At the first anniversary there was a sense of needing to do the “right” thing, the appropriate thing, the expected thing. I am so grateful to a friend who said “do what you want to do” and we did. Meghan and I traveled to Quincy, MA to be with Emily who had just started her freshmen year of college. We attended chapel on campus, then drove down to the waterfront and sat and talked about Daddy (Bruce), we prayed, we cried and we wrote in our “things we would have told you” book – a recap of the year. Later, we ventured into Boston for lunch. I remember we stumbled upon numerous television crews at Nathaniel Hall and not knowing if we should laugh or cry, we kept our distance. We wanted to just be a mom and her daughters missing their dad/husband not 9/11 family members. There was something surreal about the day as there has been something surreal about so many days.

As the years have passed the advice of that friend “to do what you want to do” has proven to be excellent advice. Some years I have taken part in local ceremonies in Greenwood Lake or Rochelle Park or attended unique opportunities like ringing the bell at the NASDAQ or the concert at the Beacon Theatre.  I don’t venture to the National September 11 Memorial ceremony because I don’t think I can take on the grief of all those people. We don’t always write in the “things we would have told you” book anymore. We aren’t necessarily physically together because one daughter lives in Seattle and the other in PA.

This Friday will mark the 14th anniversary. I haven’t decided what I want to do this year. This year is a tricky year because my one daughter has now lived 14 years with her dad and 14 years without him and that breaks my heart. It seems harder this year because I have so many Tribute Center friends and I carry their stories as well. A few things that were true on the first anniversary are true on the 14th. I will talk to my daughters and I will tell them how very proud their Dad would be of them and I will remind them that he loved them so much. I will ask them to remember to pray for the other families, and the Squad 41 firefighters.  I will thank God for His faithfulness, my family and friends. And we will wish that we were just a mom and daughters missing their dad/husband who died in the line of duty and not 9/11 family members because a personal loss in the midst of a national tragedy adds so many layers.


time & treasures

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Due to recent weather events in my part of the world, my original plans for the past few days have been canceled – no district wide children’s Bible quiz on Saturday, no tours for the 9/11 Tribute Center or ladies small group on Monday and no teaching ballet this afternoon. I see that type of change in plans as having extra time. Laundry, cleaning, answering emails, finishing books for book club all fit into my regular schedule. So when extra time presents itself I try to think of something I don’t think I have time to do and get it done or I fall into the “binge watching” trap.

On Saturday I organized paperwork I will need for my 2014 taxes. I shredded stuff I don’t need and filed the rest. With a sense of accomplishment I then binge watched most of the first season of Parenthood. Sunday was a regular day. On Monday I organized my address book which consisted of very old addresses of family and friends and lots of little return address labels that I had stored in the book. I tossed out most of the written pages and simply taped the labels in the book. Yes, I do have contacts on my phone and computer but I don’t need to carry all of those people around with me. 🙂  Then I watched a couple more episodes of Parenthood finishing season one and starting season two.

On Monday evening I decided I should accomplish something else as I had extra time due to no ladies group. So I decided to clean out the small drawer in the cabinet that sits next to my favorite chair and has become the catch-all for this and that. Since it is a small drawer I always assume what I place in there well be safe because it won’t be swallowed up as it could be in a big drawer. I wasn’t surprised to see post-it notes, small pads of paper, rubber bands, paperclips, cleaning cloths for my computer, my amazon credit card and my checkbook. I was surprised by a few treasures:

  • a box of rose petals – a friend had collected the petals from the yellow rose that was placed in Bruce’s name  by the National September 11 Memorial on Veterans’ Day. Friendship is an amazing treasure.
  • a small metal kazoo – “a dad gift”. After September 11, my daughters and I purchased a gift for each other that would have been something Dad would have bought or something that reminded you of Dad. We continued that tradition for 10 Christmases and then decided to make it an optional Christmas tradition. Meghan had purchased the kazoos for Emily and I in 2013. Many years ago while on a long road trip from NY to KS a stop at Cracker Barrel had resulted in Bruce (Dad) buying kazoos for the girls. Thankfully it took a few miles for them to get the hang of it. Family and memories are treasures.
  • business card from Dith Pran – In 2005 (?) I had a telephone interview with a New York Times reporter and that reporter asked if a photographer could come to my home. A few days later a gentleman arrived at my home and began to take photos. In the course of the photo shoot, I realized that the photographer was Dith Pran, the man whose life the movie the Killing Fields is based on. We spoke of his passion to tell the next generation the story of the Killing Fields because one time was too many.  It was a totally surreal experience. There is a You tube video of his last words. Passion and purpose are another treasure.

Extra time and random treasures have been a blessing the last few days. Tomorrow is back to real life if Mother Nature allows. 🙂

I have to be honest I watched a few more episodes of Parenthood. Not sure why I never saw the show in real time. 🙂


My year in review. The ABCs of 2014.


year in reviewA is for arabesque. I taught one ballet class a week.

B is for book clubs. I belonged to two.

C is for children’s camp. I directed with the best team ever.

D is for Dunkin Donuts. I drank a lot of coffee.

E is for East of Eden. I enjoyed reading this John Steinbeck classic.

F is for family and friends. Fun, food and fantastic stories.❤

G is God. He is good.

H is for home. I accomplished a few items on the “to do list”.

I is for ice cream. Always a yummy treat.😋

J is for Japan. Amazing second visit.

K is for Kansas. Time spent with family.

L is for library. My daughter completed her masters in library information science.

M is for Minnesota. I spent ten days caring for my grand-nieces and nephews.

N is for National September 11 Museum. It opened in May.

O is for opportunities. I am blessed with many.

P is for PA. My new secondary residence.

Q is for quizzing. I teach in my local church and direct on the district.

S is for speaking. I spoke at 4 events including one all-day conference with my daughter.

T is for tea with Miss Carol. Always a treat.

U is for United. The airline I usually use. Flew to San Antonio, Seattle and Minneapolis.

V is for volunteering at Tribute Center. Lead and supported tours, spoke to school groups.

W is for writing. I took a writing course and now I need to get busy!

X is for eXcerise. I need to be more disciplined.😐

Y is for year. Hard to believe another year has come and gone.

Z is for zero. The number of regrets I have.

In 2015- my goals are to read and write more, watch television less, enjoy simple times with family and friends and relish in being a grandma in the near future.😊

snowy with a chance of frozen meatballs

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With the weather forecast for a snow storm, I decided to travel to the Barn (my secondary residence) a little earlier than originally planned. As I loaded the car this morning the rain started to include a few frozen droplets. The roads were clear and travel was uneventful. I drove through Dunkin Donuts purchased a cup of coffee and continued traveling west thinking I am going to beat this storm. I still had grocery shopping to accomplish so I stopped in Shop Rite. Wow, when I came out of Shop Rite there was snow everywhere. Oh, no that is what I forgot a snowbrush. wait, CD case is a good substitute. Car cleared off and as I pulled out of the parking lot I realized I forgot two items my daughter had asked me to pick up. How did I do that? Duh!! Should I go back in Shop Rite or wait and go in the little grocery store in town? Ugh, I don’t want to get out of the car maybe I will call my daughter and tell her to pick it up herself.

The highway now snow-covered resembled a slip and slide. A big truck stopped right in the middle of a lane. Not good! Praying “Lord, please keep the idiot drivers away from me.” Oops! “Forgive me, Lord for calling them idiots but please keep them away” Felt bad for the truck drivers – “Lord, help them to get their destination and home to their families”.  Safely in town, I decided to run in Pecks and get the two missing items – frozen meatballs and grape jelly. “Hi, Ann. You made it.” It was my across the street neighbors. Greetings are exchanged and I left the store.

It is 3 miles from the start of my road to the Barn and most of it is up hill. It is truly uphill both ways. This isn’t the city or the burbs. This is wide open spaces, trees, a few houses and very little traffic unless you count the wildlife – deer and bears. I stay in the middle of the road and proceed very slowly.  And then it happens, the tires are spinning and the car isn’t traveling forward. It is sliding backwards. Car stops. Not sure what to do. I turn on the flashers and sit a moment. A car coming the other way slows down, rolls down their windows and ask if I need help. “I can’t make it up the hill and I don’t know what to do?” the older gentlemen suggests backing down the road and pulling off by the power line gate until the snow plow comes down. “we are going into town. We will tell them to send the plow truck.”  I make it safely to the side of the road remembering that my neighbor will be coming by at some point. I sip my coffee and decide to check my email  and settle in to wait for my neighbor or the plow truck. Within five minutes there are my neighbors. They gave me a ride. A few hours later, my neighbor and I ventured back to the car and I was able to get further up the road but still can’t get up the last big hill. I gathered more items from my car and came back to the Barn. Car is safely in a driveway of a house that is empty and for sale. Tomorrow is another day. And I can’t complain I am inside, warm, have food, water and I was truly blessed today. Not just by the kindness of my neighbors but by the timing of seeing them in the grocery store. That was a God moment. To think God used frozen meatballs aIMG_1722nd grape jelly. 🙂

It’s not just about me

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Over the last week or so I have had a similar conversation with different friends. They stumble through saying something like : “so does September 11 get easier?” “well, I know it doesn’t get easier but …”

Personally I think  it has gotten harder because now September 11 isn’t just about “my personal loss in the midst of a national tragedy.” Last week I had a delightful lunch with 7 fellow docents and friends  – a mom who lost her son, a widow, three downtown residents, a firefighter and a Port Authority employee. I know their stories and struggles. I thought of them and others on September 11. They commented that this year was harder and they couldn’t understand why. I shared my theory that it was harder because we carry each other’s stories in our hearts.

So does September 11 get easier with the passage of time:

Yes, because I don’t worry about people’s expectations.

No, because I realize how much Bruce has missed and how much I miss him.

No, because it not  just about me and my family. It is about my Tribute friends and their stories.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”

C. S. Lewis


A September Monday

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On a Monday in September of 1975 I lost my job, started a small business and meet my future husband. Really, that all happened on the same day. My employer, teacher, mentor called and cut my teaching hours to a minimum. Shocked and totally dismayed I told my dad, he said “what to do want to do?”. Tearfully I said “teach little girls to dance.” “So let’s figure out how you can do that.” My dad and I sat at the dining room table, planned and the result was The New School of Dance Arts. Did I mention I was 21 years old?

Later that same day the phone rang, Carol said “Craig is here and he has some guy he wants you to meet. We are coming over.” That guy was Bruce Van Hine. A week or so later Bruce would ask me out. We started dating and on June 14, 1980 were married. Side note: Craig would also introduce Carol to her hubby.

In 1976, Carol would “buy” into my business. Actually she matched the funds that were in the checking account ($100) and we became business partners. It doesn’t matter that isn’t the right way to do that because we retired from that business in 2011 after 35 years. Oh, and she is still my bestest friend.

With much apprehension in the fall of 2001, I would check the calendar to make sure that September 11, 1975 was not a Monday. It was a Thursday.


“writer’s blog hop “

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My friend, Susan Panzica, invited me to be part of a “writer’s blog hop”. I panicked at the idea and told Susan to use me “only if she had to”. She “had to” so here I am in a blog hop. From what I understand the idea of a “writer’s blog hop” is I introduce what I am writing by answering 4 questions and then I introduce you to three of my “blogging friends”. Well, I only have two bloggers to introduce and I almost thought I can’t do this because I don’t have 3 and I don’t have any witty, smart answers to the questions. Then I realized there are probably no “blog hop” police or even “blog hop” penalties for doing it wrong. So here goes:

1 – What am I writing or working on?
I am writing a few pieces to submit to magazines and devotionals. My goal for the fall is to really start working on a manuscript for publication.

2 – How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I share stories from my everyday life and my goal is to show the intersection of the spiritual in all things.

3 – Why do I write what I write?
After September 11 I promised the Lord that whatever opportunities He gave me “to tell of His praiseworthy deeds” I would step up and speak of Him. I have had many opportunities to speak and for some time I have believed that I am also supposed to write.

4 – How does my writing process work?
I am trying to figure that out. 🙂 I need to be more disciplined about writing. Writing actually scares me to death. I don’t mind speaking in front of hundreds people but putting my thoughts on paper (or my computer) isn’t something I feel qualified to do.

I meet the following two ladies at Mount Hermon Writers Conference in the Spring of 2013. Hannah and I actually meet at the airport. We were both “newbies” and I was so glad to have someone to learn the ropes with. Since I met Hannah she has released a beautiful Christmas CD which was one of my favorites last Christmas and will be for years to come. Jennifer was one of Hannah’s roommates at the conference and I was thrilled to make another friend. Jennifer has published a book since I met her. You go, girl!

Hannah Frances DeVol Thomas is a writer, a singer, and a pilgrim. She is the Principal at By the Lion Arts—a fledgling enterprise dedicated to words and music of quality and substance. Her blog, At the Top of my Lungs, was launched to chronicle the release of her first album, In the Bleak Midwinter, in December of 2013, and has embarked from there on explorations of life, art, and other worthwhile things, including recent journeys to London, Oxford, and Paris. In the Bleak Midwinter is currently available from Amazon and iTunes

Jennifer Edwards is a writer, blogger, speaker, and editor. She recently published her first book, God’s Radical Plan for Wives (with co-authors Gil & Dana Stieglitz), and a companion 9-week Bible study. Her blog, Truth Bites, is rapidly growing in readership. Women of all ages & stages enjoy her transparency, humor, and crazy life lessons as they gain new insights, perspectives, and clarity about many issues women face today. She also writes a monthly e-newsletter just for wives (The Radical Wife) sharing from her own married life, as well as the principles taught in her books. For more about Jennifer, visit http://www.jenniferedwards.net.