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.

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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.

 

 

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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, Life, Titusville, PA

Goodbye Muted World: Seven Years Ago

About seven years ago I was told the truth about how someone close to me had made their money in the world. Before that, I was under the impression that it was through years of hard work and dedication to their craft. It made sense to me for such a long time. Since I was a child I was told that hard work and dedication would pay off. I believed this because that's what you do as a child: you tend to believe what the adults in your life tell you.

Once I learned the truth about how someone close to me earned their way ahead in life, everything changed. I had long wondered why my hard work and dedication to my job hadn't paid off yet. I was still struggling to get groceries. I couldn't afford to buy a proper home for my growing family. I was at the point where things should have been changing, but everything remained the same. My outlook on modern life changed. Gone was the hope that all of this work in libraries would "pay off". Now listen, I always knew I wasn't gonna get rich being a librarian. I never really wanted to get rich. I just wanted to be able to exist. But after this it donned on me that the ability to exist wasn't gonna happen.

In the world we've created, there's always this extra step that people gotta take to make it. You've gotta give up part of your soul, lose your innocence, align yourself with someone who has money, or dabble in things that get you ahead. I decided I wasn't gonna do any of that and here I am now.

I wouldn't change a thing about the life I surround myself with. As a family we're top notch. We've got a connection, we've got a unique life, and we've got love. None of that is worth losing just to get ahead in the world.

At the same time, I'm recognizing in a post anti depressant world that there are hurdles and bumps along the way. Tonight was a big one that can't get out of my head. After visiting a friend this evening we walked home and I had to explain to Finn (age 8) why we couldn't stop along the way to have a drink in a local restaurant. "We don't have any money right now" is something that's really hard to say to your kid. To Finn, it's not just a quick 20 minute stop at a restaurant to have a soda. For him it's an experience and a moment in his childhood. And I couldn't give that to him. I was, and still am at this moment, almost completely devastated over the fact that I couldn't have a $2 soda with my family.

After talking a bit more Finn said, "I wish we were so rich we could get a mansion and not live in this old house". I explained to him that it wasn't that simple, but I couldn't elaborate much more because I was completely spent mentally. I spent the rest of the night partially mute because anything I said came out grumpy and frustrated, further fueling my present state of sadness.

Learning how that someone close to me had made their money in the world did two things for me:

  1. It showed me the path I did not want to take because I did not want to lose all that was good and pure in the world.
  2. It showed me how fake the world that we've constructed around us really is. If you wanna be a part of this world, you've gotta lie and cheat the system.

I know I chose the right path, but goddamnit sometimes I just wish I could get that soda with my family.

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

WEEK OF MUSIC: “Either Way I’m Fine”

It makes me so very happy to be able to put this new album out into the world.

All of the albums that I have shared this week were written and recorded between 2004 and 2009. Once Haley and I started growing our family I just kind of stopped. It wasn’t one of those big planned out things…it just happened that way. I still played a lot of acoustic guitar around the house and there was always music happening, but it just wasn’t anything that got recorded and released. I had about 8 years to sit with this music and after all those years it got me thinking….maybe I should try to record another album?

I’ve refocused myself around the name ABIGAIL FOSTER’S PHOTOSYNTHESIS MACHINE. Who is Abigail Foster? What’s a Photosynthesis Machine? I don’t know, but I like how it all sounds together!  With all of this nicely put together and a name in place, I gathered what I had, put it all back together as ABIGAIL FOSTER’S PHOTOSYNTHESIS MACHINE, and this week I’ve released all of that music back out into the world.

And today is the last day for that music, but with this final day comes something neato: a completely new album titled EITHER WAY I’M FINE.

This album is the sound of settling into life. It is the sound of a human being and his family. It is the sound of Fidelia Hall. It is a glimpse into the years between 2009-2016 and everything in between. It encompasses a lot of chapters and ideas: Gemini. Happiness. Depression. Extremes. Feelings. Muted. Thoughts. Actions. Wind chimes. Chickens. Family. Rabbits. Boys. Old churches. Moving. Growth. Leadership. Failing. Love. Being. Community. Understanding. Chaos. Mother. Father. Brother. Work. Building. Patience. Conspiracies. EITHER WAY I’M FINE.

You have a few options with how you can listen to and download these albums:

  1. You can purchase the albums at the Abigail Foster’s Photosynthesis Machine website. The albums are $7 each and any money made from the purchase of these albums goes into one of two things: Arbacarba Records, which will invest the money in making these albums available on streaming platforms (Spotify, Apple Music, etc) or Fidelia Hall, which will help with the repairs and restoration of this 144 year old community center. Once purchased, you can download the albums in a variety of formats (MP3, FLAC, and more) or stream them via the free Bandcamp app (iTunes, Android)
  2. You can stream the albums for free at the Abigail Foster’s Photosynthesis Machine website.
  3. If you are a library (public, academic, special) and you wish to add any of the Abigail Foster’s Photosynthesis Machine albums to your digital collection, you may do so by contacting me at justinthelibrarian at gmail dot com and I will gladly share these albums with you as MP3 or WAV formats. Once you have these files, your library will be able to provide your library card patrons with these albums for free by adding them to your library digital music collection at no cost to you.

I hope you enjoy this album!

 

 

Family, Life

My Great Grandparents

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Up until a few days ago I had never seen a photo of my great grandparents. I didn’t think I’d ever see a photo of them cause, well if I haven’t seen one so far in my 36.5 years I doubted I’d come across one now. I don’t know much else about it (date? their names?) but here they are on their wedding day. I’ll dig more into this as time goes on, but for now a few things stand out to me:

I see A LOT of my mom in my great grandma. It is like they are carbon copies of each other. Here are a few photos of her over the years that stand out to me…I see the resemblance in their eyes:

I also see a lot of my son Finn in my Mom, so it is very interesting to be able to connect these threads FIVE generations back now. Wow.

It is amazing to think about where we came from, and it is even more amazing to see this in a photograph. All of this couldn’t have come at a more interesting time for me, with the recent news being dominated by my home country’s immigration ban. Because of that this photo isn’t just a photo of my relatives to me. It is a reminder to me that we all come from somewhere. It makes me see how a positive and welcoming approach is what is best for our world. We should welcome others with open arms, give them a chance, and who knows…some amazing things may happen.

Family, Libraries, Life, Video Games

Play Video Games With Your Family

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My son Finn turned 8 on January 17 and one of his gifts was his very own copy of Animal Crossing: New Leaf. My wife Haley and I have been playing the game for over three years and haven’t stopped enjoying it. In those three years, Finn has created his own character in each of our towns and dabbled in the game here and there. As he got older and started learning how to read, one of the things we told him was that he could get his own copy of the game. His eighth birthday seemed like the perfect time to get him his own copy: he’s a pretty great reader, he’s got his own Nintendo 2DS, and it just felt right. We snagged him a copy of the new Animal Crossing: New Leaf Welcome Amiibo game and last night dove into starting up a new town for Finn.

He decided to call his town “Finntopia” and that his in game character would be known as Finnix because “I just like the letter X.” We cozied up on the couch as a family (minus his younger brother Aero, as he went to bed and this was a special Mom/Dad/Finn night) and helped him through the setup process of getting into his own town, finding where to put his house, and more.

Once  all of the setup was complete, Finn opened his town gates and invited Haley and I into his town. It was like the “Mom and Dad, I’d like to invite you to my first apartment/home” moment, but this time it was when he was 8 and it was in Animal Crossing. He showed us around his town, pointed out that he had some pear trees, and introduced us to some of his villagers. We then headed back to the train station but before we left did the parent thing and left him with some gifts and money to help him start his new life in Finntopia.

After playing for about an hour, it was 10pm and we told Finn we were getting tired. He said he was getting tired too. But he had a glow on his face that I will never forget: he finally got his own Animal Crossing town and he also got to spend some time with his parents playing video games. It was a great night where we all got a chance to enjoy something fun, learn something together, and best yet….hang out as a family.

Video games can be awesome family and community building tools!

I’ve written about how fun, learning, and community can happen during gaming in the past. You can read all of those here or head on over to Medium and read this collection on Nintendo games.

Family, Fidelia Hall, Libraries, Life, Music, Technology, Three Things

THREE THINGS 2016.9

THANK YOU TECHNOLOGY

Brief shout out to computers, the internet, and technology in general. It’s easy to be negative about technology and computers, especially since they are a bit confusing and sometimes don’t work properly. But in the long run, wow, technology helps us out quite a bit. A large portion of my summer has been spent working on budgets, grants, and building maintenance and without technology it would have been much more difficult. Google Drive allows me to keep everything I write related to grants and budgeting in one place and gives all of my proposals and work a continuity that is much needed. It is also really helpful to communicate project updates and changes with my board and the community via email and social media. Conversation and communication are key!

KISS

Thank you to KISS for all of their music and their makeup that my son Aero seems to love oh so much. Over the weekend he wanted to dress up as Paul Stanley aka Starchild from the 80’s version of KISS. That’s the version of him you’re seeing in this video. He was amazed that KISS could take off their makeup. Even neater is that he think that their song “Lick It Up” is actually titled “Pick It Up” and is about picking up toys.

SUMMERTIME

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I hope everyone reading this is enjoying their summer. We’ve been spending a lot of time with our rabbits and chickens and also watering our plants and gardens. Just last week we got to eat our first crop of the season, radishes. It feels great to live in what basically amounts to our own little semi urban farm. It fits our family.