grateful, culture and Paris


Gratitude-Henry Ward Beecher

I spoke at a women’s luncheon today about living a grateful life – my September 11 experiences and thoughts from the book of Philippians. I also shared a story I don’t usually share, a story about Paris. As the chairperson of the meeting read my bio, there was an audible gasp as she said “In 1990, Bruce achieved his lifetime dream of being a New York City Firefighter. Bruce was killed in the line of duty on September 11, 2001.” Even after 14 years that kind of reaction gives me pause, I feel bad because in some ways I feel like I have sucker punched everyone and in another way I feel like everyone looks at me differently. I have the sense that suddenly there is a giant flashing sign above my head “9/11 widow, 9/11 widow”. I also have the sense that people’s minds are spinning, the sense that people have lost their bearings so I try to say something to break the ice, something to kick-start their brains, something to interject air back into the room. Today I commented that I wish I could say that September 11, 2001 was the last terrorist attack that the world had experienced but unfortunately that is not the case.

I went onto say that I am saddened that there are more families who can say “I have had a personal loss in the midst of a national tragedy.” All loss is loss and all loss is sad but there is an extra layer of something when your personal loss is part of an event so much bigger than you.

I told my story  and mentioned how the book of Philippians is one of my favorite books in the Bible. I mentioned that Paul was in prison when he wrote it and how the word joy in some form appears 16 times. How Paul doesn’t mentioned changing his circumstances but talks about being contend. I think it all wove together.

In case you are interested, the story I added about Paris is:

In February 2002, Squad 41  called and said “there is an opportunity that made us think of you because you have culture*! The Paris Fire Department has invited FDNY widows and their children to France for one week. You will stay in the home of a firefighter and his family. They assure us that at least one person in the family will speak English.  Do you want to go?”  Yes, please.

The night before we were scheduled to leave for Paris my telephone rang, it was Charlie, Bruce’s lieutenant. “Ann, I want you to promise me you will still go to Paris. I already know your answer to what I am going to tell you next but they made me call you. (pause) We found Bruce’s body. We will come and pick you up if your want to be here when he is carried out.”  “Charlie, I can’t do that.” “I knew that.” “Listen it could take up to 6 weeks for him to be identified so please go to France.”

I didn’t say anything to my daughters because I didn’t want to ruin their trip and the FDNY said it would take 6 weeks for identification. We were treated like royalty – taken up the back entrance into Versailles so we didn’t have to wait in line, a police escort and private tour guide at Disneyland, Paris, a state dinner on a boat up the Seine River, gifts to take home including a bottle of champagne** that had been specially labeled with FDNY and Paris FD. The kindness and generosity of the French people was amazing.

An inside joke on the trip became when asked if I spoke French, I replied “all I remember from 4 years of High School French is “Ou est une bibliotheque?”  Not a very useful phrase. On our last night as we floated up the Seine River, one of the firefighters  pointed and said “Ann, une bibliotheque” – the library.

We returned home on the day before Easter. On Easter Sunday, the day when there is no body I was notified that yes, that was Bruce’s body. For years I didn’t understand the significance of there being a body on the day when it is all about there is no body. I came to realize that my hope is based in the fact there was no body on Easter so whether Bruce’s body was*** found or not on September 11,2001 Bruce was doing his job, whispered he loved his girls and was face to face with God.

When I heard of the attacks in Paris, I thought of those firefighters I had met, I thought of their families and I prayed for them.



*still not sure what “I have culture” means

** In 2011 the day after my second daughter got married my two daughters and their husbands opened that bottle of champagne and had a special toast to their dad. ūüôā

*** I did mention that I am grateful Bruce’s body was found that 40% of families have had no human remains.

April 19 – then and now

Leave a comment

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing. My prayers and thoughts are with the family members, victims, fire responders, all who have always known whether it is the first, seventh, thirteenth or twentieth time April 19 has been the date on the calendar since that terrible day in 1995. My prayers are also with those who served on the jury for the trial of the accused bomber. This has to be difficult day for so many.

Twenty years ago I was in England with my two daughters and my British born mum for a two-week¬†vacation to introduce my girls to the “mother country” of their Nanny. We were fortunate to have family to stay with and who were also willingly to drive us hither and fro through the British Countryside.¬†We had already visited the sights of London – toured ¬†the Tower, heard Big Ben chime twelve as we came out of the underground, visited the stables to see the Queens horses, shopped for English sweets and souvenirs. We had taken the train to Oxford to see the universities and where I was born. On Easter Sunday we had gone to Windsor Castle and had a glimpse of the Queen Mother leaving church.

On Wednesday April 19 we had visited Hampton Court and my daughters had participated in the “Jeweled Egg Hunt”, a scavenger hunt designed to make historical places a little more interesting to a 7 and 10-year-old.¬†Upon returning¬†to Auntie Mirrey’s house¬†while enjoying a cup of tea there was breaking news report on the television¬†of a bombing in Oklahoma City. My dad is from Oklahoma. Oklahoma was far away but not foreign to us. I had lived on the campus of the University of Oklahoma as a little girl. I remember trying to listen to the information¬†and at the same time shielding my daughters from the news. A telephone call “home” would give more information but the sense of disbelief would remain. Sadness for those who were lost, sadness for innocence lost, sadness for lives changed, sadness for my country being bombed.

On that day twenty years ago I didn’t know that 6.5 years later¬†I would become a member of a select group of people¬†those who have experienced a personal loss¬†¬†in the midst of a national tragedy. I didn’t realize that I would be able to understand in ways I wish I didn’t know what it is like to have a nation remember the anniversary of your loved ones death. ¬†I pray that no one else ever has that distinction.

Being a tourist in my own city – Merchant’s House

Leave a comment

A few weeks ago friends and I visited The Merchant’s House Museum located at 29 East Fourth Street¬†in Manhattan .¬†I¬†wasn’t that familiar with the neighborhood and didn’t know what¬†to expect so I ended up standing on the street corner glaring at my iPhone looking more like a tourist than I like to. Trying to act like I knew where I was going even though I had actually spun around¬†in a circle I finally walked back the way I had come and found¬†the house. I guess I was expecting a big sign or something but it looked quite ordinary¬†on the outside¬†but¬†the inside¬†was worth the trip.

The members of the¬†Tredwell family lived in the house for almost 100 years. The house was built in 1832 “on spec”¬† and sold to¬†SeburyTredwell in 1840, a family member lived there until 1933 and in 1936 it became a museum. The home still houses¬†most of the original furniture, many personal items¬†as well as other period pieces. According to the website, “In New York City, it has been awarded landmark status not only for its 1832 late-Federal brick exterior but also for its Greek revival interior rooms.” Our tour started in the basement and proceeded through the main floor entertaining space and ended in the servant’s quarters on the third floor. Being a Downton Abbey fan, it was interesting to see the American merchant class version of life with servants complete with a bell system, separate entrance and back stairs.¬†The other think about the tour that I found very interesting was to ponder all the events and advancements that occurred in the 100 years the family owned the house.

The Merchant House is currently endangered¬†due to the proposed construction of a hotel next door. To read about the issues surrounding the merchant house visit I would suggest adding Merchant House to your NYC sightseeing list. It won’t be the flashiest thing or the newest or even the oldest but it will be worth the trip.

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 ‚Äúto do list‚ÄĚ.

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

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.ūüėź

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.ūüėä

snowy with a chance of frozen meatballs

1 Comment

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. ūüôā

Travel Tuesdays – S2E4 – USA

Leave a comment



One of the current quizzes on Facebook is “which states have you visited?” I have visited 44 states. It is easier to¬†list those I haven’t visited opposed to listing those I have. I haven’t visited Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota, Idaho or Hawaii. So a visit to the Deep South, the far North and Hawaii are in order to be able to say I have visited all 50 states.

Each area of the USA has amazing sights to see, regional food to taste and interesting people to meet. Many times while traveling I have marveled at the very size of the USA. Let alone the diversity.¬†To me it is amazing the concept of the United States of America works at all. Some would argue it doesn’t work but it does work on some level.

Some of my favorite spots are:

Grand Tetons

Black Hills

Outer Banks

New York City

Washington DC


San Diego

Lancaster County, PA*


*where my girls and their guys live ūüôā

Personally I think the best:

  1. way to see the USA is by car or train (on my bucket list)
  2. places to eat are where the locals eat and the local cuisine (within reason)
  3. places to stay are with family or friends







Dr Seuss was right…

Leave a comment

‚ÄúThe more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

I currently belong to two book clubs one at the local public library and another with a few friends. The public library book club tends to read classic literature. For October’s meeting we read The Essential Tales of Chekhov. It was short stories by Anton Chekhov and it was enjoyable – humorous but also dark but come on, he is Russian so it is going be dark. For the next meeting we are reading The Country Girls Trilogy by Edith O’Brien. We are just reading the first book of the trilogy. I haven’t started it yet because the friend’s book club meets¬†in a week and I needed to finish The Children Act by Ian McEwan. I did finish it and it was worth the read. The book we had read previously was The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt which was good by a little long (800 pages). I am also reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and Replacement Child by Judy L. Mandel both of those books¬†are more for research than for pleasure but I am enjoying all that I am currently reading.

I also have had opportunity to visit a few interesting places recently. Two friends and I walked the Walkway over the Hudson ( last week and had lunch at a delightful little café called Lolas. We had beautiful weather. I would encourage you to take a stroll on the Walkway and then enjoy a yummy lunch at Lolas and then walk back. You get a view and exercise.

The week before I ¬†visited the State Museum ( and New York Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Albany. My intention¬†for visiting the State Museum was to see the 9/11 Family Room exhibit. The weird thing is I only visited the 9/11 Family Room once when it was in One Liberty Plaza and never went¬†when it was on the site. I was curious to see the exhibit but in earlier years I had no need or desire to visit the space. I will say the State Museum’s September 11 exhibit is a good exhibit for children. ¬†I thought it tells the story without being overwhelming like the National 9/11 Museum. The area is bright, there are few large artifacts, information on all aspects of attacks, rescue and recovery. There is a section on rescue dogs and a statue to honor the dogs. I also learned something I hadn’t realized that at the original World Trade Center there had been bomb disposal units on the plaza. Already, then. I started wondering what on the new site is the equivalent. IMG_2934IMG_2935

When you exit the museum if you walk¬† all the way to the other side of¬†The Egg you will come to the New York Fallen Firefighters Memorial. It is a beautiful memorial.¬†As I approached I noticed a man “working” on the Memorial. I assumed¬†he was fixing names but I would come to find out a few days¬†later he was adding names. I asked him if the names were in any particular order. He said “no, after September 11 I added almost 400 names.” I commented that I recognized some September 11 names but they didn’t appear to be all together. He said “I just put them where they tell me.” “Thanks for your help. I will just keep looking.” After about 10 minutes of scanning up and down every panel I found Bruce’s name. At that point the man was leaving and I said to him “Thank you for the work you do here.” As he finished picking up his tools and¬†headed towards his truck, he said “it is my pleasure.”¬† Suddenly he stopped walking, turned ¬†and said “no that is wrong, it is my honor.”