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

 

 

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.

 

Connecting the Presence of an Honored Father

Connecting the Presence of an Honored Father

Connecting the Presence of an Honored Father

father and baby

Kenneth Braswell of Father’s Incorporated was recently honored on OWN’s Spotlight Celebrating Black Fatherhood. It brought back a positive memory of the dad event (The Dad Factor: Presence) hosted by the Georgia Center for Opportunity, where fathers and father’s to be from all walks of life, gathered in one place to see, hear and connect stories and strategies on being present
 
We were honored to have Kenneth Braswell as one our profound speakers.  He spoke to the men with humility and boldness about going beyond their profession as a father, the impact of a father’s involvement in his home, and the importance of being a role model to our youth.
 
Very few women were present at the event and as the coordinator, I was able to stand back and watch the energy in the room come to life when the men began to share their fatherhood stories of tragedy and triumph.
 
What I witnessed was uplifting and remarkable. It confirmed for me why the work of strengthening families and partnership is extremely important to families flourishing.
 

 

“They’re [children with present fathers are] more likely to have high-paying jobs and healthy, stable relationships when they grow up.”.   

Fatherly.com

Dads are not alone and need support

The men in that room, on that specific day, received confirmation from other men in knowing that they were not alone.
 
At GCO, we know that dads are not alone and need support which is one of the reasons we offer relationship education classes, workshops and resources to dads and families. Research indicates(Fatherly.com) that when a dad is present and engaged in their child’s life they are less likely to drop out of school or wind up in jail compared to children with absent fathers or male caretakers or role models.
 
Take a moment to look at the dad crisis absence brochure when fathers aren’t present from The Father Source.
 
It is great to know that Kenneth Braswell of Fathers Incorporated continues to do the work that helps fathers be
present as fathers and as community leaders.
 
Call our offices at 770-242-0001 to find out more about our relationship education/training resources.

 

Magnifying Positivity

Magnifying Positivity

Magnifying Positivity

magnifying positivity

Maginifying Positivity

My husband and I only had her in our care for two-weeks. She is a seven-year-old full of spunk and sass at the same time!  We adore that about her and looked forward to providing some stability and positivity in her life for the time she spent in our home.

Our great niece, whom we’ll call Spunky, to protect her name and innocence, has been suffering from dad abandonment issues and the lack of receiving or hearing positive reinforcements. Often times her conversations and attitude steered to seeing the negative side of things. My husband and I realized that she had been exposed and surrounded by so much parental and family negativity that it was challenging for her to see the positive side of anything.

At GCO, we understand how the absence of a father can negatively impact a child. That is one of the reasons why we have certified facilitators in a variety of research-based programs and partnerships with licensed professional counselors to help us provide healthy relationship education skills training for dads, parents, couples, youth and families. Together, HFI is helping families to be resilient and stable.

Unfortunately, Spunky’s dad was not willing to take a dad’s class to help him understand the true meaning of being a father or even understand how his negative behavior impacted his own daughter. He truly could benefit from a class we teach called, 24/7 Dad from the Father Source by the National Fatherhood Initiative. In this course, we deal with topics such as: Family History, What it Means to Be a Man, Showing and Handling Feelings, Men’s Health and so much more. If you are interested in hosting a men’s workshop, visit georgiaopportunity.org/family or contact our office at 770-242-0001 ext. 701.

A family sitting on the floor together

 

Here are three ways to help you to magnify a positive environment for your child to thrive:

 

  1. Make it a habit to give 5 positives for every 1 negative to fill your child/ren “emotional bank account”
  2. Make regular time for sharing and listening to your child/ren
  3. Invite others to share in the positive experience

Research indicates negative interactions have a strong influence on relationships. Relationship researcher, Dr. John Gottman talks about for every one negative you need to counter it with five positives. He also says that making regular deposits into your child’s “emotional bank account” is extremely healthy. Although, Dr. Gottman refers to this in the context of marriage, this concept can be applied to all types of relationships.

As we began our short time with Spunky, we knew it was important for us to magnify more positivity and appreciation in her life.

We had a family meeting to talk about how excited we were to have Spunky staying with us and asked for her participation in the meeting. She enjoyed giving her input.

Next, we came up with some ground rules on how to be more positive in our language and attitude. At first, she was hesitant but after we asked for her input she began to open up. 

During the meeting, there was a light bulb moment and that is when “The Positivity Club” was formed, with Spunky as the vice-president”.

The first rule of order: When you hear someone being negative you call them out and ask them to refrain it to be more positive.

Next rule of order was to invite others who had an impact on her to join the club. Spunky was thrilled because now she had her mom, dad, grandparents, cousins and aunts all participating in “The Positivity Club”.

Every day, we were intentional about creating an environment of positivity. In less than two weeks, we saw a big shift in her language and attitude. She was modeling for her parents what it looks and feels like to have an environment where children can thrive.

Today, Spunky is back home with her mom. We talk to her regularly and continue to fill her emotional bank account by promoting positivity. She is still the VP of The Positivity Club and she continues to call people out who are not being positive. 

Magnifying positivity and appreciation may be one of the most important contributors to a child’s well-being. 

It took us less than two weeks to see the difference in Spunky and it not only changed her but also the people around her, even her dad.

Reflections of a Newlywed

Reflections of a Newlywed

Reflections of a Newlywed

Joyce and Harold Update

Reflections of a Newlywed: Lessons Learned From One Year Of Marriage

A little more than a year ago you all reached out to my husband, Harold, and me on our exciting new journey as a married couple. We are so grateful for all of the wisdom that you shared with us.

Since we have been married a year now, and as an ode to National Marriage Week, I thought you may be wondering how we are doing.  We are doing great! 

Here are just a few of the nuggets of wisdom  passed onto us, which we really relied on this first year:

  • Overcome stressors in your marriage by making your marriage a priority
  • Never criticize your marriage in public and keep your marriage off of social media 
  • Be intentional about serving in your marriage
  • Pray together
  • Never end an apology with “but”
  • Life is going to happen no matter what’s going on, so share these things with your partner.

“We are bringing you along with in a new life together. And, we’re going to be learning along the way.”  

 

The gift of this advice was timely and helped us overcome unforeseen challenges that arrived after the wedding.

I have only shared this with a small group of people, however, shortly after we were married, Harold suffered a stroke. It was traumatic for us both. I thought to myself, “we just got together, Lord please don’t take him from me.”  We had a tough hill to climb, but we were both strong mentally and we leaned on each other to get through it.  Now that Harold is a lot better, he said  he drew his strength from us, and we both realized it made us stronger.

What did we learn from all of this: 

1) We learned that mental support is needed just as much as medical support.  It’s like a diet without exercise.. 

2) We learned well-being as a couple is also just as important as it is for individuals.  

3) We also learned that community and a social network helps you get through it all.

Our community provided us with strong advice and principles which we continue to integrate into our marriage. We talk a lot about community at Georgia Center for Opportunity, which is why we think it is important for you to experience community in our Family Life Education classes. In these classes we equip and empower you with the knowledge and skills that help you to become resilient.

As Harold and I continue our marital journey, we hope these words of wisdom will help improve the quality of all of your relationships. For those looking for a little extra nudge, The Family Life Classes are available along with our Healthy@Home, and Thriving Together series on our website.