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 best friend, Kathy. I’m pretty sure she was packing a suitcase, ready to hop on a plane.
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.
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.
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:
Be authentic and real. People can relate to you. Be your imperfect self, people want that.
Be kind to others and while you’re at it be kind to yourself. That’s how we change the world.
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.
Travel, far and wide and often It gets rid of ignorance.
Do something that scares you. Sometimes you have to do something when you’re scared.
Don’t fall for fads, trends, etc.-it makes you like everyone else and that defeats the purpose of life.
Eat the cake, eat the bacon. I don’t trust anyone that doesn’t.
Do something you love. It can be a hobby or a job but find something that brings you joy.
Believe in a higher power.
Friendship is like pie and there is only so much pie so choose your friends wisely. Thanks Emily!
Live the obituary you want written about you someday.
Collect friends of all shapes, sizes, colors, cultures, ethnicities….you get the drift.
Don’t try to be strong all the time. It’s okay to fall apart. It’s okay to not be okay.
Laugh and make others laugh.
Visit the elderly, they have a lot to offer, and you can learn so much from them.
Go outside. Be with nature and in nature.
Take all the pictures. You’ll never regret having too many pictures.
Be the first to smile at a stranger in the grocery store aisle.
Compliment strangers. Compliment their colored hair, their tattoos, whatever makes them unique.
Speak up against wrongdoing. Let others know what you’re for. Be pro love, and pro human.
Make your bed every day or marry someone who does.
Laugh at yourself before others have a chance to make fun of you.
Be vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself.
Savor the moments.
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.
Do not compare your life with others. God created this life with you in mind.
Be grateful for the problems you don’t have.
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.
Always bet on yourself.
Apologize especially to your kids. You’re human not perfect.
Sometimes you’re wrong.
Be like a tree, rooted but flexible.
Leave people better than you found them.
Be brave enough to suck at something until you get better.
Be a Fountain, not a drain (Rex Hudler)
Be a thermostat, not a thermometer (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Make everyone feel like they are the most important person. Thank you, Mary!
Be who you needed when you were younger.
Mentor others. Share what you have learned.
Don’t dig up in doubt, what you planted in faith (Elisabeth Elliot)
Don’t die before you’re dead. (Tennessee John Hurt)
Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire. (Wendell Berry)
Don’t finish a bad book.
Sometimes it’s not about you. Remember this when someone is mad or acts out in anger toward you.
Celebrate yourself. Be brave and go to a restaurant alone or a movie theater by yourself.
You will never miss what’s meant for you.
If not you than who?
Everyone should have a porch to watch sunrises and the sunsets and watch the world go by.
Music is life. Listen when you’re happy, when you’re sad, alone, scared, joyful, jubilant……..
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!
I recently had an amazing dream, the kind you don’t want to wake up from. I dreamt I enjoyed an evening with the grandfather I never knew. My grandfather Rea (pronounced Ray) died in 1961 at the age of 51. My father was just a teenager when his father died while returning from vacation. They had been in Arizona and stopped for the night in Kansas when he had a heart attack and died.
I don’t much about him. He was a farmer and school bus driver and an only child. One day a family friend, Mary Kay told me I acted a lot like him. She told me a couple stories about him and I’m grateful for the things she shared for it’s all I know about him. She told me he had one of the first still cameras and that he was a jokester.
It’s the first time I have ever had a dream about him. He and I were walking about their old farmstead. We were talking and I remember it was delightful. At one point I took his hand and told him I was grateful to finally meet him. He showed me where their barn used to be, and I explained that after he died Grandma sold the animals and neighbors farmed the land he owned. The barn became dilapidated, and it was torn down.
You know how people ask, “Who is one person dead or alive that you would want to have dinner with?” Hands down, it is my grandfather. It’s strange how I can have such a strong attachment to my grandfather even though I never knew him. When we were expecting our second child, not knowing if it was a boy or a girl, I knew that if it was a boy, I wanted to honor my grandpa. Grandpa Rea’s real given name was Thompson Rea, named after his grandfather. My son’s middle name is Thompson.
I’m grateful for that evening with my grandfather and I hope to have another evening with him soon.
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.
Happy New Year! We are excited about 2021. I wanted to update all of you on our farm. Ideally, I consider it a hobby farm as we don’t plan on using it for large farming or animals. As a family, we decided to name it Haulin Kuester Acres. It was the name all 5 of us could agree on. You offered many amazing suggestions. We felt this best reflected our homestead and would maybe help people remember the correct pronunciation of our last name. Thank you for sharing in our enthusiasm and watching along. Due to weather and other commitments we are not currently undertaking any projects until the weather improves. Also, we currently maintain two households so fiscally we are trying to be responsible.
Additionally, my talented sister, Larissa designed our logo. We wanted a logo that could stand on its own but also be identifiable and unique. She accomplished that. Next up will be to get some swag with our new logo.
In my next blog post, find out the reason you are not allowed to ask “Why?” on Haulin Kuester Acres.
I am one of those people who writes a yearly family letter every year. Somewhere tucked in a draw in someone’s house are all the Christmas letters I have written. I just know it! I hope I have evolved over the years. So, in the hopes of helping reinvigorate the art of Christmas letter writing and to help another soul looking for more creative ideas, I am sharing my past letter ideas here.
The tried and true Christmas letters
Christmas past, Christmas present, and Christmas future. At the time, I claimed this letter was not as boring as the others they would receive. It was my first attempt at writing a Christmas letter. All these years later I realize that the letter is indeed boring. Example: Christmas past was about what happened in the past year. Christmas present was where we were working and such. While Christmas future was about our upcoming year.
Written by our dog, Fletcher. Creative at the time but everyone has done this idea. Example: “Hi, my name is Fletcher. Mom and Dad are too busy doing human stuff. So, in between naps I will try to retrace some of the past year.”
Baby Makes Three. Written from the view of our newborn baby. Again, a tried and true version of Christmas letters. I at least used some pretty winter scenery paper. Wonder how much that cost? Example: “I must turn this over to Mom. I don’t remember the first part of my life and besides, I must nap now.”
Improving on the Christmas letter writing
Movie Titles. I started to stretch my creativity a bit. I used movie titles intermingled in our end of the year recap. It’s also fun to see all these years later what movies popular. Example: Chris, the star of An Ideal Husband and his driving could best be compared to Eyes Wide Shut, without the raunchy parts.
Top Ten List. At the time we lived in Idaho so the list was ‘Top Ten Things to Do While living in Idaho.” You could easily write about your own town. Again, I was getting more creative, or so I thought. Here is an example: 1. Ski, Hunt, Fish. 2. Flying: Chris has completed his private pilot’s license requirements.
Newsletter. It’s a cute, short, and easy way to share your thoughts. I’m sure at the time it was a lot of work and I was proud of it. Example: It announced the birth of our second-born son. Also, a Sightseeing section showed a trip we had taken that year. I have done the newsletter a couple of times. One time I used fancy parchment paper, included lots of pictures, and featured my third kid that was born that year. I was probably tired and desperate and this was a quick and easy way to get a letter written while kids napped. Some of the sample headings were: What we did this year. A year of blessings. What we learned. It includes some fun facts based on events from the year.
Stepping up the Christmas letter game
Review in Pictures This one is really simple for busy parents or folks that just don’t want to write a lot. I did this one when I had two kids, lived in a foreign country, and my husband was deployed. I included nothing but pictures along with a short summary. It starts off: We realize how busy we all are this time of year, so here we have put our past year in pictures.
Kids Answer Questions. I probably was desperate when I asked my kids questions for this newsletter. My kids’ answers are hilarious. I then give a recap and provided a picture of us. Example: The question was ‘Do you like your new house?’ Trevette’s response was “Yes, I like that it has an island in the kitchen.” Guthrie’s responded with “Time to eat!” Again, this is a simple Christmas letter if you have smaller kids.
All I ever learned I learned from Country music. The year was 2008. I guess I liked Country Music because the letter is based on the titles of country music songs. I use song titles to share our monumental events. You could easily pick your favorite genre and do the titles of popular songs from the year. One example is ‘Fall by Clay Walker’, as it shared the time that our kid fell out of a second-story window.
A Fairy Tale Christmas Letter. I decided to use my title of Princess to write our annual letter. The letter used royal titles and a storyline. You could use any story to write your letter. How about a superhero letter or from your favorite tv show. Example: Upon arriving in their new village they were given new responsibilities. The Prince was tasked with watching the skies. (Chris was an air traffic controller and airfield manager at the time.)
The best and worst of 2012. I shared things such as The best family vacation, Favorite month, Happiest Homecoming (because Magnum was deployed yet again), and Best News of the year….that we were moving to Belgium.
Thinking outside the box for Christmas letters
Facebook Status Update Christmas. I remember I was new to Facebook. I used status updates for the letter and then explained each event. The descriptions were short and to the point. Again Magnum was deployed so I was probably pulling my hair out. Example: Received my Princess Crown which told about the time my friend Lisa took pity on me and threw me a princess-themed party.
Bumper Sticker Letter. For this idea, I am sure it came to me as I stood at my freezer wondering what I was going to make for dinner. Each event starts off with a bumper sticker I have on my freezer. Each side is covered in bumper stickers so there is a lot of material to work with. One such sticker read, Yes, this is my truck and no, I won’t help you move. Then I wrote about how my husband bought a new truck.
A Review told with memes. I was pretty proud of this one. It was at the height of the memes. I used the memes to set up poignant events that had happened throughout the year. For example, I used a meme that said “We’ve decided moving is the easiest way to clean your house” and then I shared about our move to Belgium.
Epic Christmas letter ideas that will surely impress your family and friends
Season in Review: Football theme: This was the first year I did a photo card. In our picture, we are football players and referees. The theme of the letter is also football and breaks our year up into Quarters. I also used football verbiage and jargon. Example: Final Score: Kuesters crushed the Year 2014.
Comical Year. I really kicked it up a notch. This time, I made ourselves into comic characters and created a comic strip using a free online comic strip maker. storyboardthat.com It was visually pleasing and easy to read for sure. Example: One picture was me sitting in a hospital bed because I had ankle surgery at the beginning of the year.
Quotable Christmas. I have a book of zany things my kids say so I resorted to those quotes for a Christmas letter. Example: “The Beastie Boys fought and possibly died for my right to party” a quote by Trevette. I used it to share news about his senior year and graduation.
Random Facts. For this letter, I invoked the help of my family. They always have these random facts. I asked them to share facts based on what I was writing. One such great example: We moved from Maryland to Washington so one of the facts was “It was 2, 837, 015 smoots from there to here.”
This year’s letter is canceled. Even though it was the 2019 letter, it was probably best suited for the following year. I laid out all the reasons we couldn’t write a letter. For example, I thought I would have some time in August between trips to…..and so forth.” By the end of the letter, I had given all the reasons we couldn’t write a letter.
BINGO! This year’s Christmas letter idea
I’ve been writing these letters for Twenty Five years. It is the Silver Anniversary Edition of Christmas letters. A couple of years I repurposed ideas. This year it is…Bingo Christmas. I used a Bingo card generator at http://spark.adobe.com. Lucky for me 2020 gave me a lot to work with. I marked off the things we actually got to do. Consequently, there were things we didn’t get to do and I left those events unmarked.
Now you try it
These are my most epic Christmas letter ideas that are sure to not bore the recipients. Each year I try to outdo myself from the year before. I hope this inspires you to write a better Christmas letter that shares your yearly events in an entertaining and interesting way. Good Luck!