Q&A with Curtis and Tonika on their experience in the Elevate class

Q&A with Curtis and Tonika on their experience in the Elevate class

Q&A with Curtis and Tonika on their experience in the Elevate class

The COVID-19 pandemic has put stress and strain on peoples’ relationships like few other times. In this challenging environment, the Georgia Center for Opportunity has stepped up to be involved in a new series of relationship enrichment classes called Elevate for Couples.

Below is a Q&A with Curtis and Tonika, two graduates of the Elevate class who share their experiences and takeaways.

Q: Please introduce yourselves—your background, current work, and family life?

Tonika: We are a mixed family of five children. We’ve been married for two years in June and we dated for three and a half years. We met through a mutual friend, my son’s barber. When I met my husband, he had custody of his four children from a previous marriage. So he brought four to the team and I brought one. It took me a while to get over the whole shenanigans of the kids, but we were friends.

What won me over was just watching him with his children just take care of the spiritual, education, just everything. I watched him do this effortlessly. He has a heart of gold, because most people would run away.

For work, I’ve actually been a nurse practitioner for about two years. I’ve been a nurse for 16 years. We recently moved to the Atlanta area about almost two years ago now. We come from middle Georgia in Macon and Milledgeville.

Curtis: I did accounting for 15 years and then I transitioned about three years ago into chaplaincy. So I’m a chaplain for a hospice company here in Atlanta.

Q: Heading into the Elevate class, what were some of the most significant challenges and stressors in your relationship?

Curtis: For me, the biggest thing was striving to navigate through a blended family. I was hoping to gain some insights on how to navigate that in a healthy way. That was really, really important to me. The class did offer me some insights that I was able to extract. Marriage within itself is a challenge, coupled with children is another challenge. But in a blended family, they don’t teach you that in school.

Tonika and I are similar in our love for Christ, in our career aspirations, and things of that nature. But our biggest struggle is the blended family component when it comes to the children.

Q: What parts of the Elevate class did you find most useful?

Curtis: What was most useful for me was the opportunity to reflect upon myself—just the place and space that I am in as an individual. That matters a lot. Because at the end of the day, I have no control over what comes out of somebody else’s mouth or the actions that they choose to display. But I do have complete control over how I respond and the things I choose to do. So each session afforded me the opportunity to just reflect—what are my growing areas? What am I missing? What are my blind spots?

Q: Of the seven core relationship skills and qualities for success, which one did you find most impactful for your own relationship?

Tonika: For me it was “engage.” It’s easy to forget about engagement with a busy day-to-day life. For me, it helped remind me of what’s most important. You have to make it a priority or it’ll just be on the list.

Q: Overall, how did Elevate improve your relationship?

Curtis: It afforded me a better understanding of Tonika. Just pausing enough to even consider her perspective. I think that was big for me. I honestly try to do that and she’ll be the first one to tell you I get it wrong a lot. I can make my mind up about something really fast. I’m very flexible, I’m very optimistic. One of my excuses is that I don’t make excuses, I make adjustments. I make it work. That’s just how I’ve been raised. But I can’t automatically project that onto Tonika. I have done that in the past, and it’s 100% wrong of me. Now, I consider her thoughts, her framework, and her narrative.

Q: What are your future goals and plans?

Tonika: I want us to continue to build, to continue to grow, continue to understand each other. Just grow individually and collectively in marriage. Always seek to better ourselves and our marriage. There is no cap to that—we’ll never get it right all the time. You always need to be building upon that.

Curtis: Balance and then a healthy life. I definitely want to continue to see personal growth. I often tell my kids that the only person I’m in competition with is striving to be a better person than who I was yesterday. I also want balance. I’m at that place where everything can’t be a priority. A lot of things that used to matter to me don’t really matter anymore.

The Elevate program is being provided to couples across Georgia thanks to a federal grant received by the Fostering Relationship and Economic Enrichment Project (Project F.R.E.E.).

Project F.R.E.E. is a collaboration between the University of Georgia Extension System and community partners across Georgia. Our aim is to create communities where children are safe and thrive. To do this, our campus-community partnership initiative is mobilizing a network of organizations who connect, learn and collaborate to integrate healthy marriage and relationship education into existing community-based services across Georgia.

 

Taking Your Relationship To The Next Level!

Empower Yourself: Empower your relationship through empowering yourself
Lay the Foundation: Intentionally committing effort to lay the foundation for a lasting relationship
Enlighten: Sharing intimate information with your partner to enlighten each other about your relationship
Value: Value and respect the positive aspects of your partner and your relationship
Attach: Cultivating and maintaining friendship with your partner                                                                                                                   Tame: Cultivate strategies to manage your differences in healthy and safe ways                                                                                              Engage (and Wrap Up): Engaging social support, community ties, and sources of meaning

 

 

Taking it to the Next Level

Taking it to the Next Level

Taking it to the Next Level

 It was a rainy Thursday night in Georgia, but that didn’t stop couples from gathering for a night of food and fun, and strengthening couples and marriages in their relationships.  #ElevateCouples Pop-up Event was hosted by GCO’s Family team (formerly Healthy Families Initiative) as a time to emphasize the importance of romantic relationships and keeping them thriving. Over a meal, couples were engaged in a course appetizer for the Elevate: Taking Your Relationship To The Next Level! Workshop. 

Elevate is offered to Georgia couples free of charge (as part of a partnership with University of Georgia and Project F.R.E.E.) as a time to invest in their marriage and relationships. The course is an eight week commitment from couples to discover ways to elevate their relationship to the next level. The course is offered in-person and virtually, and during this time couples are not in counseling, but lead through exercises to learn how to manage stress inside and outside of their relationship, conflict resolution, dealing with differences, and most importantly finding ways to connect to each other. It’s designed for couples of all ages (18 years old and up) who are in committed relationships and/or married. 

The pop-up event allowed couples a VIP look at what the course has to offer and how they can benefit from it both emotionally and physically. The group was able to hear one of the facilitators talk about highlights of the program and the best part of the course which is seeing couples grow. It didn’t stop there; attendees also watched a recorded testimony from previous workshop participants who explained the teachings of Elevate, and how it had a ripple effect in their family. What they learned went beyond their own marriage, but allowed for a trickle down of knowledge and modeling behavior for their grandchildren to see an example of a healthy relationship. 

To learn more about how you and your honey can Elevate, click here

 

 

 

 

Working-class Americans’ Views on Family Policy | GLOBE NEWSWIRE

Working-class Americans’ Views on Family Policy | GLOBE NEWSWIRE

In The News

Working-class Americans’ Views on Family Policy | GLOBE NEWSWIRE

A  new report  on the work and family policy preferences of black, Hispanic, and white working-class parents reveals that their opinions often cut against the agenda of Washington, D.C., insiders on both the right and left.   The report,  Working-Class Americans’ Views on Family Policy, is written by Ethics and Public Policy Center fellow Patrick T. Brown and co-sponsored by the Institute for Family Studies, Braver Angels, the Georgia Center for Opportunity, and the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The findings are based on three different focus groups comprised of about a dozen parents each, representing different slices of life in working-class America: white parents in southwest Ohio, black parents in the Atlanta region, and Hispanic parents around the San Antonio area.    

Inflation’s Growing Problem: A warning shot for Congress

Inflation’s Growing Problem: A warning shot for Congress

Inflation’s Growing Problem: A warning shot for Congress

poor child in America inflation

The inflation rate in July—as measured by the seasonally-adjusted Consumer Price Index (CPI)—abated somewhat from June’s rate, increasing at 0.5% instead of 0.9%. But don’t cheer too much yet.

This is known by economists as disinflation, not deflation. The rate came down, but prices are still continuing to climb.

Annualized, the monthly inflation rates calculate to 5.8% for July and 11.4% for June. Both rates continue to exceed the Federal Reserve’s target of 2% annual inflation. Of course, as I discussed in this blog, the Fed’s 2% target rate is too high and compromises Congress’s original goal of promoting purchasing power that would benefit everyone.

Prices are Ratcheting Upwards

When the CPI inflation rate is viewed by its increase from the same month of the prior year, the trend is not good. 

Although the increase over the prior year held steady for July, prices were also increasing last year. That is, prices are still 5.3% higher than a year ago when prices were also increasing. The problem is compounding, and prices are ratcheting upwards.

Inflation not a problem?

Perhaps not surprisingly but definitely unfortunately, the Fed’s economists appear to have been caught off guard. When Fed Chairman Jerome Powell testified before Congress last month, he admitted as much as inflation has spiked higher than they anticipated. However, he still maintained that the inflation is based on temporary factors that will abate with time.

Mr. Powell’s comments may have been just for the inflation rate, and he may be overly optimistic. In the meantime, we must brace ourselves for an increase in the price level. 

To think that the price level may come down is probably unrealistic. That has not happened ever since we gave the Fed the responsibility to maintain purchasing power in 1946 that was dumbed down in 1978 to the weaker goal of “reasonable price stability.” Of course, this policy change happened during the complete failure of federal policymakers in both the Fed and Congress when the nation was suffering from double-digit inflation combined with stagnant economic growth.

Why does promoting purchasing power matter? 

Inflation hurts practically everyone. If your wages do not keep up, your purchasing power is eroding. 

This is truest for those in poverty, low-income families, and low-skilled labor. They will slip further behind, making income disparity worse and possibly causing Congress and state governments to spend more on safety-net programs that will only fuel inflation higher when Congress funds the increases with even more debt.

Businesses—who need predictability to make good entrepreneurial decisions—generally will also suffer, slowing down economic activity. 

Workers will have a harder time keeping up with rising prices and will demand higher wages, only fueling inflation further.  

More Cautious Approach to Government Spending is Needed

A likely major cause of the climbing price level is all the governmental debt-based spending to address the pandemic. Further debt-based spending will not ameliorate the problem but exacerbate it. 

Congress needs to exercise more restraint and caution now as it considers the expansive spending bills that appear likely to pass. It is very likely that they are setting up the nation for unpleasant economic times, hurting the poorest among us the worst. The growth in the Consumer Price Index is an omen for Congress to take a step back and trim those bills.

 

The Value of Family

The Value of Family

The Value of Family

Eda Beacham

Importance of Family

At GCO, the impact area of Family, we always need volunteers. Since  we devote much of our time and efforts to family, we enjoy hearing what about family inspires people to volunteer.  

Eda Beacham is a current volunteer for GCO and we wanted to share her story with you.  Let us know in the comments what strength and or similarities you have in common with Eda. We invite you to send in stories about your family, too. 

 

Eda’s Inspiration

The makeup of my family has changed over time. Through marriage, divorce, birth and death, there has been an ever-changing clan at the Thanksgiving table. The birth of nieces, nephews and our own two sons added to the joy; and the passing of my mom and later, my husband, brought sorrow and some empty chairs. Then the grandchildren came, and they filled the empty spaces with laughter and love. The cycle continues today with this next generation, as it does in most families.

 

Families are always changing, but what holds them together? For me, it was my mother and her eternal optimism. Her life was not easy, but she always believed things would get better. With a limited education, she worked hard and put all her love and determination into raising a family. She came through the Great Depression and WWII, so she knew how to stretch a dollar and “make do.” She taught us values like hard work and sharing with others. She believed in God and made sure we went to church.

 

a family playing on the couch

Our family will likely have the greatest impact on our lives and play a critical role as we grow throughout our lifetime. 

Creating strong family bonds and healthy family relationships is key to family wellness, mental stability, and physical health.

Learn more about free tools and resources available in the community to strengthen your relationships. 

Overcoming Circumstances

When my dad left after 27 years of marriage, Mom’s faith took on a new freshness and devotion; and she ventured out in search of where she could be of service. She decided to sell everything and move into a home as cook and housekeeper for a man who had survived a brain tumor, but was left with the mind of an eight-year old. After this gentleman passed away, my mom began to dream about a little piece of land in the country where she could put down new roots and serve.  She found a small tumbledown house on two acres, so she  went to work making it a home. While working full-time in the nearby little town, she hosted home Bible studies, planted big gardens every year, served scrumptious down-home meals to family, friends, or whoever came by, and took in few strays along the way. Even though my mother never made much money, she found a way to help people who were down on their luck – a friend or family member who was out of work and needed a place to live, a relative in prison who received encouragement and hope from her letters, families who needed food or money in a crisis. In what turned out to be my mom’s last year, just shy of 66 years old, she had taken in her first foster child, a young teenage girl. My mother never stopped dreaming; she never stopped giving. And Mom saw her dreams come to life.

 

A renewed reason to celebrate this Fourth of July

A renewed reason to celebrate this Fourth of July

A renewed reason to celebrate this Fourth of July

This year we celebrated our country and one of its biggest values…family. 

For many the Fourth of July is more than just a celebration of our country’s birth—it is an opportunity to gather with family. An opportunity to connect and celebrate together. It feels like this past year, more than most, this was true as we came out of a period of social distancing and separation. 


While many areas of our state refrained from large gatherings, most people returned to having small gatherings of family and friends. Picnics and backyard get-togethers returned and with them came improved social, mental, and relational health for many of our families and neighbors.

As we have discovered over the past 12-14 months, these previously mundane gatherings with family are much more important to our community and personal mental health than we may have realized. We have taken for granted the value and the connections we need to sustain our lives. And we have had a reawakening to the requisite relationships that ground us and support us through hard times.

It is why family is one of the pillars of the success sequence which models the tangible ways that we can make strides in addressing poverty. It is a recognition of the importance of the role family has in creating stability and support. It is why we must continue to value it and why, I believe, it is directly connected to our national identity.

 

The Success Sequence provides an outline of how to reverse the cycle of poverty in our communities. 

But celebrating family happens outside of a single holiday (or even a nation). As the summer continues many of us will jubilantly gather and connect. It is as if the past year or so has reset our expectations and even our need to be with those we love.

I have seen many people recently post realizations of how much they missed being together and hugging someone. When it was part of our day-to-day, we just expected it. But since it was deprived from us for so long, we understand the importance of it.

Let us not forget the power of coming together. The strength we gain by being with one another and supporting each other. The power that comes out of family and relationships.