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.


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!

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

Prozac Is The Dam & I Am The Dynamite

It feels really good to create music and then release it out into the world. This collection of ten songs was especially great to create and now release out into the world. I didn’t expect this album to happen. I had already released an album (EITHER WAY I’M FINE) and remixed/remastered my entire catalog earlier in the year. So when these songs started flowing out of me I captured them as quickly as I could. In just a few months time, I had a full album on my hand and I just thought why not put it out into the world? 

The album came together during a weird period in my life. In June 2017 I began weaning myself off of Prozac. It was in the planning long time in advance. My thought was to do this and nothing else in the summer. However just about a month after I began my Prozac journey these songs started happening. I felt a creative fire inside of me that I had not felt in years. The music and the words came out so easily and everything just felt so right. I couldn’t set this stuff aside….I had to record it, complete it, and release it. So here it is…ten songs written and recorded in the middle of a drug withdrawal. I hope that people out there will enjoy this album and those that are going through the side effects of anti-depressant withdrawal can really get something out of it.

The original announcement

Fidelia Hall, Libraries, Library Director, Life, Misc., Three Things, Titusville, PA



As I wrap my head around what the 2018 budget looks like at the Benson Memorial Library, I am faced with yet another year of bracing for flat funding. It is slightly depressing to be in a state of mind where receiving word of flat funding is the desired outcome over having your funding cut. It has been this way for many institutions, and it has especially been this way for libraries over the past 5-10 years.

I am thankful for what we receive, as it allows us to continue our service to the community. As a library director, it is my goal to ensure that the community members who use the library do not see the negative effects of flat funding. I want them to have a positive and wonderful library experience, and I will do my best to achieve that with flat funding over a large period of time. However there’s also the other side of me that realizes that I cannot do this forever. While our funding remains flat utility costs and  health care costs are on the rise. The need to give employees a fair wage that is in line with the current cost of living is also something I believe in very highly. At some point, there’s gonna be a line drawn where things need to change. For this upcoming year, we’ll adjust accordingly to the situation in front of us, but in addition to bracing for flat funding I am bracing for the moment where things need to change in order to continue.



This summer was not kind to the Hoenke family when it comes to the house we live in on the Fidelia Hall property. Plagued with all sorts of previous “half assed” repairs and renovations and issues that were just covered up (out of sight, out of mind), this summer was the time where the house told us that it was time to move out, fix things up properly, or if need be tear it all down. And that’s where we are right now.

Renovations to the old church in Fidelia Hall have ramped up. The downstairs space is coming along nicely: the tin ceiling is now very shiny and metallic, the new furnace and duct work have been installed, and an entrance-way and bathroom and updates to the kitchen are right around the corner.

All good ideas change over time, and the idea behind Fidelia Hall has changed quite a bit. For the moment, we will be moving into the downstairs of the old church building as soon as it is ready for us to live in it. With that move, we will then be able to gut the house and see what kind of shape it is in under all of the half assed repairs and out of sight out of mind renovations. At some point, we still hope to have Fidelia Hall as an arts and community center, but right now it is the time to focus on our family and get us to a place where we can live. Things change, things grow, and above everything else I have learned that first and foremost the wonderful family which surrounds me is the thing I need to take care of the most.


Despite how hard it has been recently with renovations, I must say that it sure is neat to be restoring something and coming across a gem like this: this staircase was original to the building and was hidden under a rotting wooden staircase. The stone and foundation are part of the original 1870’s construction of the hall.


The overarching theme to this post is the idea that there are so many humans out there who are trying to do something positive in the world yet are faced with quite a number of daunting tasks and obstacles in front of them. At the core, I believe that every human being has a desire to bring something positive to the world. However, with time that desire can be chipped away and eroded….and that is what I believe brings us to right now. We are living in a world where the desire to bring something positive to the world has been chipped out of most people. Flat/slashed funding, crumbling support networks, lack of resources, increasing costs with utilities, health care, school, basic necessities, and to top it off the ever increasing voice we all hear telling us to “buy more you’ll be happy” and what you have is a mix that has led to the current state in which we live. The pressure is there and the pressure can only reach a certain level before it bursts. What I’m thinking is that at least in my lifetime we will see that pressure burst. When it happens, things will be uncomfortable yet it will lead us to meaningful change. This is the way of the world: you have something, that something grows and changes, and when it reaches its point it bursts…and then you being to build things again.

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

Prozac Is The Dam & I Am The Dynamite


Six months after the release of the album Either Way I’m Fine”, the musical project known as Abigail Foster’s Photosynthesis Machine is back with another album titled “Prozac Is The Dam And I Am The Dynamite”. Quickly written and recorded in the Summer of 2017, this eight song album is a trip through Justin Hoenke’s three months of removing Prozac from his body and his adjustment to the world.

“After being on Prozac for eight years, I decided that I no longer wanted to live in a muted state. Everything felt stagnant. I could easily exist on Prozac, but I felt like since this was my one chance at life that I wanted to do it properly. I wanted to feel things, both the good and the bad, again”

The journey on “Prozac Is The Dam And I Am The Dynamite” is raw and honest. “These songs had to be written and recorded. They could not sit around. If I didn’t capture the songs in the moment, the things I was feeling and going through during this process would not be honest. I wanted the album to be honest. I felt like a confused mess for most of this album, and that came out in the songs. Prozac Is The Dam refers to the medicine holding back creativity and true feelings. I Am The Dynamite because I was the only thing that could change the course I was set on. I had to make a decision to sail away from the Prozac and onto different things. I had to steer my own ship towards what I thought was honest.”

Fans of raw, honest, and homemade pop rock will appreciate this album. The album zig zags through a number of sounds and ideas. “The first half of the album is rough. I would totally understand if someone listening to it just couldn’t make it can make it through the first five tracks. But if you can, I think it makes the second half of the album even better. You’ve gotta go through the shit to get to sunshine.”

Prozac Is The Dam And I Am The Dynamite will be available on October 24 2017 through Arbacarba Records. The album will sell for $7 through the Abigail Foster’s Photosynthesis Bandcamp page

This album was recorded inside and outside on the grounds of Fidelia Hall in Titusville, PA. All songs and music written, produced, and recorded by Justin Hoenke.


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.

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.



Family, Fidelia Hall, Life, Titusville, PA

Let It Grow


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.


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.

Family, Fidelia Hall, Life, Titusville, PA

A Series of Surprises


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:

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.


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

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