Pine-Sol and Forest Bathing

Pine-Sol and Forest Bathing

Contributed by
Dr. Alicia La Hoz

To this day, when I smell Pine-Sol, I am taken back to the warm, welcoming feeling of being home. Coming back home from school to the fresh scent of Pine-Sol would alert me that my mother was busy cleaning that day.  The opened windows and cleanliness radiating from the tidy home made the impression that the house was not only clean but also that I had been purged of the dirt picked up from the day. The cleanliness of our home would somehow spread over me.

At first I couldn’t put my finger on it. This same clean feeling is what I have experienced during the monthly hikes my family and I have had. Our journey this year has been to take monthly hikes to State Parks. We have braved the rigid cold winter air, welcomed the spring breeze and basked in the warmth of summer. Recently, I ran into a video that nailed down the refreshing feeling felt after such hikes. It talked about forest bathing and how it is shown to boost energy, lower stress hormones, lower heart pressure, and reduce symptoms of depression.  Something about taking in the fresh oxygen and the oils emitted by the trees declutters the mind and refreshes the spirit.

With a heavy week full of to-do’s and decisions waiting to be made, the monthly hikes have become an opportunity to declutter my mind and body. Just like my mothers’ cleaning, the forest hikes are an opportunity to cleanse my spirit from the toxins picked up along life’s journey.   My family has learned that we could do more than what we thought we could, grown closer together, and even gotten quite a bit of exercise in. I even discovered how to just let go and have fun on a regular basis, which is important given my tendency to bury myself in my workload. Many goals lose their initial shine after the first month or two. This journey is just starting to reveal how glorious it is. So what are you waiting for? We are just at the midpoint of the year. Go ahead and take on the journey to explore your region’s parks and perserves; you will discover forests, trails and beaches that are within miles of your home and you will be pleasantly surprised at how good the experiences are for your mind, body and spirit.

Follow my journey with #Aliciasjourney and those of my colleagues with #journeys. For blogs, tips and ideas about life and relationships, follow us @familybridges.

#RichardsJourney: An Open Letter to my Elevator

#RichardsJourney: An Open Letter to my Elevator

Contributed by
Richard Lara

Dear Elevator,


Although we have had our highs and our lows, I feel like we are no longer on the same level. Every time we reach new heights you always complain about how much I push your buttons. You’re slow, lazy and never want to go out of your comfort zone. Your attitude just brought me down and because of that I have decided to pursue happiness elsewhere. It hasn’t taken long for me to start dating around.

I first met a Spanish gal named, Lera. Esca Lera. And let me tell you something, she is nothing like you. She motivates me to lift myself up and keeps me active. She’s quite strong and firm and always stands her ground. However, our relationship did not last long. Esca Lera would let anyone step on her and she never stood up against it. I tried helping her, but surprisingly, she was okay with getting stepped on. It was just a never-ending story with her. I just didn’t want the same to happen to me, so I left.

I continued the search for my other half. Days and nights passed as I sought after a partner. I ran and ran thinking my soulmate was miles away when in reality she was just around the corner. Although I only ran a 5K, it felt like I ran from LA NYC. And that’s when I met Giná.

I was lucky to find Giná Sio considering she’s Portuguese. I mean, what are the odds, right? I found that Giná is everything I was looking for. She’s social, active, self-motivated and always stays fit. She constantly encourages me to take on new challenges such as swimming, cycling, HIIT classes or yoga. I visit her about 3-5 days a week, and I always look forward to spending time with Giná Sio. She is my new addiction.

I’m sorry things could not work out between us, Elevator. But don’t beat yourself up because it wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t you, it was me.

Take care,




Follow my journey with #RichardsJourney and those of my colleagues with #Journeys2017

For blogs, tips and ideas about life and relationships, follow us @familybridges.

It’s not OK

It’s not OK

Contributed by
Sarah Pichardo

If you ever wonder what’s wrong with this world and this generation, just read a Cosmopolitan article, watch an MTV show, or take a look at Snapchat’s featured stories. I came across an article today titled, “I Love Dating My Married Boyfriend”. I kid you not. That’s the actual title…and that’s exactly what the article was about. Please, world, tell me that it’s not just me that sees something devastatingly wrong with that.

Here’s the thing. I know that there is a small percentage of people who think this is perfectly fine and that the rest of you do agree with me and do see something wrong with that.  And that we are just over here like, “For real though? What’s wrong with you?” That’s the bright side of this blog/rant. The not so bright side is that this is what media outlets are shoving down everyone’s throat – ALL THE TIME.

We’re becoming a desensitized people. Because the more you push the boundaries and limits, the more common and acceptable something becomes…the more you have to keep pushing boundaries until there’s nothing left to push.

Nothing is off limits. Everything is acceptable. There is no such thing as right or wrong.

When is enough, enough? I’m a bit saddened and concerned at where our culture will be in 20 years. A place with no moral objectivity.

There is no one who can influence your children more than you. Take advantage of it while you can. Talk to your kids about your beliefs and about what you expect from them. Teach them about right and wrong. Talk to them about relationships, sex, drugs, politics, religion, life. Don’t assume they will learn it on their own. If you don’t talk to them, they will learn things from their friends, from school and from what they read online and see on TV. And don’t just talk to them about it, but show it in your daily actions.

Not everything is OK. And it’s OK to say so.

For more blogs, tips and ideas about life and relationships, follow us @familybridges.

Want to Raise Great Kids?

Want to Raise Great Kids?

Contributed by
Bill Ferrell

Do you want to raise an emotionally deficient child? A child who questions their value and worth? Someone who seeks approval and love from others in unhealthy ways? A child who believes that they must find someone else to “complete them” because on their own they are incomplete?

If you do – you are sick and I would like you to hand your child over to me immediately.


However, I am assuming, that is not the case. Like most parents, you love your child(ren). However, all of us come into parenting unprepared. It is truly an “on-the-job” learning experience. Primarily our own Family Of Origin (FOO) experience informs our parenting paradigm. That can be both healthy and unhealthy. It all depends – and is usually a bit of both.


“That was how I was raised and I turned out alright” is not always the best parenting principle. Maybe your parents did a great job in raising you. Or maybe they were working out of some deficiencies in their own lives (like all of us) and they got some things right and they got some things wrong. That’s called “being human.” There is no value in “parent bashing,” – recounting all the things they did wrong.

However, it is important to know that two imperfect human beings (your parents) couldn’t help but pass on some of their imperfections to you. You can’t escape that. In addition, you probably picked up some imperfections all on your own. I know I did.

The important thing to know is that what we learned from our FOO probably is not enough. We need help. We need to be intentional. We need additional input and resources. We all do. One excellent resource is a book and podcast called The Struggle is Real. They are designed to raise extraordinary kids in the 21st century.


This brief blogpost is not enough to cover all the topics necessary in raising healthy children. However, there is one thing you can start doing today that can make a HUGE difference.

Tell your children, “I love you.”

Yes, I have the gift of stating the obvious. However, no matter how obvious this appears, children can’t hear this too much. Adults can’t hear this too much. Of the hundreds of people I have counseled over the years, a reoccurring issue among people in crisis relationships is that they rarely heard “I love you” from their parents.

Now, I am not saying these are magic words that will result in raising perfect children and healing all wounds. Of course not. (That’s why you need resources like The Struggle is Real). Words are not enough. There must be love in action to back them up. However, they are a start. And they can have a HUGE impact.


So today – tell your child, “I love you.” If you don’t have children – tell your parents, your spouse, a friend. We all need to hear it. Feeling loved is foundational to living an extraordinary life.

Let’s give that gift to our children and loved ones!

For more tips and ideas about life and relationships, follow us @familybridges.

When Life Gives You Lemons, You Make Lemonade

When Life Gives You Lemons, You Make Lemonade

Contributed by
Omaira Gonzalez

Recently my husband and I went for a long walk at a nearby forest preserve.  This was a new location for us, and we enjoyed exploring the nature around us.  After an hour or so we noticed that we had been walking in circles around the same spot!  We chuckled a bit as we couldn’t believe we never noticed that we kept passing the same bench or sitting area.  We began to search for a path that would lead us back on track to our car.

Our travelling plans have been somewhat of the same experience.  Our goal was to travel more this year; however, we have come across some paths that have kept us going in circles.  I call these paths the “unexpected,” like when life throws you a curve ball. However, as the saying goes “when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade,” and we have learned to make the best of these moments and grow from them. My husband and I started to think of creative ways to continue exploring and traveling without spending too much money.  We started to visit the Forest Preserves in our area each weekend.  I started to observe that many families go on these trails,  going on walks and picnics. We were so encouraged by this that we started to take our family on our trail walks to enjoy some quality time together.  It is free, great exercise, and you can bring a picnic basket with some of your favorite foods.

Though my husband and I did not anticipate the setbacks that we came across this year, we did learn that there are so many other ways to appreciate each other, spend quality time together, and save money.  We did schedule a vacation trip to one of destinations on our bucket list and we allowed ourselves enough time to pay it off, all we need to take with us is spending money.

We know that when it rains it pours, and we have learned to keep an umbrella nearby and to not be discouraged. Difficult times have given us incentive to look outside of the box for opportunities to create valuable experiences.

You can stay up to date with my journey on social media with #OmairasJourney.

For more tips and ideas about life and relationships, follow us @familybridges.

Success is a Few Steps Away

Success is a Few Steps Away

Contributed by
Eduardo Morales

I don’t think that I have ever heard someone say, “I want to be a mediocre student.” “I hope my investments perform lower than market standards this quarter.” Or “I want to go up to the plate and strike out.” No, people want to be a leader in their industry, see positive returns on their investments, have thriving relationships, and I believe all of us want to hit a homerun every time we step up to the plate. Why? We all have a desire to achieve and accomplish. In fact, I believe we like to be victorious. We enjoy that sense of achievement, that feeling we get from overcoming a challenge, no matter how big or small. Who doesn’t like crossing a finish line after training every day for 6 months, or receiving a diploma after studying hard for 4+ years?

We all want to be successful at something. I believe in order to achieve success we have to know what success looks like for us as individuals. We have to look at ourselves and define what success means to us because there are a lot of standards out there. Some believe success is making six-figures, earning a college degree, or starting a family. But what does success look like for you? How would you define success for your own life? If we are going to achieve any type of success, we have to understand that success starts with us.

Realize. How do you want to be remembered? Looking at the big picture helps us reverse engineer our daily decisions and actions so we can realize our vision.

  • Who am I as a person?
  • What am I good at?
  • What do I enjoy doing?
  • What am I passionate about?

I usually do this exercise with elementary school students, but I think asking ourselves these questions can be validating for people of all ages. I believe if nothing else, it gives us a better picture of ourselves. Furthermore, it then begs the question of “Where am I going?” Identifying who you are and where you want to go allows you to start developing goals and things you want to change. We all need something to run at, a destination to journey to. Whatever goal you may have, write it down.


  • What is it going to take for me to reach my goal?
  • What is my starting point? What am I measuring my results against?
  • What is your plan of action? We’ve often heard that “If there is no plan you plan to fail.” Without a destination in mind and a plan of how you will get there, you end up walking around aimlessly.

If you want to get fit, you have to set specific goals, like losing 10 pounds by cutting sugar out of your diet and going to the gym five days a week. By doing research and setting specific goals, you can start seeing wins that motivate you to keep going. Start small; some things can seem so insurmountable that they become overwhelming and cause us to freeze in our tracks. Once we freeze up, our ideas and dreams just sit on paper.

React. We know what we’re capable of. We know where we want to go and what it’s going to take to get us there. Set small, focused intentional goals that will build up to the bigger goal, and celebrate your small successes along the way.

But what can you do today to get to where you want to be? One of the biggest things that I would encourage here is to have a support system. Who are the people in your corner that are cheering you on? Family, friends, teachers, mentors…it’s important to have these people in your life. I would also say that with these support systems, you want to find people, whether directly or indirectly, that have achieved success in the area that you are looking to achieve. They can serve as examples of what to model. They can be there for encouragement when things get difficult. But seek out support.

How can you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How can you run a marathon? One step at a time. Achieving goals is a process, but one in which learning, growth, and ingredients for future success are developed. Go out and do some great things!

For more tips and ideas about life and relationships, follow us on social media @familybridges.

Running on a Dreadmill

Running on a Dreadmill

Contributed by
Ashley Reed

I hate running on treadmills to point where I have nicknamed them dreadmills. I love running outside. The feeling of the sun and the occassional breeze, the sound of my sneakers crunching on gravel, the serene feeling of running underneath a canopy of leafy trees. The treadmill may say that I have run 3 miles, but I don’t feel like I have run 3 miles. Listening to a music playlist, alternating between staring at the tv and watching the people lift weights in front me, just isn’t exciting. What makes a run is the little things – trying a new route, seeing a bright red cardinal flutter in the trees, and the feeling that you are making a journey. For my long runs, it is cool to reflect on all of the passed milestones – trotting past the coffee shop, sprinting under the spooky bridge, reaching your turnaround point – it feels like my mind, body, and soul all go through a simple pilgrimage together. The reason I run isn’t to fit into my skinny jeans or keep my heart healthy (although those are perks), I run because it is a meditative activity that I enjoy. It is a release from stress and anxiety, and I have never regretted a single run that I have done.

It is March, and Chicagoland is blanketed in snow. Running while bundled in layers, pushing against the wind, sounds scary. So I sweat in the indoors, complain about the treadmills, and dream of warmer temperatures. The hardest part of running isn’t the physical exertion, it is the mental will to keep going (in my opinion). I keep myself going by envisioning crossing my finish lines (I have a half marathon and full marathon coming up) and knowing that warmer runs are just around the corner.

Until Next Time.

Follow my journey at #AshleysJourney #journeys.

Helping Men Create a Better Marriage

Helping Men Create a Better Marriage

Contributed by
Bill Ferrell

Men are dense. I know. I am one.

I want to create something or some things that will help men have better marriages. By nature, men have a desire to lead, an appetite for competition, and a passion to conquer. This often results in advancing in their careers, doing amazing feats of athleticism, and solving global problems. (Disclaimer: Results will vary based on each individual man).
But men often suck in marriage. That’s why I wanted to go on this journey.
At first I wanted to write a book. And since the goal is for men – it had to be short, to the point, and easy to read. And maybe include some bazookas and hand grenades.

I also wanted to write a curriculum that men could go through in six weeks (short, but not too short). This would involve personal interaction with material, including assignments that they would do with their wives. They would share with each other about the results to get support and encouragement. Also, out of fear of looking like a slacker – they would be more inclined to follow through. Or not. That’s how passive we can be.

And so, I am setting time aside every day to research and write. I plan to survey men and women along the way to get their feedback. The length of the book and curriculum may change. I may modify the format. I am not sure what the final project will exactly look like. It is a journey in a direction, but I am not sure what I’ll find along the way. Or what the destination will be.

I just know it will be an adventure!

Follow my journey at #BillsJourney #journeys.

Spanish 101

Spanish 101

Contributed by
Frederick Ford Beckley

I’ve always wanted to learn another language. When my office, Family Bridges, talked about year-long journeys, I knew immediately it was the perfect opportunity to become fluent in Spanish. There’s more to this journey, however, than my own personal gain. Language is about communicating. At the end of this year, if my journey can help or motivate people like you to learn a new language, then that means it’s possible for more people to communicate. That to me is a wonderful thing.
Now, even though true fluency takes years of constant use to attain, I am sure that by the end of the year, I will be able to speak, read, understand, and be understood in Spanish, wherever I go. To that end, here are the things I have done so far to become fluent in Spanish:


This has been a very big help, but since I was in high school from 2002-2005, a lot of my knowledge has faded over time. I have a lot of work yet to do. I am refraining from signing up for immersion classes, for now, but I may have to soon if I want to progress. We shall see.


I have a Spanish desk calendar so that everyday I can learn a new word or phrase in Spanish. I’ve also bought dictionaries and phrasebooks to read in my down time.


I’m a big fan of Duolingo, the free language learning app. But now that I have conquered my duolingo tree, I have to get off of my phone and into the real world.

When I make social media posts about #freddiesjourney I make sure to translate them into Spanish. When I first write them in English, I do not limit my thoughts to what I know I can already say in Spanish. l do use Google Translate to prevent major mistakes, but I do not allow myself to use it beforehand, so that I can wean myself off of this crutch.

My co-workers are kind enough to surprise me with quizzes from time to time. So far I have had to translate text messages, teach a Spanish yoga class, and compete in a lip-sync karaoke challenge (Olvidame y Pega la Vuelta). I wonder what will be next …


First I tried watching TV shows I knew very well, like Arrested Development, in Spanish, but because of the accents of the actors and how quickly they were speaking, the show was too advanced for me. The simplest thing to do, it seemed to me, was start with a children’s show. I began watching episodes of Jim Henson’s Word Party (Fabuloso Vocabulario) on repeat. Now that I can understand everything being said in these episodes, intended for age 0-3, I have moved on to Blue’s Clues (Las Pistas de Blue), or if I’m really feeling bold, The Magic School Bus (El Autous Magico).

No matter what language you’re trying to learn, you can find out which shows Netflix has dubbed and/or subtitled in foreign languages here:

This is the most helpful and most frustrating thing I’ve been doing to improve my language skills. Almost all of my co-workers speak Spanish, so I have many opportunities to sit and listen. But if I really want to speak Spanish, I have to start talking too. Just today my co-workers made a rule that they will only speak to me in Spanish. I’ll be saying, “I don’t understand you” and “Can you slow down and repeat that please” a lot, but I anticipate this will help me most of all.

And that’s about it. I hope this has been helpful. If you’re bilingual, you can go ahead and read my translation below. I will be accepting corrections by email at, since I know it will not be perfect. Otherwise I will do my best to entertain and, hopefully, teach all my followers a thing or two over social media as I continue my journey to fluency!

Siempre he querido aprender una otra idioma. Cuando mi oficina, Lazos de Familia, habló de las jornadas que duran un año, supe inmediatamente que era la oportunidad perfecta a hacerme fluido en español. Sin embargo, hay más en este jornada que mi propio beneficio personal. La idioma es de la comunicación. Al final de esta año, si mi viaje puede ayudar o motivar la gente, como ustedes, a aprender una nueva idioma, entonces eso significa que es posible por más personas a communicarse. Eso para mí es una cosa maravillosa.

Ahora, aunque tener la verdadera fluidez requiere años de constante uso, estoy seguro que en el final del año, podré hablar, leer, entender, y ser entendido en español, donde quiera que vaya. Para ello, aquí están las cosas que he hecho hasta ahora a hacerme fluido en español:

Esto ha sido una ayuda muy grande, pero porque estaba en la escuela secundaria desde 2002-2005, mucho de mi saber se ha desvanecido sobre el tiempo. Ya tengo mucho trabajo a hacer. Me abstento de inscribirme en las clases de inmersión, por ahora, pero es posible que voy a tener que hacer esto si quero progresar. Vamos a ver.

Tengo un calendario español de escritorio para que todos los días puedo aprender una nueva palabra o frase en español. También he comprador los diccionarios y libros de los frases a leer en mi tiempo de inactividad.

Soy un gran partidario de Duolingo, la aplicación gratuita para aprender las idiomas. Pero ahora que he conquistado mi árbol de duolingo, tengo que bajar de mi teléfono y entrar el mundo real.

Until then,


Follow my journey on social media @familybridges with #FreddiesJourney #journeys #jornadas.

Going Back to School…. in Chiapas, Mexico!

Going Back to School…. in Chiapas, Mexico!

Contributed by
Barb Linek

Wow! Everybody knows that going back to school involves many new experiences. However, I think I took this to a whole new level by taking a course in San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico. I have only been to Mexico once before and that was many years ago for just one week. It was pretty is about all I remember. On that trip, I had virtually no contact with the local people, just the large group I was traveling with. This trip is a completely different experience. We are a small group, just five students, with a professor who has had a strong connection with Chiapas since 1994. So he knows everyone! We’ve been here for a week now, and we are exhausted. We have been all over town, day and night, visiting various organizations working for peace and justice.

Maybe Chiapas doesn’t ring a bell for you? It’s the state where a Zapatista uprising against the Mexican government took place in 1994 demanding human rights for the indigenous (native) peoples and justice for the poor. The many organizations we are visiting existed some years before that uprising because Bishop Samuel Ruiz, who served the Diocese of San Cristobal from 1960-2010, helped them get started. Just a few decades ago, indigenous people were not even allowed to enter the city of San Cristobal! The organizations are making progress but there is still a long ways to go. It is amazing to see all these groups working together to change the system or, in some cases, to create their own system to meet people’s needs.

What do I hope to learn from this experience in Chiapas? I’d like to know how to organize and empower the voiceless back in the Chicago area. On Sunday we visited Acteal, a small, very poor, indigenous community up in the mountains, 90 minutes drive from town. They don’t even speak Spanish but they were organized and fighting for their human rights for some years before they were attacked in 1997. The paramilitary killed 45 people, mostly women and children, while the police watched. In spite of, or maybe because of, this massacre, the people are still politically active, fighting for their rights. They also have a women’s collective that makes and sells beautiful embroidered clothing. I think that is a great idea. So many creative people in Chicago want to sell their own artwork or crafts but it might be more effective to work together and form a collective.

I think we have a lot to learn from the people of San Cristobal. We need to work together more to get things done! You’ve heard the saying, “Two heads are better than one?” Then what if you put ten heads together? Or twenty? I bet we could accomplish even more!

Follow my journey on social media @familybridges with #BarbsJourney #journeys.