I and Thou: A Father’s Day Tribute

Father’s Day Tribute

Caption:  Even though I grew up with the expectation that I would have to fend for myself, I saw a rare moment when my Dad was a bit sad at letting go of his youngest little girl.

Photo Credit: Lucinda Photography

Because there are gaps in the ages of my siblings, we each have very different memories of our parents.

Dad – The Music Man

The fondest memories I have of my dad involved his love of music. He sang in the church choir for decades. Even sang solos! He also played several instruments. The sweetest picture I have embedded in my mind is him playing his mandolin for my almost 1-year-old son. My son’s face shone as he lovingly looked at his grandfather, and my dad was beaming as he played. My dad played by ear. He played the piano. The organ. The banjo. The harmonica. And the mandolin. I’m pretty sure he passed on his good singing and music talent genes to both of my sons. My oldest played trombone, and my youngest played saxophone. Each also sang in the church children’s choir for many years.

My Dad taught me some people have the gift and talent of music, and some do not.

Although I love to sing – I have been told I am in the “not gifted and talented” camp. Oh well, I still sing loudly and proudly and off-key.

Dad – The Putterer (Is that even a word?)

My father was a putterer. He puttered around the house most of the time. Except in the evenings, he would sit on the floor, lean against the couch, and watch animal shows or the World Series. He was not much of a sports guy, yet he enjoyed watching baseball and would root for the team that played the best. It was never a “this team” or “that team” sort of thing. It was what team was the most strategic and played well.

I learned from my Dad that playing the game is more important than winning or losing.

Dad – The Master Camper

Camping was my dad’s favorite thing to do in the whole wide world. It still gives me the willies. I don’t care for bugs, dirt, being dirty, or not having a bathroom nearby. Camping was not my thing. Growing up, we all endured week-long camping adventures each year. We usually didn’t go too far – my dad wanted to escape from the smog and sounds of everyday life in suburban New Jersey. So, our usual jaunts were New York state and Pennsylvania.

Before “aging” out of this family ritual, our last adventures were in a campground named Scot Run in PA. A few years ago, I visited the campground, and even though it was now a “members only” sort of place, the kind lady allowed me to drive around for posterity’s sake.

My Dad taught me how camping is for some people, not others, and definitely not for me!

Dad – The Peacemaker

Peace, at all costs, was the name of the game growing up. If we were mad or angry, we had to keep it to ourselves. No loud voices, no yelling, no calling names. Simple rules. Maybe not so simple. In adulthood, I learned that sweeping emotions under the rug is not the way to go.

Growing up in this peace-at-all-cost mentality did not prepare me for real people who get angry and yell.

It took me years to figure out that conflict can be helpful. Who knew?

Dad – The Chef

Last month, I promised to fill you in on my dad’s role as Chef when he retired. When he retired, he took over the meal prep and execution and was surprisingly creative. He would go into the cupboards, see what was there and work with whatever he could find. Rice Krispies? Sure – he would throw them in a stew or use them as batter for fish. Nuts? Sure – we can throw them in too! Cheerios? Sure – Mash them with potatoes. Spices? If he didn’t know which one – he would use them all. Most of the time, the meals were tasty and colorful, unlike my mom’s typically gray and overcooked meals.

My Dad’s culinary skills brushed off on me and he taught me to experiment and not be afraid of mixing odd ingredients.

In my cooking, I try to balance the plate through color. For example, orange, green, blue, and red would be sweet potatoes, peas, blueberries, apples, and fish or chicken. Just the other day, I used cornflakes as a batter for fish.

Dad – The Pie Maker

Now onto pie-making. Pumpkin pie, apple pie, and lemon meringue pie. Since my dad was the baker of the house, the holidays were filled with various yummy homemade pies, and he also would make the obligatory Fruit Cake each year. Seriously – my dad was a great pie maker. Fruit cake? Not so much! I learned that pie-making requires a skill set that I don’t have. Baking neither. And that’s okay – I’ll stick to gourmet cooking! By the way, Sprouts has the best vegan cupcakes!

Dad – The Tool Man

Dad had an elaborate workbench and toolset in the basement. He could bend the aluminum. Use a vice, cut wood with an electric sander, paint a door on horses, and use his power tools, including a drill press. He seemed to have lots of tools and knew how to use them for odd jobs around the house. He was the consummate jack of all trades – handyman and overall jerry rigger. Why spend money on a specific item for a particular purpose when you can make one yourself and have to go buy parts that were more expensive than the item you needed anyway?

Growing up with a fixer Dad, I learned to hire professionals who are experts in their field.

Dad – The Consummate Driver

Drive to the comfort of your passenger was my father’s mantra. When he was driving, which was most of the time, he would routinely ask if you were comfortable. Which seems to be a bit comical because we didn’t have air conditioning, and he didn’t like the windows opened because he might get a draft leading to a stiff neck. Hmm.

Like my Dad, I ask my passengers if they are comfortable as well. 

Speaking of driving, I remember my sister driving (my dad’s car) and hitting a guard rail in a rainstorm because the tires were threadbare. This incident taught me to maintain my vehicle regularly by scheduling maintenance visits with the car dealer according to the manufacturer’s recommendations because they are the experts!

When driving, if my dad saw a person he knew walking on the street, he would pull over, roll down his window, and ask if they would like a ride. He would say,

 “God gave me this car, and I need to offer rides to others who don’t have one.” It was a nice gesture. I’m not sure if anyone ever took him up on his offers.

Dad – The Christian Guy

My dad had quite a black-and-white view of Christianity. You were either “in” or “out.” There was no room for any gray areas. He grew up Presbyterian and somewhere along the way figured out it was not “Christian enough.” In his early years of marriage, he, my mom, and my older brother attended a church, and when they moved, they attended another similar “fire and brimstone” church. The second minister seemed to have filled their minds with an orthodox type of belief. No playing cards. No dancing. No make-up. No alcohol. If you did not believe 100% the way they did – you were not worthy and doomed to hell. When my brother was a teenager, he started attending a non-denominational church with much more lenient views much closer to home. That very same non-denominational church is the church I grew up in.

A sandwich, an apple, and a bible in a lunchbox. This is what he brought to work each day. He used his lunch hour for a “devotion” time where he would read and pray. He believed the bible’s every word as gospel, even the parts that make no logical sense. It certainly would have been interesting to witness his life at the turn of the new century. He left this earth in 1994. His steadfastness is what impacted me the most.

I learned that faith is an everyday affair, and I am truly grateful for the love of God that my Dad instilled in me.

Dad – The Blue-Collar Worker

My father was a typical father of the ’60s and ’70s. He was a blue-collar worker and worked hard for an honest day’s pay. He had quirky theology both about religion and labor unions. In retrospect, this makes perfect sense to me since he was never a member of anything. He would probably say he was a member of God’s army. And that was all. He was not an official church member – although he attended more regularly than any member ever could. He would not join the labor union, the Masons, or any other organized structure. Not sure where any of this thinking came from – I’m assuming God, of course! I also believe he would have been much happier being a priest or a monk. 

Father’s Day is a day to honor all the dads who worked hard to support their families, trying their darndest.

Dads are not perfect.

Not my dad.

Not his dad.

And certainly not my children’s dad.

Today, I honor my dad. The father of four children – each one with significantly different perspectives.

(or, maybe not so much?)

He was by no means perfect. He was not the warm and fuzzy type. And I know he did the best he could and made the best decisions for himself and his family at the time. I wish I had been closer to my dad even though we were cut from different cloths.

So, go ahead. Call YOUR father and wish him a

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

One day, he might not be on this earth to pick up the phone.

Call to Action: Share, Like, Follow, Comment. I would love to know what you learned from your father.

I and Thou: April is Stress Awareness Month

An open note to estranged parents:

Deviating from the norm of this blog, I share this article to bring light and hope to parents who have been alienated or estranged by a child.

I know the depth of my love for my child and the void in my heart. I feel the intensity of pain that never seems to go away. I ask myself why? Why me? Why my child?

Estrangement is not normal, so the rules of normalcy do not apply. I urge you to read each of the 8 stages slowly and carefully. I pray that you will glean a nugget, a treasure you can hold in your heart to help you move forward. I finally feel I am moving forward…less pain, more acceptance, and more healing.

May the God of love, mercy, and healing be with you and your pain today. May tomorrow be less stressful, less painful, and much brighter. 

8 Stages of Estrangement

There are eight stages of estrangement between a parent and child. In this article, a child refers to any child at any age, including adult children. The estrangement in this article is the estrangement of a son and a mother. A son blocked his mother from social media and stopped all communication with her. She tried endlessly to reconnect to no avail. Ten years later, she still does not know what triggered the estrangement. Parent alienation may have been at play. 

Estrangement and grief go hand-in-hand because, at some level, estrangement is loss, and so is death. The difference is that death is final, and estrangement may not necessarily be absolute. There is hope in estrangement. Death is final. One could probably argue that hope is not healthy, and perhaps hoping less will lead to more efficient healing.

On the other hand, others will continue to hope – a glass-half-full, half-empty type of analogy. Emotions play a critical role in the process of healing from loss. Individuals who are more empathetic and have more of an advocate personality may have a slightly more difficult time processing loss. Those who are less empathetic and more optimistic may have an easier time with loss. 

According to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, experiencing these five stages of grief, regardless of order or even vacillating between each one, leads to healing. There is plenty of information on the internet regarding grief. Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief are:

Denial

Anger

Bargaining

Depression

Acceptance

E. Kubler-Ross

In estrangement, a similar set of components are necessary for healing and moving forward. This process can take years or even decades to complete in both grief and estrangement. The eight stages of estrangement are:

Denial

Acceptance Part 1

Rejection

Shame and Blame

Anger

Acceptance Part 2

Fear

Healing

R. Walton

Denial

Denial is not believing a situation exists. It is pretending that the estrangement is not real and hoping it will disappear. Surely, a child cannot estrange themself from a parent. What type of child would do that? Denial is a normal response, and it is the path of least resistance. It is typically short-term. Eventually, denial replaces accepting the reality of the situation, whether the parent likes it or not. In death, denial does not want to believe a loved one has passed on from this world onto the next. Denial is a defense mechanism wishing the estrangement is not absolute, and normalcy will return. However, that is often not the case. Once parents understand the estrangement is not going away, Acceptance Part 1 begins.

 Acceptance – Part 1

Once the denial phase is over, a parent begins to accept the concept of estrangement. A parent first seeks to understand the growing number of estranged parent-child relationships by scouring the internet for possible resources on the subject. A parent may not even know how commonplace it is and can quickly become an expert on the topic realizing other parents have encountered a similar situation. In this Acceptance Part 1 stage, a parent acknowledges that the parent-child relationship has changed. At this stage, reconnection becomes an obsession. A parent attempts to discover the reasons that led to the estrangement and remains hopeful for reconciliation. During this stage, a parent realizes that the relationship that once was is no longer. Coming to terms with this acceptance leads to rejection. Furthermore, feeling both accepting of the situation and rejection by it simultaneously is quite common.

Rejection

Rejection is an emptiness and a feeling of loss and causes both physical and emotional stress. Rejection of a parent by a child is a traumatic experience. It is very much related to power and control. A child has exerted power and control over the relationship by walking away from it, which is hurtful. Reactions such as anxiety, panic attacks, and other physical pain or stress occur when rejection occurs. If estrangement occurs during a divorce, a rejection by a child can add fuel to the fire of feeling rejected by the spouse. In some cases, an entire set of relatives and friends disappear in what may seem like an instant. During this stage, a parent feels physically and emotionally depleted. Lost. Loss of a child. Loss of a marriage. Loss of a family. Loss of what was. Loss of what was to be.

Shame and Blame

Shame typically begins during the rejection phase after a parent has worked through the acceptance part 1. The reality of the estrangement starts to set in. The questioning begins. A parent may think they lack parenting skills. What on earth did a parent do for a child to shut a parent out completely? Or, what did a parent not do? This stage is when a parent internalizes the pain and questions the validity of the source. Frequently, a parent does not know the reason(s) for the estrangement. A parent begins to feel shame. The mere thought of a child rejecting a parent is vile; therefore, a parent experiences shame. A deep to the core type of shame. The shame of a child’s rejection and the shame of what behavior a parent may have or may not have done or said or not said. Shame and blame often coincide. A parent blames themself. A parent blames a child. A parent blames a spouse (or former spouse). Or, in the case of parent alienation, blames a court system. In the end, the question remains, was the estrangement caused by another human being? Or was the estrangement caused by an action? A miscommunication? A series of misfortunate incidents? Lack of communication? Or no communication at all? There is blame, shame, and anger all around. 

Anger

Anger is the reaction to an unpleasant situation. It is a normal emotion and frequently occurs in the everydayness of life. The anger resulting from estrangement runs deep – much more profound than the everyday kind. This one is the ugly cousin of shame and blame. This anger is volatile, yet, it can also be quietly simmering beneath the surface, waiting to explode. During the estrangement process, anger is necessary. It is anger with oneself, a child, a spouse or former spouse, family, friends, and even God. Anger that questions the estrangement and the role others may or may not have played to either lead to the estrangement or to support and encourage it. Did a parent do all they could do to prevent this? Did a spouse (or former spouse) encourage counseling? Did family members disown the estranged parent or intervene? Was there a feeling of hopelessness? Or did not do enough? Or did too much? This anger phase involves questioning oneself and others, which is necessary for healing. It is vital to vent by deep breathing, talking to a therapist or friend, exercising, or alleviating the stress that builds from the anger during this anger stage. Even though thoughts of murder, suicide, and kidnapping may occur, one cannot act upon them.

Acceptance – Part 2

Once the anger has dissipated, a parent can start the next phase of Acceptance Part 2. This stage is where a parent accepts the estrangement as part of a bigger picture whereby a child may not have estranged willingly. Or thoughtfully. Or knowingly that the estrangement would last for months, years, or decades. The acceptance stage acknowledges that a child may not know how to reconcile. It also comes to terms with a child making “no contact” and respecting the decision. This stage is a promising one. Once a parent has accepted the estrangement as part of life’s circumstances, a parent can start to let go of the past and realize that there may be no future with an estranged child. A parent should no longer attempt to mail letters, send friend requests, and ask others who may know the child for any information. This stage is tough to journey through, especially for hopeful and generally optimistic people. Thinking that one day, reconciliation may happen conjures up visions of unicorns and torture. The goal of Acceptance Part 2 is peace and respect for oneself and others, including an estranged child.  

Fear 

This stage involves non-estranged children. It is the fear of potential estrangement from another child. After estrangement, fear clouds the relationship between a parent and the non-estranged child. This fear negatively influences parenting decisions. A parent will discipline the non-estranged child less. A parent will adjust their communication for fear that something said will trigger the non-estranged child to estrange. Is the fear realistic? For a parent who has lost a valued relationship with one child – the fear is real – it is a perceived danger and potential threat. The risk of losing another relationship often leads to also avoiding intimate conversations. The relationship is fragile, and a parent wants to guard it to ensure it does not break. Living and parenting with the fear of estrangement are not easy. It is a difficult stage to endure and learning to live day by day keeping worry at bay is a good goal to have. As the non-estranged child matures, the fear of estrangement may dissipate based on their behaviors and communication.  

Healing

Healing comes in all sizes and shapes, and moving forward with life and becoming unstuck, is essential. Healing can begin with writing, therapy, exercise, or workshops. Breathing retreats can help. Seminars on Living a Miraculous Life can help. Spiritual vacations can help. Whatever helps heal a parent from estrangement is worth doing, especially if it means being open to a conversation with someone who loves a craft or activity that you do not. No matter how healing takes place, there is nothing more important in this world than for a parent to be their best authentic self.  

 About the Author 

Ruth is a blogger of I and Thou Reflections on WordPress and Facebook. WordPress exhibits her heartfelt reflections on life, love, and relationships. Facebook contains excerpts from her devotional book on human relationships as well as her I and Thou Reflections. She has authored a fiction book on love, travel, marriage, and separation due out at the end of this year. Ruth has also written a 365 devotional on reflections on God, scripture, and human relationships, which will be part of a series tentatively titled, Sacred Traits, hoping to publish in the following year. Ruth is currently working on numerous other writing projects, including a Career Journal. She is a former director of career services at the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, AR, and Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ. Her younger son recently graduated college and lives on the east coast. Ruth’s eldest son lives on the west coast and estranged from her more than ten years ago. Through research, writing, and prayer, she has healed to the point where she can respect his feelings and remains hopeful for a reconciliation.

I and Thou: Be My Valentine

Valentine’s Day – Share the love!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 
– 1 Thessalonians 4:9

Does this scripture remind you of Valentine’s Day?

What exactly are its origins?

Have you heard about the god of Lupercus?

Well, apparently, that is how it all started. According to americancatholic.org,

The roots of St. Valentine’s Day lie in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, celebrated on Feb. 15.  For 800 years, the Romans had dedicated this day to the god Lupercus.  On Lupercalia, a young man would draw the name of a young woman in a lottery and keep the woman as a sexual companion for the year.1

The Catholic Roots of Valentine’s Day

Sexual companionship for an entire year may sound appealing, especially during a pandemic; yet, what happens after the year is up?

Long-lasting relationships are built on love. Love is sharing simple things in life, such as walking in the park, cooking a meal, giggling while watching a comedy, or discussing life’s spiritual mysteriousness. And, when you find love, it is like winning a lottery – every day.

During the 18th Century in England, Valentine’s Day evolved into a card and flower-giving holiday celebrating love and romance.  Maybe this holiday is an opportunity to proclaim God’s love for humankind? 

Let’s think about spreading God’s love, not by participating in the billion-dollar holiday it has become but by simply loving others. Welcome God’s love and share it with others.  This special once-a-year day reminds us to show our appreciation for one another. For partners.  For family members. For church members. For Friends.  So, embrace love. Let Valentine’s Day become an opportunity to express your love, respect, and friendship to someone in your life.

  • Human connection – speaking your love language to your Valentine helps keep the spark alive.

Action:  Send Valentine Day wishes of love and laughter to all the special people in your life.

1Guest Author, The Catholic Roots of St. Valentine’s Day.  Retrieved on November 2, 2016. .https://www.franciscan media.org/ the-catholic-roots-of-st-valentines-day/

I and Thou: Random Words for February

What words come to your mind when you think about February?

February


Dazzling Diamond
Deep Desire
Fabulously Faithful

Forgive Freely
Healing Heart
Huggable Human

Lasting Love
Lingering Laughter
Loyal listener
Sensual Soul
Silent Security
Soothing Snuggle
Sweet Smile
Tantalizing Thrills
Tasteful Treats
Therapeutic Tranquility
Timely Tenderness
Thriving Teamwork

I and Thou: Traditions

Photo Credit: Sarah Loft fineartamerica.com

Zechariah 8:18-23

18 The word of the Lord Almighty came to me. 19 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.” 20 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, 21 and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going.’ 22 And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him.” 23 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”

Thought: Zechariah, one of the Old Testament prophets, writes about sad and challenging fasts and how joyful and pleasant feasts replace the sad fasts. He tells people a message of God’s love for His people, reminiscent of holidays when families gather around a table to share a meal.

What holidays do you and your family celebrate?

Families make plans and celebrate all types of holidays such as New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Passover, Labor Day, Holi, or Christmas. Some families come together each year for a family reunion while others celebrate a holiday unique to them. Some host Hawaiian Luaus, Memorial Day picnics, and others watch fireworks and picnic on the 4th of July.

Tradition, according to Wikipedia is, “a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past.” * Traditions are true because they are believed to be true. In the case of Passover, angels of death passed over the Israelites, who had brushed the lamb’s blood, over their doorframes. (Exodus 12:7). God saved the Israelites, and the tradition of celebrating Passover acknowledges the event and commemorates it.

Traditions can last thousands of years or last only a few. However long a tradition continues, it creates memories. Holiday gatherings take place year after year and our children expect a house full of relatives. Right? Yet, we often forget how separation and divorce changes tradition. In some cases, it ends. Families no longer gather as years pass.

Maybe this post will change the minds of couples who are no longer couples – to forget about themselves for a day and to think about tradition, not for their sakes, but for the sake of their children. Go ahead and invite your former spouse to your holiday meal – I dare you!

Thankfully, the truth of God’s love is eternal and not measured by years of tradition or mistakes. It is simply the truth. The truth, as the prophet Zechariah wrote, in the last days, people from all nations will want to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. Let’s keep traditions alive so we all can have the opportunity to touch Jesus’ hem. Shall we?

Divine gifts – sharing religious traditions with family opens us up to experience grace and truth.

Action: What makes your family tradition special?

* Tradition. Retrieved November 3, 2016, from the Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tradition