Living his dream

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On March 12, 1990, my hubby would recive the letter that he never thought he would receive. The letter from the FDNY stating “Congratulations! You are being offered the opportunity to be appointed as a New York City Firefighter. The appointment is to be effective on Sunday March 25, 1990 at 9:00AM followed by a one year probationary period.”

Below is the text of a letter my husband wrote to me:

 Dear Ann, I never thought that this day would ever happen, only a dream. I want to say to you thank you for the past 8 or so years + putting up with F.D.N.Y. all the time. You have been a real encouragement to me as we walk side by side down our married life. Just think, this now ends career of the week. In 1973 in California I read Report from Engine Co. 82. Never did I ever dream that I would be a NYC firefighter. Those people in the book seemed out of reach. I never thought I had what it took to be a firefighter in the Big Apple due to my low self-esteem. This could not have been possible with out your encouragement and love. I thank the Lord for you and this day.

I’ll always love you, Bruce

See you later


He was living his dream on September 11, 2001. What I love about this letter is the little footnote -“See you later” because I will. 🙂


A photo of the letter and his class photo. Bruce is last row, second person from the left.

Japan 2014 – part 2

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My recent trip to Japan included a four page itinerary. There were 17 people in our group -six Tribute Center docents, three Rotarians, two Mount Sinai doctors, three Mount Sinai medical students, and 3 translators. Our fearless and super organized leader did a tremendous job of keeping us on time and on task. The four page itinerary included logistics meaning what we were doing each day, mode of transportation and what kind of attire was appropriate – casual, business casual, business or formal. Formal didn’t mean evening wear. It really meant suits for the men and our firefighter docent needed to wear his uniform.

Our last two days of our twelve day trip were unscheduled.  In ten days, we attended 6 Rotary Club functions, visited 2 Mental Health Clinics, 1 School for the Deaf, 1 High school, a Memorial Rose Garden, the Sakado Crane Memorial, 1 Temporary Housing site, 2 Shrines, and 2 Temples. We had formal meet and greets with the Mayor of Koriyama, the Minister of Reconstruction, and the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs.  We listened to 3-11 stories and told our 9-11 stories. We exchanged gifts and were treated royally. We had “tea” in some amazing places and we ate a lot of raw fish and rice. We traveled as far east as Kesennuma, Miyagi and as far west as Nara. The best I can estimate we traveled over 1000 miles.  Our modes of transportation were the bullet train, the regular train, cabs, subway and a chartered bus. Oh and we “dragged” our luggage wherever we went.

We had private guided tours of:

  1. Chusonji Temple, first national Treasure of Japan
  2. Kaiseizan Shrine
  3. Kasuga Shrine
  4. Todaiji Temple

I stood at the foot of the giant Buddha in Todaji Temple. I had tea in the room only special guests  and  the emperor visit at Kasuga Shrine. I learned that a shrine is Shinto and a temple is Buddhist. I loved seeing Japan and learning new things but my favorite thing was interacting with the people. If you asked me my favorite experiences:

  1. Doing “ballet arms” with a teenager who wants to be a ballerina when she is older.
  2. Having a woman tell me she had traveled two hours to come to the mental health clinic seminar because she meet me last year and wanted to see me again.
  3. Traveling with the most compassionate, selfless group of people who made me laugh, cry and always had my back.
  4.  An amazing dinner conversation with a Shinto priest, classical pianist, Japanese business man and Jewish doctor that started with me asking “I learned today that every 20 years the shrine is taken down and rebuilt. Can you explain that to me?” and lead to me explaining what grace is?

You can’t make this stuff up.  I am so blessed.



The class of 1964



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


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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I came up to Barn to write but have done everything but write. Between yesterday afternoon and today I have cleaned the oven, emptied, cleaned and refilled the hot tub. I have also watched the latest episode of Blue Bloods so I am all “caught up”. I watched Blacklist I don’t even like that show. I finished reading a book. Checked my email and Facebook. I investigated the writers guidelines for Todays Christian Woman magazine. Oh, did I mention I tried to set up the new DVD player and I even finished the online defensive driving course to lower my auto insurance rate. But the pièce de résistance this morning instead of writing I decided to rake the dead leaves to “tidy” up the yard. The fact I even came up with that idea was to do anything but to sit down and write. Well, raking lasted 5 minutes. The gentle breeze that was blowing while I cleaned the hot tub became a wind as I started raking. The leaves kept blowing back at me. I can take a hint so I laughed said “okay, Lord” and was grateful the wind wasn’t a whale.

As I sit looking out the window towards the hot tub, every now and then there is a flash of white material like a surrender flag. I left a roll of paper towel outside and the wind must catch it in just the right way for a piece to wave in my direction. Surrender an interesting thought. What do I need to surrender – fear, pride, control.

The breeze has definitely turned into a constant wind, the dark clouds are rolling in, the trees are really swaying, there is a storm coming. I am reminded:

“You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.”

Well, now I should write since this is blogging but maybe I should eat lunch first or maybe not. 🙂

Miss Ann says


 About Faith:

  • If it all can be explained, where is the supernatural.
  • Sometimes life is lived in ten minute intervals. Lord, give me the next ten minutes.  Okay, I made it through those 10 minutes. Let’s do ten minutes more.
  • Mind your own business is in the Bible  “…and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”
  • God can be trusted in the darkness and the light.
  • ” I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being  content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
  • God is good. God is love. God is holy.

 About Friendship:

  • Lunch with friends is delightful even if the food isn’t delicious.
  • Silence in a conversation with a good friend isn’t an uncomfortable thing.
  • “Old” friends add layers to my life. “New” friends are the icing on the cake.
  • My friends have friends.
  • Sometimes all you can do is be there and listen.
  • To be a friend is an intentional priceless act.

 About Family:

  • Having both of my daughters in the same place at the same time is the best.
  • Giving my mum an inexpensive bouquet of flowers and a crème horn pastry can make her day.
  • Marriage is a  life commitment that should be taken seriously.
  • My parents did the best job they could with the resources they had.
  • My children remember events differently than I do.
  • Parenting is hard work but worth every minute.

For me:

  • A good book, a cup of tea and a piece of chocolate make for a lovely evening.
  • Snuggling a sleeping baby on my chest is magical
  • An unsolicited hug from a child/teen has the power to improve my day.
  • Peanut butter and jelly on an English muffin, Fritos and a glass of milk are my ultimate comfort food lunch.
  • Books are meant to be read and shared.
  • I am good being by myself. I reboot being alone.

To my students:

  • Don’t use last names when speaking about someone. You don’t know who is related to whom.
  • Most of life has nothing to do with what you want to do.
  • If you end up on Jerry Springer, I don’t want to hear my name mentioned.
  • I don’t make threats, I make promises.
  • “What made you think that was a good idea?”

Things I wished I had learned sooner:

  • No matter how well I treated my body after a certain age it would betray me.
  • Being silent when someone speaks isn’t the same as listening to them.
  • There is wonder to be found in each new day.
  •  Challenging weather conditions, flight delays and traffic issues may affect my day but they are not personal attacks on me.
  • Smiling at someone could make their day (and my day).
  • There are people who thrive on drama. I don’t have to aid and abet their drama.

Each Day:

  • may I remember the blessings of the past.
  • may I look forward to the future.
  • may I be present in the now.
  •  may I act justly, love mercy  and  walk humbly with my God.
  • may I be who God intended me to be. 🙂

random thoughts from 60 years of life:


when I was kid:

1. there were 9 planets.

2. adults were called Mr. or Mrs.

3. television when off the air and started each morning with a photo of the  American flag and the playing of the National Anthem.

4. the president was assassinated .

5. we practiced for nuclear attacks.


when I was a teen:

1. MLK and RFK were assassinated.

2. men walked on the moon.

3. I believed  “to live is to dance, to dance is to live”

4. my male classmates had draft numbers

5. POWs came home from Vietnam


when I was in my 20’s

1. I studied dance, voice and acting in NYC and auditioned for Broadway shows

2. I went to college part-time.

3. I started a business with my best friend

4. I meet my hubby and got married

5. drove across country with my sister and sister-in-law. I went to England and France with my bff.


when I was in my 30’s

1. I had 1 miscarriage and gave birth to 2 daughters

2. “have dance will travel” taught  dance in many places to many people

3. was Sunday School Superintendent in my local church

4. my hubby became a FDNY firefighter

5. the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded


 when I was in my 40’s

1. Life had a more balanced rhythm.

2. we got a dog.

3. vacations –  England, Prince Edward Island, National Park Tour, Houseboat rental, camping…

4. Oklahoma City bombing and September 11 happened.

5. I became a widow.


when I was in my 50’s

1. my daughters got married.

2. my brother and  my dad died.

3. I spoke in NJ, NY, PA, CA, NH, TN, KS, Northern Ireland and Japan.

4. I had breast cancer and I am now five years cancer free.

5. I retired from my dancing school.


on February 13, I will turn 60 and I can say:

“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

You are faithful, God, You are faithful”

 Never Once by Matt Redman