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Testicular cancer ribbon

What I will remember from that day

That day is cancer day. The day we found out our middle son had testicular cancer. What I will remember from that day…

It was February 18th. It was towards the end of my day, but my son was on my mind. I knew he was going to the urologist. I was standing in a cemetery, it’s my work. My son at the time was an 18-year-old college freshman, his first semester, one month into a new school. He had transferred to that school after attending a school further away. That decision was instrumental in the story of how God put him where he needed to b

“So, it’s looking like it’s cancer.”

All the things people say, things got blurry, the breath left my body, and a lump was now in my throat. All I could think of was to get to him but that was impossible as he was states away, a 10 drive at best. I walked toward my colleague, Mark. He was talking to someone up the hill from where I was. He was facing my direction and as I got closer, I began to cry, and he excused himself to meet me. There and then I told him Guthrie had cancer. He hugged me, walked me back to the work van, and my other co-worker, Wayne came and sat in the van with me. I will always remember their reassurance. Wayne is a cancer survivor so he had it on good authority it would be okay. But we work in an industry surrounded by bad prognoses. While I waited for things to end, I called my husband. He was out on the floor with management. He told his boss what was going on and she told him to leave right away.

The drive toward home was full of phone calls.

My mom

My best friend, Kathy. I’m pretty sure she was packing a suitcase, ready to hop on a plane.

My father-in-law

My friend Lisa. It’s not the first time she’s taking a distressing call from me.

I drove on home and told my sister and brother-in-law who were living with me at the time. I told my other two boys. My oldest son had told his brother to go to a doctor when he found the lump.

I continued to make phone calls, it to the people I always call when something’s wrong.

Ann, she’s always praying for us.

Mary (I had to call her daughter Grace because Mary rarely answers calls.)

Derek, my pastor. He offered a prayer over the phone.

Scooter

Eleilia, she too prayed for us and was already looking up flights from Alaska.

Angie, she too has answered calls from me that started with me in tears.

Kate, she’s his godmother.

Marisa, who has her own story of loss.

I had a mental list of people I had to call. Once I posted it on Facebook, the evening was full of text messages, FB messages and phone calls. Finally, we had a moment to make a plan.

On my way home that day I had heard the song God, Turn It Around by Jon Reddick. That became a theme for us and a prayer.

There is so much that is a blur but there are key things that I’ll never forget.

I’ll never forget the song or the prayers that went out on his behalf.

I’ll never forget my oldest son telling me, “You’ve been taking care of me my whole life, it’s time to return the favor. I’ll take care of things here at home.” He stepped up in big ways.

Uncle Dan making a 1.5-hour trip one way just to let our dogs out of the house one day when everyone else was busy.

I’ll never forget the gifts of food from many people, the Fisher and Drummond families, Madison, Elisabeth, and finally my work family. We never paid for a meal ourselves while we were in town. The generous check for our hotel stays. It was a sign we were not alone.

The phone calls and messages were constant. Melanie and Lori who both had cancer experience called to offer support. Some of the best advice I got was that I owed no one anything. I was mentally exhausted, and this was music to my ears.

Surgery was required for that Wednesday to remove the testicle but more than the fear I felt, I was elated because that day while I waited in the waiting room, our friends had their baby. It was a reminder that God was still good.

2 years later and we still have some trauma, but my prayer is that with each passing year we will be able to see how far we’ve come. Today he is healthy and for that we are grateful for. And he insists we concentrate on February 23 when he had the cancer removed.

What I will remember from that day is that God did in fact turn it around and he used all of you to make it happen.

 

 

happy birthday banner

Looking back: 50 thoughts for my 50th birthday

Rascal Flatt’s, the country music trio sings a song titled, Life is a Highway. I agree. It makes a wonderful metaphor for life. The old adage is to not look back because you’re not going that way. While the sentiment is an attempt to inspire us to keep moving forward, I tend to disagree. I believe looking back helps to see how far I’ve come. In celebration of my 50th birthday, I find it helpful to look back.

50 Thoughts for my 50th birthday:

  1. Be authentic and real. People can relate to you. Be your imperfect self, people want that.
  2. Be kind to others and while you’re at it be kind to yourself. That’s how we change the world.
  3. Therapy is a type of self-care and love, there’s no reason to be ashamed. Should be as natural as going to the regular doctor.
  4. Travel, far and wide and often It gets rid of ignorance.
  5. Do something that scares you. Sometimes you have to do something when you’re scared.
  6. Don’t fall for fads, trends, etc.-it makes you like everyone else and that defeats the purpose of life.
  7. Eat the cake, eat the bacon. I don’t trust anyone that doesn’t.
  8. Do something you love. It can be a hobby or a job but find something that brings you joy.
  9. Believe in a higher power.
  10. Friendship is like pie and there is only so much pie so choose your friends wisely. Thanks Emily!
  11. Live the obituary you want written about you someday.
  12. Collect friends of all shapes, sizes, colors, cultures, ethnicities….you get the drift.
  13. Don’t try to be strong all the time. It’s okay to fall apart. It’s okay to not be okay.
  14. Laugh and make others laugh.
  15. Visit the elderly, they have a lot to offer, and you can learn so much from them.
  16. Go outside. Be with nature and in nature.
  17. Take all the pictures. You’ll never regret having too many pictures.
  18. Be the first to smile at a stranger in the grocery store aisle.
  19. Compliment strangers. Compliment their colored hair, their tattoos, whatever makes them unique.
  20. Speak up against wrongdoing. Let others know what you’re for. Be pro love, and pro human.
  21. Make your bed every day or marry someone who does.
  22. Laugh at yourself before others have a chance to make fun of you.
  23. Be vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself.
  24. Savor the moments.
  25. Worry less about what others think. Don’t listen to the opinions of people you don’t respect or wouldn’t ask for their advice.
  26. Do not compare your life with others. God created this life with you in mind.
  27. Be grateful for the problems you don’t have.
  28. Hang out with people who are smarter and wiser than you. If you’re the smartest one in the room, you’re in the wrong room.
  29. Always bet on yourself. 
  30. Apologize especially to your kids. You’re human not perfect.
  31. Sometimes you’re wrong.
  32. Be like a tree, rooted but flexible.
  33. Leave people better than you found them.
  34. Be brave enough to suck at something until you get better.
  35. Be a Fountain, not a drain (Rex Hudler)
  36. Be a thermostat, not a thermometer (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
  37. Make everyone feel like they are the most important person. Thank you, Mary!
  38. Be who you needed when you were younger.
  39. Mentor others. Share what you have learned.
  40. Don’t dig up in doubt, what you planted in faith (Elisabeth Elliot)
  41. Don’t die before you’re dead. (Tennessee John Hurt)
  42. Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire. (Wendell Berry)
  43. Don’t finish a bad book.
  44. Sometimes it’s not about you. Remember this when someone is mad or acts out in anger toward you.
  45. Celebrate yourself. Be brave and go to a restaurant alone or a movie theater by yourself. 
  46. You will never miss what’s meant for you.
  47. If not you than who?
  48. Everyone should have a porch to watch sunrises and the sunsets and watch the world go by.
  49. Music is life. Listen when you’re happy, when you’re sad, alone, scared, joyful, jubilant……..
  50. Don’t be sad about birthdays. It’s a privilege not afforded to everyone. Besides, you’ve been through a lot, and it shows, and you should be proud of how far you’ve come and what you’ve endured.

I hope when you look back down the road of your life, you see how far you’ve come. There were hard times but you’re still here. And as you look ahead down the road do so with hope. I could write fifty other things, but I’ll save that for when I’m 100. Thank you for always reading and thank you for helping me celebrate my birthday!

 

Wellsville Mountains

It’s the small things in life that add up

Mother Teresa is credited with saying, ““We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” 

Recently my friend, Angie, called and we caught up.  She said she had come here to my blog and noticed I hadn’t posted anything in a while. Of course, I gave her the excuses that it was the holidays, I was busy, and I had nothing to write about. It was the catalyst I needed to get back to writing.

I have another friend that has a blog, and her posts take about 3 minutes to read. I like her blog because I have a short attention span and I can read her posts easily and efficiently.  https://www.galsinblue.com/

Yet, another friend posts about the little things of each day. I look forward to her Facebook posts. She can take the little things and wring out something meaningful and enlightening.

Finally, my friend, Kathy and I have vowed to document the positive things about each day, even the small things of life.

I find my life, daily events, and even my job at the funeral home are made of a lot of little moments and tasks. But all together it adds up. I used to think life had to be these big moments and events. Or that I had to have a job that made a huge impact when in fact the little things I do at work add up to be meaningful in the moment.

Therefore, I decided I could do a quick post to let you all know I’m still here. After all, it’s the small things in life that add up..

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…….

 

 

 

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

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