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

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Journey to Virginia City

Living in Reno there are many interesting places to visit within a small radius. My favorite is probably Virginia City. Of course, Lake Tahoe is iconic and everyone must check it out but anytime we have family or friends visit us we always make a point to venture off in the opposite direction. We head to the old mining town of Virginia City.

Virginia City has a lot to offer for such a small town. Its old buildings are such a treat for the eyes to behold. Not only do the sights of the old building take you back but with the wooden sidewalks underfoot you become immersed in the old world. There are many unique shops throughout the main street of town. My favorite is a hatmaker, that creates custom hats in creative ways.

During the warmer months there are many events that take place that draw in a crowd each time. This weekend they are hosting an annual off road motorcycle race that brings in about 1,000 riders in an extremely competitive event. In September we attended our first International Camel and Ostrich race. I have never had so much goofy fun baking in the hot desert sun than while watching this event take place.

The views are breathtaking as well! There is something for everyone between what I mentioned above and the museums and tours offered as well.
If you get the chance I highly recommend this swell lil old town for a day or weekend trip. Everyone we take has had a blast. What are some of your favorite places to visit around where you are from? Do you have any hidden gems we should know about if we end up in your neck of the woods? Let us know in the comments below. Til 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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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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Alyssa Was Here!

alyssaIn the spirit of sharing more YOU, I thought I would share a song with you all that I changed some of the lyrics to. For those of you that do not know, my little sister, Alyssa, died in a car accident at the age of only 14 in 2009. It is one of those things you don’t really think about until it happens. For me especially, I was the older sibling and we were both so young, death would come for me most certainly before her, so I never imagined out living her/living without her.

The call I got from my dad that day was and could possibly be the shittiest phone call I ever receive. I was living 9 hours from home at the time and was asleep when he called. At the time my dad never really called often so him calling so late was weird. I still remember, in a sleepy fog, the rush of thoughts that came flooding in as he started to talk. It is amazing how fast our brains can move. He was quick and direct which is the kindest anyone could ask for in that situation. I was on the next flight home. I didn’t know what or how to think about everything and the tears just wouldn’t stop. After the initial shock, as time kept moving as it does, my thoughts and feelings seemed to settle on the frame of mind that yes she is physically gone but I and everyone she ever encountered that are still here she is a part of us; she lives on in the lives that we live.

Which brings me to this song. The original song is by the country artist Cam and the song is called Village. She wrote this song to her little sister telling her what she would want her to remember if she ever died. It was inspired by the death of a best friend’s older brother who was like an older brother to her also. When I first heard the song I simultaneously fell in love with it and hated it. I hated it because it didn’t reflect my reality. I am not the one who is gone so it didn’t sit right with me the way it was written but the message of everyone we know living on inside of us fills me up! So I rewrote the song and recorded it for those who miss her and need a reminder that though she is not here; she is still here. As the song says, “The world outside seems different” and it definitely is but I think we can bring her on our journey and allow her imprint on our heart to be shared with others in choosing to live our lives well.

Here is my version of the song Village you can listen to and the lyrics below.
Lyrics:
Hey there, don’t you dare believe them
She’d never leave us alone
I’d been watching over her like older siblings do
Since the day she was born
I know it feels like She’s been left behind
But She’s still around

‘Cause each whole heart’s a village
Everyone we love has built them
And she’d been working there herself
And that’s where she’ll be
Hope its a front-row seat
To watch us live our lives well

Streets lined with cottages and cabins
The skies are always blue
She spends her days with ghosts who all love us the most
But no one quite like she does
And there’ll be days we need her by our side
And that’s alright

‘Cause each whole heart’s a village
Everyone we love has built them
And she’d been working there herself
And that’s where she’ll be
Hope it’s a front-row seat
To watch us live our lives well

Oh man, the world outside seems different
But one thing will never change
She knows who we’ve been and who we’ll become
And Alyssa is here with us always

‘Cause each whole heart’s a village
Everyone we love has built them
And She’d been working there herself
And that’s where she’ll be
Hope it’s a front-row seat
To watch us live our lives well

Each whole heart’s a village
Everyone we love has built them
And she’d been working there herself
And that’s where she’ll be
Hope it’s a front-row seat
To watch us live our lives well
And She knows we’ll live our lives well

I hope my sharing all this encourages you to live your life to the fullest with the time you have on this Earth, whether or not you have lost someone dear our time is limited and we never know how. Maybe it even inspires you to spend more quality time with those that matter to you. The comments are yours to share what you wish; we love hearing from you. Til next time Pengminions!

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She said , “We don’t want to have kids…”

At least that’s the thought right now. Kids might be cool…One day…Maybe?
We often get the “Oh, you will want kids one day” or the “Kids are the best thing to every happen to you” cliches. I am not so sure. We have time if we change our minds and right now I know I don’t want them; possibly ever.
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We can hardly take care of ourselves let alone children.

Why? Because my thoughts on the subject have changed over the years. In a previous blog you found out that I was the oldest of five kids to young parents. All of my aunts and uncles have kids too. When I was younger I figured, I’d end up with kids also, most likely as a youngin rather than later in life. I got older those ideas changed. As I went off to college and started thinking about what I wanted my life to be I started to realize the responsibility that came with having children; it takes away the freedoms that I have and am enjoying as an adult. My aspirations with art and travel are not financially nor time conducive to the commitment that raising a child(ren) requires.

No one, or rather most people, don’t talk about the challenges and down side to being a parent. The cool thing to me is that it IS optional. In this day and age the number of childless men and women has been increasing and the decision process is usually a rational one.

Over the years I have put a LOT of thought into what having children does to an individual and family. As a woman I have come to realize the psychological and physical tolls having kids can have on your being. No matter how much your partner chimes “We’re having a baby!” truly the woman is the only one who undergoes a number of dramatic changes to her life not for nine months but forever. Is it worth it? I’m not sure I believe it is. The physical changes your body endures is more than just superficial.  There is also no way to know whether or not postpartum depression will effect you and to what extent your brain changes. It is not selfish to not want to purposefully affect your being in these possible ways.

In many relationships, more often than not, child rearing disproportionately ends up falling on women in a heterosexual relationship. It takes great effort to keep this from occurring. This can prove difficult when your own upbringing was as such, which was the case for us both. This can be detrimental for those women who have other aspirations than just child rearing.

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Besides, our fur~baby family makes us pretty darn happy!

The happiness that people talk about with their “bundle of joy” also isn’t the case for all parents; some people are really unhappy after having kids and the stresses it can cause. I am quite happy with the life that Richard and I have been building and having kids just doesn’t seem to fit in with our plans as of now. We have plenty of time to reassess as we go on this journey together. Currently I like that our time can be spent only factoring in each other’s respective lives. We are able to focus on our goals and aspirations; not to mention the traveling we are able to do that would potentially be cost and time prohibitive if we had children.

Another reason having kids does not seem right for me is the number of children that are without a home. I have thought if I were to have children that comes with the caveat that its a two for one deal; I would have to adopt as well.  If I’m going to bring a child into this world I am going to take in one that is already here and needs a family. To me it feels wrong to bring another human into this world when there are already so many people that go without. That is twice as much time, energy, money, ect.

Whether or not we have children is to be determined and only time will tell but as for now our reasoning together points toward no. We are completely OK with that because we know that it is a choice and a responsibility not to be taken lightly. What are your thoughts on having kids? Let us know in the comments below. Til next time Pengminions!
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He said, “We don’t want to have kids…”

By Richard Furleigh

If there are a small handful of choices we have made in our lives that truly define us as questioning everything it is our decision to not have children. While the number of children per family has declined over the last few decades the general attitude is that couples will end up having kids together. Separately both of us had even wanted them ourselves when we were younger but the times they are a changin!

Growing up I had assumed that I would have two kids, and my wife and I would split work/home duties and raise our little loving family. As I got into college and toward graduation I wanted to make sure that if I did have kids that it was under circumstances that would be conducive to a good upbringing; then Kristen and I got to talking…

It’s not that either of us changed the others mind, rather our thoughts had been shifting on their own for some time before we sat down and discussed what our potential family would look like. As we talked we realized that our life plans seemed so chaotic already, full of ambitions that take an exceptional amount of time and dedication, that we LOVE to travel and see the world. These things, while not impossible with children, definitely become much more difficult and not to mention costly (because unless that 4 & 6 year old have jobs they aren’t contributing to that trip to Disney that suddenly doubled in price). We also recognize the monumental effort it takes to actually be a good parent (shout out to Mike and Tracie Furin for being that!), to raise children in the best way possible becomes your #1 priority, everything else falls to the wayside when that bundle of joy arrives. This means your life, goals, and ambitions now play second fiddle.

Beyond these is also a harsh reality that people have ignored for a long time because the subject of unhappiness and children is too taboo: having kids is incredibly stressful. According to a recent study, the drop in happiness experienced by parents after the birth of first child was larger than the experience of unemployment, divorce or the death of a partner. So Kristen may actually be better off if I keel over dead than if she has a child with me.

At the end of it all what it boils down to is that I love my life with Kristen, we have a pretty awesome thing going. There are significant ambitions that having children would massively complicate in terms of artistry, career, and travel. Not to mention the costs in terms of monetary, mental, and physical health are enormous and understated. In many ways I feel that I just don’t want to give up the life I have with her, the things we are able to do with relative ease right now that would become giant undertakings with even one child. If it happens, then hey, I will welcome the little Furleigh. I hope I would make a good Dad, and I know Kristen would be a great mother. For now though, this is the last thing we are trying to make happen in our lives, and we are just fine with that.

What’s your take on kids? To have them, not to have them, maybe you already have a couple and could shed a little more insight on the topic? We’d love to have a conversation with you about it! Just let us know in the comments. Until next time Pengminions!

Also read Kristen’s take here!

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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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Doing things Different Inspired by Grit

In our MBA class we just finished reading a book called GRIT by Angela Duckworth. When thinking about grit it really struck me that it is in many ways doing things differently. Not allowing your set backs to define your future and that you can persevere over your situation. Where many would give up you don’t; that difference has a huge impact. I’d like to share with you a few quips from my life’s story where I believe I persevered and hopefully inspire you in the process.

Growing up my family was pretty poor and my parents weren’t good with money. When I was young I remember going to the grocery store and my mom only being able to purchase food that was on the WIC list. One of the cool things about it though is I never remember her placing any shame around it. It was just a fact. We didn’t stay on them forever; but they were a necessity for a young family with 5 kids in order to work themselves to a place where they no longer needed them. It was accepted that it was where they were but not where they had to stay: a tool not a crutch.
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I had another big lesson in high school when I learned that the government can take money from your bank account if you owe them. I decided that would never be (my parent’s account was where my working money had been kept.)

This happening canceled the senior trip I had planed on taking and had been saving for and though it hurt I decide not to allow that to crush me for long. It galvanized me to never make their same mistakes. I also resolved that just because this trip didn’t work out didn’t mean I would never travel.

My parents didn’t include me in the conversations about what had happened until they absolutely had to because they couldn’t come up with the money in time for me not to notice. I then decided that honesty will always be my policy. The truth can hurt but being lied to hurts worse. Those involved should always have a say.

After all this, when turning 18, I took charge and the first thing I did when I woke up that day was get the couple hundred dollars I had saved and opened my own bank account so I got to decide what happened to my money.
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Going to college was ingrained in me from very early on, but my parent’s didn’t have the means to financially support me to go there so I had to find a way to make it work. So, I worked, went to community college, attend rehearsals, made time for friends, and eventually made my way to University. Not going wasn’t an option. Although it was slow, (I didn’t always take a full course load) and was without a doubt nontraditional, I finally finished 6 years later.

During my senior year of college I decide that the study abroad program was something I couldn’t miss out on. I didn’t let my small bank account, lack of a job because of the demands of the thearte, or the failure of my last senior trip dictate the pursuit of this one. I recruited friends, found support in my home town, and put together a plate sale to help fund the trip. And I went!

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Without these happenings I would have missed out on a lot of learning:

If you allow them, harsh lessons can lead you to develop further and  hopefully inspire you to think of things different to accomplish your goals. In many ways I changed my narrative and so can you. Share with us some of your stories of perseverance or what is going on in your life and what you plan to start doing differently! Til next time Pengminions!

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Experiences are the Best Gifts

~Kristen Furleigh

The best gift you can give some one is your time. Rather than spending your hard earned money on things that in most cases only offer short term fulfillment why not think differently next time a holiday or birthday come around. We as people remember most the experiences we had and the people we had them with more readily than the gift items we get. Why not give the gift of experiences and/or time when the next gift giving event takes place?

great basin

Around here we prefer just that. Any chance we get we are trying to come up with a meaningful experience in which we can gift our time when these milestones hit. This year was my Dad’s 50th birthday and what we came up with is for me to take him out to a different spot once a month for the whole year and we grab a beer together . This encourages us to make time for each other; which with our busy schedules can get away from us sometimes. For the year we are dedicating once a month to an experience and quality time; which is better than any ol’ tie or bottle of aged whiskey could offer. It’s just two months in and it has been a blast!

If you are looking for some grand adventures or experiences and don’t know where to look try out Groupon. You can get ideas and even try something new for a fraction of the original cost. They have offers in most cities.

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Christmas this year was a great year for Groupons, one of my favorite gifts, my parents got each of us ‘kids’ a voucher for go-kart racing! And for my parents I got us an adventure for a group snowshoeing adventure up in Lake Tahoe. For Richard and I we purchased one for parasailing this summer up in Lake Tahoe also. I can’t wait to go on these epic adventures with people I love.

cpAnother place to start when trying to come up with gifts that are more along these lines is to think about the person’s interests and how you can incorporate those into an activity or outing. When my birthday came around last year Richard remembered my love of arts/crafts and weakness for a sweet Moscato and signed me up to spend time with my Mom at Crafted Palette (a local paint and sip establishment) since he had to work.

These are just a few of many ways you can change your gift giving habits that we encourage you to try out. What are some of your favorite non-traditional gifts or some ideas that you have come up with that we didn’t talk about? We would love to hear about them. Having trouble or feeling stuck; lets brainstorm some ideas together! Til next time Pengminions!

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