Posted in Just for Fun, Uncategorized

Confessions of a Closet Gamer

code club
Code Club @ Meinders Library

Once upon a time a young girl grew up in the world of words with no television. Fast forward through the ages and into raising her own children. This young lady discovered Battle Tanks with her oldest son. The years went on and the occasional game of Battle Tanks was played with her boys. Often it was a marathon session where mother and son fought their way to the very end, winning heroically against the Nintendo 64.

Then came the library. A place where books abounded, and ironically, so did technology. The entire community got behind the library and it won a huge nation-wide grant. Programs were hosted, technology was purchased. Tools were bought, and Bloxels happened.

This easy to navigate game builder once again sucked the girl (now of a respectable age) into the world of gaming. Only this time, it was to create. Just for fun, she introduced her youngest to Bloxels. Together, they designed games. Her characters were pulled from thin air and imagination. The screen was hers to master. Kind of.

You see, while she was somewhat computer literate, coding was an elusive thing relegated to that one high school class 30+ years ago when computers took up nearly a whole room and Oregon Trail still touted stick figures. In other words, her ability to create was limited.

Then Prenda came along. And a whole new world opened up. (Click to see how.)

This (now middle-aged, but still young at heart) woman took a training with two peers (also very young at heart) on creating a code club. Once again, the possibility of creating (and playing) games was at her fingertips. Joy filled her heart and the trio committed to running a Code Club in the library.

What is coding, one might ask? The short answer is this: it is the magic that makes our technology work.

Long answer: it’s hard work. It’s trial and error. It’s exploring possibilities and making something out of nothing. It’s what makes your phone ring and your alarm clock sing. It tells the world of machines what to do, when, and how.

And it’s easy enough for eight-year-olds and sophisticated enough for NASA engineers.

This summer, youth 8-18 are invited to learn how to code. This weekly, self-paced program will keep coders of all ages and learning styles invested. While we encourage youth to bring their own laptop or chromebook, we will have computers available for participants.

Code Club will meet from 3:30pm to 5:00pm every Monday between May 20 and August 19. Parents of young participants are encouraged to stay for the first session to help their child register, though older youth will be able to follow the steps alone. If you bring your own device, please have Chrome downloaded and ready to go before the first session on May 20.

To get the most out of the summer Code Club, coders are encouraged to join us as often as possible. However, since this club is self-directed, coders can still attend that family reunion or step into the program as summer heats up.

Light snacks will be provided. Because if there is one thing a closet gamer knows for certain, it is this: imagination runs on fuel!

happy coding~ jody

Posted in Just for Fun

Cuter Than A Bug’s Ear

favorite charactersMy uncle was quite the character. Every time I saw him, he would tell me I was cuter than a bug’s ear. I didn’t know if this was a good thing or not, but coming from a favorite uncle, I took whatever he threw at me.

Time with Uncle Bill meant freedom and fun and lots of dirty work. While my parents raised us to get in and out of trouble on our own (natural consequences and problem solving skills at its finest), Bill’s house was something just a bit different.

It was a little like Lord of the Flies, but with no malice. The first crop of cousins spent endless hours exploring his property. We shoveled muck in the mornings to earn a trip to the lake for the afternoon. We made homemade coleslaw and kraut, and ate Ramen noodles like they would quit making them. We salted homegrown radishes and the slugs that threatened to eat them.

Bill’s house was my introduction to the dark side via Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It was also the summer of hippies as we piled into a bus and drove across the state to attend a week-long rodeo. It’s with him that I won a first place trophy for calf riding.

Uncle Bill was always bigger than life. To be cliched, he was quite the character, and it made perfect sense that his term of endearment for me would be “cuter than a bug’s ear.” I’m not sure how the game evolved, but my response would inevitably be, “You’re cuter than a dump truck.”

I can only hope that you have a “dump truck” character of your own who taught you so much about life simply because of who they were.

If not, I will provide you with three of my all-time favorite literary characters that have impacted who I am.

My most beloved character is Cassie Logan from Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. Hands down she is the sassiest, sweetest, savviest young lady I’ve read. The life lessons she taught me about perseverance, “fairness”, and heart are unparalleled. Her personal growth over one heartbreaking year of night ridings and burnings, of white girl humiliation, and an uncanny ability to hold a certain innocence in the midst of violence shaped who I am today. It’s a book I’ve read every year since I was 8 years old.

My second fave is Bartimaeus, a nasty little djinn who tries his hardest to wreak havoc in the world of the magician boy who summons him. Jonathan Stroud writes with British wit and charm and infuses stuffy, pretentious Bartimaeus with hope, humor, and a curmudgeonly personality you can’t help but love. The Amulet of Samarkand is the first in a trilogy that quickly became my second annual must read- thanks to Sylvan Learning Center.

My newest love is Boy in The Book of Boy. New to the library, the main character teaches so much about the meaning of home. The message is beautifully told through a medieval pilgrimage that rivals Bernard Cornwell, but for kids. Catherine Gilbert Murdock weaves a tight and intriguing tale that culminates in a somewhat surprise ending. Boy’s transformation of figuring out who he is and where he fits into the world is one we can all learn from. Timeless in its storytelling, this novel is now on my perennial read list.

So there, three characters plus my Uncle Bill to start your day. Hopefully you will find delight in those around you, and that their little quirks can endear you rather than annoy you. If not, just remember that all the characters we meet have something to teach us about ourselves.

happy reading~ jody

Posted in Just for Fun

Presumed Innocent, mostly

I am a walking crime scene. I have guilt and innocence written all over me. Quite literally in some ways. This morning I noted a giant, deep purple bruise on my hip. It honestly looks like I was bludgeoned despite the fact that I have no idea how it got there.

Add in the bruise on my knee, the other bruise on the other knee, and the wound to my hand from running into a door, and I could easily be mistaken for a victim. Rest assured, however, I am not.

On the other hand, my go-to reading material is a nitty-gritty mystery, complete with burned off fingerprints and purposefully obscured crime scenes. I love the whole investigation process and snapping the puzzle pieces together in the right order to solve who dunnit, with what, and where.

For writing purposes, I’ve been known to deep dive into crazy internet searches that would disturb most people and likely have me on some kind of watch list. This penchant for the dark side may have started with the game of Clue. At the tender age of 8ish, I won without checking off a single box on the score card. Who doesn’t love a game they are good at?

It was all downhill from there. In the fifth grade I fell in love with Mary Higgins Clark. I read Micky Spillane and Agatha Christie with a passion. From there, I started writing my own thrillers with psychological twists. I unraveled human nature and put it back together again. I murdered and pillaged. To this day, I constantly see the opportunity in events around me, and am delighted when a writer can catch me by surprise.

So, you might wonder, am I–reader and writer of all things dark and dangerous–also dark and dangerous? The answer is absolutely not. Nor are your neighbors or fellow congregants who also like the same kind of books or movies.

We seldom are what we read. Nor are we what we write. This is a question asked of authors, as often times, people assume our fiction is based on our own lives. I can assure you that I, like the beloved authors who kill off their favorite characters without blinking, should be presumed innocent.

Mostly~ Jody

P.S. If you like a solid mystery without gore, you can try Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious. This young adult novel reads like an Agatha Christie and seamlessly takes you from past to present and back again. I’ve read it twice in a year, and am now making my way through the second in this series.

P.P.S. I like to read other things, too. Sweeter, gentler books that bring out the best in their readers.

Posted in Just for Fun

From Baseball to Crime and Back Again

Last night, my middle son played a baseball game in Jackson. I couldn’t resist snapping a picture of him standing on second base with his last name on the scoreboard. This got me thinking about other places I’d been that bear my last name.

tyson at wacker field

  • Skiing down Jackwacker, a black diamond run in Colorado.
  • Walking down Wacker Drive in Chicago.
  • Reading about this iconic Midwestern street in a handful of novels over the years.

This journey down memory lane sparked a rabbit-hole google search, as I am wont to do. There, I found a dark underworld of writing that happens less than ten hours from us. As it turns out, Chicago is a literary hotbed.

Here’s a blurb from Julie Hyzy, a New York Times bestselling and Anthony Award-winning author, as found on Crime Reads, a website that covers all things bookishly criminal.

“Whether the setting is an alley behind a four-star hotel, or a shadowed corner of Lower Wacker Drive; whether our character is a greasy politician, or a newbie teacher in a troubled school, Chicago is the city that never stops giving.”

Just for fun, let’s find out who writes (wrote) from Chicago that you might know:

  • Sara Peretsky: Crime/Mystery author
  • Gillian Flynn: Psychological Thrillers
  • Sandra Cisneros: Poet (books available as a book club kit)
  • Ernest Hemingway: Classics
  • Gwendolyn Brooks: Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Shel Silverstein: Beloved Children’s Lit
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs: Think Tarzan
  • Scott Turow: Legal Thrillers (many of which have been made into movies)

If you’re in the mood for great nonfiction, give Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson a try. This historical account shows the perfect intersection of America’s alleged first serial killer and the Chicago Word’s Fair of 1893.

Without too  much effort and a quick trip to your local library, you can journey to the slopes of Keystone or amble across a bridge on Wacker Drive. Without any practice time or any talent, you can even play ball at Wrigley Field.

With a good book, nothing is impossible and no place is too far!

happy reading~ Jody

Posted in Just for Fun

Happy National Library Week

One of our home-schooled patrons shares her library love in honor of National Library Week. Her mom gives the thumbs up on the savings she received in one visit to the library instead of purchasing books for her three students.

Keeping up with their reading needs is a full-time job. The books checked out today might last a week before the family will be back for more. Then again, they may be returned before the week is done.

At one point, Mom took out her phone and showed me pictures of the family’s already overflowing book shelves. “We literally have no more room for books in our house.”

This is a common experience for many library patrons across the globe. In addition to little physical space, checkbooks often have little room to satisfy literary appetites. Other bills must come first, or a family may have too many readers to keep up with the demand. Still other households are reluctant to spend $30 or more on a book they might not finish.

For all of those reasons and more, libraries are invaluable. They become increasingly so for individuals who need computers, copiers, and the internet to conduct business. Still others utilize library spaces as safe and welcoming “in-between” places to be.

Regardless of your purpose in the library–to gather, to read, to work, or to play–these community hubs connect you to the greater world.

Just for fun, stop by the library and check out your savings today!

happy reading~ jody


Posted in Just for Fun

Dogs Are Exactly Like Books

20181118_095041They each have a different personality and style. Some are small, while others are meaty. Some are all bark and no bite. Still others are the perfect cuddling companion. I’m a true believer that there’s a dog–and a book–out there for everyone.

It’s just a matter of getting the right material into the right hands.

Often, we learn our dislike for reading early in life when we are told exactly what we have to read, when, and in which format. While having a class read the same material is the tool educators use to teach young children how to read, the idea of reading what everyone else reads can be stifling as we grow up.

Somehow, there is a notion out there that the only reading worth doing is literary fiction  or the classics. We have stripped the power away from the written word by dismissing certain books as beneath us. We send the message that reading outside the expectations of the educated few is somehow wrong.

However, the time has come for us to dismiss the myth that reading is only valuable if it fits within a narrow mold of acceptance and embrace all books, no matter how “fluffy” they may be.

As a mother of four, I’ve been challenged to do just that. With two voracious readers and two struggling readers, I’ve learned to navigate the world of helping others discover their book breed. It’s a process, but the end result is well worth it.

If you are or know a reluctant reader, there is still hope in finding a love for the written word. All you have to do is be willing to try.

Just for fun, use the following guide to help find a book that speaks to you.

  1. Topic: what do you like? Sports, celebrities, survival, fact, fiction, dinosaurs, horses; the list is endless. If you have a passion, there’s a book out there.
  2. Era: what time period do you love? If it’s knights and royalty or astronauts and aliens, we have books on our shelves. Some people love history while others enjoy reading contemporary stories. There is no right time period for reading. Just a right time for you.
  3. Genre: what style of book piques your interest? Genre is the category that a book fits into. Horror, mystery, biography, romance, science fiction, and thrillers are just a few genres on the market–and in our library.
  4. Length: how much time do you have to dedicate to reading? Books literally come in all shapes and sizes. From short story compilations to novellas to epic adventures, the written word can be packaged just right for your time and interest level.
  5. Format: how do you like to process information? Reading occurs outside the covers of a traditional book. Graphic novels tell tales with text and picture, while audio books are perfect for those who learn best by listening. Magazines, newspapers, and online blogs still count as reading, so don’t ever sell yourself short by thinking reading means holding a book in your hands.

As you get started on picking the right reading material, know that it is a process of elimination. You might find the right topic, but the wrong format. You may love one author and not another. In the end, you might be surprised to find that you love reading almost as much as you love cuddling up with your favorite four legged companion.

If you need help figuring out your reading style, stop by the library. Our job literally is to get the right materials into your hands. That said, our board hasn’t approved of circulating dogs yet, so you’re on your own there!

happy reading~ jody

Posted in Just for Fun

Beyond Thanks

Meinders appreciation 2019

I fully (and shamefully) admit that I’m the worst at thank yous. I appreciate all kinds of lovely things that people say or do to help make the world a better place. Yet, it’s far too infrequent that I pen a note to express my gratitude. I have spent lots of time self-flagellating for this lapse in my etiquette. And still, I don’t always succeed in letting those know just how much their support and kindness means to me.

But I am thankful. I am thankful that I get to work in the best place in town. In three+ years working at the library, I’ve never once woken up not wanting to go to work. I mean, who wouldn’t love working in a beautiful space like Meinders Community Library each and every day? The facility is gorgeous. My co-workers are the bomb, and the patrons we help are all kinds of amazing on many different levels. 

However, none of this would be possible without the support from all of our benefactors including Herman and LaDonna Meinders. In 2003, the Meinders family donated $1,000,000 to build the library onto the new school. In 2015, they donated another $50,000 to replace the carpet and buy new computer chairs.

With National Library Week fast approaching, the time is right to let them know just how much their generosity has impacted our community. Over the next few weeks, please consider the ways you have used Meinders Community Library.

If you have ever attended a library event, checked out a book or a cake pan, used the STEAM Room, printed copies, attended story time, read an e-book, listened to one of our audiobooks, have children or grandchildren who visit the library, or simply enjoy hanging out in our comfy chairs, you can show your appreciation to the Meinders family.

The Pipestone Area Friends of the Library has provided a basket full of  greeting cards for your convenience. These cards can be found at the front desk. At the culmination of National Library Week (April 7-13), PAFL will collect and mail the signed thank yous to Herman and LaDonna to be shared with their family.

Small things like this go a long way, and PAFL does so many small (and big) things for our library and our patrons–often behind the scenes. Their yummy refreshments at events are the tastiest example of their generosity. Donating books and funds for programs is the most important. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to offer nearly as much.

And last, but not least: you.

We appreciate all the support we receive from our patrons and thank you each and every time you walk through our doors. By using our library, you acknowledge the value of our collection, our programming, and our space.

Your time in our library is paramount to our success. You are the reason I am happy to come to work. So, thanks for hanging in there with us!

Beyond appreciative~ jody