a birth story

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It was very early in the morning as I walked or was more like I waddled to the car. The baby I was carrying had a due date that had come and gone. The week before I had been admitted to the hospital but even medical intervention to induce her had not brought fore a baby. After a full day in hospital and no pain or movement, my doctors had said “baby isn’t ready. Go home and wait.”

My bag had been packed for weeks. My mind had been ready to meet this little one for weeks as well. I was sure I was going to be eternally pregnant. I had a scripture verse I was holding onto. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16 I knew this baby would be born on the day God ordained and the good news was not a day later, bad news was not a day sooner.

So on Thursday morning May 31, we awoke early to drive to the hospital to “have” this baby. I was up and ready to go. As we are heading out the door, Bruce, my hubby, announces he has to check the oil in the car first. what?!? Then as we drive the almost 30 miles to the hospital Bruce announces he is going to drive thru McDonald’s to get coffee. Did I mention I couldn’t eat or drink anything? An added note at the time McDonald’s sold this yummy little cinnamon buns which he also purchased. really?!? By the time we got to the hospital I was ready to “kill him”. I can look back now and realize that he was nervous and that was his way of coping but is wasn’t a pretty scene as we finally arrived at the hospital.

I am admitted, gowned and the attempt to induce begins again. But this time I have one contraction and the baby’s heart rate drops. I am rolled on my left site, oxygen mask on my face and my doctor is called. All is good within seconds. One of my two doctors will come in and recommend since my body hasn’t done any of the necessary things to deliver a baby and it has been 3 weeks since my due date that they should perform a C section. My husband says “can’t we just wait until she has it naturally”. To which I say “doctor could you excuse us a moment.” My doctor walks out and I ask my beloved hubby why and what is he thinking. He states “everyone has been praying for a safe delivery so I think we should wait.” I said “we will wait until 3:30 when both of my doctors can be here. But if God hasn’t delivered this baby naturally by 3:30, the doctors are delivering it by C section.”

I will watch my C section in the mirror my doctors placed for me to see. Bruce will be seated by my left shoulder and take photos but not gross photos as I instructed. There will be a curtained draped to separate my lower body from my range of view. I will have the sensation that my doctors are 1/2 way across the room but in reality I am not that tall. I will see our baby be taken from my body. It is a girl. She will be totally wrapped in her cord and the doctors will comment “someone was watching out for her.” I will hear her cry and the nurse will lay her little face on my left cheek. I can still feel her cheek. She will be cleaned up and Bruce will accompany her to the nursery. And today May 31, 2014 that baby turns 30 years old.

She was worth the wait. I am so blessed to be her mom. I am so proud of the person she has become. Happy Birthday!!

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Travel Tuesdays S2E3 – Central Park, NYC

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The first tidbit that surprised me as the walking tour began was “everything in Central Park expect the large rock formations has been placed here.” Wait, what!?! I assumed it was a big wooded area the city turned into a park. No, it isn’t. To quote the tour guide “it is basically a movie set”. That seems so bizarre but after 156 years I am sure those trees have taken root and those streams have found their own course so it is more “real” than staged.

According to the walking tour guide and the Central Park website:

“Central Park, the first major landscaped public space in urban America, was created in the 1850s as an antidote to the turbulent social unrest, largely as the result of the country’s first wave of immigration, and a serious public health crisis, caused by harmful environmental conditions. Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the winners of the 1858 design competition for Central Park, along with other socially conscious reformers understood that the creation of a great public park would improve public health and contribute greatly to the formation of a civil society. Immediately, the success of Central Park fostered the urban park movement, one of the great hallmarks of democracy of nineteenth century America.”

The park would suffer a time of neglect and decay and eventually the Central Park Conservancy would be founded and now oversees, manages and fundraises for the 843 acre park located in the middle of Manhattan. Central Park stretches from 59th to 110th Street between Fifth Avenue and Central Park West (8th Ave). It has a great website centralparknyc.org and there is even a free app.

I enjoyed the guided walking tour I did with friends late last month. One thing that always impresses me about the park is once you are “in” the park the sounds of the city fade away. Our tour guide said that is because the park is below street level. In the past I have taken a horse-drawn carriage ride through the park and that is a delightful venture. So if you are in NYC and need a break from the “hustle and the bustle”, take a walk in Central Park you will be pleasantly surprised.

National September 11 Memorial & Museum

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This afternoon I visited the National September 11 Museum. I was a little apprehensive about going. To give you a point of reference for “where I am coming from”, I have never been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. I have always known that it would be too much for me. And in thinking about the fact that I have never been to the Holocaust Museum I wondered how much harder a museum I have a personal connection to would be to visit. I decided to go today because as a family member I wanted to see what had been included about Bruce. I also went because as a docent for the Tribute Center I felt I should be able to make intelligent comments about it. So here are a few of my thoughts:

1. I believe that the museum will do what is intended to do teach future generations about the events of September 11, 2001 as well as teach about the World Trade Center and terrorism.

2. I believe that the sheer size of Foundation Hall speaks volumes to the enormity of the event.

3. I am grateful that the memorial section is separate from the historical section.

4. I think there is a tremendous amount of information available to you if you want to read, listen and see all that has been included.

5. I think the future members of the Van Hine family tree will get a glimpse of who Bruce was and what he did as a firefighter on that day. They will also hear my voice speaking about him.

6. I think I will probably go back to the memorial part but there is no value to me personally in reading, seeing and listening to all that is included in the historical part.

7. I will continue to do walking tours of the Memorial for the Tribute Center and whoever asks me. I will continue be part of the pilot project between the Tribute Center and the Museum to bring “we were there” presentations to Museum visitors. And I will continue to share my story with whomever asks but I will not be volunteering at the Museum.

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The class of 1964

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Last fall I received an email from a Facebook friend of my sister-in-law’s. After a brief introduction of who was emailing me, the sender explained that her husband is a 1964 graduate of West Point and she would like to schedule a tour of the Memorial during their 50th reunion weekend. She also mentioned it would be 100 people. I quickly suggested she contact the Tribute Center and forwarded her the information. I did say that I was more than willing to be one of walking tour docents but 100 people will require more than one guide. Through the months arrangements were made for the group to visit Tribute but because of the opening of the Museum the group was told that the Memorial may not be open on May 17 but they were welcome to meet with a docent in gallery 5 instead of a walking tour.

So this morning I traveled into the Tribute Center to speak to 100 people in 2 groups of 50. As I thought about who this group was, I realized as 1964 graduates of USMA at West Point these men most likely went to Vietnam. As graduates of the USMA, they had served their nation, my nation. I realized as I was growing up they were servicing our country.

Well, due to traffic and more traffic I arrived at the Tribute Center at 10:28 for a 10:30 group.Just in time for the group but these folks had arrived early so they were waiting for me. I quickly put my jacket and purse in a locker, grabbed some photos and walked into gallery 5. The gentleman in charge of the group pulled me aside and said “before you start speaking I would like to introduce you to the group.” Okay, I had never met this man but his wife was the one who had emailed me and set everything up. He got everyone’s attention using some military jargon and proceeded to introduce me. He mentioned I was an email friend of his wife, that Richard* had been a firefighter and had been killed on September 11. He commented that he had found a YouTube video of me speaking at a Christian college and suggested everyone watch it. 🙂 One of the things I had said in that video had really stuck with him. He stated that I had said “Bruce’s decision to enter the building on September 11 had been made long before September 11. Just as Christ’s decision to go to cross was made long before the Garden.” He went onto say that “23 members of the class of 1964 had died in Vietnam and 1 had died in the Dominican Republic.” He also said “that their decision to serve their country had been made on the parade ground on July 5, 1964 as they (we) raised our right hand and took the oath. Actually it had been made before that.” He also commented that duty is a form of love. He then introduced another man who handed me their class coin and announced I was an honorary member of the class of 1964. I was overwhelmed and humbled. I thanked them for their service, made reference to the fact that Bruce had been a firefighter at West Point before being FDNY and then told my September 11 story.

When I finished, I did it one more time. The man who introduced me the first time, introduced me a second time and joked there wasn’t another coin. Wow!! I can’t believe I got one coin. I am ever amazed at the opportunities I am given. I am ever humbled by meeting the class of 1964. I am also very glad that the class of 1964 did actually get to go onto the Memorial after they finished at Tribute and they had a beautiful weather to boot.

*Richard Bruce Van Hine was my husband’s full name. People who knew him referred to him as Bruce. The gentleman today referred to him as Richard and even mentioned to the second group that I called my husband Bruce but he would refer to him as Richard. I thought that showed respect.

Heed my own words

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This morning the radio newscaster announced “the fences are down and the Museum is open to the families and the first responders.” I thought I would throw up. As I drove and pondered those words, I realized I needed to heed my own words. There are two issues that occupy my thoughts lately.

“The fences are down for the first time since September 11, 2001” almost overwhelms me with fear. I have been leading walking tours around and on the Memorial for 8 years. There has always been a fence. A fence around an empty hole and then around a construction site. A fence around the Memorial that allowed me one place of entry. A fence that kept me out and then kept me safe and now it is gone. My mind races with thoughts what if I am on the Memorial and some wacko does some wacko thing? Am I responsible for the visitors on my tour? What if I am with a group of children or teens? Do I have a plan? And then I remember what I say to the students “be aware, not afraid!”.

“The Museum is open to families and first responders” is another source of anxiety. I have seen the space, just the sheer size is overwhelming but what about the exhibits. As I ponder my upcoming visit, I know it will be difficult but I wonder will I be able to do it. And then I remember something else I say to friends and family when they visit the Tribute Center “be kind to yourself. Look at what you can look at, listen to what you can listen to and skip the rest.”

I have said many times when speaking about my faith in relation to September 11 “that in the beginning I hid behind God then He carried me and then He put me down to walk.” I know He will supply what I need but sometimes I just need to remind myself. Below are the words to a song by Matt Redman that is currently my friendly reminder of how far I have traveled and how faithful God is. You can find a video on YouTube.

“Never Once”

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once, no, we never walk alone

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Every step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore we’ll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

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Travel Tuesdays S2E2 – 9/11 Memorial Museum

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museum opening

The National September 11 Memorial Museum will open to the public on Wednesday May 21, 2014. On Thursday May 15, there will be a dedication ceremony and for one week the museum will be open 24 hours a day to allow family members, 9/11 rescue and recovery workers, survivors, lower Manhattan residents and first responders from agencies that lost members to view the museum. The President and First Lady will attend the dedication ceremony. “Stakeholders” were selected by lottery to attend. I know a couple of my fellow docents who are attending and look forward to hearing their accounts of the event. The ceremony will be available for viewing on the National September 11 Memorial Museum website. I will not be attending the dedication. I will be visiting the Museum on Sunday May 18. It is actually my second visit.

My first visit was in May of 2012. At that time the Museum was still more of a construction site than a museum. I was however struck by the size of the space. It was massive. The museum takes you down to bedrock to the original “bathtub walls”. To see the walls I had spoken of so many during walking tours was amazing. We were allowed to take photos but were not allowed to post them on social media. I assume the statute of limitations has run out on that as the Museum has been featured on Sixty Minutes, etc…
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As the museum opening approaches, there is an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. In one way I am glad it is finally opening but in another way the opening makes it all so real. It is hard to explain but the Museum opening is kind of the last piece in the September 11 story. Once the doors open it seems like the story is set in stone. But part of me believes the story is still being written. I believe there are still stories to be shared and learned from. I guess John W. Gardner’s quote sums it up for me “History never looks like history when you are living through it.”

Please remember to say a prayer for those who the Museum opening is another chapter in that unwritten handbook “a personal loss (or story) in the midst of a national tragedy”. I will blog about my visit in the near future.