Getting To Know The Dead

by Richard Furleigh

“There’s two types of people in my life, those who I knew before Alyssa passed away, and those who never knew her.” – Kenneth Burleigh, father-in-law

Sadly, I fall into that second category. For those of you who may not know, Kristen had a sister, Alyssa. The car accident that took her life was on May 24th, 2009, and this reoccurring date along with her birthday are always an interesting time for me. I feel such a deep sympathy for Kristen and the Burleigh family, losing a family member is never easy, but at such a young age hits so much harder.

Her death at a young age also meant that, even though I met Kristen in college, I have never met her sister.

This person, who was such an intertwined part of my wife’s life, is someone I can never meet. It is an interesting thing that for someone I haven’t met, I can feel the impact she had on those around me. I hear stories of the fights Alyssa and my wife had about clothes when they were younger, hear the family recall working with her at Gone Bananas with them, and watch videos of her with my wife. There is a person who may no longer be here physically but still has a presence in Kristen’s, and in turn my, life.

In the beginning there was a detachment from it, the rituals that happen every year: balloon release, throwing flowers in the river. Over time they have started to mean more to me, and I think that is in no small part to the feeling that I, in some small way, have been getting to know her, the life she led. There is a delight now that I get in watching Adriana’s face light up as she begins to tell a story about Alyssa, or the way Kristen rolls her eyes in response to something Alyssa did years ago, or bringing our little star pouch with some of her ashes in it with us when we travel and leaving some wherever we go. Big and small these things have helped me come to terms with one of the oddest things I have ever attempted to wrap my head around; getting to know a dead person.

It would have been wonderful to have been able to meet her, to see if the stories live up, and to see what sort of relationship my wife and she would have had together. While that will never happen, I am extremely grateful and inspired by the people who loved her most, carrying on her spirit with them. It has allowed me some sense of who Alyssa was in such a peculiar situation.

For those who may know someone who has a similar situation I encourage you to not shy away from discussions about the departed, but to get to know them much in the same way I have learned to get to know Alyssa over the years. It can feel very odd and awkward at first, but there is a very real connection to be had to those people, and those that are telling you their stories will almost always appreciate a chance to relive the fond memories they have with them. Because it seems to me that those who may not be here physically still live on within those they have touched. Until next time Pengminions I leave you with Kristen’s rendition of Cam’s “Village” adapted in Alyssa’s memory.
https://www.smule.com/recording/cam-village/424533653_1167914524/frame

Active Life Choices Are The Key To Making Changes In Your Life

by Richard Furleigh

Conversations with different important people in my life combined with my own recent frustrations with not feeling like I’m creating as much as I want have led me to a deep reaffirmation of the following: anything you want to do has to start with an active choice.

When I say an active choice I do literally mean something that is an action (or lack thereof) in your life. Putting on your shoes and walking around the block, eating a carrot instead of chips, not buying that new game that just came out, putting pigment on that brush and applying it to the canvas. As long as it is something that physically moves you toward your final objective that is the crucial first step. It shows that it isn’t impossible to start, that accomplishing small tasks as part of the whole is do able, and even if it’s as small as going on that walk to start your diet you can point to it and say “I did that, and I can do this”

Recently I’ve been struggling with feeling like my time has constricted itself to the point that I have no time to be creative, to really create new content and art that I feel is important. So I’ve made two changes that I know will help me. First I’ve looked at other things that I have done this semester. I may not have made any “art” per say, //giphy.com/embed/RI6uwElqPErrq

A silly little thing I made, I call it “Penguin Execution”

but I have broadened my horizons with blogging, and making the couple videos for other classes. These are still very valuable skills to have in creative creation and framing that in that way has helped me feel a little better about it. Second I’ve decided that I will begin writing or editing a piece once a week for a minimum of 30 minutes without interruption, which means no cell phone! This is my actionable goal, and honestly I have to stick with it, just to get things down. I’ve told myself I’m not shooting for Shakespeare here, just getting words on the page is important because especially in the creative process sometimes you don’t know what you’re putting down is good until after it’s already there. I could also just write utter crap, but that could be the crap that spurs the golden thought, or the groundwork for a great scene after editing it. Honestly it doesn’t matter, just getting something done to progress my goal is the key to get things going.

When it comes to life and our choices it really does boil down to “if you always put in what you’ve always put in you’ll get in return what you’ve always gotten.” If you want to change something about your life then find one thing, it doesn’t even matter how small, and start there. Maybe you’re trying to write the next big movie script but can’t seem to get past character and world development. Cool, just writing even one line of dialogue a day is a start. The key here is to make a change that echoes across your life, to pull the trigger on something that is actionable to you.
So what is it that you have been putting off because it seems too daunting? What is that thing that you know you should do but just haven’t got around to it yet? Well, this is the time to do it. I’m not asking you to plan every tiny detail, but get a rough idea on where you want to go and start with one item. One task that will move you in the right direction. Once your done with that one, make another, and another, and…. But for now, just one, small, task, to finish is all you need. If someone needs a little advice, help them out, share this with them and offer to help them be accountable for their task. We can help each other grow and learn too. Until next time Pengminions!

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Hubris

“It’s often foolish pride that tells us we’re not wrong” – What If I Was Nothing? by All That Remains (one of my favorite hard rock love songs, who says headbangers can’t have feelings too?!)

When it comes to relationships I feel pretty confident in saying that this one thing more than almost anything else is the killer. Yes your ex’s of the past may have been slobs, or didn’t show they cared, or were too controlling, or any other slew of problems. But, peel back the layers however and I’m willing to say that a lack of true consideration for the other person stemming from an inflated sense of ego is at the root of it all. Even in my relationship with Kristen, which I think we work pretty well together most of the time, I see the telltale signs on both ends of arguments.

Acknowledging this lurking monster has been one of the greatest challenges of my adult life. Looking back I can see how this one thing has torpedoed past relationships with people, and strained others with family and friends. So what exactly have I been doing and how can it maybe help you?

  • For starters it helps to try to keep a level head before the real argument even starts, once things begin to go red it’s too late. Understanding that in most cases the other person isn’t genuinely trying to be mean, it’s just a matter of how you’re interpreting the situation that is leading you down this path. Back up a little bit and try to understand where they are coming from.
  • If you find yourself getting agitated during a conversation ask yourself why is it that you feel that way? Exploring the rationale behind your emotions is a powerful tool to not only understanding the situation better but understanding yourself.
  • Learning to take criticism (even about small things) is pivotal. People don’t like feeling like they’re nagging, but if something is out of place or unclean there is then good reason to bring it up. General cleanliness can make items easier to find for future use, and can lend to a general sense of well-being. Not helping the other person feel good about their living situation is selfish to say the least.
  • On the flip side of that one, learn to let some small things go. Not every blanket, shoe, and cup has to be put back 100% of the time. Much in the same way that letting go of your ego about not needing to “keep everything perfect” isn’t helpful; insisting that everything be in it’s perfect little place isn’t either  and can be just as selfish. Balance is sometimes found in the grey areas.

These are only a few of the tools I’ve employed, but much of it comes down to self monitoring. That in itself is another crucial tool for life but here it has such a profound impact, if you are honest with yourself and allow yourself to grow out of it.

The next time you find yourself approaching argument territory in life pause for a moment and ask yourself why? If you’re honest I bet you’ll find a completely different way to navigate the situation in a much more positive way! If you have any other tips feel free to leave them below! Until next time Pengminions.

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Using Fear and Anxiety

Kristen and I don’t exactly live in the best part of town. As mentioned before, this is a conscious choice to save a lot of money each month on rent. Walking my dog outside last night I saw a man about 100 feet from me walking through our little parking area with something that resembled a large shop broom. I won’t lie, I felt a twinge of anxiety despite the fact that the man wasn’t particularly close to me nor had he even looked in my direction. He made his way along as Oliver stood there, peeing in the grass, and as I headed inside.

I thought back to other similar experiences when I was younger and how I wasn’t affected in quite the same way. I thought about the naivety that youth gives to us and how it empowers us to make bolder choices in life. I thought about how I’ve gotten older and sometimes that isn’t there in the same way. This seems to be a universal thing for people, and at least for me I think it has more to do with coming to terms with the reality of our world. We never know exactly how much time we have left so we become trepidatious, reluctant to pull the trigger on risky situations in life.

So how do we take this nervousness and make something positive out of it? In my  acting classes we talked about this often since we actors actually do get nervous. As well, in “The Originals” by Adam Grant, we get very similar advice on controlling it. Simply put, DON’T control it! It’s exceptionally difficult to stop a speeding car so instead of pumping the brakes in vain, redirect your energy. The best performances I’ve ever done, the best interviews I’ve ever had weren’t because I’m a zen master who can control his heart rate and cortisol, but because I was able to funnel the energy into focus, into excitement instead of fear, to embrace its chaotic nature and use it in a way that worked FOR me instead of against.

There are times in life when, as Kristen talked about earlier, that overcoming these fears is critical. So I add to that, embrace the fear, make it your tool rather than an anchor. It is not a perfect system, and I can tell you that there are times when it wins, but this is one tactic in my arsenal that I know works for me, and I hope it can work for you too.
Do you have any tricks for pushing through stresses and fears? Let us know down below, and if you know someone who has something big coming up (or maybe you do!) share this with them so they can have a little help too. Until next time Pengminions!

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Be Inspired by Your Parents

I don’t know about you but my parents made many nontraditional life choices, starting with me! My parents made many out of the norm decisions that paved the road for me to take on a similar outlook in life. Here is just a small glimpse of their awesomeness.

FB_IMG_1491520720291As a very young “couple” who did not have plans for me to come into this world they chose to keep me, each other, and then have 4 more babies right after me. Within a year, in their early 20s, they met, got married and four months later I was born. To this day they are still together learning to grow with one another over all this time.

They always worked hard and weren’t afraid to try new things. With 5 kids, when I was in middle school, my mom decided to go to school and earn her degree to become a drafter. I learned just because you didn’t do it “when you were supposed to” doesn’t mean you never can. There are no limits when you give yourself permission. She is always giving herself permission to do new things including becoming a florist, to making steampunk clothing/jewelry, to moving half way across the country with my dad. The fact that she is where she is now compared to her upbringing is inspiring as well but that’s a whole other story!

When I was in high school my dad wanted a change and decided to become an entrepreneur; to be his own boss and set his own hours. Sometimes leaving a steady job to pursue your dreams and be with your family is more important than a guaranteed pay check. It’s courageous to take on the unknown when you have a family depending on you. Now, he is pursuing his PhD at 50! Talk about challenging yourself!!

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They choose to do things different. I think that’s awesome! What have your parents done that inspires you? We love hearing from you all; the comments are all yours. Til next time Pengminions.

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The Gym Isn’t the Only Way to Workout

~Kristen Furleigh

Don’t give up your dreams of being healthy and strong just because you can’t afford a gym membership. Money or lack thereof can have a negative impact on our ability to believe we can still achieve. When funds get tight one of the first things to go straight to a wish list is a gym membership, and with it our willingness to think beyond to what we will do in it’s place. The whole possibility of being fit seemingly vanishes but it does not have to.

There a plethora of tools out there you can utilize that won’t cost you money but can still give you the health benefits of having a gym membership; so don’t fret. You can make things happen if you are willing to do the slightly unconventional. Richard and I haven’t ever budgeted for a gym membership because we would rather put that money towards an experience or artistic materials which often don’t come cheap. We are still able make working out fun and beneficial for us.

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The great outdoors is a typically free resource available to you almost anywhere you live. Weather can be an obstacle here depending on where you live but for most of us we can suck it up when its a bit warmer or colder than our preferred state of comfort. Go for a run to get your cardio in and utilize the space in a park that has workout stations along the course. You can usually find out where your city parks are by visiting your city website or GoogleMaps works well too. Go scope them out to find out which one offers what you are looking for. We even saw an outdoor workout facility in San Francisco that looked like a crossfit gym!

Did you know that YouTube, besides offering music and cute cat videos, is also a hub for countless exercise videos? You can find workout videos for just about anything you can imagine. From Yoga to full length exercise classes to short, specific muscle focused instruction. If you get bored you can always switch it up with something else.

On the topic of video instruction, if you can rely on yourself to cancel, BeachBody offers free 30-day access to a large number of their programs that you can stream on just about any device. Just remember to schedule a reminder in your phone before your offer expires to avoid being charged! This can be great to get you started with an at home routine. If you are afraid you will forget the steps of the work out you can write them down to reference after your trial period.

If you can find a gym buddy! If you have a friend who has a gym at their apartment complex see if you can join them. Many don’t require a sign in so as long as you have the access code or card to get in you can use their equipment. We did this when my parents lived in an apartment complex that offered these amenities. Remember to always be respectful of others and the equipment in the gym.

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If you are in college or live in an active community be on the look out for free events. We were able to learn acroyoga by joining a club on campus. Summer is a great time to find free outdoor events where they offer instruction that gets you moving. Take advantage of these opportunities and write down what you learn so you can workout on your own.

Investing in yourself will always take time but it doesn’t always have to cost you money. What are some things you do to stay fit on a fitness budget of $0? We would love to try our hand at your approach. Leave your thoughts in the comments; we love to hear from you! Til next time Pengminions!

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I’m in a Travel State of Mind

– Richard Furleigh

If you read any blogs on even a semi regular basis you will have come across the “Travel is important!” “Get out and go see the world!” or the classic “Broaden your horizons!” All of which sound great but from my travel experiences in this country and abroad, miss a critical point. Unless you open yourself up to those new experience, than you will get little to nothing out of it other than a couple pictures you’ll later post to Facebook.

Many people point to college as one of the biggest times in your life when you will be exposed to new ideas, and there’s a good reason for that. Get students together from not only all over your state but from the rest of the country and plunk them down beside one another and watch the magic. Now multiply that and that can be what travel is, if you’re open to it. It is absolutely imperative, and I cannot stress this enough, to begin any trip with a fresh set of eyes; the further your travels the more crucial this becomes. See the world through a child like state of wonder and interest, ask why things happened the way they do, get to know the thoughts locals have behind their beliefs religious and political, get to know their customs in a way that lets you appreciate them that much more, and then share yours with them too!

 

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Kristen performing a poi dance led by the Maori (New Zealand first nation peoples)

 

When Kristen and I went on our honeymoon to New Zealand we stayed almost exclusively in hostels not only for the cost savings and the free instant coffee, but for the shared experiences with other people. Two nights in particular stick out in my head when it comes to good conversation: one in Wellington at The Dwellington (which I loved more for the pun name) and Invercargill at a hostel I can’t find with Google anymore (hope you guys are still open!). The reason these two stick out as places we stayed during our trip is because of the conversations we had with other travelers who were staying there. At The Dwellington I had about a two hour conversation with a one guy and one woman from England, a woman from Canada, and a native New Zealander about the life of being recently graduated from college (or as they call it, university), focusing on what it takes finding a job, what other support structure they have for young adults, taxes once you get a job, healthcare while employed and while not, and so much more.

In Invercargill we sat with a couple from Israel, a butcher from France, and another woman from somewhere in South America. As the wood burning stove burnt down, was restocked, and burnt down again we joked and talked about everything from life, to what it was like living and working in our respective countries. It was amazing to get to talk about military service in Israel, working as a butcher for fine French restaurants, to life in the southern hemisphere in a harsh political climate. One amazing note about the Invercargill night as well: Kristen and I were the only two native English speakers there yet we communicated, sometimes very brokenly, in English and gestures the whole night, and it was that much more amazing for it.

These moments were enriching in ways that would never have happened had I not approached them with the mindset of curiosity, intrigue, and open mindedness about the greater world around me. There are so many things to be learned from people other than ourselves, and the further away from your state of normality you can get the more interesting information and people you will find.

If you’re heading out on a trip any time soon, try going off the beaten path, go sit at a bar and strike up a conversation with strangers, and try to explore what their life is like.

Any major trips you have coming up? Let us know about it in the comments down below, and if you want any advice on awesome places in New Zealand we’ll be more than happy to share! Until next time Pengminions! 

 

Finding Furleigh: It’s more than a blog!

~Kristen Furleigh

In my previous blog I talked about Furleigh and how it came about. Since changing our name, which if you would like to learn about our process in changing our name please message us we would be glad to share with you, it has been an interesting journey. Come to find out taking a new name and making it your own is no easy feat. Especially for two who never thought they would go by anything other than who they were named at birth.

Finding Furleigh epitomises that for us as a trifecta: it’s a journey in finding who we are as individuals, who we are together, and where you can find us along the way. Whether it be in our everyday lives or off on another travel adventure we hope to encourage you to join us on our exploration of ourselves and this vast world. It is an ever evolving process that never ends as we grow and change over time. Our goal is to continue to hold each other accountable to this continuous work.

I caught myself just the other day writing Burleigh when filling out paperwork and it’s been almost three years since we changed our names! It is easy to fall back into old habits especially when you have held them for a long time. Writing the wrong name is trivial it is true, but falling back into the old and comfortable and staying there doesn’t facilitate long term growth. It takes making a correction even if in another direction entirely to find where you need to go. Exploration is key and that takes action, it takes doing, and it takes accepting failure along the way. Sometimes mistakes can give us just the fuel we need to keep pushing forward.

What our name does for us is it helps guide us. We found Furleigh and we will continue to find Furleigh as we explore the meaning and how it may change as we continue our lifelong journey. What guides you? Share with us your inspiration and your motivation. Let’s keep each other accountable! Til next time Pengminions! 

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