The Forgotten Disciplines

The Forgotten Disciplines

Eva Fleming

There is no way around it, we are in the middle of a crisis, and things are about to get worse. I can tell you what to do while you hunker down and wait for the apocalypse to pass, but I have found that the Internet is full of creative ideas of things you can do while stuck at home with your spouse and children. Celebrities and citizens have gone to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to post these ideas like building a living room fort, making pictures that you can upload to Shutterfly, and my personal favorite, using coffee stir sticks to practice math. I’ll leave the creative Pinterest ideas to the experts and instead, take this opportunity to talk to you about the forgotten disciplines that are going to help us get through this crisis.

The Discipline of Waiting

We have been tasked with the excruciating exercise of waiting during this COVID-19 pandemic and not just waiting but waiting while still working from home and schooling our children. Some of us don’t get to stay home but must wait nonetheless – wait for the economy to improve, wait in lines at the grocery store, wait for test results to come back, wait for the stock market to level off and wait and see what the future holds.

The worst part of the crisis is having to exercise the virtue of patience; for life is not marked by instant solutions and hurried choices but by patient, slow gestures of faith that lead us through and out from under our circumstances. If your boss doesn’t get back to you on time, don’t give in to despair. If the schools are not opening tomorrow, find your inner peace, and do what you can to educate your child. If your government assistance check hasn’t yet arrived, don’t forget that panic is the enemy, and it goes counter to finding the next best solution.

Not knowing how to be still in times of distress will cause you the most damage. When you are feeling anxious, go outside and blow some bubbles into the air to calm your heart and remember that sometimes our only job is to be still.

As you sit there waiting for the worst to pass, remember that history tells the story in terms of generations, not just seasons, and has its calendar marked by centuries, not minutes.

The Discipline of Sacrifice

Those of us who want to survive times of crisis must learn to live beyond ourselves. That means that we must seek to put others first and sacrifice our feelings of panic for the good of our loved ones. We like to do the things that cause us the least amount of discomfort, but while living through a crisis where young ones are feeling stressed and afraid might call upon you to do things that you don’t want to do. Sit next to your child as he does his homework. Smile at your husband and tell him, “we can get through this together” when his hours have been cut. Pray silently for your parents when you see one of them succumbing to the illness. Refrain from screaming, nagging, and demanding when your kids refuse to their homework or keep the house tidy. Be the calming force in your home when things appear hopeless.

We can survive close living quarters but we must sacrifice short tempers and ill humor and replace it with hope and faith.

The Discipline of Contentment

It is quite a task finding contentment when the Dow managed to lose all our retirement funds in one swoop. That’s why contentment is a discipline – a hard honed skill that requires a will of steel. Contentment has nothing to do with settling and everything to do with being thankful.
During these times of shortage, let’s learn to practice gratitude. Focus on the good things in your life and not on the empty supermarket shelves. Find gratitude in the song of a bird, in the early shoots of spring, in the warmth of sunshine, in the sound of rain, in the cooing of a baby, in the hug of your loved one. You are the only one who can bring peaceful gratitude to your household and circumstances. When your kids complain because their spring break plans were canceled, and your mother-in-law laments that her retirement funds were depleted by the market, stand firm on your commitment to gratitude. As you exude contentment, the rest will follow.

The Discipline of Social Mercy

This is the hardest discipline to develop in a time of social distancing. Family Bridges just posted a quote on Facebook that made me remember this discipline. It reads, “remember that social distancing does not mean disconnection. Reach out to those around you and be kind to one another.”

Some people like their alone time, but human beings are not wired to live without a network. We need each other. Find the one thing your neighbor needs and share from your abundance. This is not always a physical need; many times is a social connection, a telephone conversation, a word of encouragement. Be present even when you are not physically present. Human beings are not made to multi-task, so stop trying to do what you were not wired for. Instead of letting the world pass you by as you go on your way to tomorrow, stop and live the moment and do it with the person that requires your attention the most. This might mean that you need to turn off the news or put Netflix on hold to truly be present and begin to develop the discipline of social mercy. Give of your time, money, and resources sacrificially. Like my father used to say, “do it until it hurts.”

The ancient disciplines and virtues have not gone out of style. In a world that’s living through a Pandemic, your patience, self-sacrifice, contentment and social mercy are most needed. You can be the telegraphic wire that links the hurt with hope. Stand firm on your peace, and you will be light in the darkness.


For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges

Stuck At Home? Now What?

Stuck At Home? Now What?

Dr. Alicia La Hoz

I grew up in South Florida, where hurricane season would come and go each year. Each time a hurricane would threaten to come our way, we would: glue ourselves to the news channel, sign up for the weather alerts, and empty the grocery stores of everything we could get our hands on. Our anxiety would shoot through the roof, people would board their homes up, and then all sorts of family drama would play out (family stuck inside brewing under uncertain conditions is not a good mix). In the rare years when a hurricane did hit, we met our neighbors while picking up tree debris, and shared stories of how we survived the blackouts by barbecuing and finding creative ways to feed everyone.

With the current state of fear precipitated by COVID-19, I am reminded of some of these experiences. The pandemic has raised some alarming concerns worldwide that have drawn attention to some areas we should pay attention to, such as healthcare access. It also has created some panic type behaviors that can be harmful. It is a good time to remind ourselves that many people cope with stressors in different ways. Some respond in more healthy ways than others. And all of us, when experiencing acute emotions, are susceptible to making a lot of mistakes. So what should we do to manage well?

Do . . .

Put things in perspective.

History has shown us time and time again that we can overcome a crisis. People are overall resilient, and we will bounce back. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that the number of confirmed infections in the U.S. is extremely low. The fact that there is a great deal of news coverage on this issue does not necessarily mean that someone in your family will get sick, especially if you’re taking the necessary precautions.

Stick to the Facts

There is a lot of misleading information and memes out there. Go to a trustworthy source for facts. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a webpage dedicated to information on the coronavirus outbreak. You may also find useful information from local or state public health agencies.

Communicate with your children

Discuss the news coverage of the coronavirus with accurate and age-appropriate information. Remember that children will mirror the behaviors and emotions that they see. They take cues on how to manage their feelings from the adults in their lives. Cope well, and you are teaching them how to cope with stressful situations.


If you and your kids are home due to work and school cancellations, spend some time coming up with a game plan for how you will tackle being at home and managing household life with work mixed in.

Review some community rules for this season

Set up a family meeting and talk through what it will mean to work and live at home. Discuss expectations, and review some healthy family life rules (i.e., be respectful, clean up after yourself, care for one another). Come up with a plan of how to respond if someone in your family does get sick. Identify who will take care of who.


Instead of using electronics all day, take out the board games, mind games, and have some fun with your family. Playing and laughing are great for the spirit.

Keep a schedule

Routine gives a sense of control. When things seem out of control, anything you can do to gain some routine in your life may help the uneasiness. Create a schedule for you and your family while at home. Create time for being together and apart.


While online streaming may be enjoying a steady surge right now, remember to read. Reading is an excellent opportunity to grow, learn, and relax. You can even download an audiobook that the whole family can enjoy similar to when you take a car trip.

Show grace

When emotions are high, people can respond to remarks or nonverbals in ways they usually would not. And in turn, we can get defensive and retaliate with sarcasm, a bitter tone, or a sassy remark. Remember to show kindness, to be loving, and remember that you may not know the full story of another’s plight.

Reflect, meditate, pray

Come together as a family, and read a prayer, read a reflection, listen to music, remember what you are grateful for. These things can help ground you and refocus you and your family on what matters most.

Don’t. . .

Watch news all day long

In the same way we tell substance abuse addicts to not frequent situations or events that expose them to their addiction, limit the amount of information you consume that feeds the angst. Watching the news cycle on repeat will only feed the obsession, which will feed the anxiety. You can stay informed by checking the news once or twice a day, but beyond that you are susceptible to getting swept away by the hype, and that can rock your nerves and leave you feeling restless.

Do more than what is recommended or expected

Follow the recommendations provided in terms of washing hands, staying a healthy social distance, and disinfecting your work areas and limit going to heavily crowded areas. However, be careful not to create more rules than are necessary.

Get swept away

Indeed, it is wise to prepare for your family. Do so thoughtfully and resist getting swept away and getting things you may not even need.

Let’s remember, “Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrows; it empties today of its strength today.” Corrie Ten Boom.


For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges

5 Fun Date Ideas

5 Fun Date Ideas

Jose-Andres Alegria

Ever have a friend that is just smart and creative with the date ideas that they come up with for their significant other? My college roommate, Tyler, is an absolute genius when it comes to date ideas, so of course, my first thought was to have him write this blog. But sadly, Tyler is too busy with grad school, a full-time job, and a girlfriend to help me out. But I would be doing him an injustice if I didn’t shout him out for giving me his list of top 5 dates. So thanks, Ty! Anyways, here are some fresh date ideas. Nothing fancy, but maybe a little more meaningful than an expensive dinner at a restaurant. So here it goes.


1. Starting at number one on our list is the ” Rooftop dinner under the Stars ” date. Now, while this might seem cliche as it is in every Rom Com movie ever, it works. You have either the option of cooking the dinner yourself or, if you don’t trust your skills in the kitchen, grabbing food from your favorite restaurant. While this date is a great idea, it might not be the best thing for winter, so keep it in your back pocket for when summer rolls around so you can enjoy the beautiful weather and even better company.

Tyler’s Notes: You can substitute a rooftop with the bed of a truck or the trunk of a car.

2. Coming in at number 2 on our list, we have bike rides/walks through charming neighborhoods or parks. This is another summertime date. No one is trying to ride a bike in 20-degree weather. I like this one because you don’t have to talk all that much, sometimes it’s just nice to enjoy each other’s company. But when you’re itching to spend some time outdoors, walking around is an enjoyable way to spend some one-on-one time with your partner.

Tyler’s Notes: Bring some food. Food always makes things better, especially dates.

3. At number 3, and my personal favorite is a food truck crawl . Thanks to the internet, it’s not hard to find out where the best food trucks like to congregate. Look it up, and go out there for dinner one night. Nothing beats a meal consisting of food from 5 different places. Plus, this solves the issue of you wanting tacos for dinner, and your partner craving a hamburger. You both can get what you want and then some. And when all is said and done, and all the food is gone, pull out your phone and leave some collective yelp reviews for your favorite trucks. Let your inner foodie come out.

Tyler’s Notes: BYOW – Bring your own wine.

4. Number 4 on the list is a sentimental scavenger hunt. Who doesn’t love a good scavenger hunt? They can be pretty tricky to set up; coming up with clues is easier said than done. But if you use special hints that encourage your significant other to revisit locations that you both hold dear around town, then it will only make the night all the more memorable. Lead them on a path down memory lane, stopping and just reminiscing can be a charming time. Plus, it lets you hit up all of your favorite spots, and what could be better than that?

5.Cook a meal together comes in at number 5 on our list. And by meal, I don’t mean what you would typically have, like Taco Tuesday. Think of a dish from a restaurant you both love and try to recreate it. It will most likely be terrible, but as long as you had fun making it, then it was worth it. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You make a terrible meal and laugh along the way with someone you love?

These dates are supposed to maximize your time together while also leaving room to enjoy each other’s company. But what good is spending time together if you have to break the bank to do it? Most of the dates on the list are budget-friendly, excluding the bikes; all it takes is some forethought and a little planning, but isn’t that the best date, the one that holds meaning. So get to planning, and have an amazing date. And if you don’t have any, I blame Tyler; this is his list after all.


For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges

What We Are Reading: Covert Cows

What We Are Reading: Covert Cows

Omaira Gonzalez

Once a quarter, the directors get together to read and review a book together. Before the end of 2019, we read “Covert Cows and Chick-Fil-A” by Steve Robinson.

There were many great lessons to learn. My biggest takeaway was the importance of having a clear vision for yourself, organization, and the customers you serve. Truett was clear on the kind of business he wanted to run: one built around relationship, excellence, and integrity. When they began to expand, ensuring that each establishment upheld these principles was very important. His vision for himself was to first model the principles and behaviors he expected his team to practice. Truett believed that the use of personal power is so much more effective than position power. His vision for the organization was to treat others with excellence, be consistent in hospitality, and always aspire to the next level of service. The service delivered was key, but hospitality added value.

In order to remain grounded during times of crisis, the leaders devised a purpose statement to remind themselves why they existed and to help clear the path for future growth:

“To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us, and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-Fil-A.”

The influence of Truett and his ability to impart vision demonstrated how he lived his life.

Question: How much clarity do you have about what your business stands for and why you exist?


For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges

What Blurs and Spurs A Vision?

What Blurs and Spurs A Vision?

Dr. Alicia La hoz

We were on the last rope of the zipline course in Costa Rica. We had planned this trip for months and when the day came, the adventure began with an aerial tram that took us through the rainforest before we were harnessed and attached to a cable. We were taken to a perilous platform on a tree about 100 feet above the ground where we dutifully waited our turn. The first 8 ropes were exhilarating as we experienced a birds eye view of the rainforest. And then on the last rope, I failed to follow the instructions of how to properly grip the cable line and that is when the trouble began. I lost momentum and thus my cable stopped dead in the middle of the cable line. I was stuck and as I hovered over the rainforest the fun was replaced by fear. The hand gestures of the folks on the other side trying to remind me of what to do was difficult for me to comprehend since I was swept over by fright. When I stopped looking behind me and instead steadied my gaze forward I saw my husband. At first I saw him coming down pretty fast down the line and for an instant the thought crossed my mind that we would crash. Except he ultimately slowed down and my fear and dreadful expectation quickly changed to hope and relief as deep down, I knew he would know what to do. Talk about seeing your spouse as a hero! He hauled me to the platform and to safety.

While fear crippled my ability to focus and understand the instructions to get out of the jam I had gotten into, trust gave me hope and it got me through. As we consider what makes a perfect vision, it would make sense to first diagnose the conditions that blur our vision. The blemishes and imperfections that impede us from seeing clearly are often powerful agents that limit our understanding and comprehension. There are many distractions and interruptions that keep us from looking up and keep us away from the focal point. During our adventure, insecurity took over and that gave a foothold for fear to get a grip on me. Similarly, when we let doubts and disappointments hover over us, our progress is halted. Forgetting and fearing are two players that blur our vision.

We are fearful

Fear is a powerful emotion that can take hold of us. There are so many fears such as: fear of rejection, fear of not being valued or recognized, fear of conflict. Jia Jiang in his book Rejection Proof shares his story of shying away from his dream of entrepreneurship because of his fear of rejection. After a push from his wife, he quits the security of an established career, a 6 figure income, and pursues his dream. Upon notice of being denied by the first investor he sought, the unbearable pain felt led him to recognize that unless he harnessed his fear of rejection, his outlook for succeeding was dismal. He thus decided to purposely seek out rejection to become stronger. The book narrates the lessons learned in his journey of being rejected 100 times. He begins by describing the overwhelming fear felt when he first asked a security guard at an office building to borrow $100. He recorded himself and in the video picked up how his terrified look, nervousness, and lack of confidence kept him from following up and answering the guard’s follow up question of “why”. Fear kept him from seeing the conversation through. When we are unaware of our fears, they can hold power over us as we are often persuaded by its grip to not change, to stay within the comforts of what we know. Fear can keep you from being mobilized to do what is needed to activate the vision before you. Jia Jiang became an expert on rejection. Through his experiences he evaluated, reflected, and came to understand the root of his fears. We can learn from Jia Jiang’s evaluative reflection. Instead of ignoring or denying, face the fear. Take a moment to understand why things hold you back and what these fears are about. Evaluate where these fears are coming from, how much of it is reasonable and how much of it is heightened by negative experiences you may need to heal from. If you don’t harness your fears, anxiety can easily take over your life and keep you from seeing clearly.

We forget

Have you read or heard the stories in the Old Testament of the Israelites who continuously forgot all the miraculous ways God had saved and restored them? In fact, the New International Version, cites the word “remember” 130 times in the Old Testament! It’s easy to read through those passages and quickly judge the Israelites forgetfulness and lack of gratitude. And yet we are just as plagued by the tendency to forget. In fact, psychologists talk about mood dependent memory. This means that we are more likely to recall the memories which fit our current mood. If you are angry at someone, happy memories most likely won’t come to mind. In an upset state, beautiful moments shared are forgotten. Take the story shared earlier about my husband. This is one of many treasured memories in our story that one would think would be the script that is permanently before us. NOT. What happens when I sleep poorly, am irritated at a disappointing situation before me, or simply upset at a decision we are at odds about? The memories of other disappointing situations come to mind, further adding to the tension of the current state. In those moments, I forget to be grateful, to be generous, to be thoughtful, to remember what is good and what was good. And if you are like me, forgetting means I can easily become bitter. And contempt, a destroyer of relationships, is just a few steps away. It is so important to remember. How can we remember when we are so bent on forgetting? We have to be intentional about remembering why we are on this journey. In the same way organizations draft a vision statement, I have found it valuable to draft a family vision statement. We have this printed on a book and visit it through the years. We talk about it, discuss how we can live this out practically, and strategize our goals and aspirations around it. To read more about how to create your own vision statement, click here.

Trust sharpens our vision

Forged through trust, fellowship and community enable us to create a pathway forward. Family Bridges’ vision statement, “Strong families for purpose driven children, leaders of their generation, committed to their communities” came into being in the context of community. Stakeholders, affiliates, board members, and staff all participated in a painstaking effort to bring it together. It includes a series of belief statements that provide a picture of how things would be for future generations if we see our mission through. But how were we able to work on this together?

A spirit of hospitality

For months, prior to our forging the statement, we met monthly and visited one another’s organizations across the city. We spent time listening to the work we were invested in and we collaborated on putting together programs and events, leveraging each other’s resources. In essence, we carried on a spirit of hospitality. We respect each other’s ideas, projects, and approaches and worked together to forge a path forward.

Disciplined accountability

We held and continue to hold each other accountable in terms of the goals we aspire to reach. Trust is established when there is a history of reliability and dependability. Our partners and affiliates had shown up time and time again serving together with very limited resources. Similarly, I trusted my husband on the zipline because time and time again, he had been there. The covenant of commitment was a foundation to the trust that steadied our relationship over the years. And through trust, our relationship was strengthened through consistent experiences of being reliable and dependable.

In both examples shared in this blog, my marriage and Family Bridges, trust took time to build and it came about as all parties involved contributed, showed up, and delivered. What we have learned is that a vision is made stronger when it is forged in fellowship and when it is held onto by a process of accountability. Without others, a vision statement would only be words on a page. In my zipline example above, I looked up at my husband and his courage gave us both confidence to get through. In community, we hold each other up and carry each other through. A perfect vision for 2020 requires that we retire the fears that hold us back, remember the reasons we do what we do, and build together through a trusting relationship. As we trust one another, we can begin to hold each other accountable and see our future aspirations come to fruition.

I’d love to hear from you, what have you found that blurs or spurs your vision?


For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges

Featured Program: AVANCE

Featured Program: AVANCE

Dr. Alicia La hoz


Love is our not-so-secret ingredient. We pour love into everything we do, because we know that one person can make a big difference. That’s what AVANCE does. One person impacting the lives of those around them – at home, in their community and around the world.

In 2012, our programs were nationally recognized as a best-practice model by the Administration for Children and Families. As a result, we received multiple inquiries from providers across the nation looking to replicate our model. Our team began thinking about how we might scale our marriage and family programs to cities beyond the Chicagoland region.

Our board, program directors, and advisors began to develop a blueprint to help us crystallize our vision. So began Family Bridges’ evolution from an organization primarily focused on direct delivery of marriage and family education services to an agency focused on catalyzing champions and providers by equipping, empowering, and encouraging them.

Eight years later, the program is now a consultation model for churches called AVANCE. We partner with local champions to deliver workshops in hundreds of locations including civic centers, schools, NFPOs, churches, and even correctional facilities. These AVANCE champions have embraced our vision and mission to be agents of change in their own communities by applying our approach of going where people are at. AVANCE has been successfully launched in Phoenix, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Spain.

In order to better measure the program’s impact, we launched a longitudinal evaluation of the program (CLEAR) in 2016. This unique quasi-experimental study includes extensive outcome measures for 10 parishes in Chicago. The program has now reached the halfway point. Although new study sites have recently opened and not all participating sites have been active long enough to generate comparison data, existing data allows for preliminary analysis. And the results are very promising. Analyses of current data indicate statistically significant increases over time in:

  • Attitude towards marriage
  • Relationship health and satisfaction
  • Parenting skills
  • Parish involvement
  • Satisfaction with the parish’s role in supporting marriage

Additionally, significant reduction was observed in measures of likelihood to divorce, with more dramatic reductions observed in participants at highest risk for divorce among our sample. The findings have also found that sustained involvement yields superior results over a single point intervention.

CLEAR also measures volunteer self-report on increase in skills related to leadership in the program and increase in capacity to serve in the church and the community. At this time, a statistically significant increase was observed in volunteer self-evaluation of leadership skills.

New Beginnings

New Beginnings

Caleb Simula

I’ve spent many evenings watching the sunset from my tree stand, but I have never felt my soul renewed in the same way that a sunrise from the same tree stand makes me feel. My favorite bible verse to meditate on while in the woods is Psalms 143:8. It says, “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” Each morning, whether it be from the old maple tree that my stand is in or from the 6 am morning traffic in the Chicago suburbs, I find myself thankful for the new opportunities each sunrise brings.

I grew up on a small hobby farm, right off a dirt road in a fairly remote part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My dad and my grandfather are the two people who helped me understand the importance of seeing every morning as a new beginning. When I was a junior in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do for work once I graduated. One day we had a representative from the local college come to our class to talk to us about skilled trades classes that they offer to seniors. During this time, I had my three close friends John, Dylan, and Andrew. We all decided to take their welding class just so that we didn’t have to be in school for half of the day. Once I realized how fun and rewarding a welding career could be, I knew that it’s what I wanted to make a career out of, I packed my bags and said goodbye to my parents. The time had come for me to begin a new chapter in my life.

I accepted a third shift welding job in a small Minnesota city called Detroit Lakes, about an hour east of Fargo, North Dakota. Here is where I experienced a completely new process of welding. When learning welding in high school, they only taught us the absolute basics of welding. I was ecstatic to learn the new way to weld, and I put my welding hood down every night, eager to hone my skill. One night when welding production was slow, my shift lead pulled me into his office and asked me to help out in the tubing department. With the same amount of drive I had for learning welding, I now put into learning how to use tube bending machines. I knew that the more new types of jobs I could learn, the better my resume would look. Plus, it got me out of my welding cubicle and into a new part of the building. I made so many mistakes while working in the tubing department, but that didn’t stop me from loving the benefits of learning new skills. Throughout the one and a half years I was working here, I was also dating a beautiful girl from south Florida, her name is Erin. We had met when I was 15, and she was 13 and began dating my senior year of high school. One day I realized that I didn’t want to date her from such long distances. So this snow-loving, forest exploring welder once again packed up his bags and moved to the concrete jungle of Cooper City, Florida.

To provide for myself while looking for welding jobs, I had to take a landscaping job. Now, everyone else that has lived in South Florida knows that landscaping is probably the last job a Florida resident would want, let alone some kid from Michigan who would run around in the snow with no shoes and only a pair of shorts on, for FUN. It didn’t stop me; I was on top of the world. For the first time in my life, I was living a few towns over from the girl I loved. I worked insane hours in the Florida sun. Finally, after six months of job searching, I accepted a welding job working on multi-million dollar yachts. This is where I again experienced a completely new process of welding. With this new job came a whole new opportunity to learn all over again.

After about two years at that job, I gathered Erin and her two cousins along with John, my best friend from high school, and his girlfriend, and we went down to the Florida keys for the day. Everyone but Erin knew the real reason why we made such a special trip. As Kristina (Erin’s cousin) and I placed candles in the shape of a heart, my actual heart was beating a million miles an hour. Was I about to ask Erin for her hand in marriage? Am I ready for such a new stage of life? Of course, I was, so with her father’s blessing and her family’s approval on the evening of January 3rd, I got down on one knee, and through a flood of tears and snot, I somehow managed to ask her to marry me. She said YES! Now came all the wedding planning. And on a cold rainy day on August 20th, in the front yard of my grandparent’s house in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Erin and I, along with her family, my family, and with a few of our closest friends, we exchanged our vows. After our honeymoon, we resumed our lives in South Florida. Erin graduated from the Art Institute of Ft Lauderdale with an associate’s degree in graphic design. Only one month after she graduated, we found ourselves packing all we owned into a U-Haul and moving across the country to the Chicago suburbs.

In the suburbs of Chicago, we are only a short six-hour drive to my parents’ house and an even shorter three-hour flight back to South Florida. With completely new territory came a whole new set of beginnings. Erin got a job doing what she went to college for, and I found a new welding job. You guessed it! My new job consists of a whole new process of welding. We had to find a new church, which took some time, but we are finally at a church where we feel at home. For my most recent “New Beginning,” we recently found out that Erin is pregnant with our first child. I have never been so excited about a new stage in life than I am now. As I look back, all of the early mornings I found myself in my tree stand praising God for a new sunrise, a new day, a new opportunity. I see that there is no better time to start new than in the morning. I hope you’re not afraid to fail when encountering new beginnings because there will, for sure, be a new opportunity to try again in the morning.


For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges

Fear is the mind-killer

Fear is the mind-killer

José-Andrés Alegría

Donovan Mitchell, star shooting guard for the Utah Jazz, once wrote “determination over negativity.” I remember reading his piece in The Player’s Tribune and immediately sending it to my mom. I felt like I was reading about my childhood, but I wasn’t the one who wrote it. Just like in his article, I was always a hyper kid, always active. And my mom had to let me run wild, within reason of course. If my childhood had a soundtrack it would have been the constant THUNK THUNK THUNK of a ball, any ball I could get my little hands on, bouncing off of the wall. Had there been Fitbits back in the day, I would have cleared 30,000 steps a day quickly. That’s until I tore my ACL in my sophomore year of high school. It sucked. But it wasn’t the actual injury that was the worst part. It wasn’t that I couldn’t play soccer that season. It wasn’t that I had to be conscientious of every step with my bum leg until I got it fixed. It was feeling trapped in my own body. Not being able to run around, let alone walk. It was debilitating, mentally. Tearing my ACL was the most prominent injury I had ever gotten up until that point. I had broken a bunch of bones, gotten hit by a car, cracked my sternum; they’re the reason my fingers crack every time I make a fist or my ankles make a pop whenever I go up the stairs. But my ACL was something entirely different. It was weeks of hard work to be able to bend my knee past 90 degrees comfortably, then another few weeks of learning to walk without crutches, then learning to walk without a knee brace so that I could eventually learn to run without it. It was a drag, and it wasn’t until recently that I noticed that my past injury was still affecting me mentally.

With the luck of a black cat, I tore my other ACL in my sophomore year of college. That was about four years ago. I never got it fixed. It sounds dumb, but I thought that by not getting it fixed, I was saving myself from the dark headspace I had gotten into back in high school. What I didn’t realize was that I missed being able to run around and play sports. I got into a complacent mindset that sitting inside was somehow good for me. Crazy, I know! And what made me realize that I missed playing sports was anime (Japanese cartoon). Yes, I’m a nerd who watches anime, but I seldom watch sports anime. I think they are dumb. Well, I thought they were until, for whatever reason, I decided to watch HAIKYU. It’s an anime that centers around a short high school volleyball player who dreams of being the best. Not to go too in-depth, but this reignited something in me. Or maybe I should say, it made me remember a piece of me I had forgotten.

That’s why, on December 3rd, I had surgery to fix my ACL. It has been a long and arduous journey to try to get back to normal and it has only been 4 weeks, but this time I knew what to expect. I have a goal. And more importantly, I have a group of friends, who even though I live 1300 miles away from them, have held accountable, kept me positive, and are ready to the ball whenever I go home to visit. I have been tired of making excuses. Just tired of just sitting around and doing nothing all day. I’m going to be able to make it back out on to the court, whether it’s for volleyball, basketball, or something else.

For as long as I remember, I have run, jumped, skipped, or played my way through my life. I have never let anything keep me down. If I ever fell, I got up right away, ready to try it again. Failure was always a challenge to better myself. But then I went down and never really ever got back up. Ten year-old me would be so mad at 22 year-old me for “being a quitter.” No one expects to remain the same as when they were a kid, but I went from someone who loved being outside and running around to someone who hates being outside. But what I hate is the fear I have of injuring myself. “Fear is the mind-killer” is something I have tattooed on my body, and yet for the last four years, I have let fear dictate my life. So for the New Year and as a general readjustment in my life, I am fixing my knee, fixing my state of mind, and as a whole, not letting fear dictate my life. “Determination over negativity,” remember?


For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges

Learning to Compromise

Learning to Compromise

Omaira Gonzalez

My husband and I took a trip to Menards to pick tiles this weekend. We finally agreed that it was time to do some remodeling in our home. Now I do not know how this usually works in your marriage, but in mine, we can’t seem to agree 85% of the time. He likes one thing, I want another, and we will spend what should have been a 30 minutes trip at the store to a whole field trip. We cannot seem to pick tiles we both like, but now we have to go to all the other stores to compare. Guess what? Nothing had changed from when we went to Menards the first time. We still have different tastes, and we each are trying very hard to win this war of the tiles.

After a few stores, I accept that this is a battle not worth carrying out into the field. So I ask for a truce, and we decide to compromise. We look at each design we like, and then we narrowed our search to the one that is most similar to both his taste and mine. Now, what would that have looked like if we had done that in the beginning? We would have saved countless hours at the store and had time to go to a restaurant and enjoy a nice meal.

In relationships, many times, we will not always get our way. However, we have to compromise. What do I mean by this? In marriage, we both come into the relationship with our interests, desires, ideas, and tastes. Compromising is more like working together towards a favorable outcome for both. This not only pertains to small decisions but also big ones.

Of course, the small compromises in a marriage can be pretty easy to make (or not); however, they are just as important. For example, you want seafood, and your spouse wants steak. A compromise is to choose a restaurant that has both. How about a more substantial compromise? How about buying a house? You may want a particular style of home, and your spouse may want another. You want to live in a particular neighborhood, and your spouse wants to live somewhere else. I have been there! While this may take some negotiating, it is important for you and your spouse to work towards common goals and to consider each other’s point of view. Now when you do reach a happy compromise…celebrate.

Compromising does not have to be negative; the key is to find a win-win. Here is a tip that can help when you both are struggling with compromising:

Listen: Ask questions about what he/she wants or likes. Listen to each other’s point of view. If you do not understand something, ask. Trying to push your idea or wants onto someone else without considering them can lead to frustration and behaviors such as sarcasm. Make an effort to understand and hear your spouse out…you may find what the win-win is for both in the conversation.


For more tips on relationships, follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges

Five tips to help teach your kids Spanish

Five tips to help teach your kids Spanish

Savannah Gonzalez

I was born in Mexico, raised in California up until I turned 9, that’s when my parents decided to move back to Mexico, and that is where I learned to speak Spanish. Before we moved to Mexico, I did not speak any Spanish. I don’t even know how I communicated with my dad. He doesn’t speak that much English.

The first year I lived in Mexico, I did not know any Spanish, let alone speak any, but since I had no other choice, the Spanish language just came to me. Being surrounded by Spanish speakers all day every day is only one way to learn Spanish, but there are others.

Send your kids to a Spanish speaking country.

Do what my parents did. Sending me to Mexico was a great idea. In Mexico, I had no other choice than to try to speak Spanish, because that was the only way to communicate. I think it would be great to send your kids with a relative to a Spanish speaking language for a month or so. It’s one way to learn Spanish, but it also allows your kids to get in touch with their roots.

In the house, we only speak Spanish.

Make your kids speak Spanish in the house and let them know you won’t understand them if they speak English. Make sure to stick to it. House rule: En Casa Se Habla Español. This rule might seem obvious, parents are the source of cultural knowledge, so if you slide on this, then you can’t be too upset that they don’t speak Spanish. We asked around the Family Bridges office to see how everyone taught their kids Spanish when we realized that most of the kids don’t speak Spanish.

Work in a Spanish speaking environment.

If they are old enough, make them work or volunteer in a place where they need to speak Spanish. Shameless plug, but Family Bridges is always looking for volunteers during our events. Or something as simple as volunteering at retirement homes. They can always use help, especially if you can speak even just a little Spanish.

Watching Spanish cartoons.

When I was in Mexico, high-end ladies would put English speaking cartoons to their children so they would learn English, and it really did help. I think it’s a good idea to put Spanish speaking cartoons to our children. Now it is much easier, almost all movies and cartoons have the option to set the audio in Spanish. Changing the audio doesn’t have to be every movie or tv show that they watch, but doing it every once in a while can make a difference.

Make your children feel proud of their roots and language.

If you regularly speak to your children the importance of speaking two languages (especially Spanish), I think they will feel motivated to speak it. Talk to them about their roots, the beautiful culture they have, make them feel proud of their roots. It will always be a part of who they are, so why not take the time to show them the beauty of their culture?

Making sure that your kids can speak Spanish can seem daunting. There might not be a ‘how-to guide’ on teaching your kids a second language (there probably is), but the key is just surrounding your child with Spanish. Immerse them in their culture. Maybe you need to send them to some family for a few weeks or switching some movies to Spanish. Whatever route you do decide to take, stick to it. Consistency in anything helps, but more so when learning a second language.