Family, Fidelia Hall, Life, Titusville, PA

Fidelia Hall (Spring 2018 Update)

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.

We still have some stuff to do, but as you can read we are nearing an almost finish line. At the moment, we have some money set aside to get ahead on these projects. If you would like to make a donation that will go towards helping us, you can do so here: paypal.me/justinwilliamhoenke. I don’t expect anything, but if you feel like helping I can promise you that your help will go a long way in helping us get ahead to make the Fidelia Hall space something that we can not only live in but also use to give back to our community.

Screenshot

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:

Curious about our gardens? You can see their growth and evolution here.

Screenshot.png

Thank you for your kindness, your love, and your support through the years.

Advertisements
Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Titusville, PA

“May 31, 1944,” by Isabella Leitner and illustrated by Gus Leiber at the Benson Memorial Library, May 2018

 

IMG_0919.jpg

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.”

Gus Leiber

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.

Leitner Leiber Display

Read more about The Leiber Museum here

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

Never Stop Looking Up

Screenshot-1

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.

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.

 

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

Change The World With Positivity

Screenshot.png

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, Fidelia Hall, Life, Music, Titusville, PA

Small Town by Abigail Foster’s Photosynthesis Machine

I was going to originally release this album on May 2, 2018, but here I am to tell you that the album is out today, Tuesday April 17, 2018. I hope you get a chance to listen to the album and enjoy it. Thank you for your continued support.

I wrote a lot of this album in November/December 2017 when it was cold, grey, two ceilings of ours started collapsing in the house, pipes were freezing on a daily basis, and it was just really cold out. As I recorded the album, two fires swept through our town destroying a good section of a town already in decline and all that was in the news were stories of small town squabbles and little bits of politics that had the potential to seriously affect people’s lives. The album wasn’t born in the greatest of times, but I think that’s OK. It stands as a document for a moment in time that happened, and that’s what all albums are…they’re a snapshot of a moment.

If you’re a librarian and you’re reading this, consider this album to be the aural equivalent of my A New Career In A New Town posts. As I was writing those posts, I was writing these songs. The second half of the SMALL TOWN album is that journey towards a possible new career in a new town.

If you’d like to listen to the album, use the music player embedded in this post or visit abigailfostersphotosynthesismachine.bandcamp.com. The album is free to stream from this website. If you’d like to purchase an MP3 copy of the album, you can do so for $7 through the Abigail Foster’s Photosynthesis Bandcamp page. If I ever sell any copies of my music, I just then take that money and buy more music stuff to record more songs.

For more information, please visit Abigail Foster’s Photosynthesis Machine on Facebook

Thank you for your continued support.

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