Monday, November 30, 2015

Build more bridges than walls

photo by Jenny Ingalls Nelson

I used to have a friend who said, "Build a bridge and get over it". He would say it sarcastically, but it's something I've thought a lot about lately, as people seem to be building more and more walls.

We build walls by making assumptions and not asking questions. We build them by avoiding difficult conversations and holding grudges. These walls separate us and are most often built from fear. Walls keep us separate.

Human beings are wired for connection. We crave it, yet we still build walls. It's vulnerable to build a bridge, and trying to connect means taking a risk. You may ask the question you've been avoiding and get a negative answer. You may apologize and not receive forgiveness. Taking these emotional risks takes enormous amounts of courage.

Connection takes courage. Fear is easy, but it keeps us separate. It makes us think we're playing safe, or keeping everyone happy by avoiding conflict, but it really just keeps us small.

Building a bridge is a deliberate practice when we are so used to building walls. We must choose courage to build a bridge. We must make space for vulnerability, and be gentle with ourselves, as we honor our basic human need for connection. Start small...just keep building.


CLICK TO TWEET: Build more bridges than walls.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Extreme Gratitude

I recently had the opportunity to travel to the Philippines. For someone who wants to see the world, this was one place that had never made it to my bucket list of destinations. Frankly, I didn't want to go.

As with most big experiences in life, there were some big lessons. The biggest was gratitude. Being in a country where 70% of people are considered poor, and almost half of those are living below the poverty line, is humbling to say the least. I've never had such a profound sense of gratitude for the life I was born into.

While my parents didn't have a lot of extra money, there was never a concern about food, clothing or shelter. Our home was warm and our clothes were clean, and I never had to think about any of it.

I am so incredibly lucky.

My parents made education a priority for me, and for that I am grateful.

I live in a country where I can wear and say what I like.

I've always been paid a livable wage.

The other big takeaway was that at the end of the day, people are people, and the vast majority of them are good. I was traveling during the Paris bombings, and to be reminded that most people are good, was incredibly timely.

I spent 3 weeks with people who I never would have chosen to meet and am now so glad I know.

Today, I'll be spending the day with some blood family and some chosen family. I'm grateful for all of them, and for all of you. I'd love to hear what you're thankful for in the comments below.

With ❤ & gratitude,

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Vulnerability is beautiful

photo by Jenny Ingalls Nelson

I've had 3 powerful conversations with women about vulnerability in the last week. Women often go to great efforts to hide or suppress their vulnerability. We are taught to believe that vulnerability is synonymous with weakness; that to get ahead we have to rely solely on our intellect, never admit when we don't know something and certainly not admit when we're wrong.

I couldn't disagree more.

Yes, vulnerability is risky, but I'm not talking about sharing every thought and feeling on social media. That's not vulnerability. True vulnerability should be shared with those who have earned it. It takes courage to share our most sacred feelings and I consider it a distinct privilege when people feel I've earned the right to their vulnerability. I can count on 2 hands the people who have earned the right to mine.

Beyond those most sacred feelings, vulnerability touches every part of life and is a significant component of integrity and authenticity. Consider a professional setting where someone in a position of power makes a mistake. The leader who practices integrity chooses to be vulnerable and admits the error. That leader has given everyone around them permission to do the same, creating a culture where mistakes become learning opportunities, not something to be feared, hidden or denied.

Vulnerability is also required for connection. We cannot truly connect with another person, be it a partner or friend, without some measure of vulnerability. When we make choices like asking for what we need and respectfully standing up for ourselves, we are stepping into vulnerability, and deepening connection.

Each of these choices are rooted in vulnerability, and require courage and practice. They also reward us with the beauty of deeper connections and more authentic, integrity-based life.


CLICK TO TWEET: #Vulnerability is beautiful.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

How to use Art to Reconnect with Your Authentic Self

Post by Lucy Chen for the Kind Kindred series.

I was in a very dark place. I was in a fight with my then husband. I was desperate to get out, but he was blocking the way, so I grabbed the knife that I used to sharpen my drawing pencils, and cut myself.

The cutting itself didn’t hurt at all. It was nothing compared to the emotional pain I’d been experiencing - constantly being told that I wasn’t sensitive enough, not caring enough, not considerate enough. Not enough, not enough…

Though I tried to fight that criticism, it was like poison that would slowly sink deeper and deeper into your skin, and you started believing it.

The ambulance took me out that day. But true recovery was a long way ahead.

Art, and especially painting self portraits, has literally helped me recover from depression.

When we spend time with ourselves, quiet time, and reaching deeply into ourselves through a mirror, with a paint brush, with our fingers, we discover our deepest truth. And we learn to love ourselves.

I hope you’ll enjoy this video of me painting one of my self portraits.

Lucy Chen is a Chinese-born, Australian-grown, Sydney-based artist, and a vegan chef for her family of two kids. She healed herself from depression through painting. Click here to download her latest book “Reconnect with Your Intelligent and Classy Inner Self Through Art”, and start the journey of reconnecting with your most authentic self.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Spark

A calm wind ushers in the enchanted instructions,
For too long, the enduring won out over living -
which causes a breakdown in flow, welcoming destruction.
So much knowledge comes in the act of being.
Take my hand, take my heart, take this chance.
Let the Divine spark inside cause an uproar.
Reach for me and let me have this dance,
A glitter is given and with it, the chance to soar.
There have been times of the most weakness
Which is how the strength inside is discovered.
Awareness liberates me from certain bleakness
And taking on the day? I’ve got that covered.
The darkness reigned in so many ways,
But because of this, I came to find the light.
It became easier to live out my days
And welcome in a future so very bright.
And though they tell me to fight the pain
Instead, I reach out into the abyss with an open heart.
The acknowledgement releases the shame,
I’ve come to the place where I comfort that part.
The adversities of daily living bring up such fear,
Going on ahead anyway is what causes the ultimate spark,
Which allows for a better way of life and living here.

Published writer & ‘Unique-tivity Guide’, Renee Avard-Furlow runs a successful site where she shares her writings & reflections, offers spiritually-based services and shares ‘Magic Musepirations’ monthly. 

She currently has two short eBooks available on Amazon, with more planned & is writing her poetic memoir, due out in late 2015.

She can be found at:, on Facebook  and Twitter.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

7 Ways to Make Your Thanksgiving Special

Post by Taralee Hurff for the Kind Kindred series.

photo courtesy of

Thanksgiving clearly struggles with the “middle child mentality” of being overlooked. Halloween merchandise hits the stores in August and Christmas merchandise hits the shelves in October. In recent years stores have been opening their doors for holiday shopping on Thanksgiving Day, barely giving time for families to sit and enjoy one another’s company. Why has this holiday been forsaken? The answer is simple. Society as a whole has allowed commercialism to invade our families, our traditions and our values. We have given permission to the powers that be to overlook the importance of Thanksgiving by jumping on the commercialism bandwagon.

Thanksgiving has its root in history but that is not what we talk about when we gather to share in a family meal on this day. The primary focus has always been to get families together, share a meal and to be thankful for all of our blessings. I share in Amy Grant’s perspective on Thanksgiving, “Thanksgiving Day is a good day to recommit our energies to giving thanks and just giving”. I give thanks daily for all of life’s blessings not just on this one day a year. We all should. But this one day a year always served as a day when people slowed down; and in the craziness of the food, football and family they would give thanks. For some this may be the only day of the year they give thanks; for others it may have given them the opportunity to recommit their energies to giving thanks. I know that for some families this is the only time of year that their entire family can be together. Bypassing Thanksgiving because it is sandwiched between two holidays with more “buying appeal” is a disservice to families.

I challenge you to take Thanksgiving back this year. I want you to share Thanksgiving Day with your family being present in the time together and creating memories. You may want to introduce some traditions that have faded or introduce something in hopes it will become a new tradition for your family. Make this Thanksgiving your own – show up with the intention to “recommit your energies to giving thanks and just giving”. Our Thanksgiving celebrations are rooted in family, traditions and fun. Every year we adjust to meet the needs of our family because let’s face it, getting families all together isn’t always easy. Our family deals with shift workers, years when family lived out of state, having to visit different places in the same day and general life happenings that can make arrangements a bit crazy. I know you can relate. Despite all of that it somehow comes together and is always a day we cherish and look forward to doing it all again next year.

To inspire you in your efforts to take Thanksgiving back, I want to share some of our family traditions and fun…

*We always set the table with fancy glasses…even for the kiddos. It makes the dinner and everyone at dinner feel a little more special. If you have fine china and crystal and want to use it, I think that is awesome. If you do not have no fear…hit up any dollar store for some fancy glasses that will keep you in budget but can be used for many years.

*Every year a member of the family cooks something new to bring to dinner. You cannot go wrong with trying new recipes and foods. Be prepared for some recipes to make a return and others that should never be spoken of again.

*We do a TURKEY TROT! After dinner and before dessert we head outside to take a walk around the neighborhood; or if you are at our house a walk around the barns! How long this takes us depends on the weather.

*We have a Giving Thanks table runner. We started this tradition about 15 years ago. It comes out every year and everyone that is at dinner signs the table runner with what they are thankful for that year. We use sharpie markers. Even the tiniest of attendees sign the runner – we have traced handprints, drawings and big letters! We love reading the table runner every year and remembering past years.

*We take a group photo where everyone is wearing a Pilgrim or Indian hat! This is my favorite tradition because even the person who is most resistant when we take the picture LOVES the picture when I send it out!!!

*We give thanks! During dinner we go around the table and talk about what we are thankful for; some keep it simple and some go more in depth. The most important thing is that everyone gives thanks at their comfort level.

*We spend some time outdoors. My family loves to take a walk in the woods or play a game of football (of course this is pending weather) before we meet up with the rest of the family for Thanksgiving Day fun.

Taralee A. O’Malley-Hurff is an educator, a philanthropist and a published author. Her book, 100 Things To Do Before You Are 10, is the go to resource for family bonding and adventure. Taralee has passionately contributed to the fields of special education and early childhood education since 1998, meeting her students as needed in the home or in school. She excels at recognizing each child’s unique gift and successfully ignites their love of learning through exploration, discovery and play. It is through this work that Inspired Eductation was born. As a philanthropist, Taralee currently serves as the President of the Board of Trustees for the Southern Regional New Jersey Early Intervention Collaborative. This is her 6th year as a Board Member. Taralee enjoys family life in Southern New Jersey with her husband and three children.

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