Category Archives for "Connection"

Fami-versary: The Anniversary of a Step-Family

Nine years ago, I woke up knowing that I would be sharing the rest of my life with an incredible man who loved me, not in spite of, but because of all my shortcomings - the obvious ones and the ones I may go to great lengths to hide. He sees them before I recognize them, and yet, he never uses them as a weapon. He only offers me grace, love, and compassion - every single day.

Today is more than the anniversary of our marriage. It is our Fami-versary. 3,287 days ago, The Engineer also entrusted me with the role of mom to his 5-year-old and 11-year-old sons. I literally studied for this role. It scared me more than stepping back into the arena of marriage (I’d done marriage once before and failed, so I went back and did an After Action Report to improve my odds of success!)

Never had I been given the gift of step-mothering. I was not afforded the role of being a biological or adoptive mom, so for me mothering in any capacity was an opportunity I did not take lightly. I didn’t dream of being a step-mom when I was a little girl – Disney didn’t portray that role as one to be admired. I know now that the emotional turbulence of step-mothering is much too complicated for Hollywood to encompass in a 2-hour time frame!

Being a step-mom hasn’t always felt like the gift I believe it to be. There have been plenty of days – and weeks – when it has felt like a battlefield and I am the enemy in my own home. Yet, just when it feels like I’m ready to pull out a flag of surrender, there is the familiar feeling of love and connection with one of my sons and I remember this situation is much more difficult on them than it is on me. They didn’t choose this type of family as children. They, too, have experienced the struggles – but even more so because they have two step-families to navigate!

I would not trade this journey of tears, joy, hurt, laughter, and humility for anything. The three of these Milligan men make me a better woman – they stretch me to grow in ways I never thought I could.  I am blessed to be the wife of such an amazing man. I have a bonus blessing of being a mom to two amazing young men.

Watching a Wild Turkey Soar

Important encounters are planned by the souls long before their bodies see each other – Paulo Coelho

I cannot remember the first time I met my friend, Ted.   But I knew of him long before I shook his hand. He was a living legend in the community I had come to call home.

COL (R) Ted Crozier served in the Army for 32 years. He actually enlisted at the end of WWII, but did not fight overseas. “Wild Turkey,” as he was called, would occasionally remind others that he wasn’t just a Korean and Vietnam Veteran, but also served our nation on the home front during WWII. I never perceived his reminders as being gruff – merely a reminder to us that every single person in uniform counted regardless of where they were geographically located.

I was a little star struck sitting in his presence. He was the first commander of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, the first aviator to be chosen to serve as the Chief of Staff of the 101st Airborne Division. After 32 years of service in uniform, Wild Turkey served 8 years as Mayor. I didn’t move to Clarksville until well after he left the office of Mayor.  Being a graduate student at the local university, I didn’t pay much attention to the political feel of the community. In my 22 year old mind, this was just a three year stop on my life’s journey. Twenty-four years later, this is my community. This is my home. And Wild Turkey helped solidify that.

Perhaps I was partly endeared to him because I didn’t grow up with grandfathers. My paternal grandfather was a WWII Veteran who passed away when I was 18 months old and the older I became, the more I realized what I missed.  I enjoy the story telling wisdom of the past generations.  As a professional listener, I love being in the presence of someone who shares their life experiences.  


COL Ted was someone I would hang onto his every word.   I couldn’t wait to see what visions and dreams he had and what list he had conjured up. Ted was passionate. Passionate about so many things over the decades; but what I came to know his passion to be was the mental health care of our service members.

Ted served on the Board of Directors of a little non-profit I had dreamed up in 2006 – SAFE: Soldiers and Families Embraced. I ran it as a little grassroots organization, recruiting licensed mental health providers to see active duty Soldiers, Veterans and their loved ones pro bono. I soon realized the mental health providers weren’t well versed in military culture or the specific needs of this population, so I began traveling the state to educate other professionals. SAFE would eventually merge with a similar organization, the Lazarus Project. When the organizations merged under the name and 501(c)3 of SAFE, our Board of Directors grew.

Essentially, the growth and success of SAFE had everything to do with the envelopes covered in names Ted would jot down throughout the days and evenings. He was a connector. A leader. An influencer. And given the respect and admiration he had across the nation, those names were names of other highly regarded individuals.

I recall having a conversation with a new board member and thanking him for his commitment to serve. He responded, “When Wild Turkey calls, you don’t say no. You figure it out and make it work.”

Ted would randomly call with varieties of ideas – from forming choirs with older Veterans (he loved to jump into song) to connecting me with a master in Kung Fu who might help me with my clients. He later said I could use Kung Fu to keep my clients toeing the line or have the master teach my clients the art.

He was never short of ideas and I think that’s why I connected with him so deeply. He wasn’t afraid to pitch his dreams to a group of people. His suggestions weren’t always polished, but he felt an urgency to share them. I believe he knew if he could lay them out for others there was more of a possibility of them coming to fruition and help others. His visions were never selfish. They were always about the greater good and for the greater good. Do something good for someone today. If you ever called Wild Turkey and got his voicemail, you would hear his enthusiastic message about making the world a better place and doing something nice for someone today. He lived his voicemail message.

Ted made you feel special – as if you were the only one he could depend upon to bring life to his ideas. But he was a strategist – he knew he had to share his thoughts with many…plant the seed across the acres, having a better chance for it to root and grow.

Ted fought tirelessly for the care of our Warriors. Even after I left SAFE, he would call me to check in, to connect me and to encourage me. He shared with many of us that until we started talking about all this “PTS & D stuff, I thought I was just crazy – but I guess I probably had some of that, too.” I would assure him that he was still “just crazy.” And give him a big hug shared with laughter.

Wild Turkeys fly despite the weight they carry. They may not appear graceful…but they get it done. Don’t worry, Wild Turkey, we’ll continue the mission. We’ll get it done. I know you’ll ensure that.  And until we meet again, Sir, I will Believe, Create, and Live in an effort to honor your work.

© Rebecca G. Townsend 2017

How I Found Hope for Step-families in Christmas, Part 2

Read part one, How I found Hope for step-families in Christmas, of this series here.

Joseph, Mary and Jesus were a step-family who experienced their own struggles, just like step-families of today.  Their story offers us hope and optimism when step-families may feel isolated and misunderstood.

Because Joseph, her husband, was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1: 19-20 (NIV)

The last couple of years, I’ve allowed myself time on Christmas Eve to sit quietly and reflect on the story of Mary. It is difficult to imagine the social scorn she and Joseph must have endured during the pregnancy of Jesus. When I really start to think about the depth of their faith…their conviction and belief in God…it truly takes my breath away.

I am sure they were rejected and ridiculed by people they believed to be their allies and confidants. They must have felt as deserted as Tom Hanks in Castaway – even though they were together.

While Mary was likely mocked and taunted by her peers, Joseph must have had several of his friends trying to talk some sense into him.

“Joseph – you need to get away from her…she’s going to drag you down. It’s not even your kid. Run, man – fast! You have no obligation to her – she’s broken the relationship. You’re crazy if you marry her.”

What deep love and loyalty Joseph must have had for Mary. Otherwise, how could he have had confidence in Mary’s story of an angel coming to tell her that she’ll be impregnated with God’s only Son?

Joseph did not listen to the naysayers. He stayed true to his heart, his faith and his love for Mary and the unborn child she was carrying. God confirmed Joseph’s heart and sent an angel to him to reassure him of the Immaculate Conception. And Joseph became a step-father to Jesus.

As my journey of being a step-parent continues, I find peace in knowing that the Holy Family experienced their own pains of fitting into a society that didn’t understand or embrace the differences in their family.  Because we are all individuals with our own experiences and stories, the path of being a step-family is just as unique.

Because of the story of love shared between Mary and Joseph, I am reassured that in spite of the struggles of being in a step-family, there is hope, faith and love that will grow within me and outside of me along this path.

My hope for you this season is that you will find hope, faith and love on your journey. May you find connection in the coming year. Merry Christmas!

Believe. Create. Live.

© Rebecca G. Townsend, LLC 2016

This post was originally published as one post in December 2014.

How I found hope for step-families in Christmas

Joseph, Mary and Jesus were a step-family.

Surely, step-parenting for Joseph had to be easier than it is now. I mean, they didn’t really have to co-parent with other people…unless you count the Almighty God.

They didn’t have to split time with another set of parents…so, it must have been a breeze!

Well, actually, they did share time with another parent.

If you don’t know the story, here’s a little background.

When Jesus was 12, he disappeared from the large group his family was traveling with on their return trip to Nazareth from the Feast of the Passover in Jerusalem.  Mary and Joseph had been frantically searching for Jesus for three days. When they found him, he was still in the temple in Jerusalem. Can you imagine the panic? If I lost one of my step-sons for three days…oh my goodness, I cannot even imagine the panic, the guilt, and the shame…not to mention the anger from my husband and the boys’ mom – and rightfully so.

But, it was in that story when Jesus made it clear that there was a change in custody. That is when co-parenting, shared custody and moving between houses became the reality of this step-family. This is where I find connection, compassion, and hope for step-families.

When Mary and Joseph finally found Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem, Mary confronted Jesus. I find it interesting that Mary was the one to confront Jesus.  In biological families of origin, the father is typically the one to confront and implement the discipline for large infractions.  In a step-family, it is often a function of biological parents to discipline their children before a step-parent does. Perhaps this tells us that Joseph was functioning as many of us step-parents do – back-up coverage, the quiet position, or the support role.

Exasperated, and I’m sure a bit perturbed, Mary says something along the lines of, “What were you thinking? Why would you do this to us? We have been worried sick looking for you!”

Apparently, all parents take the behaviors and choices of their children personally.

Jesus responded, surprised they didn’t know where he was, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

I'm going to venture that none of us have fought for custody time with God.

What we begin to see is that Jesus’ time in His Father’s house increases—again that transfer of custody.  Doing the work His Father sent Him to do would mean less time with both Mary and Joseph.  I cannot imagine the pain they felt as they watched their son slip into his adult calling.  As a step-parent, I've felt that twist of heart - joyously seeing a child become independent and yet, also mourning the closeness of the relationship with someone you have raised as your own.

Sometimes, step-parents suffer silently. We are reminded often, through media, legal red tape, and unfortunately by some biological parents, that as a step-parent we are merely an accouterment, an accessory, in the lives of our step-children.

I wonder if maybe step-families should view the story of Joseph, Mary and Jesus with hope and optimism.

Rather than accepting the status as a faux family, step-families may wish to view Christmas as a reminder that faith, love and hope can create miracles in any situation…even those that may have a social stigma attached.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my thoughts about hope and love this holiday season.

Believe. Create. Live.

© Rebecca G. Townsend, LLC 2016

This post was originally published in December 2014.

1 2 3 5