Family, Fidelia Hall, Life, Titusville, PA

The Summer of 2017

Summer 2017 has been full of ups and downs. The ups always outweigh the downs but it seems like this summer there have been quite a bit more downs than usual. While my journey of getting off of Prozac has probably contributed a bit to the greater frequency of downs, I’m not here to blame it all on that. I knew that with a radical change in my life there was bound to be things I needed to process and understand. I also recognize that it is ok to have these downs and to allow them to exist in my life as part of the entire picture.

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I went to relax and this chair broke as I was sitting in it. I think it is a good metaphor for how life is going these days. Photo by Haley Hoenke because she is good at capturing the best moments.

I have been heard saying “holy shit, we are getting older and our boys are really growing up and becoming independent individuals” multiple times this summer. If I’m having one of my down days, I hibernate away from the world and eventually after I snap out of it. Then when I see Finn and Aero I get a bit down because I’ve missed a very special moment in time with them as I hid my head. The moments that we have in front of us are all that we have and if we miss out on them they’re gone forever. I feel like I’ve missed out on way too many moments with Finn, Aero, and Haley this summer. If I’m already in a down mood this just helps exaggerate that mood. I have to find a way to achieve a balance.

Finn and Aero are growing up into wonderful, unique human beings. Finn has a bit of inventor and engineer in him. We are doing all that we can to encourage and foster his curiosity. This summer he was in a number of camps that did just that and he actually asked us after they were done if he could continue doing them! That’s different than last year, when we could tell that he was itching to get to the end of camp season. Aero still wasn’t into going to summer camps and only ended up being part of the YWCA sports camp (which he really enjoyed). I have to remind myself that Aero is still just 5 years old and that he’s still really excited to have some special extra time with his Mom and Dad. He really enjoyed those moments with us this summer. Here’s some LEGO animations Finn made this summer. Enjoy.

We did a lot of gardening once again but nowhere near as much as we did in 2016. I think that has to do with the fact that Haley’s sister got married in May and that took up a lot of our focus. Nonetheless the gardens of Fidelia Hall were beautiful and bountiful and a lot of the stuff that was established this year will thrive for years to come (bamboo, blueberries, kiwi, and more!). We also finally got to reap in the rewards of our Fall 2016 garlic planting and boy oh boy do we have more than enough garlic to last us for the year.

And work on Fidelia Hall continued. The start of the summer led to a flurry of activity, mostly the beginnings of installing a heating system, an entrance, and painting the tin ceiling. After that flurry of activity things just kind of stopped. I don’t know exactly why. Lack of extra money coming was a factor, as was the reality that some people charge way too much when it comes to helping out with things like repair and renovation. I’m not built for physical labor, so after a lot of it I kind of shut down. It also didn’t help that our paint sprayer decided to stop cooperating with us. Anywho there is still work that needs to be done and eventually we will get there.

 

 

Benson Memorial Library, Libraries

The Summer of Bathroom Issues

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A random gas station bathroom image I found on the Google

Nobody really wants to talk about poop, pee, blood, and other things you don’t want to find in a library bathroom but guess what? That’s what we are gonna talk about. Why are we gonna talk about it? Because even though we’ve had an amazing summer at our library (visitors and circulation are up!), I will forever remember the summer of 2017 as THE SUMMER OF BATHROOM ISSUES.

Compared to large urban libraries, I know that our issues in the bathroom are quite small. In my time in New Jersey, we had to deal with a patron who loved to chug vodka and leave the evidence hidden in the ceiling tiles. I can’t tell you how many times we dealt with used needles when I was in Maine. And in Tennessee, I remember alcohol and prescription medication bottles being the things we found the most. Here in Titusville PA we mostly deal with poop, pee, & blood, either on the floor, the toilet seat, or the walls. But here’s the thing: it shouldn’t matter what you’re dealing with in the restroom. All of this is unacceptable. And for some reason, its been happening more frequently here at my library. What’s going on in the world? Where is this acceptable? Is there something that we’re doing wrong? I ask myself these questions a lot. I think about poop, pee, and blood more than a normal person should.

I’ve had to remind myself a lot this summer to remain positive. Maybe they just missed the toilet? Maybe they’re embarrassed about what was very clearly an accident to them? I don’t know what causes these things to happen, but I do know that in order to continue working in libraries I’ve gotta stay positive. As the director at my library, I’ve gotta also remember to keep my staff positive. Of course we’re allowed to have a moment or two where we want to give it all up after we find a wad of toilet paper that has very clearly been peed on and then stuffed behind the toilet (for three weeks or so). In the long run though, we’ve gotta do our jobs, remain positive, and always remember that we’re doing work that is good work. Nobody wants to deal with this kind of stuff, but sometimes we have to so we do it, we have our little grumble, we remind ourselves why we’re in the library biz, and we move on.

To end, I’d like to share something very positive that came out of this. Yesterday a patron found something in the restroom that needed to be cleaned up. He asked me for some paper towels and I obliged, but I asked him if I could help. Here’s what he said to me:

“There’s a mess in the restroom. You don’t wanna see it and I don’t mind cleaning it up. I work as a janitor so I am used to this. And y’all have been so nice to me that I don’t mind helping you out.”

Despite all of the poop and pee that we’ve come across this summer, this interaction sums it all up: stay positive and be kind to everyone. Do your job and do it well.

Interested in more talk about messy bathrooms and all things icky about libraries? I suggest Matt Finch’s Code Brown: Design Thinking & Beyond feat. @jeromical / Part 1

Family, Fidelia Hall, Life, Titusville, PA

Let It Grow

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The idea of home being the most important thing has always been a big focus of my life. My life has always been focused around my family and where we live. A lot of who I am came from my upbringing in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA and a lot of who I am now as an adult comes from the home that I’ve built together with Haley over the past 12 years.

For the last two years we’ve made Fidelia Hall in Titusville, PA our home. At almost an acre with a house and an old church on the property, we’ve got a lot of space to grow and learn about the world around us right in the middle of our little town of 5,500 residents. One of the things we’ve been learning about are gardens and what most people call weeds. We want to understand why these things grow around us and how we can make a garden that incorporates things that we love to look at AND things that are helpful to the environment. We’re getting there. In our two years at Fidelia Hall we’ve planted things that we love (sunflowers, black-eyed susan, mint, chamomile, borage, and much more) and let a lot of what comes naturally grow without interruption. Things such as purslane and dandelions may not be desired by most people in the world, but they’re welcome in our gardens at home.

Our days in the spring and summer are spent preparing and maintaining the gardens as well as sitting back and enjoying them. Sitting in a hammock or chair and doing nothing but looking at how the bees are enjoying the borage become one of my favorite activities. When your home all around you thrives and grows your life becomes just a little bit more magical.

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This morning as we watered the gardens our children Finn and Aero ran around and begged us to spray them with the hose (which we did). The birds all around us chirped, our dog Sonic ran around like a crazy person, and the bees enjoyed the borage. As we watered the gardens, Haley and I talked about what was growing and made plans for years to come. I collected some of those “weeds” to feed to our chickens and rabbits. Those “weeds” were their food for the day, and boy oh boy did they ever enjoy it.

When we have a connection to the world around us, our lives can be significantly better. Everyone deserves a home where they can explore the amazing world we live in. When it comes to life, I say let it grow: let the “weeds” and other plants around you grow and from their growth you will have your own personal growth.

Video Games

REVIEW: Hey! Pikmin

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If you love all things Nintendo and especially if you love things that are super cute, chances are that you love Pikmin. What isn’t there to love about these neat little space people crash landing on random planets only to find adorable and colorful plant-like creatures that help you solve puzzles?

Hey! Pikmin is the first portable version of the game as well as being the first side scrolling title in the series. While very different from Pikmin 1, 2, and 3, Hey! Pikmin still manages to capture the charm and puzzle solving that this series brings to players. Players once again control Olimar and guide him through levels as he collects Sparklium in his attempt to get enough fuel to power his ship. Each level has the player finding Pikmin and solving puzzles along the way. Unlike other entries in this series, there is no day/night cycle and the objectives are to save as many Pikmin as you can, find as much Sparklium as you can, and maybe grab 2-3 hidden objects each level. On the main map screen, there’s a neat feature called “Pikmin Park” where you can send the Pikmin you’ve found into uncharted areas to find more Sparklium as you continue your quest. It’s the adorable little things like this that makes this game so much fun.

Don’t pay attention to some of the reviews out there. While Hey! Pikmin isn’t as deep as the other games in the Pikmin series, that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. In fact, I found it to be quite enjoyable. The levels are not difficult by any means, but are still interesting enough to keep you playing more.

Justin’s Rating: 8/10

Family, Fidelia Hall, Life, Titusville, PA

A Series of Surprises

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In May of 1967 Derek Taylor spoke of the fate of Smile in his press release. Smile “has been SCRAPPED. Not destroyed, but scrapped”. Could this mean that there was still some merit seen in the songs, but they would be ‘converted’ into other songs? This was effectively the fate of the Smile songs. They were reshaped, in constant chase of improvement. Brian himself stated, “1967 should bring a series of surprises for everyone from the Beach Boys.” (from EarCandy Mag: http://earcandy_mag.tripod.com/rrcase-2.htm)


Life is a long series of surprises and my life is no different. One of the biggest surprises to me was that so much of what I grew up learning from the people in my life was either not true at all or was twisted to fit their specific idea about life. I chose a photo of dandelions for this post because I think it visually sums up what I’m thinking here. Here in America we’re told that a nice lawn is full of green grass, well kept and groomed, and free of what we’ve dubbed “weeds”. Dandelions have been unfortunately placed in the weed category. Because of this there’s been an almost all out genocide on dandelions. Despite their wealth of benefits for humans and bees, they’ve become undesirable.

I grew up in one of those neighborhoods where lawns had to be perfect. Ours was cut, edged, and manicured weekly. If a neighbor did something with their lawn you better believe we had 24-48 hours to respond. About once a month some guy (it was always a guy) brought his truck around and sprayed the yard down with what looked like pellets you’d put on your ice cream. I was always told that this helped the lawn look how it did and that the lawn was better for looking that way.

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Cut to the last two years of my life where the ideas of the home, gardens, and Fidelia Hall have become very important to my happiness. As I settled into this chapter of my life I learned a lot of things: your yard doesn’t have to be green and well manicured, what we call “weeds” are actually really good for the Earth and by attempting to wipe them out we’re destroying the world, and that those “pellets you’d put on your ice cream” that my parents were spraying their lawn with were horrible poison. Life is a series of surprises.

Now the point of this post isn’t to go all Captain Planet and talk about the importance of being kind to the Earth. Of course I think you should but if you’re already doing it I’m not going to change your mind and part of me thinks we’re fucked anyways. The point is to recognize that life is a series of surprises. The Brian Wilson/The Beach Boys album SMiLE and the quote which starts this post have been on my mind recently when I think about my life right now. Has everything turned out as they were originally planned? No. But nothing really ever turns out as we think they are going to turn out. SMiLE was going to be THE album of its time, but it didn’t become that. Sgt. Pepper by The Beatles took that honor. What came out instead of SMiLE was a series of songs and albums that were “reshaped, in constant chase of improvement.” My life recently had a SMiLE moment. Instead of it being a defeat or the start of some kind of long spiraling descent into depression, I’ve decided to see that this moment was another part in the series of surprises that makes up life and that and that what I’m doing is reshaped things around me, always tuned into the constant chase of improvement which follows my life.

That change? Via https://fideliahall.com

Fidelia Hall is first and foremost the homestead of the Hoenke family. It is our hope that through our passion for family, community, creativity, sustainability, flowers, bees, art, fun, and food, that our contributions to the world will chip a tiny crack in the massive wall of negativity, fear, and greed that drives our culture.

We are not a business. We are not a non-profit. We are not a church. We are not a social club. We have explored every avenue and consulted every consultant and nothing fits. So we’ve decided to just be us.

I don’t expect you to “get it” nor do I care. The only thing I’ve gotta get is a hold of my life and my happiness. And I’m always doing that.


The Dandelion Celebration: A Guide to Unexpected Cuisine is a great book to borrow from your local library by the way

Family, Fidelia Hall, Life, Titusville, PA

Goodbye Muted World: Seven Years Ago

About seven years ago I was told the truth about how someone close to me had made their money in the world. Before that, I was under the impression that it was through years of hard work and dedication to their craft. It made sense to me for such a long time. Since I was a child I was told that hard work and dedication would pay off. I believed this because that's what you do as a child: you tend to believe what the adults in your life tell you.

Once I learned the truth about how someone close to me earned their way ahead in life, everything changed. I had long wondered why my hard work and dedication to my job hadn't paid off yet. I was still struggling to get groceries. I couldn't afford to buy a proper home for my growing family. I was at the point where things should have been changing, but everything remained the same. My outlook on modern life changed. Gone was the hope that all of this work in libraries would "pay off". Now listen, I always knew I wasn't gonna get rich being a librarian. I never really wanted to get rich. I just wanted to be able to exist. But after this it donned on me that the ability to exist wasn't gonna happen.

In the world we've created, there's always this extra step that people gotta take to make it. You've gotta give up part of your soul, lose your innocence, align yourself with someone who has money, or dabble in things that get you ahead. I decided I wasn't gonna do any of that and here I am now.

I wouldn't change a thing about the life I surround myself with. As a family we're top notch. We've got a connection, we've got a unique life, and we've got love. None of that is worth losing just to get ahead in the world.

At the same time, I'm recognizing in a post anti depressant world that there are hurdles and bumps along the way. Tonight was a big one that can't get out of my head. After visiting a friend this evening we walked home and I had to explain to Finn (age 8) why we couldn't stop along the way to have a drink in a local restaurant. "We don't have any money right now" is something that's really hard to say to your kid. To Finn, it's not just a quick 20 minute stop at a restaurant to have a soda. For him it's an experience and a moment in his childhood. And I couldn't give that to him. I was, and still am at this moment, almost completely devastated over the fact that I couldn't have a $2 soda with my family.

After talking a bit more Finn said, "I wish we were so rich we could get a mansion and not live in this old house". I explained to him that it wasn't that simple, but I couldn't elaborate much more because I was completely spent mentally. I spent the rest of the night partially mute because anything I said came out grumpy and frustrated, further fueling my present state of sadness.

Learning how that someone close to me had made their money in the world did two things for me:

  1. It showed me the path I did not want to take because I did not want to lose all that was good and pure in the world.
  2. It showed me how fake the world that we've constructed around us really is. If you wanna be a part of this world, you've gotta lie and cheat the system.

I know I chose the right path, but goddamnit sometimes I just wish I could get that soda with my family.

Information Today: A Day In The Life, Libraries

Introducing “A DAY IN THE LIFE”, my new column at Information Today

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Soy un escritor! I am a writer! I really like taking on new challenges in life. Blogging, journaling, and writing articles here and there were the first part in a challenge to myself to prove that I can write. Here’s the next level: I’m now a columnist for Information Today.

My column, titled A DAY IN THE LIFE, is me talking with other librarians about inspiration, technology, management, and more. I believe that the best things in the library world come from the little moments where you’re having a chat with someone over a meal or a beer, not from some big conference or paper telling you exactly what to do. My aim with this column is to be the written equivalent of that: me talking to some great people about some great ideas. I want you to feel like you were a fly on the wall listening in, leaving with a heart full of inspiration

I’ve also really enjoyed working with the folks over at Information Today over the past year on my four part feature TALES FROM THE LIBRARY TRENCHES. When you find it easy to work with someone or a group of people, you stick with them. I’m sticking with the folks at Information Today.

My column won’t be available online free to read, so I recommend that you subscribe to Information Today. You can do that by clicking here. The folks over there do a great job, so supporting them is highly recommended.