Foundations of Friendship

Today, I had the honor of experiencing first hand the great work and services offered at the Veterans Transition Resource Center (VTRC), a nonprofit collaborative partnership between Life After Active Duty and Veterans Care Foundation, created to help fill the gap in Veteran Services in Las Vegas.

Our Mission ~ To be a beacon, for our Military, Veterans and their families around the world, to help navigate the challenging obstacles from military life back to civilian life.

At the invitation of a friend, I accepted an opportunity to hear insights from friendship expert, Shasta Nelson, author, speaker, and founder of  Shasta shared years of research on the subject of friendships and the impacts on our health, stating ” We are experiencing an epidemic of unacknowledged loneliness.  More than anything, people desire to feel loved and supported.   Research shows that disconnection is the health equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day, even likened to the devastating effects suffered by those with addictions like alcohol.”  Point: loneliness, disconnection, and lack of a support network takes a toll on your mental and physical well-being.

This subject effects each and every one of us, not just veterans. Everyone needs friendships and support networks. What I appreciated most from her interactive talk with the group today, many of whom lost loved ones in active duty or are current care takers for loved ones, is that before we can learn how to be supported we must first understand what it means to be a friend.  Guys, this goes for you as well.

Three Components of Friendship

Friendship, she defined as:

Any relationship where two people feel satisfied, safe, and both people feel seen.

Shasta then drew a triangle on the white board in front of the group and shared the three most important components, requirements rather, for solid friendships to occur.

1. Positivity.

According to Shasta and her research, we should have a ratio of 5:1 for positive to negative interactions.    To be a good friend means sharing positively, impacting relationships in a healthy way.  This doesn’t mean we can’t share hurts and hangups in our lives with our friends, rather, it’s an opportunity for us to share where we are at to be truthful with our current situation and then offer something like, “I’m going through a rough time right now with work/ spouse/ (fill in the blank), but I’m so excited to be out meeting new people and building new friendships!”  Everyone likes to be around positive energy.

2. Consistency

We all know how hard it is to keep up with friends who live in different states, have different schedules, lifestyles, etc, but the key is connecting with regularity.  Even if it’s micro movements like calling each other at a set time each week or couple of weeks, or sending texts periodically, it’s keeping the contact consistent.   Shasta revealed that this is key for friendships, because consistency helps build trust between friends.  Helps instill the “safety” factor in the relationship.

She pointed out very keenly that this process of meeting people regularly happened as children when we were in school, and happens daily in the workplace.  There is a structure to the relationships, helping people bond more easily.  Things like deployments, church groups, university settings, and volunteerism place people in routines with consistent patterns, and naturally lead into the development of friendships.

3. Vulnerability

This is the component of friendship that Shasta says “makes us feel seen”.   Being vulnerable doesn’t necessarily mean we have to “vomit our vulnerability on new friends, rather, our level of vulnerability should increase incrementally with our consistency with that friend”.  As we see them more often and the friendship grows, we are able to increase our capacity to be vulnerable with them.

Vulnerability, according to Shasta, isn’t just sharing the hurting parts of our life, but can be translated as “initiating”.  When we ask someone to connect with us for a coffee, walk, or get together, we fear rejection and the very act of asking is being vulnerable.  It’s ok.  And it’s ok if we get a “no”.  That doesn’t mean we should feel rejected.

Self Assessment

At the conclusion of the session, Shasta challenged us to consider our friendships.  On a scale of 1-10, how supported do we feel in our friendships?  Are we putting too many expectations on the relationship and pushing that person away from us rather than drawing near?  What is missing in our friendships, and how can we improve ourselves to be better friends to someone else?

If positivity, consistency, and vulnerability are the three key ingredients to developing healthy friendships, what could I increase to improve the quality of my friendships?

My favorite takeaway was undoubtedly the following remark I believe hit home for every person in the audience.

Show up in beauty and light.

It’s not about finding the right person to be your friend, but fostering the right relationships you have.

Thank you Shasta Nelson for sharing your passion for friendships and connection with us today in the room.   Your heart emanates light and love.  I know I am not the only one who felt a connection with you.

To learn more about Shasta Nelson’s work, check out her published books on the subjects of friendship and connection.

What one word comes to your mind when you think of friendship?

Stand In Love,




Poverty and Social Exclusion

On Monday,  October 17th, the world will honor the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, a day marked in Parisian history at the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.   A day in history when living in extreme poverty was not only considered intolerable, but a violation of basic human rights.

This year’s theme as outlined by

“Moving from humiliation and exclusion to participation: Ending poverty in all its forms”

What does it mean to live in poverty?

For a broad explanation of poverty click here  and learn the differences between absolute and relative poverty in the world.  For statistical information check out this link from the United Nations about poverty reduction accomplishments since the 1990’s and the current  17 Sustainable Development Goals, the first of which is to eradicate extreme poverty by the year 2030.   (extreme poverty defined as living on less than  $1.25 a day in developing countries.)

“By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance.”

When the word poverty arises, the mind is wired to think of financial hardship.  But the definition of poverty reaches far wider, and includes any insufficiency or lack.  Poverty of imagination, poverty of spirit, and poverty of purpose and passion are examples of poverty that less frequently surface when the mind is prompted.

Last summer, while living in Uganda, I vividly recall incredibly spirited women going about day to day routines, so grateful for life, for opportunities to succeed, opportunities to earn a living, opportunities to become integrated into the community’s social fabric.

Here is a thought-provoking excerpt on the subject of humiliation and shame that people living in poverty face, and the interrelated issues that arise as a consequence.    I may be dating myself, but when I read this excerpt, I thought about the movie Pretty in Pink with Molly Ringwald, and her handmade prom dress.  She suffered humiliation at school because she couldn’t afford things that her classmates enjoyed, like new clothing.

The author continues to write about humiliation and shame leading to social exclusion, and that is a profound realization.   How painful and mentally defeating to live in those circumstances, wanting desperately to escape, but too ashamed to ask for the necessary help fearful of disdain and disapproval.  We can and must do better than that.

Importance of Social Connection

As humans, we are wired for connection.  Togetherness. Community.

A sense of belonging.

The reality facing many people living in extreme poverty in the world is social isolation.  The world can become incredibly small, and power entirely out of reach when living a marginalized life.  Poverty, through it’s complicated and interconnected web of causes, forces victims into a cycle of isolation, disempowerment, and withdrawal.

How do we make a difference when the the numbers seem so large? How do we reconcile our efforts in the face of the staggering statistic that over 1 billion people live in poverty?  We remember the quote by Mother Theresa and we choose action.

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean.  But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

Monday, on October 17th from 6-7pm,  I welcome you to my home to join hands in the poverty eradication efforts underway by nonprofit BeadforLife.  I will have tables full of handmade recycled paper jewelry  from Uganda to appreciate or purchase, with all proceeds funding their incredible work.   I look forward to sharing photographs of the women enrolled in the programs so you will feel a personal connection and understand the tremendous impact your support has in their lives.    We will #standinlove and ignite potential around the world!

This will be a special day of exchange, honoring those living in poverty, and connecting with their beautifully rich spirits.

Let’s be drops in the ocean together.

Remember to wear your beads on Monday!  Use hashtag #standinlove and #beadforlife to show your support!

xo Jen



Art in the Park 2016 Welcomes BeadforLife

Yesterday morning I dressed a 10′ x 10′ space with rolls of burlap and displayed hand rolled BeadforLife  recycled paper jewelry in preparation for a juried art festival called  Art in the Park.  This fundraising event, boasting over 350 unique artisans, is hosted in the quaint town of Boulder City,  about a 20 minute drive outside of the town of Las Vegas.   It is the 54th annual and serves as the town’s largest fundraiser for the local hospital, opened in the fall of 1931 during construction of the Hoover Dam. Over the course of 32 years the hospital changed hands of ownership, and endured several closings and re-openings.  In 1963, a group of local women had an idea to raise funds to keep the town hospital running.   What started as a 50 artist fundraiser held in the downtown park area of Boulder City has grown into one of the largest art festivals in the southwest, bringing over 100,000 people to a town whose population is estimated at 15,000.

This will be the 3rd year I have attended as an exhibitor and volunteer for BeadforLife.  As I sit here sipping a coffee in the dark, early hours of the morning, I think about the many Ugandans that travel before sunrise for many hours by foot into Kampala hoping for a day of work.  I think about the story of hope and opportunity that is rolled into each and every bead hanging in my little space that I will proudly and passionately share with as many people as I can today and tomorrow.  I also think about the reality behind the jewelry I sell.  The faces and the families of the women I’ve met, their journeys, hardships, and triumphs rolled into each paper bead.  This is the significance of the BeadforLife journey.  Sharing in that story.  Overcoming the odds of generational poverty by simply receiving an opportunity to change, to interrupt the pattern.


There is a beautiful connection to the start of Art in the Park, and to BeadforLife.  Both began with a small group of women who saw a need, and decided to do something to change the landscape of the reality they witnessed.   In 2004, three women made a journey through a slum in Kampala, Uganda and returned home with an intention to change and impact one person’s reality. Millie,  the woman in the slum whom they encountered that fateful day, hoped for an opportunity to sell her handmade jewelry in order to provide basic needs for herself and for her family.   I hope to share this story with the folks attending this weekend so they may inspire hope in those with whom they share the jewelry.  Each time BeadforLife jewelry is created, worn, and gifted, the circle of hope expands exponentially.  I am honored to be part of this circle of hope.



If you live in the area, please come and say hello! I’ll be at my home, space  #310 all day today and tomorrow sharing the story of hope.   If we lived in Uganda, you would be greeted in the most hospitable way, “You are most welcome into my home.  Please, come inside and let us talk.”  When you step foot inside this 10 x 10 foot space, imagine you are entering the home of a typical Ugandan family.   Allow the experience to create a small pattern interrupt in your own life.  Perspective is a beautiful thing.


Stand in Love,