My Great Grandparents

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Up until a few days ago I had never seen a photo of my great grandparents. I didn’t think I’d ever see a photo of them cause, well if I haven’t seen one so far in my 36.5 years I doubted I’d come across one now. I don’t know much else about it (date? their names?) but here they are on their wedding day. I’ll dig more into this as time goes on, but for now a few things stand out to me:

I see A LOT of my mom in my great grandma. It is like they are carbon copies of each other. Here are a few photos of her over the years that stand out to me…I see the resemblance in their eyes:

I also see a lot of my son Finn in my Mom, so it is very interesting to be able to connect these threads FIVE generations back now. Wow.

It is amazing to think about where we came from, and it is even more amazing to see this in a photograph. All of this couldn’t have come at a more interesting time for me, with the recent news being dominated by my home country’s immigration ban. Because of that this photo isn’t just a photo of my relatives to me. It is a reminder to me that we all come from somewhere. It makes me see how a positive and welcoming approach is what is best for our world. We should welcome others with open arms, give them a chance, and who knows…some amazing things may happen.

The Next Few Years #sharegoodstuff

Don’t worry: this is not a political post. I don’t care who you voted for, and I don’t care to discuss politics with anyone.

What I’m gonna talk about is the next few years and what I believe to be one of the biggest things all of us in this country (and the world to a greater extent) need to practice and learn more about: how to be kind to each other, how to listen to each other, and how to make real and positive changes in our world.

I believe that all of this starts in our heads and in our hearts. First, we must be willing to see the positive parts of our daily lives. When we see those, we see hope and love all around us. Our world changes and instead of being a place where the day-to-day slog happens, it becomes a place of opportunity.

Once this is established, we can have better interactions with other people from day to day. They can be kinder and more focused. We can have the patience to listen to each other and try to understand each other. When we try to understand each other we contribute to a bigger picture: a kinder and more understanding world.

Every action we take creates a ripple. If we act in a more positive and understanding way, I feel like the sum of all of these actions will add up to something great. It is a big thing to think about, but I believe in it. I believe in it because I’ve seen it daily in the public libraries where I have worked. The sharing and borrowing of information creates positive ripple in the world. When you say the world library, most people smile. They see it as a safe and welcoming place. It took years and years of these positive actions to build up those smiles. These positive ripples work.

I’m just one human being, but I promise to be kinder to everyone I met. I promise to listen more closely to everyone that I interact with. I promise to take more actions to make real and positive changes in our world. I promise to #sharegoodstuff.

 

Play Video Games With Your Family

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My son Finn turned 8 on January 17 and one of his gifts was his very own copy of Animal Crossing: New Leaf. My wife Haley and I have been playing the game for over three years and haven’t stopped enjoying it. In those three years, Finn has created his own character in each of our towns and dabbled in the game here and there. As he got older and started learning how to read, one of the things we told him was that he could get his own copy of the game. His eighth birthday seemed like the perfect time to get him his own copy: he’s a pretty great reader, he’s got his own Nintendo 2DS, and it just felt right. We snagged him a copy of the new Animal Crossing: New Leaf Welcome Amiibo game and last night dove into starting up a new town for Finn.

He decided to call his town “Finntopia” and that his in game character would be known as Finnix because “I just like the letter X.” We cozied up on the couch as a family (minus his younger brother Aero, as he went to bed and this was a special Mom/Dad/Finn night) and helped him through the setup process of getting into his own town, finding where to put his house, and more.

Once  all of the setup was complete, Finn opened his town gates and invited Haley and I into his town. It was like the “Mom and Dad, I’d like to invite you to my first apartment/home” moment, but this time it was when he was 8 and it was in Animal Crossing. He showed us around his town, pointed out that he had some pear trees, and introduced us to some of his villagers. We then headed back to the train station but before we left did the parent thing and left him with some gifts and money to help him start his new life in Finntopia.

After playing for about an hour, it was 10pm and we told Finn we were getting tired. He said he was getting tired too. But he had a glow on his face that I will never forget: he finally got his own Animal Crossing town and he also got to spend some time with his parents playing video games. It was a great night where we all got a chance to enjoy something fun, learn something together, and best yet….hang out as a family.

Video games can be awesome family and community building tools!

I’ve written about how fun, learning, and community can happen during gaming in the past. You can read all of those here or head on over to Medium and read this collection on Nintendo games.

2016 Year In Review

PAST YEARS: 2015, 2014, 2013

Let’s get it out of the way before we jump into everything: 2016 wasn’t a great year for most of us and there are way too many reasons out there to put here into this blog so I’m not gonna do that. Let’s try something else, something that we all remember from way back in 2014-2015: positivity.

At the time of this writing, I have successfully arisen from my slumber on 337 out of the 366 days in 2016. I’ve spent most of the time I have been awake during those 337 days doing two things: spending it with my family or working for my community. I don’t have a fancy photo or some numbers to show you to back this up. I can just promise you that my family, our home, and the Benson Memorial Library continue to exist, thrive, and go about doing things that have a positive impact on the world. It’s the only thing that we know how to do.

I have enjoyed listening to all kinds of music. I’ve played so much Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I’ve got to watch some great films. I can’t recall what their titles were but they were enjoyable in the moment.

I did eat way too much food and I didn’t go on enough walks. I am going to do my best to fix that in 2017.

I really enjoyed meeting lots of new people this year as I did some traveling. I think traveling is the best…you get a chance to connect with people you have never met before, and in doing so your world grows and you grow as a person. I never want to stop growing and being a better Justin. I think that’s where my recent obsession with cyborgs comes from. Cyborgs can upgrade and change. I’ve been trying to figure out a way that I can do that myself as a human being. I think I’ve got it!

Goodbye to you 2016. I can’t think of a better way to say au revoir than Bowie’s Lazarus.

This way or no way
You know, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now ain’t that just like me

Happy Birthday Aero Read Hoenke

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my son Aero Read Hoenke. Today this little magical ball of rock n’ roll turns 5!

Aero: I love you little man. You really dig KISS, rock n’ roll, bass guitars, and building stage sets to re-enact KISS concerts. You are super snuggly and full of love, and that is one of the best things about you. Please never change that! I also love how you stick to your guns and always demand that things be done in that special Aero way. It took me 35 years to learn that and you’ve somehow mastered it in five years.

You are awesome and I love you.

My Brain is Workin’ Overtime

 *this title comes from a wonderful Weezer song that the band played live around 2000 but never released commercially. I love this song!*

My head and my heart have been really full the past few weeks. September was full of our book sale, the rise and the fall and the possible rise of our Friends of the Library group, and working on hiring a new Youth Services Librarian. October was the month when we finally got that (really really really awesome) new Youth Services Librarian in place, I worked on the 2017 budget, tried to figure out how to get my staff a well deserved raise, and received my first ever request for the reconsider of a library material. On top of all of that, it’s been getting cold and soggy outside and we haven’t got Fidelia Hall fully heated and let’s just not get into the 2016 Presidential Election. Mix in past 2016 happenings such as the death of David Bowie and Prince and what you’ve got is one heck of a year. Just like all of you reading this, I am ready for a break but honestly there’s no end in sight. There’s never an end in sight.

There’s never an end in sight just about what it sums up to be a human these days. For the day to day workers, the parents, educators, and the people who are getting out there and making a difference in their communities the phrase “there’s never an end in sight” has become commonplace. Life has becoming tiring and stressful for so many people out there. Our brains are workin’ overtime. So are our bodies.While I do believe that hard work and dedication can lead to success and accomplishment, there’s a limit to which a person or a group can take….and I think there are so many people out there who are reaching that limit or are well past it. We’re not whining. We want to work and do great things for the world. But we’re tired because we’ve been pushed so hard for such a long time.

I would like a future where this was balanced out. That’s what I am personally working towards for myself and my family. I don’t know if and when we will get there, but I hope we can. And then I hope I can help bring that change to many, many other people.

THREE THINGS 2016.11

MUSIC

 

I’ve recently been feeling a burst of inspiration when it comes to music. All throughout 2017 I have been working on writing and recording the first album for a project I am calling ABIGAIL FOSTER’S PHOTOSYNTHESIS MACHINE. I am really excited about the project and the songs on this first album. I have a lot of thoughts on how I’d like for this album to go and right now I am just trying to keep the original focus of it being an album of simple, easy to digest songs. I want to restart my musical brain and this seems like a good place to start.

And just like I do every time I have a musical project happening, I add another one. This one is the completion of the 2002 Zomo album Waiting For The Green. You see, this album was being worked on back in 2001-2002 and was going to be the debut album for the band Zomo (which went on to record and release two other albums). However, things happened and it never got finished. This has always been something that has bugged me and held me back a bit musically, so recently I made the decision to look at what we had finished and cobble together a version of the album. Is this the album that it was supposed to be? No way. It will never be that album. But that’s not the point…the idea was to finish something that deserves to be finished and put it out into the world. So over this weekend I hope to put the finishing touches on this collection of songs and release it to the world. More to come.

ANIMAL CROSSING: NEW LEAF

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I spend a lot of my time playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf on my Nintendo 3DS. I find the game to be wonderfully pleasant, well made, and extremely relaxing. There’s really no goal in the game other than to exist in your faux town and go about your daily tasks but for some reason these are the things I search for in a video.

I am extremely happy that even though the game was released 4 years ago that Nintendo has decided to continue to support the game. Just this week, an update was released that adds a lot of neat new abilities and features to the game. You can read about some of those big changes here and the smaller yet equally as important changes here. Considering that I would usually give this game 2-5 hours of my life every week before the update, I expect that I’ll be visiting my town a lot more in the next few weeks.

WINDING DOWN

Once November hits I feel like the rest of my year is gonna be smooth sailing. September and October 2016 were quite hectic, full of book sales, budgets, book challenges, and much much more. Those things have been taken care of and now for the rest of the year I can collect my thoughts and plan for 2017. I think that it is extremely important to budget yourself enough time to sit back and think big. November and December are months where everyone is occupied with the holiday season so for me these months are a great time for that. Mental relaxation and health are so very important. Take care of yourself. I need to follow my own advice!