Healthier Eating

Healthier Eating

By
Erika Krull

How healthy is your diet right now? If you’re like many families, you’re probably doing a lot of mindless eating these days. The potato chips and bags of cookies disappear faster than you can say, “What’s for dinner?” It’s understandable, given the stress caused by everything going on. Everyone’s a little on edge and eating right now is a universal human comfort.

So how do you improve your family’s diet without causing a riot in the kitchen? Is it even possible right now?

Yes, you can help your family eat healthier this week. It’s easier than you think, but it takes some planning. Grocery shopping has become an adventure, so don’t rely on picking things up at the last minute. With some help from your family and a little time, you can gradually bring healthy foods into your routine. This guide will help you make a plan and get your family on board.

Meal Planning

Planning ahead makes everything easier to handle. If you aren’t used to making a list, try putting a sheet of paper on your fridge and inviting your family to write things down when they run out or think about something to add. Your list can create itself as the week goes on. Consider saving your list from the previous week so you can add things you’ll need again soon with less effort.

Along with a list of items to buy, create a list of meals to make in the next few weeks.
Here are a few ideas for keeping the troops happy at home.

  • Try new recipes – With more people at home, it’s a great time to try some new recipes. It’s a good distraction and you’ll have something fun to look forward to.
  • Bring out some family favorites – Comfort food is a good thing right now. Sprinkle them throughout your meal plan so you don’t have several heavy or similar meals all in a row.
  • Carryout – If you choose to add carryout meals to your plan now and then, adjust your grocery shopping to account for the expense and leftovers.
  • Stretch your supplies and budget – Find ways to stretch more expensive ingredients by mixing them with rice, beans, potatoes, and other starchy foods.
  • Cook in batches – When you make taco meat for tonight’s meal, consider making enough meat for another meal or two at the same time. It may take a little longer now, but you’ll appreciate the convenience on a day you don’t have much energy.

Snacking is OK

Snacking is more than OK right now. In fact, you should encourage and embrace it. Snacking doesn’t have to equal junk food or ruining your dinner. Here’s a shortlist of ways snacking can be great for your family.

  1. You can add nutritious foods throughout the day – Have containers of cut fruits and vegetables, cheese, whole-grain crackers, nuts, hummus, and other finger foods available.
  2. It’s a good excuse to get up and walk around – It’s OK to admit that you get distracted during the work or school day at your house. Stand up, get some brain food, and get your blood pumping again.
  3. Everyone’s schedule is a little crazy – With more people working and learning from home, daily schedules are getting more flexible. Snacking can help fill the gap when someone’s activities don’t line up with normal meals.
  4. Snacking can keep your energy going throughout the day – Fight off brain fog between meals by having a small snack. The shot of calories and quick energy will keep you going until your next meal.
  5. Treat yourself once in awhile – Indulgent snacking is OK once in a while. Make healthy snacks the rule, but be ready to have some favorite fun snacks around, too. Especially now, when many fun things are on hold, a splurge food can feel like a real treat.

Boredom and Emotional Eating

Snacking is a good thing when you pay attention to your body’s needs. But many people eat for emotional reasons instead of hunger. When you head to the fridge or pantry, ask yourself if one of the following three things are happening:

  • Boredom
  • Poor sleep
  • Stress/Emotional eating

If you can answer “yes” to any of those three problems, step away from the food.

It may be tempting to eat your feelings away, especially with the stress and uncertainty in the world now. But finishing that container of ice cream or eating the whole bag of chips will only add to your problems. You’ll have stress and a stomachache.

Instead of snacking, try to address the real problem. Do some deep breathing to relieve stress. Lie down and close your eyes for five minutes if you feel tired, or do jumping jacks to wake up. If you’re bored, give in to the distraction and daydream for a few minutes.

If you still feel like snacking, after all, you can never go wrong eating more fruits and vegetables. So if you decide to eat your stress away, aim for the fresh produce drawer in your fridge.

Make Small Healthy Changes to Your Diet

Healthy eating is important, but avoid making too much change at once. Adjusting to change is surprisingly hard work, especially when the time frame gets longer and longer.

At this point, food is one of the few pleasures many people have left. Even if your family’s diet isn’t the best, it’s at least familiar. Take it slow and think of a few ways you could improve your eating habits.

Keep these things in mind: your family’s emotional attachment to food and the need to introduce healthier choices. You can blend these together without shaking things up too quickly. Here are a few ideas:

  • Get everyone involved – Let your family choose the weekly menu, and suggest a few healthier side items like fresh-cut apples or salad.
  • Lighten up family favorites – Make or purchase a few favorite items, but find ways to substitute ingredients or serve healthier sides.
  • Squeeze in more fruits and vegetables – If your family resists fruits and vegetables, dress them up with a little butter, sauce, or fancy dip. Over time, you’ll have an easier time serving them with or without the extras.

Healthy Eating Habits

You and your family may be like many people falling into unhealthy eating habits right now. Don’t sweat it – healthy eating doesn’t need to add stress to an already stressful situation. Take small steps of change and keep food enjoyable.

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

Keeping the Family Peace – Healthy Relationships during COVID-19

Keeping the Family Peace – Healthy Relationships during COVID-19

By
Erika Krull

The coronavirus has you and your family cooped up right now. You know it’s important to be safe, but how much of each other can you really take day after day?

While it’s great to have family time, most families don’t spend this much time together. Being together 24/7 is only fun for so long. So how do you get through the day without going after each other’s throats before noon? Learn some tried-and-true methods for getting along.

The struggle is real, friends. And the COVID-19 situation will be around for a while. Make the best of your time together and take the following tips to heart.

1. Expect some friction

You can expect a little more friction with everyone being in the house all day. Everyone’s feeling stress and it’s normal, but it can get a little frustrating. You, your spouse, and your kids need to know how to handle conflict without making the situation worse.

A little extra forgiveness can go a long way. Remind yourself that nobody asked to be in this situation and assume everyone is trying their best to get along. If your disagreement gets heated, be the first to step away and take a break. Return when you can speak calmly so the issue gets resolved.

2. Put extra effort into communication

Good communication is more important now than ever in your home. Problems are everywhere and it’s easy to feel trapped. If you have bad communication habits, this is a great time to put in some extra effort and improve them. Here are a few helpful ideas:

  • Be honest about your personal and emotional needs. You and your spouse can do a better job supporting each other when you both share your thoughts openly.
  • Be intentional about disagreements. Instead of allowing tempers to flare, set aside a little time to talk through the problem.
  • Take turns venting to each other without interruption. Listen to understand, not to respond.

3. Stay socially connected with others

While we’re all in our homes and staying socially distant, it’s easy to feel isolated and overwhelmed. That’s why it’s so important to stay in touch with loved ones, even if you can’t be together physically. When you and your spouse feel connected to others, it takes the pressure off your relationship.

Use these ideas to reach out and stay in touch with others.

  • Make phone calls, send texts, or send emails.
  • Surprise someone with a personal card in the mail.
  • Take a walk while socializing on the phone.
  • A group video call is a great way to reconnect. Since people are often home now, you may have an easier time getting people together.

4. Make self-care a priority

Self-care may seem like a luxury you don’t have time for. In reality, self-care is about paying attention to our physical and emotional needs every day. With stress and uncertainty on the rise, self-care is essential. You’ll get along with your spouse better and you’ll have more in your tank for your kids.

  • Do your best to get sleep. Emotional stress can be just as tiring as physical stress. Find ways during the day to rest if you can’t sleep well all night.
  • Make healthy food choices. It’s OK to enjoy some snacks but try to serve balanced meals regularly. Your body will feel better with healthier foods.
  • Drink plenty of water. It’s easy to forget about drinking water until you’re thirsty. Keep ahead of it by filling a pitcher of drinking water and challenging yourself to drink it all day. Your body can become dehydrated before you realize the problem.
  • Find some peace and quiet. Everyone needs alone time and having a full house all day can make that a challenge. Work with your spouse so you can each count on some alone time at least a few times each day.

5. Be extra forgiving and show empathy

Not everyone in your house may handle the current social restrictions well every day. Everyone needs a little extra forgiveness and empathy right now. Home school and work-from-home arrangements can be challenging. Also, anyone with a current or emerging mental health issue may feel worse.

Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes and really listen when they talk about their concerns. Ask what you can do to help, then take a turn sharing with them. Practice empathy with your children as well. Encourage them to talk about their concerns and how they are adjusting.

6. Practice gratitude

Practice gratitude every day to keep your spirits up. Doing this doesn’t discount the seriousness of the situation. It allows you to remember all the positives in your life, despite the changes you’re facing.

Our brains latch on to whatever we spend a lot of time with. We see what we look for. Train your brain to look for more positive things around you and remember everything that is still good in the world.

7. Get creative with couple time

You and your spouse still need couple time, pandemic or otherwise. You’ll need to get creative to stay safe and have fun, but it can be done. You may or may not have privacy with kids in the house, but the idea is to plan something together. For any suggestions outside your home, please keep your local restrictions and requirements in mind. Keep the spark alive!

Inside the house:

  • Have a movie marathon with favorite movie treats
  • Play a board game or card game.
  • Be affectionate even if it’s just for a few minutes
  • Cook a meal together when it’s just the two of you.

Outside the house:

  • Drive around the neighborhood or near a park.
  • Some areas have local outdoor attractions that can be enjoyed while staying in your vehicle like a cruise night, town parade, or a nature center.
  • Take an evening walk.
  • Have a picnic in your backyard.

8. Remind yourself this situation isn’t normal

We’ve been living in a strange world for a while and many things have changed. Change is hard work and it takes a lot of mental and physical energy. We could still be in for several ups and downs before things level off.

Some people may never quite get used to the new normal. Even when it feels like Day 1,296 under social restriction, we’re all still adjusting. Give yourself a break every day.

Keep More Family Peace at Home

You and your family members are going to spend a lot of time together for a while. Sometimes you’ll love it, and other times you’ll hate it. Through it all, you can help your family find some peace in the chaos.

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

Dealing with Anxiety in Moments of Panic

Dealing with Anxiety in Moments of Panic

By
Dr. James Hommowun

We’ve all experienced moments of anxiety – from the nagging question “did I leave the oven on?” to fears over whether we’ve studied enough to pass a test or concerns about how that contract negotiation is going to go. We know the changes we experience – sweaty palms, shallower breathing, feeling jittery or nervous, thoughts racing, feeling like our minds are “stuck in a rut” and just won’t let go of whatever it is we’re anxious about.

Many of us, through personal experience or good education, have found ways to deal with these symptoms, to recognize anxiety as it is coming on and consciously act to reduce its impact, through techniques like deep breathing, muscular relaxation, creative visualization, or many others.

But what about panic? Most of us have experienced panic as well. It’s like anxiety, but kick it up to eleven. It’s coming home at 9 p.m. and realizing your four-year-old child isn’t in the house. It’s getting the news that a family member has been in a violent car crash. It’s hearing that you have cancer. It’s that feeling like the floor – no, the world itself – has dropped out from under you, you’re in free fall with no idea when or if you’ll ever touch down and feel stable again. Surely this calls for more than just “taking a deep breath,” right?

Yes… and no. It’s important to realize that panic is a natural, normal, and effective phenomenon. It is our bodies and minds working together in a beautiful sympathy to mobilize all our available resources to survive a perceived life or death threat. It’s not much fun to experience, but it has a definite purpose, and it does it well. And when the threat is, say, escaping a rabid wolf, it gives you a much better chance of survival.

In our examples above, if you come home and your child is missing, it’s going to drive you to go out and holler at the top of your lungs and check all around the house for any place they may have wandered – and that’s precisely what you should do, at least at first. But a car accident? A cancer diagnosis?

Panic is not particularly well-suited to inspiring or enabling us to survive an already-passed crisis or a diffuse threat. In the case of the accident, we might speed all the way to the hospital, running every red light – but that doesn’t change what happened, it only increases our risk of not surviving ourselves. With a cancer diagnosis, we may have no idea what to do. So we let the panic come out sideways, living dangerously or irresponsibly, trying to escape or deny the reality.

What steps can you take when panic comes knocking?

1. Force yourself to pause

Yes, it is forcing – you’ll just want to react and won’t have time to stop or think; those things will only get in the way of doing something!. You need to determine if there is an action you can take that can potentially make a difference.
Looking for a missing child? Yes! Go do it. Racing to the hospital? Nope. Your brain won’t particularly care if the action is likely to work – you just need to do. But if you can recognize that an action won’t help – and may make the situation worse – you have taken the first step to manage panic. That first step is recognizing that the panic is only making things worse.

2. Identify actions that may help

You will be fighting your instinct this whole time. This is where taking a deep breath can help – and you can literally just take a deep breath (or three, or five), mentally counting down five to one with each. Some people find it is helpful to give themselves a pressure release valve – “I’m going to give myself 10 seconds just to be panicked, then I’m reining this in.”
Make yourself think of at least three different courses of action you could take and compare them all to each other. Decide which has the best likelihood of making a positive impact and do that one first. You may come back and do all three, and think of even more, but taking the time first to raise three options and then weigh among them re-engages the analytical, logical parts of your brain that panic shuts down. This helps move you out of panic and back into a more balanced state.

3. Act

You’re panicking in the first place because you perceive a serious threat – so you need to take an action to try to change the situation. That action may be active – looking for a missing child – or it may be passive – wait for more information about my diagnosis and study the literature to become better informed about what to expect and how to manage. It may be just to hit your knees and allow that the situation is out of your control and put your trust in a higher power.

As all-consuming as panic is at the moment, it is not sustainable. It will pass. But taking a moment to reassess and act consciously instead of reacting from your gut can help put you in a better place to continue managing and responding to developments after the panic has faded. And addressing it well once makes it that much easier to do again when the situation feels like it’s spiraling out of control all over again – as they often do. It’s normal to panic more than once over the same problem – but it’s also normal to get better and better at responding as each success builds on the last. Don’t give up hope, and don’t dwell on that feeling that “things will never be okay again.” It’s hard to endure panic – but harder still when it leads to despair. Remember to force yourself to pause, identify actions that may help, and act.

As always, thanks for reading; stay safe, stay connected, and feel free to comment down below!

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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

By
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.

Stronger Together

Stronger Together

By
Delany Castañeda

Is your family okay with him? Is his family okay with you? Do you guys get stared at when in public? Is it weird being around a different culture? These are the kinds of questions I get all the time from people who find it interesting that I am in an interracial relationship. At times it can be frustrating, but I have learned to take it as an opportunity to educate others on topics like these. For many people, this is entirely new, and it is something they haven’t seen or experienced up close, and that is okay. I will answer those questions in a little, but I want to start by sharing a little bit of my story.

My Story

When I was little, I found it fascinating to be around different cultures. My first language was Spanish, and for many people, it may be a surprise since it is the language I use the least, but it was! When I began first grade, I only knew the basics of English, and I was in an all English-speaking class where I was pretty much forced to learn English all on my own. I was the only light-skinned person at my school. Quickly, many aspects of my life were affected by a culture new to me. I was surrounded by an African American culture for many years of my life growing up, and it is something that made me feel at home, although I’m Mexican. From a very young age, I began to be very fascinated by the talents, and abilities I felt their culture carried as a whole. Although there were a strong call and desire in me to know the entire world and I wanted to understand all kinds of cultures, there was always a connection in my life that drew me close to this specific culture since it was a massive part of my upbringing.

How We Met

Fast forward to the recent years of my life, I met my boyfriend, Aaron, when I was in High School. He is African American, and I am Mexican American. Ironically, we had French class together. He was a football player, and I was super shy. The only times we spoke were when he was making jokes with my best friends, and I would find them funny and laugh. So, in other words, our direct communication was very slight. Never in a million years did I think that four years after high school we would begin dating, but hey I guess that’s life, right? You never know what is in store for you in the future. When he graduated, he went off to the Navy, and I went away for college in Arizona. It was two completely different worlds. When I began college, I had the opportunity to travel the world and allowed myself to emerge into different cultures. Some cultures were harder to adapt to than others. The differences in cultures were night and day. If I learned anything from my experience of meeting people from all over the world, it was that even if I can’t understand the language someone speaks, the language of love is the strongest one. I was graduating from college while he was finishing his time in the Navy, but the crazy part is we both were coming home at the same time.

Although we thought we had so many differences, we were utterly wrong. In reality, our worlds were similar. Too similar. We both traveled the world and adapted to life in other countries for long periods. We both shared similar passions and dreams. We had common goals and values. Most importantly, we both had a dedication to our families. We were both in a transitional season where we were building our lives to accomplish dreams bigger then we could ever process. Through so much uncertainty, we were undoubtedly for each other, and that was beautiful.

Our Experience

You would think that because it is 2019, an interracial relationship wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but for many people, it is still mind-blowing. Although we have managed to stand up for ourselves and decide not to care what people think, there are still days where we wonder why it is such a big deal. Although we come from different backgrounds and have different shades of skin color, and it is so apparent to everyone around us, we forget! We don’t pay attention to those differences, and many times we wish others wouldn’t either. I would say our biggest learning struggle as a couple would be learning the different ways our families communicate with each other. In his family, there seems to be an understanding, even if something isn’t explicitly explained all the way. In my family, there is an over-explanation of stuff. Sometimes to him, it’s confusing when I over-explain myself, and for me, it can be frustrating when there is not enough of an explanation. Although at times, this can be frustrating, we have learned to laugh through the differences and enjoy the ride by simply trying our best to adapt to each other and understand each other’s backgrounds. In those cases, it isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault, but it’s just the way things are, and it takes some time to get accustomed. It has been both challenging and loads of fun figuring out what our world will look like from now on. We get to decide, and that is the best part!

So, to answer the questions I mentioned at the beginning, we have experienced close-minded people with insensitive comments. We have experienced the staring everywhere we go. We have experienced our races judging our relationship and wondering why we won’t just date within our same race. We have experienced challenges when it comes to adapting to each other’s cultures and ways of living. There is a language barrier. There are mean people out there. BUT…. We do have supportive families. We have acquired different perspectives. We have found a supportive community. We have learned to live our lives boldly together. We know where we are going together. We have found ways to guard our hearts. Through every challenge, there has been beautiful growth. We wouldn’t have it any other way, and through struggle and pain, we have become stronger together.

Tips

Love communicates across all barriers. I honestly believe that it takes a special kind of calling in your life to integrate yourself into a new culture because it does take selflessness and lots of willingness. Here are some characteristics I believe are super crucial when you decide to date someone outside of your race:

1. You must have an open mind. Being welcomed into a different culture means you need to have an open mind to things you have never seen or experienced before. Not everything will be exactly how you expect it to be, and that needs to be okay.

2. You must have a desire to learn. There will be many things to be learned when dating someone out of your race, such as language, foods, ways of living, ways of dressing, and traditions. Learning is a skill that we need to be ready to acquire because at the beginning; it really will be all about learning. Asking questions to your partner is the perfect place to start.

3. You must be willing to step outside of your comfort zone. There will be plenty of things out of your comfort zone from customs in how people communicate to trying foods you never thought you would! When you are willing to step out of your comfort zone, you genuinely grow and perhaps even find new things to love and enjoy along the way.

4. You must be adaptable. Not everything will be easy. Some things will be overwhelming, and some may be scary. Maybe you won’t agree with everything, but having an adaptable spirit makes everything easier. Learning about a different culture requires some effort and the ability to adapt outside of your comfort zone.

Tales from the Melting Pot

Tales from the Melting Pot

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Hybrid Culture
By: Ashley Reed-Simpson

My dad grew up in New Jersey. My mom grew up in the Dominican Republic. They both moved to Florida when they were in their late teens, met, married, and had three children.

Like many other kids in the melting pot of South Florida, I grew up in a “hybrid culture,” that combined elements of my dad’s upbringing with that of my mom’s. What did this intertwined culture look like daily? It was eating a warm bowl of sancocho with sliced avocado after church on a Sunday afternoon while watching the football game with my dad. It was learning how to cook rice on a stovetop pan. (And not buying a rice cooker until I moved out and realizing that I could only cook rice in my family’s decades-old “rice pot.” (Any other pot would lead to burned rice!). It looked like dressing up for every event that we attended “as a family” – casually dressing was for home and exercise, nothing else.

How did this upbringing influence me today? While not fluent in Spanish, I am proficient enough to help out when I see that a native Spanish-speaker is having difficulty communicating with a sales clerk. Athleisure is a clothing style that I reserve for when I am at home or exercising. I prefer to be “put together” when I go anywhere else. A prime example is the annoyance I feel at those who go to the theatre in hoodies and jeans. Put in some effort! Also, my home is not “really clean” until every surface has been wiped down and the floors smell like Pine-Sol. De-cluttered does not mean clean!

As I’ve grown older, I’ve met more people like me from mixed cultural backgrounds who share the strange predicament of not fully belonging to either culture that raised us. We can cook our parent’s ethnic food, but we are not proficient in the language. We grew up assimilated to American culture, but with strong influence from one parent’s “mother” culture. Some of the things that we see our “All American” peers do leave us slack-jawed (i.e., talking back to parents without receiving a swift slap with a chancleta). Don’t get me wrong; I am proud of my upbringing, and the values that came along with it. I feel like those of us who grew up in a “hybrid household” are shown a different worldview than those from homogenous homes. And in turn, make us more empathetic and open-minded.

Do you speak Spanish?
By: Kristina Reed

“Do you speak Spanish?”
a. Yes
b. No
c. It’s complicated

On the surface, this is a simple yes or no question that should require little thought to answer. However, for most of my life, my answer has been far from simple. I want to apologize to those poor souls who were trying to make small talk when they asked, only to endure an inevitably long-winded presentation of my family history and upbringing.

You see, a few decades ago, my Dominican mom and American dad made three ethnically ambiguous kids and raised us at the intersection of two cultures. This fusion of cultures means that I associate both mac and cheese and plátanos maduros (sweet plantains) with my childhood. I listened to stories about my American grandpa’s military service, as well as stories of relatives who suspiciously went missing during Trujillo’s dictatorship in the D.R. I jammed to Buddy Holly with my dad and belted out José José with my mom. When it’s time to leave the house for an event, my dad is ready to go at least 30 minutes before. My mom runs on what we like to call “Latino time,” which, when translated, means being a little more than fashionably late. I most certainly inherited my mom’s concept of time. Sorry, dad!

Growing up, my siblings and I were proficient in Spanglish. We referred to sandals as chancletas, gossip as chisme, and our aunts as tias. Of course, we could name any Dominican dish put in front of us. Talk to us in Spanish? We usually understood. Expect us to reply in Spanish? Hmmm, that depended on the day. Expect us to respond in grammatically correct, confident Spanish with no accent? No can do. While I did eventually reach a conversational level of fluency, it took YEARS of practicing and mostly fighting the deep insecurity of sounding dumb. All this effort opened the doors to friendships that otherwise would have been impossible and even stories about my family I had never known. That said, I don’t feel “more Dominican” or even “more Latina.” I never felt like I was on the outside looking in. I was raised by the most incredible family that always made you feel loved and included (even after roasting you in Spanish from the other room). I was the beneficiary of “the best of both worlds,” so to speak. I watched my parents navigate their differences and learned the value of compromise from a young age. I saw how important it is to be intentional and always resolve conflict before sundown. Most importantly, I learned that when someone loves you the way my family loves each other, it doesn’t matter which language they use to express it.

Coffee and Family
By: Erin Simula

Everyone who knows me knows how much I love my coffee. And not just in an “I need it to stay awake and alive” kind of way. I love the aroma it sends through a living space and how it draws people to one room. It’s the start of many of my friendships since it’s easy to say, “Hey, you wanna go out for coffee sometime?” Or “do you want to come to my place? I can make a pot of coffee, and we can finish our conversation.” But like a home-cooked meal with your mom’s recipe or being back at your parents after moving away, it brings me back to my childhood.

My dad is American and grew up in North Carolina. My mom is Dominican and moved to the United States when she was 15 years old with her parents and five sisters. Her and three of her sisters lived only a few houses apart from each other. So I would say I heard a lot of Spanish growing up. I never learned to speak it, but it’s funny to me that when I’m in a room full of Spanish speakers, I feel right at home. I learned enough vocabulary to kind of get it, but don’t ask me to translate. If I close my eyes and reminisce about my childhood, I can so clearly remember my mom and all her sisters all in one room, laughing so much in all high pitched voices, reiterating whatever was funny in different ways louder and louder making the joke funnier and funnier. The joy was so contagious you couldn’t help but laugh yourself. My cousins and I had no idea what they were laughing at because it was all in Spanish. But it still filled the room with joy, and that’s a memory I will never forget.

But along with all the laughter in the air was that aroma of coffee. Not everyone in my family drinks coffee. But most of them do, and so does my Abuela. I started regularly drinking it when I was in high school, and I would usually be the one to make it when my Abuela came over. For some reason, she loved the way I would make it even though her coffee is the best. When I was around five years old, I remember my Abuela pouring me a tiny little cup of it with mostly sugar. (I blame her for my “addiction” today.) But my Abuelo, who passed away six years ago, would always make sure I had a fresh slice of bread and butter to dip into it. I remember him smiling sweetly at me and saying, “Cafe con Paaaannn.” Stressing the “con pan” part, winking, and then walking away to continue watching his baseball game. I will always remember how excited I was the few days he picked me up from elementary school. And although one might think it would be an awkward car ride home, He managed to make me laugh and muster up the few English words he knew to have small conversations with me. So even though we didn’t speak the same language, I knew that he loved me and cherished moments with me too.

So for me, growing up with an American dad and a Dominican mom was a blessing. It taught me that you could be from a different country, have different color skin tones, have a different culture and still love the people around you with all your heart, grow and learn from everyone, and have a room full of laughter and love no matter what language you speak. So even after you put sugar and cream in it, and if the beans come from different places around the world, and even if it comes from a French press or a Moka Pot, at the end of the day, it’s still coffee. To many people, it brings comfort and a little happiness to the day. For me, it reminds me of my childhood. And I will cherish that forever.

How to introduce your significant other to your family

How to introduce your significant other to your family

By
José-Andrés Alegría

I have only ever brought one girl home to meet the family. My cousins have met a few of the girls I have dated, but my mom has only met one. It’s different when it comes to Latino families. It’s not just meeting mom and dad. It’s meeting mom, dad, my sisters, my cousins, my aunts and uncles, and my grandma. And that’s just immediate family. Let’s not forget about all my second cousins, who I call my aunts and uncles, are going to call and inquire about my new girlfriend. It’s bringing them and watching as they are “interrogated” by everyone in my family all at once. I felt so sick the first time. My mom always jokes how one day, I am going to show up to her house with a wife. And if I am honest, it’s a possibility. I’ve never wanted to waste my mom’s time if that makes any sense. It’s like what Big Sean says in his song Living Single.
“Look, I know what it feel like to think you found the one
Told mom that so many times that I’m sounding dumb
‘Cause she started to mix Ashley up with Tanesha
And saying ‘Hi Britney’ when I’m on the phone with Lisa.”
But how do you introduce your significant other to your family? (Side note: I asked some Latin friends and people from the office how they did it. Some of them had wild stories. Guns, machetes, and flexing muscles were involved.)

Introducing Your Significant Other Playbook

The High School Tactic

If you tell your parents that your significant other is a ‘friend’ then they can’t say anything. You might be invalidating your relationship in some way but saves yourself the hassle of dealing with that whole conversation. I would only recommend this if you are in the ‘getting to know each other still’ phase and there is no avoiding them meeting your parents for whatever reason.

The Family Party

Bring them to a family party. Tear it off like a band-aid. “Everyone, this is my girlfriend. You have 10 minutes to ask whatever questions you want.” Just let this be a surprise for your family and not your significant other. If you are dating someone who is extremely extroverted or comes from a big family, then this might work. Throw them to the wolves. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

The Lunch Meet and Greet

If your mom or dad is overprotective and has a tendency to try and ‘intimidate’ your significant other, then plan the meeting for lunch or dinner in a public space with plenty of witnesses. Let your parents meet them first and then introduce them to the rest of the family later. Even if they are Latin and used to a big family, meeting someone’s whole family at once can be overwhelming.

The Nonchalant Pick-Up

Have them pick you up from your parent’s place. When you think about your significant other meeting the family, it tends to spiral into a big deal, so make the first meeting something short and sweet. Enough time for introductions and some basic questions about who they are and then leave. Hopefully, they leave a good first impression.

The Hallmark Plan

This is the fairytale ‘we have been friends for a long time, and my family already knows them’ plan. It happens. People get out of the friend-zone sometimes. And although they say that dating a friend can be tricky sometimes, one of the benefits is that your parents already know them, and hopefully like them. It sounds like a win-win to me. (Granted this is more of a joke and very situational, but I ran out of ideas, so here we are.)

But in all seriousness, if you want to introduce your significant other to your family, just do it. What’s the worst that can happen? Your family doesn’t like them? Sometimes getting the truth about who you are dating can sting, but accountability is an excellent tool of truth. There are times that I think back on and wish my cousins and friends had just been honest about how they felt about the person I was dating. Love truly makes you blind. But the best-case scenario is your family loves them. Either way, if you are serious about your relationship, then it shouldn’t feel like some horrid form of torture to introduce your SO to your family. Just try to prepare them as much as possible for the craziness of your family. But if they’re dating you, they probably have plenty of practice already.

The Best Vacation – Puerto Rico

The Best Vacation – Puerto Rico

By
Lissette Cardona

As a family we decided on going beach hopping in Puerto Rico, the kids had never been, well except for my son but he was only one at the time, so according to him, it didn’t count. We didn’t have a plan other than to rent a car and see where the road leads. Let the fun begin!

We had two rules on this trip; BE ADVENTUROUS, and NO phones!

In the Moment

One of the first beaches we went to was Playa La Pocita in Piñones, a beautiful beach surrounded by breakwater where the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crash up against it, and the wind carries the mist coming off the rocks through the air. My husband and I were relaxing at the edge of the water, watching the kids play. All of a sudden, it started to rain, my first inclination was to grab all our things and run; but the kids weren’t phased by it, we were already wet, so we stayed, and I’m glad we did. Kids have this way of living in the moment and enjoying every second of a new experience. So, instead of just watching them, my husband and I joined them, and for that moment we were kids again except this time our babies were right there with us, and we played in the rain together. By the way, we were safe; the sun was shining bright as it played peek-a-boo through white clouds, and we saw a rainbow in the distance.

We’ve collectively decided to add a new rule. BE IN THE MOMENT!

New Experiences

Now we’re off again, this time the car ride is a little longer, we’re heading to La Parguera, on the southwestern side which is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea. We’re on our way to meet my husband’s cousin; it’s their first time meeting in person. After a quick bite, we went to his boat for what we thought was going to be a nice boat ride; it turned out to be one of the most Ahhhmazing day’s we would have on this trip.

It’s a short ride through floating houses and a mesmerizing blue sea to a nature reserve called Cayo Caracoles (Snails Cay). The kid’s eyes lit up when we pulled between the mangroves, and Dee’s cousin says, “alright guys, go ahead, jump in!”  Huh? I thought and kind of said out loud, then I was reminded we’re on an adventure!  It was a beautiful thing to see the excitement and fearless wonder of the kids as they jumped into the crystal clear, shallow, and calm warm waters of this nature reserve in the middle of the sea. My husband decided to join them, and they made their way to a rope hanging from a tree between the groves, one by one they climbed slowly up the tree, grabbed the rope for dear life, swung, and jumped in. After that first jump, they raced up the tree trying to get as many swings in as possible. It was spectacular to witness!

My husband’s cousin has one more place to show us, so the kids hurried back in the boat before the sun began to set, and we made our way to Playa Rosada. A great picnic area with a pier that extends out into a natural pool of seawater. What do you think we did?… Of course, we jumped in!  The sun was beginning to dip into the horizon, and the sky glowed with bold, vibrant shades of red and orange all around us. Pure Magic!

Just Keep Jumping!

Our last leg of this trip brought us to the Northwest side of the Island; we’re going to Crash Boat beach in Aguadilla. Not sure any boats crashed there, though, the U.S. used it during WWII for the Crash Rescue Boat Squadron. Now, remember how in Finding Nemo Dory just keeps swimming well in our case these kids and my husband just keep jumping off the ridiculously high dock. Initially, they were fearful of jumping, but fear is a good thing; the release of adrenaline gives us that fight or flight response, it let us know we’re alive. The question is, will you take the chance and jump in, or will you sit in fear?

As a kid, I’d spent a few summers in Puerto Rico with my grandparents and family but had never met the island, the people, and the ocean quite like this. Everything looked and smelled familiar, but there was a more profound connection now that my family and I were exploring and immersing ourselves in it all together. I’m glad we decided to disconnect from our phones, be adventurous, live in the moment, and not let fear stop us from having the time our lives together! You may or may not be wondering, why I didn’t join in on some of the more adventurous moments on this trip; well that’s because I was pregnant and this was our Family Baby Moon.

Our Unforgettable Oaxacan Family Memories

Our Unforgettable Oaxacan Family Memories

By
Maria Buchanan

During the summer of 2016 my family and I visited the beautiful city of Oaxaca.  For some time, my husband David and I, along with our two daughters, Saraí and Isabel had been longing to for this family experience.  Located in southern Mexico, Oaxaca is known for its rich history, culture, cuisine, and art. We enjoyed staying in a hotel that caters to local people from the countryside, who come to the city to sell their cacao beans to process nearby, which are  transformed into the best chocolate that Mexico offers; from dark chocolate to chocolate mixed with cinnamon. The history of chocolate around the world traces its beginnings to Mexico, and used by the indigenous Zapotecans of old.

The morning after our arrival, we awoke to the delicious smell of fresh hot chocolate being ground, ready to be sold. With our breakfast we were served fresh hot chocolate mixed with fresh cinnamon. This delicious first experience was served in bowls, instead of the accostumed cups.

After breakfast we headed out for the Benito Juarez and 20 de Noviembre markets.

where we discovered many different kinds of a traditional Mexican dish known as “mole”.

Even though I am Mexican I was only familiar with the two or three types of “mole” known in the region of Central Mexico where I grew up, and now discovered that this market sold about 7 different types of “mole”. What a surprise for us all. The best vanilla in Mexico comes from Oaxaca and this market offered fresh vanilla bean pods for the modest price of one dollar, with local men and women from the surrounding countryside presiding over the many small stalls in the market, also selling all kinds of exotic foods, from chapulines (roasted grasshoppers), eaten as snacks, to large tostadas called tlayudas, served with beans, cheese, and meat.

From the food market we made our way to the artisan market, and saw native garments and jewelry with traditional indigenous designs.  The eye-catching colors and designs, amidst the background of the various native Indian languages, woven into the broken Spanish spoken by the indigenous vendors, was an audio and visual delight that stimulated the senses.

The smells, colors, flavors and textures of that visit prepared us for our trip the following day, to the archaeological city of Monte Alban, with its pyramids and buildings, true vestiges of one of Mexico’s important, ancient civilizations, whose greatness speaks of the intelligence, capability and knowledge, science and architecture of its people.

After a long day of walking and enjoying this ancient city we also enjoyed returning to one of Oaxaca’s restaurants on the Plaza, and the delicious food they offer.

And after dinner it was interesting to stroll through the main plaza, and then met and talked to the local people and youths, as we sat in the plaza.

The next day we visited the Zocalo, and later in the day, ex-convent of Santo Domingo.  This building now houses a museum that displays the history and culture of Oaxaca.

Oaxaca is definitely a city not to be missed when visiting Mexico, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothing, and be prepared to walk and explore this beautiful city and region.

David, Saraí, Isabel and I were very happy to fulfill our dream of visiting this beautiful place together, as a family.

Never a Dull Moment

Never a Dull Moment

By
José-Andrés Alegría

Family is everything, especially on 31st Road. Growing up, I could take a two-minute walk down the street to find someone to help escape the clutches of boredom. My mom and two of her sisters all decided to buy houses on the same street. They also happened to all have kids around the same time. So you can’t even begin to imagine, to the dismay of the neighbors, the shenanigans and mischief my cousins and I got ourselves into growing up. But the one thing I want to make clear is that my cousins, although they are technically extended family, are more like siblings to me. We have always been close and will always be close. We scattered in every direction. A few of us in Chicago, some in California, a couple in Florida, and the rest in Tennessee, but we all make sure that we know what’s going on in our lives. And when we get together, there is never a dull moment. I mean, what trumps family?

My favorite vacations always involve family. Thanksgiving in California when we visited my oldest sister while she was pregnant with her second kid. Going to the Dominican Republic for Abuelita’s 100th birthday party. Visiting family in Chicago as a kid and being taken to all the cool spots in the city. But the greatest of all these hits was Christmas 2012. It takes a lot of planning and mental fortitude to get my mom and her five sisters (The Sisters) and their families in one place. Everyone is always busy. Life can get crazy like that, but this year everyone was on a mission. My Abuelo was sick, and we were scared that this was his last Christmas. The Sisters wanted to make this one as memorable as possible. And they did just that.

 

On some mountain in Tennessee, (Maybe it was a really big hill. What do I know? I’m from Florida.) in the middle of winter, we crammed all 27 of us into this magical cabin. I remember being worried that I wouldn’t be able to have any fun with my cousin. I had torn my ACL, and when this vacation was over I was getting surgery. But then I remembered that my family, although they enjoy adventure and fun, is a group of bums who like to sit on a super comfy couch and do absolutely nothing. It’s awesome. Also, it was waaaaay too cold to go outside. (Again, I’m from Florida. The second it hits 65 degrees the whole state is in jackets and sweats.) Locked in a cabin with family and no end in sight? To some, this sounds like an especially evil version of hell. But we filled the time with board games, catching up, and food. There was enough food to feed a small army. There was never a dull moment. Someone was always telling a story. Stories that we all have heard a million times but were still funny nonetheless. Like the time I got hit by a car. And finding out later, that it was my oldest sister who was driving the car. Or the time my dad decided he didn’t want to take me to the hospital. So instead he took my cast off himself…with a chainsaw. (Child Services if you are reading this, please disregard the previous statement). Or any of the other crazy stories my family has in their back pocket.

Like every big group, my family has its cliques. The Sisters consists of my mom and her sisters, and they talk about family chisme. It’s usually about some cousin or aunt that I didn’t even know existed. The White Uncles gathered in a corner, fend for themselves in a sea of melanin. The Latin Uncles get together, and either brood in a corner (cause they have some past trauma from a world us 2nd generation kids would never understand) or they talk about the Bible and Church for hours. Then you have the Big Kids, which is where I fall. We are the first group of kids that popped out. There are seven of us. Then there are the Little Kids, at the time they were six strong, but some new ones have popped up over the years. The groups mingle and mesh. But since there are so many of us, there is usually always someone in the kitchen cooking. Which means there is at least one group in the kitchen. And there is, at any given time, at least five different conversations going on. And this is where my family is weird, we all, for some reason, cram into one room. Oh, there’s a group in the kitchen? Well, you can bet that everyone is going to make their way into the kitchen. There’s a table for six? We can fit 10 more people on the table. Who needs elbow room?

But what made this Christmas memorable? It was a chance for all of us to see my Abuelo’s legacy. On top of all that he did in his life, I like to think that his greatest achievement was us. The family he loved, and that loved him. This vacation wasn’t just a destination that we went to and explored. It wasn’t about sight-seeing. It was about drinking hot chocolate in a room filled with people that you love. It was about reminiscing the good times and laughing at all the embarrassing dirt we have on each other. It was a vacation, sure. But more than anything, it was a reminder that family, my family, is never dull. And without them, I don’t know where I would be today. And for that, I will always be grateful.

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Jose-Andres Alegria is an intern at Family Bridges who does whatever the boss tells him to do, but if he can’t be found it usually means that his face is buried in a book somewhere or that he is taking a nap and you should come back later when he’s not “busy”.

Follow him on…
Twitter: @No_Way_Jose11