Abigail Foster's Photosynthesis Machine, Family, Fidelia Hall, Libraries, Life, Music, Titusville, PA

Change The World With Creativity

Between 2009 and 2015 I was not very active creatively. This is OK. The family that Haley and I started began to grow, and now that we were both out of school it was time to put some energy into our work. For me it was libraries and in a way my work in libraries took the place of the act of creativity. Looking back I see that my work in libraries was very creative as a result of this shift. I think I did some really neat library related things during that time period. Despite enjoying this work, I still felt a lack of creativity in my life.

My creativity comes out best in the form of songs, and even more specifically songs that are arranged in the sequence of an album. In the days of digital singles and rush releases, I understand that I am way beyond the times and I’m fine with that. One of the things that I have learned about creativity is that you need to open your mind and your heart to it and accept it in any form that it comes. Is it rushing at your faster than you can write it all down? Is the trickle as slow as a leaky faucet? What I have realized is that creativity comes in many forms and with many speeds. You have to accept that in your mind and in your heart and be ready for whatever comes. You also have to accept that your creativity may take different forms. As I said above, for me that form is a set of songs arranged as an album. My wife Haley, who just happens to be one of most creative people I know, excels at making clothes for herself as well as other fabric arts and oddities which have an amazing energy and charm to them.

And that’s what I want to talk about: the energy that your individual creativity puts out into the world. Every creative act that a human being does starts somewhere. I believe they start in a positive part of our mind and our heart. We then interpret these creative urges into a form. We do not need to talk about the form here. The form is what you want it to be. The form that feels most honest and real to you is the form for you. Embrace that form, think about your creative urge, and make that creative urge a reality. Birth your idea and let your idea out into the world.

DO NOT fall into the belief that “no one will listen to or read or look at” your creative act. Instead, think two things about your creative act:

  1. Your creative act puts out a positive energy into the world, and acts of positive energy are like ripples in a pond. The effects will be felt somewhere along the line.
  2. Your creative act will be listened to or read or looked at. Someone at some point in time will interact with it and it will have an impact on their life. There are too many people in the world for your creative act to not be seen by at least one person. And one person is more than zero.

My latest creative act is a 10 song album titled SMALL TOWN. I would like to end this post by talking about that creative act. I believe that not only should we share our creative acts but we should also talk about how they came to be and why they came to be. This helps us understand each other, and when we better understand each other we can work together to create a more positive world.

SMALL TOWN begins the album. I wanted to write a song that was just one big loop. I experimented with a 4 chord sequence in 4/4 time. Garageband helped me make the loops, program the drums and bass, and put more onto the song at the end. This is the introduction to a frame of mind I had while writing the album. This is what it can feel like in a small town.

GIVE ME THE ATOM BOMB was started in mid 2017 and went through many different versions until I came to this arrangement. I did not know if I wanted it to be a slow dirge, a synthpop extravaganza, or just a straight ahead song. Jeff Lynne and his use of the acoustic guitar as a rhythm instrument inspired this version. The message is simple: “I AM EVERYTHING, THERE’S NOBODY ELSE AROUND”. Contrasting the feeling of being woke with the feeling of being isolated.

THIS TOWN WILL DESTROY ITSELF was the lingering feeling that everything I moved my family to in 2015 was crumbling. Homes falling apart, buildings falling down, and a rot that set in years ago and continued to fester. I want to go, but I also want to stay. I can’t be fooled by my feelings.

FROZEN PIPES is the tale of Fidelia Hall, student loan debt, and the struggle of this generation in America. I’ve written about how my home is physically falling apart before…frozen pipes, leaking walls, mold, ceilings falling down, falling through the floor, and heating systems failing. Why can’t you just fix it Justin? Well, it’s tough when you have $100K of student loan debt between you and your wife and you only make $35K per year. You just can’t fix things in the moment and you have to plan. You promised that an education would lead to great things and while it has helped expand my mind, it has crippled the expanded mind with a debt that will never cease. The boomers and their complaints. Their lack of vision and understanding. This is the story of a generation. I could write about this for ages but I won’t.

LET’S GO BACK TO SLEEP started in 2001 as an instrumental. I loved the simple melody. I loved the 50’s style chord sequence. The more I thought about this album the more I came to the conclusion that it should not be a 10 song tome on small towns. It had to be more. LET’S GO BACK TO SLEEP starts the dream sequence and the hunt for a new place to live and a possible new job, all of which ties nicely into this blog series I wrote about my job search, A NEW CAREER IN A NEW TOWN

LITTLE PARADISE is a song that has been complete since 2001 but I was never happy with the recording I had. It felt too…..beachy. The song was written around the time where all that I wanted to do was to leave college and travel and live in different places every three months. That was the dream. The song was a nice fit for this album because it dealt with leaving your home to explore and go on an adventure. I am very proud of the bridge.

AEOTEOROA has roots in a cassette demo tape I made in 11th grade during my music class. It was a simple midi piano and not much else with the title JUPITER. It sounded good and it needed more. AEOTEOROA was a place that I had a very big interest in and a place that I could see me and my family living in, so it became the focus…the ultimate adventure…the goal. Everyone’s so neat there. Everything’s so green there. Why don’t we plant roots and soar into the sun?

MUCH TOO LATE also has origins from years ago but it was an idea that sat aside without any development. Striking out on the idea of a move to Aeoteoroa, I wondered to myself if it was much too late to make a new step in our lives. Time is always ticking. Also I just love a good key change into a huge chorus.

ATOM BOMB, as I stated above, had so many different versions and ideas. I couldn’t let go of the idea of the song being constructed with synths and with dirgey instrumentation. This is why we have a reprise! I couldn’t let this vibe go unheard.

Ending an album is difficult. I always want to sum everything up and get the listener to think about their life. I noticed that the phrase “another day” popped up in another song and it reminded me that I had this short idea of a song from years ago. It felt like a good way to end.

 

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Family, Fidelia Hall, Libraries, Life, Titusville, PA

Change The World With Positivity

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As I wandered into 2018 something inside of me felt off. I was not the Justin that I was just a few years ago and overall I was not on a path that allowed me to contribute towards a positive world. A lot of things in my life contributed to this. My family and I moved into a wonderful property that required more work than we expected. The long term effects of crippling student loan debt really hit my mind in a hard way. I questioned my role as a librarian and I questioned the profession as a whole, wondering if I was strong enough to do the work and if the profession as a whole had lost its overall focus. The country where I live entered a stage of great uncertainty, upheaval, and confusion. My immediate world and the greater world around me was off its axis. I let things be and thought it would correct itself, but it did not happen and that was when I realized that inside of myself I had the energy to make necessary changes towards a positive future.

I envision a world where all humans recognize that the energy they have inside of them can be used for good. I believe that positivity, creativity, and love are the three major things that we as humans should be focused on at all times. I believe that if there were enough of us that understood this and acted in such a way where our lives focused on positivity, creativity, and love that we would have the momentum to shift the trajectory of the world towards a brighter future.

I found out that I have the energy in myself to make necessary changes towards a positive future. To start, I had to understand this concept and then put it into practice. I put that into practice by saying these lines out loud to myself

  • I will work hard to have my heart and my head aligned.
  • I will express a message of positivity and convey this message to others through my words, both written and spoken.
  • I will encounter many different humans on my journey, and no matter what the situation is I will approach every single human being with a positive message.
  • I will understand that sometimes I may stumble along the way, but that I have the energy in myself to refocus.

 

Abigail Foster's Photosynthesis Machine, Benson Memorial Library, Family, Libraries, Library Director, Life, Management, Titusville, PA

Where Are We Now?

About a year ago I hung up a bizarre painting in my office at work. To me it was perfect and just familiar enough that I thought it warranted a place in my life. As a person who always thought it would be neat to have an office and fill it with interesting things, the painting, when mixed with the Lego creations and drawings that Finn and Aero have created for me over the years, helped me establish this place my home away from home. When I feel comfortable at work, I usually am able to some really good and meaningful work. On the other hand I could also see how the average “I shop for my groceries at Walmart every Saturday at 1pm and have to watch the game and/or my sitcom at the same time every week” American person would be appalled by it.

One day I came into work to find that my painting was taken down. My coworkers took it down because, yes they were terrified and appalled by it. I guess right now would also be a good time to explain that due to limited space we’re all basically working on top of each other and that we’re surrounded by glass. It’s like a packed fishbowl in here. But to fully admit my feelings, I was pretty let down by their actions. It felt passive aggressive and overall it felt unkind. But in the moment I didn’t react. I just went on and say “oh, well that happened.”

You see as a Gemini I feel a duality to everything. There’s this part of me that always sees things from my point of view and then I almost immediately put that aside and see it from how others may have seen it. In this case: Justin likes the painting and hangs up the painting, Justin feels disappointed when someone takes that painting down, but then Justin instantly forgets about that and says “well I bet they didn’t like the painting so I understand that and what I thought about the painting shouldn’t matter because that’s selfish to only think about myself.” Over time, I’ve taken that approach to even more of an extreme: I guess in a way that by my coworkers actions I was able to put the painting to a much better use. It became the cover for my album Prozac Is The Dam And I Am The Dynamite, and I think it fit really well for that album. Having the painting taken down by my coworkers made me take it home, where I stared at it more and through those hours of staring it gave the painting more meaning and purpose. It became a visual representation of my life at the time, and when it merged together with the music I was creating it became a complete package.

You take all of these things together, stretch everything out by a few months, sometimes years, and what happens? You start to think about the first part (yourself) less and less until it almost becomes silly to even think about it in the first place. I think that’s where I am at now…after awhile of doing this here I am, a person that may be very capable about thinking of others but at the same time a person who doesn’t think of himself as much as he should. I’m overwhelmed right now and a bell goes off in my brain to remind me that this may be part of the reason as to why I feel this way. When you neglect yourself in some way, it all adds up. I stare at a lot of spreadsheets these days, and I like to think that my soul has a spreadsheet where it has been keeping note of the times I’ve put myself aside for others. It’s finally getting to that point where the spreadsheet is just too long and unruly and it becomes a hassle to scroll down the page because there’s so much data.

I’m on the cusp of something here. It feels exciting and at the same time it fills my soul with great fear, but I know that as with everything in this life it will come, it will go, and the next thing will happen. I feel lucky to be able to share this journey here and to have others be able to maybe understand and maybe feel like they may be in the same holding pattern at the moment.

Music: David Bowie “Where Are We Now?” As long as there’s sun..As long as there’s rain..As long as there’s fire..As long as there’s me..As long as there’s you

A New Career In A New Town, Chattanooga, TN, Family, Libraries, Life, Portland, ME, Titusville, PA

A New Career In a New Town: Librarians on the Move

I make an effort to check into LinkedIn at least once a week. As a social network, it is pretty pitiful but as a place where you can update and display your resume it works like a charm. I mostly use it as a way to track what I’ve done in libraries in case I need my resume or to put something I’ve done into an official document/grant/etc.

I’ve been going on there recently because I’ve been updating my resume. Right now I’m in this head space where I am seeing what else is out there when it comes to library jobs and, if it fits some very specific parameters, I am applying to those jobs. I figure this: why not, I’ll only live once, and if something inspires me why not give it a shot? So…I’m applying to some jobs. We’ll see what happens. Maybe it will be my next step, maybe it will just be an interview experience, or maybe it will be nothing. It doesn’t hurt to try something new.

I’ve also had to come face to face with my work history as I update my resume. When I moved to Chattanooga, TN a lot of people told me I was nuts because it was another job and that my resume was growing to look like I go from job to job. This always irked me. To me, it wasn’t about moving from job to job. To me it was all about getting the  experience I craved and moving up into roles which challenged me. I guess it could be an age thing. The people who doubted my moves were also people who had been at the same library for 10+ years. At some point in my life I may like that, but for the moment (and I guess it continues to this day) I crave growth, learning, and adventure.

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“RESUME STUFF”

A new job at a new library in a new town is just that: a way to experience the world, to grow as a person, to learn more, and to give back something to a community. When I was younger I used to think this a lot: “if I’m not growing, then I must be dying” and as I write this post that comes back to me.

I also think about the librarian profession and how screwed up it can be for those searching for jobs or looking for experience in their current job. Not every library and not every state are created equally, and you’ll see this in the details of every state library organization page and their job opportunities page. For example, the Pennsylvania Library Association recommends a salary of $59,791/year for a “Full-time librarian who supervises at least three professional librarians”. At my current job I am the director who supervises 7 employees and I make $35,000 /year. Go ahead and browse the other jobs on the PALA Library Job Openings and see what else is out there. I see a Part Time Teen Librarian job that pays $30,000/year and a Children’s Librarian job that pays $32,000-$37,000/year. And let’s not forget how hard it might be to “level up” at your current place of work. What if there’s no way to get into management at your current library but all you want to do someday is be a director? What can you do? In both of these cases, you look for your next adventure, a new job at a new library in a new town.

To end, I bring it all back around to my experience and my time in libraries. Despite what others have said, I am not hopping from job to job because I’m discontent. What I’m doing is looking for that next challenge and that next growth opportunity. If I ain’t growing, I must be dying. In the name of complete honesty and transparency, here’s where I’ve and why I’ve made a move. Have fun. And remember, if someone tells you that you need to stick around just so it looks good, give them the truth. You wanna grow. You wanna learn. You wanna go on an adventure. Trust you gut. Follow your heart.

  • 2 years in New Jersey? I was an entry level teen librarian who wanted to gain management experience, plus I couldn’t afford to live and buy a house in New Jersey.
  • 3 years in Maine? I was a teen librarian who got basic management experience and was not able to move up in that library system so I left for a job who really wanted me to come work for them AND which gave me a lot of management experience.
  • 2 years in Chattanooga? I was a Youth Services Manager but I felt the urge to move into a Library Director role, plus life in the South just wasn’t what my family and I were looking for (too hot and muggy for us east coast people).
  • 2.5 years in Titusville? I am a director but I get paid $25,000 below state average and I am looking for work that pays me a better living wage so that my family and I do not need to be on food stamps. I also crave challenge, be that as a director of a bigger library or in a leadership/administrative role at a larger library.
Family, Libraries, Life

The Goal

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Statues inspire me. I want as many of them around my property as I can get my hands on. This guy is a weird one but I love it. He sits in our strawberry patch and just looks on at whoever comes to our backdoor. He’s magical.

Life in our modern society is a pretty freaking weird thing. We have an overall system in place that works actively to help promote individual growth and also to thwart that same growth. We are creatures that strive for change through accomplishments and advances, but that change comes so slowly that in the day to day it feels like nothing ever changes. What we hear from each other, those in power and those with fame are usually positive and sugar coated in nature, but underneath those whispers of “oh yeah everything is alright” is a much larger story with complex moves like a chess game, ups and downs, and things flying all over the place.

The minute after I think I have my “aha! So that’s the answer!” moment is the minute that I’m back to the drawing board. You can go through this entire blog and see that evolving and growing day by day, year by year. The best thing to realize at this point, for me at least, was that the answer will never be there and then someday I’ll die without the answer and melt back into the nutrient ecosystem and be born again as a tree. That happened a few years ago and, boy oh boy, did things feel a lot better for me once I realized that. Cue Elton John and that Lion King song. It makes sense.

A nice holiday break to end 2017 helped end a year that was a bit confusing on a clearer note. I woke up when my body and mind were ready to wake up. I engaged in the pursuits which felt natural to me (music, video games, reading). I stayed in pretty much the same location for quite a number of days, surrounded by people that I wanted to be surrounded with. I went outside and used the snowblower to make nice little paths for people to walk along the sidewalk. There are great joys in the simple, mundane things. The seismic shifts which once fueled my days are no longer necessary. I am getting a lot better at understanding and enjoying the little stuff.

Claude Debussy’s piano music is a good musical representation of what I feel in my head and heart these days. When I listen to the piece above (a collection of six solo piano pieces composed between 1901-1907 titled Images) I feel a sense of ease, wonder, excitement, and content wash over me. It feels right to listen to this music. There is so much wonder and beauty in these compositions. My mind wanders and I think about Debussy and what he may have been thinking and feeling when he wrote these pieces. What is it that compelled him to create such a beautiful thing?

What I want is a life full of creativity. Creating something is the best things humans can do in this world. Make some art, make some music, plant some flowers, have some children. The end result does not matter; the act is what matters. It is the act of creation that is really the only thing that makes sense to me these days. In a world of falsities and sugar coating, the act of creation feels more real than ever. When I write words in a document, record some music, or capture some sounds I feel free and I feel happy. There’s really nothing better than that experience. It fills up my soul.

THE GOAL is to live a life of happiness, to spread positivity and kindness, to create beautiful things, and to do work that gives back to people. I want to find the truth and honesty in all things. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I want this whole thing to be one huge adventure. I am happy where I’m at right now and I will be happy with where I go.

 

 

Family, Life, Technology, Titusville, PA

Bluetooth Headphones

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A few weeks ago I wrote one of my THREE THINGS posts that included a section called OPINIONS ON THE INTERNETIt basically boiled down to this: my family and I enjoyed the Justice League film and the internet hated it so much and were very loud about it and that made me think about how the internet has become a really horrible and tiring place.

Those thoughts about the internet, coupled with what may be the end of the internet as  we know it with the repeal of net neutrality, have been on my mind recently. These thoughts came up even more so after seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi and reading about the wave of negativity that ensued on the internet after the movie had premiered. And then these thoughts came up a third time because I went on a nice holiday break away from work and basically the rest of the world. In other words, I didn’t leave the house once (except for a family holiday get together) between Thursday December 21-Wednesday December 27.

Being away from people who are not in my immediate family for that long was refreshing. Don’t worry: if you’re reading this I’m not saying I don’t like you. I like you a lot actually. It’s just that as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate time away from other human beings a lot more than time with other human beings. In my twenties I was the opposite. If someone rang me up and wanted to do something of course I’d be out the door ASAP.  These days, I want to get up, weigh myself, brush my teeth, take a shower, put on some comfy clothes, and drink tea, hang out with my family all day. I’ll also dabble in some video games and write/record some music. That’s just the way things are right now.

And that brings me to bluetooth headphones, yes the ones you see me wearing in the photo above. Those bluetooth headphones were a gift from my mother in law, and a gift that I treasure so very much. I had a bad year with headphones in 2017; I lost them, I broke them, and I dealt with the horrible Apple Lightning to Headphone input jack dongle doo-dad. I love listening to music and podcasts as much as I can. They help me function and grow as a person. Art and conversation are two of the greatest things we have in this world. So this gift was more than just a pair of headphones. It was something that allows me to be more present in the real world. It gives me the chance to not have to plan long periods of time where I stay inside. It allows me to go out there, go shopping, and take walks. It gives me a way to be around people while at the same time staying in my own world.

I went to Wal Mart on December 27 to pick up a few things that we needed in the house. A trip to that place usually fills me with dread. Who will I run into this time? What kind of awkward conversation will we have? Why are at least half of the 5,000 or so residents of Titusville in this Wal Mart right now? However this time I had my bluetooth headphones on my side. I listened to Sunshine Tomorrow Volume 2 by the Beach Boys as I made my way through the aisles, grabbed what I needed, paid and left. The absolutely wonderful gem “Little Pad” from 1967’s SMILEY SMILE filled my ears, and for the first moment in a long time I felt pretty happy being in my own place while at the same time being surrounded by other humans.

This is the way that I will continue to exist in a world where more and more I feel like I don’t want to be a part of. These bluetooth headphones are my 2017 saviors. I hope yinz y’all find your own saviors too.

FYI: I liked The Last Jedi. I’ve seen it twice now and I think that despite one or two hiccups that it was an enjoyable film because the characters were all so great and WHO REALLY CARES it is just a film. 

 

Family, Fidelia Hall, Libraries, Life, Music, Titusville, PA, Video Games

2017 Year In Review

PAST YEARS: 20162015, 2014, 2013

First and foremost, love and happiness and positivity from all of us to you.

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The collective masses seemed to have had a miserable 2016 but for some reason I felt like I was spared. But oh wait! Quickly around the corner came 2017 and with it came what I imagine to be the baggage, pain, and confusion most everyone else had felt in 2016.

It was a long year. I doubted myself a lot I spent a lot of this year confused about my place in all of this. I looked around at the world, both what surrounds me in the community where I live and what surrounds me everywhere else, and I just felt so lost and tired. At the core of all of this what I realized was that I just don’t feel the connection I had felt to the world that I had felt before. All of this is OK. Things change, people grow, and learning is a big part of the process we all go through during our time here on earth. It was a long year full of some tough moments, but instead of letting it get me down too much I’ve decided to adopt the idea that 2017 was a year of learning and growth. These two things are never tidy. They’re messy but the end result is always positive. That’s how I’m heading into 2018: with the thought that I did some hard work in the previous year and that in the new year that work will pay off.

Now that all of that has been said, here’s some stuff I did and some stuff I enjoyed in 2017:

  • Spent as much of my time awake with the amazing Aero, Finn, and Haley.
  • Continued to work on rehabbing Fidelia Hall. The plan with the space is now this: we will be moving into the downstairs space in early 2018. That space has heat and is in the process of having some electrical work done as well as rehabbing the bathroom and kitchen. The upstairs space (the chapel) will be getting a heating system installed starting on December 26 2017. Once we move over to that space, we will figure out what to do with the house. We envisioned Fidelia Hall as a community space, but have refocused and decided that it’s now more of a space for our family and our closest friends.
  • I recorded and released two albums: Either Way I’m Fine and Prozac Is The Dam & I Am The Dynamite
  • I finished my second full year as a library director. I’ve been doing this for 30 months now. I really enjoy it.
  • I listened to a lot of music and I wish I could keep better track of it, but Apple Music hasn’t done any kind of year in review recap like Spotify did this year. I hope they do that soon. I do know that as my father and I worked on Fidelia Hall we really enjoyed listening to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 Countdown 1970’s edition every Saturday.
  • My most played video game was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It was also my favorite game this year, with Super Mario Odyssey coming in at a close second. I played a lot more Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp than I expected to play. And I finally got into Picross…The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Picross was the one that did it for me.

Love to you and all of those that you care about this holiday season from me!