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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For My Mom

This Mothers’ Day is extra special to me. Several months ago, I nearly lost my mom to complications from Parkinson’s disease.

Since Mom’s return home on November 6, 2020, I have tried very hard to realize every moment with her as a gift. We should all do this every day, but life’s tasks get in the way. We get busy with many things that really don’t matter that much. We think there will always be a tomorrow with those we love.

Until something happens that alters us. And that’s where I am today. While my mom has lived with Parkinson’s disease for nearly eight years, I didn’t fully begin to appreciate the depth of this diagnosis until about two years ago. And I didn’t fully make Parkinson’s disease a part of my daily thoughts until August 2020.

Parkinson’s has now become my part time job and volunteer activity, all rolled into one. While I help with Mom’s care here and there, I have felt a pull to do more.

And that is why for Mothers’ Day this year, I am raising money for Parkinson’s research – so others do not have to live with this terrible disease.

Will you donate to help us find a cure for my mom and the millions of others battling Parkinson’s disease? Your donation in any amount will make a huge difference: https://foxtrot.michaeljfox.org/spring/ForMyMom

100% of your donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) will go toward research to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. I chose this specific charity because MJFF has very high ratings when it comes to financial integrity and organizational strength.

Thank you for your continued support for me, my family, and especially my mom. Please consider donating to MJFF at the link above, and give your mom a big hug for me.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

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.

Be Passionate…Like a Pisces!

pisces“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to talk, mad to live, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles explode.” – Jack Kerouac (a Pisces!)

Most often, passion sneaks up on me.  I am a Pisces, after all!

I am reminded of this today, October 20, 2010, on the 11 year anniversary of Elizabeth Dole dropping out of the 2000 presidential race.  From July 1, 1999, until that date, I passionately worked full time for her campaign in Iowa, without realizing just how passionate I was.  Sure, I worked 80-hour weeks, but it was just a new normal for me, and thus a part of my life routines.  I was devastated when she dropped out.  Part of the devastation was the naivete that she would make it all the way.  After all, this was my first big campaign, and the cynicism I now have hadn’t developed yet.

Elizabeth Dole for President
Some of the Elizabeth Dole for President Iowa staff on August 15, 1999 - the day after the Ames Straw Poll. EHD finished in third place behind George W. Bush and Steve Forbes, surprising many pundits.

Most of the devastation though, was bred out of a true passion for the cause.  I met so many people who had never been involved in the political process before, and they were putting it all on the line for this candidate.  Democrats, Independents, and Republicans: they were all uniting behind her.  There was no room for extremism in her camp.  That experience fueled my desire to stay involved in politics for over a decade – and eight of those ten years as a full time paid staff person on various campaigns and organizations.

Do you wake up in the morning excited about what lies ahead?  After the initial thought of “Is it morning already?”, we all should be happy to have another day to explore.  We must be passionate.

“Who has time to be passionate?!” you may ask.  Your life may be a struggle day to day, with getting the kids up and out the door on time, on top of making yourself presentable in a few precious minutes and then being expected to be on time, or even early, to the office.  After work, there’s the mad rush to daycare, practices, meetings, remembering to feed everyone in the middle of it all, and then getting things ready to go for the next crazy day.

I have immense respect for parents who manage to balance everything life throws their way.  I babysit my nephew one day a week, and it takes me a day to recuperate.  And he’s not even into any extra-curricular activities yet!  While I have worked crazy hours on campaigns, that’s nothing compared to raising children to be great citizens.

But isn’t that in itself a passion?  So, how do you look upon that with excitement instead of an endless cycle of routines?

Passion can come from gratitude.  My sister has a goal to be thankful for one new thing each day, whether it is a new thing your child discovers, a haircut, beautiful weather, or a comfy bed.  We could all take pause and make this a part of our ever-growing list of things to do each day.

If you have multiple interests, find a way to make time for them.  Most of us cannot be fulfilled and keep our fire fueled by focusing on only one thing.  We may love our families or our work, but there has to be something else, right?

If you have never thought about your true passions, explore!  Try new things and dig into those little things that make you happy.  Are you a social butterfly?  Find ways to meet new people.  Love to bake?  Try new recipes and share them with others.  Want to share your mommy insights with others?  Start a blog!

You may find it tough to narrow down your passions into a workable form.  I, the Passionate Pisces, have this problem.  I am excited about so many things!  Simply describing myself in ten adjectives/phrases under the “Mel’s Musings” title was a daunting task.  Thus, I must prioritize what I am most passionate about.

But even I have days when I get the blahs.  What to do then?  I give myself a time out – an hour or two to feel sorry for myself, be lazy, etc.  And then I snap out of it and realize that another minute wasted on that crap is just that, another minute wasted.

Life is full of so many awesome things we often take for granted.  Take a giant step back and look at the big picture.  What in this picture gives you the most joy?  Let those things take a hold of you.  Be passionate…like a Pisces!