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2 people under umbrella

Creating and holding space for grieving people

Recently, I shared a post about my work in the funeral industry. You can read that post here: https://missykuester.com/a-nonanxious-presence-in-a-funeral-home/. One question I often get is “What do you do at the funeral home?” I could list the actual physical things such as greeting visitors, restocking the snacks and drinks, moving flowers, driving the hearse, driving the limo, moving more flowers, etc. But the best answer I can think of is I’m resonsible for creating and holding space for grieving people.

What does it mean to hold space for grieving families?

According to gsthereapy center, “Holding space means being physically, mentally, and emotionally present for someone. It means putting your focus on someone to support them as they feel their feelings.” https://www.gstherapycenter.com/blog/2020/1/16/what-holding-space-means-5-tips-to-practiceAcc 

It’s a great post with tips for creating a safe space.

In my life when walking through a loss with a friend or loved one, I have wanted to create or be a safe place for them. A sudden or profound loss can create a plethora of dynamic emotions. My job is to create a space where a person feels comfortable displaying those emotions without judgment.

Creating a safe space for grieving

At the funeral home, I create a safe space by doing all the things mentioned early. Our emphasis is to remember everything that a grieving family may not think of during the planning and services. We also cater to our families. Whatever they ask for we are open to doing. Consequently, our goal is to make those things happen behind the scenes without fanfare.

Another way we create space for people to grieve is to honor and respect customs whether they be cultural, religious, or family. Rituals are important in the grieving process. I hope to share some of the specific customs and rituals I have personally experienced in subsequent posts.

Have you ever thought about how you respond to someone when they are griveing? Rather than give advice or tell them how they should feel, wouldn’t it be better to just be present, without advice or judgement? Are you a safe space for them in which they can be raw and honest with their feelings of loss?

 

Death teaches us

A nonanxious presence in a funeral home

How people die remains in the memory of those who live on” – Dame Cicely Saunders.

In July of 2021, I saw a Facebook post about a newly opened funeral home. Nearly a year later, that post changed the trajectory of my life. That day I mustered up the courage to send a message to James the one who had posted about the funeral home. And today, I have a career in funeral services.

Sometime later, I was telling my new pastor about my work at the funeral home. He is no stranger to funerals and funeral homes. In that conversation, he taught me the term, nonanxious presence. What a perfect description of what I am in my work. I set out to learn how to be a nonanxious presence in a funeral home.

How I found my calling

My best friend, Jenny died in 2011 at the young age of 36 after battling an autoimmune disease for most of her life.  Jenny’s funeral was a significant moment in my life. And it transformed me and how I saw death and dying. At her funeral, my friend Jim, the funeral director told me I had a gift and I should consider a job in the funeral industry.

I had several moments in my life that I’ve walked with friends as they’ve grieved the loss of children, spouses, and loved ones. I realized I wasn’t afraid to be with people as they grieved. Without knowing it, was trying to be the nonanxious person when their life was in shambles and chaos.

Jim’s words never left me. The experiences of holding space for the grieving inspired me. That’s how I found my calling to work in a funeral home.

A nonanxious presence

The term nonanxious presence was coined by Edwin Friedman a Jewish Rabbi. He described a nonanxious presence as “an individual who provides a calm, cool, focused and collected environment that empowers others to be relaxed.” Pastors, hospital chaplains, and leaders are familiar with this term and embody it. I also believe that those working in funeral homes have learned this trait as well.

On his blog, http://thenonanxiousleader.com Jack Shitama says this about being a nonanxious presence, “It’s important to understand that this power is different than authority or the ability to control others. It’s about positive influence and helping others to be their best.”

In my opinion, our role at the funeral home is to be calm, reassuring, and helpful without being overbearing. We really are the people in the shadows making things run smoothly and supporting the family. Even being overly helpful can cause anxiety and be counterintuitive. Our goal is to be present but not overwhelming. As Friedman said, “The trick is to be both non-anxious and present simultaneously.”

Behind the scenes of a funeral home

In future posts, I hope to share behind the scenes of a funeral home. It’s fascinating and rewarding work. I look forward to sharing my experiences and what I learn along the way. Every day and every funeral is different. And through it all there are many lessons to learn.

There may be no single thing that can teach us more about life than death.” –Arianna Huffington

 
Air Force logo

Farewell to the Air Force

Well, after 24 years it’s Farewell to the Air Force. It’s been a part of our daily lives. More than just a job, it was a career, a lifestyle, an accomplishment, a burden…but it was never just a job. That’s the difference between a military career and a civilian career in my opinion and that’s what makes the last day in uniform bittersweet. Chris was the one in uniform but all of us were affected by his career more so than his current civilian job. And so here we are 24 years, 3 months, and 29 days later. We have grown up in the military, all of us. It has molded us, shaped us and forever changed us. 

The stats of a 24 year career:

1 year-long deployment

6 deployments

13 bases

14 moves

18 houses

In a previous post (https://missykuester.com/dear-air-force-had-it-not-been/ ) I shared that had it not been for all the Air Force gave us and took from us, all the adventures and the missteps, that we would not be who we are today. So, we say thank you. We have found our home in Utah and we’re gonna plant some deep roots here. Thank you for getting us here.

Years ago Magnum was asked to speak to a room of JROTC cadets at SHAPE American High School Dining Out. I snuck this recording so don’t mind that it’s not the best quality. I believe he said it best.

Air Force Thank Yous in the style of Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show:

https://youtu.be/K8bRDAJE23M

Dear Air Force, Thank you for 24 amazing years….

(First day to last day)

Haulin Kuester Acres log

Haulin Kuester Acres a year later

Wow! That year went fast. So let me refresh your memory. We closed on September 14, 2020, and this land officially became ours. We were all here until about October something and Chris returned to Washington to continue work. The boys and I stayed here and we had lots of visitors and achieved more than we imagined. The day after Thanksgiving we all returned to Washington. In April we returned to HKA and after a week of achieving even more, the boys and I returned to WA while Chris stayed here and began his internship with Vulcraft. Finally, on June 18th, we left Washington and returned to Haulin Kuester Acres for good.

A visual recount of all our accomplishments

Here’s a little reminder of all the changes we have made in the first year. Man, no wonder I’m tired.

You can see some of my previous posts about what it looked like in the beginning and projects we have taken on in the past year. 

https://missykuester.com/its-better-than-it-was-yesterday/

https://missykuester.com/haulin-kuester-acres/

https://missykuester.com/quirkiness-is-the-new-trend-in-todays-homes-inside-edition/

Enjoy this gallery of pictures. As we say, It’s better than it was Yesterday.

Lamp post before

Image 1 of 54

This lamp was not connected to electricity and there was a solar light stuck in the top of it.

Thank you!

A big thank you to all our family and friends for the labor you have provided, your ideas, your visits, your laughter, and your joy. Thank you for those who have prayed us through this process and will continue to encourage us. We’re excited to see what’s next…

What is next?

We have met with a draftsman for a house plan

Plans for a new garage

Refurbishing the front gates so they can be used

Finish the pump house and add a water filtration system

Finish the RV pad so it is useable this next year

Electricity to the Jeep Barn

Tear out more shrubs

Put down gravel

Work on the inside…too many things to mention

It’s better than it was yesterday

We have a saying here at Haulin Kuester Acres; It’s better than it was yesterday. With every change, even the smallest changes we feel like we are heading in the right direction. The father of soil conservation and a renowned soil scientist, Hugh Hammond Bennett is credited with saying, “Take care of the land and the land will take care of you.” We believe this place landed in our laps because it needed us to rescue it. It was neglected, abused, and harmed. We are just trying to make our corner of the world a little better and hopefully, that means this land will in a way take care of us. The Bible tells us that everything belongs to the Lord, even the land. We approach this place as a gift from God and the best way to honor what he has given us is to rehabilitate this place.

The cat shed

A couple of weeks ago, we started the process of tearing down what we have labeled the cat shed. We’ve dissected it to try and determine how, when, and why it was built. The back of the structure had small rooms with cages. The previous owner told us that the owner before her rescued wayward cats and housed them in the building. At one time, she claims there were up to 50 cats in the shed. The main part of the building is solid. The rafters are what look like logs. There is only a gravel floor. In some parts of the building, the floor is elevated with wood pallets. It’s an unsightly mess. See my previous blog post about the wacky outbuildings https://missykuester.com/renovation-update-outbuildings/. It will take a couple more weekends and another dumpster to completely dismantle it. So check back!

A marathon, not a sprint renovation

As I walk around I walk with my head down, looking for bits of junk. I kid you not, you can come across tools that somehow work their way out of the soil. And just to annoy me, are the bits of crunched-up plastic in the driveway and yard. I have no idea what it is or where it comes from but it irritates me. The previous owners shared how they loved living here. Some days it’s hard to see where the love was.

I will admit I watch videos and read blogs about people who have done similar clean-ups. This renovation is one of the worst but it inspires me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-Q5nCK3kZk

We will never run out of projects. But I keep reminding myself, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

My soul Sings sunrise

My Soul Sings

Ever since we bought this farm, I have tried to describe the feelings I get. Not too long ago, I talked about my daily walks along what I call The Prayer Road. See my post https://missykuester.com/walking-the-prayer-road-each-morning/.  This morning as I walked and listened to music, a song came on that probably best describes my feelings. It is a song by Maverick City Music called My Soul Sings (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNIMIUtz9OE). The lyrics struck me:

I feel Your goodness on the mountain
And I saw Your love down in the valley
And Your grace still surrounds me
God You’ve been good to me
Yes You’ve been good to me .
And my soul sings
My soul it sings

Instantly I knew that was the emotion I had been feeling all along

Psalms 108:2 

Arise, my soul, and sing his praises! I will awaken the dawn with my worship, greeting the daybreak with my songs of light. (TPT: The Passion Translation)
I’m grateful that right now my routine is to wake up, have a cup of coffee and then walk in the morning. It gives me time to reflect and set my mind on being joyful and intentional. Then I get to work. This routine may change in the coming months but for now, I will awaken the dawn with my worship for My Soul Sings with joy, goodness, and thanksgiving.

What do you think?

Consequently, I have contemplated creating a devotional based on this farm. It would be short observations I have here on the farm. Think anyone would be interested?

 

 

 

Air Force

Dear Air Force: Had it not been

Dear Air Force,

Where to begin? How do I put into words how I feel at the end of a 24-year relationship that brought some of the best experiences but also some of the hardest moments? I can remember feeling excited and exhilarated but I can’t ignore all the times you made me feel scared and alone. Had it not been for the highs and lows, I wouldn’t have learned what I have.

Lamenting and thanksgiving

Honestly, I wrote and rewrote this post a dozen or more times. I just couldn’t find all the words nor the right ones. A couple of versions sounded too angry and I don’t want to bow out now with anger. My friend Ashley is a minister and preached many sermons on lament. See her sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vv7UxeFzbcU  The Bible has a whole book of Lamentations, prayers of anguish calling out in faith. Part of walking in faith is lamenting. Job lamented. Even Jesus wept. I realize now that had it not been for the lamenting, thanksgiving would not have followed. With pain, disappointment, sorrow, chaos comes praises of thanksgiving in the morning. Therefore, I find thanksgiving in the ‘had it not been’ statements.

Had it not been

Had it not been for Chris washing out of pilot training, he never would have crossed trained into Airfield Management. That career change opened up many opportunities for us. We never returned to a previous duty assignment or location which was a good thing.

Had it not been for his year-long remote to South Korea, I never would have discovered just how strong I really am. I met some of my dearest friends during this time. Even though it was a really hard time, I found out what I was made of. A sweet reward of this remote was that we were handed an assignment to Germany!

Had it not been for The War on Terrorism and living in a foreign country, I would not have experienced childbirth with three of my closest friends. This was by far the scariest thing I have ever gone through. It is a barometer by which I measure all the hard things in my life thereafter. I thought I was strong from that year-long remote, but this made me stronger.

Had it not been for all the moves, I wouldn’t have friends around the world. The friends we have collected are by the far the greatest treasure we have gained.

Had it not been for all the deployments, I never would have known who Missy Kuester is when she is alone. Over the years, I have spent a lot of time alone and I like my own company.

Had it not been for Oklahoma, Germany, and Delaware, I would not have my three sons.

Had it not been for all the places we lived, I couldn’t share those experiences with others. I can say definitely that I have lived there and known what it’s like. I’ve lived in other cultures and with people not like me. It makes me a better human. See my previous post about the exciting life my kids have lived, https://missykuester.com/reasons-i-dont-want-you-to-feel-pity-for-my-military-kids/.

Had it not been for assignments to Germany and Belgium and South Korea, we wouldn’t have traveled and seen places some people only dream of. I have sailed the fjords of Norway, stayed in a home given to General Patton near Normandy, and experienced the 70th-anniversary activities. I have stood on battlegrounds, been to Paris, gone in a boat in the canals of Amsterdam, Venice, and Switzerland. I have eaten whale, reindeer, and a lot of weird stuff in Korea. The experiences are too numerous to list here but I treasure them all.

Had it not been living away from our families, I wouldn’t have been able to show them the world and our beautiful country.

Had it not been for the 7 deployments, I would have never experienced the homecomings

Had it not been for all the goodbyes, I never would have had the hellos.

Had it not been for all the heartache and loss, I never would have known how truly blessed I am.

Had it not been for the Lamenting I wouldn’t have Praises of Thanksgiving.

Who holds the future

When I started this blog, my friend Angie asked me what I wanted to write about. She asked if I wanted to write a military blog. My answer was a resounding, “No!” As I explained to her, I want to be something other than a military wife. It has defined me for the past 24 years. It is time to be someone else. I don’t yet know who that will be but I’m looking forward to meeting her. I don’t know exactly what the future holds but I know who holds the future.

It’s been an honor.

It’s been hard.

I believe those two statements best describe our years as a military family and go hand in hand with one another. I’m glad we did it but I’m glad it’s over. I’m tired.

So, to you, Dear Air Force, thank you, for making me who I am. While you didn’t always live up to your end of the bargain, I know I gave you everything I had. 

Thank you Air Force, had it not been for you my life would be profoundly different but in the end I wouldn’t change a thing.

Now, off we go into the Wild Blue Wonder…….

 

 

 

Practical advice for graduating seniors of 2021

I was inspired by the tv show American Housewife on ABC. https://abc.com/shows/american-housewife  The parents, Katie and Greg give their oldest daughter, Taylor a list of things she needs to learn or do before she graduates high school. It got me thinking about my son who is a senior. With the help of crowdsourcing on Facebook, I compiled a list of things for him and any kid to know before they head to college or life on their own.

Here is our best advice for graduating seniors as they head out on their own.

Things every graduating senior should know how to do

  1. Iron a shirt
  2. Sew on a button
  3. Find a doctor, make an appointment, fill out necessary forms, handle insurance, fill a prescription or transfer a prescription
  4. Prepare to plan…have a plan to plan
  5. Time management, it’s everything
  6. How to do laundry
  7. How to call and set up utilities or transfer utilities (electricity, water, driver’s license, insurance, and cell phone)
  8. How to file taxes
  9. How to write a check (paper or electronic). How to pay a school bill for example.
  10. To get a credit card if they choose and use it responsibly. (Pay off the balance every month)
  11. How to mail a package
  12. Make a budget and stick to it
  13. Boil water, cook simple things.
  14. Change a tire
  15. Find a church
  16. How to make a bed
  17. How to fold a sheet
  18. Cook ramen on a hot plate
  19. Where to buy their favorites i.e shampoo, beverage, snacks, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.
  20. Set an alarm
  21. Write a letter, buy a stamp
  22. Basic first aid
  23. Get themselves out of a predicament
  24. Know an emergency number by heart
  25. Advocate for themselves
  26. Turn off the water in case of emergency
  27. Basic car care: fill the gas tank, check the oil, put air in the tire, fill up the washer fluid tank, etc.

Advice for anyone leaving home for the first time

  1. Have a contact list with names, phone numbers, and emails
  2. Don’t eat yellow snow
  3. Find friends slightly older than you to be mentors
  4. Shower regularly
  5. Call your brothers
  6. Don’t get tricked into gimmicks such as credit cards
  7. Have fun-enjoy every minute
  8. If you fail at something, learn from it
  9. You can always come home
  10. Stay away from trouble
  11. Don’t give in to peer pressure
  12. Careful of what you post on social media
  13. Mom knows best, dad knows second best
  14. Always do the right thing and good things will come to you
  15. Call your dad, he may not say it but he misses you too especially when he needs someone to help him move something heavy.
  16. Call your mom, she’s trying to let you do what is best for you but she wishes she could keep you forever.
  17. Protect yourself, know when people are lying, your safety and well-being are important.
  18. Sleep! Sleep deprivation leads to mental fatigue and poor choices
  19. Learn to talk to your professor or boss. Ask for help when you need it. Let them know if something is going on that may affect your performance, grade, schedule, etc.
  20. Weed, alcohol, recreational drugs make people fat and lazy, and unpopular.
  21. Never drink something that came from someone else. Only drink unopened alcohol.
  22. The only reason you should be in the news is for doing something good.
  23. Watch out for your friends.
  24. Do things that scare you but first decide if it scares you because it is unknown or because it is dangerous.
  25. It’s okay to say no

Final words for my graduating senior

Just some final thoughts for my graduating senior and all the other seniors. Be safe, be smart, be kind. Remember all of these things and more. You’re going to do amazing things and we get a front-row seat!

From the song by Mark Hariss, ‘Find Your Wings’, remember these words:

I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams
And that faith gives you the courage
To dare to do great things
I’m here for you whatever this life brings
So let my love give you roots
And help you find your wings

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXofFc3BBpA to hear the song.

Please visit missykuester.com for more stories.

Military kids at Utah Beach

Reasons I don’t want you to feel pity for my military kids

My thoughts on April, the Month of the Military child as it comes to a close.  Don’t feel pity for my military kids or feel sorry for them. Additionally, don’t point out the fact how hard moving so frequently has been for them. Why? Because for what they have lost they have gained so much more. I know it’s a tough life, that is not lost on me. However,  they are fine. Our family’s philosophy is we don’t concentrate on what we leave behind but instead on what we gain when we move.

Reasons to not pity my military kids because they have:

Met superstars, athletes, military heroes and seen Presidents in person
Waved at the British Royal Family
Seen the cherry blossoms in Washington DC
Been invited to Constitution Hall
Ate real pizza in Italy and rode in a gondola
Been to Austria where they took the Sound of Musical tour
Ridden in trains, planes, buses, water taxi, English taxi’s, trams, streetcars, horse and buggy, and cars, lots of cars
Experienced Normandy on the 70th anniversary and stayed in a house owned by the Patton Family
Visited Monte St. Michele
Lived in Germany and Belgium
Traveled by plane to a high school football game in Naples
Visited numerous military cemeteries including Arlington where they got a behind-the-scenes tour by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier sentinels
Been to many military ceremonies in Belgium and stood where battles took place and heroes were honored
They hiked in Shenandoah
Played on the beaches of Destin
Went to Kennedy Space Center
Vacationed at Disney in Florida and Paris
Traveled to South Korea and ate things they couldn’t pronounce
Ate reindeer and whale in Norway
Sailed the Narragansett Bay at sunset
Visited the USS Gerald Ford before it set sail
Saw Niagra Falls, camped in Canada, and went to Toronto
Lived in 8 different states
Been to the real Eiffel Tower in Paris
Took a field trip to see Phantom of the Opera in NYC.
Visited Gettysburg
Went to the Zugspitz, the highest point in Germany
Went skiing in the Alps
Visited Alahambra in Spain
Stood on Rock of Gibraltar
Had an entire island beach to themselves in Portugal
Know what moose milk is
Seen the fjords of Norway
Had VIP access to an Air Show
Swam in the Rio Grande and visited Gruene Hall
Stood in a bullfighting ring in Spain
Visited the Dutch Royal Family’s stables in the Netherlands
Visited Threaves Castle in Scotland and Edinburgh Castle
Went on the Royal Brittania in Scotland
Lived on an island in the Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island
Took a ferry to England
Been to the Neuschweinstein castle
Lived in Mount Rainier’s backyard

Hail the Military Child

These are just a handful of the experience my kids have had. Consequently, they have gained more than they have ever lost. Instead of your giving them your pity try talking to them and asking them to share their experiences. Give them a chance in your group, club, or on your team. Offer them their first job. Welcome them into your home. I want you to be their friend. Have empathy or compassion or be jealous of all that they have seen and done. What I never want you to do is feel pity for them, that doesn’t help them and quite frankly they don’t want it. Hail the military child may we not pity them but follow their example.

ambulance

Back to your regularly scheduled programming

I want to apologize for being away and I hope to get back to your regularly scheduled programming on a more consistent basis.

First off, I was hospitalized on February 25th.  The diagnosis was hepatitis (liver injury) caused by an adverse, allergic reaction to Augmentin I took for a sinus infection. I had stopped the Augmentin 10 days prior so it took the experts a while to figure out the culprit. But here I am feeling much, much better. I’m working on getting my stamina back but all my liver panel tests have returned to normal and I should have no long-lasting effects.

Read this medical journal entry. It describes much of what I experienced. I did not have hives of any kind. And as stated, it can be fatal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK548517/

I did lose my sense of time at one point. While I was heavily medicated, I was transported from the ER to a larger hospital with a GI department and where they could run further tests.  Trust me, I had rather have stayed in the ER.  Weeks later, I found these pictures on my phone and do not remember taking them. I also asked a good friend if she could spare part of her liver if I needed it. She was so sweet to say yes.

So, enjoy these pictures.

emergency

Image 1 of 9

This is a view of my Emergency Department room

In the midst of all of this, I was pretty much bedridden and sleep-deprived. I also was preparing our house for packers and movers to come and take away all my earthly possessions for our move to Utah. I’ll share more of what we got done the week we were in Utah in another post. As always you can find my stories at http://missykuester.com.

.There is so much more I want to share with you! Stay tuned.