Home » Archives for Missy » Page 2

Author: Missy

Utah house in winter

When God plans it, you can’t stop it

I’m a praying woman. But I haven’t always prayed expecting my prayers to be answered. I know that makes me an imperfect Christian but it makes me human. Several months ago when Magnum and I started talking about our plan when he retires from the Air Force in July 2021 I began to pray. I began to pray to settle on a certain town, area, or state. Then, I prayed for opportunities and doors to be opened. In addition, I prayed for jobs and housing. I prayed for God’s will but I failed to specify a time. They say timing is everything but God’s timing is not predictable. Opportunity knocks when you are doing something else. But I know this, with His timing comes his provisions. When God plans it, you can’t stop it.

If I could buy this place I would

Spring Break of 2019, Magnum was deployed. I decided to drive with Kid #2 and #3 to see Kid #1 in Logan, Utah. T is a student at Utah State. It’s our favorite place to visit and where his brothers wanted to go for the week. I rented a house, saw lots of friends in the area, got a surprise visit from one of my best friends, and cried when I had to leave to return to Washington. I felt a strong sense of home.

Fast forward, Magnum returned home in October and we decided we would go back to Utah for Thanksgiving. It’s been our tradition. Instead of staying at a hotel, it’s more economical to stay in an Air B&B. I selected a place in the country. It was advertised as a quaint farm. It would allow all of us to have a room so it was perfect and cheaper than a hotel.

While staying at the house, it snowed 8 inches overnight. We were surprised to wake up to no electricity and find out we were snowed in. But it was like being in a winter wonderland. If I didn’t need to get out to go to dinner with family, I could have stayed snuggled up in the house. I posted a picture on Facebook and jokingly said, “If I could buy this place I would.”

If God brings you to it, He’ll get you through it

Fast forward again to July 2020. We had big summer plans but then Covid-19 happened. So, we salvaged what we could and decided to go camping in Utah, the Cache Valley. On the way, we stopped at our friends, the Hughes near Council, Idaho. They have a beautiful place. Sitting on their porch watching the sunset made me ache for a place of my own.

We made our way to the Logan, Utah area and set up our camper in a campground. I then received an email from Kurt, the owner of the farm we stayed at the previous Thanksgiving. In March, I had told him that if he ever considered selling we would be interested. At the time, he had someone interested but their financing fell through. The very day we arrived, he offered it to us.

I immediately said yes and arranged to meet up with his wife. We had to pass her approval process first. In the meantime, we continued to look at other places just in case. After we met her and she approved, the process went rather quickly. We made an offer, they countered and at the end of the day, we agreed on a price.

We returned to Washington and finished the process with the assistance of our realtor, Johnnie. All along the way, things just worked out. We had some hiccups but I kept remembering the phrase, “If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.”

Utah House first day
This is us in front of our house on the day we closed. ©missykuester.com

Immeasurably more

Many people talk about the struggle to decide where they will retire after a long military career. When I prayed that prayer, I forgot how our God can respond; immeasurably more than we can imagine. I love Priscilla Shirer, author, preacher, and speaker. She talks about praying big prayers. We sell God short when we don’t pray bigger.

That’s why I am so content. I was along. For the next several months, we will divide our time between Washington and Utah. It is scary to think we will need to maintain two households. But I am certain that God will provide, He always does. 10 years previous to this, we owned a house in Delaware. Times were tough but we were certain we wanted to sell our house when we relocated to Texas. The house did not sell by the time we left and sat empty for nearly a year. All that time, we lived on less and paid a mortgage and a rental. God provided and He’ll do it again.

A change of address but an unchanged God

It is a season of big changes. We are taking them in stride. There are still a lot of unknowns but we are certain we are where we are supposed to be. We have a change of address but an unchanged God. God’s plans are unmistakable and they work out, you can’t stop them. Man, I’m so glad I rented this place for Thanksgiving. It gave us a chance to try it on for size. I’m also grateful that we live 13 hours away; we never could have done this living across the country. We have a lot of work ahead of us and big plans but God is in it. We’ll pass along our address with due time. Watch for updates on here, Facebook, and Instagram.

We are contemplating names for the ranch/farm, so stay tuned. Please leave a comment with name ideas.

https://www.explorelogan.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cache_Valley

Although our address is Amalga, we are closer to Smithfield. Our address is interchangeable.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amalga,_Utah

https://www.bestplaces.net/city/utah/smithfield

 

 

Second house in Texas

Military housing: Challenge accepted

On October 9, 2009, at 3:00 p.m., a knock on my door surprised me. I assumed it was one of the neighborhood kids asking to play with one of my boys at the park. As it was a Friday, I was ready to sit at the park with the other parents and have an adult beverage in one of those kid’s cups from Chili’s. I was months into a deployment so I had earned it. Much to my surprise, it was one of the military housing managers, Kathy. Beside her stood someone vaguely familiar. Also, with a deployed husband, I automatically feared the worst. Sensing my unease, they jumped straight to the point.

“Mrs. Kuester, we need to renovate your kitchen and you have until the end of the month to vacate your house.”

The first thing into my brain and out of my mouth was, “Over my dead body!”

The man, Jason spoke again, “I don’t think you understand. You don’t have a choice.”

And that’s when the challenge was accepted.

Finding out what I was made of

Anyone that knows me knows that if you back me into a corner, ask me my opinion or challenge me, I will fight back. Poor Jason had no idea that I was not passive. He and I were both about to find out what I was made of. (Find out more about me: https://missykuester.com/have-you-heard-about-missy-kuester/)

Let me back up.

Our family arrived at Randolph AFB near San Antonio, Texas in July 2008. We owned a home in Delaware that had not sold. Therefore, we felt it more economical to live on base. The day before arriving, Randolph military housing called to tell us a house was available. On our check-in, the housing office explained that the kitchen would be renovated in the next year and may require us to move out. We agreed because we were desperate. We moved into the house on August 22. A private contractor, Pinnacle Hunt had taken over months before so things were in a stage of transition.

We pretty much lived in bliss at 5 Northeast Road. With family in the Dallas area, new and old friends, and great neighbors, we were content. We loved the 1920’s character and charm of the on-base housing. Even though it had an outdated kitchen, I was thrilled to have a base house.

A bit of history on Randolph AFB Housing: https://www.433aw.afrc.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1547475/history-comforts-of-home-coexist-at-jbsa-randolph-housing/

Early in 2009, we found out Magnum would be deploying. In preparation for his deployment, we informed Pinnacle he would leave in May. The house across the street (6 Northeast Road) became vacant a few weeks before.  We requested that we be allowed to move into it. “Perfect,” they said. So, with the help of neighbors and my family, we relocated to the house across the street.

May came and went, Magnum left, our lives resumed until that knock on the door.

The fight was on

By this point in my military spouse career, I had endured many deployments, gave birth to a baby in a foreign country with Magnum deployed, and moved…a lot. I felt confident in my abilities to keep things afloat. So, as soon as they told me I needed to vacate to renovate a kitchen that had already been updated but now needed to be updated again (lookup government fraud, waste, and abuse) I was upset. My first call was to Chris’s commander.  He was an imposing man, probably about 6’4″. He also happened to be a really good guy. We agreed to meet at the housing office. Upon our arrival, he did the talking. He asked to speak to Kathy, the manager. We went through the whole song and dance about ‘Did we have an appointment?’ and ‘Was she expecting us?’ No, and No but we were not leaving.

The great thing about the colonel besides his physical stature, his cool demeanor, his smart brain, and the eagles on his lapels was his notebook. Something so simple conveyed that he was serious. The air shifted when he withdrew that notepad from his pocket.

Throughout the process I quietly observed. The manager, Kathy answered the colonel’s questions and filled in blanks. He scribbled their answers in his notebook. Then he turned to me and asked one simple question, “Missy, is that how it happened?” I said a simple ‘no’. And the fight was on! The colonel gave the manager homework and we dispersed with a plan.

The military spouses’ guide to a fight, 10 things that may help you

There are a lot of details I am leaving out but I need to get to the point of this post. Sadly, this type of behavior is still ongoing. I want to share things that worked and what I learned throughout this process so it may help other military spouses.

  1. You should always start with the chain of command, even if you don’t have faith in them. Give them an opportunity to do what is right. Proceed from there.
  2. You find out who your friends are.  I heard from many people that my name was often mentioned during morning meetings on base. Well-meaning people offered their sympathy but no real help. The wing commander called near the end of this ordeal with no real help but empty words. One person stood out. We were friends before this event and he and his wife supplied me with pitchers of sangria during the deployment. In another world, before housing privatization, he had more say in the matter. He did try to speak up and he was told it was no longer his lane. One day, I received word that a Congressional complaint was filed on my behalf. I could only guess it was him.
  3. It’s important to get the word off base.  This was a valuable lesson taught to me by my friend Angie. She guided me through the ordeal. She sent messages to all the contacts she had in town; reporters, news outlets, bloggers, politicians, etc. When the wing commander said to me, “I’m getting phone calls from outside of base about your situation and we don’t like that to happen,” I knew I had peoples’ attention. Get the word out! I equate it to an abuser threatening you to not tell anyone. Tell someone!
  4. Document EVERYTHING!  I learned this early on with the colonel’s notebook. Write down everything. Record conversations, keep emails, and remember, that tablet may be your best weapon. People will lie, say they don’t recall or change their story. You need a record to protect yourself.
  5. Find your Allies.  Yes, you will find out who your friends but you need allies. I found people within the military housing office that did not agree with what was going on. Our maintenance guys were with housing before privatization. They were familiar with these older homes. Even before this saga, I appreciated them. During our future renovation phase when I was living in another house temporarily, they met me at the house to let me get personal items. Don’t look down on the people who have the actual keys to your home.
  6. Don’t ask, tell people what you need and want.  This was another valuable piece of advice from Angie. I stopped being sheepish and instead stated what I needed and wanted. At some point, they realized I wasn’t going to back down and therefore started meeting my demands. I wasn’t mean spirited but stood firm in what I needed. My kids were already without their dad, now they were being forced from their home.
  7. Find resources and help outside of the military spectrum.  Tap into resources outside the gate. I reached out to the VFW and The American Legion. Both of those organizations reached out to Public Affairs and put pressure on them. I sent emails and made phone calls almost daily to obtain advice and find out my rights. Educate yourself. One of the best ways to bring about change or bring awareness to a situation is to contact your Congressman’s office.
  8. It’s not always about you.  This has two meanings. Sometimes, the military housing office, management, and contractors are just doing what they are told. While it’s hard to not take it personally, it isn’t a direct attack on you even though that’s how it feels. Also, remember when you are fighting, keep in mind all those families that will come after you. As I told management many times, “What are you doing to the first term Airman (Solider, Marine), who is 19, new to the military, has a wife and a baby?” Always work so that you relieve some of the hardship for others.
  9. Shoot for the moon and hope to land on the stars.  After I learned to tell people what I needed, I shot for the moon. Initially, they wanted me to move entirely to a new house and never return. I asked the housing manager if she ever moved 3 times in one year. She then understood what they were asking of us. When they said I needed to move for 4 months, I told them to find me a place on base. They suggested a TLF room, but it was not comparable to our house and wouldn’t allow my dog. I also requested a furnished house on base and I got it.
  10. Use the power wisely.  After a while, I realized my power in this situation. The goal was to use it in a way that got us to our desired endpoint, a house with a new kitchen. It had to be done and the housing office wasn’t going away. The contractor slated our house to be the last one to be remodeled to allow time for Chris to return from his deployment. When workers failed to show up one day to work on my house, I called Hunt Headquarters. I informed them it was costing them more money every day I was displaced. From that day on, workers never failed to show up to work and eventually finished ahead of schedule. I think they were just tired of me. What I never did was become mean, resorted to name-calling, or became overly demanding. Keeping a level head and ultimately working together made the process go faster.

At the end of the day

At the end of the day, it all worked out for our family. I can’t say the above will work in every case for every person. Each situation is different. Our situation was a matter of inconvenience, not safety. If my experience can help even one person or give them the courage to speak up, then we win. Military families are resilient. But we also endure things that many people don’t. Our homes are our refuge. It’s the one place where we have a little bit of control in a lifestyle that requires us to be flexible, resilient, and brave. In the end, no matter the outcome, all that matters is that you are safe, healthy, and together.

And the next time someone tells you that you don’t have a choice, remember you do have power in the situation. I wonder what Jason is up to these days.

I wrote this post sharing my experience after becoming involved with MHAN, a great resource for military families living in military housing with private, managing contractors. http://militaryhousingadvocacynetwork.org/

 

Cohen standing on barrel

The one time my kid fell out of a window

Facebook is a time capsule that reminds us of life’s biggest moments. It also reminds us of the not so great moments. All of these, both good and bad define us. I had one of those defining moments on May 21st, 2008. I swear death-defining moments should not happen before coffee but that’s what happened. It was a normal weekday morning until it wasn’t. To this day, it makes me cringe to think about. I recently found when I posted about it on Facebook that several of my mom friends are in the club with me. It is a club for those of us that have had a kid fall out of a window.

Morning silence followed by chaos

I was barely through my first cup of coffee and was reading the newspaper (that’s how long ago this happened). My middle son yelled downstairs, somewhat panicked, but in a casual demeanor. “Mom, Cohen fell out of the window!” I knew my 5-year-old son was playing a computer game in his brother’s room. It didn’t make sense that my youngest (18-months at the time) would fall out the window. Why would he? How would he? Nothing made sense so I didn’t react. A minute or so later, my son walked down the first couple steps so he could see me in the living room. He repeated, “Mom, Cohen fell out the window.” And then he was gone. He might as well have said, “I want pancakes for breakfast.” It was so nonchalant. That’s when I heard the faint cry of someone crying outside the window.

Not winning any Mother-of-the-year awards

Any mother’s reaction in a crisis situation when looked back on could be classified as bizarre. My reactions that followed were not textbook. You learn in First Aid class to not move a victim. So, that’s exactly what I did. Upon opening the door, Cohen sat in a bush that was directly below the bedroom window he had fallen out of minutes before. My motherly instincts picked him up to comfort him. Step two of my not-so-perfect response was to call my husband at work. Not 9-1-1. Magnum had a bad habit of answering his office phone in speaker mode. When he answered he and his office mates received an earful, mainly an expletive-laden barrage of words. I wanted to know who had opened the @#$&?! upstairs window and I was pretty sure I already knew the answer.

A blur of activity, followed by fog

My husband calmly redirected my misguided anger toward calling for help. In my mind, I was saying, “I don’t feel like going to the Emergency Room today.” I did call for help. But I also realized that I nor my kid were in any condition to greet visitors. I could hear the volunteer department fire alarm go off in town so I figured I had only a couple moments to spruce myself up (a.k.a. put on a bra). Still holding my screaming child, I ran upstairs got dressed, and changed his diaper. I know! I told you, I’m not good at this kind of thing. EMT’s and paramedics soon arrived. I ushered them in. And as if out of a movie, they cleared off my dining room table, slapped down a backboard, and began assessing my kid. Like I would many times that day, I explained to them what happened. I desperately wanted to tell them, “I’m not a bad mom!” Unfortunately, this was not my first time in an ambulance with one of my kids. I have a full bag of stories to share eventually.

I need a hero!

EMT’s took us to the closest hospital. Much of that part is foggy. However, there were two things that stand out.  One moment was when our minister, Jim walked in the door. The look on his face told me just how serious this situation was and that he would try to make it okay. The second was when someone announced, “The bird is 20 minutes out.” Bird? My husband is in the Air Force and I have worked in a trauma center, I knew then that they weren’t talking about crows or a pretty red cardinal. The CT had shown narrowing of the spinal cord. Another surreal moment was when they took us to the helipad on the roof. There is a dedicated elevator to the roof. As Cohen was still strapped to the backboard, they wheeled him through the halls. People backed up against the walls as we passed. I could hear their whispers. “Oh, that poor baby!”

I document these times because in them I find heroes. I can’t remember names or faces but I remember how they made me feel. On this particular LifeFlight, there was a pilot, a flight nurse, and a tech. I was buckled into the front seat of the helicopter while Cohen was loaded underneath and behind me. The pilot gave me a headset and some basic passenger instructions. You could tell he knew the gravity of the situation but his voice was soothing. We took off soon after. I could see Pastor Jim standing down below by his car, ready to drive to the trauma center about 45 minutes north. The pilot talked to the air traffic controllers and then we started our journey. My husband was at that time a flight commander of the local Air Force base air traffic controllers. They were the ones that talked to the pilot that day. A friend of mine was actually in the tower when the flight took off. At some point, the flight nurse, called to me to tell me that Cohen had fallen asleep. Heroes were all around us that day.

Lessons I learned that day my kid fell out of the window

To wrap up this story, he ended up being fully evaluated and released after being observed all day. As Pastor Jim likes to say, “A miracle happened on the flight that day”. Certainly seems that way. I know thousands of kids fall out of windows every year and many are not as fortunate as Cohen. My friend Angie wrote an article that included Cohen’s story. Read more: https://www.militaryspouse.com/military-life/are-your-kids-safe-playing-upstairs/.

I did a lot of things wrong. Afterward, it took forgiving myself for not being attentive to my kids. Every time I had to explain to a medical professional what happened, I felt they were judging me. They probably weren’t. Sitting in a medivac flight with your kid is one of the worst experiences for a parent. I had to let go of anger aimed at my husband for leaving the window open. In hindsight, I realized I was suffering from PTSD. Above all, I looked for heroes in our situation and thank God for watching over us and planting that bush underneath the window. We had a lot of prayer warriors that day. It could have ended much worse. I share Cohen’s story because there are other parents out there who have had a kid fall from a window. I’m not alone. I also share so that another mother doesn’t have to go through that experience.

But it wouldn’t be the last time I was in an ambulance with one of my kids. To be continued.

Delilah in boat

The Legend of Delilah, the dog that rescued us

Today seems to be an appropriate day to do a post about Delilah, my dog. She’s not just any dog, she’s the dog that changed everything for us. You might recall in my introductory blog post that my one goal is to make Delilah somewhat famous. https://missykuester.com/have-you-heard-about-missy-kuester/

If you are not already, you can follow her on Facebook at A Daily Dose of Delilah: https://www.facebook.com/Daily-Dose-of-Delilah-109881860640160/?modal=admin_todo_tour

Delilah Super Girl
Delilah dressed as Supergirl for her First Halloween. ©missykuester.com

This is the Legend of Delilah, the dog that rescued us.

We were not looking for a dog

A year and a half before we found Delilah, we lost our beloved German Shepherd, Crash. We also had just moved from Belgium to Maryland. As a result, we were not looking for a dog.  As I waited in Maryland for my household goods to be delivered, I saw on Facebook that my friend Michael shared a dog needed a home. I responded with, “If only I lived closer (to Indiana) I would be interested.” Consequently, I thought nothing more of the dog.

However, a few days later after receiving 18,000 pounds of household goods, and a little down in the dumps, I decided to drive back to Indiana to be there when my godson was born. My youngest two kids set out with me toward Indiana. We left my husband and oldest son in Maryland. We saw Dean soon after he was born and enjoyed time with family.

One day, Michael noticed my truck in the area and sent a message and asked if I was still interested in the dog. In the meantime, Kid #2 fell off a bike and broke his arm. Admittedly, I was on a high from Dean being born and trying to keep Kid #2 from losing his mind over another broken arm (this was the third time). Therefore, I agreed to go LOOK at the dog. Does anyone ever just go look at cute dogs? No!

We arranged for a visit and decided we would take her with us. She jumped in the truck and asked no questions. It was as if someone told her they were going to take her home. I knew nothing about this dog. Even so, I bought a kennel and the bare necessities. In my head, I wasn’t really sold on her. That first night, she went in her kennel, cried once and I told her to be quiet. I didn’t hear a peep from her the rest of the night.

The only other obstacle was to drive 13 hours back to Maryland…oh, and convince my husband that he wanted this dog!

Delilah first picture
First picture of Delilah in the truck from Indiana back to Maryland.
©missykuester.com

Finding the perfect name for the perfect dog

We got her home, Magnum said we could keep her and we taught her what carpet and glass sliding doors were. For the first week, her name was New Dog, not the most inventive name. Subsequently, she answered to ‘New Dog’. We yelled names at her and she responded to none of them. We could tell she was smart. Nonetheless, Kid #1 insisted that her name would be Delilah before he even met her so that’s what we named her. Delilah Mae. She seemed to like it.

Delilah with Birthday hat
Sad looking Delilah wearing a birthday hat on her first Birthday. This started it all.
©missykuester.com

The rest is history

Undoubtedly, we have a lot of stories over the past 5 years, I’ll share those in a later post. That is the gist of how Delilah, the world’s most amazing dog came to live with us. She rescued me because I was in a new place, lonely and over the next several years I would have 3 surgeries, my companion through all the recovery time. Delilah came at just the right time, reluctant as we may have been, we couldn’t imagine life any other way. It’s proof that good things come when you least expect them and when you’re not even looking. She’s the dog that changed everything. As they say, the rest is history…..

Delilah
Pretty Delilah
©missykuester.com

 

What’s your dog rescue story?

snake, fear and doubt, parenting advice

Parenting advice from a Copperhead encounter

According to Nationalgeographic.com snakes are carnivorous reptiles that have a life span of 18 years, can grow to be 3 feet in length and weigh more than 100 grams. While their scientific name is Agkistrodon Controtix, Copperheads receive their name because of their hour-glass shaped, bronze head. Mostly found in the south and eastern parts of the US, they account for more bites than any other venomous snakes. They feed on rodents and small birds or animals. These snakes are a pit viper according to NatGeo and use heat to sense their prey. A copperhead is resourceful and adaptable. They can live in the woods as well as subdivisions, thus increasing their probability of coming in contact with humans. While not the most venomous snake they are still a hazard.  Read more at https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/c/copperhead-snakes/

I hate Copperheads but one gave me great parenting advice for combating fear and doubt.

Advice from an encounter with a Copperhead

It was the summer of 2017 and my son was weeks away from his high school graduation. While his younger brothers were still in school, T was sleeping until late and helping me prepare the house for guests and a graduation party. On this particular day, he and his best friend, Abby were making cookies in our kitchen while I was on the riding lawnmower cutting the grass. I was in my own world with my headphones on. At one pass I see him standing on our neighbors’ porch with what looks like a gun. Horror and curiosity struck me at the same time. We had a wonderful relationship with our neighbors. Early on they made it known that we were welcome in their home even if they weren’t home. We had the code to enter their house via the garage. Also, unknown to me, Mr. Don had shown T where he kept a pellet gun in the front hall closet.

Cooperhead snake alive
The Copperhead in question.
©missykuester.com

So, there he is standing on Don’s front porch in a t-shirt, shorts, no shoes, and a gun. Upon closer inspection and inquiring, he informed me he had shot a Copperhead that was going across the walk just as he was going to the front door to ask Miss Angela for vanilla for his cookies. Discovering they weren’t home, he decided he couldn’t just let the snake hang around. He was worried because he knew Miss Angela hated snakes, they had a cat and the neighbors had a little boy. So, he remembered the pellet gun and shot the snake. To ensure it was dead, he buried it. He still wasn’t satisfied that it was dead so he dug it up, cut it’s head off with a shovel, put it in a bucket. (He wanted to show Mr. Don what he had done and he was proud of his accomplishments.) He then took the snake way out in the woods and buried it 2 feet underground.

How that Copperhead was like fear and doubt

Where is the parenting advice in an encounter with a Copperhead? It’s more than just ‘Do not mess with a snake.’

Years after that encounter, T was living across the country at college. He called during a particularly challenging time. He wanted advice and encouragement. I came back to that Copperhead. He faced that dangerous snake with conviction and without hesitation. I encouraged him to meet this new challenge like he had that snake—head-on. He was brave then and he could be brave now. And I would use that anecdote again and again through his various challenges.

It holds true for many of us. Maybe what we face isn’t necessarily dangerous like that snake but it can be disturbing, uncomfortable, or a nuisance. If T had let that snake slither on, who knows where it could have gone. He would have always wondered and he would have always been paranoid that it was lurking around. Instead, he killed it and buried it. He often needs reminding to chop the head off of whatever he fears or when he begins to doubt himself.

Writer and Illustrator Kate Seredy said it best, “Kill the snake of doubt in our soul, crush the worms of fear in your heart, and mountains will move out of your way.” What theoretical snakes are causing you or your kid to fear or doubt? Maybe a snake isn’t the illustration you would use but just recalling something your son or daughter has overcome in the past may help them through what they are going through now. We all have to tailor our advice to the person. In this case, it just so happened that a Copperhead gave me the best parenting advice.

Dead snake
The dead snake, with its head chopped off.
©missykuester.com

 

Keeping with the theme of snakes; listen to one of my boys’ favorite song, Snake Farm. It’s just a fun song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qgy7PLAgF-Y

 

Jenny says hi sign

My best friend lives in heaven

On April 27, 2011, at the age of 36, Jennifer, my best friend passed away. Something happens to a person when they lose their best friend. I have found in the years following her death, I have tried to live out all the good parts of who she was. Her life influenced me but her death changed me. I still have a best friend but my best friend lives in heaven.

Jenny on her 21st birthday
My best friend, Jenny on her 21st birthday.
©missykuester.com

Here is the eulogy I spoke at her funeral with her parents’ blessing.

An Ode to my Woobie

I had the distinct honor of being Jennifer’s best friend. It all started in choir class, in the front row. We struck an unlikely friendship that lasted for over 20 years. My husband has known Jenny since Kindergarten. His first memory of her was that she couldn’t drink the milk and had to get the juice at snack time. He and I have a long history with Jenny.

Jenny was adventurous when I knew her in high school, she kind of scared me. She was falling out of haylofts, breaking bones, and passing out off the back of bleachers long before it was cool to do so. But she kept on being that feisty 16-year old I always knew. She and I have our secrets; we have things out parents don’t even know about. She’s keeping my secrets and I will keep hers. She’s the friend that knows my history and my story. She’s also my Woobie, and there’s a story behind that too. We were at my house playing Scattegories, the category was a pet name you would give someone and the letter was W. Without knowing what the other one had written, we both came up with the same name, Woobie. We had that kind of chemistry.

Jenny was my maid of honor and I was hers. At her wedding, she asked me to sing the song, Friends (by Michael W. Smith). In the song, the words say, “A friend’s a friend forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them. And a friend will not say never ‘cause the welcome will not end.” Our welcome never ended. As I moved away and became the adventurous one I always took her in my pocket. Jenny made me adventurous and it took that spirit to do some of the things I’ve had to do over the years. After every trip, she wanted to know what I had seen and done. She wanted to live the adventure with me.

Jenny saw me bring three beautiful boys into this world. She was their godmother. And she was my ever faithful, cheerleader, and encourager. She loved my boys, prayed for them, and she had a bond with them. She took the job of godmother very seriously.

The one regret I have is that I wasn’t always there for her but I knew she was always in good hands. And no matter how much time or distance, as soon as I stepped foot in her presence it was as if I hadn’t been gone so long. As my life and my friends changed over the years depending on where I lived, she was the one true constant friend I had. And she never made me feel guilty for not being there; in fact, she always told me how proud she was of me.

I take from Jenny her feistiness; I used to be the docile one without an attitude…..I used to but not anymore. I take from her an adventurous spirit, sometimes launching myself off into the unknown just like she did on that rope swing out at the Salamonie Reservoir. I take her willingness to find the good in all people because we’ve all benefitted from that. I take her love of animals, elephants, babies, scrapbooking, her will to fight, and all the words to ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me.’ In return, I hope I’ve given her something. I promise her now that I’ll live a life she would be proud of now and always.

Friends are friends forever

I wish you were here, but you’re in Heaven. Heaven doesn’t know how lucky it is to have you.”-author unknown.

I realize now that I took having her here on earth for granted. She was my first call when something wonderful happened. My enemies were hers’s and she didn’t need to know the details. If I didn’t like someone, she wasn’t going to like them either. If I was mad, she was madder. She hated injustice of any kind. She was loyal like that. Without going into great detail, Jenny had a host of medical issues, mostly those dealing with her immune system. She was in and out of the hospital for most of her adult life. Like all the times before, I just assumed she would fight, recover, and call to tell me she was feeling better. But that didn’t happen.

Every day is how often I miss her

I honestly believe that God gives you one best friend in life. I miss Jenny every damn day. Today (July 1st) is her birthday. Every year, I like to do something she would want to do. As much as I want to call her on the phone, I can’t. However, I know that she’ll send me a beautiful sunrise, a favorite memory, or she’ll send me on some adventure. Nonetheless, I will celebrate her today and be thankful that I had her in my life for 20 years.

Everyone should have a best friend like Jenny in their lives. Mine just happens to be in heaven.

“Though it’s hard to let you go, in the Father’s hands we know that a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.” I promise you, Jenny, we will always be best friends and you’ll always be my Woobie, death cannot change that.

Michael W. Smith singing Friends: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAeD2UEYaAk

Water, water everywhere…and places it shouldn’t be

flood living room and dining

Flood in the living room looking toward the dining room. Seconds after discovery. ©missykuester.com

It’s that first step off the stairs that makes one weary. A couple of days ago it was the first indication that things were not okay in my house. Why would the carpet be wet and not just wet but that there would be standing water? The simple act of starting the washing machine the night before turned out to be a big regret. But I’ve done it hundreds of times. I have always said that a cup of water on the floor seems to turn into gallons. Water, water everywhere…and places it shouldn’t be.

Help is on the way as soon as I call them

I had yelled for my husband and sons as soon as I figured out what was what. Then there was this moment when I couldn’t figure out what to do next. My husband was shutting off the water and I was questioning everything and nothing at the same time. It didn’t make sense. I had my phone in my hand but it took me minutes before I could unscramble my brain and do something. So I called Todd, the landlord’s fix-it guy. He can do anything. I texted him a picture. No words you want your handyman to say, “That’s more water than I can handle.” Yeah, Todd, me too! (Todd’s the best by the way)

Suck it up, Buttercup

I called ServPro but because my house is a rental the landlord has to take financial responsibility for their services. I couldn’t get ahold of my landlord so we began sucking up water! Thankfully our neighbors came to the rescue with their Shop Vacs. And apparently, I am no indebted to them for life.

Cleaning up water
Cleaning up water in the aftermath ©missykuester.com

Not as cool as a wind tunnel

Then came things I never knew existed. ServPro showed up in force the next few days and measured moisture, tore out insulation and baseboards, and installed dryers, fans and heaters. I do not recommend flooding your house. However, it saved me from cleaning my house.

Yea, it’s loud in my house. The fans have run 24/7 since this thing started. I have lost hearing I think! And it makes it over 100 degrees in my house. Chocolate has melted. It’s sad.

They then installed these pads and tubes. Looks like that alien on Monsters Inc.

Tubes drying kitchen floor
Tubes piping in hot hair into the kitchen floors
©missykuester.com

And as if it wasn’t challenging enough, they covered the tubes with plastic. It became a giant inflatable Twister mat with hidden tubes that you can roll your ankle on.

What to do to ensure your washer doesn’t flood your house

I have found that it’s best to learn from other people’s experiences versus trying these things for yourself. So take it from us. Here are some things you can do so that this doesn’t happen to you.

Use a tray underneath your washer. You can buy one at Home Depot for a fraction of the cost to clean up the water. Some even have drains that you can have a plumber connect and run outside.

https://www.homedepot.com/p/MUSTEE-Durapan-30-in-x-32-in-Washer-Pan-99/202064414

If possible install a drain in your laundry room.

There are also water alarms you can place on the floor of your laundry room that will scream at you when it detects water. Again you can get them at any local Lowe’s, Home Depot or local hardware. Alarms will go off, alerts will be sent, and a disaster avoided.

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Honeywell-Home-Single-Use-Water-Leak-Alarm-4-Pack-RWD14/204116889

My neighbor added water detection to her alarm system for less than $20 a month that will send an alert to your phone if a leak is detected.

If you build a house, be mindful of where you build the laundry room. Can it be built lower than the rest of the house? For example, a step down from the rest of the house. Our laundry room is next to our kitchen at the same height.

Service your washing machine often. Ours gave us no indication anything was about to go wrong.

Do not run the washer overnight or while you are gone

Install flooring that can act as a barrier. Water in our house seeped underneath ruining the wood under the flooring.

I am sure there are other things that I’m not thinking of right now. So please leave a comment and tell me what more people can do.

The moral of the story…

Water is destructive. I now see why floods are disastrous. There are things you can do to ward off such an event. We blame ourselves for not taking precautions. We have lived in 15 houses since we got married and not one of them had any of the things mentioned above.

At the end of the day, my floors got clean, nothing of mine was destroyed, and we were always safe and had a place to sleep at night. Inconveniences were our biggest problems. We drank more alcohol than we should have but learned a valuable lesson. Besides, the obvious lessons learned from the malfunctioning washer there are life lessons. Learn from other people’s misfortunes. Water, like life, is unpredictable and takes unknown and unpredictable paths. It can be a source of life or it can drown you. We can go with the flow or fight the current. One thing we can’t do is stand in the stream of water and fail to make a decision. And sometimes, you don’t even want to be in the water but that’s where you end up.

Water quote by N. Sparks
Water quote by Nicholas Sparks from the book and movie The Notebook
©Quotabulary

 

Mr. Rogers helper quote

To my friends married to police officers, I see you too

Last week I wrote an article about how we, white people need to check on our black friends. missykuester.com/check-on-your-black-friends-they-are-not-okay/. They need to know we care and we want to see change. It’s been a time of uncomfortable but needed conversations. In those conversations, we didn’t dwell on specifics but spoke of overall racism, their personal experiences, and how to spark change. Not one of those people spoke ill of police officers in general but focused on the recent cases and those specific police officers.

I was then prompted to check on my friends who are married to police officers or Law Enforcement Officers (LEO). They needed to know that I don’t think their spouses are bad cops. When I reached out to my LEO friends, they responded with grace and poured out their hearts.

If I have to explain to you that I can simultaneously support black people and police officers than that requires more conversation and another post. I will continue to champion for my black and brown friends who are experiencing systematic racism. Remember, I’m just someone who wants us all to sit at the same table. (Have you heard about Missy Kuester?).

Here are the stories of my LEO friends, in their own words. I felt as though their own words were more impactful than anything I could have written. I have excluded their names and any identifying information. I have also edited some conversations due to grammar and length.

Touch enough lives to bring change and make a different future

“My husband and I married on June 17, 1989. He was a State Trooper. We live in rural Indiana and at the time thoughts of his safety were fleeting. It was different. I had a person ask me once don’t you worry about him and I said “No, nothing like that happens here.” I knew he was aware of his surroundings and people liked him because he respected them. He talked to them and treated all of the people he arrested with respect and patience. You rarely heard of police shootings. You think it won’t happen to you or yours.”

“Now as a mother of a police officer, I fear all the time. I pray for him every night. My son called me last night and told me he’s been working every night to help keep calm during the protests. Last night a teenage white girl yelled in his face, yelled the F word in his face. He kept calm. It was the older black lady that told her to watch her language. She said that is not the reason they were there. It is a different time. My heart hurts for our country but I hope that the wives and mothers of police officers feel the pride I feel of my husband and son. We know we have good men who want to protect all the people. My hope is my husband and my son touch enough lives to bring change and make a different future where we don’t fear for the officers and certainly not for the black families and their children.”

Protecting their community

“There is fear that your spouse may not return from work and then add in this craziness. All they are doing is just trying to do their job by protecting their community. I worry not only for my spouse, but every police officer that has to deal with the everyday stresses and this just adds even more stress to their plates. I can’t imagine going to work and having to fear for my life. Like everything in this world, there are good and bad…does that mean every one of the police is bad…no. There are good and bad in all races across the nation. We have friends of all races/nationalities. I have two cousins that are married to different races. We love them both and they are treated no differently than any other. I just wish we as a nation could all just get along and be decent human beings.”

This is all too much

“Good God, this is all just too much.”

I’m a strong woman, Lord, but I really am done. I think most people would agree with that statement, but for me, really it couldn’t be truer.

I send my husband, out to do his duty as a local county sheriff’s deputy, just like I sent him out for 23 years to protect and serve in the military.

I stay back to provide a safe sanctuary for our children. To continue my own work in my professions. I manage the household, making sure that everyone has what they need and that my husband can come home from work after a full shift plus who knows how many hours of overtime, only to sleep and then get up to do it all over again.

I’m not mentioning all of this to garner “kudos” or pity, but just to point out that the work to keep the home fires burning has to be done by someone, and for 26+ years that has been me.

And then I have to dwell on my own thoughts about the protests and what it means to have “white privilege” and how do I feel about sending my LEO out into the world to do his duty to protect. And where am I on “Black Lives Matter” and does that movement really stand for what I believe, do they hate cops and if so, how do I rectify my feelings about police brutality with my feelings of pride for the work my husband does every day he heads out the door. And then I have to put my educator hat on to think about how all kids feel in my classroom. Do I make sure that children of color feel as valued as all others? What do I do to teach and honor everyone’s’ story?

Good God, this is all just too much.

But, THANK God, I rest in His care. THANK God, I have a husband who loves me deeply and two boys who want to make sure I am okay. THANK God I have family and friends who check-in. And THANK God it isn’t always like this.

Because, Good God, this is all just too much.

I see you my LEO friends

I’ll be honest, I cried when I read each of these messages. I wept for my LEO friends who I know are some of the best people God put on this earth. Their intentions are noble and just. I wept with them just like I wept with my friends of color who are hurting. I’ve heard a lot lately about being a bridge for racial unity. https://bethebridge.com/ is just one of the many resources. I guess that’s what I hope to be. My list of friends is diverse and if I would have a party I want all of my friends to be invited.

I had this thought as I sat down to write:

What do I tell my black and brown friends if I don’t speak up for them?

What do I tell my Jewish friends if I don’t speak up for them?

What do I tell my LGBTQ friends if I don’t speak up for them?

What do I tell my Christian friends if I don’t speak up for them?

What do I tell my friend who has been sexually assaulted if I don’t speak up for them?

What do I tell my friends who are at a disadvantage if I don’t speak up for them?

(The list goes on and you get my point.)

And what do I tell my friends who are married to the good cops if I don’t speak up for them?

 

Check on your LEO friends and make sure they are okay too.

 

USU quad building at sunset

13 truths as you drop your kid off at college

It’s that time of year where kids are graduating from high school. Parents are excited and sentimental. It brings back nostalgic memories of when my oldest son graduated from high school. In the aftermath of graduation, we prepared for him to leave us. He had chosen to attend a college across the country from where we lived.

About that same time, a friend recommended Kami Gilmour’s Release My Grip: Hope for a Parent’s Heart as Kids Leave the Nest and Learn to Fly. https://www.amazon.com/Release-My-Grip-Parent%C2%92s-Heart/dp/1470748479.  It changed the way I looked at this transition. Did I perform it flawlessly? Nope. However, I did learn some truths and I want to pass them onto other parents. Your kid may be transitioning to a job, a trade school, the military, or a traditional 4-year college or even taking a gap year. The letting-go part is the same. Here are some things to keep in mind as you drop your kid off at college as was my case.

13 truths as you drop your kid off at college…

(Why 13? Because a list of 10 seems too predictable.)

  1. Wait until you’re in the car to cry. Crying makes them feel worse and apprehensive. Besides, no kid wants to see his mom cry on the sidewalk.
  2. I text and talk with my son more than when he was under my roof.
  3. They still need you. You’ll find out soon…
  4. You are doing the best thing for them. One day they will return. By giving them the freedom to leave, they will be someone who longs for home instead of someone who longs to run away.
  5. They have the confidence to leave and that means you did such an amazing job of raising them! Applaud yourself!
  6. You are still their mom, that doesn’t change.
  7. One day you will find out that your kid is a pretty cool adult. (My friend Craig kept reminding me of this and it’s true!)
  8. As my son told me, “If you don’t leave, I can’t start my life.” Move out of their way. You’re hindering, not helping.
  9. Kids don’t grow confident by clinging to you, just like a toddler has to let go in order to walk.
  10. What if your parents had never let you go?
  11. As my friend reminded me, I still had people at home counting on me.
  12. Kami Gilmour in her book chides parents for stealing their kids’ joy. This is a joyful time and your resistance to letting them go steals that joy. Stop being selfish!
  13. Lose them now or lose them forever. Some of the best advice came from the ABC show The Goldbergs. (https://abc.com/shows/the-goldbergs). On one episode titled, Graduation Day, the father Murray Goldberg, played by Jeff Garlin is trying to console his wife Beverly played by Wendi McLendon-Covey. The usually cranky Murray has sage advice for his wife when she divulges that she is afraid of losing her daughter when she goes off to college. Murray says to her, “I would rather lose her for four short years than hold her back forever.” I needed to hear that and may you do too.
T waving goodbye
The long wave goodbye
©missykuester.com

There is good news

Do not despair; it’s not all bad news. They eventually come back for visits and all the things that once annoyed you about them are soon forgotten. You start to trust them more. They communicate better, eventually. You might even get a text or phone call full of appreciation. There will be moments of great pride. You never stop worrying but they prove they can be trusted and get themselves out of tough situations. Don’t forget to applaud them and share in their triumphs and joys. One day down the road, you’ll wonder why you worried.

 

This is a song that helped me through the transition of my son leaving home….

This is not Goodbye by Sidewalk Prophets

I can see it in your eyes that you are restless
The time has come for you to leave
It’s so hard to let you go
But in this life, I know you have to be who you were made to be
As you step out on the road I’ll say a prayer
So that in my heart you always will be there
This is not goodbye
I know we’ll meet again
So let your life begin
‘Cause this is not goodbye
It’s just “I love you” to take with you
Until you’re home again

Listen to this song in its entirety: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YyIC0RumjQ

MLK friends quote about racism

Check on your black friends, they are not okay

One of the reasons I started a blog is I need an outlet to say things that are on my heart. This morning when I began writing a lengthy Facebook post about racism, I stopped and remembered that I have a blog now. So, I am sitting down now to put feelings to paper…or screen. It will probably be imperfect but it’s from the heart. Before I go too far, I want to say that in no way am I saying that all police officers are bad or that all white people are racists. Just like I wouldn’t say that all blacks are criminals. Blanket statements are ignorant. I have family and friends in law enforcement, I see them hurting too and I pray for their safety every day. This is for my friends who are affected by racism.

Racism has nothing to do with where you grew up

I had a wonderful conversation with my mother yesterday. She says she is learning things about me on my blog that she never knew. Yikes! However, she told me that when she was a little girl she was always the one in school that sat with the kids that had no one to sit with. This must be where I get my desire to make people feel important and included. Read my introductory post and you’ll see. https://missykuester.com/have-you-heard-about-missy-kuester/

I grew up in a small, rural Indiana town. It was mostly an all-white community. Growing up there was boring and safe. My parents were blue-collar workers. However, they both worked in a neighboring city that was more diverse. My father was a truck driver and a factory foreman. My mother worked in a hospital. Both had black co-workers and supervisors (as well as co-workers from other countries and cultures) so I was accustomed to being in an electric group of people. I found it fascinating. Consequently, I have spent the last 29 years amassing a friend list full of people from different countries, cultures, and upbringings. I’m a better person for it.

I’m not going to be the problem any longer

Recent events in Minnesota and the death of George Lloyd and previously of Ahmaud Arbery made me re-access my ideals. Yesterday, I reached out to three of my black friends. The first is a bi-racial couple who are raising 4 amazing kids. They are open and honest about how racial tensions are affecting their children. Both made suggestions about how I could use my privileges to help those who are being oppressed. “Support our local black-owned businesses. Whether it be restaurants, food trucks, handyman, banks, events, stylists, clothing and shoe stores, etc. Take a few extra moments to leave reviews for those places. Do not support the chains or large companies or any place for that matter who condone racist acts of their employees or customers.” I appreciate their concrete suggestions on how I can help. I feel empowered.

My next conversation was with a friend that I respect because she’s an amazing human who has shaped and molded kids for years as an educator and administrator. She helped my son. He is pursuing a career in Natural Resources because of her. She also has three amazing kids. They are a family that makes a difference and impact in their community. Our conversation was one of encouragement. I spilled my heart out to her because she is a safe place to do so. She in turn told me just reaching out, befriending, and being aware is the first and most important step. Stomping out racism is a marathon, not a sprint. As she reminded me it’s a matter of changing hearts.

The last conversation I had is with a dear friend who I talk to weekly. She and I went to high school together but never interacted much. We reconnected at a class reunion and she’s become one of the most important people in my life. She is witty, smart, and easily one of the funniest people I know. She can debate the hell out of anything. Consequently, when she is done with you, you are convinced the sky isn’t blue. What makes her situation unique is that she is a fiery redhead married to a black man. Additionally, her father and brother work in law enforcement and she admires both of them for their work. Her post this morning says it all, “Some of you have never had a conversation with a black person about racism and it shows.” Our conversation was of solidarity.

The most important thing we can do for our black friends

All three conversations had one resounding theme: reaching out is the most important thing. Letting people know that we see them and support them is vital. I am thankful that I can learn from them (and others) and ask questions. They educate me so that I’m not part of the problem. I don’t pretend to know what they are going through so I need them to show me. Just like I have reached out to my friends in law enforcement to lend my support and let them know that I support them.

My best friend, Jenny had a knack for supporting me. My enemies were her enemies. She didn’t need the details. If I was upset, she was upset. That’s the way I feel about all my black friends right now. I just want them to not sit alone but to have a seat at my table. I see them, love them, and support them. Racism stops with me.

Check-in with your black friends. Make sure they know where you stand. Take the risk of sounding foolish. Ask questions. But don’t stay silent.

For more ideas of how you can fight racism, visit Corinne Shutack’s 2017 post. https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234