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Deborah Cruz

Ways to grow closer to your spouse, ways to grow stronger as a family

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

It’s a little frightening how many people I know my age have gotten divorced recently. I’m sure the pandemic didn’t help. You really get to know someone when you’re trapped in a house with them for 16 months. CoVid was a marital stress of epic proportions. I’m sure even the healthiest couples thought about it at least once during the past few months.

This is why I am constantly trying to think of ways to grow closer to my spouse and ways to grow stronger as a family.

Some of the couples I thought were perfect for one another, called it quits quietly. Divorce is, unfortunately, pretty prevalent these days with about 39% of all marriages ending in an uncoupling. Let’s be honest, no one gets married to get divorced but no one gets married to be unhappy either. Honestly, if the marriage isn’t working out, there are only 3 ways it can go 1) work together to grow together and hope it’s enough 2) do nothing and stay in a miserable marriage (this shouldn’t even be an option) 3) divorce and move on with your life.

The thing is sometimes there is someone to blame, sometimes people just fall out of love and sometimes people grow apart. It’s not a crime but it’s not exactly the happily ever after any of us dreamed of. People are busier than ever before; kids are overscheduled, parents are overworked, overwhelmed and exhausted and no one has time to just be present anymore. This is where things can start to slowly fall through the cracks and no one even notice it.

The best thing we can do as couples is spending quality time together; one-on-one facetime, listening and touching. Hugs, holding hands, kissing and saying I love you may seem trivial because you assume the other person just knows but they don’t. Words and actions matter. It never hurts to speak it into existence. Take the time, say it and do it. It can mean the difference between 2 months and 20 years. This applies to building relationships with your children too.

9 ways to grow closer to your spouse and ways to grow stronger as a family

Eat Together

Every day, everyone is in a hurry to get to work or school. Usually, breakfast is hurried, lunch is spent at work or school so make dinner count. This is something my parents do and something, the Big Guy and I have made a point of doing. Dinner every night at 5, unless there is an extracurricular, in which case, we all wait until we’re all there. Sharing meals is one of the best ways to come together as a family and check in with one another.

Whenever you share a meal, stay focused by implementing a no phone and no television rule. Instead, be present and talk to one another.  

Do the boring stuff together

Chores and errands often feel like a lot of work and no fun. Obviously, kids (and adults alike) would rather spend their days with friends, relaxing, watching movies or doing anything else other than the menial stuff. Everyone who lives in the house should be responsible for doing their part of the chores and if you do it right (we add loud Latin music, lots of dancing and laughing and a definite start and end time) it can be a great way to bond as a family. Have a list of tasks ready and assign them accordingly; you can perform them together at a set time during the week or weekend when you all can do them together.

Doing chores together fosters teamwork; if one experiences a difficult time, those who complete their tasks first can help and that tiny act shows love. If your kids have demanding schedules, give them deadlines to complete their chores. They’ll soon learn that performing duties together makes it more fun and fast than doing them alone. To make it more rewarding, have something to look forward to afterward, like enjoying a special meal or going out to the movies.

One-on-one time

Spending time as a family is great, but don’t forget to have one-on-ones with each other. It’s about quality not quantity. You can spend half an hour with each of your family members on different days. It’s as simple as asking what they’d like to do. Having one-on-ones with parents is crucial for kids; you get to discover what’s going on in their life away from home and their needs or troubles. One-on-ones with your partner is what feeds the intimacy that will get you through the hard times. Give your partner your full attention when there are no distractions; you can discuss issues to do with family and individual hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

Laugh together

Laughter is said to be food for the soul; it makes a bad day better and helps you bond as a family. Laughing stimulates your immune system and reduces stress; it has been proven to actually add to one’s life. Enjoy every moment you get to share in laughter, whether your husband ripped his pants showing off his killer dance moves at an impromptu kitchen dance party or you’re watching funny TikToks with your family (something we do often as an after-dinner activity). Whenever possible, create time to share stories, play games, or just cut up and laugh together. It relieves tensions and models to not take yourself too seriously to your children.

Attitude of gratitude

Family members do a lot for each other without expecting anything in return; saying thank you after a good deed can go a long way in making someone feel valued. Be appreciative by taking the time to surprise a family member with a gift, note of gratitude, or simply say “thank you” when one does something for you. It teaches respect and instills an attitude of gratitude.

Create family traditions

Family traditions and rituals enable you to create time for each other and memories; they shouldn’t just be for the holidays. Create routines like family movie nights, carving out pumpkins, game nights and baking days, weekly or monthly. Suppose there is an activity that you all enjoy doing, such as playing soccer, attending festivals, or picking strawberries during summer, do them together. These traditions ensure that even when the kids move away, they’ll want to make time to attend and be together with the rest of the family because of the fond memories they have of doing them in the past.

Family vacations

For us, travel is top of the list of things to do to ensure our family grows together. Going away on regular trips gives you quality time as a family, away from busy schedules and school. It allows you the space and time to be present with one another while making new memories together. Include everyone in the planning so that no one feels left out, including the kids. If going away on vacation sounds like fun, start planning, say a month earlier. Include it in the family calendar and inform everyone. Weekend getaways with your spouse can really reignite the fires of romance too and it doesn’t have to be far, just a local hotel will do where you can be man and woman and not just mom and dad.

Exercise as a family

Exercise is personal and I love my time alone, if I’m being honest but other times, I love long walks with my husband, bike rides as a family or a fun HIIT dance workout with my teen girls. If your family is into fitness, working up a sweat together is a healthy and fun way to spend time and bond with each other. Exercising together doesn’t require you to sign up for a boot camp, though that’s also a viable idea. Find simple ways to stay active while outdoors or indoors. When it’s warm, take a walk, run or bike around the block or to the park, create an indoor gym or plan workouts and do them together. If you have a furry friend, take him out for a walk together. It’s not about what you do, it’s about moving and being together.

Make time for family meetings

Meeting as a family is essential for you to check in with each other, discuss plans, or air grievances. We do this daily at dinner time. Family meetings also create an excellent time to discuss upcoming events like chores to perform during the weekend, day trips, or vacations. Schedule meetings on your calendar or check in with everyone to know their availability if it’s impromptu. Let everyone send in their items or issues for the agenda so that all grievances are discussed. To make these meetings effective, establish some guidelines.

Family is the most important thing in life, couples, siblings and parents are all a vital role in it. It takes a lot of time and effort to keep everyone together and thriving. We intentionally set an example early on so that our girls would grow up placing a high value on family. The bottom line is that family is everything so enjoy and cherish your family in all the ways. Never lose sight of the fact that marriage and parenting take effort and don’t just happen. Remember to not take one another for granted and tell people how you feel, happy or sad, before things go left unsaid and unheard for too long.

These are just a few of the ways, I work on my family and my marriage every day. It’s not the only way but it is the way that works for us. What are your best tips for ways to grow closer to your family and ways to grow stronger as a family?

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Easy Tips to Grow Your Savings Today for a More Financially Secure Tomorrow

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

As I get older and I have time to breathe, out from under the weight of all the firsts of being newly married and a new mother, my dreams are once again growing. I can see clearly and I know what I want for our future. The time for pressing on, pushing through and getting by is over. I want to live in abundance without fear of how to get through the next catastrophe. I want all the easy tips to grow your savings today for a financially secure tomorrow.

I’ll be honest with you; I’ve never been one to want to be rich. But I want enough money to not worry about how to afford the life I want to live. I grew up in a blue-collar family with a stay-at-home mom and 6 siblings. We learned to get by that was our state of existence. Savings is not an option when you are living paycheck to paycheck. Don’t get me wrong, we were happy and we had food, shelter and love. When it comes down to it, we were luckier than most but I don’t like the anxiousness that comes with being the adult in the situation. I want to be financially comfortable.

Whether we want to admit it when we’re younger or not, saving money is important for securing our family’s future. It’s the very thing that can help you move to your dream home, ensure you have an emergency fund saved up and pay for things like your kids’ high school and college tuitions, quinceañeras, memory-making family vacations and their weddings. 

Having savings goals gives you something to work towards, helping to motivate you to stick to your budget. It might not be fun saving but it’s extremely satisfying reaching a savings goal or paying off bills, but what happens when you get there? Growing your savings can boost your assets and provide you with even greater financial security for the future.

Do you want to be more financially comfortable? Tired of living paycheck to paycheck. Sick of feeling like you’re working your butt off and have nothing to show for it? Could you do more to grow your savings? Take a look at some of the following ideas.

Easy Tips to Grow Your Savings Today for a Financially Secure Tomorrow

Choose the right kind of savings account

Is your savings account providing you with benefits? If you’re using an ordinary savings account, you could be missing out on valuable interest that could help you grow your savings. Learning how to choose the right savings account can help you find an account with great interest rates, helping you earn money on your savings. Work smarter not harder.

Try a side hustle to put more money away

Starting a side hustle is a great way to add to your savings. But know going into it that side hustles take work, a lot of work. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. I’m a freelancer so I am a queen of side hustles. Many people take on a side hustle to generate an extra income that can help them reach their savings goals quicker than expected. Have you considered mining Bitcoin as a way to earn some extra money? It could be an enjoyable and profitable side hustle that could even turn into a full-time venture. Explore different side hustle ideas to find a good fit, and see how it could benefit your finances.

Invest your savings wisely

Investing your savings is another way to grow them. You’re never too old to learn how to invest, with some options that are ideal for novices, as well as more experienced investors. Some employers provide investment schemes that can help you invest a portion of your salary, or you can work with a broker to help you find the right sort of investments for you. Having investments can be a great way of boosting your savings, but it’s important that you make yourself aware of the risks before you commit. 

Find ways of cutting back to allow you to save more

Is there more that you could be doing to save more? There are ways you can save money every month you might not have thought about. From haggling with your phone and internet provider to cutting back on your energy use, you could make a lot of additional savings each month. Take a look at your outgoings and set yourself a target that will help you spend less so that you can save more.

Being able to save is a huge achievement – a lot of people struggle to save money successfully. But once you’re in the habit of saving, you can take things to the next level by finding ways of maximizing your savings to boost your family’s finances. With so many ways to grow your savings, make sure you take advantage to help ensure a bright future for your family.

What’s your best easy tips to grow your savings today for a financially secure tomorrow?

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Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Unlike most people, I don’t want to be young again. It was a blast the first time around but I had to learn a lot of hard lessons. My life is a life well lived and well-deserved but lately, as my girls have become teenagers, I feel infinitely older. Don’t get me wrong, I love being the mom of teenage girls. They are so much fun and, with my girls, it’s like having a couple of built-in best friends. But they are so beautiful and flawless, as teen girls are, that I can’t help but notice that they are the present and I am the past.

That’s not always a bad thing. I’m an adult with life experiences, wisdom and the inability to give any Fs about what strangers think of me. This makes me a better mom and role model for my girls. Still, it reminds me that my life is probably at the midway point, or pretty close. While possibilities are endless ahead of me, some things are irrefutably behind me; meeting someone, falling in love, getting married, having babies, and buying my first house. There are still firsts ahead of me, still lots of excitement and adventures to be had but that bright-eyed, the world is brand new time has passed for me.

We will never again be the women we were before becoming moms. We get older every year and deal with a laundry list of responsibilities that feels never-ending. But, just because we are getting older doesn’t mean we have to feel old. There are many ways to keep feeling youthful and vibrant, here are four effective approaches that will give you the energy to live your life the way you want without regrets. Don’t let the number of candles on your birthday cake determine how you live your life. 

Hang Out with Friends More Regularly 

Spending time with the people you consider closest to you is one of the best ways to encourage physical and mental well-being. When was the last time you and your friends had a night together? Granted, after the past year of the pandemic, peopling can be exhausting but totally worth it. Still, it can be challenging to stay in touch as your friends start families and have more commitments, but putting aside a night every month (especially if the kids are old enough) will do wonders for keeping you young. Sure, you won’t have the wild nights you once had in your youth, but you don’t need to. Instead, you can enjoy one another’s company for what it is and maintain your friendships for years.

Spend Time In Nature 

The link between nature and staying young is something you cannot underestimate. Getting away from the city and breathing in the fresh air will maintain excellent health and encourage you to feel more grateful for the world around you. It might not be an immediate change, but the more time you spend outside, whether you go on hikes, bike rides, or just go for a picnic will create a positive association with the outdoors, and you’ll look for as many excuses as you can to get outside. 

Know Your Limits 

Most people enjoy a drink after a stressful day at work, but you know you aren’t as young as you used to be. You will get to an age where even the smallest hangover can keep you bedridden all day long. Likewise, drinking can make you look older as you miss out on the sleep that’s crucial as you get older. Therefore, it’s important that you know your limits. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a tipple now and again but overdoing it will not do you any favors. 

Do Things for You 

Younger people will go through their early life worrying about what everyone thinks of them and this can stop them from reaching their potential. However, once you get older, you can start doing things for yourself, and this will make you feel younger. This means you can solve your grooming issues by finding ways to remove hair permanently, or you can dress however you like. You can follow hobbies and go on vacations to places you’ve always wanted, and you don’t need to worry about what anybody says about it. 

Forever Young

Many people are worried about trying to be too young for too long. They are concerned about missing the point of growing old gracefully. These ideas find the perfect balance between enjoying your life while still embracing getting older. 

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How to Help Your Child when They are Feeling Anxious, how to help a child with anxiety

If your child suffers from being anxious, you already know that watching them struggle with it the worst. As parents, we genuinely want to make everything better. But anxiety is not like a scraped knee, we can’t just kiss it or wish it away. But we also don’t have to watch it happen. There are things we can do, starting with support and considering professional help. Especially after this past year of living the pandemic life and the unthinkable lurking around every corner.

As their parents, kids expect us to be able to calm them, make them feel safe, remove that feeling of anxiety and dread that is rising up in them for whatever reason. They want us to take those anxious feelings away and make them feel happy and relaxed again. And as parents, that’s what we want too. The problem is, knowing what we want – and what our children want – and knowing how to make that happen are two separate issues, and the former is much easier than the letter. In fact, some parents can start to feel anxious themselves in this situation, as they don’t know what to say or do to make their child feel better. 

The past year and especially these past few weeks filled with upheaval and loss, we’ve all been a little anxious. The truth is there are no perfect words to say, and there is no perfect response because every child is different. However, doing something, even if it’s imperfect, is far better than doing nothing at all, and even if it doesn’t entirely quell your child’s fears, it can go a long way toward helping them, and it might give you an insight into their thoughts and feelings too, enabling you to be more proactive in the future.

How to help your child when they are feeling anxious

Always Be Empathetic 

One of the most important things your child will want from you when they are feeling anxious is to know that you understand how they feel. This is why empathy is so important; your child will be much more likely to come to you in the future with other issues if they know you are understanding. Suppose you brush away their concerns because you don’t personally understand why they

are worried, or you know that whatever their concern is isn’t really a big deal. In that case, they will pull away, and when there is something more problematic to worry them, they may stay silent, making them feel worse and causing potential behavioral problems. 

Empathy is an important trait to have, but it is not the same as sympathy, and this distinction is important. Sympathy is about acknowledging their anxiety and caring that they are upset. Empathy is about understanding the anxiety itself; you are putting yourself in their position, in other words. Although sympathy is not a negative thing, empathy is much better – it helps the child much more. 

When you are showing empathy, the best advice is to show emotion. If you stay cool and calm, it doesn’t matter what your words say; your child will get the feeling you don’t really understand what they are going through. 

Keep Them In The Moment 

When people – and this includes children – are anxious, they will start talking about ‘if only’ and ‘what if’, trying to think of a way that they can undo the problem. Of course, this is not possible, and it will only serve to make things more upsetting. You cannot go back in time and make good mistakes or change something so that whatever is causing the anxiety isn’t a problem. Yet as human beings, we seem to be conditioned to think along these lines, always working out ways we could have prevented this or that thing from occurring. 

If this is how your child is reacting, you can help them by keeping them in the present. Just listening and being fully present can mean everything. Simply reminding them that there is no point in worrying about the past probably won’t help; adults know this logically, and yet still they have the same concerns. What you can do is assist your child in being more mindful, so they concentrate only on the present. In this way, they can not only stop worrying about the past, but they can forget any upcoming worries too. To do this, you need to engage their senses. They need to name five things they can see to begin with, and then name four things they can touch. Then three things they can hear. This will bring their attention right back to the present and calm them considerably. 

Have a Ritual 

Rituals and routines are how children, teens (and many adults) run their lives, and they are comforting, even when the child is feeling anxious. Why not come up with your own ritual for when your child is feeling upset and worried? If you use it every time, and it’s one they can relate to and enjoy, then they will always have a tangible way to reduce their fears and to feel better. 

One idea might be to ‘press a button’. The button could be your nose or perhaps a nose ring you wear (or another piece of jewelry) or mole on your arm or anything else that could conceivably be a button. If the child is feeling anxious, get them to tell you what is wrong, and then have them ‘press the button’. When they do this, perhaps you can sing a silly song, tell a joke, or do an impression. Maybe they have to copy you. This will immediately turn a sad or scary situation into a funny one that they think of fondly. It’s good for children to have their own coping mechanisms, but if they can also have one that involves you and shows that you know what they are going through, this can help even more. 

The above idea is just one of so many you can come up with. It’s often best to think of your own rituals that relate to you and your child, as they will have the most positive impact and offer the biggest benefits. 

There are many different ways that we parents can help our anxious child but not all of them will have a positive effect. This is why it is crucial to ensure that we are empathetic and that we allow our children to say what’s on their minds and tell us how they are feeling. Try to assure them that their feelings are valid and talk them through. Even if you’re not sure what to do to help, just listening and understanding can be enough. 

How do you comfort your child when they are having anxiety about a new or stressful situation.

What’s your best tip for how to help your child when they are feeling anxious?

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Why You Should Care about the Mysterious Death of Marine Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez , Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident, a life stolen, Why Marine Cpl Brandon Javier Alvarez Life and Mysterious Death Matter

Yesterday, June 24, 2021, our family laid to eternal rest one of our very own, Marine Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez and no one is okay. His death was dubious, untimely, inexplicable and there are no answers being provided by those who were charged with keeping him safe while he kept the nation safe. His life was stolen. There is no accountability. This is why you should care about the sudden, non-combat death of Marine Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez. What’s insures your child’s safety and not his? He was here and now he’s just gone. Broken hearts and empty arms longing for one more hug with no reasonable explanation given. This makes closure impossible for his family and friends. Choking back emotions in order to share his story is all that we can do now. Helpless, distraught, devastated and angry not knowing what really happened to Brandon.

Brandon, like all young men his age, had his entire life ahead of him. He had a beautiful, smart girlfriend who he loved like you do when you’re 22-years-old, big and beautifully. He adored his mother and his siblings were his best friends, confidants and his ride or dies. You see, I know this life because this is how our family is at its root. Family and God are always first, with country close behind in our lives. We are raised that when you have nothing else in this world, you have your family and they have you and together everything is possible. We are strong, resilient, passionate and born of immigrants. We don’t quit, we work hard and we dream BIG. This is how we survive but the world can be cruel. It’s been particularly cruel these past few weeks.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident, a life stolen

Brandon joined the United States Marine Corp as part of his American dream and he was on his way to realizing his dreams of marrying the girl he loved, giving his mother a house of her own and becoming the man he wanted to be; living the life he dreamed of with the people he loved. He knew to do that, he had to do the work and make the sacrifices to get where he wanted to be.

Why Marine Cpl Brandon Javier Alvarez Life and Mysterious Death Matter

Why you should care about the sudden, non-combat death of Marine Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez

A few weeks ago a happy, healthy young 22-year-old man made the ultimate sacrifice of leaving the family, girlfriend and home he loved to serve the people of the United States of America in Manama Bahrain. No one thought the last time they saw him would be the last time they ever say him.

Why Marine Cpl Brandon Javier Alvarez Life and Mysterious Death Matter

It was the first time he’d been so far away from home alone but he eagerly accepted the assignment because he knew what came next would mean he could provide the kind of life he wanted to give to his family. His beautiful, big and closely knit family who kept in contact daily even though separated continents apart. Time and space are irrelevant when it comes to family, at least in our family. Our parents instill this into us as tiny children and it sticks because family really is everything. We know that in our bones.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident

One night, two weeks after arriving in Bahrain, after a phone call with his brother and before his daily phone call with his beloved girlfriend, his life was stolen. Where a kind, caring, loving son/ brother/ uncle/ boyfriend was just a few minutes previous, he was no longer. That quickly, the world was flipped upside down and inside out.

This isn’t the first time a sudden, non-combat death with no reasonable explanation to the family has happened and if we don’t get justice for Brandon, it will happen again

Two marines arrived at his mother’s house to inform her that her son was gone. Just that quickly a family was shattered, changed forever, unimaginable pain, sorrow and anger left where all that love once was; all that promise now a life unrealized and there was nothing they could do to undo it.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident

The thing is Brandon’s life was precious to so many people. People who are not afraid to be loud and speak out. We’re not the type to just accept that one of our children is dead without explanation and that be the end of it. There has to be an explanation. No human being can just disappear from this earth and those who loved him or her just nod their heads, cry and get over it. There is no “getting over” losing a child, a brother, a sister, a mother, a father, an uncle, an aunt or a husband or partner. Life is precious and we know that to our core. We’ve lost people before and we hold tight to one another.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident, a life stolen, Why Marine Cpl Brandon Javier Alvarez Life and Mysterious Death Matter

To the military Brandon may have been just another soldier. A young, Mexican-American man willing to give his life to protect this country that our parents came to to give their children a promise of a better future. This country that they are so thankful and grateful to have the opportunity to live in. But to his family and those who knew and loved him, we can’t let it go. We demand and deserve to have the truth.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident, a life stolen

All of my aunt’s tears will never bring him back into her arms. This immeasurable loss can never be recouped. The emptiness that lurks beneath the sadness and anger is just waiting to swallow her whole because in the end, Brandon is gone. No one knows that more astutely than a mother.

He’ll never get to grow up. Never get to marry his beautiful girlfriend and start the family he dreamed of. He’ll never get to dance with his baby sister at her quinceañera. He’ll never get to be the best man at his brothers’ weddings. Brandon won’t be around to give his little sister brotherly advice or joke and laugh with his oldest sister. He’ll never get to see his nephew graduate high school.

Why Marine Cpl Brandon Javier Alvarez Life and Mysterious Death Matter

He’ll never walk into a room and grab his mother and dance cumbia with her just because and she’ll never get to hear his laugh or see his dimples ever again. When he died, all of those possibilities died with him; a part of everyone who loved him died on June 6th in Bahrain too. I know this because we are from the same people. I too am 1 of 6 children and I know how close that bond is, sometimes it’s hard to tell where you end and your brother/sister begins.

To the marines, he may have been “government property” but to those who knew and loved him, he was a light. He is a hero whose life was stolen. The investigation is ongoing.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident

The only information that the Marine Corps is providing is:

Rank: Corporal

Name: Brandon J. Alvarez

Unit: Fleet Anti-Terrorism Support Team Central Command

(FASTCENT), NSA Manama Bahrain, Marine Corps Security

Force Regiment

Dates of Service: November 26, 2018- Service Join Date

May 21, 2021- June 6, 2021- Assigned FASTCENT NSA, Manama Bahrain.

Previous Command: July 18, 2019- May 20, 2021- Marine Corps Air Station Miramar San Diego

But Marine Cpl Brandon Javier Alvarez was so much more than that to those who loved him.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident, a life stolen

I watched his funeral live-streamed from 2000 miles away, I watched as my Tia, cousins and all those who loved him were brought to their knees at this loss. It’s devastating to see my family in so much pain and I am angry that they are going through this. I’m angry that they are being given no answers. Mostly, I’m mad that Brandon is no longer here to live the big, full, beautiful life he had planned. None of this makes any sense.

Why Marine Cpl Brandon Javier Alvarez Life and Mysterious Death Matter

Please keep sharing his story and help us get the truth and justice that he deserves. #Justice4CplBrandonJavierAlvarez

Click Here to help the family find justice for CPL Brandon Javier Alvarez and prevent other military families from going through this.

Why You Should Care about the Mysterious Death of Marine Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez

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Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

The blurb read, “A U.S. Marine Corps carry team transfers the remains of Marine Cpl. Brandon Javier Alvarez of Newbury Park, California, June 10, 2021 at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Alvarez was assigned to FAST Co., Central Marine Corps Security Force Regiment, Bahrain.” that was all that was written. But he was so much more than just that…just remains. He was everything to the people who knew and loved him.

Who was Brandon Javier Alvarez?

Brandon Javier Alvarez was born on January 31, 1999, in Thousand Oaks, California. He is the beloved son of my Tia Suzy. He is one of three sons in a family of six children, a devoted boyfriend and a doting uncle. He loved and in return was loved by so many.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident

Nobody deserves to die far away from home, alone under dubious circumstances. My cousin, Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, was a good man. He was a bright young man, who loved his country, loved his family and friends and was excited about the future that he was building for himself and his loved ones. Brandon’s sudden and unexplained death has implications that go way beyond just how it affects our family, this could happen to any son or daughter serving in the military.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident

Brandon was only 22-years-old on June 6, 2021 when he was found dead in a non-combat-related incident (his nose appeared broken and there were marks on his neck) while serving in the U.S. marines in Manama Bahrain. He was a brother, a son, a boyfriend, a friend, a nephew, a cousin, an uncle and a proud United States Marine. He was not disposable. He was loved. He is missed. The hole left behind in the heart of those who knew and loved him can never be filled. The loss of a child is insurmountable and unfathomable and his life deserves better than to just be discarded.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident

His family deserves to know what really happened. They don’t deserve to be ignored and pushed aside when they want to know what happened. At the very least, they deserve the truth. Instead, they are be parceled out very little information. But how can they grieve and mourn their loss when it is so abrupt and unexplained?

What happened to Brandon?

My cousin, Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, was a 22-year-old, healthy and happy United States Marine serving in Manama Bahrain. He was found dead in his room on June 6, 2021. It is being referred to as a “non-combat incident”. His family is devastated. They sent him to Bahrain 2 weeks previous, with his entire future ahead of him. Only to have him returned to them in a casket draped with the American flag, no explanation and no answers.

His body was returned to American soil on June 10, 2021. Family members flew across the country from California to Delaware just to meet the body with plans to identify him. They were refused and restricted to stay 40 yards away from the casket. They were refused the right to identify his body.

This video is Brandon returning home to California on June 17, 2021. This is the first time his family is allowed to receive him, 11 days after two Marines came to my aunt’s house in the early morning hours to inform her that her son had been found dead during the night, while she slept. At minute 9:51 you can see the reality of a mother’s pain.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident

No family should have to go through this. No mother should ever have to bury her son and endure this kind of pain and loss. As parents and family members of men and women in the military, we understand that when our sons, daughters and beloved family members volunteer to join the military and dedicate their lives to serving and protecting the lives and freedoms of the American People, there are implied risks. But no family, expects their child to return in a casket from a non-combat incident. No family expects to be kept in the dark.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident

Everybody who knew Brandon loved him. He was kind, warm, funny with a verve for life. His joy was infectious. He loved to to laugh and brighten the atmosphere. He was a loyal son, a loving boyfriend and a beloved brother and friend. Brandon was the kind of man who inspired others to be and do better. He loved his country and had big dreams and aspirations. He just wanted to do better and give a better life to the people he loved. That was his American dream.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident

He’s gone and the family left behind to mourn him is being kept in the dark as to the circumstances of what actually happened. This is not okay, not in any way. We need answers. Nothing will bring Brandon back but at the very least, we need the truth. His mother needs justice for her son. We cannot forget.

Say his name… Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident

The military can’t just make this go away. We need explanations and proof. It took almost 2 weeks for Brandon’s family to be allowed access to his body. Maybe this would pacify some families. Maybe blind faith in the system would be enough for some but not this family. But Brandon was in constant contact with is family. People checked in on him daily, even in Bahrain. Our family will not quit. Brandon deserves more. Those who loved him are now tasked with being the protectors of his legacy and the seekers of justice in his name.

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident

The bottom line is that my cousin is dead. Something uncertain happened the night of June 6th, 2021 in his room and someone has answers. We need those answers. A healthy, happy 22-year-old marine went overseas to protect the people of this country and in return he was found dead in his room. Don’t let his death get swept under the rug. Help us find #justice4cplBrandonJavierAlvarez and for the next son or daughter serving who could be in danger of never coming home to their mothers and fathers. Share his story and use the hashtag.

#Justice4CPLBrandonJavierAlvarez

Corporal Brandon Javier Alvarez, #Justice4cplbrandonjavieralvarez, Thousands Oak marine found dead in Manama Bahrain, non-combat incident

Rest easy, primo and know that everyone who knew and loved you won’t stop until we know what really happened to you and get the justice you deserve. You mattered Brandon Javier Alvarez and your life was not disposable. We will find the answers, someone will be held accountable and you will get justice.

If you would like to help the family get to the bottom of this and help get justice for Brandon Javier Alvarez there is a Go Fund Me page set up in his memory.

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Tips to Help your Teen Survive

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

We’ve all been so worried about keeping our kids safe from Coronavirus that we’ve forgotten to keep their mental health safe from seclusion. Check in on your teens and little ones, they are not alright. Not even close. I put my girls in therapy last April at the beginning of the pandemic and they are still struggling. We can’t shelter them from the world but we can try to ease the weight of the world so many of us are feeling. Below are some Tips to Help your Teen Survive Depression, Anxiety and Pandemic Burnout.

It’s not fine. We’re not fine. They’re not fine. The kids are not alright.

We’ve been quarantining since March 9th. Our life went on pause and everything we had planned for the spring and summer was canceled. Nothing is like it’s supposed to be. The new normal absolutely sucks. We are a family of huggers and kissers. Friends are family and family is everything. We’re explorers and adventurers. We celebrate life in the small moments but this past year has been hard to find the silver linings.

Disclaimer: Firstly, let me start by saying I am not a therapist or a trained mental health professional. I’m just a mom who is very self-aware, has years of therapy under her built and pays a professional to treat her children. A good licensed mental health professional to follow for great tips is Katie Hurley.

Bella turned 15 last March 10th and 16 this year. March 14th , 2020 was supposed to be her quinceañera. We planned for years for her big day. Everything was ready to go. The dress, the court, the venue, DJ, photographer and videographer. It was going to be the quinceañera she had been dreaming of since she was a little girl. Friends and family from around the country were flying and driving in to celebrate our special girl. I can’t even put into words the devastation I felt taking that away from her. It hurts to even think of it now, especially since we rescheduled it to August 8th and had to postpone once again. Instead of getting the quinceañera of her dreams, she didn’t even get a proper birthday celebration. Her birthday was basically skipped for the past two years thanks to CoVid.

Gabs turned 13 last May, the day after what was supposed to be last day of school. There was no party. No family and friends to hug and play with. There’s no theme or games in the backyard. There was no bbq with 50 of her favorite people. There was a birthday drive-by parade which made her pandemic heart break with gratitude for those who showed up. She felt alone and forgotten. The smallest gestures mean so much when human contact is few and far between.

But how do you help your teen survive pandemic burnout?

https://youtu.be/gXFjjwGlVsw

We’ve learned not to take things for granted. We know the worth of our freedom to move throughout the world safely. We know the value of a hug and human interaction in real time. Virtual is a poor substitute but it may be the only thing offered at the moment.

Our kids are resilient. They are strong and they are amazing. They carry on even when they want to give up but everyone has their breaking point, even you and I. I’ve been doing everything that I’m supposed to do and still, people I love are getting sick. People I know are dying. My heart is breaking but I’m trying hard to keep my mental stability. Manic mom has even made an appearance this pandemic and I was hoping to never see her again. I’m trying to be strong for the Big Guy and the girls but even I notice that while I’ve had to adopt the let it go, one day at a time mentality, I am also holding on to things. I’m holding on to things and anxious about things I don’t even realize.

I’ve started clenching my jaw and my fists in my sleep from stress. I wake up sore. I’ve started finding myself angry for no reason at all or maybe it’s for every reason under the sun. Why would I think my girls are any different? They are younger with less life experience and more hormones. How could I forget that?

Check in on your kids. They are not alright.

https://youtu.be/BrP9UW9eOts

My girls have been overly silly. At first, I was annoyed by this but then I realized this silliness is what is allowing them to get through this unbelievably stressful time. If they need to regress and find joy in the simplest things, who am I to judge? Right now, all bets are off. We’re all just trying to get through this pandemic. We’re in survival mode and that’s ok. Unfortunately, all that silliness has begun to give way to anxiety, depression and burnout and not just for them. I am burnt out too.

I’m so over virtual learning. Not only have my girls been virtual all year long, so have I. I had the bright idea to get a masters and enrolled a month pre pandemic. I’ve been struggling with burn out myself for the past couple months but watching my girls buckle under the pressure and anxiety of this non-stop pandemic life is too much. I hate it for them and can do very little to make it better other than pay for therapy and give out random hugs and encouragement all day.

Worse, I feel like I’m failing at that because I’m struggling myself. I hate all of this. There’s 2 weeks left of school for the girls and I feel like we’re all drowning. There’s no down time and days and nights are just one long exercise in never ending lists of shit to get done. I want to scream but I’m afraid if I start, I’ll never be able to stop. F*ck you pandemic and all the people who aren’t doing their part. I’m tired of my cage. I know this will pass but watching my girls struggle is the worst.

https://youtu.be/F_9K8Pgekwo

Tips to help your teen survive depression, and anxiety and overcome pandemic burn out.

  • Create calm times of the day, preferably an hour or longer.
  • Spend time with them doing silly and fun things like playing a game, being outdoors, cooking a fun meal (this helps kids calm down their nervous system so they aren’t so triggered by stress), or just plain talking.
  • Structure helps kids know what to expect which always improves stress.
  • Sleep and eat well (less sugar).
  • Help them write about their feelings.
  • Get them a therapist, many are offering virtual right now. Do it.
Tips to Help your Teen Survive  Depression, Tips to Help your Teen Survive Anxiety, Tips to Help your Teen Survive Pandemic Burnout

Anxiety specific simple but effective grounding techniques

Grounding Techniques
Grounding is a technique that helps keep someone in the present. They help reorient a. person to the here-and-now and in reality. Grounding skills can be helpful in managing overwhelming feelings or intense anxiety. They help someone to regain their mental focus from an often intensely emotional state. In addition, utilizing products that provide Mental Clarity can also be extremely helpful in dealing with such negativity. 

Grounding skills occur within two specific approaches: Sensory Awareness and Cognitive Awareness.

Sensory Awareness
Grounding Exercise #1:
Begin by tracing your hand on a piece of paper and label each finger as one of the five
senses. Then take each finger and identify something special and safe representing each
of those five senses. For example: Thumb represents sight and a label for sight might be
butterflies or my middle finger represents the smell sense and it could be represented by
lilacs.
After writing and drawing all this on paper, post it on your refrigerator or other safe
places in the home where it could be easily seen and memorize it.
Whenever you get triggered, breathe deeply and slowly, and put your hand in front of
your face where you can really see it – stare at your hand and then look at each finger and
try to do the five senses exercise from memory.

Grounding Exercise #2:
• Keep your eyes open, look around the room, notice your surroundings, notice
details.
• Hold a pillow, stuffed animal or a ball.
• Place a cool cloth on your face, or hold something cool such as a can of soda.
• Listen to soothing music
• Put your feet firmly on the ground
• FOCUS on someone’s voice or a neutral conversation.

Sensory Awareness Grounding Exercise #3:
Here’s the 54321 “game”.
• Name 5 things you can see in the room with you.
• 4 things you can feel (“chair on my back” or “feet on floor”)
• 3 things you can hear right now (“fingers tapping on keyboard” or “tv”)
• 2 things you can smell right now (or, 2 things you like the smell of)
•1 good thing about yourself

Cognitive Awareness Grounding Exercise:
Re-orient yourself in place and time by asking yourself some or all of these questions:

Where am I?

What is today?

What is the date?

What is the month?

What is the year?

How old am I?

What season is it?

Tips for parents

Build coping skills. One thing kids and teens need to hear on repeat is that all emotions are okay. There is no right or wrong way to feel about this global pandemic. Parents should get in the habit of checking in with each child privately throughout the day to give them an opportunity to verbalize feelings and talk about triggers.

Learn how to manage anger. Now is the time to figure out some techniques to decrease negativity in the home. In other words, stop yelling. Parents have a lot on their plates, and it is difficult to juggle work responsibilities, parenting responsibilities, keeping the family physically and emotionally safe, and running a distance-learning school. Chances are, you feel like you might snap at times.

Adjust expectations. To hear social media tell it, this is a time when everyone should be enjoying every moment and learning new things as a family (a privilege not everyone shares). And parents suddenly find themselves in the driver’s seat for their children’s education, expected to manage distance learning regardless of resources, finances, work schedules and child-care struggles. Then there are the expectations parents have of their kids regarding learning, training for extracurricular activities and being “productive” during this time away from school.

Practice empathic communication. There’s a lot we don’t have control over right now, and that can trigger negative emotions, but we can control how we respond to and communicate with others. One thing I hear on that tiny screen day after day during my sessions with kids: I just want my parents to understand me.

Tap into technology, and stay connected. Many parents spend a fair amount of time trying to manage and limit screen time. There are positives and negatives to technology, though, and now is the time to tap into the positives. It’s still important to focus on balance and make sure that kids and teens are getting exercise and engaging in activities that don’t involve screens, but technology can be a source of support, connection and education.

Parents, don’t forget to take care of your own mental health. It’s hard to help your teen survive depression, anxiety and pandemic burnout if you are holding on by a thread yourself. Believe me, I know. Find yourself some coping mechanisms and a licensed therapist.

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Farmer's Market Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Spring is here. We’re a month out from the end of the longest virtual school year ever. The girls and I have all been working hard to make it off this struggle bus of pandemic living.  We’re in full survival mode and right now, survival means adding something to look forward to each and every day, even if that just means something as simple as a facial mask or some new recipes.

Jump to Recipe

We should have never left the house for spring break. What should have been a welcome reprieve from our pandemic isolation ended up with us catching a severe case of senioritis. If you know, you know. Think the last 2 months of pregnancy…get out. The worst part is that I have to be the adult and encourage my girls to just hang in there, it’s “almost over” when all I want to do is quit. Talk about mom faking it until we make it.

Disclosure: This is a compensated post in partnership with S.Rosen’s Baking Company. But all opinions and love of grilled cheese are my own.

To break up the monotony, I’ve been trying to get us safely out of the house more often. With the nice weather, that means more trips to outdoor venues, even if it’s just walking around the neighborhood pathways or the local Farmer’s market. But in doing so, that means not just fresh air but tiny, new adventures. Baby step adventures in travel, exploration and food and that feels just the littlest bit “normal” and I am here for it. Life feels new, fresh and exciting right now (just because it feels like normalcy may be possible again in the near future) and it hasn’t felt that way in a long time. I feel hopeful.

Delicious Farmer's Market Sandwich Recipes for the Whole Family, grilled cheese

Since we’re spending more time at the local Farmer’s market anyway, why not try some new recipes Farmer’s Market Inspired Grilled Cheeses?

Springtime is here and we’re craving something fresh. While all those fresh veggies can be absolutely delicious, they may not be everyone’s favorite food at the table. Though growing up, my mom’s grilled cheese was my favorite thing to eat. In fact, I couldn’t eat anything else during the first 6 months of my 1st pregnancy. Thankfully, my mom was happy to oblige and I’m happy to oblige my girls when they ask for my grilled cheese sandwiches.

But what about those fresh veggies you just bought at the Farmer’s market? Enter a unique mashup of grilled cheese and fresh veggies. These modular recipes bring together everyone’s favorite comfort food, grilled cheese with garden fresh veggies in easy to modify recipes. You can easily and quickly leave out select ingredients and customize each sandwich as needed for certain family members. Though we’d suggest NOT leaving out the bread and cheese – that could be a bit difficult.

Farmer’s Market Inspired Grilled Cheese Sandwich Recipes

Fresh Asparagus and Spring Pesto Grilled Cheese

Ever feel like poor asparagus only gets used one way? Thrown on the grill and that’s about it, but we think this springtime veg is far more versatile than that! The key is cutting it up into bite size pieces to make this grilled cheese a fun, seasonal creation.
Servings 1

Equipment

  • Skillet
  • Panini Maker

Ingredients
  

For the Spring Pesto:

  • 2 Tbsp Toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 Cup Olive oil
  • 6 Tbsp Grated parmesan
  • 1/2 Tsp Roasted garlic
  • 1 oz Fresh Chives

Per Sandwich

  • 2-3 Stalks Asparagus ends snapped off and sliced into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 Slices Havarti cheese
  • 1 Slice Prosciutto torn into bite size pieces
  • Mayo to your liking
  • 2 Slices S.Rosen’s Farmer’s Market White Bread

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the pesto (this can be done the day before). Combine the pesto ingredients in a blender. Pulse until you reach the desired consistency.
  • Sauté asparagus pieces for 3 minutes on high heat, until you see it begin to brown. Take off heat and transfer to a separate bowl, stirring in 1-2 Tbsp. of the pesto (depending on how strong you want it). 
  • Heat skillet or panini maker to medium (we really like cast iron for this if it’s available, but if not, use a non-stick pan).
  • Assemble the sandwich: one slice of Havarti, top with the prosciutto, then the pesto coated asparagus, and more slices of cheese. Top with the second slice of bread after spreading a thin layer of mayo on it. If you’re making multiple grilled cheeses, assemble them all before you start griddling.
  • Place the sandwich mayo side down in the skillet. Spread mayo on the bread slice now facing up and cook 3 minutes, or until bread is toasty brown.  Turn and repeat.  Your stove top and pan may require slightly different cooking times.

For the sweet and savory Farmer’s market sandwich lover

Arugula Blueberry Grilled Cheese

Fresh Arugula and Local Jam Grilled Cheese

Maybe one of the most fun items to pick up at the farmers market is local jam, and with family favorite cheese Muenster, this combination creates a tasty and easy-to-make grilled cheese.  The arugula adds a nice peppery counter balance to the jam and makes this a more sophisticated sandwich for adults. As for the jam, we recommend the following flavors: blueberry, blackberry and apricot, but we encourage you to try your favorites! 
Servings 1

Equipment

  • Skillet
  • Or Panini Maker

Ingredients
  

Per Sandwich

  • High quality jam of your choice
  • 3 Slices Muenster cheese
  • Arugula Handful
  • Mayo to your liking
  • 2 Slices S.Rosen’s Farmer’s Market White Bread

Instructions
 

  • Heat skillet to medium (we really like cast iron for this if it’s available, but if not use a non-stick pan)
  • Assemble the sandwich: One and a half slices of Muenster (rip the half slice into pieces and spread around the slice), spread jam over cheese, and add a handful of arugula. Top with the second slice of bread. 
  • Spread a thin layer of mayo on this slice. If you’re making multiple grilled cheeses, first assemble them all before you start griddling.
  • Place the sandwich mayo side down in the skillet.  Spread mayo on the bread slice now facing up and cook 3 minutes, or until bread is toasty brown.  Turn and repeat. Your stove top and pan may require slightly different cooking times.

Farmer’s Market Sandwich that will fill you up

Bacon Chard Grilled Cheese

Chard, Apple and Bacon Grilled Cheese with Red Pepper Sauce

Chard always feels like that vegetable you should eat, but exactly how seems to be an issue. The answer is a grilled cheese! We also realize that chard might be a tough sell for some members of the family, but if you omit the chard, the resulting bacon and apple is still a classic grilled cheese combo.

Equipment

  • Skillet
  • Or Panini Maker

Ingredients
  

For the Red Pepper Sauce:

  • 4 oz. Jarred roasted red pepper 
  • 2 oz. Toasted slivered almonds 
  • 4 oz. Tomatoes (we used fire roasted from a can to keep it easy)
  • 1 Tsp Paprika
  • 2 Tbsp Parsley
  • 1 Tsp Roasted garlic

For the Chard

  • 1 Bunch Chard (rainbow or swiss)
  • 2 Tbsp Apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp Neutral oil such as canola

For the Sandwich

  • 2 Slices Bacon cooked until crisp
  • 3 Slices Gouda cheese
  • 1/4 Apple thinly sliced

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the red pepper sauce (this can be done the day before).  Combine the ingredients in a blender. Pulse until you reach the desired consistency.
  • Prepare the chard in a medium sauce pan with a lid.  Heat pan to medium and add oil.  Once heated, add chard by the handful. It will cook down A LOT.  Stir the chard, apple cider vinegar, and salt. Cook for 6-7 minutes. Take off heat and set aside.
  • Heat skillet to medium (we really like cast iron for this if it’s available, but if not use a non-stick pan).
  • Assemble the sandwich: one slice of Gouda first, top with bacon, then the apple, two spoonfuls of sautéed chard, and finally, more sliced of cheese.  Top with the second slice of bread.  Spread a thin layer of mayo on this slice. If you’re making multiple sandwiches, assemble them all before you start griddling.
  • Place the sandwich mayo side down in the skillet. Spread mayo on the bread slice now facing up and cook three minutes, or until bread is toasty brown.  Turn and repeat.  Your stove top and pan may require slightly cook times.  
  • Serve with red pepper sauce for dunking.

Just remember, life might feel a little weird and different right now but you can still do some things that are “normal” like a picnic in the backyard with the people who live in the house with you or just take a delicious sandwich to the deck and eat by yourself, if you’ve had too much “together time” this pandemic. Either way, what’s your favorite fresh, Farmer’s Market sandwich recipe?

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How To Make Yourself Feel At Home When You Move Abroad

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Have you ever considered moving to another country? I know I have, especially over the past 4 years. Being that my father is from another country and I spent my childhood summer’s in another country, living in another country has always been an exciting and viable option. In fact, I’ve spent my life learning languages and experiencing other cultures with my parents and now, traveling with the Big Guy and our girls, for just such an occasion. But how do you make yourself feel at home when you move abroad?

While the thought of moving to another country is exciting it can also be quite a scary thing to do; leaving behind friends, family and everything you’ve known.  But be brave, it will be worth it. Inevitably, when you first arrive in a new country, you will feel overwhelmed and it’s common for people to feel homesick. Before you start worrying that you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life, you need to give yourself time to adjust. Everyone goes through this. 

To be honest, it takes a couple years to feel completely at home in a new place. Think of it as a new opportunity for adventure. It always takes time to get used to a new place, but it’s especially tough when you are in a new country with a totally different culture. However, there are some simple things you can do to make yourself feel at home. 

How To Make Yourself Feel At Home When You Move Abroad

Get Your Home Sorted

Before you do anything else, you should get your home sorted. If you don’t feel comfortable in your own home, you will struggle to feel at home in a new country. Make an effort to create a cozy, welcoming home for you and your family. You can fill it with some things to remind you of home but you should also buy new things to celebrate the transition. Once you start feeling comfortable in your own home, you then have a safe space to come back to and you can start exploring the new country.  

How To Make Yourself Feel At Home When You Move Abroad

Learn About The Culture

When you first arrive in a new country, you will still feel like a tourist and everything will feel a bit unfamiliar to you. The best way to settle in is to make an effort to learn about the culture. Be open to new things. Seeing a lot of the local tourist attractions and going to museums is a good place to start. You should also be adventurous with the food that you eat, as well. Go out and find lots of local places to eat, and instead of cooking your favorites from home, look up some recipes and start using local ingredients. Try to engage with local holidays as much as possible too. When you start engaging with the culture, you will feel more like a local. You’ll stop feeling like a visitor and start feeling like you’re home.

How To Make Yourself Feel At Home When You Move Abroad

Consider Applying For Citizenship

Even though you are a permanent citizen and you have the right visas in place, it can still feel like you are just a visitor. If you want to put your roots down and you plan to stay for the long haul, you should consider applying for citizenship. If you get in touch with an immigration lawyer, they will be able to advise you about the process. It’s easier to become a citizen in some countries than it is in others, so consider how long the process is before deciding whether it’s right for you. If you do become a citizen, you will feel much more at home. 

How To Make Yourself Feel At Home When You Move Abroad

Host Visitors From Back Home

Having people visit you from back home will really help if you are feeling homesick. It also gives you a good opportunity to show people your new life and the home that you have created for yourself. After these visits, your new lifestyle will feel more permanent and being able to share it with your family puts a more positive spin on things. 

It’s important to give it time when you move to a new country because the transition takes time. If it didn’t, that would just be weird. Don’t let fear of change stop you from trying new things. If you don’t like it, you can always move back home but a life of untaken chances and unrealized dreams will definitely end in regret. Be brave. Follow these simple steps and go for it! You’ll feel like a local in no time. 

What would be your best tip for how to make yourself feel at home when you move abroad?

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Tips to Get Past Your Fear of Needles, #Hackthevax

This post is made possible with support from the Meg Foundation. All opinions and tips to get past your fear of needles today are my own. 

There’s a lot going on in the world. It’s been a crazy year. None of us ever imagined we’d live through a global pandemic in our lifetime. The biggest concern for most of us before 2020 was a laundry list of first-world problems. Life in 2019 could be hard, but not 2020 pandemic hard. Suddenly, for most of us, nothing made sense, and when that happened, the unknown brought with it new stresses and anxieties. 

Right now, the only answer to stopping the pandemic is herd immunity. That term kind of makes me want to moo, right? All kidding aside, I’m thrilled that science has given us a way to save ourselves and those we love, but getting vaccinated brings with it a new set of anxieties and stresses for some.

The fear of needles is real and nothing to be afraid of.

Tips to Get Past Your Fear of Needles, #Hackthevax

Don’t like shots? The thought of a needle freaks you out? You’re not alone. 25% of adults have a fear of needles. Don’t be embarrassed. I got so many shots as a kid with chronic health issues that I get sweaty palms just thinking about it even now. I worked through my fear of needles by making a plan and moving through my fears. Please don’t let needle anxiety stop you from being safe from Covid-19.

The Meg Foundation has resources to help you get through needle fears. Everyone can benefit from learning these techniques, but for people with needle anxiety, the techniques are life-changing. The first thing is to make a plan because action is the enemy of anxiety; the more concrete the plan the better you will feel.

Tips to Get Past Your Fear of Needles, #Hackthevax

Here are a few simple tips from Hack the Vax to get past your fear and get vaccinated.

Be an advocate for yourself

If you are nervous about getting your vaccine, don’t be afraid to say so. Lots of people have a fear of needles. Those administering the shots are aware of this. Letting people know what you need is the only way they will know (this goes for everything in life, not just vaccinations). You’re not being difficult, you’re advocating for yourself. You are a self-aware bad B. People don’t mind giving you what you need but you’re going to have to tell them.

Block the pain

Getting vaccinated doesn’t have to be painful. Over-the-counter anesthetics like Lidocaine cream are great for a little pre-vaccination numbing at the injection site. To be honest, when I was vaccinated recently ( both times) I didn’t feel a thing. I usually get the flu shot every year and I do feel that but with the Pfizer vaccine, I honestly felt no pain or even the standard pinch when a shot is injected.

Take deep breaths

You probably remember the power of breathing techniques from giving birth. I never put much stock into breathing techniques, until I experienced a unmedicated, Pitocin induced birth. That made me a believer and anyone who has used it, knows it works. Don’t overthink it. Just take a few slow, deep breaths before and during the injection. Using a meditation app for a minute before also helps me in stressful situations to just slow down and get through the moment.

Distract yourself

If you want to rely on something more than just deep breaths to get you through, focus on something that makes you feel happy or relaxed. To clear my head, I always listen to music. However, watching kittens on YouTube or just scroll through your social media feeds is enough to take your mind off the task at hand…or arm, I should say. I’ve done this a lot with my girls throughout their childhood. Distraction is a great way to refocus those overwhelming feeling of stress and anxiety that needles might bring. For me, when I am stressed, I talk, so I chatted with all the other people getting vaccinated.

Bring a support person

Phone a friend or family member and either bring them with you physically ( schedule your vaccinations together) or Facetime them during your vaccination appointment. Maybe it feels a bit awkward as an adult to be virtually hanging out with a friend in a room full of people but if it relaxes you enough to not feel as overwhelmed, it is totally worth a few minutes of talking to your phone in a room full of strangers. A bestie, spouse or sibling is a great support person for getting out of your head and engrossed in conversation. The Big Guy and I got both vaccinations together, sitting side by side.

Tips to Get Past Your Fear of Needles, #Hackthevax

The Big Guy and I got both of our vaccinations, and even though there was trepidation about getting the shot, I’m so glad that I did it. Getting everyone vaccinated is a step towards keeping the whole country safe and being able to hug our loved ones once again. Making a plan and working through your fears of needles to get vaccinated not only keeps you safe, in my eyes, but it also makes you a superhero because not only are you protecting yourself from getting coronavirus, you are protecting everyone you know and love. You are part of the solution to this devastating problem that is ravaging the world with no discrimination, rhyme, or reason. 

Don’t let your fear stand between you and your safety. Think, plan, and go get your shot and pass on these techniques because you never know when someone else is feeling nervous, too.

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