Monday, May 8, 2017

What do you REALLY love to do? 
or should I say
What do you really LOVE to do?

Think about it.....

(And this applies to many individuals: seniors (or juniors) deciding on a school or major, or those already established in a career who sense something ELSE  might be possible.)

I recently had this discussion with my former student, Emily Ermentrout, Central Catholic class of 2007.

Emily graduated from La Salle University in 2011 with a degree in Business with a concentration on Marketing and International Business. Her Marketing choice was based on the premise that knowledge in this field could easily translate into a variety of venues. As it turns out, Emily was able showcase her skills in several mediums in her short time in the "real world." Her stint as Student Body President at La Salle her senior year gave her an outlet for her organizational and people skills, traits she was already known for at Central Catholic!

Emily's first job was working at Frey, a woman's boutique in Newton Square. Here, Emily could couple her passion for fashion with her marketing education. She assisted as a buyer and sales marketing there for about a year and a half.

With Emily's happy, bright, smiling personality, it makes sense that her next career move brought her to the Reading Orthodontics Group as a treatment coordinator. She worked as a liaison between patients and the doctors, and she did some marketing for the practice as well. 

One would think having her picture on a billboard would be the ultimate in career highs (as Emily's was in an ad for ROG), but she now was willing to work from the ground up---almost literally. Emily works for Sunoco Logistics, starting as a pipeline scheduler (on call 24/7 !) but now has the title of Business Development Specialist. 
Emily's explanation of her scheduling position made my head spin! We take the gasoline in our cars and the oil in our heaters somewhat for granted, but someone must supervise the flow of the product (gasoline, heating oil, diesel fuel, kerosene) getting it from from point A to Point B--and a lot goes on between those points! Crude oil is a product with customers, so Em's current position is based on her customer skills that she developed through the years.

So, that's what Emily Ermentrout does, and she does it well, and she loves doing it.

But what makes Emily smile, like I've never seen someone smile before?


Emily has always loved cosmetics. While the other kids in middle school were at the library reading the Twilight Series, Em was choosing biographies of Bobbi Brown, the renowned makeup artist. In high school she was the go-to person for the school plays in the makeup room, which then led to several gigs as the prom makeup consultant and artist. She was in heaven!

It would seem natural to pursue this as a career, but at the time Emily knew that a college education was desirable. She certainly made a practical and successful choice, yet there has  always been a voice in her head calling her to see "what could have been."

 Now, some people quiet that voice, but Emily Ermentrout did not! She "took the leap" as she says. She knew a counter artist at Bloomingdales who recognized Emily's passion for this business. She directed Emily to her Account Executive who reserved a spot for her at the Freelance Artistry Class at the Bobbi Brown Studio. (Perfect--she had been studying her since 6th grade!)

In the class, which included hours of product education and hands on work, she learned what makes the Bobbi Brown culture and philosophy different as well as what makes Bobbi Brown makeup unique. Emily already knew some of this information, but taking the class helped fill in the blanks for her, as well as giving her the confidence to do makeup on a stranger, which she had to do by the end of class. 

The goal of the class was to not only make the client feel beautiful, but also to give the artist the confidence to apply the makeup with assurance and skill. Emily developed a philosophy: she feels women do not need a lot of makeup, just the right makeup.  She emphasizes that every woman is beautiful and makeup shouldn't mask anything, just enhance the beauty that is already there.
The class educated Emily--- so much that now she started to think seriously about how she could put that PASSION into PRACTICE and begin to answer that voice.

Emily, in addition to her job at Sunoco, is now working as a Freelance Makup Artist.

Yes, she did it. She was encouraged by family and friends, but ultimately it was Emily who asked herself ,"Why not?" What an inspiration.

Em and I spent 3 hours together, and the last half was her makeover for me. We had fun, and she gave me tips and educated me on various products.

If you or anyone you know is interested in consulting Emily for her services, contact her at

Emily's passion really spoke to me! After all these years telling students what to write, I found in my blogs that it is something that I enjoy.
Do I hear a voice?


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Being a teenager can be tough...bullying, high school version
on this Stanza Saturday


To the physical bully who pushed that kid into his locker
Why did you do it, cause she's different, cause she's smarter
But because you are stronger you exert your only dominance
Only to make others think you have more prominence
Why can't we accept our differences and leave each other alone

To the mental bully who condescended the kid who failed mathematics
Why did you do it, cause he's different, cause he's athletic
But because you are smarter you show your only superiority
Just to make him feel bad for one inferiority
Why can't we accept our differences and leave each other alone

To the online bully *click click* sending hateful messages all over the place
Why did you do it, cause it's different, cause you're not face to face
But because you are not in person and behind a screen
You feel off the hook completely clean

Why can't we accept our differences and leave each other alone

 Michael Kenny

Not to much to add to that...why can't we?

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Good News? 
Lauren Adams delivers with class.
The Bad? 
There is none....
(just that we can't see her in Reading)

We all have those fantasy jobs that we never pursued....I must admit, a news anchor is one of mine. I can, however, live vicariously thought my former student, Lauren Adams, or Lauren Violand (when she was a student at Central Catholic, Class of 2002.)

That's Lauren on the left, 11p.m reporter for CBS affiliate WLKY in Louisville, Kentucky.
She is joined by meteorologist Jay Cardosi and anchor Vicki Dortch.

This busy woman took the time to answer questions on how she reached her career goal and what she had to do to get there.

 College attended/Year of Graduation/ Major/Minor?Syracuse University
Major in broadcast journalism, minor in history
I was class of 2006 but graduated a semester early in December 2005, in order to get a jump start on what I knew to be a highly competitive job market.

 Current position
I'm the 11 pm reporter for CBS affiliate WLKY in Louisville, Ky.
It is the number one watched show among viewers (according to tv ratings) at the number one station so while the hours aren't ideal - it's a great show to be a part of.

 Did always have aspirations to be news anchor?

This is a family business of sorts.  My father's brother and my grandfather had (and have) careers at newspapers.  My mother's younger sister - who began as a reporter- is now an anchor for CBS, Los Angeles.  It was not uncommon at all growing up for my Pop to leave holidays early to go to work or to visit my aunt and celebrate Thanksgiving the following weekend, when she had off.
Interestingly enough, the irregularity of the schedule never intimidated me.  The fast paced, ever changing atmosphere appealed to me.  What an incredible opportunity I have every single day to present the news to hundreds of thousands of people and impact their viewpoint.

 What were college classes that were either very interesting to you and/or very pertinent to your career?
Syracuse is known for their journalism school so I was fortunate to have a good 'road map' of sorts. I was required to take classes that worked on my voice (eliminating any trace of an accent or dialect which makes the on air personality more relatable in any television market (city) - north, south, Midwest.   I also took communication law classes. As a journalist it's important to understand how the law works.  In many instances we're in courtrooms covering trials so it's imperative to have a basic knowledge of the judicial system.  Also, it's not uncommon to go places where we're not welcome, where tempers are hot and it's an absolute must to know what your rights are- where you can be, where your cameraman can set up, etc.

Were you involved in any activities in college that led to your career?

Rather than get involved with the on- campus television station I spent my time at Syracuse interning at local television stations.  This was difficult, as usually I was working on the weekends when my classmates and sorority sisters were out.  My last semester in fact, I was driving an hour South every Saturday morning to work in Binghamton, NY.  But, it was worth it.  I was able to put together a great reel (a video composite of my work) and make it to a newsroom within weeks of my graduation.

After college graduation, what was the path or other positions that led to your present job?

 I interned and worked in news stations throughout my time at Syracuse.  From there I went to Albany, Georgia and then Paducah, Kentucky before landing in Louisville, Kentucky.   There's a lot of misconceptions about this business, a lot of people have asked why I didn't chose to stay local or work at a news station closer to Reading.   The news business is like any business- you start small and work your way up.  In my case, that meant accepting my first job 17 hours from home in Georgia- making about $200 a week.  It's only now, after more than a decade in the business that I'm living in a decent sized city, making a good salary.

What are your responsibilites in this position?    What do you do behind the scenes before you are on the air?
 I work 2:30-11:30 pm Monday thru Friday.  And while that's my schedule there's plenty of days I come in early, stay late, work weekends, and holidays.   Case in point- after working in this business 11 years I have yet to spend a Thanksgiving at home with my family in Pennsylvania.  But, that's part of it- the news doesn't stop.  There are plenty of other professions were people work holidays and weekends, so I'm certainly not alone in that.  While I've had various consultants over the years work with me on my hair and make up I am responsible each night for my own hair and make up.  A lot of times - because we are so busy -that means applying a little lipstick and doing a touch up at 10:55, right before the news starts.

I am responsible for pitching stories each day at our afternoon editorial meeting.  That means coming in 30 minutes before the meeting starts and making phone calls to various contacts: police officers, elected officials, community leaders, etc to find out what's going on in our city.  I'll set up interviews, write stories and then present them in a live report each night at 11pm.   Also, if there's breaking news- I'll respond to that.  Sometimes that means coming right in the door, going right out, and doing a series of live reports (a fatal shooting, a downtown fire, etc) before the night is over.

 Have you experienced any stand-out moments in this job either on or off the air?
I've had the opportunity to have some national exposure, which has been incredible.  But really the biggest reward is being given the trust of my viewers.  It would be impossible to tell you how many grieving mothers I've talked to that have lost children.  Last year, Louisville saw more than 120 murders.  There is nothing more satisfying than receiving a hand written note- mailed to the television station- thanking me for my time and letting me know how much they appreciated our efforts.  Often times, we'll talk to these families - urging the public to step forward with tips and incredibly sometimes the tips do come and arrests are made.  That's the biggest confirmation for me that I am not only doing the best I can, but workingto make a difference.

 What are your working hours?
 2:30-11:30 Monday through Friday but when we have special coverage that all changes.  Last year, Muhammad Ali (who was from Louisville) passed away.  I worked 11 straight days.

Did you move to your current location for this job?

I did.  My husband is from western Kentucky so when I felt I was ready to take my career to the next level it was important for us to stay within a few hours from his businesses and hometown- and that meant Nashville or Louisville.

 What are some perks for this career?

 I have been given some incredible opportunities over the years- meeting several Presidents and celebrities.  There are countless red carpets and charity events that I have the opportunity to attend and host.  Working in Louisville, the Kentucky Derby is hands down the best part of the year.  To get an all access pass to the most celebrated two minutes in sports never gets old.

 Meeting George Foreman
and Mark Sanchez

 And what are some challenges?

 The  schedule- the hours, sometimes working weekends and holidays and also being on call (much like a doctor) is difficult.   Also, it's tough not to bring this work -- and the emotions--home with you.  Each day I'm meeting people at their worst- the murder of a loved one, a child killed in a car accident, a devastating house fire.  It's hard to leave that at the door when you get home each night.

 Can you offer any advice for students who are considering a career as a news anchor/correspondent?

This is a very demanding, job that truly requires your attention 24-7.  Not a Saturday passes that my phone isn't ringing.  It's so much more than 'being on tv.'  A lot of interns I've met through the years have asked if this job is fun.  Occasionally sure there are some great perks, but this career is not 'fun'- it's hard work.  But, if you're willing to put in the hours and get your start in a small town with an ever smaller paycheck- you can have a very rewarding career.

Lauren has been honored over 20 times by the Kentucky Associated Press, being reviewed against other reporters in the state. She has been nominated for an Emmy, and some of her team coverage has helped win some hardware for stations at which she has worked.


How I wish I would have scheduled a trip to Louisville as part of my TeacherTrek travels! I would love to see Lauren in action. 
(and pretend it's me?)

No, the good news is that I can take extreme pleasure in being part of Lauren's education at some point on her way to being an internal part of the Louisville community.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"Do not be afraid."
Not many of us use the words of Saint Pope John Paul II to discern our career, but when one is considering the priesthood...well, it makes perfect sense.

Meet Father Allen Hoffa, Reading Central Catholic Class of 2001. While I did teach Father Hoffa at Central, it wasn't until my work with the Kairos Retreat that I came to know him well.

When I approached Father Hoffa for the interview, I explained the career research I have been doing, but I hesitated calling the priesthood a career rather than a vocation. He clarified by explaining that a man's calling to the priesthood is his vocation, while his career is his work in the parish, high school, hospital, college ministry, etc.

A usual question for my interviews is "Did you always know you wanted to be a _____? The answer for this one seemed especially significant and consequential. So...did he? 

Father Hoffa reminded me of what I already knew about him. He had been an altar server since 5th grade at St. Catherine of Sienna Parish in Reading; Monsignor Joseph Smith was pastor at the time, and he recognized Allen's devotion to the church even then. Father Hoffa became the first Sacristan there, a job that included care of the sacristy and the church. I remember him spending much time at church on weekends and religious holidays, and although I could see how time-consuming the job was, I knew he would not want to be anywhere else. Besides that, his dedication to Kairos when he was Rector his Senior year was unparalleled.

So, off to the seminary after graduation, right?


Father Hoffa loved football, and he was offered a financial aid package to Albright College, so that's what he did. He attended Albright College as an Education Major, and he loved it there. Football, however, caused him a setback after a shoulder injury which required surgery. It was during the recovery down time that he had some time to think.........He knew he often thought ,"What do I want?" (or what do others want), but now he thought, "What does HE want?"


Father Hoffa says that many things can make one happy, but the question should be what can make one happiest.

So, with that answer in mind, during Easter Week of his freshman year at Albright, he made the call to the Diocese of Allentown, and entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia as a sophomore.

Any of us can imagine that going from the football field to the altar wasn't an easy decision, but Father Hoffa was inspired and energized by his experience at World Youth Day in Rome in 2000 when he saw the Holy Father and remembered his words: "Do not be afraid."

What is it like to be a seminarian?

Some men enter directly (or almost directly!) after high school, and attend college earning a degree in Philosophy. Then they continue a four year graduate school program at the seminary. Some attend college elsewhere and enter the seminary after that schooling.

The undergrad program is similar to other college formats with the addition of Morning Prayer and Mass and Evening Prayer. After breakfast there are classes all day with time for study and recreation. Days end with Evening Prayer. One distinction is that Thursdays are Apostolate Days. Much like an internship, the seminarians go out into the community to serve in schools, colleges,  and hospitals.

Some of Fr. Hoffa's Thursdays were spent at John Paul II Special Learning Center and The Newman Center at Lehigh University.
Summers are off and at home working "regular" jobs so as not to drive their parents crazy. (My words, not Father Hoffa's.)

The four year grad school summers, however, become more devoted to the ultimate goal of priesthood; the men are assigned to live at various parishes  in the Diocese to perform duties there. 

Ordination Day in June of 2009 arrived after much hard work, dedication, and anticipation. Father Hoffa describes it as a day of extreme emotion and an intense feeling of the presence of the Holy Spirit. His face lit up just thinking about it.

That same day the priests are given their first assignment. This is where the vow of obedience is evident. He is placed where the bishop feels he is needed.

That's Father Hoffa on the left, Bishop Barres on the right

Father Hoffa's first assignment was the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Siena in Allentown.

 There he was the full time Assistant Pastor and also the Part time Chaplain at Allentown Central Catholic High School, and his second year as a priest he became the  full time Chaplain there.

 In 2010 he was named the Director for the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. In 2013 an additional assignment as the Chaplain at Lehigh University made him an extremely busy man!

In June of 2016 Father Hoffa was reassigned to Holy Guardian Angles Parish in Reading as the Assistant Pastor. Seeing first graders every day is a long way from seniors, but he enjoys each day.  Some duties of an Assistant Pastors include saying Mass, serving funerals, visiting hospitals and nursing homes,baptisms, conducting marriage preparation classes, and providing parish counseling. 

A huge task he has taken on is the overseeing of the return of HGA's parish festival!

Be not afraid, Father Hoffa!

The challenge of being a priest according to Father Hoffa is not being able to be everywhere for everyone (like the blogger who keeps pressuring him for pictures?) or, on a more serious note, the sadness at "losing" someone who he was so close to helping.

The rewards? (Again the smile on his face...) Living the sacramental life as a priest at Mass and in the Sacrament of Confession...making a difference in someone's life is a great reward. He says, "It's not easy, but it's worthwhile."

Father Hoffa with my former colleague at Reading Central Catholic, Father Zelonis

For those considering a life devoted to God as a priest, Father Hoffa has this to say: " We are living in an imperfect world with a perfect God. Look at God in His perfection. Allow yourself to TRUST where He may be leading you. Remember that God cannot do anything harmful to us; He only provides the perfect love that leads to perfect happiness. Be as close to Him as connected to His WILL."

Sounds like words the whole world should hear.

It was a wonderful 2 hours sitting in the library at Berks Catholic High School, reconnecting with a former student, a friend, and a man of God :) 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Simply said: Poe was born in Boston, but his house is gone.
The city demolished the whole block where his house once stood. Nice way to remember a legend.

Before I paint the picture of Poe in Boston I must give credit where credit is due. I did not go to Boston expecting to see his house. I knew this from a book I have been reading titled Poe Land :The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allen Poe by J.W Ocker.

Ocker took a much more detailed jaunt around the U.S. (and Europe) looking for Poe, so his knowledge has been invaluable to me. He has helped fill in gaps when I needed them, telling me things a tour guide or exhibit missed.

Poe's parents, Elizabeth and David, were both actors, she from England and he from Baltimore. They were traveling actors, and spent much time moving up and down the East Coast to perform in various plays. They had been living in Boston for three years when Edgar was born January 19, 1809; his older brother Henry was born there in 1807. His sister Rosalie was born in Virginia in 1810.

Before Edgar was even one, his father left the family for reasons unknown. Sadly, his mother died in 1811 in Richmond, when he was two. The children were spilt up; Edgar was placed in a foster care family with Frances and John Allan. (Now we understand Edgar ALLAN Poe.)

Poe did come back to Boston in his lifetime, but it was never for long. According to Ocker, he traveled to the city as late as a year before his death. By this time, he was giving lectures presenting his work, but he was also in love with a woman who lived in Boston named Annie Richmond. (This was after the death of his wife Virginia.)

So.....Boston was a sad place for Poe, but considering the fact that I have visited his houses in New York and Philadelphia, I wanted more to commemorate his entrance into the world.

And so did other Bostonians.

Ocker identified a plaque on a wall at the intersection of Boylston and Charles Streets. If I had not been looking for it I would have walked right by. 

It states Poe's birth Street (Carver), his parents' names, professions, the book he published in Boston (Tamerlane and Other Poems) and adds that he lectured in Boston in on October 16, 1845

And just like Ocker disclosed, it's on an exterior wall of a burrito restaurant, Boloco.
Oker  amusedly remarked that Boston could have made up for "snubbing" Poe by having Boloco name a a burrito after him--something like "Crazy Poe."

My sleuthing to find yet another plaque tribute (I guess Poe would have liked this, now that I think about it...) brought me to Fayette Street, a residential area that reminded me of the small quaint streets in Philadelphia and Baltimore with the shuttered red-brick row homes. 

Near the iron scroll work is this small, round, worn medallion-like plaque:

Ocker did some sleuthing himself and he discovered that the building's landlord at the time was a Poe fan, and he had the medallion placed there, knowing that Poe had been born nearby. That's the very short story; read Ocker's book for the great details.

BUT NOW... finally the main attraction--and this was better than I expected.

Right on Boston Common Poe has finally been given the recognition he deserves in the form of a very unusual statue--fitting, of course. And I "dedicate" this portion of my blog to Mr. Ocker, who was not able to include a picture of the statue because his book was finished before the state was placed. On page 343 in the epilogue he states, "You're going to have to finish this book for me."

My pleasure!
It's named "Poe Returning to Boston." The sculptor, Stefanie Rocknak, depicts a Poe consumed in thought and importance (take that, Boston) as he rushes away from the Frog Pond (a popular spot for Bostonians) towards his home on Calvert Street. 

Spilling from his carrying case are papers, letters, books, poems...and a (tell-tale) heart!

...of course, accompanied by a raven.

Before leaving the city, we made sure to pass the Boston Public Library. I knew to peruse the outside details of the facade (vocab word) to find Poe's name among the literary famous.

You can see his name between Hawthorne and Thoreau, all three Massachusetts- born literary masterminds.


When I reflect on Poe and the unfortunate circumstance of his early years , I am saddened, especially knowing of the odd twists and turns his life would bring. But then, why be sad for someone who people now adore?

“An Oak tree is a daily reminder that great things often have small beginnings.” 
― Matshona Dhliwayo

The information I have presented in previous blogs about Poe have revealed sadnesses but also his triumphs. After I visit the Poe House in Baltimore, we'll see how his life came full circle.

Maybe this fall I'll pay more attention when the Patriots play the Ravens.

Friday, April 21, 2017

"The Homestead"
Emily Dickinson's home for 40 years

I finally made it!

My TeacherTreks took me to Amherst, Massachusetts, home of Emily Dickinson. Emily fans (and blog followers) may recall from a past post on 2/23, that she lived and died in this house. She was a complex woman living a simple life.  Since I had learned and shared much about her after a visit to the Morgan Museum in New York, here I will share things I learned about the house particularly--and some ED trivia I didn't know.

The house was built for her paternal grandparents ca. 1813, and was updated and expanded several times during her lifetime. The Dickinson family owned the homestead until 1916, when it was sold to another family.

In 1963, The Homestead was designated a National Historic Landmark, and two years later the Trustees of Amherst College (a very nice college, I must say) purchased the house and began the efforts of opening it to the public.

The tour includes a visitor's center, a tour of two downstairs parlors, and 3 bedrooms upstairs, including Emily's, of course, since this is where she wrote the majority of her poetry. 

(Side note--no pictures were allowed inside. The external shots are mine, but the internal are from  postcards...I almost cried when the tour guide told me---ask my husband.)

This is the same desk that is in the corner of her bedroom, and while it is not original, it is a very close replica. The powerful visual is the size--a lot of words from such a small surface!

I learned 3 new fun facts. First, about 5 years ago a tour was underway and the group stood in Emily's room, when suddenly the ceiling in the room directly below crumbled to the ground! No one was hurt, but needless to say, all ceilings were quickly restored/repaired. When they came to Emily's room, the restoration team was able to uncover the original wallpaper of the room, and the room was then covered in the resorted wallpaper pattern:

This is very fitting, considering Emily's love of nature.

The Homestead was a working farm with a large vegetable garden, a barn complex with livestock, an orchard, and an ornamental garden.  The Dickinson family, including the children, participated in the intensive labor necessary for the upkeep of such a property. Emily was a primary cook, and she also enjoyed baking. It is said that during the times in her later years when she was hesitant about leaving the house, she would place some of her baked goods into a basket and lower the basket to appreciative children from the neighborhood.

The upper left window was Emily's---little kids looking for a sweet treat probably kept their eyes on that window!

Another way to bring the outdoors in was through a conservatory, a room with extra glass that may house plants and flowers. Emily's father had one built for her. It is currently under renovation.

Cats were a big part of The Homestead--about 30 at one time roamed the grounds (still not as many as Hemingway)....but EMILY DID NOT LIKE CATS! She would only allow 2 or 3 in the house at a time. (Her little sister loved them.) I'm trying hard not to let this fact affect my appreciation of her. 

Emily didn't like cats because they killed birds, and she looooooved birds. She did manage to include this cat/bird relationship in a poem:

She sights a Bird—she chuckles—
She flattens—then she crawls—
She runs without the look of feet—
Her eyes increase to Balls—

Her Jaws stir—twitching—hungry—
Her Teeth can hardly stand—
She leaps, but Robin leaped the first—
Ah, ****, of the Sand,

The Hopes so juicy ripening—
You almost bather your Tongue—
When Bliss disclosed a hundred Toes—
And fled with every one-

Before we left The Homestead, we took a chilly walk through the New England spring gardens (a nice way of saying that they weren't quite tidied up yet).

We spied some randomly growing hyacinths and a beautiful variegated daffodils (which I'm sure Emily would love)

AND THEN.............


HHHMMM....We saw no birds, but we did see him. Maybe Emily was right.

It was a very special visit and I know for a fact that when I read the poems of Emily Dickinson to my classes next year I'll be able to offer a whole new perspective on this woman and the place she called home.

RIP Emily. Thanks for your observations about life, love, nature, and eternity.

NEXT UP: Poe's birthplace (Bean Town) and place of "rest"