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

Sunday, May 28, 2017

"I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people , even those I've never met. I want to go on living, even after my death."

-Anne Frank

How did she know?

The Anne Frank House has always been a place of great curiosity for me, so when I was able to plan a trip in Europe, I made sure to incorporate Amsterdam on my itinerary. 

Sadly, no pictures were permitted in the house, but I was able to download from, which is an excellent website for all who are interested in enhancing their knowledge about all things related to this period in history. 

I understand that my students have read The Diary of Anne Frank as 8th graders, but a trip to the house provided an extra insight to add to the diary itself.  I can remind other readers of the background if it's been awhile since you've read it.

The Frank family was originally from Germany, but they choose to move from their native country to the Netherlands as Hitler began his regime. After the move in 1942 Anne and her sister Margot were attending school and enjoying their social and academics lives; however, it wasn't long before Jews were forced to wear the iconic yellow star and separate schools were forced. Other freedoms were deprived. I sadly noted that Anne was especially despondent that she could no longer go ice skating, which she loved: "No Jews allowed."

Mr. Frank realized that he had to find a way to protect his family. He investigated options, one of which was immigrating to the United States; this was not possible so alternative plans were made for a hiding place in an apartment at the back of his office building. They were to leave on July 16, 1942.

Before the move to the Secret Annex (as it was soon to be called) Margot received a call ( visit from a policeman) to report for work in Germany under police supervision. Knowing the reality, that this "call" was part of the German's plans to remove all Jews eventually from the Netherlands, Otto Frank moved the day of departure to July 6 so Margot would not have to answer the call. The Frank family left their apartment intentionally messy so it would appear they left in a hurry, and Mr. Frank scribbled a note with a Switzerland address to deter searches, and off went the Frank family, Anne wearing as many layers of clothes as she could to avoid carrying a large suitcase in the city, thereby attracting attention.

Anne left behind her home, her friends, and her beloved cat, Moortje.

The family lived in a back part of the office building on two levels. They were joined by another family, the Van Pels (mother , father, and 16 year old Peter, whom Anne disliked at first, but later admires and loves), and another man, Fritz Pfeffer, a dentist. Anne at one point must share a room with him.

This entrance to this secret area is hidden by a bookcase. Only a few workers realize the families are in the building. Because they are hiding in a working office building, all daytime activities (talking, walking around, bathroom use) must be limited until the workers leave at night.

Life is difficult in the building, especially for a teenage girl. Anne finds solace in her diary, writing at first observations, then confiding to her diary about her ill feelings toward her mother and missing her former life. Anne was skilled at writing ("When I write I can shake off my cares")  and loved the written word. Besides her diary, she had a collection of lines from other books she admired (her "Favorite Quotes"notebook, which she referred to as "beautiful sentences.") She also wrote short stories. She heard from the outside that the government of the Netherlands was urging its inhabitants to save personal papers , including diaries. This inspired Anne to rewrite the diary entries she had written. She felt that her words may someday influence others. She even noted that she envisioned her work published with the title, The Secret Annexe.

The families lived in hiding for over 2 years. They were discovered by German police and sent to concentration camps, where all his family died except for Otto Frank. Miep Gies, a kind worker at the office who had been helping the Franks, fortunately had found and saved Anne's diary. When Mr. Frank was released he lived with Miep and her husband. Naturally Miep gave the book to Mr. Frank. He couldn't read it for a long time, but when he did, he was shocked. He was surprised at Anne's inner feelings, things she had not shared with him, despite their close relationship. As a matter of fact, the first published diary released was somewhat edited by him.  I'm guessing that he didn't want the world to know of a teenage girl's personal revelations, as well as Anne's description of her relationship with Peter. It wasn't until 1991 that the full version was published.  I have read both, and there are notable additions.

The house tour leads the visitors throughout the house, guided by excerpts from the diary in each room to explain and describe each area.There are recored firsthand accounts from Mr. Frank and Miep Gies, which add much to the authenticity. Needless to say, Anne's room is particularly fascinating, knowing that this was where most of her writing was done. Also, Mr. Frank allowed her to paste pictures of friends and movies stars on the wall.

 While Mr. Frank took them down when he returned, they were preserved and replaced when the house became a museum. They are on the walls behind plexiglass. 

The attic could be seen but was only viewable from the foot of the steps. I wanted to see it, knowing that this was where Anne and Peter shared their first kiss.

Many artifacts added to the story of Anne Frank. Some notable ones include:

- the markings for height growth for Anne and her sister still written on the walls
- a large gallery of photos of Anne and her family, including the last picture of them together before they went into hiding
-correspondence between Mr. Frank and his workers/helpers
- a shopping list from Miep Gies, who brought the families food
- a map the inhabitants used to keep track of the German advances
- Anne's "schoolwork"--conjugations of French verbs
- the diary pages complete with cross-outs--remeber that at one point Anne saw her work as later being published

At the end of the tour there was a room of recored reflections on Anne and her contributions. One that caught my attention was John Green, author of The Fault  In Our Stars, reading a passage about those characters as they toured the Annne Frank House.

I have to admit I was very excited to climb the steep steps of the house that Hazel struggled with. I pictured her and Gus many times during my time there.

So, the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam was all that I had hoped it to be and more. There's nothing like seeing firsthand something so iconic. Even now,  as I write these blogs, I relate to Anne the writer. Sadly, I now can try to understand even better, the struggle of a group of people, the Jews, who were persecuted for no good reason.

I left keeping in mind the optimism of a young girl, who despite these odds was able to remind us even now (just as she had hoped) :

"I keep my ideals, because, in spite of everything, I still feel people are really good at heart."

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?