with crayons AND markers.

And Lucy was pretty happy too.

Always smiling!

Even though everyone at Salon Luce said G and L are welcome back any time, I am not up for testing my luck.  G and L did me a favor that day, and that is why they are still the world’s best nephew and niece.

On My Energy Soapbox

This is not a political blog.  I repeat, this is not a political blog.  I feel we have plenty of those.  I enjoy reading them, especially from the pure hack-ish behind the scenes perspective.

While I don’t work in politics for a paycheck anymore, I find it always seeping into my life here and there.  And I will always be involved at some level, since one can never really get out of it once you have the bug.  The last time I discussed anything political in Mel’s Musings was during Trump’s flirtation with a presidential run.  So, having the bug, the political is bound to sneak into my writings now and then.  I’m trying to limit it to three times a year max.  So far, I am right on track.

Yesterday I went to a Romney event at LeClaire Park in Davenport.  And it’s fun to attend these events as the average joe standing in line, waiting to go through the metal detector, watching the staffers scurry about.

While at an event as large as this one, it is tough for me to stop analyzing the play by play of the advance team and staff long enough to let myself really think about the issues.  Elections are supposedly about issues, right?  So now, I step out of my box and onto it…..

One of the issues that I have become increasingly passionate about is energy.  I was a bus captain for one of the Iowa Energy Forum buses at the Ames Straw Poll last summer.  I sported a bright orange shirt all day long that day.  Since I hate wearing the color orange, this wearing of the orange shirt shows just how much I care.  🙂

The energy issue seems pretty simple to me:  If we have resources here close to home, we should use them.  With all of the advancements in technology, we have cleaner and safer ways than ever before to make the most of our resources.  I was ecstatic when Mitt took a moment to talk about energy yesterday and remind us that our leaders should focus on taking actions that promote economic recovery and job growth, not impose punitive tax schemes that hurt us all.

Opening up new areas for energy exploration will produce good jobs for many Americans who are struggling.  That in turn will help our economy.  And I say this as someone who likes to hug a tree every now and then.  Energy exploration and protecting the environment are not mutually exclusive. (I feel I could leave it there a la The McLaughlin Group and say, “Discuss.”)

On the flip side, we had President Obama visit our great state just before Memorial weekend.  And of course, as with any good presidential event, this was a great photo opp.  This time we had the wind turbines a-going.  Wind is great.  But wind can’t do it all.

While Obama was chilling with the wind turbines, I was enjoying the wheat field on my dad’s farm in Northeast Iowa:


One of the reasons I stay involved in politics is because I feel like too few people stand up for what is right, or even what they perceive to be as right.  I am tired of class warfare and the expectation of a zero sum game.  Energy producers are already some of the highest taxpayers in the nation.  In order to lessen the price at the pump, boost our economy, and get families back to work, we should look favorably upon the contributions of our energy producers.  They are not villains.

And, harnessing our own fuel sources domestically would allow us to become more energy secure and create a greater national security in the process.  I am tired of messed up situations abroad.  While using energy at home wouldn’t get rid of all of the crazies in the world, it would sure help us deal with them a lot less than we do now.

While this energy thing is a political issue – especially during an election year – it is more importantly an independence issue.  Summer is the season of red, white, and blue.  We are in between Memorial Day and Independence Day.  When I see the flag, I am reminded why I get on my soapbox every now and then.

Ultimate Bridesmaid 48 Day Workout Program

On Sunday, May 20, 2012, I declared the following day to be the beginning of my self titled “Ultimate Bridesmaid 48 Day Workout Program.”  Actually that would be the following Monday.  Seems I miscounted and shaved off a week from bestie Jen’s wedding date.  Good thing, because I didn’t start on May 21 anyway.

Jen’s Wedding Day:  Sunday, July 15, 2012

Today’s Date:  Friday, May 25, 2012

Days To Go:  51

I don’t consider myself to be obese or even fat.  And my bridesmaid dress measurements were taken in early February – in the middle of winter when I had not been exercising at all.  However, my pants have been feeling a little snug lately.  And the photos taken on July 15 will be around for FOR-EH-VER.  And I want to make my bestie proud.  I want to look my best for her wedding.  No, I’m not worried about showing up the bride.  She is going to be the most stunning lady, even if I’m at my hottest.

The last time I was a bridesmaid was on July 22, 2006, at my sister’s wedding.  I lived in Houston then, worked out a lot, and had a nice light tan.  I was also six years younger.  Something about the thirties just makes pudge stick to the belly.

My last bridesmaid appearance (I’m on the far right): July 22, 2006. Oh, to be 27 again! 🙂

After going down to Creston for Jen’s bridal shower and festivities last weekend, I decided I need to get on the ball.  It’s crunch time.  The wedding is less than two months away.  And then panic set it.  THE WEDDING IS LESS THAN TWO MONTHS AWAY!

Yet, I didn’t jump on the running trail as soon as I got back to Davenport.  I looked at my to do lists each day during the five days since I came home from Creston and decided social butterfly activities and volunteer projects should fill my evenings.  I skipped a few lattes this week in favor of plain black coffee, but that was about all I did to forge ahead with my plan.

Today: Adding “work out” to my planner so I have no excuses. Also munching on animal crackers while drinking my black coffee. It’s all about baby steps. 🙂

Step 1:  Add “work out” to my planner to do list.  Must treat this as a real task.

Step 2:  Give kudos to myself for drinking more black coffee.  I like black coffee, just takes a larger amount to get me going in the morning since it’s not laden with espresso shots.  Small steps make a difference.

Step 3:  Be ready to literally hit the ground running on Monday, maybe before.

Step 4:  If I hit said ground running prior to Monday, realize this does not give me a break on Monday.

Step 5:  Enjoy my weekend without going too crazy on the calories.

Ultimate Bridesmaid 48 Day Workout Program preparations are complete!  Ready to officially commence in three days!

Downtown Davenport Adventures: Return of the Spiders

The spiders returned sometime back in March.  They are still friendly spiders strung across the outside of my high rise windows.  Fewer have shown up this time.  Whereas last year, two appeared in each window, this year each window so far only boasts one.  So, is this one George or Ethel, or neither?  I am in a naming conundrum.  Since I like to name things, I might as well just start over.  In my bedroom windows I have Thing One and Thing Two.  Kitchen: Barack in window one; Mitt in window two.  The living room’s two windows will be claimed by Lola and Ginger.

I mention the spiders to others and they get visibly creeped out.  However, I researched this spider phenomenon last year, and the spiders have remained outdoors.  Here’s to hoping we continue to co-exist peacefully!

Day 12,053

Monday, February 27, 2012, wasn’t just my 33rd birthday. It was my 12, 053rd day.

It was a fabulous day. I had no high hopes because it was on a Monday. I didn’t consider taking Monday off from work because I do love my job, and just about everyone else would be working anyway.

I started my day with redeeming my free birthday drink coupon at Starbucks.

I walked in the door at Rainbow International of the Quad Cities to Shelly’s cheerful (yes, she’s one of those morning people) “Happy Birthday, Melissa!” Then I arrived at my desk to find a card from my co-workers, with a Starbucks gift card enclosed.

Thank you, Rainbow co-workers for many happy mornings ahead. 🙂

About an hour later, our office manager Carol asked if I would be in the office all day. I was going to get birthday cake that afternoon!

Then Shelly took me out to lunch at Azteca….SO good.

When I arrived back at my office after lunch, I had a surprise from bestie Jen that nearly made me cry:

Simply beautiful! Thanks, Jen!

But the deliveries were only beginning! Next was a flower cake from my former Target Optical co-workers Raye, Nikki, and Anthony:

Roses, carnations, and daisies with greenery on a glass plate, made by Greenthumbers.

My office smelled and looked awesome.

Wow. Guess I don't need a man to get me flowers. I would accept jewelry though. Ha ha. 😉

Oh, and we are not even close to finished yet. I had to eat some delish chocolate cake, but only after posing for a photo. Yes, I still care about my birthday, just like I did when I was five years old.

I love chocolate!

On the way home from work, I detoured to The Grape Life for a good bottle of red wine. Also perused Hobby Lobby for a bit, but didn’t find anything I had to have.

Think I had enough birthday fun by then? Probably, but there’s still more…..

My sister arrived at my door with G and L. And homemade pizza for dinner. And a birthday gift. I was a slacker and didn’t take a picture of the pizza, but I did take a picture of the awesome trio of coffee koozies she made for me:

Sarah is so crafty. She needs to start selling these on Etsy!

And G and L were entertaining, as always.

Hi Lucy!

Reaching for my iPhone

G helps me blow out my candles

"Yeah, I'm awesome," thinks G.

L channels her inner Spiderman. She literally tried to climb outside!

After Sarah, G and L left, I curled up with Jag and my wine.  I decided it’s wise to listen to Betty White, as my goal is to make it to two more 33 milestones.


Thanks to all who made my birthday fabulous!

Downtown Davenport Adventures: Seester Day

I decided to arrange a day of fun in Davenport last year for my sister’s birthday.  Sarah’s birthday was in July, but it was September before we both blocked out a day for the two of us.

The day began a little earlier than I had anticipated, with 7:00 a.m. mass at St. Anthony’s.  Of course I didn’t have to go, but since Sarah was going, and it was across the street from my place, I joined in.  I never knew they had mass that early on Sunday mornings!

Then we took a walk on the Mississippi River trail down to Hot Yoga of the Quad Cities.  This was my first yoga adventure and the first time doing HOT yoga for both of us.  Thanks to my sister piping up with “hamstrings!” when the instructor asked if we wanted to work any area in particular, she and I both found some of our movements to be a bit painful for the next few days.

The class was fun, and the hour went by very fast.  We had one guy in the class, and all ages of women.  I felt like a sweaty mess though, whilst everyone else took on a glistening glow.  It even became tough to grasp onto various points of my arms and legs due to the immense perspiration.  Very cleansing, at least.

After we hit the showers chez Mel, I introduced Sarah to Barrel House 211.  She liked the shrimp tacos as much as I did!  While sitting at a window table there, we found amusement in watching couples walk, run, and bike down the street in their attempts to win Necker’s Diamond Dash.

We finished the day at The Figge Art Museum.  The Haitian art exhibit had recently opened, and we enjoyed a free tour of the museum with admission.  We discovered a major donor and supporter of Haitian artists was from Davenport.

Not only was this a great day to bond with my sister, but we found so much to do in Downtown Davenport.

Fridays with G and L: 4 Months!

This past Friday marked L’s 4 month birthday.  I decided it was time to see if L would like Mojo’s and Downtown Davenport as much as G does.  So, we installed the two car seats in the back of Smurfette, triple checked that everything was in the diaper bag, and we were on our way.

G is ready to go! (Note: No keys were near him.)

L was instantly mesmerized by the singing girl when we walked in the door, and she seemed to also be taken with the high ceilings.  G bee-lined to a table near the stage, and he sat there like an angel while I ordered our food.  While waiting for them to make lunch, I fed Lucy.  Fabulous timing, if I do say so myself.

L loves Mojo's!

Lunch took about an hour to complete.  G was content, watching the musicians, trucks, and people on the street outside through the windows.  L was happy too.  So we took our time.

G's newest game is looking through the grates to see what lies beneath the sidewalk. Just leaves.

Then we walked through the skybridge and visited Cupcakes, Muffins and More.  G helped me locate the entrance and was so excited to open the door and go inside.  He hopped up on a chair at our usual table, forgetting to pick out what he wanted from the glass case.  So I called him over, he hopped down, pointed at the chocolate cream-filled cupcake, and rushed back to the table.  G has to play with the huge stuffed bear on the bench in the window every time we visit, and this time, he fed the bear the knitted cupcake purses from a nearby table.

We arrived back in Bennett at 3:00 p.m., both kiddos zonked out in the back seat.  Where did the time go?!  I thought for sure we would be home by 2:00 p.m.  Time flies when we are having fun!

Fridays with G: Fun at VanderVeer Park

G and I had a short and shared time together last Friday.  We met at VanderVeer Park in Davenport, along with Sarah and Lucy.  The last time I remember walking around VanderVeer was during a family photo shoot back in September 2006.  And the time before that was for Sarah and Jeremiah’s wedding pictures in July 2006.  I drive past the park all of the time.

Like it is with many things, I continued to tell myself, “Tomorrow I will stop and check it out.”  And before you know it, several hundred tomorrows have passed.  Last Friday was that “tomorrow”.  Maybe I was meant to put this off until I had a niece and nephew, along with my sister, to share it with.

I beat the trio to the park so sat and read my two-month-old Time magazine for a few minutes.  (Reading old magazines cover to cover will be addressed in a separate post.)  As I walked up to the car, G was hiding his eyes behind his hands.  Must be a new game.  I helped him out of his car seat.  I keep wondering when he’s going to just bust out of that thing himself.  Probably on a day when I am watching him.

G immediately went to check out the pond.  Then he reached for the Wheat Thins his mom had packed.  G might like Wheat Things even more than I do.  It’s a toss up.  We sat down to eat a picnic lunch, and G was entertained by the super tame squirrel who refused bread but loved Wheat Thins.

Then it was off to the playground, where G semi-successfully flirted with a couple of girls.  They were both at least a year older than him.  G was super smooth, opting to go on the double side-by-side slides where he could chat with them more.

G seemed to enjoy the large fountain the most.

G at VanderVeer Park

During the loop back to the car, G walked very quietly toward the ducks chilling in the shade.  He pointed and giggled.  I smiled.  This was a great tomorrow.