Ashley Karen Libby Melissa New Friends

We’re Not Very Good at Selfies

Last night, I had a celebratory thank you dinner with most of our amazing bloggers. Libby, Ashley and Melissa joined me for an evening full of stories, laughs and advice over delicious eats and wine. Sadly, Karen wasn’t able to join us since a cross-country flight seemed a bit excessive for dinner, though we hope to all be together sometime soon.

I adore these women, and I wanted to take just a moment to thank them for sharing their time, insights and wisdom with our Good for the Soul Creative Community. They each bring diverse points of view, unique experiences and a worldview that is wholly their own. Yet, in all this, I believe they share a common core. Melissa, Ashley, Libby and Karen each approach the world with enthusiasm and a genuine interest in getting to know those around them. They want to understand their friends, family and colleagues and know what’s important to them. They want to be there to celebrate accomplishments and provide support when things go sideways. And they’re generous with their thoughts, which is incredibly valuable. They share what’s happening in their heads, which makes it each to connect with them and make it safe to share your own thoughts. I’m incredibly lucky to have them all in my life, and I value them tremendously.

And while we’re impressively good at some things, selfies clearly isn’t one of those things (I’ll take all the blame for this one). But we’re good at appreciating great company and that’s the most important thing. Thank you to these women for sharing themselves and thank you for sharing in this journey with us.

Melissa, Catherine, Ashley and Libby (and Karen in spirit!)
Melissa New Friends

Introducing Melissa Grant

I’m so impressed by this woman. Melissa is the definition of wise beyond her years. Like most of us, she’s figuring out her way in the world, but is doing so in a way that makes me think there’s an amazing soundtrack playing in her head. She’s caring, positive and taking in everything around her. She has an amazing ability to prioritize the million things coming at her and get her business handled – and I mean handled. If you ask her to do it, it’s done, and that seems to be an increasingly rare quality these days. I met Melissa a little more than a year ago, and one of the things that first drew me to her was her desire to help people. She and I share a passion for outstanding customer service and delight in the ability to meet a need and go the extra mile. Whether it’s a design client or someone looking for that perfect outfit, Melissa will make sure you are well taken care of. I’m thrilled she’s open to sharing her musings with us here in our Creative Community, and I can’t wait for us to get a glimpse into her world.

Melissa Grant (Malbec and ukulele not pictured)

Hi! I’m Melissa, nice to meet you. I am delighted to be here and to get a chance to share a few of things that cross my consciousness every week.

I’m a designer at The American Institute of Architects (where I met Catherine and Ashley!) and I’m a part-time sales associate at Anthropologie. Since moving to DC in 2013, I’ve found new homes and new friends, eaten my weight in happy hour appetizers, watched friends fall, (and have fallen myself). I’ve teetered and tottered, failed, and taken flight. I’ve learned (and am still learning) to embrace the discomfort and uncertainty of growing up. I’ve gotten better at learning my character flaws and not so much better at fixing them but I’m trying! Overall, it’s been an exciting, albeit-scary-but-mostly-happy journey.

I’m looking forward to telling stories here, posting a little about art and other curiosities, but mostly, I’m looking forward to being honest, to getting things out of my head, and to sharing.

On a personal note:

Star sign / Taurus

Personality characteristics / Optimistic, superstitious, silly

Current hobbies / Playing the ukulele and taking German I at George Washington University

Drink of choice / Malbec (in the evening of course)

I’m so glad I’m here. Thank you for reading.

– Melissa Grant

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!

Karen New Friends

Introducing Karen Thrall

When Karen came into my life in 2012, it was as if she’d always been there. This was one of those rare relationships where I felt comfortable immediately and knew from the start I could trust her. And that’s Karen. She is a force. Karen’s interest and desire to know who she is talking to is so strong, you can’t help but be pulled in, and in sharing about yourself, you get to know her, too. She creates a safe space where it’s not only okay for you to be who you are, it’s genuinely what she wants – the authentic you. While this sounds like it can be intense – and it is – it’s intensity in the very best way. In getting to know you, Karen comes to want the best for you, but it’s not a best that’s imposed by someone else. She’s most interested in what’s best for you, and someone who is cheering for you in that way is an amazing gift. And while she’s getting to know you, she graciously shares her infectious enthusiasm, her amazing laugh, her wisdom and her let’s-give-it-a-try attitude. I always feel better after talking to her (even if I was feeling pretty good already), and I’m honored to call her a friend. I know you’ll enjoy getting to know her, too.

Karen and her pal, Mickey
Karen and her pal, Mickey

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

I am addicted to learning. Anywhere, anytime, anyone. There are stories unfolding everywhere I go. I am a student. And the world is my teacher.

Whether I’m buying my Earl Grey tea from a barista, walking the city streets of Vancouver, hitting a little white ball in the green hills of a golf course, cycling through the trails and streets of urban living, choosing the best scallops at the market, walking the seawall with friends, laughing with my children, captivated by the soul of great musicians, smitten by a movie, charmed by an author, whatever it may be – people and their stories surround me.

I have the wonderful privilege of working for an extraordinary luxury footwear company, John Fluevog Shoes, directing both Retail Sales and the Culture and Community of the people who are connected with the brand. I lead a team of 19 managers and direct the growth and success of 127 employees in both Canada and the United States. I report directly to the owner/designer John Fluevog. He is an inspiration to me. One of the most creative individuals I know.

I tend to learn, what people may view as, the hard way. Throw me into deep waters and I’ll figure out how to swim. My favourite part of business is not knowing. Not knowing is the exhilarating opportunity to learn, to grow, to explore, to figure it out. Embarking on the unknown and celebrating how far we’ve come – together – this is good for the soul. We high-five our victories and develop strength through our defeats.

Stories. Your story. They are invaluable and immeasurable. The greatest wisdom I’ve gleaned always comes through stories. They impact us, challenge us, confront us, empower us.

I’m thankful to be part of this writing team and look forward to joining this blogging adventure.

Gabriel New Friends

Introducing Gabriel Oigbokie

Gabriel Oigbokie came into my life a few years ago as I was setting up a new location for John Fluevog Shoes and I quickly became a fan. While Gabriel is younger enough than I am to officially be of a different generation, he’s a wonderfully old soul who has clearly put in the time to figure out what’s important to him and who he wants to be in life. Time and circumstances may change how we look at the world, and while Gabriel is flexible and open to new adventures, he remains solidly rooted in his values. One of the things I admire most about Gabriel is his genuine enjoyment of life. He is great about being in the moment and looking for what’s right about whatever is happening at that point in time. While we’ve never actually done improv together, Gabriel would be a partner I’d want. His positivity and ability to be in the moment means he’s all about the “yes, and…” He will hear an idea or concept and jump right in there with you to build on it and make it better, stronger or funnier. During an afternoon with one other person, we created a fictional company that specialized in security and Nicolas Cage. And while I don’t necessarily know what specializing in Nicolas Cage means, we knew it would be amazing. That’s the spirit of “yes, and…” and the spirit of Gabriel.

So without further ado, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to the wise and talented Gabriel Oigbokie.

Graduation celebration fun with Gabriel and his lovely lady, Brae

Blogging became an interest of mine that never really took any form of physical execution. Yet when my former colleague, Catherine, approached me with the opportunity, I jumped at it. There’s always been a small part of me that believed I could be a philosopher or psychiatrist, or at least use my love of words and chatting to help others. The way I see it, a little southern swagger can always be appreciated. Growing up in Memphis, TN, I had always been ahead of the curve. Well at least slightly more than most. This posed a pretty large problem for me because there was no one I could truly look to as an example of what I wanted to be or what I could eventually become. On top of the general self-loathing that stemmed solely from this dilemma, my polar opposite immigrant father and spunky southern mother were there to make it all the easier. Such a fruitful and cultivated experience brought me to this conclusion: know yourself.

Knowing yourself is the first step to greatness. Think about this: how can you sell anything to anyone if you don’t know the product? Figuring out what you know and are capable of can only make you more valuable. And who says I’m getting it right? No one. But I know myself, what I can do, and what I want to do. For me, that’s good start.

And finally, after all the introspective mumbo jumbo, it’s time you all come to know me. I don’t even know if this was even supposed to be in this post. But hey, when I’m in the mood, there’s no stopping it. Now back to the good stuff. I’m a recent college graduate (Go GW Colonials!) whose passion for writing and people come across almost instantaneously should we ever become acquainted. I’m not as interesting as Libby just yet, with her living in Switzerland and whatnot. But I definitely have something to offer and maybe a little bit more. I thank Catherine for the platform to be heard and you all especially for listening.

Libby New Friends

Introducing Libby Bingham, MBA, CAE

It’s been a quiet week here in the Creative Community, but that’s because we’ve been busy behind the scenes. I’m thrilled to announce that a few new folks will be sharing their worlds with you. Over the next couple weeks, you’ll be meeting some of my favorite people and getting a chance to find out what inspires them. They’ll be sharing here regularly as well, and I know you’ll enjoy them as much as I do.

The first newcomer is Libby Bingham. I’ve known Libby for about a decade or so, and simply knowing her makes my life better. One of the first things people comment on is Libby’s sense of humor. She is wickedly funny and can get a laugh from even the crankiest of cranks. And while I do admire her wit, she’s so much more than just the funny girl. She is creative, loyal, smart, determined and has the world’s most generous heart (seriously, you can Google it…). Everyone I’ve asked to be a part of this project has a unique perspective on the world, and Libby adapts easily to almost any situation because she is genuinely interested in learning about those around her. She asks lots of questions and is quick to share her experience and find common ground. I’m incredibly lucky to call her a friend and colleague, and I’m grateful to her for sharing her time and talents here. And with that, I’ll let her tell you a little about herself.

Libby Bingham, MBA, CAE, Fun at Sea

When Catherine asked me to blog for her, I was shocked…I mean, really, what could I possibly do or say that would be of interest to other people?  I’m a middle-aged married mom of one kid, and I work part-time from home.  I was also very intimidated because, well, it’s hard to put yourself out there.  However, we discussed and I realized that there are probably a lot of people who share similar circumstances, and maybe, because I’ve just been given a platform, I could also give voice to some of similar day-to-day experiences or spark them to articulate things which are important to them.  That is cool…and important.  So I’m in.  If you don’t like what I say, that’s okay – everyone’s perspective is different and shaped by their experiences and personal histories.  Just be kind…I promise to do the same.

All that being said, I have done a few interesting things in my life:  I’ve lived in Switzerland, France and Saudi Arabia, as well as visited other countries. My professional life has included directing a coalition of businesses dedicated to building infrastructure and knowledge capacity all over the world; executive director for an association focused on providing an unbiased forum to discuss issues of international trade; working with teenagers interested in living and learning abroad; catering, waitressing and shoe-salesmanship!  At present, I am focused on developing educational programming for ASAE, both as a program manager and instructional designer.  One of my favorite parts is collaborating with our members and speakers – it allows for variety and creative approaches. I’m an avid reader (expect many book reports from me!), part-time gym goer, lazy gardener and hockey mom.  I look forward to getting to know you!