Kill ’em with Kindness

Kill ’em with Kindness

By
José-Andrés Alegría

We’ve all heard it for the last few weeks. Wash your hands, social distance, and buy all the toilet paper you can, oh wait; no one said that last part and yet there seems to be a shortage.

In times of panic, we tend to go into some weird caveman-like survival mode where it’s eat or be eaten, but why? I’m not trying to get into some deep psychology of the human mind, but I see some of these videos of mobs at Walmart fighting over toilet paper, and I just feel sad.

In times like this, I think about a story I was told my whole life about my grandpa and grandma. Long story short, there once was a drought with no rain in sight, but one day my grandfather decided to put every pot, pan, cup, or thing that could hold water outside. Why? Because, obviously, it was about to rain even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. After much ridicule from his neighbors, the clouds came, and it poured for a few minutes. Instead of hoarding all the water, he collected, my grandfather gave the water to the people in the neighborhood – the same ones who were mocking him. He could have kept it all to himself but chose to share his abundance with those who were suffering.

It’s easy to be selfish. By nature, we are selfish creatures. It’s why we teach our kids to share. So when I got to see that same sense of community and sharing in action in my own life, it impacted me more.

I grew up in South Florida, so mass panic is nothing new. Watching neighborhoods prep for a hurricane is something that most people don’t get to experience. In comparison to the “every man for himself” mentality that we are experiencing right now, hurricane season always brought neighbors together.

During prep time, you did what you had to do to get ready, but you also helped the old lady down the street who lived alone and put up her shutters. You did it without anyone asking you to. You did it just because it was the right thing to do.

I’ve lived through plenty of hurricanes, but if I’m completely honest, I barely remember them. It rains so much in Florida that it all starts to blur together. But I will never forget Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Wilma. They hit Florida in 2005 about two months apart. Why do I remember them so much? Maybe it was the panic from everyone worrying about their houses and families. It was palpable in the air. I was only eight at the time, and if I could sense it, then I can only imagine what adults at the time were actually feeling.

But what stuck with me was what happened post-hurricane.

My house didn’t have power for three weeks post-Katrina. I don’t know if you have ever experienced Florida heat in August/September, but I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Out of the kindness of my neighbor’s heart, they ran an extension cord from their house across the street to ours. (They got power back almost immediately since there is a sewer pipe running under them.) It was nothing special, but it let us run a fan at night and probably a bunch of other small stuff I can’t remember. All I know is that the feeling of the fan turning on is still one of the most vivid memories I have.

I also remember playing basketball in the street with some of the kids in the neighborhood. Most of them were my cousins (we grew up on the same street), but there was just a mob of kids running up and down the street doing kid things. People were sharing food—some rice here, a potato there, some bottled water over there. A bunch of other things were collectively shared, so at a young age, I got to see a community come together.

I don’t want to take away or belittle the damage those two hurricanes did to Florida and other states, but that sense of community and having each other’s backs in times of crisis will forever be a part of who I am.

So how do I apply that very sense of community in a time where we can’t physically be near each other? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself during this quarantine. Maybe we can’t have barbeques with people popping by and catching up, but we still can be a community. Technology has kept us linked in this partitioned world we now live in.

How do we practice kindness in this quarantine?

I don’t think it needs to be some grand gesture like putting up someone’s shutters or giving away water to a community in dire need of some. No, I think it can be as simple as…

  • Buying a Starbucks gift card for your nurse, doctor or hospital-employee friend who is working hard to fight this virus
  • Thanking the grocery store workers who have been getting to the stores earlier than usual to clean and stock the whole store every day
  • Checking in on our elderly neighbors to see if they need help getting groceries or other necessities
  • Reaching out to some parents, you may know who are now locked in a room with their 3-year-old. They could probably use a couple of new toys or coloring books. Maybe even a bottle of wine for themselves.
  • Looking out for your extroverted friends, they are most definitely going crazy right now, so give them a call and check-in on them.

We may not be able to be in the same room as others, but thanks to technology, we can still stay connected. These are wild times with so many normals changing, but it doesn’t mean we have to change everything. So wash your hands, keep your distance, and show a little kindness.

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

Is it over yet? A few words for exhausted parents

Is it over yet? A few words for exhausted parents

By
Barb Linek

I’m sorry to say it’s not over yet. This virus seems to be tenacious and will take a while to get past. I’m sure that after a week or more of being stuck at home with the entire family 24/7, you’re tired. You’re doing more for your kids than ever—trying to be their teacher, playmate, referee, coach, and counselor—to say nothing of all the cooking and cleaning they require! Oh, and then you’re working from home on top of all that? I’m sorry. I’ll speak to your boss if you like. It’s too much!

Are you ready for an attitude adjustment? Let’s declare this pity party officially over. As a parent, you’ve been through hard times before. I bet you could name lots of difficult times you’ve overcome. Parents are tough! Here’s a disgusting example. My kids are now grown up and balding, but I distinctly remember the smell of one awful night when they were six and seven. They both started throwing up hot dogs after going to bed. Not only did the vomit get all over them and their beds, but it also covered the wall and floor next to their beds. I never thought I could clean up all that mess without getting sick from the revolting smell, but I got through it, and so did the kids (although I’ve never looked at hot dogs quite the same way since). And life goes on.

So how can you buck it up and smile your way through the coming weeks of 24/7 forced family togetherness? I have a few suggestions you can try and see what works for you.

Take care of yourself

You’ve heard the flight attendant say, “Put the oxygen mask on yourself first.” That’s critically important here. That means:

Sleep on a regular schedule

Sleep seven to eight hours a night. If you stay up watching movies until 2:00 AM, you won’t be happy to see your toddler bounce out of bed at 7:00 AM. Quality sleep makes the world a rosier place, I promise.

Get some exercise

Exercise is a great stress reliever. I know the gym is closed, but you can have a dance party with the kids. Go outside for a nice, long walk and look for signs of spring! Or find a yoga or pilates video on YouTube. Do something physical every day.

Don’t try to drink your problems away.

I’m not saying that a Friday night “Happy Hour” wouldn’t be nice, but find a better solution than alcohol for your daily pressures. (See “exercise” above.)

Eat something healthy

I know the kids want cookies and chips, but, as an adult, you know you won’t feel right eating anything but carbs all day long. Remember, protein, fruits, and vegetables make your body happy. Try to maintain a routine meal schedule to keep your body in sync.

Keep a gratitude journal

Nothing fancy, write down three things you’re grateful for each night. Ask your kids what they are thankful for, especially in these times. We have more blessings than we can count if we take the time to notice. Do you have clean running water? Do you have a partner who smiles and pitches in to help? Did the sun come out this morning? Did the baby learn a new word today? Maybe you’ll list more than three blessings per night!

Connect with others

Reach out when you’re having a really bad day. Everyone has days like that and needs help. The telephone is our lifeline right now! Call and vent to a friend, family member or pastor who is a good listener. Blowing off steam is really beneficial to your physical and mental health.

There is nothing wrong with admitting that your family is not doing well at the moment. The current situation is like nothing we’ve ever seen. Here’s a couple of 24/7 resources you can use. Call or text with someone who understands what you’re going through. Live chat is also available on most websites. All calls are completely confidential.

  • Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: text or call 1-800-422-4453 (English or Spanish). Or chat at childhelp.org
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline: call 1-800-273-8255 (1-888-628-9454 in Spanish). Or chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/
  • Domestic Violence Hotline: call 1-800-799-7233 (available in Spanish) Or chat at www.the hotline.org

Take care of others

Take a deep breath and smile! Now that you’re feeling a little more energized let’s take an outward focus. Instead of worrying so much about yourselves, talk to your kids about helping those in greatest need during these difficult days. Who is having a harder time than your family getting through this? What can you do—in a safe way—let them know someone cares? Even a small gesture will brighten the day of someone isolated and suffering from depression as a result.

  • Do you have a neighbor who is over 60 or has a health condition? Leave your name and phone number on a large note taped on their door or window (wherever they will be sure to see it). Maybe they need pet food, cleaning supplies, or someone to talk to. Or leave one of the kids’ drawings, a home-cooked meal, a magazine, or a bunch of flowers at their door. They might be interested in trying Netflix or organizing a Zoom meeting with friends if you can explain it by phone.
  • Check the website of a local nonprofit that serves the needy or homeless of your community. They may be looking for donations or volunteers for an urgent project. They may need someone to make phone calls. Contribute online if you can, as most nonprofits will need extra support at this time.
  • Call a relative you haven’t spoken to in a long time. Aunt Suzy may enjoy a video chat with your kids right now. Stronger family connections may be the best outcome of this whole situation.
  • Write a note or send one of the kids’ masterpieces to a friend from church, a coworker, or a grandparent who needs encouragement. No stamps? Check the USPS website to print postage or buy stamps from the 24/7 machine at the post office (and use your hand sanitizer after touching those buttons!).
  • Call another parent who’s stuck at home and ask how they’re faring. Listen to their concerns. Let them know they are not alone.

I’m sorry none of these is the magic cure capable of releasing you from your confinement, but I hope these suggestions help you refocus and shift to a more positive attitude as this virus runs its course. Maybe a friend has a better idea to help you weather this crisis with a smile. We are all in this together!

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

How to Manage Anxiety with the COVID-19 Crisis

How to Manage Anxiety with the COVID-19 Crisis

By

Erika Krull

If there’s ever been a time to take good care of yourself, it is now. Your health is a top priority. It’s normal to feel stressed and anxious with the COVID-19 crisis ramping up.

Nobody knows when things will go back to normal or when we will feel safe again. Stay focused on today and forgive yourself. We are all in this together.

Name that emotion

With everything happening, you may feel kind of sick inside. If you’re having trouble naming what you’re feeling, some of these descriptions may fit.

Anticipatory grief

Feel sad every time you look at the calendar? You are feeling anticipatory grief. This sadness comes over you as you realize you’ll lose something soon. Schools are closed and sporting events are canceled around the world. You feel sorrow about things you can’t do anymore.

Survivor guilt

The news is full of scary stories and alarming images of sick and dying people. If you have not personally been affected by the virus yet, you might feel a little guilty.

Being bored and inconvenienced is nothing like fearing for your safety. You may be thankful for your health and safety, but it may not feel that comforting.

Empathy overload

Watching the news is tough these days. Hearing about overloaded ERs and worried doctors can feel emotionally heavy. It’s hard to watch people suffer when you can’t do anything about it.

The most important thing you can do looks a lot like doing nothing. This paradox is tough to accept.

How to manage your anxiety

Whatever you are feeling right now is OK.

Worried, scared, bored, entertained, frustrated, confused, safe, relieved, restless, sad, shaken, determined: these feelings and more are normal.

Anything that makes you feel uncomfortable is probably based on anxiety right now. Try some of these tips now to relieve symptoms of stress and worry.

Get exercise outside if you can

The great thing about exercise is that you can do it almost anywhere. If the weather is nice and you have space, go outside. It’s amazing for you if you can do it safely. A walk in the fresh air will do wonders for your heart.

Your natural endorphins will pump through your body and boost your mood. The increased oxygen will turn your brain on. If you’re stuck indoors, get outside, lift some weights, a yoga mat, an exercise ball, or whatever you can manage.

Move around until you are breathing hard and feeling sweaty. This helps your body learn how to relax and is a great distraction.

Put the news into perspective

Most of the news from yesterday is terrible. A lot of the news later on today will probably also be terrible. There are some positive stories of communities coming together and protecting people. Sadly, those stories are a little harder to find.

There’s no good way to sugarcoat the current situation. But you can stay informed without drinking from a fire hose.

Check the news much less frequently than you normally do. If social media helps you feel connected, unfollow or mute any person or organization sharing lots of COVID-19 updates. Keep your channels positive and uplifting.

Keep a positive outlook

Looking at the news can wreck even the most optimistic among us. It’s tough out there, and there’s no way to know when things will improve. Still, you are 100% in control of your attitude.

Things may look uncertain and dangerous, but you can still bring positivity to the day. The secret is to focus on the present moment.

You can make your children smile right now. You can appreciate what your spouse does at home for work. You can talk to an isolated friend or older family member. Make a difference this moment and you can keep a more positive outlook every day.

Get some sleep

This is tough. The entire COVID-19 crisis is a scary and strange situation. It doesn’t even feel like reality. So getting regular quality restful sleep can be a reach some nights. Do the best you can.

Keep your normal bed times. Your family’s work/school schedule will get wacky and you won’t remember what day it is.

Do comforting things before bed.

  • Turn off social media or the news way before going to bed.
  • Take a warm bath after supper.
  • Breathe in slowly for 4 counts and breathe out for 4, doing that several times.
  • Read that novel you didn’t finish on your last vacation.

And if you can’t sleep, don’t beat yourself up. There are millions of people with the same problem right now.

You will get tired and fall asleep. Take a nap if you can. Otherwise, pour the coffee, get your day going, and try again the next night.

Eat healthy food

Every snack in the house is around the corner from your makeshift office. Resist the temptation to eat your feelings away. Yes, you can have snacks and treats. But make sure you use those precious grocery runs to buy some healthy foods.

Eating a balanced diet will help your emotions stay balanced throughout the day. Also, try to stick to regular meals. No one will judge your chocolate snack at 9:30 in the morning, but make sure you aren’t skipping meals.

Stay social

Don’t let social distancing keep you from your loved ones. When you feel anxious, your support network is more important than ever.

Video chat: If your loved ones are tech-savvy, do a video chat. You can’t hug them through Skype, but it’s the next best thing these days.

Texting: A quick “how are you?” text is an easy way to reach out. Everyone’s a little on edge, so a quick personal message is much appreciated.

Phone call: An old-fashioned phone is quick, easy, and everybody you know has a phone. You can visit with anyone from your 5-year-old niece to your 90-year-old great aunt.

Write a letter: Go old-school and practice your cursive with a handwritten letter. Combine communication and a creative outlet all in one shot.

See the opportunity

You’re likely stuck at home for who-knows-how-long. Everything can feel a little overwhelming. Use this opportunity to look for fun and creative distractions right under your nose.

  • Look for little projects and home adventures you’ve never had time for.
  • Feel the satisfaction of cleaning out a disorganized bathroom cabinet.
  • Do the 1000 word puzzle you got for Christmas.
  • Find old family videos and re-watch them.
  • Become a master of Monopoly.
  • Pick up an old hobby you haven’t done in a long time.

Who knows, one of these activities may bring the joy you hadn’t expected to find.

How do you manage anxiety?

You have some tried-and-true ways of picking yourself up when things look down. Tell us, what do you do to pick up your spirits? How do you calm yourself when the world around you feels crazy?

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

9 Tips on Dealing with Uncertainty from the Coronavirus

9 Tips on Dealing with Uncertainty from the Coronavirus

By
Erika Krull

The coronavirus crisis is changing our world. One day has more news than you can read or digest. What will work be like today? Will my child’s school close this week? Will someone I love become very sick?

There’s no easy answer for what tomorrow brings. But you can take each day and learn how to live with the changes. You aren’t alone, and it’s normal to feel a lot of stress right now. 

How will you cope today, let alone tomorrow? Does anyone know what real life is anymore? Maybe not, but you can still get through it with a little help and sound advice.

School activity changes

Your daughter has been asking about her graduation party. Your son talks about his soccer and baseball games. Your parent friends wonder about the school carnival coming up in May. Now what?  

A few weeks ago, your family calendar showed so many fun things in the months ahead. Now it looks uncomfortably empty. Should you erase the big soccer tournament from its weekend time slot? Or leave it there, but not mention it?

COVID-19 is a true health emergency. It is serious and the big changes we’re all going through are important. Safety comes with a lot of change. Sometimes it’s too much change to believe. 

How to cope with this:

Name that feeling

Noticed a strange ache in your heart the last few weeks? It’s probably grief. With grief can come many other feelings like anxiety, sadness, anger, and yearning. 

You are feeling a lot of loss with your family and with the entire world. These losses are real. It’s OK for you and your family to feel sad about the baseball games, speech meets, and school picnics that may or may not happen.

Feel your grief

Be upset and feel sad. Know that emotions move through you. Feel what you feel and let it pass. Another emotion will move in. You won’t always feel sad. You can find happiness today and the next day too. 

Hold on to hope

You and your family will get to have fun things on the calendar again. It may not feel like it, but this is a temporary situation. It’s hard to say when things will get better, but they will. Have faith that life will open up again and you will feel relief. 

Financial uncertainty

Don’t look at any of your investment accounts right now. Don’t even think about it. The ups and downs of the stock market have been dizzying lately. 

You may have had your hours cut at work. You might know someone who’s been laid off or put on leave. Or you may be one of the millions of small business owners wondering what your financial future is.

There’s no doubt the entire world is facing financial uncertainty. Communities of all sizes are trying to keep their economies going. What does this mean for you? A lot of questions with few answers. 

How to cope with this:

Look at your finances today

What kind of budget do you work with? Is it fairly tight or do you have some wiggle room? Spend what you must but try to reserve some savings. 

Buy a few more groceries each week to build up a surplus. But don’t blow your budget. The extra money you save now can help if your job is affected later on.

Don’t make emotional money decisions

It’s much easier to make bad choices when you’re emotional. Emotions aren’t right or wrong. They just don’t use logic. 

Feel like cashing out your retirement account and putting it in the bank? Are you doing a little too much retail therapy to make you feel better? Neither one is a good idea. 

Fear can be a bad decision-maker. Don’t let it be in charge of your wallet.

Talk to a financial advisor

Speaking of emotions, this might be the right time to get help from a financial advisor. These are difficult times, especially if you don’t have a financial plan. 

An advisor can help you make choices with a professional viewpoint. They can guide you through these rough times with solid advice.

Work changes

The working world is anything but normal right now. Companies of all sizes face a big challenge. They need to keep people working and keep their workplaces safe.

You may be one of the millions adjusting to a work-from-home life. Most likely, you had a few day’s notice, maybe a week if you were lucky. 

Suddenly, everyone’s learning to use online meeting apps like Zoom and Skype to keep in touch. A lot of kitchen tables have quickly become makeshift offices. Kids, spouses, and pets are new (and noisy) coworkers.

Medical workers, grocery store clerks, and rescue workers are on the job, even with the risk of getting sick. And, if you are less fortunate, you may be very unsure if you’ll even have a job for long. 

How to cope with this:

Working from home

Stay in touch with your employer and understand your options. Working from home may be safer, but can also be frustrating. Find a space in your home with some quiet. 

Understand you will be interrupted. Some days will go well, and others won’t. Give yourself a break. Many at-home workers are struggling right along with you.

Parenting tips for online school

If you have school-age kids, your kitchen is their new classroom. And you may become a part-time volunteer teacher. Teachers will do the best they can to help your kids finish the school year. But nobody expects the last several weeks to be perfect.

Do the best you can and forgive yourself a lot. Try to follow some kind of schedule, but don’t be too strict. Take breaks from school time. Step away before you or your kids get upset. 

Keep plenty of snacks on hand and encourage recess for everyone, including you.

Working in a higher-risk environment

Depending on your job, you may be required to go into work. You may need to do extra things to keep yourself safe, both at work and when you come home. 

Create a routine to clean up and change clothes. Take extra care of your stress levels and sleep. You may feel more anxiety because of the extra risk you take at work. Talk to loved ones if you feel overwhelmed. Your work is important right now.

Dealing with uncertainty

When life is uncertain, just breathe. That may sound too simple to really work. But when everything feels out of control, keep it simple. Focus on the things you can manage yourself. 

You can exercise, control your breathing, choose what you eat, and focus your mind. Put your attention on these things now. Stay connected with your loved ones. Take care of yourself. 

These actions won’t solve today’s crisis. But they will help you make the best of today. 

How can you help your family and neighbors? 

Tell us your parenting tips for doing online school. Share how you work from home around your spouse and kids in the comments below.

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

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Erika Krull is a mental health writer with a master’s degree in counseling. She has worked with families and individuals in a variety of therapy settings. She has also been writing for a variety of mental health and wellness websites since 2006. Erika lives in central Nebraska with her husband, dog, and her three daughters

Stuck At Home? Now What?

Stuck At Home? Now What?

By
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.

Re-calibrate

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.

Play

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.

Read

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.

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

5 Fun Date Ideas

5 Fun Date Ideas

By
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.

TOP 5 DATE IDEAS ACCORDING TO TYLER

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.

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

New Beginnings

New Beginnings

By
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.

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

Fear is the mind-killer

Fear is the mind-killer

By
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?

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

Learning to Compromise

Learning to Compromise

By
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.

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

Crossing the Finish Line

Crossing the Finish Line

by
Omaira Gonzalez

My husband and I joined a 5K walk/run. We were pretty excited that we were going to do this together and also that it was for a good cause. However, that day when we woke up the sky was gray, it was cold and raining. Neither of us had much motivation to go out there and run, but we decided to get bundled up and got ready to participate anyway. We headed out there and joined the rest of the many people who, like us, decided not to let the Chicago weather stop them.

This 5K made me reflect on how my husband and I first came together and decided, “Hey let’s get married.” Since then, we joined a marathon called marriage. When we first started this race, it was so exciting! We dreamed of a lifetime of happiness, sunshine and rainbows. We geared up for our race, put on our best running shoes, and made sure we each had our water bottles to keep hydrated from time to time when things felt dry in our relationship. Get ready, get set, go! We were ready! Until the day a gray cloud in the sky called “differences” appeared. I mean, we knew we were different. He is guy and I am girl; we liked different stuff. But I am talking about the kind of “differences” that get under your skin. Funny thing is that they are usually the subtle stuff that always gets to you. For example, you are neat, he is messy; he wants to watch sports all day long, and you, well, not so much; one procrastinates, the other wants it done now; one is a spender and the other wants to save it all; one wants to talk about their feelings and the other one doesn’t listen. While these scenarios may seem silly or perhaps not so silly, it builds up in your relationship, and your race together feels like you are running under gray skies, light showers and sometimes a thunderstorm. You see less of the sun because the cloud of differences is now over your race. This can be very frustrating and discouraging, and you get fatigued in the middle of your race when faced with challenges. You start off very excited and with a goal in mind to cross the finish line. But how do you continue a race when you are not as motivated as you were when you first started?

As my husband and I were entering into our last mile, we became tired and fatigued. The cold weather and rain did not help us at all, and we started to get discouraged. I felt like this last mile was weighing me down, when my husband looked at me and said, “We are almost there, we got this. Let’s cross this finish line together,” and then offered me his arm. I grabbed his arm and found the support I needed to finish our last mile. At that moment it didn’t matter how I was feeling or what kind of weather we were facing. I was just happy that I had him by my side to finish this race as a couple, just like when we first started.

In marriage you will have your differences and your own experience weathering difficulties and unexpected challenges. Yet, in all of my 30 years of marriage, what I have discovered most about staying in this marathon called marriage is that it’s not so much about how to weather the storm, but it’s about how to motivate each other to stay in the race and cross the finish line.

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


Omaira Gonzalez is the COO for Family Bridges. Omaira and her husband of 30+ years love adventure, long walks and Broadway shows. With their kids, granddaughter and granddogs, they enjoy great meals and playing board games. But look out–losing is not an option!