Ashley Inside My Head

Movie Therapy

I mentioned in my very first post that I spent a number of years working at a video rental store called Family Video. If you’re from the Midwest, you may have heard of the company or even rented a few Midweek Specials in your day; and if not, boy, did you miss out. With all of the video rental businesses in the U.S. closing their doors (read: Blockbuster), at last check, that makes Family Video the largest (hell, maybe the only) movie and game rental franchise in the country.

I cannot even imagine how many total hours I’ve spent in my lifetime so far watching, and often rewatching, movies. Ahead of movie release dates for DVDs (almost always a Tuesday), stores receive inventory around 5 days in advance, and staff are allowed and sometimes recommended to “screen” the titles in that advance time frame. I spent a lot of weekends in high school and college watching great movies but also watching some really shitty B class movies. (Don’t tell anyone I admitted to that.)

The point here is this: I love movies. I think I passed this love onto my baby brother…well, that and my music taste, for better or worse. So when I come home to visit, we usually bond over a good movie. But since he’s young(er) and hip(er), he often has seen way more recent releases than I have. On this recent visit, I had to admit to not yet seeing Unbroken, so we sat down for a typical family watch party.

There are always great take-aways from movies, like the faith in humanity you regain watching a really great drama, or the way your wheels continue spinning after an intense thriller. Movies can pull you out of yourself for a good 2 hours and plop you right back into reality with the hint of a credit reel. If somebody did their job right, you talk about what the experience was like for you for a good 30 minutes post-film, and use it for at least some workplace chatter on Monday.

Here’s my recent movie-watching reaction (spoilers ahead): What I hated about Unbroken is that you sit through the whole thing and then Angelina Jolie thought maybe you were an idiot watching and didn’t get the message, so she wrote it out for you at the end before the credits. “Louie learned that forgiveness is greater than revenge…” or something equally uninspiring. But what I loved about Unbroken was the message that spoke so much louder to me, and that was the importance of perseverance. To me Louie showcased what it means to get back up when everyone around you is expecting you to stay down, and continuing to get back up especially once people are rooting for you.

I think it goes without saying that Unbroken probably spoke to you in a totally different way, and maybe you were cool with Angelina’s moral being spelled out for you to cap off the movie. But with movies, the message doesn’t have to be the same for me and for you, and the conversation that ensues because of that difference in emotion and opinion is what keeps us on our toes. And, from my video rental store days, it’s likely why I am an A-Class BS-er today. (I couldn’t afford to curse anymore in this post!) I think I was something of a movie therapist for customers when they returned those stacks of VHS tapes and DVDS…

– Ashley Respecki

Ashley Inside My Head

Dropping the Ball

Today’s the day where I publicly admit to dropping the ball on things that I’ve committed to and truly care about. It’s often too easy to tell friends and family that you’ll do something for them and not follow through. I’m guilty of that lately. There are people that depend on me, and believe in me, and I’m guilty of letting them down.

Whew. I feel better.

It’s not easy to admit that, despite the efforts of those holding me accountable, I’m feeling lack-luster about my performance. Even though I’m terrible at saying “no,” when I commit to something, it’s usually because my heart is in it – full force. Often I feel like I rationalize failure to follow through internally with thoughts like “they’re not paying my salary so it’s cool, right?” (Please tell me you’ve had similar evil thoughts…)

I think it feels worse when the amazing people around you are keeping their word. “How do they do it?! They must be superhuman.” I’ve decided that I admire the incredible ability my friends and family have to keep their word, and that it’s an example I try to model my own behavior around – hence the disappointment I’m feeling in myself.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “With the new day comes new strengths and new thoughts.” I’m taking the days ahead to refresh and reboot so I can keep the ball rolling. I have some emotional strength to build and some new perspectives to consider. Hopefully the people I care about most will notice!

– Ashley Respecki

Ashley Inside My Head

(A dose of) Why I Married an Architect

In 2012, I married my best friend. Nick is a smart, intense, hard-working guy. He’s also an architect, licensed to practice in the District of Columbia. The only problem is that we’ve got that architecture thing in common.

Nick and I met in my home state while receiving our undergraduate degrees and by the time we were considering grad school, we were pretty committed to one another. That commitment was evidenced by our decision to both stay at Ball State University for our Master of Architecture degrees and to move in together. In that time, we worked on architecture studio projects as a team, both held graduate assistantships at the University library (where we briefly shared a very small office), and cohabited a three-bedroom apartment. (Oh Indiana…how I miss having that much space to live in!) Needless to say, it was pretty clear we could make it through marriage. If we could spend that much time together and not kill one another, it was meant to be.

The thing is, architects are weird. There’s no other way to slice it. We’re taught to see the world differently – to see design in everything we do – and we make it through our training by having our work consistently critiqued. If you’ve met any architects, chances are they’re visionary, creative individuals who pay great attention to detail, constantly look for alternative solutions to problems, and it’s likely they sought an alternative career, possibly in engineering or art. That makes us sound too great – what I really mean is we’re picky, opinionated, believe we’re smarter than we (likely) are, and think we can do anything.

All that coupled with our intensity probably makes Nick and I an unbearable couple to be around – you should see us play sports or flip cup together! Sometimes I’m surprised we have friends that even like to hang out with the two of us together. But we make it work. I’m so grateful for his ability to push me to try new things, go after things I want, and challenge the status quo. I’m grateful for the way he inspires me to be better every day, even if he does it like an architect. You don’t need to be married to an architect (but bless you if you are) to have someone who inspires you in just the right way, but I’d love to know how that someone in your life inspires you in just the right way that you need to be inspired.

– Ashley Respecki

Ashley Awesomeness in the World

Great Moments

This week, my baby brother is getting married. When I say “baby” brother, it’s in the vein that most big sisters try to trap their younger siblings’ into a lapsed time and place. But to my credit, he is eight years my younger, making him the ripe old age of 20. In 1995, my parents finally gave into their eldest child’s consistent requests for a sibling, and six days after I turned 8, we welcomed my “bubba” into this world. Getting a sibling wasn’t quite what I had expected; after all, I was way into board games and American Girl dolls at that point, and none of the activities associated with those obsessions are fit for an infant or toddler’s participation. But hell, was I proud. There is a classic photo of me in my khaki corduroy pants and red waffle henley grinning from ear to ear pushing that 9lb 9oz tank of a baby down the hallway of the hospital – my mom being wheeled behind us, looking exhausted and astonished. (To her credit, birthing a 9lb 9oz human must do that to you.)

My last post, “Life Promises,” got me thinking about the piles of advice we offer loved ones and friends at various milestones in life – like marriage. My brother has several milestones ahead of him that, being an opinionated, oldest child, have me desperate to do a brain dump of advice. When he was a baby I was busy dispensing practical advice; “clean up your toys” (oh, the clean up song!), “the remote doesn’t have a motor so stop pretending it does”, “stop touching your…” Well, you know…boys are gross. I’m sure all those things set him up for success (right?!), or at least taught him how to (sort of) function in society.

As he prepares to be married and, in May, ship off to San Antonio for Air Force basic training, I have a much wider range of advice to offer; like, even when your family is far away, they’re always still there for you, and how making dinner for two people is really, really difficult and it’s okay to eat popcorn on lazy nights. But I don’t think I’ll waste my breath. Not because I don’t think it’s valuable knowledge or think he won’t listen to his big sister, but because those things are so fun to learn on your own. I’ve made some crazy mistakes along the way so far and a wise motivational speaker once shared this message about those flubs; mistakes are great moments. There is so much to be learned from doing things the “wrong” way. Let’s face it, when you flub, it’s easier to identify what you did to cause the problem or situation and you’re less likely to let it happen again; thus, a great moment.

So rather than offer a “life promise,” I think I’ll encourage my sweet baby brother to love (a lot!), face fears, try new things, and make lots and lots of mistakes. Okay…and maybe eat ice cream for breakfast with no shame.

– Ashley Respecki

Ashley Awesomeness in the World

Life Promises

I have my weekly habits like most people. Monday nights I skip working out, at least once a week I get coffee and oatmeal at Peets (maybe Starbucks), I call my mom or grandmother during my walk home from the metro, and on Sunday night, I watch my standard tv. One of those standard shows is Girls on HBO. It’s a guilty pleasure for sure. I love Lena Dunham’s stark take on life as a twenty-something, even if it is far flung. If you watch, you know the fourth season just ended, and if you’re an avid fan like me, you’re incredibly depressed about how long you have to wait for season 5.

Sometimes revelations come from the most unexpected sources. Likely you’ve had one in the shower or while brushing your teeth. Mine have come from niche corners of my life recently and I sort of enjoy that. The most recent came from – you guessed it – the season four finale of Girls. (Minor spoiler alert!) There’s a birth that brings together some recently estranged characters and when the little one finally arrives, Hannah (Dunham’s character) has some great wisdom about the wonders of life to pass on to the tiny human. In a sweet, baby-coo voice, she says this: “Life…I can’t guarantee perfection, but I can guarantee intrigue.”

How beautiful is that?

If you have any ounce of Type A in you, you’re likely to have a competitive side, a passion for organizing, and an expectation for perfection in everything you do. But even if you’re not a Type A personality, what I think Hannah realized, much like this twenty-something has, is that we often set our bar too high. We expect from ourselves and those around us entirely too much. We ignore the beauty in imperfections and are afraid to say no. After all, we’re busy crafting a perfect life with memories exactly as we want them! If you hang around a Gen Y-er at all, you know they’ve coined the acronym FOMO – fear of missing out. I think that desire for perfection comes so much from our technology-overloaded, over-sharing culture; we want to go on that gorgeous vacation our high school rival just took or get an invite to brunch with that great new group of friends we’ve been courting. But life’s not perfect, is it? We can’t quite customize it the way we hope. But think about how much more exciting that is! Just try and count how many lessons you’ve learned from failure, and how great those stories are when you share them now.

I hope this week, you take the time to recognize the not-so-perfect moments and allow your curiosity to take over – relish in the fascination and intrigue.

– Ashley Respecki

Ashley On the Job

Trust & Empowerment

Working in teams is hard, and it’s difficult to pinpoint all the reasons why. I’m sure you have some ideas as to why – I sure do. Varying personalities, goals, passions, work styles, and so much more make teamwork challenging. While teams can struggle when priorities differ, there is also incredible value in recognizing the strengths of individuals to optimize the efforts of the team and create dynamic results.

There’s a great tool that’s caught on at work recently; the Gallup StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment. (The Chief Goodness Officer here at Good for the Soul knows this tool well – she shared her own experience back in January!) If you’ve never heard of the assessment, it’s worth a look, and more than that, a consideration as an asset to your personal and professional future. You answer a series of questions in split second time and at the end, and then you receive a custom report based on your top 5 strengths. I won’t oversell it here, I’ll just say, it’s been enlightening for me, and impacted the way our team works together.

What’s happened with the StrengthsFinder 2.0 outcomes for our team is this: it’s given our team a platform to openly recognize one another’s genuine strengths. Sure, it sounds like the outcomes could be pretty stale and obvious, but they’re not. Even if you have an overlapping strength with a teammate, your custom report highlights the variation in your strength given the order, makeup, etc., of your top 5. The results have also afforded our team an opportunity to speak frankly about what makes us tick, and what we see as opportunities for our future work model.

For me personally, this exercise has taught me a lot about trust and leadership. When leaders trust their team, they can more easily develop consensus for priorities and projects. When leaders allow their team to make decisions on the team’s behalf and team members step up to the plate to make decisions without having to confer with a team lead at every corner, the results can be vast! Shortened decision making time frames and more dynamic and reiterative outcomes are just a couple of the positives results. The best leaders don’t just lead; they empower. When you recognize your team’s strengths, focus on building trust, and tackle challenges through empowerment, in my book, you’re doing great things as a leader.

Ashley New Friends

Introducing Ashley Respecki

You can’t help but be drawn into Ashley’s energy. You can tell she’s got a lot going on inside her head and just can’t quite get it out fast enough. I’m immediately drawn to that enthusiasm for life. That kind of excitement means Ashley may not know exactly what the plan is yet, but she knows enough to know she’s in, regardless of what it is. I’ve not yet known her for a year at this point, but she is genuine, passionate, wicked smart and not afraid to laugh at herself, and I already feel like I’ve been lucky enough to know her far longer. One of my favorite things about Ashley is her dedication to making things beautiful – not just through design, but in a very human way. Pure joy is a beautiful thing, and she’s committed to bringing it into her life and the lives of those around her. In the work we’ve been doing together in our day jobs, we have a goal of being so happy and excited to get to work that you skip on your way, and Ashley reminds us of that goal all the time. It’s impossible not to have your day be beautiful when that’s what you’re working towards. Ashley is a natural voice for our Creative Community here, and I can’t wait for you to get to know her. Thanks for sharing your awesomeness with us, Ashley!

Ashley Respecki – Cool Gal, Cool Photos

Before I realized the posts from new bloggers were simple, easy “Introducing So-and-So” posts, I had planned to title this post “What I’ve Learned About Self-Worth.” Now admittedly, I was feeling like the title promised a bit too much. But nonetheless, I offer you this introduction and mini inspirational kick-off as a new, incredibly honored, contributor here in the Good for the Soul Creative Community.

Sometimes you’re just cruising; life has dealt you a few good cards and you’re feeling on top of the world. In my case, 2014 was a solid year. I received a great opportunity to travel to Australia for an exchange program with a partner association, I was asked to contribute to real organizational change that will impact our entire workplace culture, plus, a promotion! (Did I mention health, happiness, and an amazing husband?) Then, out of nowhere, a shift happened. You know what I’m talking about, right? When the vibe, the energy, it just shifts. You feel as though you’ve lost support, you’re more excited about “offline” projects, and the people you’re surrounded by aren’t keeping you energized, challenged, or helping you grow.

A few weeks ago, Catherine reached out to me about the opportunity to share inspirations with the Good for the Soul community. Here’s the thing – it caught me off guard. When you’ve hit that shift, it’s often hard to take great offers and opportunities seriously. But when I started to evaluate the shift, I began recognizing a flip side. I noticed that the people in my life that see in me what I hope to convey to the world stand by me no matter what the mood. Sometimes these people get drowned out by the negative noise, but they’re still present. They’re there as mentors and friends, cheerleaders and lunch dates, advocates and collaborators, and they’re all helping each of us make it one step further, one day further.

What I’ve learned about self-worth is to listen. The people you choose to surround yourself with, or that you’re naturally drawn to, are often sending you a strong message. (Hell, they’re probably even telling you pretty often how great you are!) You should feel good about the support they offer, the kudos they share, and the opportunities they present.

I hope to share more about listening. It’s not one of my strengths, but it’s something I’m working on. As my time here at Good for the Soul evolves you’ll likely realize what I truly enjoy is telling stories; hence the longest introductory blog post known to man. If we meet in person you’ll realize I talk too much and way too fast. (Okay, let’s face it – I’m an over-sharer.) Expect stories and inspirations about architecture, design, photography, travel and culture. And if anything brings you back, hopefully it’s to hear inspiration or a story from my years of work at a video store when VHS tapes were still a norm, how and why I bartended my way through college, or the insanity that is being married to an architect. Thanks for having me!