This week we installed a new native species pollinator garden on the alley side of my library. Expanding and enriching the space outside and around our building has always been on my to do list, but when you have quite a to do list in front of you sometimes you set things aside for later. This is one of those projects. I still have quite a to do list in front of me at the library, but this year just felt like the right time for this garden.
Many thanks to Carolyne Frycke and Haley Hoenke for their work in designing and planting our Pollinator Garden. Without them, this project would not have happened.
I think it is important for libraries to not only take care of what’s inside the library, but also to consider taking care of what’s outside of the library as well. My hope is that this garden, its purpose, the plants that live in it, and the various pollinators that visit it will educate our community about the importance of gardens and pollination. And you know what else? It’s gonna be so beautiful for everyone to enjoy.
It’s been a little more than a year since I last spoke in depth about Fidelia Hall on this site. Our “we’re really hoping it becomes a yearly tradition” Mother’s Day Plant Swap is right around the corner and with that comes the reminder for an update on all things related to Fidelia Hall.
Long story short: we’re still working on it. We’re a family of five who has one income and with that we’re still living a paycheck to paycheck kind of life. Our big outings these days are to the grocery store (Yay! We can eat!) and occassional visits to the movies (you have to spend a little to have some fun every once in awhile). We spend a lot of time in and around our home and with that we’ve become quite in tune and in love with our little 0.66 acres of land right in the middle of Titusville, PA. You may have read about me searcing for a new job recently. You’re probably wondering how someone so in tune and in love with their home was willing to give it up so easily. Here’s the deal: not everything in this world is so simple. I love my home. I love parts of this small town. I love our gardens. I love the fact that I get to renovate and live in a 145 year old church. I don’t like the fact that I make very little money. I don’t like the fact that I struggle financially to feed my family. I don’t like small town politics and gossip. Combine all those things together, and you get a confusing but very realistic picture of where I’ve been the past year…..At home, enjoying life, but trying so hard to get ahead and thinking about the possibilities out there. A perfect amount of happiness and confusion. A natural curiousity about what is and what could be. A very human thing.
The one thing that has changed is our living situation. 2017 was not kind to the actual house we live in: frozen pipes, leaking walls, mold in the ceiling and walls, and other not fun at all things you want in your house. With that in mind, we’ve developed a plan to move out of our home as quickly as possible and into the hall (aka the old church). While it sets us back from our original idea of Fidelia Hall being a community center for all people, it does something that is needed much more now than a community center: it gives myself, Haley, her mom, Finn, and Aero a happy and healthy place to live. Human beings should not have to live in a home that is falling down, has water leaking everyone, has frozen pipes, and mold in the ceiling. We need to take care of ourselves first before we do anything for the community. SO….we’re moving into a 145 year old church.
With that in mind, we’ve changed our mantra over the past year. Here’s what we’ve been telling people when it comes to Fidelia Hall:
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.
Here’s a list of what we’ve done in the hall over the past year:
The downstairs of the Hall is heated. A big thank you to my father for his work on making this happen.
The upstairs of the Hall is heated. A big thank you to Haley’s father and his wife Audrey for making this happen.
Half of the downstairs of the hall has been wired for electricity. Thank you to Daniel Stockwell for the work he did for us.
My father and I ripped out some flooring and a wall that was damaged due to water. We put in a new floor and an entire new room. Part entrance, part closet, the space is a welcome addition to the dowstairs of the hall.
We ripped down the plaster and lathe ceiling in the kitchen. It was crumbling. Thank you to Daniel Stockwell for the work he did for us.
All of these projects were funding by monetary and sweat donations by members of our family. We thank them so much for their love, support, energy, and time.
Here’s a list of what we NEED to do in the hall:
Complete wiring the downstairs for electricity. We are so close to being done.
Restore water lines to the kitchen and add water and sewage lines to a new bathroom. Basically we have to run water lines to most of the building.
Set up an LLC so that we can do some business, run some events, etc as Fidelia Hall.
For now, we continue being the Hoenke family and doing what we can with what we’ve got. As you can see in the image above, we’re doing our second annual plant swap at Fidelia Hall this upcoming Sunday. We love this event because it not only brings in a lot of people but it also is a good chance to create community, share gardening resources and plants, and all in all it just creates good vibes in the world. If our home falling apart due to busted pipes and the slower than anticipated renovation of Fidelia Hall has been tough over the last 3 years, THE GARDENS OF FIDELIA HALL have provided us with a much needed outlet. Last year I personally became very obsessed with sitting in our gardens watching all of the bees in the borage. The bees gracefully flew around from flower to flower, sniffing and collecting pollen. You can tell they were very appreciative of these plants. It helped me realize just how much of a difference a person can make by doing something simple like planting some borage. Gosh these bees loved it, and in turn I fell in love with Haley’s idea of building magical and inspiring gardens. Heck! I even wrote this song about it:
For the first time in a few months I can say that I currently have ZERO resumes submitted to libraries for possible new jobs. Right now, I’m going to close the curtain on this part of my journey. Let’s get more into the reasons why.
My big goal this time around, one that I knew was going to be a long shot, was to attempt to secure a job in New Zealand. I tried for quite a few. Sometimes I heard nothing back from the library, other times I got the cookie cutter rejection letter, and twice I got personal messages that more or less summed up what I was thinking would happen with this search: you’re a great candidate, but our HR/organization just can’t hire internationally right now. A big part of me gets it…it is tough to immigrate a whole family to another county and also the financial and paperwork side of it is probably a huge task as well. So for now, I am setting the NZ dream aside. I have learned something in this process…..that things take patience and sometimes a bit of luck. I have to keep my heart and head open for a possibility and then leap on it. We’ll get where we need to go.
When I was looking for jobs in New Zealand, I couldn’t help but take a peek at what else was out there in the USA. I saw some good jobs scattered throughout the country. Our idea as a family was that if we were going to relocate in the USA we wanted to be in a place where we really wanted to live. For us, that meant looking at the middle of the country (Colorado, Utah) as well as New England and maybe who knows just maybe if it was the ideal job, California. Salary was also very important to us, as after almost 3 years of having a job that paid a lot lower than other roles in the state and having to rely on food stamps to make ends meet we wanted to get to a level where we were not struggling anymore. Being poor is difficult and a major stress on an individual and a family. It feels a lot like having an extended illness…you keep trying to get better, but no matter what the illness continues to eat away at you because the root issue isn’t being fixed. (FYI: I make $35,000/year as a Library Director, and the average in Pennsylvania for a library with a similar service population is around $42,000/year. I’ll get to that more a bit later).
There was one job that I applied to where I made it through two interviews. After the first interview I felt a little better about the job, but there was something off in my heart. The second interview went really well, but that lingering feeling was still there. It took me a day of serious thought to realize that, yup this path was not for me. I messaged the board, thanked them for the interviews and conversation, and moved on to the next step in my life.
To the jobs that I applied for who kept me updated at every step of their path: THANK YOU. As I said in an earlier post, good communication is key on both sides of the story. That communication minimizes the stress and anxiety on the job seeker, which allows them to give the employer a better interview and idea of the kind of person that they are.
To myself: STAY POSITIVE, CONTINUE TO BUILD AND UPDATE YOUR RESUME, AND DON’T GET TOO UPSET. Humans beings can’t help but feel down or a little angry when things don’t work out. Haley tells me and our sons this all the time: it is OK to feel your feelings and in this case she is once again right. Overall, I feel pretty good where I am at despite this job hunt not ending up with the Hoenke family living and wandering around New Zealand.
So what is happening right now? Here are a few projects and ideas that are very exciting to me.
It is time to remedy the low salaries at my library. As I said above, being poor is difficult and a major stress on an individual and a family. My situation is where I did not think I would be at age 37 as a library director and a husband and father: educated, employed, qualified, and in the prime adult stage of my life but having to rely on food stamps and paycheck to paycheck to stay alive. I’ve dove into the PA State Library data from 2016 to look at salaries and see where we are when measured against others of similar sizes. I’ve already met once with some members of our finance committee to discuss this and once budget season comes up we can discuss this in more detail.
It is spring and pretty soon summer will be here. These months bring birds chirping in the air, vegetables and plants growing, bees in the borage, and so much other natural joy to the world. At the Benson Memorial Library, we are also planning a pollinator garden on the side of the library. It is going to be BEAUTIFUL.
As tough as it has been to restore and build Fidelia Hall, we will continue to make progress on all of our projects. Much like the garden project I mentioned above, I can see that our family future this summer being one where we work on and enjoy the gardens of Fidelia Hall as much as possible. We remain committed to transforming our land into a place that produces beautiful vegetables and flowers. We welcome bees, butterflies, birds, and all sorts of nature into our living space. This will be our 4th summer in our home and each year has brought many beautiful surprises as we’ve let it grow all around us. Eventually, we’ll get the money we need to finish up things in the hall. Right now, we need to get the funds to put in water lines and finish wiring the space for electricity. Good things come to those who wait.
Thank you to everyone who read this series. For now, this is the last piece in the A New Career In A New Town series, but if I ever look for another job in the future I’ll be sure to continue this series.
(***): Yeah, I know my words were harsh and if you read them you probably thought “why in the hell would I hire this guy?”. That’s OK. I’ve made my peace with the fact that anything that anyone says, especially on the internet, can and will be used against a person at some time in the future. All that I can say is that my words/thoughts/actions are always coming from an honest and pure place. I’m not trying to hurt anyone. I’m just trying to ruffle up some action in order to promote change. In 99% of every situation that has ever existed on Earth, this kind of behavior is looked down upon because human beings crave order and want to keep things the same. I think we have a lot to fix and in order to do so have to ruffle up some action. I’m just doing my little part in an area that I think could use some change. Thank you.
In the month of May the Benson Memorial Library is proudly displaying the poem “May 31, 1944,” by Isabella Leitner and illustrated by Gus Leiber in the Wentz Reading Room at the Benson Memorial Library. Many thanks to Lynn Cressman of the Titusville School District Board of Directors for arranging this for our library. I love it when public libraries are filled with art, and even more so when a small rural library like ours has a chance to bring a wonderful work by a internationally known artist to their community. Libraries are great connectors, and in this case we’re connecting our community to not only some great art but also to an important subject matter. I hope to do more of this kind of stuff for Titusville, PA while I’m the director here.
PRESS RELEASE “May 29, 1944, the day after Isabella Katz’s twenty-third birthday, she, along with her family and all the Jews in the ghetto in Kisvarda, Hungary, were rounded up by the Nazis, loaded into rail cars, and transported to Auschwitz. Her mother and younger sister were immediately gassed upon arrival at the camp. Three of her siblings survived their days in Auschwitz by supporting each other with determination. Her father managed to get to the United States and tried to obtain visas for them. Eventually she was reunited with her father, who, although he had escaped the concentration camp, lived the remainder of his life feeling he had let his family down. Isabella used her experience to write two accounts, Fragments of Isabella and The Big Lie.
Titusville native Gus Leiber has, in his modern style, illustrated a poem by Isabella Leitner entitled “May 31, 1944,” which is the day she arrived in Auschwitz. This poem hits very close to home because Gus’s wife, Judy, a Hungarian, was at one time on the list to be sent to the concentration camps. Instead, a friend added Judy’s name, as well as her sister’s and mother’s names, to the schuss pass (travel pass). A teenager, Tommy Baroth, hunted until he found a typewriter whose font matched the type on the schuss pass. He carefully added “and family,” to Mr. Peto’s pass, saving the family from a horrible fate. Tom and his sister Agnes reside in New York City today.
Sadly, both Gus and Judy Leiber passed away Saturday, April 28th within six hours of each other. Their art and love will be missed by many. Read their obituary here.
The poem by Isabella Leitner, “May 31, 1944,” illustrated by Gus Leiber is on display from May 1 until May 31 in the Wentz Reading Room at Benson Memorial Library. The public is invited to visit the library to see this special exhibit.”
ABOUT Gerson “Gus” Leiber (1921-2018) Gerson Leiber, of the Titusville High School Class of 1939, was a Modernist painter who resided in New York City with his wife, Judith. As a student in Titusville, he showed great artistic promise; however, WWII took him to Hungary, where he met his future wife, Judith Peto, who was a handbag master. Upon the conclusion of the war, they moved to New York City, where Gerson attended art school while Judith pursued the design and creation of handbags. She eventually founded Judith Leiber, Inc., creating exquisite handbags, ranging from alligator leather bags to dazzling beaded clutches.
Mr. Leiber has exhibited in over 300 national and international exhibitions as well as 20 one-man exhibitions. He is past president of the Society of American Graphic Artists and a member of the Audubon Artists, the National Academy of Design and the Art Student’s League. He is also the recipient of many awards, including Tiffany Fellowships in 1957 and 1960.
Several years ago, Mr. Leiber donated a considerable number of his art books to the Titusville High School library for student use, furnishing the library with a fine collection. He followed with a piece of his own entitled The Smoking Man, as well as high quality prints of the work of Rembrandt and Albrecht Dürer, and a Picasso portfolio. He went on to purchase a collection of Japanese prints by artists Kunisada and Hiroshi for study and display at THS. He has also donated beautiful collections of Persian miniatures and French prints of various subjects.
Currently we have approximately fourteen different collections by different artists. We hope to use this artwork to help educate students and give the entire community a chance to experience very different types of artwork. Both Gus and Judy Leiber passed away on Saturday, April 28th, 2018. For all of the Leibers’ contributions we are deeply and sincerely grateful.
Take a moment and look up wherever you may be on this Earth.
The trees all around us in Titusville, PA these days are budding, ready to sprout new leaves that will provide us some protection from the sun in the upcoming summer months. A familiar sound reemerges in those trees. The songs and chirps of birds have returned after a few months absence. We are happy to have all of this back after the winter.
A few days ago we sat in our treehouse and heard a very loud sound coming from the trees above. Finn remarked that it must be a hawk because of how loud it was and his idea of what a hawk would sound like. I agreed with him. It sounded like the bird that opened The Colbert Report. We continued to monitor the treetops, looking for our elusive hawk. We only saw the turkey vultures that usually circle the area above our home. It wasn’t them making this sound…it had to be something else, something hidden.
Out of the corner of our eyes we spied two blue jays doing a little song and dance for each other. We were amazed that that sound could come from a blue jay. We enjoyed the dance they did for each other, weaving from branch to branch with ease and grace. Finn, Aero, and I learned something new together. I was reminded how amazing the world can be if we just take a moment to look up. Never stop looking up. You will learn something new when you look up at the world in a different way. I am 37.5 years old and I never knew what a blue jay sounded like until I looked up. Finn and Aero reminded me to do that. I’m now passing that along to you. Have a nice day.
This weekend my mind turned to routine and order in an attempt to understand the world which I see in front of me. I believe that there is a lot we can understand from routine and order in our daily lives. We can then apply what we learned in our daily observations on a larger scale and through that have an impact on our overall lives. All of the things which we come into contact with both physically and mentally are connected. As individuals we can weave those things together into a giant tapestry which tells the story of who we are.
I am a being of energy, and that with my energy I chose to focus on positivity, creativity, and love. But the energy of an individual needs fuel and for me that fuel can come through routine and order. Below are some examples of routine and order that are in my life. These acts are simple but they give me great energy. This energy is needed in order to act as a being of positivity, creativity, and love.
WHEN I AM AT HOME
Prepare and consume tea in the morning.
Shower, brush my teeth.
Spend time in the gardens (weather permitting).
Piddle around in the gardens. Move some dirt, tidy up the area, etc.
Water the plants inside and outside.
Let the chickens and rabbits out to roam freely.
Clean and feed the chicken and rabbit area.
Make sure the bird feeder is full of seed.
Perform or compose music in the gardens.
Sit in the hammock and listen to the world around me.
Unload and then load the dishwasher.
Wash, dry, and put away laundry.
WHEN I AM AT WORK
Set up my work space for a full day of work.
Read and record our daily circulation and visits.
Prepare coffee for the library staff.
Water the plants inside.
Take 1-2 minutes every hour to stretch.
Open the window in the spring/summer for fresh air and to hear the sounds of the world.
Actively observe the library around me when I leave my office. Try to notice something that can be improved for the community.
Routine and order use energy, but at the same time it fills our minds and souls with energy needed to move ahead. When we are aware of the acts that make up our daily lives, we become more in tune with the world. As beings of energy who are in tune with the world, we are able to focus and reach our goals whatever they may be. This is where change occurs. Be aware of the moment and that you have the ability to produce positive energy and in return you will experience significant changes in your life.
I first made a 50 Greatest Video Games list in November 2015 and it feels like it is time to update that. Spots 1 through 10 represent my all time Top Ten, but past that I did not have the energy to list the accordingly. All of them are great. They were so close to each other that ranking them is next to impossible.