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Pilgrims at Thanksgiving did not go home

That time the Pilgrims didn’t go home for Thanksgiving

Several years ago, I wrote a response to an article on Military Spouse Magazine in regards to going home for the holidays. The article felt judgy and unnecessary for military spouses who want to go home but for reasons cannot. My response was hasty, brash, and resonated with other military spouses. If you google it you can probably still find the original article at https://www.militaryspouse.com/magazine/. I decided to edit and share with you my thoughts about feeling guilty when you cannot go home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any other important times of the year. So enjoy this revamped and retitled article, That time the Pilgrims didn’t go home for Thanksgiving. Here is to another guilt-free holiday!

Released from guilt

Two significant times in my life I was released from guilt for living so far away from family. The first was when my mother told me to get out of our small, rural, Indiana town. Then my 93-year-old grandmother told me as we prepared to move to Germany, “If anything should happen to me while you are gone do not haul those babies back here for my funeral.” She released from the guilt I had for not attending her funeral. You see, I am married to a military man but I live with less guilt because of the overwhelming understanding of my family for missing out on holidays back home.

My husband Chris has been in the Air Force for over twenty years. We have spent five years overseas and moved fourteen times in total. Currently, my college kid has never come home for Thanksgiving. I would be a hypocrite to insist he come home for Thanksgiving. In the meantime, I have prepared myself for the future. As the mother of boys, I may spend future holidays without them. Our military lifestyle has always been about creating new traditions. Holidays at our house don’t always look traditional and we are okay with that.

Many times it is just not fathomable to return to your parents’ home for the holidays. Air travel, car rental, hotel stays, boarding of pets, food, and the list compiles and before you know it, you are so in debt you cannot travel the rest of the year. There is also the stress factor, the inability to get enough time off, and a plethora of other responsibilities. Let us not forget those that are deployed and cannot be home for the holidays.

Random thoughts about going home for the holidays.

1. If it is so important for your extended family to be together, invite them to your place. Two years in a row, our families traveled to where we live and we rented a house large enough for all of us. It relieved me of doing all the cooking and cleaning.
2. Delay holiday for cheaper times of the year or plan a destination holiday where you all gather in a central location. I dream of having a vacation in a cabin in the mountains one day surrounded by my boys and their families.
3. Talk to your extended family. Let them know how you feel. My hope is that your family is understanding and if not that is on them, not you.
4. Coordinate with local friends to gather for the holiday or serve in the community in some capacity. In years past, my family and I are served dinner to inmates in a halfway program on a farm.
5. Create your own traditions. My husband and I have created our own family holiday traditions. We look forward to carrying these out every year.
6. Above all, do what is right for you and your family. In the meantime, release your family from that same guilt. And do not judge other military families if their choices for the holidays are different than yours.

The 2020 holiday season is different but still guilt-free

The holidays should not be stressful or filled with guilt. My kid is doing what I taught him to do by making a life of his own. If his adventures lead him far away at the holidays I will survive just like my mother has done. She is a great example of how a mother can release her children and adapt through the holidays. Listen, this military life is hard enough on good days so the last thing you need is to feel guilty for not being able or wanting to return home for the holidays. Instead, embrace your new home, make new traditions, and if someone tries to make you feel guilty remind them that the Pilgrims didn’t go home for the holidays either. I release you of that guilt. I’m not saying to never go home for the holidays but when you can’t that’s okay too.

The 2020 year is bizarre, to say the least. We are being told by health professionals that it is best to not gather in large groups or with those people who have compromised immunity. This year we all are relinquished of any guilt about not going home for the holidays. We can claim that we love our families by staying away and thus keeping them healthy.   

Have a happy, guilt-free holiday season!

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