Sunday, May 13, 2018

I believe in love at first sight because I've been loving my mother since I opened my eyes.

I was somewhat surprised to see a harpist at her door, but then I remembered that this service was part of Hospice care. As the woman pulled in this huge instrument, I glanced at my mom to see her reaction, but I couldn't tell. 
           "Does your mom like any special music?" she inquired.
            "Sam Smith?"--- I said the first person who came to my mind. ---"Rod Stewart?"
            "Oh!" the harpest exclaimed. "The last time I was here I played all hymns. I wish I 
              would have known."
        Just when I started to brace myself for"How Great Thou Art" (not that there's anything wrong with that hymn), I heard the first note of a song I know my mom would appreciate.....Sam's "Stay With Me," beautifully followed by "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?"

Have I told you? Yes, at least a million times, especially that past week. My mom's final concert in that rehab room was played the day before she went to Heaven on March 23, 2018.


How can I sum up the life of a person who has been my best friend my entire life? The person who was raised in a crowded house on Chestnut Street in Reading, a house filled with strong adult personalities, but nurtured by a grandmother's love (and Polish food). A person who married her high school sweetheart and never looked back. 

person who raised two children, mostly by herself, when that beloved young husband passed away at the age of 35. 

Sylvia Young Kane.

I was only 10 when my dad died, but that wasn't too young to learn some life lessons very quickly.

Lesson 1. It's OK to grieve and be sad. I certainly witnessed years of this from this heart-broken woman. 

Lesson 2. When something is at odds, don't just think about how bad the situation is---do something about it! And that, she did. At age 38, my mom decided to go to college, something she always wanted to do. She drove over to what was then Alvernia College (and by the way, getting her driver's license was something else she achieved as a young widow) and investigated what she needed to do to start the 1974  Fall Semester. 

When I think about that now, I realize how terrifying that must have been---approaching a campus filled with mostly 18 year olds and sitting in a classroom taking notes, studying, and thinking about her 2 young teens at home.....but something exceptional occurred, and I know now that God's Hands must have guided a unique group of older teens (and exceptional professors and one fantastic librarian) her way. She was embraced by a group of loving human beings who welcomed and encouraged her. They stayed together for four years and beyond. Life-long friendships were formed, many of whom were with us at her funeral offering kind words and loving memories.

When my brother Chris left for college, my mom and I became a team. I often preferred Saturdays at the movies with her than with my friends. We drove all over Berks County, shopped together, and basically just enjoyed each other's company. Leaving for Ursinus College was very very difficult, so I made it through the week and came home most weekends, even up to my senior year. I was fortunate that she loved my choice as a mate in my husband Brad....and how could she not when our marriage produced the new loves of her daughter and son, Emily and Alex.

Our team expanded, making all Fridays "Doodah Days" (Doodah coming from the impossible-to-say "Sylvia" that she wanted to have as her Grandmom name.) 

I will never forget the day when, as we pulled up to my mom's house, young baby Emily looked over, realized where we were, and broke into a huge smile--she knew the love and fun that was to come.  My kids had their own private rituals with their cooler-than-most grandmom  (Oh, the day when Emily had to share...) but I'll let them tell their own stories another time.

We took the kids everywhere, and it was with the kids that another life lesson was demonstrated: get out there and MOVE!!!!

My mom and I regularly walked around our Mt. Penn neighborhood, but the kids became part of this ritual as well. We joined a "Volksmarch" club, an organized, walking 5K that monthly took us through Berks, Lebanon, and Lancaster Counties. (Actually at the time Berks County did not have a group, so we became members of the Lebanon County "BALONEY STOMPERS"--I kid you not! ) Our original treks were pre-kids, but they didn't stop us---we just added strollers or backpacks, or we slowed our pace, since little legs took longer to walk 5Ks. You wonder why I am at the gym 6 days a week? My mom walked, swam and practiced yoga well into her 70's.

There was always a stack of books in my house growing up; naturally we developed a love of reading, which was passed on to my kids. Libray visits for me, trips to Barnes&Noble for my kids---all treats. My mom was an adjunct history professor at many colleges in the area, and it was a natural development to turn to the Albright Library to supplement teaching, and then work there full -time. 

At Albright my mom became somewhat of a foster mother for the International Students. They were drawn to her kindness, not to mention her hospitality! Many Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas celebrations were filled with "new" faces. I'm sure this affected Alex. In high school he befriended many International Students (we took Ma Lou to New York City for his first visit) and it opened his friend-base to a global proportion.

My mom was always young at heart. Growing up we had pictures of Robert Redford and Paul Newman on our refrigerator. Later it was Hugh Laurie ("House" fame) and Bradley Cooper. She even named her last car her BRADLEY Mini Cooper! 

Her generous spirit and social awareness were unparralled. She was a donor to both Central Catholic and Berks Catholic, as well as Albright and Alvernia. It wasn't until after her death I discovered her donations to Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders. She worked on The Names Project (for the AIDS Memorial Quilt), and volunteered at The Rainbow Home, a group home for AIDS patients, often taking Emily and Alex with her. 

The transition into retirement (at age 78!) was at first shaky. It's hard to lose one's sense of identity after so long. My mom was still so active; I hated to see her unsatisfied. It was them that the last 3 years of her life became a happy and self-fulfilled time. With the kind encouragement of The Berks High School Administration, my mom started to volunteer in our library. She handled each book, editing those that could stay or be donated, and was nearing the end of a task that placed all our library books into an on-line system for student borrowing.
Everyone in the building, the secretaries who greeted her each day, the staff (Kelly and Chad, thank-you :) colleagues, and even some students, grew to know and love my mom. How fun it was for me to hear her inquire about my friends, or tell me the history lesson she heard Coach Keeley give that day. (She really wanted to be his guest speaker!).

I was "free" Period 3 this year, the last year my mom volunteered. It was such a comfort to see her little grey head above the bookshelves as I walked in for my visit....but she's still the posters she purchased, the plant she brought in, the new books that were purchased which she shelved. 

My mom last worked in the library the week of February 19th, 2018. That was what our PTO claimed as Teacher Appreciation Week and she was included. We went down to the faculty lunch room decorated as an Italian restaurant, and she was so happy. She was eating (something that was unusual then, as her cancer, unknown to us at that time, had spread to her abdomen.) She was even doing a little dance, maybe flirting a little with a young math teacher. I'll never forget that day.

I have found the kind words of friends to be very comforting. 
One high school friend wrote, She made me feel better about myself whenever I was around her. The world is a better place because of your Mom and I am a better person because I knew her.

A colleague wrote, " The library looks beautiful....I am glad she became part of the BC Family." ...Another friend and colleague:"Sylvia was just that--beautiful! I love that I always knew of the immense love you had for your mom long before I met her."

And also, "To me she was a brilliant student, a valued colleague, and most importantly, a beloved friend."

What can we say about cancer? It was always a foreign entity, the "thing" that everyone didn't want to think about. How could it enter our lives? No one in our family had experienced happened to other people. But, it is real, and has affected many many lives. I now want to embrace each person whose families endured the pain of this disease....I'm sorry, I didn't know...

But what I do know is how my life was blessed with my mother, my companion, my mentor and friend. Today is my first Mother's Day without her on earth. My comfort comes in my faith, my belief that she is so crazy happy in Heaven (bumping elbows with Paul Newman?) and is "cheering us on"- me and Chris and Brad and Beth and Emily and Colin and Alex and Erika....and all of you who had the wonderful experience of knowing her.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom....Have I told you lately?----I love you.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A HUGE Hotel, restaurant responsibilities all in Nashville-
Meet John Campbell, Food & Beverage Manager at the Gaylord Opryland Resort
(let's all go for a visit!)

Unfortunately, my Teacher Treks did not take me to Nashville, but John took time out to detail his road to his current career in Tourism and Hospitality Management

CCHS Class of 2008

Temple University/Class of 2012/Tourism and Hospitality Management

What was your first career job after graduation?

My first position in hospitality was as a Food & Beverage Supervisor at the Renaissance Philadelphia Airport hotel. Prior to this I had zero food and beverage experience but thought this would be a great way to get my foot in the door. Little did I know that 5 years later I’d still be rocking it in the Food and Beverage department!

Did you work in another field before that?

Prior to the Renaissance I had held internships with the front office of the W Hotel Retreat and Spa in Vieques, Puerto Rico as well as in Sales and Marketing with the Philadelphia 76ers. Throughout college I held a position with Temple University Campus Recreation. Although none of these are directly related to food and beverage I gained valuable experience that has helped me along the way.

At the time of this writing I am not sure of your major, so I will ask if there were any specific classes applied to what you are doing now?

Temple’s School of Tourism and Hospitality Management is a very hands on program.  As a student you are required to participate in industry related events. A junior internship, senior internship and industry hours are all required for you to graduate.  Because a lot of my daily responsibilities are in the operation and can’t be taught in a classroom it was very important to get that industry experience throughout college.

On top of the internships I took classes in Business Law, Marketing, Sales, Accounting, etc. Working in hospitality it’s important to have well rounded business knowledge since many of the responsibilities cover all of these areas.

What is your current position?  Where are you located?

I am currently a Food and Beverage Manager at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee. It is a part of the Marriott family and is the largest non-casino hotel in the United States with 2,882 rooms. The hotel as a whole is a beast and is unlike anywhere I have ever worked before. We serve thousands of people every single day in our 19 food and beverage outlets.

What are your responsibilities?

I am responsible for managing 5 restaurants in the hotel. I specialize in our Quick Service outlets which include two coffee shops, a pizzeria, a burger restaurant and a dessert outlet. My responsibilities include leading and initiating all of the food and beverage operations, menu development and food preparation, analyzing financial reports for restaurant revenue and budgeting, and developing strategies to increase revenue and guest service satisfaction.

Every single day is different based on what types of conventions or groups we have in house.

Was it mandatory to move for this job or was moving something you were seeking?

Moving wasn’t necessarily something I was seeking but this wasn’t an offer that I could pass on. Prior to the Opryland I was working as a Food and Beverage Supervisor at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown which was a 1,408 room hotel. My previous Director had transferred to the Opryland and let me know about an opportunity to join their team. I couldn’t pass on the chance to work in one of the largest hotels in the world. A luxury of working for Marriott International is that I have the opportunity to work anywhere in the world.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is the opportunity to work with so many people. In my department we have employees from all over the world; Thailand, China, Nepal, Egypt, Uzbekistan, etc. Working with so many different people allows me to learn about other countries and cultures. It adds a dynamic to your management style and how you coach and train people.

Each year we bring in students from other countries to work with us for 4-12 months at a time. We’ve had students from the Philippines, Bulgaria, Thailand, South Africa, India and Malaysia. During their time with us we will host cultural events to show them the fun and exciting aspects of the United States and also give them a chance to showcase different parts of their culture. This year we celebrated the Chinese New Year, threw a 4th of July barbeque and celebrated India’s Independence Day. These students take a big risk coming to a foreign country to learn so it is very rewarding to make them feel at home while they’re here.

What are some challenges?

The biggest challenges come from the sheer amount of volume our hotel sees. We will have times where there are over 15,000 people in the hotel at one time and we’ll have to feed all of them. When we know we’ll be having a large convention of that size we’ll be proactive and plan ahead by adjusting operating hours of the restaurants or host pop up restaurants to give additional options to the guests. Lots of planning goes into this to ensure that we’re giving our customers the best experience possible.

And some perks?

Flexibility is a huge perk. Working with Marriott gives you the opportunity to work anywhere in the world. With this job you can work in all different sized hotels, different departments and different cities without leaving the company.

The Opryland does tons of really cool events too. During the holidays we have A Country Christmas. There are so many Christmas lights that they begin decorating in August. We have an event center that is turned into an ice exhibit. Chinese artisans are flown in to carve two million pounds of ice into different themes. Last year it was Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and this year it will be a Charlie Brown Christmas. Hotel room discounts are a nice perk too!!

Have you met any celebrities in your hotels?

I have! While working in Philly we were the host hotel for Comic Con so I was able to meet the cast of The Walking Dead, Lou Ferrigno and Ralph Macchio. I actually had to tell Daryl, Merle, Hershel and Shane from The Walking Dead that they couldn’t smoke cigars on the patio portion of our restaurant. Being a fan of the show, that was definitely one of the toughest things I’ve had to do in my career!

Here at Opryland we hosted the MLB Winter Meetings and College Football Coaches conference. During those conventions there are big time general managers and coaches floating around. We served Nick Saban, James Franklin, Matt Rhule and Brian Kelly in my restaurants. Pretty cool being a big college football fan!

Is the job you are performing now your ultimate goal or is there something else to which you aspire?

I’m always looking to improve myself and gain more experience. When I first arrived in Nashville I was in charge of 3 of the restaurants. Since then I’ve added two more and we’re currently in the process of opening a 6th outlet. I am always looking for new challenge or opportunities. I’d also like to become more knowledgeable in other departments in the hotel too. I want to be well-rounded in all aspects of the business.

Do you have any advice for high school students who have an interest in your field?

Get the experience! When I am interviewing candidates for jobs I always look at relevant work experience on their resumes. As a high school or college student I strongly recommend working in the customer service field. Whether it be a server, bartender, front desk agent or a bell hop all of that is important in understanding how the industry works and how to deal with people. By doing this you will be giving yourself a head start into your career.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"Years of love have been forgot
in the hatred of a minute."
Edgar Allan Poe

We can only speculate what happened in a minute on the night of October 3, 1849 , the night that Edgar Allan Poe was found unconscious in the streets of Baltimore. He died 4 days later on October 7.

I traveled to the Edgar Allan Poe House in Baltimore to conclude my investigation into the houses that have been preserved in his name, saving Baltimore for the end, since this is the city where he died. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Poe was actually born in Boston, but he considered Baltimore his home since he considered it a place of personal solace. He lived here from 1833-1835 with his grandmother, Elizabeth Cairnes Poe, his aunt, Maria Poe Clemm, and his two cousins, Henry and Virgina (his future wife.) 

It may have been by "accident" that he was in Baltimore in 1849. He had traveled to various cites throughout his life (Boston, New York, Richmond, Philadelphia) many times for more than one stay. Other blogs have examined the incidents that led him to these cites and the opportunities that arose (or didn't) there.  In 1849 he was on a lecture tour in Richmond, intending to make his way home to New York. His train would have transferred in Baltimore. ......

.........Then, no one heard from him....until he was found on the street:

"Found delirious on the streets of Baltimore outside Gunner Hall (an election polling place)"

 A corrupt practice (called "cooping") found men, took them to bars to drink excessively, changed their clothes and transported them to various polling places throughout the city so the candidate could receive multiple votes. Was Poe a victim of this practice? We will never know for sure.

Poe was taken to Washington University Hospital. Historical accounts of his hospitalization indicate that at first he was delirious with tremors and hallucinations, and then he slipped into a coma. He emerged from the coma and was calm for awhile, but he once again required restraint. He died on the 4th day of his hospitalization.
The Edgar Allan Poe House, built in 1830, was intended to be demolished around 1949 to accommodate a public housing project in the city. The Edgar Allan Poe Society stepped in to preserve this vital historical landmark. The housing project was built; the house stands on the end of one of the rows of housing units.

Poe was buried in in a small churchyard in the back of Westminster Hall and burying ground on Fayette Street, just a 3/4 mile walk from the Poe House. His funeral was small and not well-attended. The original grave sight was left unkempt; a woman visiting later reported the condition to Maria, his mother-in-law/aunt. She wrote to a relative and implored that his sight be better maintained.

A new tombstones was ordered but was damaged by a railroad car (can he even catch a break ever?) A teacher heard of this misfortune and had her students raise funds to erect a new one. This money, in conjunction with gifts from other benefactors, enabled the exhumation of Poe's body and a new tombstone.

At this time, the remains of his wife Virginia and her mother Maria were joined with Poe's; the family was reunited in death.

I learned much about Edgar Allan Poe through my visits to his homes in New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, as well as the enlightening exhibit at the George Peabody Library and the Poe statue and neighborhood in Boston. There is, however, so much more to learn, and even places to go! (Charlottesburg and Richmond, Virginia come to mind.)


I'd like to take this opportunity to thank a trusty (and fun) companion on several  journeys, my dear friend, Ginny Mc Cartin.

We visited the home of Walt Whitman: ("Will you come travel with me? Shall we stick with each other as long as we live?")

Exhibits about Emily Dickinson in New York : ("My friends are my estate.")

Two Poe homes--in Philadelphia and Baltimore: ("We loved with a love that was more than love.")

And a visit to the Free Library in Philadelphia (“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” )
― Mark Twain

Thanks, Gin!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

"America was built on courage, on imagination, and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand."
-Harry Truman

This is the story of determination, perseverance, a strong work ethic, love, and patriotism. It is the story of how everything we do and experience in life affects the next step we take. It is the story of Mindy (Snyder) Anderson, Central Catholic Class class of 2005, my former student who is currently a Systems Integrations Analyst at Lockheed Martin.

 As I was interviewing Mindy, I was able to recall some of the opportunities and choices about college and jobs that she shared with me as they happened, but she also gave me much insight into her current life, the world of global business, a world which is certainly foreign to me.

Mindy's professional story begins with her acceptance into Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster. 

(Years later this would have even greater significance to me after my son Alex began his college journey there.) Mindy's major: Business Organization and Society. This is a very "F&M" approach to business, as the college seeks to not only educate their students in the field, but to see all aspects of their major in interactions with each other, the community, and the world. For example, Mindy's math professor encouraged the students to read Blink: The Power of Positive Thinking by Malcom Gladwell. From what I know of this book, theses insights would be practical in Mindy's current position!

Mindy was able to graduate in three and a half years after completing Independent Studies and Internships, many related to business. Upon graduation, Mindy's determination  and perseverance was evident as she began her career job search while paying the bills 
( we all know about college loans!)  Before her first professional position she worked at Valhalla Health and Fitness Club at the desk, at a cleaning service, and as a Promotion/Marketing Assistant at Anheuser-Busch...yes, she was a Beer Girl! 

After only 6 months, Mindy landed her first professional job in a marketing role with The Water Guy, a local home and office water delivery company. She worked there a year, but a position with Lockheed Martin was presented to her, an opportunity too good to pass up. 

Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company whose focus is research, design and manufacturing of advanced technical systems and services. Yes, think SR-71 Blackbird ( the fastest plane on earth!) 

 but it's also more. For example, the company has designed and manufactured  GPS satellites, automated parcel systems for the USPS, and the first Disney Monorail!

Mindy launched (pun intended!) with Lockheed Martin in the Operation Leadership Development Program, a 2-year program that focused on 4 different types of jobs in the company: sourcing, quality, manufacturing, and an elective. During this time she trained employees in the Lockheed Martin Procure to Pay Tool; she was a manufacturing controller (creating purchasing requisitions) for millions of nuts, bolts and screws; she was involved in the Government Industry Data Exchange Program, where she had to assure the product ( like a microcircuit) was what it was supposed to be. (To help me understand, she made the analogy of seeing the difference between a real and fake Prada bag---got it!)
 To do this she had to become NASA certified in soldering so she could have a true understanding of all those flight parts.

One of Mindy's favorite positions (which led to her first "job" outside the leadership program) was as a Quality Engineer where she created the Continual Improvement Team. Here she was tasked with "leaning things out," creating a more efficient workplace for the company. Can a job be done faster by omitting steps? changing the position of items? moving in a more direct pattern? Her team was responsible for saving the company over $2 million dollars by working more efficiently. This position seems perfectly fitted for the task-oriented, focused Mindy that I knew in high school.

This is not the Mindy from high school! Here she is visiting the Kennedy Space Center during her first year at Lockheed Martin. This is overlooking the Space Shuttle Discovery before its final launch into space.

Mindy's current position is Systems Integration Analyst. She manages the Telecom Inventory and Provisioning System (TIPS). For every cell phone, pager, iPad, Wifi device, cable modem, and company phone, Mindy and her team is responsible for its inventory, procurement, and payment. ( And I can barely find my cell phone!) When I was interviewing her she was anticipating a 2 AM computer work session. Why? Because that is the time when theses devices were least likely to be used. 

Mindy is able to work from her home office on some days. That's her with her assistant, Solly!

Mindy's pride in her job is evident as she speaks. She is thrilled to be part of Lockheed Martin's motto: "We never forget who we're working for." I sensed a depth of patriotism, so I asked her if growing up her family was patriotic. Well, interesting that I should ask...Both of Mindy's grandfathers were in the military. Her father's father was a Marine in the Korean War. He earned the  Purple Heart when he lost both legs in battle. Her mother's father was in the Army during that same war.  Mindy feels that her job now lets her be connected to family members who also didn't forget who they were working for.

Mindy's grandfathers

This is what I meant when I said how our lives are connected through experience, family, hard work, and love. There's no doubt that Mindy's work at Lockheed Martin (and even as a Beer Girl!) would be looked on with pride by her grandfathers and all her family members. Who would have thought that the global values instilled at Franklin and Marshall would become a basis for a position at a company that impacts the world!

And who would have thought that I'd be sitting in the home of my student-turned friend as she taught me about business organization (not to mention pride in one's career choice). This young woman has so much ahead of her --and I can't wait to see what comes next.

Life is good. God bless America.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

"Beneath me flows the Rhine, and, like the stream of Time, it flows amid the ruins of the past."
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I had high exceptions for my trip up the Rhine River, not only to enjoy the river and the cites on which it lies, but also for a promise I had made to a student before I left for the semester.

Earlier this year the freshmen had written poems of tribute to a person they knew. When I was reviewing my upcoming travels with them, Jack called out, "Mrs. Hartline! The Rhine River! That's a part of my grandfather's poem."

And so the quest began.

When I got on the river boat, I spoke with the cruise director to ask when we would pass the remains of the Ludendorff Bridge. Why? I'll let Jack explain:

"His name was Vincent John Burke; he was born in 1922. He served in the 78th Lightning Division in the European Theatre as a medic. He fought on the Bridge over Remagen (a bridge over the River Rhine) which there are some old movies about I discovered. His captain (not sure his name) told him and some other medics not go out on the bridge no matter what. When the captain got shot, they ventured out and took him back regardless of his order. My grandpa and other medics ended up saving the captain's life but since they disobeyed him, they were given "animal duty" which is to clean up all of the dead animals around the battlefield (horses and cows).

 Also, when he was traveling through farms and countryside, a French farmer narrowly missed him with a bullet when he thought he was a German soldier. The bullet hit the barn behind him and fired a piece of wooden shrapnel into his upper back. He was offered the Purple Heart for his injuries but since the telegraph sent to his family wouldn't have described whether he got minor shrapnel in his back or if he got his legs blown off, he denied the award."

After some research, I found that this was the last bridge intact over the Rhine River before the end of World War II. Allied forces captured the bridge, possibly shortening the end of the war.

The bridge after its capture

With a story like that, I was determined to find this bridge...and it became a mission for the captain as well. The day and time when we would pass were determined. Just after dinner, encouraged by my dinner companions, I climbed up to the deck at sunset. With the help of the cruise director and the captain (with my husband camera-ready) the ruin of the bridge came into view...and I read Jack's poem to his grandfather, Vincent John Burke. I'm not embarrassed to say that I cried as I read it, not only for the tribute, but for the emotion of finding this treasure for my student.

Here's a visual account of a few emotional minutes on the Rhine River:

That's the bridge in the background!

And now for the poem:

Tribute Poem

78th Infantry Division
"Lightning" it was known
Came before harnessed fission
And way before the drone

He served as a medic
In the European Theatre
Earned a Purple Heart
Didn't even need her

Traveled the countries
With memories of her
In search of this toughy
By the name of Hitler

Stuck with shrapnel
From a French farm
Was not a simple shell
But the barn that did him harm

Bronze star over Remagen
Lived to come home again

He raised a family
And did it too well
His heart had to swell
'Twas a hero who fell

John Burke

Thank you, Jack. 
Thank you for your tribute to your grandfather. Through this you have made him and your family so proud.
Thank you for giving me the pleasure and honor to make a connection to the power of words and how they affect a wealth of people.

"The Rhine! the Rhine! a blessing on the Rhine"

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow