Family, Life, Music, Three Things

THREE THINGS 2017.4

GHOST by AERO, MOVIE by FINN

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Aero Read Hoenke, age 5, made this ghost. I think it is the best ghost I have ever seen in my life. I will at some point get it tattooed on my body. I want this ghost on a t-shirt. This thing is awesome.

Finnian Kyeong Hoenke, age 8, made this movie. He took some LEGO animation classes this summer and since then has been very interested in learning how to make films and how to keep on doing it better than before. He’s eight and I can’t wait to see what growing up and learning does to his films.

I share this stuff of course because I’m a proud father but also at the same time to stress just how important it is for us in the world to do our part to raise creative kids and help creativity flourish in the world. I think a creative world is a good world, and the more people out there that can be creative the better off we can all be. This all kind of ties into my next thing….

WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON THESE DAYS?

I have been asking myself this question recently: “what’s wrong with the world these days?” and I know that I’m not alone in asking that, both in the present and with those that have come before. You see I think we’re at this massive turning point in humanity where all of the things that came before us are just not working anymore. Our societies, our norms, our beliefs, our values, the way we interact….all of those things are changing. And change is scary most times, but when these core things are changing it is really scary!

I don’t know what the answer is nor do I want to be a person who thinks they might have the answer anymore. I think those days are behind me. What I do know is this: I’m going to live my life and do the best job that I can do. I am going to surround myself first and foremost with my family. I have friends and I will continue to have friends. I am just going to exist in my own little world, do my own little things, and try to find the ultimate joy in just that. I don’t want to change the world anymore. I don’t even want to change libraries anymore. I just want to be. I think I’ve earned that, right?

STEELY DAN

Walter Becker’s recent passing got me on a Steely Dan kick. I know they’ve been mocked over the years as being too smooth or something like that. At their core, they were great musicians who wrote some great songs. I have fond memories of listening to their A DECADE OF STEELY DAN album in my father’s Chevette back in the 80’s.

All in all, music is what we make of it. Some people hate certain music. It certainly seems to be the cool thing to do these days to mock certain bands and certain styles of music. I know I’ve been guilty of it in the past. From this point on, count me out on that. I don’t care what you listen to. I know what I will listen to and I know that I will enjoy that music.

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Family, Fidelia Hall, Life, Titusville, PA

A Series of Surprises

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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: http://earcandy_mag.tripod.com/rrcase-2.htm)


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.

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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 https://fideliahall.com

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

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

Food Stamps, the Feeling of Failure, Student Loans, and Life as a Library

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Last week, Haley and I applied for food stamps. Our family, which has been going on strong for 11 years and now includes 2 awesome kids, Haley’s mom, our dog Sonic, 3 chickens, and 2 rabbits, have hit a period in our journey where we couldn’t do it without help anymore.

I know that there’s a reason I pay taxes. They are there to help….my family and I, others in need, and more. This is one of those situations where we needed help. I understand this very well. I am all for taxes that help out others in my community. We are all in this together and together we can do amazing things. At the same time there’s a stigma that comes from applying for and using food stamps: that somehow you’ve failed, you’re lazy, or you’re just downright an average human being. I try to have a healthy mind and outlook on everything, but I’ve gotta admit that I’ve fallen into this pit recently. I’m a 36 year old human being, I’ve got a wonderful job which I’m pretty good at, an amazing and happy family, and I’ve done some other things that I’m also really proud of. But here I am at this point where I feel like a failure just because I need some help. It shouldn’t be this way.

We’ve used the support of food stamps before. When Haley and I first got married, we were finishing up college. We both had part time jobs in addition to our full time school workload. The food stamps helped out a lot. Back then, the feeling of being a complete failure because you’re on food stamps wasn’t as big as it is now. Having a family and needing food stamps feels like you’ve hit the bottom. I think about this feeling that I’m having and then I think about all of the others out there who are on food stamps, especially those with families just like mine. What happens when you have all of those people out there in the same situation? You have millions of people out there feeling that they’ve lost all hope, that they’re somehow pathetic, and that they’ve failed. You have millions of people who feel like shit just for wanting to make sure their family doesn’t go hungry. When you have that many people feeling bad in the country, those bad vibes add up. It can’t be proved, but I really think the general malaise surrounding things in our country is somehow related to feelings like this.

On our end, I know that student loan debt is crippling. We’re both on programs that give us flexibility with our payments (income based repayment). While these do help, it’s still tough to have around $100K of debt total hanging over your head just because you went to college, got an education, and pursued a career in something you felt could make a difference in the world. I also understand the argument “well, you went into college knowing full well what would happen.” I’ve heard this many times before. I can see it from two sides: of course I knew (something) about how I’d be in debt once I left college. When I went, they told us about it. Did they tell us the specifics? Sort of kind of maybe not. I started college in 1998 and at that time it was just “oh yeah, you’ll have some debt but it’ll be OK because you’ll be a college graduate.” Most of us became the first great generation of student loan debt holders. And we’re still here! * Can America Afford This Approach to Solving Student Loan Debt? (it’s behind a paywall, but it is a great read) by Haley Sweetland Edwards is a great read that sums up the collective “wow, so much student loan debt”weight of a generation.

The amount of money we spend on student loan debt per month could help us in a lot of ways (FYI: it is around $337/month). First up: it could help with the grocery bills, thus giving us enough money to not go down the food stamp route. Second: it could help with the startup of Fidelia Hall. Have you ever tried starting up a business or a non-profit? Maybe I’m really stupid, but it’s really difficult and confusing…and it costs a lot. Just this week, our Fictitious Name Registration cost us $70 to file an application, $41 to advertise the application in our local newspaper, and $75 to advertise the application in a legal journey. That’s $186, and we’d still have $151 to spend this month on something else (groceries! Fidelia Hall repairs and infrastructure!) What am I trying to get towards? The debt we’re saddling people with for school, health care, and more are crippling us. They’re crippling us mentally. They make us not want to get out of bed. They make us want to sit around and do nothing when what we really want to do is something, because I believe that all human beings (no matter which political side they are on) just want to get things done for their communities. They’re also crippling our ability to move forward and do better things for our communities. You can’t start up a business/non-profit when you don’t have time or money.**

I better wrap this up. We just hit 1,000 words.

I’m not asking for a raise. I’m not asking for donations. I’m not even asking for an “oh man I feel you.” I just wanted to get this out there so that if you’re in a situation similar to this that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We’re here. We’re successful. We’re pretty happy. We’re in debt and we’re also on food stamps.

*On a side note, I remember credit card companies and banks lining up at the dining halls doing everything they can (“here! have a free beach ball for taking our credit card!”) to get students signed up for their first horrible credit card. They succeeded with me and so many other of my friends.

**Go ahead and leave a comment telling me to suck it up and “pull myself up by the bootstraps just like an American would. I’ve been trying to do this for years. This is just what my Dad said and continues to say. But there’s more to it than “sucking it up” or “taking it like a man” or “pulling up your bootstraps”. There has to be some give and take.

 

Life, Misc., Things

WAKE UP THINK POSITIVE LOVE

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Wow, I am having a lot of strong feelings about things lately.

Be it in libraries, government, politics, or our day to day lives, there is a great number of things changing all around us. The way we think, the way we speak, and the way we act are radically different today than they were just a few years ago. I know it can be argued that we change a little bit every single day, but wow, these past few years have been full of radical change.

I see people posting memes on social media networks that talk about how different they perceive the world to be today than it was when they were young. I see folks arguing that a snow day back “when they were kids” was “when we had 17 foot of snow we’d just have a delay” and how “kids have it so easy these days, they cancel school when they have 1 inch of snow.” I see folks posting a lot about politics and how this person or that person said this or did that and how everything is going to be horrible. The world feels as if it is building up to some kind of explosion.

Our 24/7/365 news cycle coupled with social media that gives everyone their own platform to broadcast from has all made us hyper aware of everything going on at the world. It makes slightest blip in the radar newsworthy. We have to fill the time up with something to talk about. We have to be involved in something. It gives us a reason to exist these days!

Man, I don’t know where I am going with all of this, but I do know that I have a lot of stuff floating around in this brain and in this heart of mine.

WAKE UP and realize that the world is indeed different and that no matter what it’s all gonna be OK. THINK POSITIVE from the moment you wake up till the moment you go to bed and everything that may trouble you will seem small. LOVE each other and be respectful.

I wanna understand this world and what’s in it. I wanna make sure that we’re all together in this thing. I wanna stop wondering and thinking that all of this worry and confusion about the changing world is generational. It isn’t! It’s people! Some folks have the power to keep up with the world and some folks don’t wanna face the change. You’ve gotta face the changes head on and realize that no matter what you ain’t gonna make the world undo all of the changes!

Wow my brain is on overdrive these days.

Books, Libraries, Library Director, Life, Management, Titusville, PA

Bhujangasana (for libraries)

I should do more yoga. It makes me happy. My brain feels less full, my body feels great, and it gives me time away from the hectic pace of day to day life so that I can be inside of myself for a moment or two. Bhujangasana (aka the cobra pose) is one of those yoga poses that I think about a lot. I love how this pose makes me feel. It enables me to breathe a lot easier and I feel as if a lot of the baggage in my head and in my heart are able to be let go.

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Bhujangasana in library form, February 2016

Before I accepted my current job at the Benson Memorial Library, my family and I made a trip to check things out one Saturday in April. It was a long trip from Chattanooga TN but it was worth it. It helped me know that those feelings of “yes, I want to take this step in my journey” were actually real.  Upon my arrival, I knew that if I was to accept the position of Executive Director my first task would be to embark upon the task of collection maintenance aka weeding. I don’t like to call it weeding cause that just sounds weird.

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June 2015

The first thing that I noticed when I dove into the collection maintenance project at Benson Memorial Library was just how big and wonderful the collection was. This was a library that had a long and beautiful history. I studied that history, learned about the town, and did my best to wrap my mind around how I could preserve everything that had come before me while at the same time thinking about how to make the library a place that existed long into the future. I thought about this for weeks before actually starting up the physical process. I looked really closely at circulation statistics over the past five years. In those numbers I saw stories and understood how this collection had come to be. It sounds weird, but I had to sort of become best friends with the collection and the circulation numbers. I had to absorb them and in a way they had to possess me and tell me where to go. They did, and shortly after that I began collection maintenance on our nonfiction collection.

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The process was long, tiring, and sometimes extremely difficult. It is often said that the hardest and most rewarding part of working in a public library is working with the public itself. This is very true. I love it but sometimes I feel the need to crawl into a hole and hide away. Collection maintenance in public is a tough thing. There will be questions and comments when the shelves look empty or someone’s favorite section has moved slightly to the left or right. I kept reminding myself to breathe and take this one step at a time. Some days it was easier to breathe than other days. The best advice I can give you is to keep your eyes on the prize. You’ll get there.

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Katoomba NSW Australia

In November 2015 I took a trip to New Zealand and Australia and saw that they too were practicing collection maintenance and giving their collections a chance to breathe. Seeing this in action at another library gave me inspiration and the determination to finish what I had started. As a guest at the Katoomba Library I was able to experience the benefits of having a collection that breathes firsthand. I found myself touching the shelves, thumbing through the collection, and being generally interested in what this library had to offer on its shelves. This was the goal at the Benson Memorial Library; to have a collection where a community member could get lost in the stacks, thumbing their way through a collection that could possibly change their life.

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Expansion of ideas. New stuff. 

I also saw our collection maintenance project as a chance to bring new materials and ideas into the community. Growth and discovery of new things is a healthy part of human life. The public library is there to help the community grow. I am excited to fill our shelves up with new materials and ideas that help Titusville PA grow as a community. The new materials also give us the chance to start up a natural cycle in the collection maintenance project: we analyse our collection, we remove materials that are no longer circulating, and we add new materials that the community will use in the present day. The library becomes extremely relevant to the community in the moment, thus ensuring a healthy future for the organization.

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-fin- (sort of)

In order to thrive long into the future, some aspects of the past have to change. Change is one of the hardest things that we as human beings experience. I think about change constantly and I still have trouble dealing with it. This is OK.

What are my parting words to you? Trust in the idea, trust in the process, trust the library staff, and trust in the future. There are no hidden agendas, no secret messages, and no hard feelings. Work is work and the best work is done with a positive mind, a good heart, and with the community in mind first and foremost. This is why I do the things I do in the public library and I hope you too can read this and adopt that approach.

Open up your heart and breathe. 

Libraries, Life, Things

THE THING THAT HOLDS US BACK

If you are feeling lazy today, I’ll sum up everything I will get to right now. The thing that holds us back is our general uneasiness and inability to deal with changes.

We’re all guilty of this. I know I am. I know you are. It’s not something that we can fully get rid of. We are after all blessed and cursed with all of the things that come with being a human being. You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have…you get it and now you can’t stop thinking about Lisa Whelchel.

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Image by Shawn Carpenter via CC License (#1) see below for link

In my library work, I have seen everything when it comes to our general uneasiness and inability to deal with change. It is one of the biggest problems facing the public library at this point in time. For some reason, librarians are really, really scared about things if they’re a bit different. I’ve seen this terror manifest itself in many ways.

The first approach I have seen is where libraries and communities are ground to a halt out of a fear of change. “We’ve always done it this way” and “well, we’re unique in that we don’t have to do what others do” is their rallying cry. They rely on what is familiar to keep them afloat, and floating is all that they’re doing. They are at their level of ease that helps them get through their day to day. They don’t want anything to deviate from the ritual because that deviation makes things a bit uncomfortable. The library and the community suffer the most from this approach. The library becomes a relic of the past, something that occupies the present moment in space and time but feels like it is from 50 years ago. When the library becomes a relic of the past, the community reacts and sees themselves as living in the past as well. It’s a cycle that becomes way too easy to get caught up in. We forget about the present and the future just because we wanna feel good, and we’ve gotta think about the present and the future if we wanna continue to live.

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Image by tracyshaun via CC License (#2) see below for link

The next approach is one where we recognize the importance of change and we do one of two things: we either talk about change so much that our faces melt off or we overcompensate and change the hell out of everything so much that we piss off everyone around us.

I’ll talk (briefly) about how libraries talk about change so much that our faces melt off. Our professional publications, conferences, and tweetotumblrblogosphere have rallied around change as the go-to theme and topic. Change sells! It must sell so much because I feel like we’ve spent pretty much all of our library energy  talking about it for the past 5 years.

The “change it all change it now change it fast and change it hard” approach is also there. While I’m more of a fan of this approach than anything else, I also must recognize that it too has some big downsides. As I mentioned before, a large amount of the population has a general uneasiness and inability to deal with changes. When you make the changes that you want to make in that “change it all change it now change it fast and change it hard” approach you are basically putting a stick of dynamite in those people and waiting for them to explode. After time, they’re gonna get to the end of their rope and explode, thus setting up a toxic work environment that will have to be fixed.

So what’s the solution? Doing nothing or doing everything both have massive drawbacks. Do I have the answer? I don’t. I think balance has something to do with it all but I am having trouble putting it into words. Maybe patience is another word that I’ll toss out there. Anywho, I’d love to solve this problem. I don’t think we will ever fully solve it because we are human beings and we’re generally flawed, but in the long run our general uneasiness and inability to deal with changes is something we’ve gotta at least be mindful about.

Image #1 https://www.flickr.com/photos/spcbrass
Image #2 https://www.flickr.com/photos/tracyshaun

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Libraries, Life, Misc., Social Media, Things

I CARE/I DON’T CARE

I hold my hand over my heart when a big change happens at my library. I want to protect myself from the inevitable onslaught of “why would you do such a thing?” I take things to heart because my motives and ideas come from a very pure place. I assure you that I’m not evil, nor this is some kind of coup d’ etat. My motives and ideas come from a very pure place: the reason for change is because the change helps the library (and the community) move forward and remain relevant in our heads and in our hearts.

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In the middle of a giant project which brings about great change, I may lash out and say that “I HATE EVERYTHING” and that “I DON’T BELIEVE IN THE PUBLIC LIBRARY”. I say I don’t care but I do care. I’m a human being. My emotions fluctuate wildly from day to day. As I write this post I am up and feeling well! By 2pm, however, my mood may change to something bleak. And then 5pm may hit and it may go back the other way. We are all human beings (I think!) and we all fluctuate. One of our new jobs in this world full of social media and 24 hour news cycles should be to not point out every single one of each others missteps or snafus. We all make mistakes. We shouldn’t crucify _______ (insert person of the moment) for something that they may have said back in 1985. We should go to the person in the moment and talk to them and accept them for who they are at this moment. We have our moments. Those moments pass. We should focus on the present and bring joy into that moment.

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Mr. Bowie we really miss you.

The thing that I’m learning to do is to cope with everything in the moment and do it much better than I have in the past. This is easier said than done but if I am mindful throughout the process I’ll get better at it. Growing older helps me with this process. As I age, my body and my mind slow down a bit and this helps prevent overreaction. It allows the present moment to fully exist in time.