Life during the COVID-19 pandemic is full of adjustments and worry. Now, imagine being frontline essential workers and being newlyweds as well. We hear from Lou and Ray from Grand Rapids, Michigan, about how they handle all the stress and worries they face related to their jobs, so they can keep their marriage strong and happy.
HL_2021-09 – Frontline Essential Workers and Marriage
Myrtle Alegado: When the world first heard about the global pandemic, I don’t think anyone was prepared for how much it would impact all of our lives. In our last episode, we met Sean and Vanessa, who talked about some of their struggles adapting to being newlyweds while also adjusting to all of the new government and public health restrictions.
Now, imagine being newlyweds living in this time of pandemic and you’re both frontline workers. Today, let’s see how two newlywed frontline essential workers handle all of the pressures and stresses of their jobs.
Welcome to Happy Life, a podcast brought to you by INC Media Audio, that aims to help newlyweds navigate through the first years of marriage. I’m Myrtle Alegado, and I’ve been married to my husband, Paul, since 1999.
Inspiration to make your marriage thrive, you’re listening to Happy Life.
In March of 2020, more than 3.9 billion people, or half of the world’s population, were asked to stay home by their governments to prevent the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus. Thousands lost their jobs due to companies closing or establishments reducing hours of operations. But essential workers, most especially frontliners, like healthcare workers, were asked to keep working, even working overtime with increased risk of exposure to COVID-19.
On our episode today, let’s welcome Lou and Ray Klipfel from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Hey there, Klipfels, and thanks for joining us today on Happy Life.
Ray Klipfel: Hi Myrtle.
Lou Klipfel: Hi Myrtle! How are you doing? Thank you so much for having us here.
Ray: Yeah, we’re really excited for this.
Myrtle: Oh, we’re glad you took the time to join us today and talk about your experiences. I’m doing well, thanks for asking, and hope you are too.
Lou: Yes, we’re doing really well here. It’s finally getting warmer where we are in Michigan, so we’re excited for that.
Myrtle: Did you do anything interesting today?
Ray: Yeah, we went for a hike over by the beach. Xena needed to get out of the house, so…
Lou: Xena is our little puppy, our dog.
Myrtle: I was just going to say, for those who don’t know… [laughs]
Lou: Yes. [laughs]
Myrtle: That’s nice. Like, you know, it’s always nice to be outdoors and to be able to just get that vitamin D from the sunshine.
Lou: It’s nice that we are able to spend some time with each other on the weekends so that we can go out and enjoy the outdoors.
Myrtle: Oh absolutely. So, I mentioned you’re both frontline workers. Can you tell us a little bit about what your careers are? So, let’s start with Ray.
Ray: So, I’m active duty on the reserves. So you know, a full-time soldier. And, part of what I’ve gotta do is make sure that our equipment is up to par, it’s fully operational so that way in the event that an issue comes up, you know, our equipment is able to help us in completing our mission. The unit that I’m currently in is actually a water purification unit, and we actually got mobilized at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. Luckily, we didn’t have to really go anywhere at that time. But in the event that we are needed, we’re capable of providing thousands of gallons of purified water to the area that we’re deployed to.
Myrtle: Oh wow. So you’re basically, when you were mobilized, you were pretty much at the ready, like ready to go anywhere that you were sent to.
Ray: That’s correct.
Myrtle: Wow. Okay, and around what month was this? I would imagine March or April of last year?
Ray: It was around April last year, and we had mobilization orders to go to two different locations.
Myrtle: And how long have you been in the army, Ray?
Ray: This year actually marks 17 years in service.
Myrtle: Oh wow.
Ray: So I’ve only got a few more and I’ll be able to hit that 20-year mark.
Myrtle: Oh wow, congratulations! So, let’s go to Lou now. Lou, can you tell us about your career?
Lou: So, I work as a registered nurse. I work in the endoscopy and bronchoscopy unit, and we do a lot of diagnostic and interventional procedures. And we see different kinds of patients every day, even those patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and all kinds of different diseases.
Myrtle: Wow, yeah it deals with the lungs, correct, your area?
Lou: Yes, exactly.
Myrtle: So, let me share this information with you both. A study revealed that healthcare and frontline workers experienced greater psychological stress than individuals in the general public. Factors include a high workload, poor sleep quality, poor health perception, and low perception of infection avoidance. Healthcare workers experience anxiety and stress. Ray and Lou, I’m sure you can relate to a couple of those. What are the things that you worry about or cause you some stress about your jobs?
Ray: So for myself, so we’re supposed to work about 8 hours a day, but I’m generally working anywhere from 8 to 16 hours a day. And for me, where that causes stress is the fact that I’m working on trying to get a unit fixed on the maintenance side and reestablish a maintenance program that has been absent for a bit of time. And working on getting soldiers, taking care of getting the equipment fixed and serviced. So that way in the event that we do need to get mobilized, then our equipment is ready.
But then on top of that, because I’ve got those stressors and I’m taking that much time and putting it towards work, that is precious time that I’m actually taking away from family. And so, that’s the biggest stress for me because it’s such a big responsibility, and then I’m trying to find that balance between my personal life and my work life. So that way, I can spend time with my family.
Myrtle: And do you also have to go to training or anything like that?
Ray: Yes, that’s also something else that we’re doing right now is we’re preparing for our annual training, which is going to actually pull me away from home for approximately a whole month. So there’s a bunch of aspects that we have to put together so that way Lou is able to be self-sufficient while I’m not here, because everything here in Michigan is pretty much new to her. She’s only been actually living here for the last five months. So, it’s a big juggle between work and personal life.
And then on top of that, every month, I’ve actually got [a] battle assembly where it’s the entire weekend that is actually taken away from home because I have to be at work, I have to show up early in the morning. And when I do go to battle assembly, there’s always that possibility that I get exposed to COVID-19 from soldiers that are not typically there at the unit. And so we aren’t always able to, you know, keep an eye on the soldiers and make sure that they’re up to par with their vaccinations or their screenings and things like that. So, when they come in, all they do is they give a verbal screening and that’s about it, along with a temperature check.
Myrtle: Yeah, so that’s where you’re worried about the possible risk of exposure to, you know, COVID-19, right? If they’re out and about and then coming into your unit, now I get it, yeah. Understandable that that would be stressful. So, we’re going to switch gears now and go to Lou. So how about you, Lou? I’m sure as a nurse, there’s a lot that you have to think about or worry about.
Lou: Yeah, so every day is different at work. There’s always something different. When you come in for work, you don’t really know what to expect. So for me, I see all kinds of people. And, you never really know what kind of exposure you’ll get during that day, what kind of illness a particular patient may have. A patient could have COVID-19 or any other infectious diseases. And it is stressful because it’s not an easy job. Not only is it, like, mentally stressful, but it’s also very physically demanding. So, those are the kinds of things that I typically worry about when it comes to doing this kind of job.
Myrtle: Absolutely. You know, we don’t give, I think, frontline essential workers enough credit and especially nurses, what you have to, kind of, encounter day in and day out. So you know, I applaud you. Personally, I thank you for all of your hard work.
Lou: Thank you.
Myrtle: So you both have your individual worries in your own jobs. Now you’re married to a frontliner. So, what do you worry about for each other?
Ray: So, for myself, I worry about Lou when she goes to work because you know, especially when we first started talking, because she actually worked in an isolation ward, and she was in contact with really…
Ray: Infectious diseases.
Ray: So you know, she would go to work, she’d have to make sure she gowned up properly and take all the proper precautions, because otherwise she would be in jeopardy of actually getting these diseases. And then on top of that, you know, when she would drive to and from work, during that drive.
And then of course, the stresses of her job. You know, I was like, I would always need to make sure that I’m here for her to be able to vent and to talk about her day, because that helps her to de-stress some. And then like right now, I’ve been driving her to work and so I’m having to drive all over the city just so that way I can get her to work, and then I can get to work, and then I try to make sure I get off at the right time so I can get back to her location to pick her up and get her home. So that way, we can go ahead and have our dinner and talk about our day and whatnot. It’s a bit stressful.
Myrtle: So Lou, what did you worry about with Ray, or what do you worry about still?
Lou: So when I first started dating Ray, actually, I didn’t know anything about the military life. So that was one of my worries. There’s a lot of things that were unknown to me, that were new to me. And like the chance that he may possibly get deployed really worries me. Or like, for example, he mentioned earlier that he will be going away for about a month for his annual training. I just don’t know what to expect during that time. I don’t know what they will be doing, and there’s not a lot of things that he could tell me, actually. So, those are the things that I worry about when it comes to his job.
Myrtle: You know we talked about earlier, the worry, I guess, of the unknown, you know. So how much does that affect, I guess, your stresses about his job?
Lou: I just worry about his safety. I don’t know what kind of training they will be doing when he’s away, so he will actually have to travel to get to that location where they will be doing their annual training. And I’m worried about, you know, his travel going there and then coming back, and also at the place. I know that they will be staying at a remote location and that they won’t be having the best kind of like…
Lou: Yes, so they will most likely, going to be in the desert somewhere or like out in the field, so the conditions are not the most ideal. Like, his safety of course, is what I’m really worried about and mostly concerned of.
Myrtle: Okay, so you know, you’ve talked about your own stresses and worries and then what you worry about with each other. How do you help each other cope with all of the worries and the stress?
Ray: So mostly, we just try to be there for one another to vent and just kind of give ideas on being able to overcome or make it around the problems or situations that we might be having, or you know, we’ll find ways of trying to cheer one another up. Usually, I’ll make a little skit or video and send it to her, and it’s always a really goofy video. And it always makes her laugh, you know.
Ray: So that’s the key—just being there.
Lou: Yeah, we just talk to each other and make things lighter so that, you know, the worry doesn’t take over us. And we tell each other about our day, try to comfort each other if there’s anything that we are, you know, concerned about.
Myrtle: And you’ve been, you know, having these conversations and venting to one another
Myrtle: Even when you were long distance because as Ray mentioned, Lou just moved there, pretty much what, five months ago because you’re from here Lou, from British Columbia, and I know that you initially started in Idaho right, Ray?
Myrtle: And now you’re in Michigan, so you’re kind of all over the place. And I know that with the paperwork that Lou was waiting for, she was kind of stuck here in Canada until that went through recently. So talk about that, how with your 3-hour time difference even, how you were still able to be there for each other.
Lou: Yeah, that was a difficult part of our relationship actually, because we were doing long distance and we initially started off with being one hour apart.
Ray: One hour apart.
Lou: One hour apart, because he was in Idaho, and then he had to get moved to Michigan, and it ended up being a 3-hour time difference. So, like, matching our hours to be able to communicate with each other was difficult. What we did was that when I was living in B.C., whenever I would drive to work, that was our time to talk to each other, and kind of go over things with each other.
Ray: Yeah, so that would help us start our day, but then she would also… we would do that again in the afternoon when she would actually leave work and drive home. And then that’s when we would also communicate and then go over the day and you know, vent and just try to help clear our minds and support one another.
Lou: We always ended our day with a prayer.
Lou: Yeah, and that was very good and really helped our relationship, especially being away from each other. It was something that really connected us.
Myrtle: It definitely sounds as if you both have effective coping mechanisms and strategies to be able to manage your daily stresses. But, you know, I’d really like to know what the Bible can teach us about handling our worries and stresses. Back with us again is a minister of the gospel in the Church Of Christ, Brother Felmar Serreno. We’re so glad to have you back on Happy Life, Brother Felmar!
Brother Felmar Serreno: Hello Myrtle, hello everyone. If I can just say first, hats off, kudos to Lou and Ray for the way that they have handled various stressful situations in the various circumstances that they’ve been through. They described for us how they were in [a] long distance relationship and even in, you know, in the beginning part of their marriage, for some time they were still apart from one another. For Lou to move with Ray there in Michigan, in this time of pandemic, you know that is another stressful situation. Add to that that they are adjusting to married life, newlyweds as they are. We’re all adjusting, still, to this new normal, we continue to adjust to the various circumstances and the effects of the pandemic. Add to this, they’re both frontline workers. So, kudos to them and I’ve got to say, Myrtle, it seems that they are quite the fit for this episode that has to do with dealing with stress.
Myrtle: Absolutely, yes. And you know, we give them a round of applause for really how they’ve handled everything thus far.
Brother Felmar: Yes, and we do thank you both for coming onto the show and sharing with us your experiences. But in spite of all of those scenarios that Lou and Ray have been through, and quite possibly, our listeners today are going through similar situations. However, in spite of these, we should not be overcome by worry. Well, what exactly does it mean to worry? According to dictionary.cambridge.org, to worry is “to think about problems or unpleasant things that might happen in a way that makes you feel unhappy and frightened.”
So, going back to Lou and Ray, they mentioned the many things that they can’t help but to think about on a regular basis. You know, from not wanting to have to bring work home, because family quality time is important, to not wanting to bring COVID home, right? We don’t want to contract, you know, the virus, whether we be at the workplace, or in any other place, and bring that home to our loved ones.
From making big decisions or handling big responsibilities at work, like what Lou and Ray mentioned, Lou is a registered nurse, Ray is a soldier, but especially in their field, not only do they have to face big decisions and big responsibilities, but they are caring for people’s very lives—as patients in the medical field or soldiers or other officers in Ray’s occupation. So, in the midst of all of this, we’re happy that Lou and Ray shared with us, they cope by regularly communicating with each other. But more importantly, they communicate with God through prayer.
Now why is it that, as members of the Church Of Christ, we make sure to constantly pray to God? Let’s read what the Bible says in the Book of Psalms, chapter 121, verses 2,3, and 5 in the Good News Bible:
My help will come from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let you fall; your protector is always awake. … The LORD will guard you; he is by your side to protect you.
[Psalm 121: 2-3, 5 Good News Bible]
Brother Felmar: So we, as members of the Church Of Christ, pray to God because we know that He’s the One who made heaven and earth. God is all-powerful, which is why we know for sure that God can help. We pray to God because like the Bible says, “your protector is always awake”— so the Lord God is the only One Who can truly protect us and guard us 24/7.
Why else do we turn to prayer? Let’s go to the Book of Philippians, chapter 4, verse 6, still in the Good News Bible:
Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart.
[Philippians 4:6 Good News Bible]
Brother Felmar: So we turn to prayer because, for one thing, it’s a lot better than worrying. As stated in the definition we heard earlier, to worry is “to think about problems or unpleasant things that might happen.” Well, why do people do this? Why do people worry? Because, human as we are, there are just too many things that we are uncertain of—there are things we cannot control and there are things that are totally beyond our control.
However, there is a better way to react to uncertainties. Instead of becoming overcome by worry, what should we do? The Bible teaches, “Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need.” That’s why for us in the Church Of Christ, in the face of uncertainties, we turn to the One who can certainly help us; the One who can certainly protect us—the One true God, the Father who is in heaven. That’s why we ought to pray more instead of worrying.
In fact, do you know what the Lord Jesus Christ has to say about “worrying”? Here in the Book of Matthew, chapter 6, verse 27 in the New International Version:
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
[Matthew 6:27 New International Version]
Brother Felmar: We heard what the Lord Jesus Christ said. In other words, worrying adds no advantage to us at all. So, we praise the Lord God that Lou and Ray are examples of the biblical advice we heard today. While they are newlyweds, adjusting to married life, adjusting as well all this time to this new normal, like the rest of us, but to top it all—they are both frontline workers. And they’ve been doing their job and their duty all this time. Yet, instead of being overcome by the worries, right, because of the dangers and the outcomes that might be, Lou and Ray choose to be confident in prayer.
May all the newlyweds make the same choice. Entrust to God our marriage, our home, and our future.
Myrtle: Especially during these troubling times, where it’s so easy to become preoccupied with all the worries in this life, Brother Felmar, what we learned just now is great advice for all of us. Thank you once again for visiting us here on Happy Life.
Brother Felmar: Absolutely, Myrtle. God bless to us all. May everyone continue to take care.
Myrtle: So Ray and Lou, how would you say that your faith together helped you deal with the worries that come with both of your jobs?
Ray: So just like what Lou was talking about earlier, we started having devotional prayers before we even started dating. And you know, that helped strengthen our faith and, realistically, I believe that that’s what brought us together and it helped strengthen our bond. And then you know, in our prayers, we would always pray for each other, we would pray for our families. If anybody was having a difficult time, we would include that. Of course, we would include our careers as well, because you know those are blessings from our Father. And then, you know, we also tried to heed what’s always put out in the lessons, where we don’t worry about our day to day, and instead we take our worries and place them on God, because that’s one way of showing faith.
Ray: Because He’s always there to help us and provide us solutions to our problems.
Lou: Yeah. So just like what Ray was saying, we always pray for strength to be able to manage or overcome any adversities that we may face in our jobs, and then, once we say it in our prayers, we just leave it up to God and we don’t worry about it. Just like, for example, when I was still in Vancouver, Ray actually got injured while he was at work and had to have surgery. And I was hoping that I would be able to come in to be able to help him recover after his surgery. But at that time, my work schedule didn’t really line up. And also at the same time, I had to quarantine from returning from travel. But I prayed, and I basically left all of my worries to God, and it actually ended up working out. For some reason, my schedule changed that week and I was able to come and be here with Ray, and be able to help him out, and also, at the same time, be able to include that quarantine time.
Myrtle: Oh wow! That’s awesome that, you know, it all just kind of aligned.
Lou: Yeah, exactly. And that was a blessing.
Myrtle: Oh for sure. Yes, for sure. So what would your advice be to newlyweds or, you know, maybe even those that are engaged to be wed soon, and they’re also frontliners? What would your tips be for them to be able to handle all of the stress and worries of being frontline workers in the first year of marriage?
Ray: I would say to always be patient and understanding with one another, because there’s a bunch of stresses that, you know, we all face throughout our days. And then, when our loved one is venting, we need to ensure that we are listening to one another and not just hearing what they’re saying—but truly listening. Because if you just hear what they say, it’s going in one ear and out the other. But if you’re listening, that’s when you truly are able to understand what it is that they may be going through. You might be able to provide some assistance and ideas or brainstorming to overcome these situations. And then of course, when we are venting, we need to make sure that we’re not interrupting one another.
Ray: That is something that Lou and I are still working on a little bit.
Ray: We still… it’s a work in progress.
Lou: Yeah. [laughs]
Ray: But you know, we’re working on it.
Lou: We’re working on it. Yeah, I agree that communication is very important and to, you know, make sure to always pray. That’s very important.
Myrtle: That’s great advice. So you know, Lou and Ray, thank you so much for helping us get a better idea of what it was like for you to be newlyweds and frontline workers at the same time in your first year of marriage.
Myrtle: I know a lot of us have experienced anxiety this past year and a half, you know. But hearing from your perspective, we can just imagine, you know, what you’ve gone through, and as I said, we appreciate you being frontline essential workers, both of you.
Lou: Thank you.
Myrtle: Round of applause for Lou and Ray. [laughs]
Lou: [laughs] Thank you so much for having us here.
Ray: It was a good opportunity.
Myrtle: The experiences Ray and Lou shared are probably ones that resonate with other frontline essential workers. So, we hope the advice we were able to hear from the Bible will help all of you to continue to pray to God and leave your worries to Him.
And that’s all we have for you today. To learn more about Christian relationships, please visit incmedia.org, and please visit us on social media by following our Instagram account: @happylife.podcast. Please also remember to share this and our past episodes with your family and friends and all the newlyweds that you know. Thank you from all of us here on the Happy Life team. We’re so glad you joined us today and hope we’ve all been reminded about the blessing of marriage.