The dream is real… and I love you

Love, Steve

This is a story of encouragement and dreams alive and gratitude, but I need to take you down into the dirty with me before we climb back out and see the light.

I woke up this morning with three hours of sleep and money on my mind. When I’m overwhelmed, I pray first and then get to work on details. But the details today turned into another day of figuring out just how I’m going to stretch the checking account to pay property taxes due in a few weeks. This is always where my frustration starts to build.

I don’t know if every other non-profit in this city receives a break on property taxes, but we don’t. I do know there is an application process in place which goes before the city council and is rarely denied. I applied for a partial exemption from property taxes three years ago and my application was tossed. Not denied,simply tossed out and not heard before the council because one city council member doesn’t like me or what I do. I know this to be true because she rudely dismissed me and my vision for LZ-Grace in front of my daughter and mother across a meeting table, and a few months later had my application for property tax partial exemption removed from the city council agenda moments before I was to present my case. Apparently, I can house and feed farm-workers who help farm the land, but welcoming, feeding and nurturing combat SOF warriors as they decompress from war and trauma on ARP farmland was out of line. And don’t get me wrong, I don’ object to paying taxes. I object to unfairness and hidden agendas. I did have my say in front of council in 2015, but to no avail. Attorneys I reached out to afterward told me to keep my head down, my mouth shut and pay. And not to bother appealing the “toss out” or request tax exemption again because the city’s attorneys and Henley will break me.

Fair enough, except I’m me and a Frogman’s widow and that’s not how I get broken. 

Most importantly, God didn’t see it quite the way the attorneys did and so each and every six months when I have to scramble to come up with nearly $7K now, I do. And we farm. Horses and hops and hope and organic vegetables that we harvest and eat. We farm and we play and we rest and we pray and we discover healing and we speak life into loss and we love. On ARP farmland.

I know I shouldn’t be, but I’m a little bitter about entrenched politicians and their attitudes. I’m working on it. 

I did take a moment to thank God for the generous souls who have donated funds, stood fast in prayer and supplied grants to ensure that we continue to grow and serve. The dream is real because the entire family stepped up, the community around us put on their work boots, an Architect, Scouts and Dominion VA Power folks, Veterans and Active Duty, Firefighters, Police Officers, Deputy Sheriff’s, Realtors and neighbors surrounded us with help and dedication and grace. Amen.

Then I climbed back down into my pity pot and sloshed around, cried, worried, paid more attention to interruptions then details, got snappy with the dogs, irritated with my healing broken leg and ended up chucking all my work aside to mindlessly scroll through Facebook.

This is where He finds me.

Memories with photos and write ups from four years ago today. On November 16, 2014, 253 people joined me and my family for the Dedication and Blessing of LZ-Grace. The Patriot Guard arrived with American Flags in all their glory, esteemed speakers flew in from across the country and neighboring states to speak. Music played. The choir sang. The Warriors Fire-Pit, built by an Eagle Scout and his Troop, was lit for the first time. Prayers were said. Brothers reunited. On that day, five months after we moved in, most of the buildings were still in disrepair, the barn was empty, the fences were falling down, the weeds were out of control, and I had no earthly idea how I was going to pay for all that needed to be done and take care of our warriors, but none of that mattered because we all gathered for a most extraordinary day of hope and vision and life spoken into this sacred land.

As of today, November 16, 2018 – exactly four years from the Dedication and Blessing and 3.5 years since we opened our doors – we have welcomed 3,063 souls to the healing peace of LZ-Grace (1,098 individuals on site, 98 individuals remotely and 1,876 families and groups).

It was hard, hard work and painful lessons, but we ended most days with joy. Frustration and bitterness have no place in these blessings.

Perhaps someday I’ll return to the city, new application in hand and be granted relief, but for today, I’ll stand in gratitude for the blessings that we’ve been given and let God  work out the details with politicians who can dislike me and strong arm me, but have no say so over peace and grace and precious souls who come here – to the farm – as visitors and leave as beloved family.

Like a child being gently disciplined, I am reminded this morning that while paying the bills on time and keeping track of numbers is necessary, it is not my most important concern. My job is to be a good steward of and nurture the most fundamental part of our mission: peace and renewal for an individual’s body,mind, soul and spirit. To be a witness to these changes in individuals, up close and in myriad ways, is miraculous. Each person we meet here and talk to remotely brings an experience that encourages and teaches. We are still at war,but for a time – at a home away from home – on a farm – a life is saved, a marriage strengthens, a family blossoms, a career stays on course or a supported transition takes flight. 

Miraculous is the only solid form of measurement we need.

And this note on the fridge. Because the dream is real…and I love you. 

This is God’s Vision. Human hands can not shut it down.

God’s Vision

Living by Faith

Sheri wrote this last year toward the end of February. I tripped over it tonight… on purpose, I believe. I needed a bit of grounding and a reminder that all is well and unfolding exactly as it needs to in Divine time. True enough that living another’s dream, even when it encircles my own dream, is a huge responsibility. Reading this tonight reminds me that Steve is still very much here in soul and spirit – prompting, teaching, steering. How fortunate I am.

Steve LZGRACE

After two days of water pipes bursting under the house, I tiptoed around this morning listening for gushing water. All quiet. All clear. I tiptoed back through the kitchen checking the view from every window and poured myself a cup of coffee. Suddenly the memory of my father fixing water pipes emerged from light across the room and my body ached with nostalgia. The last Christmas we spent with my dad he spent hours fixing water pipes. As my mind pulled back to the present, my gaze tuned to the land again – backyard frozen, dog runs frozen, barn cat sentry sitting duty at his post in the crack of the door. He would have loved this farm. He would have loved the trees and the creek, the driveway and the deck. He would have cursed the broken fences but merrily stomped his way through the pastures to fix every single one. He dreamed of this.

We are living someone else’s dream and the onus is on us. We must be careful with it. He did not get to walk this property as a flesh-living man would step by step. His presence is ubiquitous and inescapable though, and his spirit fully alive in this place. PEACE is here. Drama is not allowed. Lies are not tolerated. Truth slowly ascends to the surface of souls and weak things are shattered, like glass, the fragility does not go unnoticed. But this place, the place my Father’s presence roams, is a safe place to crack. For in the quiet earth the soul is replenished.

It is a weighty, scary thing to be living someone else’s dream. You want to be worthy of it, worthy of their sweat and blood. You want to be worthy of the inheritance you walk in, the return of their investment. Not everyone has the luxury of living out their dreams on earth.

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance…God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith are not complete apart from ours.” (Hebrews 11)

— withLynn Bukowski.

Sheri Bukowski © 2015 All Rights Reserved

Founded by Grace…

Everything comes with risk, but when a Warrior lives through war and lands at LZ-Grace, it is to overcome, reconnect to family and community and achieve the peace that comes from within.

When we acknowledge and release what we’ve lived through and find connection with one another, our souls are inspired to hold tight to the edge of the cliff until help arrives; to live on; to use scars as road maps; and to pass strength and experience forward to all the world.

Grace is the voice that calls us to change and the power to pull it off.

LZ-Grace Promotional Video produced, edited and donated by Nanc Waters.

 It is with the love and generosity of our kind supporters that LZ-Grace Warriors Retreat can make a difference and begin the healing process.

http://www.lz-grace.com

Lynnette Bukowski All rights reserved ©2014

LZ-Grace Veterans Retreat – We Heal The Living

Knowing freedom is to free someone else.

I’ve come to know that where there is damage and pain there is also truth to be found. And when one of us somehow finds our way out of the abyss or the tunnel or the woods, we need to share our way out or through.

Everything comes with risk. But if you’ve lived through war and find your way home to Landing Zone Grace (LZ-Grace Veterans Retreat) there is not one thing you cannot overcome and achieve.

When we release what we’ve lived through and find connection with other souls, we are inspired to live on, to use our scars as road maps, to reignite a marriage, to find safety again with family and friends and to pass our strength and experience forward to all the world.

Please consider supporting LZ-Grace Veterans Retreat. Our mission is service and our immediate needs are funding and an existing site so we can begin serving our Warriors as they come home in 2014.

Find out more about me and my mission to serve our Special Forces Warriors and their families here:

NRANews.Com Veterans Day Special Interview with Cam & Company

BBS Radio Interview with Leader of the Pack Susan Herbert and Mark German. Find them at http://www.H4Hero.com

Listen Here:

Blogs of War Special Feature

http://blogsofwar.com/2013/09/12/lynnette-bukowski-landing-zone-grace-veterans-retreat-preparing-special-forces-personnel-and-their-families-for-life-after-war/

Lynnette Bukowski © 2013 All Rights Reserved.

For more information, please visit http://www.lz-grace.com or email me at lynnette@lz-grace.com

Twitter: @BukowskiLynn and @LZ_Grace

Lessons in Cadmium Red

When my father died, I learned the value of heritage. When I was assaulted, I learned I was so much more than my body. When my young friend took his own life, I learned forgiveness. When my unborn babies died, I learned a boundless capacity for love. And when my husband died, I learned that my life was blessed. Of course, I did not recognize any of these lessons until long after the experience had passed.

This is the story of one life lesson…

At midnight on my 45th birthday I was knee deep into a bottle of Ménage à Trois wine and fascinated with my birthday gifts – tubes of oil paint and soft sable brushes. I dipped one brush into my favorite color – Cadmium Red – and made one long curved brush stroke. Proud, I held up the canvas and said, “Look at how beautiful! What does it remind you of?”  Cadmium Red Poppies

Steve looked at the canvas for a long serious moment and said, “My extraordinary patience… and the audaciousness of you.”

“Huh… I’m not sure you and the word patience belong in the same sentence. But I’ll give you extraordinary,” I paused, slightly confused, “Also, when I asked the question, I was thinking of those red poppies in the pasture.”

“I know.” His face was partially hidden behind a book, but I saw the grin in his eyes, “Think back… that exact flavor of red, o’dark-thirty, twenty years ago…”

“Oh.” I poured another glass of wine.

We spent the rest of the night wrapped up in memories. Specifically, this one:

I had not seen or talked with Steve for three months, so at 4:00 in the morning when he woke me from a sound sleep to let me know he was home, I did exactly what was expected; I rolled over, stuck my hand under my pillow and mumbled, “Forty-five, finger on trigger… you feeling lucky tonight?”

He said, “That’s my girl.”

Years earlier, we agreed on this exchange just in case it was not him sitting on the edge of the bed. The truth is I always knew it was him. His presence changed the air. But once, just after we were married, he returned home in the middle of the night and met the wrong end of a shotgun at the bedroom door.

I do not like to be scared. He did not relish being shot. Fair is fair.

Correct verbal response received, I welcomed him home, got up and made coffee and in hushed tones told him about the moments I saved.

“Sheri took her first steps, Stephen discovered baseball and Lego’s, I jerry-rigged the bathtub faucet to work around the stuffed Lego piece I could not dislodge, I was hired to ghostwrite for a psychologist, and… an 18 year old Danish Au Pair is asleep in the guest bedroom.”

He held his coffee cup suspended midway between the counter and his mouth and asked, “What’s asleep in the guest bedroom?”

Before I could explain further, the 5 foot 11 inches, legs-up-to-her-ample-chest, blue-eyed-blonde Hella, sauntered into the family room wearing only a Cadmium red tank top and matching bikini underwear. She stopped in front of him, did a full model’s pivot, placed her hands on her hips and said, “I am Hella. You are Steve, yes?”

Steve glanced at her, swiveled on his stool, leaned across the bar until his face was inches from mine and whispered, “You are the finest woman in the universe. Now that you know that, I’m going to kill you, slowly. What the fuck?” Then he turned back around and without preamble said, “Go put some clothes on. Now!”

It was the beginning of a hate-hate relationship between the two of them that lasted just over two months.

I should mention here that Steve did not ever mince words, his normal voice was at a volume just under a roar, and he did not flirt with women if I was anywhere in the vicinity.  He was both a gentleman and very good looking, so there was never any shortage of women trying to turn his head. But his head never turned because I am who I am and he was who he was. You can doubt that if you wish, but there truly are men and women who do not stray.

That said, I took a moment to absorb what I’d just witnessed: A young, beautiful woman had just presented herself to my husband as though I had moved her in solely for his pleasure. I gave the unsettling development half a thought and then dismissed the behavior as a cultural difference. I tend to be an optimist. Steve was a realist. I took a deep breath and explained why she was now in our home.

Hella had come to America two months earlier as part of an Au Pair program. I was told she wanted to increase her English skills, help with housework and provide child care in exchange for room and board. What wasn’t perfect about that? I needed someone to play with the kids while I was writing and we could not afford a babysitter. We could help her, she could help us. And okay, details were lacking as to why she did not get along with her first American family, but our neighbors – sponsors of many of these young ladies – asked for my help.

Steve’s sigh was room deep, “Babe… we need to talk about that “help” thing you have and… I do not think she’s here for the same reason you think she’s here.”

“Maybe not, but can we give it a try?”

He rubbed a hand over his face, gave me a weary smile and said, “Yes, we’ll give it a try.

Steve told me once that coming home was often more adventurous than his day job. I took it as a compliment. In reality, it was a testament of his fortitude.

I’ll admit this now. I used to collect people. Other folks collect coffee mugs or teaspoons. Not me. I amassed people who asked for my help without weighing who they were, where they came from or what they wanted from me. In the beginning, Steve was charmed by this quirk, then exasperated, and finally, resigned. Out of necessity, he became my scoundrel detector and I counted on his keen ability to “sense” a person’s demeanor and motive in minutes. I had this gift too, but I leaned toward giving scoundrels a chance. When Steve intervened, they were sent on their way before I had time to protest.

This worked well when he was home. Not so much when he was away.

Hella’s stay with us became a battle of wits and wills. She did not like housework, enjoyed cooking even less and during her third week in our home, she lost Sheri. Granted, Sheri was a pistol, but to this day I am not sure how a baby wearing only diapers can open the front door, cross a busy street and manage to toddle four blocks from home without a caregiver noticing her absence. Apparently, Sheri wanted a cookie and was mercifully intercepted by a kind neighbor who had both a cookie and my number, which is how I found out she’d gone missing.

I relieved Hella that day from all duties having to do with our children and, much to Steve’s delight; I set about working with her sponsors to have her sent home. It would take four more weeks.

bags packedIn all fairness, I still believe Hella was essentially a good girl, but terribly misled by two of her Au Pair peers. They advised her that American men tended to be weak and malleable. So, for girls who wanted to stay in America, but did not want to watch children, clean house or cook, the game plan was to win the man’s affections and thereby have all their wants and needs fulfilled. Wants and needs included an established man, a car to drive, money to shop and no rules and curfews.

When she finally broke down and admitted the game plan to both of us, Hella’s behavior made more sense, but I had to admit how badly I’d been duped.

Righteously, Steve only rubbed it in for the next twenty years.

It took me that long to learn how to balance my unrestrained capacity to see good in people with my own gift of discernment. And longer still, to notice that no matter how outrageous, traumatizing, unexpected, or agonizing, every experience we live through teaches us a lesson about ourselves or others.

How absolutely blessed I am to have been cherished by a man who knew my heart, endured my lessons and loved me still.

Lynnette Bukowski © 2013

No Longer… Sleeping With a Terrorist.

Author’s Note: 4/19/2013 –  I wrote this article in response to political gesturing about a DHS Report by the present Administration in 2009. It was published then in Stars & Stripes, and local newspapers.  It appears that the Administration keeps repeating itself like a broken record, issuing a new version of the “same” report every few years. They simply change a few studies, update the latest craze in “terrorism” lingo and keep pushing an agenda that includes our brave men and women… not as heroes, but as threats. 

I believe in honoring  – not disparaging – our Warriors who so bravely fight on against the “actual” Terrorists. To that end… I present a re-posting of my 2009 article:

In 2009…

I went to bed last night with a hero and woke up with an extremist – a potential terrorist. Imagine my surprise.

For 30 years I’ve enthusiastically climbed into his bed, helped him raise three children and fifteen foster children, prayed for and with him, cried, fought, laughed, moved the household around the world and country – all in support of his job as a US Navy SEAL.

As an intelligent and intuitive woman, mother and wife, you’d think I’d know who I’m sleeping with. Not so, according to Janet Napolitano and her Homeland Defense team.

Sarcasm aside, I’ll just say this straight up. I know this man. I know many, many of his fellow SEALs. I’ve fed them, cried with them, buried them, and commiserated with their families. Not for one moment have any of them – active duty and retired – forgotten these words: “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

Let me climb out of bed and get up on my pedestal so I’m equal to you when I ask this: Which part of that oath don’t you understand, Secretary Napolitano? Between you and me, Janet, woman to woman, words hold meaning.

I noticed in your feeble mea culpa to our Military Veterans your reference to only the wording of a footnote regarding the Department of Homeland Defense’s assessment entitled, Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment. Please note that Page 7, Section (U), is not a footnote. Read in its entirety, the memorandum (which was certainly not written for us silly citizens to read) refers to sociopaths like Timothy McVeigh, violent Neo-Nazis, and white supremacists in the same sentence as… “the art of warfare in the [U.S.] armed forces.

How dare you disparage the men and women of the United States military to further your own political agenda. There are indeed real terrorists out there among us, but they are not made up of our military men and women or our veterans.

For 32 years my husband, alongside his brothers, endured the rigorous, constant training of Special Forces, lived the life and perfected the skills that are second to none in this world. He took an Oath and by GOD, by our love and support of him and his career choice – this entire family has lived that oath for all these many years.

You, Secretary Napolitano, and your DHS Team, by accepting the memoranda as truth, albeit a few unfortunate words, have equated our brave men and women to sociopaths.

Indeed, there are a few sociopaths who have managed to serve and train with the U.S. military over the years. All walks of life endure such people. Ironically, though, when I researched the definition of Sociopaths – those who are interested only in their personal needs and desires, without concern for the effects of their behavior on others – I was startled to note that the behavior of a large majority of Congressman, Senators and members of our current administration exhibit several symptoms of a Sociopaths mindset, to wit: not learning from experience, no sense of responsibility, inability to control impulses [especially with our money], lack of moral sense, lack of guilt, self-centeredness, just to name a few.

But I digress.

As a military wife for 30 plus years, I tend to observe closely and speak frankly. So here goes: You most certainly are tracking ideological differences and it appears that where it does not suit the administration’s agenda, you label it extremism… or a threat.  Further, any attempt you’ve made at an apology is not accepted. I do not want to shake your hand or discuss this. I am an American, Ma’am. I am not politically correct and don’t want to be. I’m on God’s side, the Country’s side, the People’s side and as such, the Military’s side… If loving this Country, supporting our military and believing in God is now labeled as Extremism, I give.

In 2013… 

I no longer have my very own extremist to sleep with. He’s dead. He served this Country his entire adult life with honor and integrity and I will not — for one moment — think of him as anything but the hero he was.

In addition to giving up my husband to this Country, I will make one other concession: If I gladly accept the label of being an Extremist, will you step down and take the entire administration, democrats and republicans alike, with you?  I’m sick of all of you and quite frankly, consider the lot of you a threat to My Country.

© 2009 Lynnette Bukowski (updated 2013)

Lynnette Bukowski is a freelance writer, the founder and director of LZ-Grace Veterans Retreat and the proud Widow of a Veteran Navy SEAL. She presently lives in Virginia Beach, VA

No Longer… Sleeping With a Terrorist.

Author’s Note: 4/19/2013 –  I wrote this article in obvious response to political gesturing by the present Administration in 2009. It was published then in Stars & Stripes, and local newspapers.  It appears this Administration keeps repeating itself like a broken record, issuing a new version of the “same” report every few years. They simply change a few studies, update the latest craze in “terrorism” lingo and keep pushing an agenda that includes our brave men and women… not as heroes, but as threats.

I believe in honoring  – not disparaging – our Warriors who so bravely fight on against the “actual” Terrorists. To that end… I present a re-posting of my 2009 article:

In 2009…

I went to bed last night with a hero and woke up with an extremist – a potential terrorist. Imagine my surprise.

For 30 years I’ve enthusiastically climbed into his bed, helped him raise three children and fifteen foster children, prayed for and with him, cried, fought, laughed, moved the household around the world and country – all in support of his job as a US Navy SEAL.

As an intelligent and intuitive woman, mother and wife, you’d think I’d know who I’m sleeping with. Not so, according to Janet Napolitano and her Homeland Defense team.

Sarcasm aside, I’ll just say this straight up. I know this man. I know many, many of his fellow SEALs. I’ve fed them, cried with them, buried them, and commiserated with their families. Not for one moment have any of them – active duty and retired – forgotten these words: “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

Let me climb out of bed and get up on my pedestal so I’m equal to you when I ask this: Which part of that oath don’t you understand, Secretary Napolitano? Between you and me, Janet, woman to woman, words hold meaning.

I noticed in your feeble mea culpa to our Military Veterans your reference to only the wording of a footnote regarding the Department of Homeland Defense’s assessment entitled, Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment. Please note that Page 7, Section (U), is not a footnote. Read in its entirety, the memorandum (which was certainly not written for us silly citizens to read) refers to sociopaths like Timothy McVeigh, violent Neo-Nazis, and white supremacists in the same sentence as… “the art of warfare in the [U.S.] armed forces.

How dare you disparage the men and women of the United States military to further your own political agenda. There are indeed real terrorists out there among us, but they are not made up of our military men and women or our veterans.

For 32 years my husband, alongside his brothers, endured the rigorous, constant training of Special Forces, lived the life and perfected the skills that are second to none in this world. He took an Oath and by GOD, by our love and support of him and his career choice – this entire family has lived that oath for all these many years.

I’m guessing here, but I do not think a certain Merchant Marine Captain would liken the special ops men who saved his life with the pirate terrorists who nearly murdered him.

You, Secretary Napolitano, and your DHS Team, by accepting the memoranda as truth, albeit a few unfortunate words, have equated our brave men and women to sociopaths.

Indeed, there are a few sociopaths who have managed to serve and train with the U.S. military over the years. All walks of life endure such people. Ironically, though, when I researched the definition of Sociopaths – those who are interested only in their personal needs and desires, without concern for the effects of their behavior on others – I was startled to note that the behavior of a large majority of Congressman, Senators and members of our current administration exhibit several symptoms of a Sociopaths mindset, to wit: not learning from experience, no sense of responsibility, inability to control impulses [especially with our money], lack of moral sense, lack of guilt, self-centeredness, just to name a few.

But I digress.

As a military wife for 30 years, allow me to say this straight up: You most certainly are tracking ideological differences and where it does not suit the administration’s agenda, you are labeling it extremism… or a threat. Therefore, your attempt at an apology is not accepted. I do not want to shake your hand or discuss this. I am an American, Ma’am. I am not politically correct and don’t want to be. I’m on God’s side, the Country’s side, the People’s side and as such, the Military’s side… If loving this Country, supporting our military and believing in God is now labeled as Extremism, I give.

In 2013… 

I no longer have my very own extremist to sleep with. He’s dead. He served this Country his entire adult life with honor and integrity and I will not — for one moment — think of him as anything but the hero he was.

In addition to giving up my husband to this Country, I will make one other concession: If I gladly accept the label of being an Extremist, will you step down and take the entire administration, democrats and republicans alike, with you? I’m sick of all of you and quite frankly, consider the lot of you a threat to My Country.

© 2009 Lynnette Bukowski (updated 2013)

Lynnette Bukowski is a freelance writer, the founder and director of LZ-Grace Veterans Retreat and the proud Widow of a Veteran Navy SEAL. She presently lives in Virginia Beach, VA