The Spelling Bee Champ

Cole Shafer-Ray was named the runner up during the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee in the US, despite some personal hardship, and very little support from his school. But instead of feeling like he lost, he ventured out and started his own consulting business coaching young people who want to do better in spelling bees. Isn’t that amazing?

You can read all about Shafer-Ray’s journey to celebrating words right here. It’s a great story!

Make It Easier…or more difficult

Recently, the Harvard Business Review posted an article about promoting change. They wanted people to eat healthier, and so they stocked the kitchen area in their office with healthy fruits that people could take for free. It worked…sort of.

They noticed that people would take the bananas first, and leave the oranges for someone else. Often, the oranges wouldn’t even get eaten at all. And it wasn’t that people didn’t like oranges. Turns out, it’s just easier to peel a banana.

People chose the bananas because they took less effort, and making a serious change in habit requires something to be easy. Stock your fridge with healthy foods, and you won’t be able to reach for the cookies, thus losing weight. Put the item that is selling worst in your store at the very front in a special display, and people will buy it. Having trouble getting people to work together? Put their desks near one another, or move them both to an office together. Make it easy, and the thing you want to change will happen.

The study showed the same could be said for behaviour that isn’t wanted. When teens started congregating near two underpasses in London, they came up with a way to get the teens to stop coming: they installed pink lighting. As it goes, pink lighting accentuates acne, so the teens stopped loitering. (Or maybe they just hated the colour?)

At our library, we often see this principle come into play. Our large print fiction wasn’t circulating as much as we hoped it would, so we took the books away from one end of our shelving, and bought stands (picture frame stands, for the most part), and displayed the newest large print books face out. Boom! They circulate like wildfire now. We just had to make it easier for people to find them.

It’s a very interesting idea–the banana peel question–and one that many of us could use in our daily lives. Want the kids to start picking their laundry up off the floor? Put cute laundry bins in their rooms, and it becomes easier than throwing everything into the laundry room.

You can read the whole article here. It might give you a few ideas, and at the very least, explain how definite change can be made if you just get a little bit creative.

Small Talk

Small talk. It should be an actual course in school, say, in Grade 5. Way before high school, at the very least. It’s not hard to make small talk with friends or co-workers you know fairly well, but get stuck in a room with strangers, and it’s tough! For our Friday Frivolous Post, we’re going there.

As Canadians, we seem to learn how to make small talk about the weather from day one. But what happens when you have more time to kill, or want to chat up that fascinating person across the room during a conference? You can’t rely on the other person to do all the talking–you need to learn how to have conversations, especially in this world of social media and cell phones.

But how? Do you memorize a list of general questions you could ask anyone? (What type of work do you do? Have you been on vacation this summer? What do you think of all this construction? Do you like this restaurant/hotel/yoga class?) After a while, you’ll lose someone with those run-of-the-mill questions. To really engage a stranger, you need to keep a conversation going. But it would be nice to also glean a few tidbits of interesting info from them as well.

When I came across this list of 16 Interesting, Better Small Talk Questions, it was something I had to share. Some of these are BRILLIANT, and I plan on using them the next time I’m lost for words.

How about something like:

  • What are you reading/watching/listening to right now?

We ask this question casually at work all the time, just not in this particular way. When people ask us for book recommendations, we often ask them about the last great book they read, or what type of book they usually enjoy. Why can’t this be a “regular” conversation question? You might find your next favourite book or Netflix binge-worthy show.

  • What are you doing this weekend?

Okay. This seems like a no-brainer, and we often go through this conversation with friends or family right before the weekend. But what if we did it with strangers? (I don’t recommend asking someone on the bus, or in line at the bank…seems a little weird.) I could totally see a conversation like this playing out with someone sitting beside you at the doctor’s office, or the cashier at the grocery store. Just an easy question, and it gets the other person talking about things THEY’RE excited about. Plus, you might get a great tip on something fun to do!

  • What’s the best thing that happened to you today?

I feel like this one is for people you know a little bit already. Otherwise, it ends up sounding like one of those inspirational Facebook posts by a self-help author. (List the five best things that happened to you today! Wasn’t that an Oprah thing?)  But with someone you know…an old friend, your kids, etc., and you could totally pull this off.

There are plenty of other great questions to ask, with lots of wiggle room and the obvious…segues into more conversation! Give them a try and let us know what you think? Or….do you have some favourite conversation starters that work well? Leave us a comment!



We all know the saying, a change is as good as a rest. Just doing something different can make us feel revived, alive–different! But usually, we think of change as being something big, something life-altering, and it doesn’t have to be.

The other day at work, I overheard someone say they only buy white sheets. It was like she was speaking in another language. Only white sheets? Other than the practical reasons, WHY??? It feels so limited, so uninspired, so plain. It started me thinking, what if someone gave her a set of sheets with a floral print? Would she return them? Would she only use them on the guest bed? Would she turn them into cleaning rags? (That’s extreme, but I couldn’t think of another use for them offhand.)  But the bigger question was…how would she feel if she had to sleep on them?

Honestly, I think she’d feel amazing. Change is good, and sometimes change inspires us to try something else in other areas. It doesn’t have to be a big change….just something that allows for another idea or feeling to come about.

If you’re feeling in a bit of a rut, but don’t have the courage to make a big life change, try something small and see how it goes. This is a fantastic post with 17 Tiny changes that will make your life more interesting. Try one. Try a bunch. They’re awesome…make a change.

I’ll add something to it. Try an eBook if you only ever read traditional books. Come to a library program you’ve never tried…like our Cookbook Book Club, or a craft night. Read non-fiction if you only ever read fiction. Or drop by your local library if you usually read online only. You might be surprised. It might give you a different perspective. Go ahead….make a change!

What do you consume?

I came across a very interesting post by business guru Paul Jarvis called “Consumption Spirals”. The whole idea behind most of Jarvis’ work is to help people do things better, not bigger, and so the idea of consumption spirals really aligns with his brand.

The idea behind the post is that many of us spend…not because we have the money to do so, and not because we even need something…but because what we have in comparison looks out of place.  That’s right….it looks wrong.  Jarvis uses the story about a French philosopher Diderot who lived a very meager life until one day, a friend gave him a luxurious robe as a gift. But once he put it on, he realized how old the chair he sat on while in the robe looked in comparison. So, he bought a new chair. And then the chair looked better than the table he sat at…and it started a downward spiral of spending to make things look right with each other.

That’s what Jarvis is talking about in the consumption spirals. And we all do it. In the age of the internet and social media, it’s easy to compare ourselves and our surroundings with what we see online. Do we have a Pinterest worthy home? Does our Instagram feed look as put together as someone else’s? Do we have as much as our friends on Facebook? The answer for most of us would probably be no, and that makes us feel unworthy, or less than we think we can be. And it begins the consumption spiral.

Jarvis gives a few ideas about how to stop the spending spiral, and even more importantly, how to stop comparing ourselves to everyone else. It’s worth the read all the way though.Start small. Stop elaborate spending in one place, or change your social media feeds to stop including those who are envy-worthy. It might make you feel better overall.

Go Screen Free!

We’re very connected here at the library–it’s not just about books anymore. But we can certainly understand the need to go screen-free once in a while, and hey, books are the ultimate “device”, right?

I came across this great post by Heroine Training about trying to do more screen-free options once in a while, and the list is awesome. From books and magazines, to slow reading newspapers, maybe the good old days weren’t so bad after all.

Take a few minutes to see how many of these you could incorporate into your life…for a day, a weekend, or even more permanently. And then drop by the library to get a book, a magazine, a puzzle to take home, a museum pass, or even a ski pass! We’d love to have a little chat, too—face to face. (None of those self check outs for us!)