Posts Archived From: 'September 2015'

“Animus: Film vs. Book” is October 29

The 1877 Society, in association with the Omaha Public Library Foundation, will launch an annual fundraiser in October, titled “Animus: Film vs. Book.”


The inaugural event is Thursday, October 29, at Aksarben Cinema. Attendees will gather for a lively film and book comparison.


Up for debate: Stephen King’s 1977 best-selling novel The Shining, versus the 1980 film of the same name starring Jack Nicholson.


The night will begin with a cocktail and appetizer reception at 5 p.m., a screening of the film at 6 p.m. (sponsored by Aksarben Cinema), followed by a passionate and spirited panel discussion. Enthusiastic readers and self-proclaimed film critics will constructively discuss whether the book is superior to the film (or vice versa).


Attendees are encouraged to first read The Shining. Books, ebooks, and audio books are available at Omaha Public Library’s twelve branches and at area bookstores.


Panelists include Julie Humphrey of Omaha Public Library, speaking in support of the book; and Ryan Syrek, a film critic with The Reader, speaking in support of the film. Moderating the panel and audience discussion will be Cameron Logsdon, a local slam poet and standup comedian.


Event Details
Thursday, October 29, 2015
Aksarben Cinema, 2110 South 67th Street
5 p.m. Cocktail and appetizer reception
6 p.m. Screening of “The Shining”
8:30 p.m. Panel discussion


Available through the Aksarben Cinema Box Office
(402) 932-9858 or
$20 for 1877 Society members
$30 for the general public
Includes appetizers, cocktails, small popcorn, and movie ticket


For More Information
(402) 444-4589 or



The Stress of Yes

Saying yes is easy. Alarmingly easy.

Yes, let’s go to lunch. Sure, I’ll have another slice of cake. Of course, I will serve on that committee.

If you’re anything like me, that last affirmative statement has been spoken even when your head gave you pause.

Sometime during my undergrad years at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, I began saying yes to any and all commitments that came my way. As a journalism major, it began with freelance writing opportunities and internships. Then it encompassed group projects in (and out of) the classroom. From there it blossomed into community involvement of varying shapes and sizes. At that point in my life and my premature career, I was hungry for any opportunity that pushed me forward.

My personal and professional diet of yes continued to grow after college — especially after I made the switch from newspaper reporter to public relations professional. In many respects, I returned to the ground floor, feeling the need to prove myself as I learned the PR craft. As a result, yes quickly became a mainstay of my vocabulary. I sat on numerous community committees, enthusiastically agreeing to every opportunity. I served on a handful of boards, filling my calendar with morning meetings, noon meetings, evening meetings, weekend events, conference calls, and an endless march of emails in between.

The stress of yes was building.

A few years later I made yet another career change — a common reality for today’s young professionals. I left behind public relations for a new chapter in fundraising. Familiar terrain was all around; yet again, I was starting from scratch. Saying yes was my only option as I learned the ropes. My daily work now revolved around convincing others to saying yes. The higher my yes quantity, the better my performance raising dollars.

Community work called once more, and my volunteer commitments grew. I had said yes for so many years that saying no wasn’t even an option. Yes felt good (at first). The thought of no felt stressful (at first).

Some weeks later, as my calendar looked chaotic, I was paging through a back issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. In one of her columns, the wise Ms. Winfrey touched upon our hectic, crazy, overscheduled lives. The miami drug rehab is very helpful to restoring and giving the addicts a new life.

“Remember what ‘yes’ feels like,” Winfrey wrote.

In that moment, such a simple, straightforward sentence made perfect sense. It would take some time, but I could easily replay my life’s cinematic reel of important events where the answer was unquestionably yes.

Remember what ‘yes’ feels like.

When I discovered my love of journalism. When I was offered my next job. When I purchased my first home. When my husband proposed. Every time I was asked, my gut, heart, and head all sang in unison.


What I had all too easily lost track of over the years was remembering the feeling of unquestionable certainty. Very few of the commitments I had said yes to felt as certain. Within a few moments of reflection, I pledged to myself to only say yes to opportunities that filled me with such feelings.

Remember what ‘yes’ feels like.

Part of my mission has also been sharing that little nugget of wisdom with anyone who complains of having too much to do. Shaving out the so-so commitments, the toxic relationships, the unproductive committees isn’t easy, I grant you that.

But I have found that saying no gets easier with practice.

Look at your calendar. What meetings do you have this month (or next month) that you already dread? What lunch dates, brunch dates, or happy hours are you already brainstorming last-minute excuses to cancel? What commitment are you still considering? (Hint: If you haven’t decided yet, the answer is very likely a firm no.)

Don’t allow yourself the cozy comfort of maybe or perhaps or, my personal favorite: “Let me give that some thought and get back to you.”

Avoid wasting your time and theirs. Say no now, and move on.

The beauty of this whole process is the calendar cleansing you’ll experience, but also the opportunity to seek out experiences that you have longed to pursue or explore. Saying no to the wrong requests means you have the time and energy to say yes to the right ones.

I would love to hear your experiences saying no (or yes). Tell me more at @wtownley or

P.S. If Oprah Winfrey isn’t your idea of a motivator, try the late poet Robert Frost on for size, who said so simply and eloquently, “Freedom lies in being bold.” Be bold. Say no. Find freedom!

Editor’s note: “The Stress of Yes” was originally written for the Greater Omaha Young Professionals.

Big Omaha ’15: A veteran’s perspective

As a Big Omaha veteran who attended all six conferences thus far, I had big questions driving downtown Thursday morning.


Would KANEKO look the same? Would there be any mention of Big Omaha’s history? Would the speakers be engaging? Would I know any of the attendees?


And, perhaps most important of all, would the snacks still be tasty?


It’s no secret that questions swirled when Silicon Prairie News announced it had been acquired by the AIM Institute. What did this mean for SPN’s signature event, Big Omaha?


At the close of the first speaker – a thought-provoking, soul-examining, dance-inducing presentation by Dr. Jennifer Jones – my questions were getting answered. This was the Big Omaha I remembered so fondly.


KANEKO was transformed for the next two days with Big Omaha branding throughout (nice work, Grain & Mortar), along with an art installation and colorful furniture by hutch.


>> Continue reading my post for Silicon Prairie News, “Big Omaha 2015: A veteran’s perspective.”

Want to read more often?

I’ve heard it from others and have said it countless times myself: “I just don’t have the time to sit and read a book.”

Listen, we’re all insanely and overwhelmingly busy with any number of professional commitments, passion projects, family and friends, get-togethers, and the like. Our free time flounders in a choppy sea thick with calendar alerts reminding us of something to do (or something we forgot to do).

I work in a public library. You may think that in a four-story building teeming with books I’d be reading every day. And you’re right: I do read every day. However, it happens because I make it a priority. Of course, making something a priority means abandoning (or at least delaying) something else.

Blaming social media is too easy. What I instead find in my own life, and witness in strangers on a daily basis, is our absentminded behavior with our tech. Every hour, we blandly scroll through our social media feeds, our email, our text messages from two days ago. Those wasted moments really start to add up.

We know why we do this: we’re all stressed, and we need a mini mental vacation. But a few months ago, I started picking up a book and reading a page or two when I need a grown-up time-out.

I discovered that stepping away from social media allowed me to quickly clear my head, as well. The varied voices we hear from Facebook and Twitter can stay with us. A nonsensical post or tweet you read from a complete stranger can take up valuable space in your mind. And you may simmer on such unnecessary content without even knowing it; when instead, you could be feeding your brain with a great story.

“But Wendy,” you may be thinking (or saying, in which case I won’t judge you for speaking to a webpage), “you work in a library. Of course it’s okay for you to read at work. But that’s just not an option for me.”

>> Continue reading my latest Dogeared column, “Want to read more often? Treat yourself to mini mental vacations,” at COOP, an online lifestyle publication produced by Birdhouse Interior Design.

Reading is the Ultimate Perk

The email grabbed my attention like no coupon ever could.

“You’re eligible for a Klout Perk!” the subject line exclaimed in bold type. I immediately abandoned anything work-related. A quick, breathless scan, and I discovered my perk this time around was a book — I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. (Klout, you know me too well!)

Crunching my recent social media posts led Klout computers to the correct assumption that I am a reader. Last March I became development director of the Omaha Public Library Foundation and, admittedly, have populated my Facebook and Twitter accounts with updates about my work at the library.

(What can I say? When I’m excited about something, I talk about it. A LOT.)

My days are focused on securing private dollars for the Omaha Public Library system: its twelve branches, patrons, programs, services, and staff. For years I was an Omaha Public Library patron; today, I am one of her biggest champions. Last year our tiny, two-woman staff raised more than $1 million for the library and started a young professionals group of library supporters called the 1877 Society.

All of this activity and online chatter must have told Klout I love the library (and possibly that I could use some other topics to tweet about). Knowing very little about the thriller genre and even less about the author, I accepted Klout’s free gift and eagerly awaited the arrival of my new read.

The book landed with a thud on our front porch. I tore open the thick cardboard envelope and dropped the book near my sewing machine and knitting needles. And there, among so many other colorful pastimes, it sat. Until a few weeks later, when I grew temporarily tired of the comfy, cozy fiction by Debbie Macomber and cracked open I Am Pilgrim.

For the past several months, Pilgrim and I have become quite close. It’s a book not to take lightly, literally. The hardcover edition boasts more than 600 pages.

>> Continue reading my latest Dogeared column, “Reading is the Ultimate Perk,” at COOP, an online lifestyle publication produced by Birdhouse Interior Design.