“Books are incubators” – Stories Cultivating Empathy

“Books are incubators.” Jason Reynolds’ words resonate. I imagine books hatching open worlds, creating images, and stories not only of things we love but questions and conversations. Right now, we need the incubators of stories to cultivate empathy.

Librarians curate book collections, which represent our students, their backgrounds and stories. They are mirrors into their lives and windows into someone else’s life.

Now think of that favorite book as a child or even a current one. Did it mirror your life?  What is it a window into someone else’s life? What is a sliding glass door where you became part of the story? When was the last time you or your family read a book with a character that looked different than you? Or had a religion or an experience that you did not understand?

I ask this because our books lack diversity, creating singular viewpoints of stories. Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her Ted Talk explains when she was young, she only saw windows into other people’s lives and didn’t know that her story too could exist in literature. 

When we only hear one continual narrative about a culture, it creates stereotypes and that is the only story we hear. The need for diverse books is to expand the single story and use stories as incubators to begin the work of cultivating empathy and allowing us to have hard, vulnerable conversations.

Below are two incredible lists of sources.

Made with Padlet

Race, Anti-Racist, Equality & Social Justice Resources for all Students, Librarians, Teachers, Families and Communities

Let us curate a bookshelf that amplifies diverse voices!

Jess Winter, 2020-21 Communications Project Management Chair 

Junior League of Omaha Virtual Training

The Junior League of Omaha is a training organization first and foremost. Since we can’t be together IRL, the training committee put together a list of (mostly free) digital resources. While tie-dying sweatsuits and making your own sourdough starter are worthy endeavors, we might be social distancing for a long time. Please comment and share anything you’ve learned or DIY successes during this time! 

Community

Did you know that even before the pandemic, AJLI has tons of resources on their site? To access their library of content available to Members, log in to jlomaha.org. In the top right click on AJLI. This will take you to the AJLI website as a logged-in Junior League member. Beyond COVID-19 resources, you can find past webinars, materials from past AJLI trainings and conferences, self-paced online courses, and more. They’ve also added a bunch of COVID-19 specific resources, such as webinars about serving communities from a distance and leading teams virtually. 

If you want to further your nonprofit knowledge, take a look at nonprofitready.org and join for free. They’ve curated over 500 free online courses, videos, and downloadable guides to support the most common nonprofit jobs including: Fundraising, Grant Writing, Leadership, Governance, Accounting and Finance, Operations, Marketing and Communications, Volunteer Engagement, and Program Management.

With the Nebraska primary election around the corner on May 12, and politics on the mind, She Should Run is an excellent resource to get more women elected and involved in policy. Check out their Road to Run 2020 Virtual Series.

Continued Education

Harvard is offering the opportunity to audit select digital courses and webinars. Topics range from science and math to humanities and current events. There’s a webinar on Nonprofit Accounting and Financial Statements that looks like a great intro to nonprofit finances (looking at you, incoming treasurers!). 

Coursera is a collection of digital courses offered by a huge variety of educational institutions and has almost 2,000 free online courses. Some interesting courses we saw: The Arts and Science of Relationships: Understanding Human Needs, through the University of Toronto, Stanford Introduction to Food and Health, and Project Management Principles and Practices Specialization

Udemy is another online learning platform with tons of Free Courses. Take a look at Becoming a Service Leader.

Interested in learning the basics of software development, design, business, photography, or web development? New users get a free month on Lynda.com.

Try Free Fridays at General Assembly. Topics include data, marketing, career development, coding, UX design, and business.

Buddy up and split the cost of the Buy One Share One promotion on Masterclass. Learn Creativity and Leadership with Anna Wintour, Entrepreneurship with Spanx founder, Sara Blakely, and many other courses with masters of their fields.

There are so many free resources for schools out there, but a lot of the content is helpful beyond childhood education.

Money Moves

Sophia Amoruso founded Girlboss a few years ago, and it’s an excellent resource for all things branding and professional development. Given that we’re in SUCH an uncertain time, they’ve rounded up some timely links and articles called Girlboss Guide to Pivoting Like a Pro.

By subscribing to the Ladies Get Paid Institute for Higher Earning, you’ll get an all-access pass to over 30 hours of expert content, with new courses added weekly, designed to help you advance in your career, manage your money and grow your wealth. Try a 30 Day FREE trial with code: 30DAYSFREE

New to investing? Consider joining Ellevest, which guides women through finances to level the playing field. From their site, “86% of Investment Advisors Are Men, With an Average Age of 50+. So the “gender-neutral” investment industry defaults to men’s salaries, career paths, preferences and lifespans. That’s not good enough. So, we’re changing the game.” Even if you don’t want to commit now, follow Ellevest and founder Sallie Krawcheck on Instagram for helpful money tips with women’s interests in mind.

Here are 5 podcasts for professional development and 10 career podcasts for your listening pleasure. We also love Second Life, Women at Work, and Gallup Theme Thursdays.

Arts & Entertainment

Who remembers places? While we can’t travel, we can explore online. Here are 10 Virtual Experiences in the State of Nebraska. Architecture geeks and interior design lovers can enjoy Frank Lloyd Wright Virtual Visits. Joslyn Museum is offering Art From Afar. Check out this virtual tour of the British Library’s virtual exhibit of “Harry Potter: A History of Magic.” Fun fact: the first book came out 23 years ago this coming June.

Take guitar or ukulele lessons. Learn piano. Lin-Manuel Miranda announced free theater classes. Moma is offering free art courses through Coursera as well. If that’s too intense, get out your finest gel pens and enjoy some Manolo Blanik Coloring Sheets.

Mind & Body

Beachbody has a free 14-day trial right now.

Cloud 9 has a free 90-day trial of meditation resources. 

JCC in Omaha is streaming free fitness classes

Some of Todd Smith’s trainers are posting some free at home workouts.

Sanvello is an app offering free premium access during the COVID-19 crisis. You’ll find tools like meditations, mood trackers, and guided journeys to help navigate the complicated world of mental health.

We understand that time is a luxury that not everyone enjoys, and even with potential extra time, not everyone is feeling productive or ambitious right now. That’s okay! No matter what your situation is, however you’re coping, you’re doing the best you can. The training committee just wanted to provide some useful content to our fellow members.

We are in this together.

Sara Huse, Training Coordinator

Host your own Netflix party from your couch!

As we all continue to practice social distancing it comes as no surprise that streaming services have become our best friend.

But, you might have found yourself scrolling and scrolling, feeling as though there’s nothing to watch and you are still bored. It’s just not the same.

We tend to use Netflix as a place to unwind by ourselves, but now we’ve been alone for too long. And Netflix heard the call.

Now you can watch WITH your friends!

Here are some simple steps to get yourself setup for a movie night with all your gal pals (and we won’t judge you if you binge watch CHEER! and practice your moves together.)

First click HERE. And you will find yourself ready to “Add to Chrome”

You’ll be prompted once more. And YEAH! Bring on the party, “Add extension.”

And you are ready to go! See the steps to start your party below. Happy watching!

Need more help? Click here.

Activities for Kids & Parents | Julia Cook’s Book Ends

As we may find ourselves cooped up in our homes for the time being, the League will be doing our best to share some activities for our members and their families. Today’s is brought to you by Project Management Vice Chair and elementary librarian Jess Winter!

First up, Julia Cook’s Book Ends!

Julia is nationally recognized as an award-winning children’s book author and parenting expert.She has presented in thousands of schools across the country and abroad, regularly speaks at national education and counseling conferences. She has published nearly 100 children’s books on a wide range of characters and social development topics. Her books showcase her innate ability to enter the worldview of a child through storybooks, giving children both the “what to say” and the “how to say it.”

She was my first author visit as a librarian. I remember meeting her and seeing her empathy and compassion towards our kids.

Every Monday and Friday, she will read one of her books. She focuses on social emotional learning such as anxiety. But also regular kid things like not picking your nose and blurting out.

Right now, more than ever, she’s an asset as our kids as their schedules are upended and in disarray.

She recognizes the trauma, reassures kids and families that it will be ok, and we can support one another through this time.

As an elementary librarian, right now, she’d be my top choice to explain big feelings to kids. 

You can check out her story times on Facebook. You can learn more about Julia Cook on her website.

Also, for more children’s activities head over to our Pinterest, give us a follow and check out the other awesome options that Jess Winter has put together.

Sustainer Engagement

Did you know that Sustaining Members make up almost 60% of The Junior League of Omaha’s total membership of 682 members? Sustainers are the true backbone of our organization, providing support in a variety of ways. Whether it is offering advice and guidance to the Board, financially supporting a fundraiser, or training a group of members on a professional or personal skill, Sustainer support is an integral piece of JLO’s ongoing success.

Data from 2019-2020 League Membership

One of the strategic priorities going into the 2020-2021 League year is to provide additional quality opportunities for Sustaining members to connect with the organization and with each other. We know this membership group is looking for unique and varying ways to engage, including through mentoring, community service, socials, providing guidance and advice, and training.

Sustainers spoke… and we listened! The Junior League of Omaha has formed a NEW group to prioritize these efforts. The Sustainer Engagement Committee (SEC) will sit on the Management Team and be responsible for planning and implementing engagement opportunities. The committee leaders will collaborate closely with the president and Management Team to bridge the gap between New and Active Members and Sustainers. Current Board Member-at-Large Lisa Buckentine was selected this month to serve as chair for 2020-2021. Lisa is excited for next year and says, “We have so many wonderful Sustainers looking to engage more with our Active and New Members. I believe that this committee can provide opportunities for more Sustainers to share their thoughts, talents and time with the League!”

Stay tuned for more exciting news about Sustainer engagement!

Member-at-Large Lisa Buckentine

Member Spotlight – Ashley Rich

Learn more about Ashley Rich, Corresponding Secretary  

Ashley is originally from Milwaukee, WI, and moved to Omaha 12 years ago. She joined the League a few years after moving here, because she has always had an interest in volunteering and was looking for a way to meet new friends. 

Rich’s and her husband Brandon have been married for six years and together for 14. Growing up, Ashley competed in pageants and met Brandon 16 years ago because of it. They became friends as they both worked for the pageant and dated long distance while they finished college before Ashley moved to Omaha. 

Being active is one of Ashley’s passions. She teaches Pure Barre classes and also loves indoor cycling and running. She has run seven half marathons and one full marathon. 

Traveling is one of Ashley and her husband’s favorite things to do. Their favorite place to travel to is St. Maarten, but some of their favorite things that they have done on vacation were attending the French Open in Paris and hiking in Cinque Terre. 

Besides Ashley and her husband, they have a three year-old son named Preston who loves swimming, reading and playing with trains. Back in November they welcomed their second baby boy, Fordham Haskell. On the weekends you can find they playing at the park or museum. They also have two maltipoos, Giavanna and Madison. 

Member Spotlight – Alysia Radicia

Alysia is an Interior Designer at RDG Planning & Design. She’s been there since graduating and really enjoys it. Alysia said the firm treats everyone like family and is extremely supportive in helping individuals succeed and pursue their interests. Like being involved in the community!

Speaking of community involvement, Alysia stays busy! Having been born and raised in Omaha (technically Elkhorn), she has a deep passion for investing in the community and helping make it a better place for everyone. She currently serves as the President of the Friends of Nebraska Children, serves on the Greater Omaha Chamber’s Young Professional Council, sits on Opera Omaha’s Community Advisory Panel, volunteers for the American Heart and Stroke Association … ALL while being an active member of the Junior League.

Alysia considers herself a cat lady, but not a crazy cat lady. Gus is her main squeeze, and she’s constantly teetering on whether or not to adopt another passive aggressive cuddle bug. Check back in a few weeks.

She thoroughly enjoy party planning and dinner parties. Which is also why she enjoys working out. Life is all about balance.

This year she is taking some sort of creative class each month. She previously enrolled in pottery classes at the Union for Contemporary Art and cooking classes Metro Community College. Have any suggestions? Send them her way!

Kindness

This year our League president, Kerri Palmesano has turned our focus towards extending kindness. In the spirit of her theme, “Throw Kindness Like Confetti”, we have included some ways that you too can spread kindness.

  • Leave a note tucked in the pages of a book for a stranger to find
  • Deliver homemade baked goods to your neighbor(s)
  • Pay someone a genuine compliment
  • Clean up the trash in a public place
  • Offer to run an errand for a busy friend
  • Buy a book that you think a friend will like and give it to her
  • Hold a door for someone

Our League kicked the year off by learning from Ferial Pearson, the founder of The Secret Kindness Agents. Ferial provided thought provoking conversations with our members this past fall that has catalyzed our work to be more inclusive and equitable. We commend her work to spread kindness and encourage you to watch her TEDx Talk.

Please click here if you would like to join Secret Kindness Agents mailing list.

Kelsey Haswell, Marketing Vice Chair

Member Spotlight – Lisa Buckentine, Member-at-Large

Lisa was born and raised in West Central Iowa and her parents still live on the farm she was raised on.


She went to Iowa State University to major in Agriculture Business and ended up with a dual degree in Economics and minors in International Agriculture and Speech Communications. Lisa loves Iowa State and Agriculture!

Buckentine joined the Junior League of Omaha because of her good friend and fellow League member Jessica Holdenried. Jessica encouraged a whole group to join and Lisa says the group has had a great time meeting new people in the League!


Lisa and her husband, Adam Buckentine, live on an acreage south of Council Bluffs with their Bichon, Lucy. They hope to have more animals in the future including mini cows, goats and horses!

Lisa loves biking! She regularly rides on the Wabash Trace Trail by her house for Taco Ride and looks forward to RAGBRAI every year!

President’s Perspective

This year certainly has flown by. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words…so below is a short review of the first part of the League year in photos!

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be part of the Junior League of Omaha. I can’t tell you how much I have learned from fellow new, active and sustaining members. You all make this experience so fulfilling. I look forward to seeing what 2020 brings us all!

Kerri Palmesano, President

Mark your calendars for Brunch 5K on April 18 at Askarben Village.

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