Archives for Kylee Pusteoska


I called her Pants.  She called herself Cool Aunt Nancy.  Others called her sister, friend and mom.  She was a wife and a grandma.  She was one of the most awesome people I have ever met, and I was so blessed to have her in my life.  As she was leaving this earth, a doctor posed a question about what kind of life she had and her husband, my dear Uncle Rip responded, “She was kind of a party.”  And that was really all there was to say.

One of the clearest images I have of my aunt was from the 4th of July last year.  She showed up on the deck in the morning sporting a perfectly made-up face, stylish haircut, black shorts, cute flip flops and a simple white t-shirt with the word “AWESOME” in huge black letters.  As she strutted in front of the gathered family members, she pointed to her shirt and exclaimed, “Awesome has arrived!”  Pants admitted she only bought the shirt because when she pulled it off the sale rack at Von Maur, Andi, her oldest daughter, told her there was no way she was going to get the shirt.  Per usual, Nancy met the challenge, purchased the shirt and made sure every guest noticed it during the busiest time at the lake.

On Easter earlier that same year, she and my son were preparing cocktail wieners with barbeque sauce and Kinnick didn’t know what they were called.  Someone shouted out that they were Little Smokies, and Nancy smirked at Kinnick.  She got a wicked grin on her face, and she leaned her head toward Kinnick, acting like she had a special secret to share with him.  He leaned down to make sure and catch whatever nugget she was going to share, and she said, “You know, Kinnick…they used to call me Lil’ Smokey.”  She then erupted in laughter and the whole family was once again amazed that this tiny woman could make us all laugh so big.

Besides wanting to be the life of the party and being known for leaving half cans of beer in fridges across family houses, Nancy also had a huge heart.  Her grandchildren meant the world to her, and she was known to do her granddaughter’s laundry well after she should have.  She was a legend because she was the woman who could make more things with cheese and butter than any human being should.  Her hosting of Christmas celebrations was legendary…the peanut butter balls were always just the right size.  She decorated her house with flair and welcomed the family whenever they needed lodging or a pit stop in Cedar Falls.  She travelled to basketball and football and softball to cheer on her grandchildren.  Her friends loved her wacky sense of humor and use of emojis and the sweet Bitmoji she loved to text with.

I will miss her more than I can express, holidays won’t be the same, and I’m not sure who will make the mashed potatoes for events.  Pants has just always been a part of my world.  As a young girl, she was the fun aunt who spent summers with my parents at Clear Lake.  Lately, we were able to talk about divorce and what it is like raising kids.  She was a constant support and praised me for how I was raising my son.  Her encouragement meant so much.  I hope she knew how much she meant to me.

Her death has been a shock, but her life has been a lesson.  It’s totally okay to make people laugh, even if it is because you are silly.  It’s cool to be the cool aunt.  Her love and laughter are the things that will define her.  Her family is a testament to a bold love that fights and goes through ups and downs but always keeps the first thing first.  Family is everything.  Her death leaves a hole in our family, but the memories we have of her make us stronger.  I’ll miss you, Pants, aka Cool Aunt Nancy, aka Lil’ Smokey.

Kylee Pusteoska

Development Director

Mission Possible

What is it about the end of a year that makes you reevaluate your entire life? The calendar will simply say a different year next week and nothing else in my world will be different but for some reason, I am thinking crazy thoughts about what I have accomplished during my 42 years on Earth. Maybe you are simply wondering if you should once again have a New Year’s Resolution about losing weight…that would probably be more normal. Perhaps you are looking forward to the fresh start a new year implies, along with changing something major in your life…new job, new house…new hairstyle. Before you laugh, changing your hair is a major life decision for most of us…it requires asking your Facebook friends, looking online at photos and deciding if you will get up early enough each morning to curl your stick straight hair. The answer is no to that, by the way. No matter what you tell yourself, the answer is always no. In all of this excitement, I am afraid I buried the lead. What the new year truly means is that it is time for a new planner!
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And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

I am all about a good hashtag. I mean, I loooove clever hashtags and support the overuse of them much to my son’s dismay. In fact, there was a stressful day in my former work life when I spent most of the day speaking in hashtags. But there is something about #blessed that makes me itchy. Don’t get me wrong…I think it is great that people appreciate what they have. And I totally think we should be more aware of the blessings God surrounds us with. However, #blessed is so overused and misused…I can’t do it. During our prayer time this week, Michelle, our marketing coordinator, presented a lesson on gratitude. It was wonderful and really got me thinking about all the ways Bridgehaven has been blessed but I refused to be #blessed so instead, I will be #thankful.

First, I would be a horrible development director if I wasn’t first #thankful for all of our wonderful donors. I met the sweetest lady this week. She has been retired from Alliant Energy for years and participates in their volunteer program that allows employees and retirees to complete volunteer service in the community and earn money to donate to local organizations. She and her husband stopped in with a check and were so delightful. I was able to share more about what we do and they were amazed by our impact in the community. “I can’t wait to tell all my friends about how wonderful you are.” That is a good day in my world. There are stories like this that happen every day. Some donors support us every month without fail. Some write checks with lots of zeros and a nun in Cedar Rapids mails in coins. And no matter what the amount is, it is always humbling when someone wants to join us in our mission.

A big piece of supporting that mission is Treasures. Treasures is located on 8th Avenue and is such a joyful part of our ministry. This resale shop houses some of the most spunky 90+ year old volunteers you could ever meet. These gals, and a few gentlemen, come in every week to make sure merchandise is sorted, cleaned, priced and sold for very reasonable prices. They take pride in having a beautiful store that features customer service that will knock your socks off. And those who donate to the store provide beautiful items and fabulous clothes and we are humbled to be chosen when there are so many options in our community. All of this, from the sorters and cashiers to the donors, provide support to the ministry in a meaningful way and fund our pregnancy support center in ways that were unimaginable when the original women were hosting pop-up garage sales across town when this aspect of the ministry began. I hate to be too cutesy but Treasures really is a treasure in so many ways.

Bridgehaven is also wealthy in the way of volunteers. Would you guess it takes over 200 volunteers every month and over 450 throughout the year to run our ministry? These volunteers do everything from drive vans to pick up food at Target to counsel the men and women who walk through our doors every day facing an unplanned pregnancy and they are led by a dynamo staff member, Leanne, who cooks them turkey dinners, gives tours and has a heart for this ministry that is contagious. Our volunteers are so talented and so giving of themselves. It is really a testimony to watch them serve.

Where can I even start in describing the staff at Bridgehaven? It is a gift to watch them love clients and work with people in all circumstances surrounding pregnancy. I have watched them pray with clients, celebrated with them as they tell stories of transformation and seen their hearts break when they are unable to help those who come here. These women, and Dale, are completely dedicated to serving the Lord through our clients and it is so cool to watch them work every day. I am in awe of their patience, kindness, hard work and love.

Cedar Rapids is a community rich with non-profits who do great work in so many areas. It is great to see how people support all these different organizations and it makes it even more humbling when donors, volunteers and staff members choose to become part of the Bridgehaven family. The work is important and we are able to help more families every year because of a huge group of people. Our light grows brighter in the community only through the goodness in those who choose to give and to serve here. It is trite to say we are #thankful but there really aren’t words to express what it is like to see God moving in the hearts of everyone involved with our ministry.

God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done. 2 Corinthians 9:8

kylee pusteoska

Kylee Pusteoska

Development Director

Drop-off Lane

God is good. He wants His best for me. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Check. Check. Check. Being a Christian is easy. It is so easy to agree to all of this when life is good…when things are easy. It is simple to embrace these promises when God’s will is lining up with ours. We get the sense God is blessing our plans and life is good. Being a Christian is easy. Except when it’s not. Except when we are also single moms working full-time. Or when we go on another date that ends horribly. Or when we are waiting in the drop-off lane at Solon Middle School in the morning…

The morning was going great. I got up with my alarm and was able to complete my devotional and a little prayer time. K got up with relatively little grumbling. My hair dried quickly and the protein shake was tasty. Life was good as we headed to town and practiced Spanish nouns for K’s quiz. The sun was shining on the beautiful fields…ah, it was a movie type morning. If I turned down the horrible rap music blasting in the car, I am sure I could have heard birds chirping. Sigh. Awesome mom moment. School on time. Child rested, fed and ready for school. And then it happened…the drop-off lane.
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For many Cedar Rapidians, the images of a flooded Houston bring back painful memories of 2008 in Iowa. Or even 2016 as the city braced again for possible flooding. As we reflect on how the city really came together during those times and we saw love demonstrated beyond what we could imagine, we spent some time in prayer today as a staff looking at the story of Noah and his famous ark. And while I’m not sure we can even conjure up an idea of how horrible the smell must have been on that boat after being shut up for about a year, I think there are even more important things to consider.

As Beth, our prayer leader for the day, led us through the scripture, I wondered about how the family got along during that time…shut up with no sun, no fresh air for so long. I mean, I love my siblings and their spouses but that was waaaay longer than a holiday weekend. It is only through the grace of God all the humans survived the trip, let alone the animals. But then Beth read us a devotional which pointed out maybe Noah’s response to God wasn’t as radical as we imagine it to be. Wait, what? Did she really just say building a huge ship on dry land and trying to convince people there would be a huge flood and the world would be wiped clean was not radical? Now, Beth is typically the voice of reason in the Development area but I was worried she might have hit her head or something. How could the idea of going against all his neighbors and convincing his sons to gather the animals of the Earth to get on a huge boat not crazy? Why did she think this was just a normal day for Noah?
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Teen Conversation

As the clients who walk through the doors of Bridgehaven get younger and my son gets older, I feel like my worlds will soon collide. Wait…that doesn’t sound right. What I mean is I have to start looking at my son, my baby, as a potential client. He hates when I call him my baby. I do it all the time on social media and he is like, “Stop, mom. I am not your baby.” Ah, buddy, you are absolutely wrong. Despite the fact that you grow taller than me daily, you will always be my baby…the one your dad and I prayed to God for for years and years. But you are right. You aren’t a baby. You are a young man. And that scares the crap out of me.

Parenting a teenager is not for the faint of heart. I say this like I know even though mine has only been an actual teenager for a few months. The facts are not pleasant to look at. According to the most recent CDC findings ( reported in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance 2015 report, nearly 10 million new STDs reported each year were among young people between the ages of 15-24; nearly 230,000 babies were born to teen girls aged 15-19 in 2015; 20% of surveyed students nationwide had ridden in a car or other vehicle one or more times with a driver who had been drinking alcohol; 41% of surveyed students had texted or emailed while driving a car; 22% of students surveyed had been in a physical fight one or more times; over 20% of students had been bullied on school property and 15.5% electronically bullied (email, chat rooms, social media); 14.6% of students nationwide had made a plan about how they would attempt suicide; 63% have tried alcohol and 44% had usually obtained the alcohol they drank by someone giving it to them; 21% were offered, sold or given an illegal drug. Kinda makes you feel sick, doesn’t it?
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Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38

Donor relations. Doesn’t it sound fancy and complicated? If you google it, there are books and seminars and discussion boards. It must be difficult. It must be impossible to make all your donors happy. Lucky for me, I had good teachers in my previous job (Huge thank you to Jean Johnson and Kelly Allen!). The key to having good donor relations is simply honoring those people who give to your organization. It isn’t rocket science to understand people want to feel valued. They want to feel like their gifts were important and that the organization appreciates what they have given.

Last week, we received a generous donation from a long-time supporter in memory of his wife and I noticed his address had changed to a care center in the area. It made me wonder how he was doing and if he would appreciate some visitors. In my past life as an assistant in the alumni relations department at Coe College, a wise woman showed me how to truly care for the people who are connected to your organization. She would take flowers to those with special birthdays and visit sick alums in the hospital. And it seemed like she was never too busy to attend a funeral of someone close to Coe. She instilled in me a belief that without loyal supporters, your organization will not thrive. People have chosen to support what you do when you work in a non-profit and they certainly don’t have to. They could easily donate to a different group or not at all. The love they have for what you do should be honored and celebrated. My passion for non-profit work started with Jean and I hope I am able to pass it on to someone else someday.
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Fishers of Men

Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men…Mark 1:17

Jesus commanded the disciples to drop everything and go out into the world…out into the big, scary world and fish for men. Wait, what? What does that even mean? I have tried online dating to “catch” a man but this message must mean something very different since it comes to us from the gospel of Mark. I have had some time to really sit with this verse for the last 9 months since I came to work at Bridgehaven. I swear that the 9 month thing is just a very cool coincidence…

As it turns out, this seemingly simple verse has such rich depth. When you really think about it, fishing is an act of faith. You throw your baited hook out into the water and hope for the best. You can’t see the fish but you hope they are there. Your success is dependent on so many things, most of which are outside of your control. So, you must believe.
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The Ring

I don’t like to share. Ask anyone and they will confirm that. I consider myself generous but try to take one of my Reese’s Peanut Butter eggs and you might think differently. One thing I never imagined sharing with another woman was my son. When I brought K home from the hospital, I thought I would be the only woman in his life until he started dating. God must have smiled at my dreams because He knew there was a lesson coming for me.

Divorce was also something I didn’t see happening to me. But like many people, it did and I survived probably the most painful time in my life. Not once during that time did I consider that my ex-husband would have a new wife…someone who would be a step-mom to my only child. It was enough to get through the days without adding another level of pain and confusion, I guess. When he let me know he was getting re-married, it put me into another tailspin I didn’t imagine. Even though I had put the relationship behind me and knew we were better off apart, it was more agonizing than I could have imagined. With the help of my faith, family and friends, I lived through a couple of really dark weeks.
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Stubborn Like Me

I think it’s safe to say I’m stubborn. My parents would totally back me up in that statement. If you ever meet my dad, you should ask him about the Green Bean Incident of like…1985ish. It wasn’t pretty. In some important ways, being stubborn is a great quality. I tend to work at something until it is finished. I am not afraid to stand up for what I believe in. And I think it naturally lends itself to being a loyal person. On the other hand, it also leads to some less than stellar things…like having a hard time letting go of things. Or even allowing other people to help me. It also causes me to think I can do everything by myself. It’s not that I am not a team player because I absolutely am. It is more that I don’t want to burden anyone else with my “stuff”, so I try to do it all alone.

As it turns out, this is not what Jesus wants…and it causes me to read books and books and books about having faith, learning to trust God and the latest idea, that I don’t have to prove myself to Him. In fact, I can’t prove myself because I am a broken person. There are so many ways that I find myself broken; it is actually pretty embarrassing. You learned in this blog about how I failed Client Advocate training and in this blog about how I have a hard time listening to God. Geez, I am a mess. The good news for me and for everyone is that God doesn’t care. In fact, he expects me to be a mess because it is when I admit that I am a mess and ask for help, he is able to show up in huge ways.
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