Saturday, August 1, 2020

August

Well, hello there August!  Such a busy month at our house.  Two birthdays...back to school...family visits and pediatric visits scheduled.  Figuring out a new normal with pandemic-teaching...

But the sunflowers are getting ready to put on their dramatic display here in Kansas!




And Mary Catherine is getting ready to turn Sweet 16!!!



I don't think this year we want anymore surprises!!!  We've all had enough to last a lifetime.



Five more months until we can wish 2020 a hearty farewell and, fingers crossed, usher in a better 2021!!!


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Hello! /Luke is 10 Years Old


Rain is pounding on the windowpanes as I type up this post.  David Nevue Radio is on Pandora (The Kindness of Strangers).   A Yankee Candle (Sicilian Lemon) is burning in the kitchen while an angel food birthday cake bakes in the oven.  (One of our Catholic family birthday traditions.) 

Today we have begun to celebrate Luke Alexander!  TEN years old!!!  

A bittersweet celebration as he is the first of my trio to have a birthday since Dad’s passing.  There’s no way to fix this or make it right, but we sure are trying with our week long celebration of our littlest guy.  

So much has happened since I last posted...many many good things...including a new house!  

We feel truly blessed!  I still have my job, my children are healthy as is our extended family, and we have been welcomed into our new community with much love. 

Can’t wait to share more about our new home, but today is all about Luke.  Happy Birthday sweet boy!  Mommy and Daddy love you so much.  And while Dad is loving being in a heaven with Jesus, I’m certain he wishes he could’ve spent more time down here with you.  Someday we will see him again, and the two of you will be reunited in God’s loving embrace. 













Thursday, April 9, 2020

Plan B

Grief can be paralyzing.  Stigmatizing.  Demoralizing.

It's been eight weeks since Chris passed away.  Two months that we've been without this larger than life figure.  We've had good days and really bad days.  But it's hard to believe it's been 60 days since we've talked/laughed/argued/hugged this man...

I've been particularly struggling because in the months leading up to Chris' death, we had been making good progress in our co-parenting relationship with the help of a family therapist.  And the Saturday before he died, we sat together watching our 9-year old son play in his CYO basketball game.  We talked and laughed like we had as newlyweds...bickering over politics and agreeing to disagree.  But without any malice.  He even offered to look at homes with me "as an extra set of eyes" as he knew I was in the middle of the home-buying process.

But his death put a hard stop to everything.  

A stop to reconciling as co-parents.  A temporary stop to the home-buying process.  And with a world-wide pandemic...a stop to grieving with others.  It's all so surreal.




But recently, I've felt a need to begin the process of reconnecting with the world as I had prior to death's unexpected visit.   

Right before the pandemic shut down society as we know it, I stopped by the public library to peruse the titles written about coping with grief.  I found Sheryl Sandberg's "Option B".  When I first tried to read it, I couldn't get through Chapter 1...not because it wasn't well-written, but because it was.  It was too real...too raw...toe emotional for me.  Except for the fact that I was divorced, so much of her husband's death and her reaction was completely relatable. Dave Sandberg was 47 when he died...5 years younger than Chris, but both men were born in the same year. (1967)  Chris just got 5 extra years before his heart attack.  

But last night, I felt compelled to pick up the book while soaking in a hot bath and try again.  And except for my sleepy eyes...I could not put it down.  

One of the suggestions that Ms. Sandberg makes is to start creating an "accomplishment" list.  This can sound counter-intuitive during the middle of a pandemic...or any other grief-inducing event, but her reasoning behind it makes sense.  Research shows that "gratitude" journals, while positive, are also "passive", meaning that the author is listing things that they are grateful for...often because of receiving them as "blessings" so to speak. 

But accomplishments, no matter how small in stature, are active.  They show the griever that, while a terrible thing has happened to them, they are still valuable and worthy to both their loved ones and society at large.  A listing of "accomplishments" shows that even in their deepest despair...they can move forward...as life continues to move forward.

So, I think from here on out I plan to blog on my "accomplishments".  Not because they are fantastical in any sense of the word, but because they remind me of the necessary task of living.  Some days will be more "accomplished" than others, but every day that I get up, move forward, and make life good for kids will be counted!

Here are 5 things that I got accomplished today...my "Plan B" (taking control of what I can in life rather than allowing life to paralyze me) since life has handed me/us an unexpected detour.

#1...self care and pediatric care.  Ben and I are really struggling with allergies.  I finally made an appointment for myself to get my allergies and asthma under control.  Ben was playing outside and as he came into contact with grass and tree pollens his skin reacted horribly.  It was scary going into our doctor offices during this pandemic, but also necessary.  We are both medicated and feeling better.  It took a lot of energy to make those appointments...but now that we've been seen and medicated...we have more energy!





#2...I downloaded the AIRNOW app for my phone.  I need a better handle on the air quality in my community.  This was definitely being proactive and as you can see, the air quality in Kansas City was awful yesterday.


#3...I traipsed up to the 3rd story of our apartment building with my 13-year old to see the pink super moon last night.  I didn't even bother trying to take pics with my phone...but the view was spectacular through his telescope!




#4...I purchased a book of stamps at the Post Office self-serve kiosk so I can continue the business of writing sympathy thank you cards.

#5...I filled up the car for about $18.00.  Wow.

That's it folks...appointment making/self care, book reading, gas-filling, stamp-purchasing, app-downloading, and most importantly spending time with my kids late on a school night...list of accomplishments.

Tomorrow is Good Friday...more thoughts on that tomorrow.  

If you've read to the end...thank you.  I appreciate your positive thoughts and prayers!

Friday, March 20, 2020

The Gift of Time

Imagine during the middle of your grief...a pandemic occurs.

Life feels surreal in so many ways.

Yet, I know it is how I respond to these stressors (that all of us are experiencing) that will determine how my own children develop grit and resiliency.



None of us are born "resilient"...yet, many of us fare far better than others when life hands us the unexpected...a job loss, a breakup, a miscarriage...the death of a parent as a child...and for the first time in our lives...a pandemic.

These situations can be soul-crushing.  Nobody denies that.  But how do we respond when handed these situations?  That's what separates us into different levels of resiliency.

It is so important that we do not place judgment as to one's response to these life-shattering events.  Rather, we need to recognize grief expresses itself in many different ways.  Some of those ways are more healthy than others.




That is why good mental health support is so vital.  Especially for children..when life hands them horrific circumstances beyond their control.  They need to be given the tools to help them feel back in control of their emotions...to feel safe and secure...to feel loved unconditionally regardless of their behavior (which is merely a response to grief).

AND that is why as adults, we need access to good mental health support as well.

Because my children are taking their cues from me...



Many have reached out to ask how my children are doing.  The answer is...they are doing well.  That is not to say they aren't grieving or expressing grief in different ways...they're all at different developmental stages...but we are managing our grief appropriately.  We do not fault one another for unexpected or inappropriate outbursts...rather we allow each other to express emotions rather than bottle them up.  We allow conversations about Dad to keep his memory alive.  I allow questions about heart attacks, death, Heaven...

...and in the middle of our grief, we have been handed the gift of time.  Time to slow down...to actually sit with our grief and mourn...heal...confront it and not avoid it with a myriad of after-school activities or homework.



My children and I are surrounded by an amazing support system of family and friends.  They are so very compassionate and generous and, they too, are helping us in our time of need.  Thank you to each and everyone of you that has offered us assistance and/or prayers.  They are most welcome and very much appreciated.


Sunday, March 1, 2020

Captain Kueter’s Last Call

Daddy’s Last Call

Dear Daddy,

I Googled your name one evening after watching fire fighting videos on YouTube.  I miss you so very much...

...how could you leave us?!?!!  We are so young...we are only 9, 13, and 15.

We miss you, Daddy.  Please come back to us...

Love,

Luke,  Ben, and Mary


P.S.  I almost jumped into mommy's lap when the dispatcher toned out your last call at the cemetery.  Mommy tried desperately to memorize what was being said, but it was too much...too fast...to heart-wrenching.  We are so grateful to the Train Video guy that uploaded your last call to YouTube.  We've listened to it several times.  A bittersweet keepsake.  RIP, Daddy.


Rest In Peace, Daddy

Eighteen days since you left us.

Suddenly.

Unexpectedly.

And although you and I have been divorced for almost (4) years, our love story lives on in our three (3) children.

We are grief-stricken.  

And broken-hearted.  As your heart must've been broken...

We don't understand why...why after the hundreds of lives you saved during your 30-year career,  your brothers in the Fire Service couldn't save yours...

We miss you, Daddy.


Full Fire Department Honors Burial

Roses drying from our "Dad" floral funeral spray.

We were so proud of you and honored to be at your side at your retirement from the Fire Department. 


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Sneak Peek of my New ESL Office


In Kansas City Kansas Public Schools (KCKPS), ESL teachers "push in" to regular education classrooms to service students rather than "pulling out".  Thus, I have a lovely "office" space to decorate and make my own, but no classroom.

When I got the keys to my office on Monday, I had quite the mess to clean up.  Boxes and boxes of English language games, manipulatives, listening devices, etc. awaited me.  I took my time and thoroughly went through each and every box.  I scrubbed and washed every bookshelf, filing cabinet, and desk drawer.  

I have slowly begun to make this space pretty, especially since it really doesn't need to be child-friendly.  It's really just my own place to land between classroom visits.  I still have a lot to do, but here is a peek at my new space...





I'm still working on bulletin boards, adding an area rug, and putting up wall decor, but it is starting to beautifully come together.