Inside My Head Karen

Asking Why?

I want to expand my knowledge, so I added a trivia APP on my phone. The app is Quizoid, “Get smart with your phone.” I like it. I’m actually learning tidbits of information that I hadn’t known previously, and I’m enjoying it.

I’ve never considered myself an intellect – still don’t. Yet, I long to know more. I crave it. My curiosity is one of the highest values I uphold. I don’t ever want to lose sight of the “why.”

As little children, we start life asking “why?”

There is something so pure in wanting to know more.

When I ask “why?” I start exploring. I listen differently. I observe differently. I engage my curiosity. I engage that childlike wonder.

I think sometimes we ask “why” as a cynic or critic rather than with sincerity. What would happen if we let down our guard and asked “why?” from a place of openness instead of defensiveness? Curious, childlike wonder may just surprise us.

– Karen Thrall

*also published on

How to be Awesome Jams Libby

Inappropriate Children’s Songs

Every parent finds themselves uncomfortable with a song their child has heard or gravitated to…they can be a source of questions that are particularly difficult and embarrassing to answer. I am no different, but here is a list of songs that my seven year old son has either misheard or misinterpreted the lyrics. Try listening to them with an alternative take in mind…you’ll get a giggle!

  1. Another One Bites the Dust [Queen] Okay, so I don’t know for sure, but believe this song is about gang riots or something…really not appropriate for a kid, but try not laughing when he earnestly sings “Another One Busts the Dust.” A vacuum cleaner is something we really don’t celebrate enough, right?
  2. Sugar [Maroon Five] The innuendo in this song is ridiculously inappropriate for children, but the literal ode to sweetener is totally appropriate for a seven year old. It’s a true love, a pure love. Delicious.
  3. TNT [AC/DC] This is another song that has a level of innuendo that is difficult even for adults to embrace (!), but when Joey sings it, it becomes a personal power anthem. Power is something that a kid has very little of, so having a way to articulate it is an awesome thing to watch.
  4. Seven Nation Army [White Stripes] Joey is learning how to play the guitar and this is his go-to song. Honestly, I’m not sure what the song is about (other than it is a play on the Salvation Army), but I don’t really care. Why? Because Joey has no idea what the words are and what it means – all I know is that he loves to sing it when playing the guitar and that it’s adorable. And on top of that, he has written out the lyrics for when he and his eight year old cousin form their band this summerLibby Post
  5. You Can’t Always Get What You Want [Rolling Stones] I love it when Joey says, “Mom! This is my theme song!” We have used this as a mantra to avoid temper tantrums when he was little, and now he’ll actually ask us for what he might “need” if he can’t get what he wants. Rockin’ AND effective!

– Libby Bingham

Career Libby


I attended a program on innovation last week. The speaker was Frans Johannson; he was really compelling. He talked about how innovation is all about intersections – the places where diverse thoughts/industries/paradigms come together. He was able to show how insects can influence architecture and Martin Luther King Jr. has an influence on techno music. It is the surprise factor that makes an idea exciting, and it is diversity that drives innovation.

Now, I have a lot of work-related ideas, many of which are interesting and a few of which are innovative. On one hand we are encouraged to be creative and try new things; on the other, we are hog-tied by something ironically called our “innovation process” – it is a cumbersome methodology designed to ensure that ideas are carefully thought out, the ROI is quantified, the budget is laid out, staff hours are accounted for, etc. All of this sounds perfectly reasonable and logical, and it also effectively kills innovation. It’s a very frustrating place in which to live…I’d really like to innovate the New Product Development process into obsolescence. One of the other things Johannson shared with us is that if we want to innovate, we need to do something, do anything. We may fail, but at least we tried and now we know more than we did before. If the “process” for innovation is to stop failure before it’s tried, there’s no way to try. If you really want to innovate, you need to think in surprising ways, allowing room for trying and subsequently learning from mistakes – with truly unexpected ideas, you can’t possibly know in advance how it’s all going to turnout! Creativity is not a linear process, it is messy and dirty and accidental and fun. To me, rules and frameworks are akin to professional fear…maybe the whole thing will be found lacking and then what? You better innovate your resume…

– Libby Bingham

Inside My Head

What’s Lurking Around the Corner

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was laid off not too long ago. She’d reached out to me to ask if we could talk, and was very clear about what had just happened to her and how it was a good thing – a very good thing. She was looking forward to spending the summer with her children and taking the time to figure out what she really wanted to do. She’d already had one job offer since she’d been laid off, but had turned it down. She’s determined to take advantage of this time and I’m so impressed by her. It takes a lot of confidence and courage to be that comfortable with ambiguity, especially when it comes to your livelihood.

That conversation has been rattling around in my head for the past few days. When we think about losing our job, it’s usually in some kind of worst case scenario. But I’m so proud of my friend’s outlook and her ability to see the flip side of this coin. Rather than seeing tragedy and fear, she’s embracing the opportunity to focus on what’s most important to her. She’s prioritizing her family in the immediate future and using the time to think through what her long-term future could be. We so often get bogged down by the unknown, and seeing her excitement and optimism is refreshing. Yes, her husband is in a stable job and they’ve planned well. And they’ll save money by not putting the kids in daycare for the summer. They’ve planned and are ready with a list of adjustments to their lives that they can make at various points along this journey. Of course, this all affords her a certain amount of freedom, and I realize not everyone has that. If she was solely responsible for the family income, insurance and the like, it’s a different scenario. Even then, however, knowing my friend, she would have made plans in case something like this happened. She’s a planner and makes sure she’s prepared for whatever needs handling – whatever may be lurking around the corner.

What strikes me in addition to her embracing this situation is the reminder of the resilience we all have in us – the ability to get our shit handled, no matter what comes at us. Yes, we may have to change course and shift direction. Sure, things may not look exactly like we’d imagined, or turn out as we’d planned (does life ever turn out how we’d planned???). We may have to adjust the way we live and approach the world, but at the end of the day, we all have the confidence and courage to find our own path. We may just need to dig a little deeper, but it’s there. And I’m grateful for the people and events that remind me of my own ability to persevere – it’s a valuable life lesson for me that I learn over and over again.

Awesomeness in the World

Delightfully Unexpected

Over the weekend, my husband pointed out an article in the Washington Post, “How Kathmandu’s ‘kung fu nuns’ sprang into action after the quake.” It’s a quick read, and absolutely worth the time. These Buddhist nuns have been studying kung fu for about four years, not with the intent of fighting, but applying their learnings in ways that you wouldn’t expect.

“The nuns began learning kung fu from a Vietnamese teacher in defiance of accepted gender codes in the Buddhist monastic system. But over time, they have harnessed the ancient Chinese martial art for meditation, community work, edgy campaigns against toxic waste, and for women’s empowerment and walkathons against the prevalence of plastic products in everyday life.”

Most recently, they’ve used their physical and mental strength to help those affected by the horrific earthquake in Nepal. It’s easy to feel disconnected to something going on across the world and think there’s nothing we can do to help, but these nuns are a reminder that we can all have an impact in our own, and sometimes unexpected, way. And sometimes it’s a simple as that.

For more on how to help those affected in Nepal, visit the Better Business Bureau’s website for accredited organizations collecting donations.

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

Inside My Head Libby


I just discovered a new show on TV Land called Younger, about a 40 year old divorcee with a kid passing herself off as a 26 year old. Seems like a ridiculous premise, but Sutton Foster can make anything awesome. The show is entertaining, but it is also thought-provoking…if we could go back in time with the knowledge gained by our older selves and have a kind of do-over, how would that be? Terrific or terrible? I’m torn…I honestly don’t know what I would do in that situation, but I do know that I am lucky enough to have friends and relationships with people of all ages. I have learned so much from both those who are older and those who are younger – it is their experiences and perspectives that make them interesting, valuable and relevant friends, not their age. My little cousin recently reminded me that one now says “hashtag” not “pound” and my mother just shared with me a heart-breaking time she had one day when she was twelve years old – both of those things make me a more understanding person, a more efficient worker, and a better friend. It’s not that I want to be younger – I want to be relevant and happy. I just need to find ways to do that no matter how old I am.

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

Awesomeness in the World Gabriel

Something Old, Something New

Chipotlé is usually a once a month sort of thing for me. One can only handle so many burrito bowls. Yet as of late, visits to said establishment have been especially pleasant, given how much I enjoy these little anecdote-like essays printed on the bags. Catherine and I had a moment maybe a month or two ago about said brown paper bags. After reading a pretty funny one by Aziz Ansari about buying the best toothbrush out there, I sent a picture of the bag to Catherine. She then replied with another picture of another one she had cut out and pinned to her cork board. It was that moment I knew this was meant to be, but I digress.

I recently had my monthly Chipolté, and this particular brown paper bag spoke loud and clear to me. It told a fable of a man who everyday walked from his home to the nearest well to get water for his family. He used two pots which hung from a wooden post he carried across his shoulders. One of the pots his wife had bought for him in the market not one year ago. The other he had had for a number of years. It had many signs of wear including chips and cracks, yet the man refuse to give it up. The pot would only have half the water it started with when the man left the well. One day the pot, embarrassed for its inadequacy, asked the man why he had not gotten rid of it yet. The man said nothing until he began to walk the path he took home. He then said to the pot, “look behind you.” Along the side of the path where the pot leaked water, a trail of flowers and green plants grew. The man told the pot he planted seeds where water had nourished the land. This was the reason he held on to his old pot.

I really connected with the story on this brown paper bag. I thought old things can always breathe new life into current situations. I guess people have always looked to the past to help predict the future. But learning the most you can from a previous scenario, however relevant it is, is the key to utilizing something old to help you with something new. Remember that awesome graphic tee of your favorite rock band or hip hop MC you got years ago? Things like that, you never give up. Birthday boy out. (Catherine’s Note: Feel free to wish Gabriel a happy belated birthday and mark your calendar for next year – it was April 1.) 🙂

– Gabriel Oigbokie

Bonus Chipotle Bags

Gabriel’s Chipotle Bag – Why do we always want the best?
Catherine’s Chipotle Bag – Don’t be a jerk.
Awesomeness in the World Karen

Curiously Engaging

Karen CuriosityWhen curiosity and engagement are interwoven and lived out simultaneously, it creates this magical wonder we call: being present

What does it look like to curiously engage?

  • You are approachable.
  • You ask questions.
  • You are personable.
  • You explore conversations.
  • You laugh freely.
  • You open yourself up to new experiences.
  • You pursue understanding
  • You expand your knowledge.
  • You radiate safety and warmth.
  • You extend respect easily.
  • You appreciate more.
  • You welcome camaraderie.
  • You create community.
  • You express belonging.
  • You offer space for others to be known.

And the cool part is – while gallivanting around in curious engagement – you become contagious. Not a bad return on investment!!

May I suggest that curiosity be viewed as a verb rather than a noun? When curiosity is a thing it loses its power. When curiosity is alive, it is a blazing unstoppable force that opens doors you never thought imaginable.

-Karen Thrall