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Meet Melissa Gonzales 

by Anne Marie Turner

Melissa Gonzales extends a warm greeting from her office at Morning Star Trading Company, while nearby, a fountain bubbles and exotic scents envelop the room -- preparation for the day's guests who will be seeking relaxation and rejuvenation at the hands of Gonzales, a skilled massage therapist.

Friends say Gonzales, originally from San Antonio, has the energy of a six-year-old and embodies the "glass half full" outlook on life. Some even raise the ante, referring to her as "the glass is always overflowing" kind of person. They credit her with success in business, family life and in the many, many communities where Gonzales gives her time, energy and love. "I think the worst thing that could happen is that you could be bored," says Gonzales.

It is completely safe to say that boredom is a stranger to Melissa Gonzales, who wears more than a few hats. "Mom is a good hat," says Gonzales. "Not the first hat I ever wore, but it's currently where I have to organize from. I can't say that I organize my time around [being a] mom -- my husband is actually the primary childcare provider -- but I organize my priorities there. It's the first thing I do every day, cuddle with my children. I'm there at night and I'm there in the morning. The Chinese believe that the morning contains the seeds of the day."

"I'm gifted with a great husband who does a spectacular job with our children," beams Gonzales. "We're both self employed people. My husband (Mike Mellinger) is a jazz musician who runs his own corporation, the Austin Jazz Workshop. His [schedule] matches the children's."

Through her two stores in central Austin and an online marketplace, Gonzales supplies massage oils, tables, spa products and gift items to individuals, massage therapists and spas around the world. She also maintains her own full time massage therapy practice at the West Fifth Street store.

Gonzales quips that both of her locations are strategically located for maximum comfort, within a moment's walk of two of Austin's best bakeries: Sweetish Hill and The Upper Crust Bakery.

"I started doing massage from four-years-old, with my grandmother," says Gonzales. "She was diabetic, and I was very close with her. I've been a massage therapist for twenty- some-odd years. I started professionally at the YWCA. That's where a lot of people know me. I don't do much advertising. Most people are recommended to me."

Gonzales often refers to her abilities as "sculpting in the fabric of the universe" -- an encompassing, global approach that she extends beyond her immediate business to benefit the numerous communities and organizations around her. She is president of the West End Austin Alliance (a coalition of neighborhood groups, merchants, business interests and developers) and serves the merchants of the area in the West End Association. Gonzales also has a leading role in bringing a Science and Technology Museum to Austin. "There is hope of [the project] coming to fruition," says Gonzales. "Given the slump in the economy, it's hard to get people to talk about spending $50 million or so. It is a five-year project in the best of times."

Gonzales also carves time to volunteer for the Community Garden of Sunset Valley, where she recently received the Volunteer of the Year Award. "It's a great place… a little bit of Heaven" she says. "I like to give back to that community because I so deeply enjoy it. It's like you're in the middle of Austin, but it's like going back in time, living in a small city where everyone knows everybody. We have activities constantly -- so it IS like a small town."

Church is where Gonzales volunteers most of her time, though. "We've been working on a new home for the church (Friends Meeting of Austin)," she adds. "It's a couple-of-years project, and we're about two-thirds the way through." 

"It's fun to be in the middle of all these things," says Gonzales. "It really is wandering in different worlds when you're working with developers, and then you're working with peace activists, neighborhood groups and business groups. It is interesting to walk in different worlds."

Gonzales points to her father, Manuel C. "MC" Gonzales, as an inspiration for her zealous community action. "I grew up with a belief that being of service was what you did.  My list of things to do really pales in comparison with my father. His list of accomplishments is astounding and includes founder of the first Mexican American Chamber of Commerce in the United States in San Antonio, and a founding member of the League of United Latin American Citizens.  

Gonzales even manages to reach out to the community via one of her own personal passions: books.  She's been reading to schoolchildren as a volunteer for the past three years. "I think it's great that you can alter your own reality.  Finding a way to be happy wherever you are is a great skill. Whatever volunteer work I do is in gratitude for my library privileges. That's one of the reasons I can't possibly repay the City of Austin, because I could never afford my [reading] habit without a library," laughs Gonzales. "I think books are the most amazing magical keys."

"Being a mom, though . . . It's the most fun I've ever had," says Gonzales. It's so interesting what these incredible little people do. That first smile, when they're so full of love they can just overflow it back to you. That's what I like about children," Gonzales continues. "You just pour. Then, you start to watch it blossom. I think that's what you do with people in general. You try to fill them with love and watch them give back. That's my philosophy."

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The Countess Galleria / Sarah Higdon

Here's more from Melissa:

Who inspired you when you were growing up and why?

My father inspired me. He was this amazing, charismatic presence who devoted his life to his family and public service.

You are face to face with your ten-year-old self. You have one thing to say to her about her future, what do you say?

Go for it! Whatever you want to do... do it. Make the absolute most of
whatever you are given and have a great time doing it. Remember that
wherever you go and whatever you do, you rest in God's embrace.

What is the biggest contradiction you see mothers being faced with today?

Trying to teach children about love, truth, gentleness, simplicity and other enduring values in the midst of popular culture.

What do you see as your biggest challenge in being the kind of person you want to be?

Time and Patience. Being able to balance all the I would like to be and do and still remember to breathe deep and stay centered.

What makes you most happy about what you give back to the world?

Even being able to give back is a gift to the giver. Giving keeps one in the
flow of abundance and that's a pretty happy place to be.

What two notable people would you like to see handcuffed together for a day?

George W. Bush and Ralph Nader

What do you wish you could automatically grant, like a fairy godmother, to mothers during trying times?

I would wave my magic wand and wish them peace of mind, centeredness and a fine appreciation of the absurd.

Thanks, Melissa!

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