Awesomeness in the World Karen

Confessions of a Woman: I like Aging

Hi my name is Karen and I like aging.

Why are we afraid to show our age? Why do we love to hear that we look 10 years younger? (I do, too!)

But does it really matter that much?

I have wrinkles. The crow’s feet around my eyes continue to increase every year. Perhaps it’s partly due to playing golf and being out in the sun for several hours at a time? Or is it?

I noticed something today as I stared into the mirror looking at the present Karen who stood before me. It was a reflective moment (no pun intended). What I noticed is the wrinkles only show when I’m smiling. If I stand still, they are somewhat invisible. But once I beam with joy, the wrinkles are front and center. Imagine how ridiculous I must have looked, staring at myself stoic and serious, then switching to a big bright smile. Smile. No smile. Smile. No Smile. Lines. No lines. Lines. No lines. And so on and so forth.

Here’s my conclusion: it’s not my golf games that caused these lines on my face – it’s joy.

If my wrinkles symbolize the joy journey of my life, then I welcome them. And, I love them.

I have joy lines. Not bitter, angry, jaded wrinkles. No, rather, I have happiness crinkles.


It’s taken me over 40 years to design this story that everyone can see. And I won’t cover it up.

Would you like to know who I am? I will smile for you and then tell me please, what do you see?


KT: “Yes?”

ICV: “It’s clear to me that you are a joyful woman. Am I correct?”

KT: “Well yes, how did you know?”

ICV: “The lines around your eyes present that you are a woman of joy.”

May the aging lines of joy not be hidden. There is no shame in aging. The only wrinkles that should concern us are the ones of the heart. Make sure your heart never ages.

“To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent that is to triumph over old age.” – Amon Bronson Alcott

“Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.” – Mark Twain

Here’s to joyful wrinkles and happy crinkles!

– Karen Thrall

*also published on

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!)
Awesomeness in the World

A Merry and Bright 2016

As 2015 comes to a close and we spend time reflecting with friends and family, we here at Good for the Soul wish you a 2016 filled with all good things – strength, productivity, health, happiness and the courage to take on whatever comes your way. We’ll be here, sharing our experiences and we look forward to seeing what the new year has in store for us. Thank you for sharing this world with us.


Book Reports Libby

Lean In: Part II

So, I am even later to the party than Catherine…I just finished Lean In. I really didn’t want to read it – I have a thing about doing stuff that everyone’s doing (what’s the opposite of trend-setter?), so I really resisted. But Catherine lent it to me so I kind of felt obligated. 🙂

I don’t know if it was because I was all primed after attending my weekend leadership conference, but that book lives up to the hype. Well-written, poignant and inspiring, I plowed through it, recognizing all the mistakes I’ve made over the years. But I also was excited to have someone put (articulate and intelligent) words to thoughts I’ve had for such a long time. There were so many things that resonated with me, but one in particular was how she talked about the myth of having it all.

Earlier this weekend, I attended a night out with some moms and I caught myself saying, “I do nothing well.” How is that helpful? Who am I competing with? Why do I do that to myself? I have made choices in my life that now have me working both in and out of the home – my part-time status allows me to bring home a few pieces of bacon, fry them up in a small pan and pay lots of attention to my two men (the big one and the little one). It’s an ideal situation for our family, as well as a way for me to have intellectual challenges and adult conversations. No matter what, though, I know there is always someone doing some aspect of what I do way better. But what I realize is that they are also probably falling short in some aspect, at least in their own minds.

Sandberg reminds us to be kind to ourselves and each other; we should also be supportive of each other whenever possible. This is not a competition, ladies! We all do what we have to do. Think about how much further we’d get if we could all not only lean in, but also lean on each other…

– Libby Bingham

Ashley Awesomeness in the World

History of 100 Years

A few weeks ago, I ventured back to my home state of Indiana to celebrate my great grandma Lela Barber’s 100th birthday. While she doesn’t actually turn 100 until November, July seemed like the perfect month to corral a huge family that’s spread across several states. The celebration was a huge success, if you don’t count the suffocating heat and humidity…but who am I to complain? My great grandma dealt with that business like a champ.

Her milestone has made me stop and think about a lot of things. In her card, I thanked her for the years of beauty and laughter she’s brought to the world. What I couldn’t write in her card was “my goodness, how did you do it all these years?!” I know some of the truth; she’s a tough, no-nonsense lady. She was once a lunch lady at the local school and she tells stories about former students approaching her every now and then. They share memories they have of her and she says to all of us, “Ohhh I can’t remember those kids from Adam! I was busy doing my job.”

She’s sharp as a tack at nearly 100 years – I walked into the party, she hugged me and said “Hi Ashley!” followed by a sarcastic “It is ‘Ashley,’ right?” I wonder where she’s found the strength to face the changes that have defined her lifetime. I wish I could know how she’s managed to remember all the history she’s accumulated – the names of her kids, grandkids, great grandkids, the birthdays, this first steps, the anniversaries…all of the milestones.

She wasn’t able to travel the two hours north for my wedding several years ago so she instead wrote a letter about what she remembered about the day my dad first met me as an infant. Man, oh man, was that a tear-jerker. My mom had me when she was pretty young, and, at the time of my birth, my dad was in South Dakota with the Air Force. From what my mom says, my great grandma’s depiction of that day and experience was pretty spot on. Last year, as the city of Washington, Indiana, was preparing to celebrate their annual Rail Fest, she called the local newspaper to tell stories of the railroad’s economic success in the city, lest anyone forget. I love how she carries all this knowledge with her, and continues to share it with anyone who will listen.

I think what I admire most is how she’s maintained what can only be called sanity, for nearly 100 years. Most of the time, I end my day stressing about what I couldn’t change around me, and wondering if tomorrow truly holds all the answers. And then I remember I should be relishing in all of these small moments, saving them for a great letter to my future great grandchild. Lela is my mother’s fraternal grandmother, and while on this side of my family, longevity is notable (Lela’s husband, my great grandpa Barber, lived to be 96), in other lineage, there is a strong history of Alzheimer’s and dementia. My joke is that it’s likely I’ll live to 90 plus, but I might not know my name for the last 30 years of my life. With that in mind, this milestone celebration for my family has encouraged me to fight for every memory I make, and to keep writing…I might have to share a good piece of forgotten DC history with the Washington Post one day, if I can just remember it…

– Ashley Respecki

Awesomeness in the World Gabriel

How to Spend Your Birthday

I’ve never really been a party person. Well, that’s not absolutely true. Going to parties? Yes, I love doing that. Throwing them? Not so much. So when it comes to my birthday, I’m normally the one trying to kill the hype. That changed a bit when I arrived in college, as every year during my tenure came with a bash equally as unruly as the last. So this year as my birthday approached, I had no earthly idea what to do to celebrate. I felt I had to live up to something, whatever it is. Cursed by my own creation, I struggled with who, what, and when for many days.

The one thing I at least remembered to do was to take off from work. And that was about it. I had three full relaxing days to myself, during which I did absolutely nothing. Probably shouldn’t have been doing nothing, but you get my point. I think birthdays shouldn’t be about large gatherings of folks who oh-so graciously gifted you with their presence to joyously drink and eat in your honor. It should be about number one: you. Always take a minute to remind yourself what you work so hard for. Use the time you’ve spent to create leisure and enjoy that as well.

Often we waste energy trying to astonish and wow, creating memories that we want others to remember. Having such a focus can take away from truly enjoying a day to call your own. Don’t let a number slow you down. Doing what makes you happy, comfortable, and carefree for the time being is what should matter most.

– Gabriel Oigbokie

…wait. I totally lied. My wonderful and beautiful girlfriend did show me a lovely time at dinner on the National Harbor. Fancy, I know. But I guess nothing is too good for number one, right?


Summer Jams

I love new music that comes out just in time for summer. It seems summer has its own special vibe as the days get longer, we’re outside in the sunshine more and life slows down just a little bit with extended happy hours and vacations. DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince captured this perfectly in their 1991 amazingness, Summertime. And while I could never be as eloquent as that pair, I do love these lighter summer songs where you can’t help but sing along and you don’t even care about the looks you’re getting when you roll up to a spotlight and forget that all your windows are down. The concept shows up in one of my favorite shows, Parks and Recreation, as Ben Wyatt is outed for a CD found in his car, Benji’s Cool Times Summer Jamz Mix. The fact that the writers wholly committed and made the full playlist is amazing. Check it out for some old school inspiration!

Jason Derulo’s Want to Want Me is going to be impossible to escape this summer, and Meghan Trainor’s Dear Future Husband brings back the wholesomeness of the 1950’s with the fun style of 2015. Both of these songs have been stuck in my head for the past couple weeks and I just can’t seem to shake them. But I don’t mind so much, at least for now. Check back in with me again come August. 😉 What are you go to summer jams – either from this year or summers past?


Inside My Head Karen


Karen CompartmentsDon’t allow your fears and anxieties to paralyze you from making good decisions.

I can be content about many things and anxious about one thing. And that’s okay. Chances are, there will always be that one thing that I’m unsettled about. My life isn’t paradise. But I will make the best of it.

Compartmentalizing works well for me. I take inventory on a daily basis. I zoom out. I look at the entire picture. I don’t pigeonhole myself into a rut. I won’t let myself wallow in that one area of my life that is the bane of my world!

Usually when we’re unsettled, it’s not about everything; it’s about one or two things. I refuse to allow that one compartment to rob me of the happiness that is living in all other compartments. No matter how upset it makes me.

Some might say, “That’s great for you, Karen. But I am extremely anxious in every part of my life.” Really? I promise you, I can prove that to be an inaccurate statement.

Hone in on whatever that negative vice might be, and name it. What is it – exactly? Once you have the exact language and perspective, you then zoom out and measure it against other personal topics and situations.

Several years ago, I was at a party. I had just launched a small business. I was now officially an entrepreneur. A neighbor of mine, a successful entrepreneur, approached me and said, “So I hear you started a business?” I nodded yes and we chatted about what it means to be an entrepreneur. He then says, “Have you cried in the corner like a baby yet?” Pleasantly surprised and relieved by how accurate he was, I blurt out, “Yes! Yes, I have!”   I laughed and he smiled, “Yeah, me too. We’ve all done it.

Wait. What? What did he mean, “We’ve all done it?!?”

He meant it’s normal. He included me amongst the entrepreneur posse and reassured me that those moments of “anxiety” were momentary and played a smaller role in the bigger order of life.

We can afford to be anxious for a moment; however, we cannot afford to wallow in anxiety. Fear must never dominate the path we have embarked upon.

One of the best gifts I give myself is the permission to change my mind. This is how I experience this situation today. Only today. Tomorrow is tomorrow. I then resolve to look at all the areas of my life where I am content. They are more important to me than this negative situation.

I have a friend who writes his gratitude list every day. I like that. That’s another way to do it. There’s many ways to remind yourself that fear in one area must not dominate your overall gratitude.

Anxiety is not meant to paralyze you. It becomes a gift that provokes you. But it can only provoke you if you acknowledge the compartments you’re indeed content with. Our hardships become an offensive weapon that propels forward motion.

What are these compartments? Here are a few suggestions I propose:

  • Your income
  • Your personal finances
  • Your financial responsibilities
  • Your (student) loans
  • Your position at work
  • Your educational status
  • Your colleagues
  • Your supervisors
  • Your workload
  • Your commute
  • Your demographics
  • Your neighbor
  • Your friend(s)
  • Your child(ren)
  • Your spouse/partner
  • Your love life
  • Your sexual activeness
  • Your health
  • Your fitness
  • Your eating habits
  • Your addictions
  • Your communication skills
  • Your social skills
  • Your social circle
  • Your hobby
  • Your home
  • Your home life
  • Your home responsibilities

(1) Rate each one anywhere between 0-10. Zero means you are absolutely undeniably miserably anxious!! Ten means you are over-joyed, elated, and exuberantly content!!

(2) If you rated yourself below a 2, is there anything you can potentially do to increase your number from 0 to, let’s say, a 2.25? I’m not asking you to jump immediately to a 10. I’m asking if there’s anything in your power, perhaps a minor adjustment, that can move your number to a higher place.

(3) For the compartments you rated 3 and higher, there is joy to be seen and found – right now.

Be tenacious with your unsettledness! After all, it is in your control to change your perspective. Be stubborn. Be really stubborn. Hope wins. Hands down. Hope rules. Let it rule.

Okay, so you did that. Thank you! But, now what?

The important part.

From this place, you will now be able to find the best decisions for yourself. From the realm of contentment, you will walk in wisdom. Wisdom (your wisdom) will help you know what to do. Wisdom is a friend to your happiness. They co-exist. One will strengthen the other.

Your contentment lets the world in on a special secret: you know what to do.

– Karen Thrall

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

Awesomeness in the World Karen


Karen HandsLast week, my flight was delayed and it was evening. I was feeling a bit tired; content to be quiet, listen to music, watch a movie, and snooze. Although quiet, I was very aware of my surroundings – curiously aware.

Across from me were a Middle Eastern mother and her two sons. Beside me was a Canadian on holidays and an American traveling with some of his mates. The two primary flight attendants that served us were Asian and French.


Our world is so big, yet so small all at the same time. Five ethnic cultures represented within arms reach. What a privilege to be surrounded by global culture.

Diversity. Variety. Assortment. Mixture. What I admire about bakers is their talent in blending together ingredients with perfection and presenting delectable treats. This big ol’ world is just like dessert! When mixed together, we are delicious!

It is enriching to embrace diversity – to know that your world might be different from my world. Your thoughts different from mine. Your principles; your opinions; your routines; your passions; your hobbies; your knowledge; your views; your tastes; your beliefs; your style; your convictions; your expressions – you get the idea. I like it.

Thanks, big ol’ world for being within arms reach. I have learned so much from you. You enrich me.

 -Karen Thrall