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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UBWP: Day 8

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

Today’s Date:  Saturday, July 7, 2012

Days To Go:  8

How is it only eight days until Jen’s wedding?  Sure, these past few weeks have been crazy, but it still snuck up on me.  I had my dress and shoes in hand about three weeks before the wedding date.  And the dress hung in the plastic bag for a good three days before I mustered up the courage to try it on.

I tried it on, and it fit!  Well, mostly.  Needed to take in the top.  Story of my life.  Not mad, just a predictable fact.

I also tried on my bridesmaid dress from sister Sarah’s wedding.  Still fits!  Woot!  So what if I never followed through with this UBWP thing?  (In my defense, I have run/walked the one and only Bix at 6 that has been held so far this year – 7 miles!!!)  The dress still fits!

And one must not forget the shoes!

I finally took my dress to be altered at the beginning of this week.  Delorus Bockwoldt near Durant is amazing.  She’s an older lady who took care of all of the dresses for my sister’s wedding.  I called up Delores, trecked on three miles of gravel with Smurfette, and the dress was pinned and ready to go.  One day later, I received the phone call that it was ready for pick up.

One week from today at this time, I will be at rehearsal in Loose Park in downtown Kansas City.  Unreal that my bestie from college is getting married.  So happy for her!

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!

Thank You, MO DOT!

My lucky streak with speeding has officially ended after 9 years and 10 months.  03.26.2011.  I-35 South.  Near Gallatin, MO.  Driving a cute little black Mazda 3 rental.  Going 83.  In a 70.  $117.  Thank you, patrolman Ott.

I couldn’t really be mad at the trooper.  My luck had run out.  I’ve been pulled over LOTS of times for speeding during the past near-decade and no tickets.  Just one or two warnings.

I tried to blame the Mazda.  I didn’t have cruise control and it was hilly.  But then he pointed out I wasn’t going downhill the entire way.  Oops.

I’ve never cried or done anything extreme to get out of tickets before, but somehow I escaped without one.  I played it cool again this time, but with a different result.  Maybe his ex-wife was a redhead.  Maybe he was trying to fill his quota for the month.  Or maybe I simply deserved the ticket.

speeding ticket in missouri
The patrolman was nice enough to give me a directory of fines along with my speeding ticket. 🙂

I really can’t be mad at anyone but myself.  It was 100% preventable.  And receiving a ticket made me realize just how long I went without one.  I definitely beat the odds.  I just hope it’s another 10 years before my next one.  In the meantime, I’ll be a bit more humble and try to slow it down.

Yesterday’s Roller Coaster

Yesterday was a gloomy day when I woke up and looked out the window at the gray sky.  But then Jag licked my face and trotted out of bed ahead of me, and I smiled.

I was super tired from staying late at optical for inventory prep the night before.  But then I had a 24 oz. honey vanilla latte from Coffee Hound.  All was in equilibrium again.

As I drove to my church lady job, I thought about the funeral to be held at the church at Noon.  But then my best friend Jen called and we talked about happy things, like her new career move and our adventures in Miami and Chicago.

I began proofreading the funeral bulletin before printing it.  But then I found out Donald Trump (on my short list of people to meet someday) is coming to Iowa in June.

I went back to finalizing the funeral bulletin and began printing it, pondering the images of sad families whose funerals I have witnessed before today.  But then I exchanged emails with my sister, discussing my nephew and the arrival of the new baby in May.

The family walked in.  I felt the hurt in their hearts and my eyes began to water.  But then the funeral and burial were over, and the family shared happy memories over lunch in the church fellowship hall.

I was once again tired at 2:00 p.m. when I left the church for the day, and I wanted to take a nap.  But then I arrived at optical and the time flew by.

I was missing my friend Jen.  But then when I looked at my schedule for the upcoming weekend, I found I have time to make a trip to Kansas City to see her and catch up in person.

The wind was cold on the way home.  But then I cooked some spaghetti and opened a bottle of wine.

I knew I had to go through the monotony of working for the man again today.  But then I was back where I started the day, in my bed with Jag curled up by my side.  And I looked out at the pretty city lights.  Ending the day at the top is always a good thing.

Stranded in Memphis on Christmas Eve

Watching the snow fall (and fall, and fall…..) this morning reminds me of Christmas 2004 – one that will live in infamy.

This was my first Christmas living far away from family and enjoying palm trees.  I had just moved to Houston shortly after Thanksgiving and loved it.  And I was excited to be one of the cross-country travelers over the holiday, probably because I’d never done this before and was naive enough to think it would actually be fun.

My original plans were to stay in Houston for the holiday and spend Christmas Day with the Moore family, but then, as the day grew closer, I ached to be with my own family.  So, I found a last-minute plane ticket to fly out of Houston on Christmas Eve morning, with a short layover in Memphis, and arrival by 5:30 p.m. in Moline.  Perfect.

I anticipated a little delay in my arrival, and since I was planning to go to candlelight church service in Durant that night, I dressed up in my church clothes.  I also packed all of my gifts in my carry on, because I’d rather have luggage tossed about than nice gifts ruined.

As I was waiting for my flight to depart from Houston on Christmas Eve morning, I couldn’t believe CNN was forecasting snow for Texas and Florida.  I must have brought the crazy Iowa weather south with me.  The Houston to Memphis leg of the flight was delayed about an hour, so when I got off the plane in Memphis, I had to run across the airport to make my connecting flight in time.

Or so I thought.  Sweaty and aching from running in heels while toting my gifts, I discovered the flight was delayed two hours.  I was slightly annoyed, but I could deal with it.  I still had plenty of time to get home in time for church.

Then came the gate changing, and more delays, and roaming the airport to find many others in the same predicament.  And those poor airport and airline employees.  I hope they had some strong liquor on their breaks – if they even had breaks that day and night.

I saw CNN coverage of snow flurries in Houston and lots of snow in Brownsville.  And I heard of the ice in Memphis.  All of this would be a minor setback in Iowa, but with no plows in Memphis, it was catastrophic.

By about 9:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve, I accepted the reality.  I was not going to be in Iowa, or anywhere in the Midwest on Christmas Eve.  I looked into switching flights yet that night, renting a vehicle, or hitching a ride, all to no avail.

I called Mom and told her of the unsuccessful surprise I had planned for her, cried, called Lexi, and cried some more.  I was an emotional wreck.  I had never been away from home on Christmas Eve.  True, I was 25 years old and a big girl, but on that night, I felt like I was a five-year-old again.

I tried to keep my spirits up as I watched people in the airport.  Entire families were stranded with little kids worrying about Santa finding them.  At least I just had to worry about me.

Then, some nice lady next to me told me to call the airline and beg for help.  So I did, and I cried some more – not to manipulate, but because I couldn’t help but cry.  The customer service rep and I compromised on a flight into Kansas City on Christmas morning.  Alleluia!  My best friend Jen lives in Kansas City and for the first time ever, just happened to be home during the holidays.

So, I called Jen to tell her of my huge ordeal.  It took me a bit to get through to her the severity of the situation because she was out partying it up with her family on the Plaza.  And then that made me cry again because I was being Debbie Downer during her fun Christmas Eve festivities.

Once Jen composed herself, she said that of course she could pick me up at the airport at 10:30 a.m.  I’d be there just in time for the Miller family Christmas feast, and her mom would be excited.

You see, Jen’s mom Sandy had suggested I fly to Kansas City for Christmas when she heard of my plans a week prior.  She said that way I could be with my best friend and her family and would have one short, direct flight.  So Sandy got her wish.

I located a nearby Memphis hotel and found a cab to take me there, checked in, and collapsed…….in my dress clothes, with no toiletries.  Nice.  But I could shower in KC tomorrow.

I woke up on Christmas Day with a knot in my stomach.  I was eager to get to the airport and checked in.  I went to the hotel lobby to find their free shuttle service to the airport not running, due to the icy roads.  The cab system was shut down for the day also.  No!!!!  This couldn’t be happening.

I thought about walking, but it was a good three miles, and in my high heeled boots, that wasn’t going to work.  So I camped out in the lobby, and at the suggestion of the hotel staff, waited for anyone who might be going that way with a vehicle.

A family of three (one child) came downstairs and started to load up their SUV.  I will never forget that SUV – a tan Jeep model with a Sooners decal on the back window.  I asked the couple if they were going to the airport, they said yes, and then I asked if I could get a ride with them.  I told them I could pay them too.  They said no!  And the reason: They didn’t have enough room.  Are you kidding me?!  They had one little boy, and hardly any cargo.

As I watched them pull away, I realized that every good Christmas story needs a Grinch or a Scrooge, so this was merely a means to an end.

Then down the stairs came a French family of seven, all boisterous and wonderful.  They were in the lobby less than two minutes when the mom came over and asked (in English) if I was waiting for someone.  I told her I needed a ride to the airport (not even expecting or asking for their help), and she said they’d be happy to give me a ride.

So, I crammed in with this huge family, who clearly didn’t have any extra room for an Iowa girl, but they made room for me.  It was all I could do not to cry during that 15 minute ride.

I checked in at the airport and had a celebratory Starbucks.  Merry Christmas to me!

Then, about halfway through my latte, they changed gates on me.  Careful not to spill my precious drink, I rushed across the airport with about 30 others.  Whew.  That was close.  We boarded the plane, and it was surreal.  I was finally back on a plane and headed to the Midwest!

Ha ha.  Not so fast.  I sat in that plane for nearly an hour while the crew de-iced it.  By the time we were in the air, I was worried the plane was doomed to crash.  It just seemed too much like the day Patsy Cline took off in a plane and it crashed in the movie Sweet Dreams.  OK, so this was a bigger plane and we had no mountains.  I was going to be fine.  This Christmas craziness was turning me into a drama queen.

Jen, bless her soul, was waiting for me at the KCI airport when I arrived over an hour late.  Again, I cried.

And then the search for my luggage proved unsuccessful.  I shouldn’t have been surprised.  But yet I felt robbed.  After all I had been through, I wanted my luggage.  That’s what I asked for by not taking a carry on with the necessities though.

Jen - Christmas 2004
My lifesaver and best friend Jen

Jen’s home was a sight for sore eyes.  I ate some fabulous Christmas food, after taking a long shower and borrowing some clothing from Rachel (Jen’s sister, who by the way, had no flight problems).

Addison & Nina
Addison modeling her boa, with Nina looking on

Jen’s family was already like a second family to me before that day, but I appreciated them even more after that Christmas.  Dan and Sandy took me back to Iowa with them on the day after Christmas.  They even claimed me as someone they knew when they swung by to see relatives in southern Iowa on the way home.  I was quite a site with my hodge podge of borrowed clothes and my high heeled, knee high black boots.

Miller Family Christmas 2010
Dan, Rachel & Brian playing Christmas Day games

While this Christmas story had a pretty happy ending, I still had moments on Christmas Day when I ached to be with my own family and doing the things we always did together on Christmas Day.  After all, that vision prompted me to buy the last-minute plane ticket.

I wanted to do what I always did, but sometimes we need to start new traditions.  And often those new traditions are not started by choice and we fight them.  Reflecting back on Christmas 2004, I now realize being away from my own family that year was a good thing.  I was forced to accept that we can celebrate in more than one way, with a variety of people.

My luggage arrived in Moline – three days after Christmas.

Luggage
Finally reunited with my luggage!

During my 2005 travels back to Iowa, I shipped the presents ahead of time and had a carry on with all of the essentials.  I also wore sweatpants – just in case.  Of course everything went smoothly then.

Upon hearing this story, various people suggested I watch The Terminal with Tom Hanks.  After watching the movie a few months later, it definitely put my Christmas 2004 airport issues into perspective.

This year I am staying in the town of Durant during Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the day after Christmas.  I know cross country Christmas travels will be in my future, so I am savoring the low-key Christmas this year.  But then again, a lack of craziness doesn’t give us as much to talk about the next year.

Merry Christmas!