A Country Bumpkin’s First Impression of The Big Apple

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It was 4 am, our planned arrival time so as to avoid the infamous traffic.  My eyesight is very poor for nighttime driving so I was calling out the turn by turn directions to my daughter, Toni, who was driving.  It was drizzling for the first time on the trip, and the moisture was creating smears across the windshield that added yet another dimension to our fear of the unknown.  After leaving the safety of the well-lit and nearly vacant Lincoln Tunnel, we were making our way into the lane we needed for a turn two tenths of a mile ahead when a car stopped right in front of us.

Driving somewhere we are comfortable with or familiar with, this would not have been a situation to cause us alarm.  But our well laid out plans of arrival time turned out not to have been such great plans after all.  The streets were no less crowded than they were in the daytime in the “city that never sleeps”.  We were literally stuck in the traffic behind this car with a never ending barrage of taxis, limousines and the occasional “normal” cars zooming by, all of whom would blare their horns as they made their way around these two cars just sitting there in the right lane!

But the streets weren’t the only things that were packed with traffic.  People were everywhere! Loud and boisterous people, who were screaming and motioning to anyone he or she could get the attention of.  After having just traveled the long, dark quietness of the New Jersey Turnpike, this sudden change had us quite a bit on the edge of our nerves.  And in the midst of all this, I looked up and saw the largest horse I had ever saw in my life! Forgetting that some of the New York City Police Force use horses on duty, this beautiful, huge animal had my undivided attention and I wasted no time in speaking my mind on this matter to Toni.

It is at this point that I was brought back to reality quite suddenly, as she screamed at me “I don’t care about the stupid horse, help me get out of this mess!”  Let me say here that my daughter is extremely careful over her car.  She routinely checks for scratches and nicks and is a professional now at what products work best to remove them.  In traffic, she is so nervous that her car is going to be hit by other traffic, that if possible, she has someone else drive, namely me.  This night that was impossible due to my blindness and here she sits in front of me scared to death!About this time, someone knocks on the window next to me!  We turn to see a group of guys walking beside the car.  Toni and I just sit and stare at each other.  The guy keeps knocking until he finally reaches the back of the car and leaves.  This was all it took for Toni to force her way out from behind the car and its rude driver.

The next step on our road trip map of directions would have had us turning right onto a one way street – going left!  So we had to do some calculating of our own to back track a street and finally arrive at our hotel on the East River.  But upon finding it, where were we to park the car? The streets were lined with tall buildings and sidewalks – no parking places.  Directly beside the hotel we spotted the entrance to a parking garage so we stopped there and Toni waited in the car while I went in to get us registered.

Everything went smoothly for me.  The hotel had our late arrival noted on our reservations and I was quickly and efficiently given our room card keys and told to unload our luggage and leave it with the attnedant in the lobby while we drove behind and beneath the hotel to the parking basement.  I felt relief!  We had finally made it safely and were within moments of a place to rest!  When I got to the car and began telling Toni to help me with the luggage, again she didn’t want to hear anything I had to say!  “Just get in the car” she repeatedly told me with such a sense of desperation that I finally just gave up on the luggage and got in.  She said there was a man who had walked around the car several times and was standing over to the side watching us.  As I spotted the stranger, the dread of hauling our heavy luggage all the way to our room suddenly diminished as we made our way to the basement.

Little did we know we were in for yet another unanticipated initiation to the city.  The parking attendant spoke or understood no English.  We were met with a waving motion of his arms and we thought he was telling us to park the car.  After creeping slowly through the first level of the basement and finding no empty spaces we proceeded to the lower level only to find the same problem.  Cars were parked three deep with what appeared to be less than an inch between them.  We made our way back to the attendant and he greeted us with more waving, a ceaseless stream of “sounds” we couldn’t understand and finally a simple, quiet hands up signal to STOP.  He motioned for our car keys, took them and opened the trunk, motioned for us to remove our luggage, gave us a claim ticket and waved us towards the exit.

With Toni feeling great trepidation about having just turned her car over to a complete stranger, we were finally on our way to our room.  We had a corner suite on the 16th floor and upon arriving we immediately raised the shades on the almost floor to ceiling windows that encompassed all but one wall of the room.  The side windows overlooked the double-decked Queensborough Bridge and overhead trolley that carried passengers back and forth to Roosevelt Island.  The windows across the front of the room faced the city.  The view was breathtaking.  The lights of the enormous city reflecting on the water of the river cast beautiful prisms of every color imaginable.  We sat staring, trying to calm ourselves from the shock to our systems that we had just experienced for the past hour.  Exhaustion finally took over as we both fell asleep considering an early checkout and a return to less threatening, more familiar surroundings.

We awoke around 11 am, knowing that we had missed the checkout if we were seriously planning on leaving early.  Instead of making a final decision on whether to stay or leave, we decided on what we would most like to see in one day and set out on the adventure of actually getting there.  Driving was not an option, and our destination was Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Centers, over six miles away.  We set out on foot.  We had walked almost a mile when we came upon Bloomingdale’s.  Naturally we wanted to go in this famous store along with what seemed to be everyone else visiting New York.  This store is so huge one would have to actually visit it to understand.  There are many different floors with many different elevators and escalators, all of which looked the same and was a fact we failed to notice until we started trying to exit.  Our mistake was in not noting which entrance we had entered by.  We couldn’t find our way out! A clerk noticed our exasperated confusion and pointed us to an exit, any exit, at this point we just wanted out!

We should have clarified our exit wishes more clearly because the exit she directed us to was directly into – were we country bumpkins ready for this? – the subway! Yes, we needed transportation to Ground Zero, but now?  Were we brave enough to tackle the subways yet? Feeling trapped, we once again had no choice but to do as the New Yorkers do – take a subway.  After procuring our tokens from yet another non-English speaking attendant, I absolutely refused to get on before finding out where we should get off.  I went back to the clerk at the entrance to Bloomingdale’s where we had just exited who I knew had spoken English.  She was very helpful and soon we were speeding along under the city.  I felt a sense of elation!  We were on our way to Ground Zero and everything seemed safe around us on the subway.  Until Toni finally convinced me that we were heading in the wrong direction.  I didn’t want to believe it – we were heading toward Harlem! A little elderly lady sitting in front of us who had been discreetly watching us all along came to our rescue.  She could only understand the words “world trade center” but as she left the train at the next stop she motioned for us to follow and pointed us to another train.  Wishing we knew how to thank her, we simply waved as she hurried away.  Her directions did in fact lead us to our next awe-inspiring discovery.

The first thing we noticed as we saw daylight leaving the subway station was the sound.  The sounds of the city are very loud.  Between the traffic and the people, there was a constant noise that we quickly grew accustomed to shouting over.  Even sixteen stories up in our hotel room, we noticed the noise quickly.  The exit off the subway at Ground Zero lacked these sounds.  Instead, although the traffic and the crowds were dense, there was a silence.  Along the fenced wall of memorials, which would bring tears to even the most hardened heart, sat a man playing the flute.  In the silence, acutely aware of Ground Zero looming to our left, the tune of “Amazing Grace” put a somber mood on the crowd.  My heart wanted to scream, “Take this pain away – why did this have to happen?”  Visions of what we all watched on television on 9/11/01 came to mind, knowing I was standing where all the horror had happened.  The unmatched silence surrounding the area and remembrance describe the sites today better than any other words can.

Coming away from Ground Zero, Toni and I remained quietly to ourselves for the remainder of the day.  We were still in awe of every corner we turned but none of our experiences thus far compared with the deeply introspective mood we found ourselves in.  After dining, we were ready to make our way back to our hotel, and since it was by this time nightfall, we decided to be cautious and not chance the subway.  A taxi would be best but what do we do – stick our thumbs out as if we’re hitchhiking? We walked on until a taxi stopped in front of us letting someone out and we jumped in.  We shocked the driver with our heavy Southern accents so much so that I had to write the address to our hotel down for him to understand.  Minutes later we were back where we had started some eight hours earlier.  We had conquered the city for the day! Fears had been abated enough for us to stay instead of high-tailing it back home.  We went to sleep with the alarm clock set early, looking forward to venturing out again.

The next day we calculated that we walked over eight miles, most of which was in the rain.  Our destination was Times Square but on the way we just happened upon Grand Central Station, Trump Plaza and Towers, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Central Park, Tiffany’s, Saks Fifth Avenue – I could go on and on.  Knowing we needed rest for the long drive home the next day we bid the heart of the city farewell and made our long walk back to our hotel.  We left early enough the next morning to avoid the heaviest traffic, leaving the city within only minutes and arrived home exactly 12 hours and 45 minutes later.

Overall, our trip gave us a sense of confidence that we had conquered our small-town fears and were able to explore the city for two days.  We took each step, however, with a constant awareness that we could actually reach out and touch what up until this point we had only heard about – culture shock.  Our thanks and hats off go to the Big Apple from these two country bumpkins from the South!  And….to valet parking!

(Written as part of a college English class in 2012, posted today as a memorial to lives lost on 9/11/01)

The Importance of Hope in Today’s World

Tammi Kale:

Originally shared by Idealisticrebel:

Originally posted on idealisticrebel:

In Wales, Nato is meeting to address the dual problems of ISIL and Russia. It is also a time of increased racism here in the United States. The world is tense, you can feel it as you go about your regular life. I want to encourage you to remember that peace starts within us. Hope and peace live within and is touched by the Divinity within. Our hearts and souls are very important in our lives. We just are not really aware of them.

Our hearts have been attacked more than once in the last few months. Mother Earth is screaming in pain. 16 million children live in poverty in America, we really have no idea of how many people in Iraq and Syria have been killed and or displaced. Now ISIL members are discussing moving into India. That country is filled with a billion people. They have just been…

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“They’re So Wide…”

DSCF3267My Mom and Dad were both blue collar workers – hard workers.  Daddy worked hard to give our family what he thought they needed – a nice home, vacations, all the newest technology, which back then was a microwave, VCR and cordless telephones. We gathered at six each evening for dinner together at the table.  He grilled steaks most Saturday evenings on the brick charcoal grill he’d built in the backyard while first Lawrence Welk and then Love Boat played on in the background.

But for much of this seemingly idyllic childhood we lived with an ever-present fear, one that haunted our every moment.  We continued on as if all was as it should be, but each of us spoke each word, thought each thought with the image of ‘it’ coming back smothering our certainties.

My brother was almost four years younger than I.  When he was seven months old, I was told he had what the doctors called a ‘boil’ in his stomach and life was touch and go as they did surgery to remove it.  When he was seven years old he slid down the basement stair rails to carry dirty clothes to the laundry and fell, hitting his head on the cement floor below.  Seven months later he started having seizures as he slept and after long waits through test after test, it was found that he had a brain tumor between the two sides of his brain. The doctors said the basement fall would have had nothing to do with the tumor, but we pointlessly never stopped wondering.  Surgery was done at Duke Hospital but they were unable to remove all of it due to its location.  For three months, Mama spent days in the hospital with him as treatments were done and either Mama would drive them home for the weekends or my Dad and I would drive up – abour a four hour drive.

At the end of those three months, we were told the tumor was not visible on any of the tests they performed.  Medical advancements were not then what they are now – this was over forty years ago – most of the tests themselves made him very sick.  But, he was able to come home to resume his life with regular visits to Duke to periodically confirm all was still well.

I was eleven when he hit the basement stairs.  The seven months between the fall and the tumor was the last we were all to see of our normal family with normal joys and normal problems.  I remember one Monday morning when I was in the fourth grade when Mama and Roy (my brother) were dropping me off at school as they headed back to Duke.  I was almost to the door, and Mama’s car was almost to the road when I realized I’d left my can of Koby’s potato sticks in the car.  I literally ran trying to catch her car only see her make the turn and disappear.  A kind teacher took sobbing me under her wing that day and become a second mom to me as I dealt with my real mom not being home.

Daddy tried to do his best but he became unreachable.  He would either lie on the catch until he’d go to sleep watching TV each evening, or he’d sit at his desk writing letters to Roy and Mama.  I did my best to do housework and laundry, we’d eat whatever was there.  Basically, as my Daddy drew tighter and tighter inside himself with worry, I worked harder and harder to ease his burden.

Then, Roy came home.  We all were happy to re-adjust, again, and he to try to catch up with the schoolwork he’d gotten so far behind on.  The coming years found him joining the band, finding his love of fishing and for the rock band ‘Kiss’.  But just as our haunt predicted, seven years later the tumor returned, this time inoperable.

He went back to Duke for what treatments were felt could alleviate the pressure of the tumor, and sent home with the knowledge that the treatments ‘may’ have worked to let him live a long life, or they hadn’t.  The picture above is him with his new puppy shortly after these treatments.  I see it in his eyes here – the way he’d look at us with love mixed in with what wasn’t fear, but a knowing.  He played the trombone and one day asked me to come downstairs – he had a surprise for me.  He knew my love of the song ‘Edelweiss’ from ‘The Sound of Music’ -so he had taught it to himself to play for me.  It didn’t sound quite the same on a trombone but I loved him for it.

In just a few short months he began having stability problems, his eyes would suddenly roll up into his head and his head would loll.  When the breathing problems started, his Duke doctors said there was no need to bring him back to Duke, they had done all they could do.  One night as he lay in the hospital bed here in our hometown, Mama sang “Jesus loves me, He who died, Heaven’s gates to open wide” and he stopped her and said something she couldn’t understand.  As she put her head close to his mouth, he said “They’re so wide.”  Mama choked back tears and kept on singing.  Two days later she had to tell him to quit fighting and let go.  He died on the eighth day of the seventh month at 7:07 in the morning.

I made reference to his time of death for one reason.  So many marveled and took comfort in the sequence of sevens in his life – as they saw this number as God’s completion number.  Coincidence or not, I’ve listed them in this little story as I’ve gone along. There are seven of them.

I’ve had this post on my mind for awhile and now that I’ve sat down to write it I’ve found that there are many posts out there right now involving ‘brothers’.  Maybe it’s a thought God’s given us all for some reason….But my writing on Roy has been to let go of some of it.  Yes, it’s been a great many years but just as all those years before he died carried the thought of whether the cancer would come back or not in our every action, the thought habits that those years created in me have been something I’ve tackled for a great part of my life.  I’ve always been the one to try to find a solution to every problem, to excel at whatever I do, to hide my feelings.  I think all of these character traits were formed in those years I was on the other side of Roy’s illness.  My parents were not there for many of my school functions throughout the years because of something or other that would come up with Roy.  The night I graduated high school we left immediately to take him back to Duke.  So much of my life, even though I never resented it, was put on the back burner to do what had to be done.  That carried over into my mistakes in marriage very soundly.  I bent over backwards and expected to be appreciated.  The lengths I went to, I realize now, were not only unhealthy but were part of my allowing myself to be the victim of an abusive marriage all in the name of ‘helping him – he doesn’t mean it’.  I shudder now.  Not only in my marriage, but in ever facet of my life I see traces of “why” I react in certain ways, where my own natural inclination to excel is driven from.

There is also the pain and the questioning of why.  I don’t question why I feel sad when families everywhere are having big get togethers.  Or when holidays roll around and my family is basically only my Mom and myself.  But I do so miss what could have been to the point that it is a literal pain.  But – the pain leaves me truly thankful for the blessings I have in my daughter and her family.  Truly thankful that Roy saw the gates and will be there to meet me at them some day. Truly thankful that God has turned the lessons I learned from those many years ago into the joy of enjoying each day with my daughter and granddaughter and so much more.

If you’re still reading, I thank you for hearing me out.  This is something I’ve never really talked to anyone about but something I also know had great bearing on my life.  I will never forget my brother – I miss him greatly now.  I get very melancholy when I think of what it might be like if he had lived, had his own family.  Life is so very different now from what it would have been.  My Daddy’s death was even a part of Roy’s story, but that’s all for another time as this post is going long.

Again, thank you.  And to each of my blogger friends – may God bless your every moment.

Tammi

No Soccer?

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I attended my granddaughter’s kindergarten orientation last week.  As Mom and Dad were talking with her teacher, I felt her pulling my shirt sleeve, trying to be patient for her turn to speak.  “How many days until I get to come here?” she asked.  Her eyes lit up even brighter when I counted off five days.

During dinner afterwards she asked her Mom if she had signed her up for soccer yet.  Mom reminded her, again, that they had decided she wasn’t going to play soccer this fall so she would have more time to get adjusted to school and homework.  I wish I could have captured the look she gave us.  The next words out of her mouth: “Mammy, will you do just some of my homework so I can play soccer?”  I think I’ve spoiled her a bit.

First Impressions of a Blogger

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I’ve only starting blogging a few weeks ago and in this short time I must say that blogging is an adventure in and off itself.  I started out with the intention of getting myself ‘out there’ but it has turned into what is becoming a wonderful and powerful new part of my life.

I have found the most inspiring bloggers.  Ones who meld words in such a way that I find myself consumed, carried away to emotions that inspire, empathize, invoke, conjure – you name it – it’s here in the world of blogging.  I’ve found magnificent photographers who need no words to appeal to those same emotions.  I’ve vicariously traveled to wondrous lands where I could only dream of visiting.

But I’ve also found pain.  There are many who have and are fighting hard battles.  Who are utterly courageous in sharing those battles with the world.  Their courage to expose themselves a testament itself to the inspiration they share with others.

I’ve found ones who are questioning and searching for answers about and from God.  Those have left me no alternatives but to ask myself the same questions.  Then there’s the ones who flat out refuse to believe or have explained away the very existence of God.

One of the detriments to blogging that I’m encountering is the lack of laundry getting done, the dust balls curling up around the baseboards and the dog bones left on the floor that I step on getting out of bed in the morning.  I am being drawn to the blog world now and am consumed with each new wonderful post I find.  But, it is a pleasure that I am savoring.

Each word of inspiration and encouragement lifts my soul and confirms to me that I’m on the right track, to never give up on my dreams.  Be they big or small, a daily goal or one I hope to have accomplished a year or even ten years from now.  I’ve also realized that the experiences I’ve had in my life can enable me to be sources of inspiration to others, just as so many are inspiring me.

The wistfullness I feel when I think of some beautiful place like Greece, Australia, Thailand or any of the other hundreds of lands I’d love to visit has become somewhat diminished as I get to read and visit in beautiful pictures these and other wonderful places.  To have a first hand account and be able to speak with people living in these lands or on an adventure there themselves is a joy for me.

Above all, I know from whence cometh my help and God is speaking clearly and lovingly through most all posts.  Even those that are not directly speaking of God, I still hear His voice.  In searching to answer those hard questions from skeptics, my faith has grown greatly and I am blessed to have encountered even those experiences.

I thank you all for welcoming me so warmly to the world of blogging and greatly look forward to continuing this journey with each of you.  Till we talk again, may God bless your each and every moment!

Love, Tammi

Septic Scare

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My Best Friend and Daughter

 I’ve been thinking lately on what it means to be thankful.  My husband died in 2004.  He was 48.  I was ravaged with grief, fear and uncertainty of the future, regret, anger – a myriad of emotions.  Less than a month after his passing, I received a call that ultimately sent me reeling on the precipice I was already barely clinging to.

My daughter had traveled to Nevada to visit family and as she waited to board her flight home, she called to tell me she wasn’t feeling well.  When she arrived at Charlotte, it was evident she was feverish so I got her home and put her to bed with Tylenol for the fever.  Four hours later, when I found the fever had skyrocketed to 105, she was so weak I could barely get my 22 year old baby to the car.  I’m sure there aren’t many who aren’t personally familiar with the long wait time in an emergency room.  When we got there her blood pressure and temp were taken and I should have known right then something was seriously wrong.  Instead, I think it was then that the Lord caught me in his arms.

She was immediately put in a room in emergency where tubes and monitors were hooked to her and even a catheter inserted.  None of the nurses or doctors could offer any words other than “we’re trying to find the problem, please stand back”.  Her blood pressure registered – I have to hold my breath right now to type it – 40 over 17.  It was about that time two nurses laid a defibrillator over my daughter’s legs and unhooked the machines.  They then literally sprinted out, pushing my daughter’s gurney as they ran down a hallway that said ‘no admittance’.  I finally realized there was a nurse standing beside me with her hand on my arm, talking.  Through the haze, I was able to make out that my daughter was being taken to the ICU and that someone there would be able to tell me more.

Long story short – they determined that she had a urinary tract infection that had entered her bloodstream and created sepsis, a potentially fatal infection of the whole body.  As I sat down outside the ICU it finally hit me at how close she was to death.  I was in such a state of shock that no tears came, I just stared.  I mumbled “I can’t make it if she isn’t here” and a friend put herself into my stare zone.  She said “God knows that”, then she smiled and kissed my cheek.  At that very moment, I felt peace and knew she was going to alright.  Not because I knew God wouldn’t take her from me, because I knew He could.  But because He let me know in that very peaceful moment that all would be well.  My soul heard the Spirit speak.

The sepsis had been caught at practically the very moment before it became fatal.  She was in ICU for five days and in a room for another three as they continued monitoring the infections that had tormented her body.  Each day as she got stronger, so did I.  I had been wallowing around in a grief that I know now would have carried my life in an entirely different direction than where it is now.  The lesson I learned from my daughter’s sepsis was to let go of the grief and confusion for things that were gone and be thankful instead for the many blessings I still had with me.

My thinkings lately have led me to know that it was during this time that my subsconsious really registered what ‘thankful’ means.   We come across questions where we’re asked what we’re thankful for – whether it’s in a devotional, a Sunday School lesson.   Or when confronted with problems of others, we offer thanks to God for the many blessings in our own lives.  But how do we thank God for dying on a cross? I’m afraid it’s taken for granted as a ‘story’ to the point that we forget what He actually did. I visualize a friend doing the same for me and it becomes horrific – I would be weeping and gnashing my teeth as I gazed at my friend’s tortured, bloodied body. Never would I be the same.

Through my daughter’s recovery, I was made wonderfully and joyfully thankful for her return to health.  How so very much more thankful I am to think of the Spirit’s guiding presence in every day and the confidence of a future where death will no longer separate me from my loved ones. How so very blessed and thankful I am for the many blessings my daughter, and now my granddaughter bring into my life. All as I bow my head at the base of a blood stained cross.