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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Don’t Go Home to Visit Friends & Family, Meet Them Somewhere!

by Richard Furleigh

Going home to visit is a wonderful thing, getting to reconnect face to face with family and friends is a special time to say the least. The only real downside with this is you’re going back to a place that typically is unchanged and unless there is just some wonderfully amazing thing that you have to have in your life, there isn’t much more other than visiting those people that makes it worthwhile.

Instead why not have a destination visit home?

One of the ideas Kristen and I have been kicking around for a little bit is getting together with my parents (who still live in Texas) and rather than going to go visit them, having all of us meet up somewhere new! This idea struck us as we were talking one night and Kristen was lamenting the thought of going back to visit. “It’s not that I don’t want to see your folks, but your hometown is so lame.” In fairness, she is 100% correct on that one. “Why don’t we just go somewhere else and we can all meet up and hang out there?” And thus a grand idea was born.

Rather than have one set of people go to the other, have everyone meet up at a destination outside of their homes! Travel isn’t super cheap, so this lets us kill two birds with one stone in the sense of traveling to a place we want to visit, and getting to spend time with the people we love. On top of that, getting to experience new and exciting things with them will make the trip that much more memorable! I could go back to La Porte, or we have fun in Hawaii and talk about our lives there. Call me crazy but one sounds a lot more fun than the other.

Of course you want to take the time to get input from as many parties as possible before deciding where exactly you want to go. For example we have decided to go on an Alaskan cruise in the summer of 2018 with my family. Both my Mom and sister were excited about the possibility of seeing whales, Kristen gets to check another state off her list, my Dad loves boats and wants to visit Alaska really bad, and I’m looking forward to the off boat excursions that we can do in the wild north. So there is something for everyone to be excited about.

Are there any friend or family visits coming up for you? Try to change it into a group vacation instead! Rally the troops and find a place everyone can find something fun to do. It promises to be a much different time than a typical visit back to the homestead. Until next time Pengminions!

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Why Kristen and I Almost Didn’t Get Married (For a Good Reason)

by Richard Furleigh

The decision to get married is a big one; one of the biggest of your life. The decision to spend the rest of your life with one person is daunting to say the least. Now, Kristen and I love each other (a lot) but when talking about the rest of our lives we had a serious debate whether we wanted to get married or not. We definitely wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, but the question was the paperwork behind it.

It wasn’t until more recent history when governments at a local and state level began requiring licensing for marriages; starting around the mid 19th century.  Prior to that announcements in newspapers or by word of mouth in communities was accompanied by a simple ceremony without all the lavish trappings of modern weddings.

For Kristen and I it came down to a few things. One, we knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together and didn’t need a piece of paper telling us that. Two, those pieces of paper do cost money to get in addition to the time required to go get them processed. So in many respects it just felt like an unnecessary step in our lives.

The United States however thinks otherwise in many respects. Unless we wanted to jump through a ton of other legal hoops at various points in our lives, being married is one of the only ways to ensure life with your chosen partner is smooth in the legal sense. End of life care, life insurance, health insurance, taxes, offspring rights, even renting an apartment all become massively more difficult to navigate if you are “together” but not married. On top of that, with our name change we would have had a harder time convincing a judge to allow it.

In the end we did get married in Harris County, but only for the simplicity of legal processes throughout our lives. I really wish the US and it’s states made unmarried life for committed couples a little more accommodating in this respect because, as I stated, it really just feels unnecessary. We love each other and choose to be together and we don’t need a document to tell us that.

We do know there are couples out there who have chosen to go without that paper, and we would love to hear from you so some of our other readers can be informed too! What issues have you run into and how have you overcome them? Do you have any recommendations for others who may think about doing the same? Let us know down below and thanks in advance for sharing your knowledge! Until next time Pengminions!!

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Your Wedding Decor For LESS

What seems to be the most daunting task is also in my opinion the most fun when it comes to weddings. The decor. From picking colors to theme to the little details. These things can also often come at a hefty price. It doesn’t have to however. If you plan enough in advance you can actually do most if not all of it yourself. I know there is the dreaded “Pinterest Fail” but fear not; there are plenty of easy to do craft ideas that will save you money.

When putting together your wedding remember that all inclusive or renting might seem like an enticing option and my guess is, it is easy, but I have found out that when purchasing the items you need like chair covers, table runners, decorations, place settings at a similar price as renting would be it is more cost beneficial for you. When you are done with those items you can turn around and sell them afterwards. The awesome thing about that is even if you don’t sell every piece after your shindig you could effectively not pay a dime or at the very least much less than had they been supplied for you. These items you could even save for later use. Maybe you like to host brunch or a party; you would be all set. The best part is you spend less on your wedding!

a centerpieceLet’s talk about flowers. Most brides can’t wait to have fresh flowers throughout but we all know that those truly cost an arm and a leg. If you can’t live without and are determined to have fresh flowers for your wedding I suggest finding simple arrangements that you could do yourself or just a couple single flowers for your table settings. Rather than calling up your local florist try your grocery stores or budget stores that do fresh flowers, Sam’s, Costco, just to name a few. You should go ahead of time to order the flowers in bulk for the day you need them. Discuss with them the state (bloomed or not and how long before they do) that your flowers will arrive so you can make a decision on when you need your order to arrive and the care to take so they will be beautiful for your big day. This one thing alone will save you hundreds!

The decorations throughout don’t have to be lavish. If you are willing to have similar but not identical set pieces thrift stores are your best friend. If you haven’t figured it out yet; I LOVE THRIFT STORES! Have an idea for theme and you can find some great pieces at fractions of the price that will fit your style. Craigslist is another great resource. Like you will hopefully be doing, other brides will sell off their pieces after their big day. Another fun personal thing you can do is place tiny photos of your relationship on the tables; this adds a nice touch to let your guests into some of your adventures as a couple. It is also relatively cheap to do at Walgreens. You can even make your own table ornaments by saving glass sauce jars and fashioning them to fit your style.

Each of these are things that Richard and I did for our wedding and it came out beautifully. What have you done to save on your wedding decor or have you tried some of the things we did? How did it turn out? Let us know in the comments! Til 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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Your Wedding Day is YOUR Wedding Day

Your wedding day should be just that, YOUR, wedding day. A day for you and your future spouse to celebrate however you deem appropriate. Your day is NOT to please other people. In my opinion it should be a reflection of your love for each other and what you value. Not what your parents, your future in-laws, you other family, your friends, or anyone else believes it should be.

My #1 piece of advice for you is to set your ground rules or share your plans early on in the process. Let those involved know how you feel and what your plans are, especially if you know that their opinions about your wedding day differ from what you plan to do. This helps to alleviate some of the potential blow ups during the process. Not to say that family or friends might not get upset but they should understand that it is your wedding and not theirs; you are inviting them to celebrate your union in a way that represents the two of you. They need to support and respect that. You also want to avoid surprises in the process especially “on the day of” revelations if at all possible. Luckily they don’t all end in disaster but heading them off ahead of time can save you a potential catastrophe.

Richard and I chose an extremely nontraditional route and it took us some time to figure out what exactly we wanted to do. We ended up having what we called a “Soiree” as our reception where we dressed up in fancy steampunk garb and celebrated our coming commitment to one another with family and friends, as a send off of sorts. This was on a Saturday and on Sunday, the 13th of April, we celebrate our anniversary and the day we chose as our commitment day. Spring forward 2 months and that is when we finally got around to filling out paperwork and having an officiant sign our licence for the silly government.

What is usually the ceremony part, our commitment day, was about us and no one else. We felt that at the end of the day no one comes home with us to make our marriage work and we wanted that to be our private event. Yes, family and friends are important and they influence our lives but they don’t live our life and so that is why we chose the reception as a way to include them in our union.

What did you do or are you planning to do that is a little or a lot out of the ordinary? Let us know in the comments section below. Next, we will take you on our journey of how we only spent about $4,000 for our whole shindig! Til next time Pengminions!

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It’s Wedding Season!

20130820_120257

Not my actual wedding dress

It is that time of year, spring/summer, when the weddings seem to be never ending. Every where you look there is another white dress by a costly designer, extravagant venue, artistic masterpieces for cakes, guest lists that go on forever. Bridal magazines, Pinterest, and Instagram all perpetuate this idea of what we “need” for a perfect wedding. The average cost of a wedding in the US is $35,329! You read that correctly. That is minimum $10,000 more than the cost of my Subi!

I am amazed at the amount of money people spend on their weddings. Why? Why are we spending so much money on these one day events? What does putting yourself in debt to start this brand new, beautiful adventure do for you? What is the meaning behind all of it? Are we really thinking about these things before we do them? In most cases I don’t believe we really ask ourselves these questions or give them much thought. This brings me to one of my favorite shows, Adam Ruins Everything, and I would like to share with you his comedic historical based video snippet on weddings.

When planning your wedding I implore you to question what you are spending your money on, ask yourself why, and whether or not it truly is important to you and your significant other. It is just one day, a special one but it shouldn’t put you back monetarily or be about things that don’t matter to you both. Spending more on your wedding makes it more likely to end in divorce, according to researchers at Emory University. Maybe think twice about the extravagance or pleasing others and focus on the things that are most important; the two of you.

These next few blogs I write are going to be about some of the decisions we made for our wedding day that might help you save or think a little differently and creatively when planning your special day.  Til 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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Urban Exploring: Beauty in the Decay

by Richard Furleigh

Beauty can be found anywhere if you’re willing to look. For Kristen and I, beauty and fascination has been found in a couple of our more wild adventures: urban exploring. For the uninitiated, urban exploring (also urbex) is venturing inside of and exploring abandoned buildings and places. The goal is not destruction or modification, but simply to venture around see what has happened since people ceased their regular habitation. They also make for some hauntingly gorgeous places for photography.  

Our first adventure started during our undergrad when I decided to take Kristen to New Orleans, and it had nothing to do with Bourbon St. I kept our true reason under wraps until we arrived, and surprised her by parking nearby and walking her toward the former Six Flags Jazzland. The theme park had been closed since August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck and the combination of desolation, graffiti, and decay were more than enough to keep us occupied most of the afternoon.

As we showed pictures from this outing to our family, my sister’s then boyfriend now husband found his creativity bubbling away. As a gift to us he offered to photograph our engagement pictures: in the abandoned Falstaff brewery on Galveston Island. Abandoned in 1981 the brewery occupies a huge plot of land on the island and goes up about 6 stories as well for it’s main offices. The graffiti here was spectacularly done in some places and Andrew’s eye for photography helped us get some amazing pictures that day.


Check out the full shoot by clicking here!

The Furleighs do caution you if you decide to explore on your own: urban exploring is generally considered trespassing, and any abandoned facility may be less than completely safe structurally. So please be careful. That being said, there are plenty of websites out there that can help you find places nearby and this can be a unique and inspiring way to explore your city.

Have you been able to find something inspiring in an unusual place? Are there any off the path places you’ve been to or explored? Let us know down below! Until next time Pengminions!

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