Tag 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.  

me-and-col-ted

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

Your Sacrifices Are Our Freedoms

To the American Veteran:

Thank you.

Those two words never seem to be adequate. They do not hold enough space for the depth of gratitude I feel in my heart and deeper into my soul.  

Courtesy of Paige Kimball Photography

Courtesy of Paige Kimball Photography

I’ve learned to recognize you from a distance because I have the true honor of sitting so closely with many of your brothers and sisters. My respect and gratitude grow as I am entrusted with the dark experiences and naked truths of war, as well as the residual anguish it sloppily leaves behind.

With each autobiography bestowed to me, my heart aches to heal whatever brokenness there may be. But I know that is not what you want. Warriors go into battle expecting scars and you should be proud of your scars. Just like a little child with a band aid, you want to tell the story of your scars. As the community you protect, that’s where we have failed you. We have failed you war after war.

We like to celebrate you when you return to the Land of the Free. It makes us feel good to wave our flags and shake your hands. We readily accept this ambience of American glory.

But our actions scream: please don’t tell us the truth about what we sent you to do. We are way too fragile to hear your reality. Please keep that to yourself – our children might get frightened or think that behavior is ok!

Yet, you humbly honor this silently requested censorship of your life as a warrior. You continue to covertly carry the often awkward and heavy rucksack filled with wounds and memories—the part of the uniform that will never be eliminated. It is you and you are it.

There are many of us who do not want you to hesitate to share your story. It is important to us because we know our daily freedoms are the result of your service and your sacrifices that have shaped your story.

When you thank a veteran for their service, show sincere gratitude with intentional curiosity and listening. They likely gave you years of their lives; give them 20 minutes to tell you pieces of their service story. Let us sit with them as they recount their truths.

© Rebecca G. Townsend 2016

Love with Grace

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things ~ Bono

Year after year, I see the wounded wobbling into my office around this time.

The Expectation Train derails and causes mass casualties between December 25th and February 14th.  Most are still injured following a fall into the Disappointment Ditch of Christmas.   So the forecast of a Failure Frenzy on V-Day is pretty predictable, with a 95% chance of resentment.

Isn’t "love" a beautiful thing?

We do this to ourselves though. As a society, we allow the hype of media and advertisers to woo us into the fairy tales of candlelight dinners, sparkling gems, and imported chocolates accompanied by fine wine.

Although there is a piece of us living in reality, the fantasy can be all consuming…and quite damaging. Especially when we keep these ambitious hopes sequestered within, setting up the Failure Frenzy that much more.

Here’s the deal - when we live each day with intentional love and authentic connection, the pressure to fulfill made-for-TV dreams becomes null and void.

But what is ‘intentional love’ and ‘authentic connection’? It’s being able to state your truth – your joys, your worries and your annoyances with respect and consideration. It’s being an adult in a mutually caring relationship.

Photo by Rgt

Photo by Rgt

It’s the ability to reframe the coffee rings on the counter from a malicious act of personal contempt to a love note, letting you know your husband is home, safely sleeping beside you at night.

It’s the choice of listening with the goal of curiosity rather than the motive to be right.

It’s putting away the scoreboard and picking up the pom-poms to be the personal cheerleader of the one you have chosen as your lifelong confidante, companion, and lover.

It’s pausing to think of your own worst traits before you opt to recite the peculiar pet peeves you’ve catalogued of your spouse’s.

It’s saying, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. What can I do to make this better?”

Intentional love and authentic connection is grace in action. It’s believing the best about our partner and trusting they believe the best in us. In this world of fear and anxiety, let’s not add to the turmoil – let’s love with grace.

Believe. Create. Live.

© 2016 Rebecca G. Townsend, LLC

 

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