Monday, February 28, 2022

Extraordinary Design by TLC Nielsen

I met Abby Calinog-Herrington at the local library, both of us interested in the book sale of the Friends of the Library. Before long, we were both volunteering together at the library and sharing each other's interesting stories of life. Abby, it turns out, has an Etsy store on top of working, going to school, and being a Bookstagrammer.

Welcome to the Extraordinary Ordinary blog, Abby!

Q) What came first, your Etsy store Made By Gail Shop or your Bookstagram, herlife_herbooks?

My Bookstagram (herlife_herbooks) came first! I created a bookstagram after going to my first Friends of the Grayslake Library Book Sale a few years ago. I went on the last day. I got a big bag for just $5 and I was SO happy. I started the bookstagram that day.

I started painting and drawing at a really young age. And then I got into photography. I always wanted to open my own business. It started with wanting to open my own bakery and then a bookstore. Most recently, I combined the two ideas and now want to open a combination of both. But that idea will not come to fruition for a few years from now. I always thought Etsy was a really good platform for small businesses. So I took my love for photography and art and started a small business—Made by Gail.

Q) How did you get into designing stickers, by the way?

The first stickers I released are actually photographs of flowers. These are photos I took myself and thought, "I want this as a sticker." But I couldn't find what I was looking for anywhere. So I thought I would create it myself, now here we are with a little Etsy shop for stickers, with stickers I've sketched and photographed myself. 

Q) How would you describe your design process for the stickers you sell as well as your sketches?

Honestly, for my design process, it is a little wonky. If I get a chance to sit down for a few hours, I will either sketch or read. A lot of the time, I would rather read. But when I am sketching, my inspiration comes from the things around me, and it is also based on the weather and the season. Right now, the main theme of my shop is floral and summery. But in the fall, I did have some pumpkin stickers to match the occasion. If I think it's cute and other people will think so too, then I add it to my shop.

Q) You're juggling school and your Etsy business. How do you manage your time?

I do not manage my time as well as I would like. Right now, I have a full-time job. I work 40 hours a week. I try to have set days to sit down and do homework afterward. My position at work is a remote work from home position so that does make it easier to do homework on the side or get an order packed and shipped out during a break. It also makes it easier to quickly interact with customers during the day, since I do not have a supervisor.

Q) What catch phrase(s) captures you?

A reader lives a thousand lives.
Have a break. Have a KitKat.

Q) What's next for you, personally and business-wise?

Business-wise, I would love to add apparel to my Etsy Shop, but I'm not sure when that can be done. Right now, I'm working on some bookmark designs to add.

Personally, I'm not sure! I'll be graduating with my Bachelor's in Business Management with a minor in Computer Science and Information Systems—this May. I'm not sure what I'll do after.

Q) Please tell us something unexpected about yourself.

Some unexpected things about me are that I do not know how to swim, and I am under 5 feet tall.

You can shop at Abby's Made By Gail Shop on Etsy or check out her Bookstagram!

Thanks for visiting TLC's Extraordinary Ordinary blog, where folks with out-of-the-ordinary tales share their stories! Please leave a comment.

Monday, January 31, 2022

UPDATE: Extraordinary Touch—Reflexology by Melanie

Welcome Back, Melanie!

Since restarting my blog late in 2021, I wanted to do updates on several folks who were featured on the Extraordinary Ordinary blog. Here's the link to Melanie's original interview: Extraordinary Touch—Reflexology by Melanie. I've found reflexology to be a mainstay for me to stay healthy, and I really enjoy the new location in Antioch, Illinois.

A New for Reflexology by Melanie

My practice is growing and staying strong. I now have two massage therapists working with me in my current Antioch location. They are both very good. MaryAnn and Leslie Ann are two very different kinds of therapists. This gives clients a variety of options.

I plan on returning to school this spring to finish up my nutrition coaching certification. This will add to my ability to help others. I'm hopeful that 2022 will be a safe and healthy year!

Find Melanie here:

For appointments, please check out Melanie's site on Square.

Thank you for visiting TLC's Extraordinary Ordinary blog, where folks with out of the ordinary stories are interviewed. Please leave a comment!

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Extraordinary Ordinary returns!

Exciting news - despite a few job changes and the pandemic, the LookAndBe blog is back! 

I've spent the last three years working on my writing, so I'm proud to announce I'm an official Amazon author with the release of this book, Snapshots of Hope & Heart. I'm one of 34 authors sharing inspirational stories in this 12-week devotional.

I'm hoping to interview more folks with extraordinary stories and post updates on those I've already interviewed. So stay tuned. 

Please visit my Facebook author page or find me on Bookstagram.

One last thing—I contributed to another book that released earlier this year! I'm one of 22 authors in Wit, Whimsy & Wisdom. Here's a quote:

See you next time!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Extraordinary Counseling

by TLC Nielsen

A coworker surprised all of us in her department recently when we discovered she had graduated with a Masters degree in counseling. When asked about it, Colleen shrugged and mentioned that she still had to pass exams and then put in many hours of practicum before she was finished. Her effort in going to school while working, planning an annual summer mission trip, and putting in many free hours of counseling makes her an extraordinary ordinary counselor on so many levels.

Welcome Colleen Ryan!

Q) So how on earth did you juggle your masters program while working and doing all that you do?
A) Very carefully!!  My program allowed for a lot of flexibility, which was essential.    Each class lasted for 4 weeks, and it was up to me if I wanted to take classes back to back, or take a 4 week break between classes.  Obviously, taking time off between classes slowed down my progress, yet oftentimes it was necessary to keep a balance to my life as well. 

Q) What drew you to study counseling?
A)  Since I was in high school, I’ve always enjoyed listening to people’s problems and trying to help them navigate solutions to their problems.  I had several people say that I was really good at it and, since I enjoyed it, I thought it would be a good fit for me.

Q) How did you juggle an overseas mission trip while finishing your graduate classes?
A)  Since I’m the team leader for our annual mission trips to Honduras, it wasn’t possible for me to take any classes during June, July and August.  It slowed down my pace but was essential to maintain balance to my life and also protect my own physical and emotional health. 

Q) When did you know you wanted to become involved with missions?
A) I took my first mission trip when I was 17.  I spent the summer in England with Teen Missions International on an evangelistic team and I loved every minute of it.  The 2 week training in Florida was really rough and challenging, but God used that time to grow me in my faith.  Ever since then I’ve had a heart to do whatever was necessary to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Q) Where did you go overseas and why?
A) When I was 17, I went to England.  Then when I was 19, I went with the same organization to Ireland, and then I was in the role as an assistant leader. 

Q) Who encouraged you to go into mission work?
A) My parents had some really good friends who were involved in missions.  The husband was an orthopedic surgeon and they had 9 kids.  They were very intentional about using his medical skill to help people around the world.  So he would take a couple of his kids with him to China, Africa, wherever it was and while he was doing surgeries, his kids would participate in whatever ministry was going on.  Then one year they took all 9 kids to Africa for a whole year to serve and work there while he did surgeries.  I was always fascinated about how they were intentional with using whatever skills they had to bring Christ to hurting people.  That had a profound impact on my life.  My son is named after this family. 

Q) How does your counseling degree help you with missions?
A) Missionaries are just like us, except they typically have more stress in their lives.  Living in a foreign land, getting use to their customs, being far away from family and missing weddings, funerals, babies being born, etc. is very difficult.  My counseling helps me understand and know how to be a good listener, provide encouragement, perspective, be a sounding board, and also help them navigate challenging relationships in life.  They have struggles and disappointments just like we do.

Q) What’s next for you, as a counselor and short-term missionary?
A)  Well, I just completed my certification as a Biblical Counselor so I’m just launching my own practice.  I hope God will continue to use me to help people deal with the various stresses and challenges in life.  And I’ll continue leading short-term mission trips until God leads otherwise.  It’s a passion of my heart to give people the opportunity to step out of their comfort zones and see what God is doing in another land. 

Q) Will you share one surprising thing about yourself and/or counseling?
A) The older I get, the more I enjoy being home.  This might not be surprising for some but for me it is.  When I was younger, I always thrived on a full schedule and being out and about with people.  Now I’m very content to be home, especially at night. 

One surprising thing about counseling is that it takes a lot of time to prep for each counseling session.  I don’t ‘wing it’ but put thought and care into each session:  How can I help them gain a different perspective?  Is there an example from scripture that I can use to make my point?  What homework would be beneficial for them?  It’s amazing how much God’s word has to say about stress, anxiety, betrayal, relationships, and so much more.

Thanks for reading the Extraordinary Ordinary blog where ordinary folks and their extraordinary adventures come to light!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Extraordinary Instruction

While the last of the warm weather has faded into wintry wonder, I have the privilege of introducing you to another person with an extraordinary story – Gayle Jensen. I met her over three years ago when she became an assistant youth librarian at my local library. Juggling librarianship while being an adjunct professor at a community college, Gayle teaches students of all ages. She handles college classes by day and library classes at night while enjoying life with her family. 

Welcome Gayle!  

Q) First off, how did you end up becoming a college professor and an assistant children’s librarian? 

A) I always dreamed of teaching children's literature as I love books, reading and teaching. I applied to teach The Exceptional Child class when I became aware of an opening at our local community college.  I was thrilled to get the job, so I put the children's literature dream on a back burner.  I taught part time for many years and found I had more time to spare when my children started heading off to college. We also had bigger bills so I started looking into new career opportunities and found out about an opening to work in the children's department at our local public library. 

Q) Between the two, you must teach so many different age levels. How do you switch gears from little ones to adults?

A) I taught elementary school for many years, then adjusted to teaching college students.  In many respects, it is much easier to teach big people! By now, I have an equal amount of years of experience at each level, so it isn't really hard to shift between the two age groups.  

Q) What is your favorite age to teach? 

A) That's a hard one! I think I enjoy teaching big people more, but delight in having the opportunity now and then to work with children. 

Q) If you could only teach one thing, what would it be?

A) I still enjoy teaching potential future educators about children and learning.

Q) Between the library and the college, are your jobs similar in any particular way?

A) For both jobs, I need to continue to develop my technology skills. Truly enjoying learning, helping others learn and interacting in a positive way with others is vital in both jobs.  

Q) How are the two jobs different?

A) I don't have to be "on" 100% of the time when I work at the library. I have time to sit and work on individual projects and interact serving patrons as needed. When teaching, I am "on" the whole time I am running my class, but then have to work on lesson plans and grading on my own time. 

Q) Who is your favorite author, personally as well as to read aloud to others?

A) Oh, that's a hard one, too. I enjoy a wide variety of books and authors. I think one of my favorite children's book authors is Pam Munoz Ryan.  I loved Echo and Esperanza Rising. I also love Kate DiCamillo's books. Wonder by R.J. Palacio is a favorite. As a young teacher, I can remember discovering Shel Silverstein during a visit to the school library and being brought to tears and laughter while reading his poems to my students for the first time. Mo Willem books are a more recent favorite when it comes to just plain fun. I recently thoroughly enjoyed reading New Socks by Bob Shea during a story time at the library. I'm currently reading and enjoying The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. 
Read about it at

Q) What is one unexpected thing about yourself you’d like to share?

A) I grew up having cats as pets and had my own two cats as a young adult.  I adored them all. We brought a dog into our family 6 years ago. I had NO IDEA how cool the dog club was! 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Extraordinary Ordinary Choices

by tlc nielsen

Meet Lindsy 

I had the privilege of working alongside Lindsy Henigman for almost a decade, meeting her fresh out of college and seeing her develop and grow through the years. She brought structure and creativity to our team in the youth department of the public library, providing calm problem-solving and creative energy as the assistant manager.

Welcome, Lindsy!

Q) How did you end up choosing the job as Youth Services Assistant Manager in town?
A) It was fairly unusual, but I chose to be a librarian as a senior in high school. Most people come to it as a second career. I had taken the tests from the book Discover What You’re Best At and was surprised to see several different types of librarianship come up as career choices. I grew up in a very rural area and didn’t even realize librarianship was a profession. This opened up a whole new world for me, as I explored all the different ways I could employ my natural skills and way of thinking.
Taking the job at Grayslake was not unlike what most students look for their post-grad plan. My then-boyfriend, now-husband and I were both set to graduate at the same time and were making long-term plans. We decided the greater Chicago area (foreign to me) was our best shot at finding jobs and whoever landed one first would determine our future. I applied for every library job that interested me: some academic, some public, but my plan had always been children’s services in a public library. Grayslake was my first interview, and I got the job.

Q) Since you took the job, Lindsy, how did life change?
A) I took the job as a twenty-three year old new graduate. Since I went straight from my undergrad to library school, this was my first full-time, permanent job. I started one week after I finished school! Needless to say, I was learning a lot about growing up, office politics, and my actual profession, all at the same time.

Personally, I got married and had two babies in my nine years on the job. This taught me a lot about work-life integration and I developed a great deal of empathy. Suddenly, I could feel the emotional toll of others and better understand children, parents, and my coworkers.

Q) What have been some of your proudest accomplishments at work? I personally loved the Baby Café  you designed that allowed families with infants to hang out and chat.
A) The movements I made toward better serving millennial parents are by far my favorite accomplishments. When I became a parent, I saw our library through a completely different set of eyes. Things like comfortable areas to play or chat with friends, secluded spots to nurse a baby, a place to let your kids play with different toys and get a little messy...those are all important. Baby Cafe was a small inroad to what I ultimately wanted to achieve, which was basically a glorified playdate: let the kids go crazy with toys while the parents enjoy a cookie and a nice cup of coffee.

There was still so much more I wanted to see happen, but those things are probably still years in the making.

Q) Is there a particular time you remember where your ninja problem-solving skills came into play at work?
A) Oh, I have no idea. I can’t remember things like that anymore!

Q) How about the one I remember best, which still amazes me. There was a family storytime you did last year, when you were 7 months pregnant with your 2nd child….
A) Oh! I don’t think of that as problem-solving, but it is a good story. I regularly did toddler storytimes on Wednesday mornings and turned up for business as usual. This meant setting things up right as I came into work, and then going right into the storytime. I had been having some funky back pains that morning, but made it through the storytime all right. After all the excitement, I sat down at the reference desk and realized the pains were stronger and ooh, they were coming exactly five minutes apart. So, I left work and called the doctor. It was six weeks early, but we weren’t too shocked since my firstborn was also a preemie. Anyway, my husband met me at home. We made it to the hospital in time and I had the baby about four hours after that storytime. So maybe that’s my proudest accomplishment. I led a storytime while I was in labor!

Q) How did you develop the knack to put a positive spin on all that you solved and created?
A) I had always been an optimist growing up. One of my life lessons after graduation was how easy it is for negative talk of others to bring down positive vibrations. It took a long time for me to learn how to live with my own ideals and block out the toxicity of pessimism. In the end, I think it helps to remember that attitudes are catching, whether good or bad. Bad attitudes never win, though, and they don’t help anyone. But positivity, that is always the right choice.

Q) How did your solution-oriented positivity help you at work and at home?
A) Even when there is no clear answer, having a positive attitude and an open mind somehow brings a solution. It might not come right away, but it will come at the right time. I have no memory of anything specific, but that is something I have found to be true always.

Q) So the choice to leave work and stay home with your children – what led you to such a powerful decision?
A) After I had baby #2, I was operating on full-throttle. In my first month back from maternity leave, my husband had two, week-long trips to Europe. Then, only six weeks after my return, our manager left via retirement. That put me in the temporary front seat of our department for three months. I worked hard and ingested a lot of caffeine. After the new manager came and I had some time to think, I realized I was pretty off-kilter. I went in search of solutions and found many. I started with meditation, then tweaked my already-pretty-good diet and quit caffeine. All of this led to a rabbit hole of breathing exercises, spices and supplements, and then I learned how to listen to my intuition, or the Holy Spirit. It was a place I remembered knowing as a teenager, but had lost touch with as an adult. I started to feel great and was getting better at going with the flow, trusting gut feelings.

One night, my husband brought up the idea of me staying at home with our kids.  This came up periodically and I always shut it down. I did not want to do it, for lots of reasons. However, I was open and at peace, so I was happy to discuss it this time. Strangely enough, everything seemed to have flipped. All of the pros and cons remained the same, but the benefits seemed like the only thing, and I wasn’t at all worried about the negative aspects. I got tingles in my arms! That’s when I knew this was the right thing. We made the decision and never looked back. Ration and logic made it clear it wasn't the best choice, but we had set that aside.  Even now that I’m living it, seeing the rational reasons at play, there isn’t a doubt in my mind (or gut) that it was the right choice.

Thank you for reading this month's Extraordinary Ordinary adventure. Follow this blog to learn about more folks with extraordinary adventures. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Extraordinary Ordinary Investigations

by TLC Nielsen
April 2017 

I met a very interesting person and her fictional sidekick Robin Bird a year or two ago (time flies when you’re having fun!) Rosemarie Pagano writes in a scientific mix of facts and faith, which is fascinating. She writes articles for education magazines such as Schoolhouse Teachers and Molly Green, while maintaining her Robin Bird Explorer website and working to boot.

Welcome, Rosemarie!

Q) When did your sidekick Robin come into existence?
A) Robin Bird was hatched around 10 years ago.  I was sitting outside on my deck watching the birds.  They’ve always fascinated me.  I grew up with canaries and parakeets and my mom’s enthusiasm for birds and wildlife was infectious.  We always took time to stop and watch the birds. 
A robin pulled a worm out of the ground.  I had seen that happen many times. I loved the way they tilt their heads before pouncing on the worm.  This, I learned recently, was not because they could hear the worms.  Worms aren’t particularly noisy, but the robin feels their vibrations as they move through the soil.    
This sparked an idea.  I got out my blue gel pen and graph paper (yes, I am quirky about my writing tools) and started to write.  Robyn Byrd.  I got fancy with the spelling and gave her some characteristics.   She had siblings and they all lived in a treehouse.  Hey, a story was hatching!

Q) So how did Robin develop to where she is now?
A) My first super rough draft was about Robin Bird (I changed the spelling to be more SEO friendly) and her bird sisters Jay and Wren.  Their parents left the nest long ago and flew to live in Florida.  Robin was quiet and studied worms.  She was an oddball because, instead of eating worms, she collected them and kept them in a worm bin, as pets.

Wren was a tiny, nonstop talker who wore tweed suits.  She was a busybody who chirped into everyone’s business.  Jay was a loud and bossy Blue Jay who coached a girl birds volleyball team.  Imagine birds playing volleyball!  Anything goes in the super rough draft.  Jay had a bright blue Mohawk and blew a whistle at everyone.  

The Bird sisters lived in a giant treehouse in the quiet town of Roundtree.  This treehouse was the largest in North America.  Wow.  The neighbors were people.  Again, anything goes in a super rough draft.  They didn’t like the mess and the noise the Bird sisters made and complained constantly about them.  Jay swept her peanut shells off the treehouse porch every day and they’d land on Mrs. Parson’s picnic table.  Wren’s constant chirping and chattering, plus Jay’s whistle blowing, forced the neighbors to close their windows.  Sleeping in past sunrise was impossible on the weekends with birds as neighbors.

Because this was a nice story, drama came in the form of flooding rain. The neighbors, who lived in houses, panicked and looked for higher ground.  Roundtree was as flat as a stepped-on pancake.  The Bird sisters looked down from their high perch in the treehouse and the neighbors looked up at them as the water rose up to their knobby knees. 

The Bird sisters huddled and Wren’s chirping became a whisper.  Jay blew her whistle and Robin quickly dropped the rope ladder.  Wren set the table and got busy making ants on a log for a snack.  The neighbors stopped complaining about their wet feet and climbed up the shaky rope ladder.  Mrs. Parsons had the hardest time when her big, wet (size 11) feet kept getting stuck in the rungs.

Twelve neighbors fit comfortably in the giant treehouse and munched the ants on a log.  They waited until the flooding stopped and appreciated the hospitality and kindness of the Bird sisters.

Q) Why did you choose Robin and science as your writerly focus?
A) I have a biology degree and experience working in medical microbiology.  I don’t like worms.  But, as I researched vermicomposting, I became fascinated with the incredible work they do.  They really are tiny tillers and rock star composters. 
I put this story in the drawer for another year.  Who wants to read about talking birds?  No one.  I focused on other topics and enrolled in a fiction course through the Institute of Children’s Literature.  Robin Bird came out of the drawer and I made her into a girl.  She wore brown corduroy shorts, a bright orange T-shirt and carried a doctor’s bag filled with worm collecting tools. She called herself  the “Worm Whisperer” and set up a Wormatorium in her basement.  She had parents and two older siblings, Jay and Wren.  No one understood Robin and no one had the worm love.  It was a boring story that screeched to a halt.  I didn’t give up. 
Robin Bird
I went to several writers’ conferences to seek expert advice.  One editor suggested I change Robin to a boy.  Another suggested my secondary character, Wallace, take over.  Each suggestion left me more confused and frustrated.  So I put the whole pile of pages, drawings, worm notes, and research back into a larger drawer and stepped away, again.  I knew it wasn’t the end of Robin Bird.  She had so much to say.  I just didn’t know how to let her tell her story.  

Q) What unexpected things have happened to you along the way?
A) I met a wonderful editor and teacher through the Illinois chapter of SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators) and set up an appointment for a critique. Editor Esther Hershenhorn’s reaction to my story was an unexpected surprise.  She asked about my biology/ microbiology background. I’ll never forget what she said that day, “Rosemarie, I strongly recommend you use Robin Bird to teach science.”

Wow, that was my light bulb moment!  I love science and I love Robin Bird, but to put them together was a major breakthrough.  Ideas started to flow.  I started to “see” Robin Bird as a curious explorer enthusiastically teaching cool science subjects.   I will always be thankful to Esther for opening a can of worms!

Q) What’s next for you on your writing journey?
A) What an incredible journey I have had with Robin Bird!  I am so grateful for the Lord ordering each and every step of this journey.  It isn’t over.  I am grateful for the opportunity to share science and nature with young explorers.  Another part of the journey is to create more online Bible study courses.  I am currently working on Psalm 104. 
Rosemarie Pagano
Interested in finding out more about Robin Bird and Rosemarie? 

You read this first on the Extraordinary Ordinary Blog