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.

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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.

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

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A New Career In A New Town, Libraries

A New Career In A New Town: Close The Curtain

 

For the first time in a few months I can say that I currently have ZERO resumes submitted to libraries for possible new jobs. Right now, I’m going to close the curtain on this part of my journey. Let’s get more into the reasons why.

My big goal this time around, one that I knew was going to be a long shot, was to attempt to secure a job in New Zealand. I tried for quite a few. Sometimes I heard nothing back from the library, other times I got the cookie cutter rejection letter, and twice I got personal messages that more or less summed up what I was thinking would happen with this search: you’re a great candidate, but our HR/organization just can’t hire internationally right now. A big part of me gets it…it is tough to immigrate a whole family to another county and also the financial and paperwork side of it is probably a huge task as well. So for now, I am setting the NZ dream aside. I have learned something in this process…..that things take patience and sometimes a bit of luck. I have to keep my heart and head open for a possibility and then leap on it. We’ll get where we need to go.

When I was looking for jobs in New Zealand, I couldn’t help but take a peek at what else was out there in the USA. I saw some good jobs scattered throughout the country. Our idea as a family was that if we were going to relocate in the USA we wanted to be in a place where we really wanted to live. For us, that meant looking at the middle of the country (Colorado, Utah) as well as New England and maybe who knows just maybe if it was the ideal job, California. Salary was also very important to us, as after almost 3 years of having a job that paid a lot lower than other roles in the state and having to rely on food stamps to make ends meet we wanted to get to a level where we were not struggling anymore. Being poor is difficult and a major stress on an individual and a family. It feels a lot like having an extended illness…you keep trying to get better, but no matter what the illness continues to eat away at you because the root issue isn’t being fixed. (FYI: I make $35,000/year as a Library Director, and the average in Pennsylvania for a library with a similar service population is around $42,000/year. I’ll get to that more a bit later).

There was one job that I applied to where I made it through two interviews. After the first interview I felt a little better about the job, but there was something off in my heart. The second interview went really well, but that lingering feeling was still there. It took me a day of serious thought to realize that, yup this path was not for me. I messaged the board, thanked them for the interviews and conversation, and moved on to the next step in my life.

To the jobs that I applied for who kept me updated at every step of their path: THANK YOU. As I said in an earlier post, good communication is key on both sides of the story. That communication minimizes the stress and anxiety on the job seeker, which allows them to give the employer a better interview and idea of the kind of person that they are.

To the jobs that I applied for who didn’t say anything or only offered cookie cutter responses: YOU HAVE SOME WORK TO DO. I think that we can all do better when it comes to giving feedback and open communication to the job seeker. (***)

To myself: STAY POSITIVE, CONTINUE TO BUILD AND UPDATE YOUR RESUME, AND DON’T GET TOO UPSET. Humans beings can’t help but feel  down or a little angry when things don’t work out. Haley tells me and our sons this all the time: it is OK to feel your feelings and in this case she is once again right. Overall, I feel pretty good where I am at despite this job hunt not ending up with the Hoenke family living and wandering around New Zealand.

So what is happening right now? Here are a few projects and ideas that are very exciting to me.

It is time to remedy the low salaries at my library. As I said above, being poor is difficult and a major stress on an individual and a family. My situation is where I did not think I would be at age 37 as a library director and a husband and father: educated, employed, qualified, and in the prime adult stage of my life but having to rely on food stamps and paycheck to paycheck to stay alive. I’ve dove into the PA State Library data from 2016 to look at salaries and see where we are when measured against others of similar sizes. I’ve already met once with some members of our finance committee to discuss this and once budget season comes up we can discuss this in more detail.

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Imagine all of these bushes gone and in their place lots of beautiful flowers, bees, and butterflies.

It is spring and pretty soon summer will be here. These months bring birds chirping in the air, vegetables and plants growing, bees in the borage, and so much other natural joy to the world. At the Benson Memorial Library, we are also planning a pollinator garden on the side of the library. It is going to be BEAUTIFUL.

As tough as it has been to restore and build Fidelia Hall, we will continue to make progress on all of our projects. Much like the garden project I mentioned above, I can see that our family future this summer being one where we work on and enjoy the gardens of Fidelia Hall as much as possible. We remain committed to transforming our land into a place that produces beautiful vegetables and flowers. We welcome bees, butterflies, birds, and all sorts of nature into our living space. This will be our 4th summer in our home and each year has brought many beautiful surprises as we’ve let it grow all around us. Eventually, we’ll get the money we need to finish up things in the hall. Right now, we need to get the funds to put in water lines and finish wiring the space for electricity. Good things come to those who wait.

Thank you to everyone who read this series. For now, this is the last piece in the A New Career In A New Town series, but if I ever look for another job in the future I’ll be sure to continue this series.

(***): Yeah, I know my words were harsh and if you read them you probably thought “why in the hell would I hire this guy?”. That’s OK. I’ve made my peace with the fact that anything that anyone says, especially on the internet, can and will be used against a person at some time in the future. All that I can say is that my words/thoughts/actions are always coming from an honest and pure place. I’m not trying to hurt anyone. I’m just trying to ruffle up some action in order to promote change. In 99% of every situation that has ever existed on Earth, this kind of behavior is looked down upon because human beings crave order and want to keep things the same. I think we have a lot to fix and in order to do so have to ruffle up some action. I’m just doing my little part in an area that I think could use some change. Thank you.

 

Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Life, Local History & Genealogy

The Things a Library Can Do For You: “Local woman tracks down biological family”

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Please visit the Titusville Herald website full this full story.

I’ve been sitting on this story for a few months now, but oh how I have wanted to shout it out from the rooftops. When we started our Local History & Genealogy project at the Benson Memorial Library, this is the kind of thing that I wanted us to do but I didn’t know if it would ever happen. Lo and behold, just a few months into our first big year-long push into these services and in through our doors comes Traci Moore, a community member looking to understand her roots. After some conversations with Benson Memorial Library Historian Jess Hilburn, the end result was that Traci found her biological family and got a chance to reconnect with them. Read the rest in the Titusville Herald piece that can be found here….it is a great, positive story that really makes your heart fill up with happiness.

We live in a time where we as librarians have the chance to take public libraries to the next level. We will still be the libraries that we’ve come to know and love, full of books, movies, and discovery, but we now have the chance to level up (to borrow an idea from video games). We are centers where our communities come together to meet, share, and explore life together. The public libraries we have inherited and now lead are the centers of our community. Lead them with a positive frame of mind, an open heart, and a willingness to be everything to your community. You are everything and inside of you is the love that the world needs. Understand that love and then put it out into the world. Positive change will occur on a mass level when we understand the love inside ourselves.

A New Career In A New Town, Libraries, Life

A New Career In A New Town: The Emotional Roller Coaster of a Job Seeker

If you, like me, are looking for a new job or are seeking a change in what you’re doing with your career, this post is for you. I want to get a bit into the weeds, talk about feelings, and overall connect with you on this post. Let’s swap war stories and be there for each other.

I’d say I’m happy with my current job 40-50% of the time. It ebbs and flows and some days feel much better than others. After a lot of thought, I’ve determined the root of why I’m feeling this way at my current job: my inspiration levels are at a very low point. I’m a person that craves working with others. My time in every other job up to this point (read all about those jobs at my very recently updated CV here!) found me surrounded by people who pushed, pulled, and nudged me to keep on growing and trying new things. Here at the Benson Memorial Library, I’m the boss and a lot of that work goes towards inspiring others. And I think I have done OK (these are the good things), but I’m definitely not perfect in any way. I feed off the energy that others (or in this case, one person) put off and that’s helped me in my three years here. But overall I search for more inspiration and the lack of it over a large period have time have left my reservoir all dried up.

Realizing where you are at in your professional career, the good and the bad things, can be emotionally exhausting. Any journey deep into your head and your heart will be this way. Added on top of that is the universal truth that change always moves at such slow pace and that new job you’re seeking may not be right around the corner. There will be more job postings you have to read. There will be more cover letters to write (heck, I need to write an entire post on the absurdity of cover letters). There will always be more tweaks needed for your CV.

What do you do when there’s so much waiting, a few rejections, and some applications that are never even acknowledged by the potential employer? You’ve got this energy sitting inside of you. There’s the initial thrill of putting together your application, then the lull as you wait, and sometimes the energy drain when you don’t get the job or just not hear back at all. It’s all so tough, and it’s all so much energy.

Personally I’ve found that surrounding myself with my family and being as creative as possible to be the way to not get down when the job hunt doesn’t go my way. Am I down because I may not have got that neat and unique job in the big city? That’s ok. Let’s all pile onto the couch and snuggle. Pajamas and pizza and a movie with the family. WHY NOT.

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I’m also hashtag blessed to have music as an outlet. Silly cover letters got me all anxious, tired, and worried? I will go over to my recording studio and work on a song or two. I may have struck out a few times on this recent job hunt, but damn have I been productive in writing, recording, and producing songs. I’ll have some new stuff to share with you soon, but for now enjoy this:

https://abigailfostersphotosynthesismachine.bandcamp.com/track/banshee

And finally, when I don’t get a job that I’ve applied for, I have this little mantra I keep in my head: “You missed out on so much. But luckily I still get to hang out with Justin. He’s a pretty good human being.” Just like Stuart Smalley…

Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Local History & Genealogy

A Neat Local History and Genealogy Story

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Every library out there has their specific “things” that they’re good at. Those things are the core of who you and and what you do, and no matter what path your library takes you should always have you focus on them. At the Benson Memorial Library in Titusville, PA, we’ve got three things: excellent small town library customer service, great and plentiful programs for youth, and a local history and genealogy focus. That focus on Local History and Genealogy is our big thing in 2018. Just this month we added free access to Ancestry.com Library Edition for (at least) the next two years at our library. In just 26 days, that free service has been used quite a bit, garnering 611 searches so far! Plus, our Historian Jess Hilburn has been running workshops to teach people about Ancestry and the different things you can find using it and those have been a tremendous success. It has been good to see people learn about their past at our library.

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This photo comes from one of those workshops and attached to it is one of my favorite library stories. Jess (on the right) was helping this library guest during one of our Intro to Ancestry.com Library Edition classes. After a basic introduction this library guest was able to find some really interesting information about her Grandmother. She already knew that her Grandmother remarried later in life, but when she found her Grandma in her high school yearbook she made a very interesting discovery….the man who shared the page with her Grandmother was in fact that man that her Grandmother ended up marrying late in life! That’s the neat photo you see on the screen behind them in the picture. Just imagine how neat that must be….a little interesting slice of history that was a preview of what was to come!

These types of things that happen in libraries are magical and the thing that warms my heart the most is that they’re happening every day in so many libraries all over the country! This may not be the big boost in budget you’ve been waiting for or the major construction project that your building needs, but these stories are the ones that matter the most. As I’ve said before, it is the little things in libraries that keep them humming along. When grouped together, the little things don’t seem so little anymore and in fact come together to form something big and possibly life changing for a person, a community, or a library.

Please continue to share your stories! More information on Local History and Genealogy at the Benson Memorial Library can be found here and here.

 

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. 

 

Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Library Director, Local History & Genealogy, Titusville, PA

Building a Digital Local History Collection Together

Here’s a new thing that we’re working on at the Benson Memorial Library that will be unveiled in early 2018. I can’t take credit for the idea…that idea grew out of the Chattanooga Public Library…but hey good ideas are good ideas and if they work for your community you might as well use them. The laptop was funded by a grant through a local university and the scanner was funded by a local foundation. On top of that, we bought a 4TB MyBook Duo external hard drive to store files.

The idea is simple: if you have tools, then make them available to the public. Teach them about the tools and how to use them. If the tools create a product, ask the community if your library can build a collection out of that product. That’s what we’re going to attempt to do with this Scanning Station…to build a collection of digital artifacts that pertain to Titusville History by doing the following:

  • Offering tools to scan photos and documents at a high quality to the community for free.
  • Teaching the community how to scan items and use this technology.
  • After using the Scanning Station, asking the patrons if they would like to contribute what they just scanned to a digital collection of items, photos, and more that focuses on Titusville history.

Our Scanning Statement/Policy can be found here. This is still a work in progress and will go before our board for approval in January 2018. Every patron that uses the Scanning Station will be required to complete this form. It will then be the responsibility of the Historian to keep track of this form and the files which were scanned.

In the end, we hope to empower people to learn more about scanning, how to preserve their history, and in turn contribute to a collection which will collect our community history. I hope this collection will benefit many people in our community for years to come.