Inside My Head Karen

When You Talk to Yourself

“What I like best about cell phones is that I can talk to myself in the car now and nobody thinks it’s weird.” Ron Brackin, Author

It’s quite common now to watch people walking down the street talking to, what appears to be, no one. They have this little piece of technologically stuck to their ear with a string hanging down attached to their phone.

I confess, I am one of those people. I’ve had a few looks and stares. People think I’m talking to them, and sometimes will respond and then they realize I’m on the phone.

So, it got me thinking about the times I actually am talking to myself. What is it about talking to ourselves that is wonderfully therapeutic?

When I was a little girl I had an imaginary friend, Louise LeBon (English translation: Louise The Good). Kinda cool that I created this best friend and gave her such a great name, at that! I played with her a lot. She’d help me set the table, she sat beside me at meal time, we played board games, enjoyed great adventures outdoors, and I had great conversations with Louise!

My first real adult job at the age of 19 was a legal assistant at a law firm. When I first joined the team, I remember noticing the assistants scurrying around the office talking to themselves. I quickly became one of “them!” We’d joke around the conversations swirling around in our minds in a fast paced environment, reaching deadlines and getting the job done.

Fast-forward to today, I continue to have dialogues with myself when I’m preparing to make a decision. As an entrepreneur, I put a lot of time into thinking. I go on long walks and hikes to process and strategize. When I’m driving, I talk to myself. And before I start my workday, I spend time in the morning thinking and talking out loud.I guess my early years were training ground, teaching me how to have a great conversation with myself!!

What is talking to yourself? It’s our way of thinking out loud. Processing. Dealing with. Attending to. Sort out.

My question is: how often do you think out loud?

When I have to rehearse a conversation or do a presentation, I’ll lie on my couch and talk to the ceiling. I want to hear what I sound like. And I want to make sure it’s exactly what I want to say.

Talking out loud gives our minds an opportunity to hear what its actually thinking. It’s the auditory to our mind. We become our very own sounding board.

You’ve heard the expression “think before you speak?” I’d like to change it a bit to say, “think out loud before you speak.”

Commit to making great decisions for your personal and professional life. To pursue great decision-making, why not try thinking out loud as one of your resources?

– Karen Thrall

*also published on

Inside My Head Libby

Snow Bound

Last week, the Washington, DC area got rocked by a blizzard. There was a lot of hype and hullabaloo preceding the “snow event,” but it was warranted – the area got hit with anywhere from 20 – 36 inches of snow. CRAZY. And it was crazy – everything was shut down: Metro, the federal government, fast food establishments. Here are some observations:

  1. Nature is something. Watching the entire blizzard process was incredible – the snow, the wind, a fox that was running around in the front yard trying to figure out where to go…amazing. To see how the snow accumulated, especially waking up in the morning and the landscape and totally changed, was remarkable. Being blinded by the sun sparkling on the snow and seeing the trees decorated as if in a Macy’s Christmas window makes me happy. Nature!
  2. “A sweater is something you have to wear when your mother feels cold.” I think this is a Nora Ephron quote, or maybe Oscar Wilde (thanks a lot, internet…) and it has been hammered home these past several days while cabin-fevered up with my seven-year-old son. “Put some socks on!” “Mom, my feet are hot!” I think it’s too cold to go outside, and he is outside tunneling through snow for hours. To me, snow means we can’t go anywhere, to him it means he doesn’t have to go anywhere [school]! As usual, it is all about perspective. Which also reminds me that I am ridiculously thankful I am “imprisoned” in a warm house with plenty of food, cable and internet.
  3. The Martian is inspirational. If you haven’t seen it yet, it really is impressive – although ridiculously suspenseful (I had to make my parents tell me the ending halfway through because I couldn’t take it). If you think “surviving” the blizzard is tough, try being abandoned on Mars. It made me realize how impressive our meteorologists are, that they used science to predict all of what would happen and prepared us well, probably saving many lives. Best takeaway from the movie is to find ways to “science the shit out of” life’s challenges. Not sure that will get me more half-n-half for this morning’s coffee, but it is definitely a way to look at other obstacles in my life moving forward. (My science-brained husband may be more useful than I thought!)
  4. Jack Daniels knows how to make friends. When it was finally over, my dad and I were out shoveling the driveway making incremental headway. A neighbor down the street used his snowblower to clear the sidewalk all the way to our house. Dad went inside and got the bottle of Jack to help warm the guy up and say thank you – next thing I know, there are four other neighbors hanging out, drinking and shooting the breeze. I didn’t even know there were that many people in the neighborhood!
  5. Family. Because we were worried about losing power, I left my husband holding down the home front and went to my parents’ house where they rarely lose power (thank you, underground power lines!). My worries were not realized (phew) but I knew my husband would be okay, while if we had stayed, I would have worried about my parents and about my son. And everyone else in the family was worried about all of us here – phone calls were coming in from Ukraine, Buffalo, Boston and Scotland to check on us. It was nice to know so many people care about us, but being apart from loved ones is the biggest challenge of the whole endeavor. Stay warm, safe and snuggled if you can!

– Libby Bingham

Inside My Head

Intersecting Stories

There’s a woman I see with some regularity in the area I work. I recognize her by the beautiful, colorful design on the back of her black coat. The coat is made by a Spanish company I like, and that’s one of the reasons the design popped out at me. And once I noticed the coat, I started noticing the woman who wears it. I’ve spotted her in line at one of the places I frequent for lunch, seen her on the sidewalk in front of me when out running an errand, or our and about on my afternoon trip to Starbucks. I believe we’ve exchanged a polite smile or two, and that’s about it. I don’t see her frequently enough for us to be anything more than passers-by on the street, and I’d be surprised if she recognized me at all.

It’s these sort of life intersections that fascinate me. My path crosses this woman’s path with enough regularity that I’ve noticed her, but I know nothing about her other than her fashion sense and mine overlap in one tiny area and we spend time in the same geographical location. And yet, our worlds intersect at these moments. I used to think about this a lot when a bus route was a regular part of my commute years ago. Every morning, I would see many of the same people on my bus route. I knew they lived in my neighborhood and we were all headed to the metro, but that was it. And while we spent 15 minutes or so together every morning, I didn’t know anything about them. I didn’t know where they went when they got off the bus, I didn’t know what they did for a living, who they lived with or what their sense of humor was like. I’m not at all a morning person, so I didn’t usually strike up conversation, and it wasn’t happening much around me, either. I think that’s also fascinating in and of itself – while we didn’t know anything about each other, we all had come to this unspoken agreement that our time together on the bus in the morning was quiet, personal time. We would be polite – smile, make sure your coat wasn’t spilling over onto the seat next to you, but we would respect personal boundaries.

I’ve talked before on this blog about the stories we tell ourselves – it’s how we make sense of the world. Often, we’re telling ourselves stories about people we know – our close colleagues, good friends, pesky neighbors, meddling family. We tell ourselves these stories and assign motives, create heroes, victims and try to make sense of plot twists we didn’t see coming. But in the middle of all that, I’m so intrigued by those who play an extra part in my story – what’s happening in their stories? What brings us both to this same spot at the same time so our stories collide?

It’s through this lens of storytelling that I can’t help but imagine what’s happening in these people’s lives that brings our worlds together for these brief moments. I’ve got many questions for the woman in the coat. I wonder how she discovered this designer we both like – did a good friend introduce her to it? That’s how I found out about it. A few times I’ve seen her out with different people and they seem to be headed somewhere with purpose, laden down by laptops and papers. What are they working on?  Are they coming from the World Bank, which is close to where I am? Do they like working together? One of the women who used to ride the bus with me was reading a book about how not to lose your sense of self once you got married. This was a rare gift that gave me lots to work with! I wondered when the wedding would take place, where it might be and who all might be coming. Did she have lots of family drama she was trying to balance? Maybe she was first of her siblings to get married and so she was by default creating traditions that some of them would follow. Was she nervous? Or was she so excited she could hardly stand it?

It’s these intersections that remind me that we’re all human – we all have struggles, joys, frustrations, stresses, celebrations and hopes. So while these intersections may be brief and fleeting, we can make the most of them by playing our role as an extra to the best of our ability. Offer a smile, open a door, step out of the way, offer up a seat. These are the small and subtle things that can have a much bigger impact on someone else’s story than we may ever know.




Inside My Head Karen

Three Ways to Find Peace Before Your Day Begins

Karen Peace
Photo by Demi DeHerrera

Although there are many methods, I want to touch on three practical and effective ways to invite a peaceful environment into your life before your day begins.

With these three steps, you will start your day peacefully and keep that need to hurry to a minimal.

  1. Be aware of how you wake up. Stay clear of the need to rush-out-of-bed. Why do you need to rush out of bed? Don’t do that. Get out of bed slowly, which confirms a relaxed state. Enjoy the feeling of waking up slowly.
  1. Be aware of how fast you walk. From the moment you wake up to the moment you arrive at work, or getting your kids to school, slow down your pace. Walk slower and let all and any of your movements be at a slower pace.
  1. Be aware of your breathing and the speed of your voice. In your mornings, keep track of when you’re holding your breath while thinking or doing something; and talk slowly and quietly. Imagine speaking in an art gallery or watching a sunset.

Guaranteed, these three simple tips will create a bigger space in your morning for peace.

– Karen Thrall

*also published on

Book Reports

Summer Reading Lists

For many of us, the summer reading list goes back to the days of elementary school. Whether the books were assigned by next year’s teacher, your library had a program or you were motivated by personal pan pizzas (thanks, BOOK IT!), summer is synonymous with getting lost in a good book. As an adult, summer vacations aren’t necessarily the two or three months they used to be, but beaches and planes also present some good reading opportunities.

The Washington Post recently published “A summer reading list that will help you professionally,” which got me feeling guilty about my own pile of books waiting to be read. I’m currently about halfway through Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids, a collection of essays pulled together by Meghan Daum. It’s an incredibly thoughtful look at the decisions we make around children – not just about not having them, but also about why people choose to have kids. It’s a deeply personal conversation and I think it’s impossible to explore one side of the coin without looking at the other. I’m enjoying the different perspectives and the conversations it brings up among my friends.

My other books waiting patiently to be read this summer…

What’s on your summer reading list this year?

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?

How to be Awesome Libby

Life Was Tough

This weekend I went camping with my family. We usually do a car camping kind of thing (drive up in the car, pitch the tent, open up the bundle of wood we bought at the camp store, go a few steps to a pump for water, fire up the camp stove to make mac ‘n cheese, sit and sip cocktails in the nice firelight)…fun! Not this weekend. This weekend we had to hike half a mile – in the rain and mud with all our stuff – to stay in a cabin with no running water, an outhouse halfway up the hill, collecting and processing our own wood…a different kind of fun, to be sure, but easy it is not.

It’s amazing what we take for granted. I’m not saying our problems are not important and that we should all shut-up and stop complaining, but it is very interesting to compare the trials of having to wait in line for self-checkout with having to hike .25 miles to the spring every time you need water. It kind of helps put things into perspective.

This is something my husband and I have done on several occasions on our own, and we’ve taken our son a few times as a carry-in-a-pack age baby, but this is the first time he’s come as a real kid. We were interested to see how the unplugged experience would resonate with our digital native boy. There were some negotiations regarding the bringing of his laptop (I won with the logic that he’d have to carry it himself), but ultimately, we were all device free. During the day, we did “chores,” hiked around, looked for crayfish, ran screaming through the woods (one of us); at night, we read books, told jokes, played UNO, checkers and Yahtzee at night. It was exhausting, but delightful.

The book Joey and I are reading together is Farmer Boy, the second in the Little House series. It is an historical fictional account of a nine-year old boy who lives on a farm in upstate NY in the 1860s – the story focuses on all the chores (morning and night), work on the farm (animals and plants), daily routines of bathing, cooking and going to school (when he doesn’t have farm work to do, of course). Joey and I are both exhausted by the end of every chapter! It has led to a new appreciation on his end for zippers, Gore-Tex, toilets and the refrigerator. He even has changed his morning refrain to “I can’t wait to go to school today!”

These reminders – both in theory and practice – have served to reframe some of my thoughts on my own daily routine (laundry, dishes, dinner…) and as a result, I have found peace in the daily minutiae. A shout-out to the men and women of the past, who worked so hard to feed, clothe and care for their families – all their hard work, struggles and lack of “downtime” have made it possible for me to look at their daily chores as recreational activity, for me to read to my son at night, and then blog about it.

– Libby Bingham

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

Inside My Head Karen

Life Is Unpredictable

Karen UnpredictableLast week I hung out with a friend of mine. It was catch up time. We hadn’t connected in awhile. I asked if, instead of meeting for dinner or at a coffee shop, we could sip our hot beverage of choice while strolling the Vancouver seawall.

It was nightfall. The West End was beginning to settle in for the night. The air was refreshing. The sound of the water was peaceful. The boulevard was quiet, with a few evening runners and people walking their dogs.

Amidst the city lights, we shared life. The tales were filled with victories, defeats and self-reflection. My eyes sparkled as I listened to his joy and my shoulders slumped when he shared his hardship.

Also last week, I received a text message from a friend letting me know he lost a close friend in a car accident; another experienced unsettledness and is re-thinking their career; another went through a painful break-up; and one heard the news that her mother has cancer.

All in one week.

I find myself intently aware that circumstances knock on our door unannounced. Our lives are interwoven with elation and disappointment. Life is unpredictable.

And when we connect to each other’s lives, two powerful expressions of friendship are manifested: we listen & we are present. We extend compassion or a standing ovation; comfort or celebration; high fives or a shoulder to lean on; tears of joy or tears of grief. Whichever it may be, one thing is clear – we need each other.

– Karen Thrall

Book Reports Libby

The Poisoner’s Handbook

I am a pretty avid reader – I must read anywhere from 3-6 books a month. Not bad considering it’s all pretty much done in 10-30 minute increments right before I fall asleep drooling on the page (“Note to self: don’t lend Libby any books…”). I love reading and always have – it is a great way to learn something or escape something. I love the way I can fall in love with a character and by the end feel so sad it’s over like we just broke up (the tragically sad Victoria in The Language of Flowers), or even get angry at some long dead historical figure (I’m looking at you, General George B. McClellan!).

My husband, who can only read if something is on an electronic device, is aware of my love of reading – over the years he has kind-heartedly mocked me for bringing piles of books on our canoeing trips or shoving them into our suitcase for international adventures (yes, he bought me a Kindle). He is also very gentle when marking my drooled page and turning out the light. For Christmas, he bought me a book entitled The Poisoner’s Handbook. Was this a request, a challenge or a lark?? Whatever it was, it was awesome.

It is one of my favorite kinds of books: non-fiction that reads like fiction…a page turner with true moxie! This book ranks right up there with The Devil in the White City (read it!). Poisoner’s is all about the birth of forensic science and focuses on all the everyday household products that existed at the turn of the century (the last one, not this one) that could kill you. It is the intersection of Prohibition (what a terrible idea…really, terrible), breakthroughs in scientific methodology, and murder. It mostly follows one guy, Charles Norris, who was the first Chief Medical Examiner in New York City who actually knew about science and medicine and wasn’t on the take. He forms a team of smart, curious people (Alexander Gettler was a chemist who was just obsessive enough to pretty much create modern toxicology) who are either solving murders or outing the government for failing to protect the people. It’s outrageous and you’ll thank your lucky stars that these guys existed…otherwise, you may never have!

– Libby Bingham