Real Army Wives Series: New York City

Real Army Wives Series: Meeting Him in New York City

In the Empire State Building

 

While Alan was at OBC (military training) in Oklahoma, and I was finishing my degree at Alabama, Alan had this spontaneous idea to meet for the weekend in New York City!!

New York City!!

Y’all. To fully understand why this was such a big deal, I should explain that I was not accustomed to this sort of thing. We did not take annual vacations or move from state to state. I lived in Alabama my entire life.

But for as long as I can remember, I have always been a dreamer and a wanderer.

If you look hard enough, you can spot the Statue of Liberty to the left of my head.

I love excitement.

Alan brought a degree of excitement that I had always yearned for. I couldn’t help it. My Aunt Ann, who I adore, used to joke that as a baby my first word was “Go!”

Traveling and seeing new places, sleeping in hotel rooms, and just roaming in general is something I love.

I do not love trying to relax in a hotel room while my 10-year-old and 11 year-old laugh and joke in the bed beside me, interrupting my every thought……but this was years before I had to deal with that. (Those are today’s problems…)

Me in Times Square

My first flight alone

We used the free ticket we saved from when we missed the ball, so we only had to buy one plane ticket. Then we went online and found the very cheapest room in Manhattan that had a private bathroom. (Yes, you can get hotel rooms in NYC that are community bathroom situations….no thank you.)

I was a tiny, timid, clueless, but giddy 21-year-old newlywed college senior. I had only flown twice before, and both times had been since I married Alan.

You wouldn’t believe how nervous I was about flying, by myself, into the biggest city in America to meet my husband inside an airport, take a bus to the subway in Queen’s, and then ride the rails to Manhattan to find our hotel on foot.

Sure, we’d been to a foreign country together, but somehow this seemed scarier. New York City? Queens? Isn’t this a place where people get mugged and there are gangs and people on drugs?

So yeah, I was all full of anxiety, but it wasn’t all bad. It was a happy nervous.

The hardest part was finding Hotel Pennsylvania on foot. You see, this was before iPhones and GPS. Back then, it was just us and some maps and kind strangers giving us directions.

I’ll never forget my first subway ride.

We boarded the train. I’d seen my share of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies as a kid, so I approached the whole subway thing with great fear and trepidation, let me tell you.

Graffiti was everywhere. Just like in the movies. Thankfully, there were no foot soldiers working for Shredder out that day.

Alan was a little nervous too, though he may never admit it. I know he was because he said stuff like, “Turn your ring around. Keep your purse zipped up.”

I have a happy-go-lucky demeanor, and I think people worry about me sometimes.

Sure enough, the subway train was packed, and this man was walking down the aisles preaching about the Kingdom of Heaven. At first I just thought that was interesting, but then I realized he was doing that to get money from people because after he preached he went down the aisles collecting cash.

Now there was a head scratcher. I’ve been on many trains since then. That’s the only time I’ve ever seen someone pull of a stunt like that one.

Ground Zero Oct. 2002, a year after 9/11.

 

Saving Money in New York City

You are probably picturing Alan and me as poor college students. How could we afford this? Well, we were not poor college students. I was in school, but I had scholarships, and Alan had already graduated, and had an excellent job.

Lieutenant pay may not be much, but for two young twenty-somethings with no kids, it was everything we needed and then some.

While we were well provided for, we were still smart and careful with our money, but Manhattan was shockingly expensive. Alan to this day tells the story of paying $25 for a small pizza from Pizza Hut, and when he tells it, it was more like $40.

Broadway plays that last-minute were $200/ticket, so that was out.

I think that’s my only regret from that trip. I still want to see a Broadway show.

We did a lot of going TO places without actually paying any money and going into anything.
Statue of Liberty?

It had a long line and a fare to ride the ferry, so we squinted at it from the shore.

Empire State Building?

We were afraid it cost money to go up to the top, so we just walked inside the lobby, looked around the gift shop, and left.

Bloomingdale’s?

We walked around in it for a minute and then moved on.

Tour Bus?

No, thanks. We took the subway the entire trip, and we did a TON of walking.

Refills? What!?

I still remember our surprise when we realized that the restaurant was charging Alan for each of his Dr. Pepper refills. Ha! I’m pretty sure he drank water the rest of the weekend.

……..Overzealous frugality aside, I love that we took that trip.

I still remember so much of that weekend vividly. We argued some, especially over the Empire State building thing. One of us thought we were being overly cheap. We were!!!

But how often do you get to spend a weekend in New York City just wandering around?? I loved seeing Times Square and the UN and Trump Tower, in person. Yes, it was famous even 15 years ago.

We did buy souvenirs.

At the UN, we bought a blue tea set from Romania, which still resides in my china cabinet.

And from street vendors, as in the kind who whip their goods out of a black garbage bag, I bought a fake Kate Spade purse and a drawing of the city.

The purse broke the first time I tried to use it, and I have never made another black market purchase.

I don’t remember saying good-bye to Alan and parting ways again, though somehow we did.

I only remember the sights and sounds of this huge city, unlike anything I had ever seen before. Alan carried me on his back when my feet got too tired from the walking. I can tell you how the icy wind blasts between the skyscrapers.

We remember how friendly New Yorkers were to us. One couple on the train even told us to follow them when we got off to show me Bloomingdale’s.

I was also surprised that there were “newsstands” everywhere. They’re like mini-gas stations, only with no gas and tons of periodicals.

We saw Ground Zero, which was literally a giant hole in the fall of 2002.

Just thinking about that trip brings a smile to my face a mile wide because even with all the stress and anxiety and nervousness, it was an adventure, and we loved it.

Or at least I loved it. I hope Alan did too.

With Alan I felt safe there, and the future looked fun and close. Before long, we really would be together like a normal married couple, and we would experience things like this together.

Being a military wife was awesome, everything I’d ever wanted. How I couldn’t wait to get on with it already!

 

*****Come back each Monday for  the next story!*****

 

 

Why We Didn’t See Bethlehem

why we didn't visit Bethlehem

Beautiful view of Jerusalem from the bus window, on our way to the Bethlehem gates, or from Bethlehem…I forget, but isn’t it nice?

Bethlehem has a few important distinctions.

1.) It’s the birthplace of Jesus.

2.) Rachel is buried there. Rachel was the wife of Jacob. Jacob is the ONE who God re-named Israel.

“Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won. That’s why your name will be Israel.”[   Genesis 32:28

Now if you want to understand that story better, ya just gotta go read Genesis because an awful lot of strange things happened back in those days of barbarians, much more than we are going to get to today on this blog.

Another beautiful scene near Bethlehem

So of course, many people wish to visit Bethlehem, myself included.

Where’s the problem?

Ah, yes. The problem. You can’t visit Israel without this eventually coming up. You see, Bethlehem belongs under Palestinian Authority in what’s called the West Bank.

Wait. Does that mean Americans can’t visit Bethlehem??

No.

It does not mean that. It means that American government employees and Israelis cannot visit the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, or Golan Heights, with the exception of Bethlehem and Jericho.

I got online today to read the exact stipulations. You can find that information here. We actually didn’t know that on this trip and were under the impression that we were not allowed to go to Bethlehem.

The Gaza Strip is far more unstable than the West Bank, and Americans are strongly advised to not go there, but Bethlehem is not in the Gaza Strip.

So technically, we COULD visit Bethlehem, and most Holy Land tourist groups do so. We weren’t actually with a tourist group from the U.S. We were only taking day excursions with a tour guide from our hotel in Tel Aviv.

I don’t remember where I saw this, but interesting, eh? President Trump was there the week before. Perhaps that’s why they made this sign?

Our tour guide was an Israeli. She can’t visit Palestine, but she was full of fascinating information. Bethlehem wasn’t even a scheduled stop on our tour, but she knew we wanted to see it, so she took us to see the border wall.

Border wall of the West Bank

border wall

Everywhere you go in Israel, security is high, so as I have mentioned in my previous posts, I always felt completely safe.

But the Palestinian/Israeli tensions are still there.

Arabs walking through security, into Bethlehem.

If you look closely, you can read the words on the brown sign, “Rachel’s Tomb”.

Some of what we saw out the window looked exactly like California.

We passed this UN truck at the Bethlehem gate.

Our guide said, “There’s the UN. He is not supposed to be here. He is supposed to be at Golan Heights.”……interesting….

Border wall of Bethlehem. Bethlehem is only around 5 miles from Jerusalem.

Our guide said, “You are here. You have seen the gate to Bethlehem, so really you can say you’ve been to Bethlehem. Okay. We are good. Now we will turn around and see the place where John the Baptist is from.”

That’s right. The next stop in this series will be the birthplace of John the Baptist.

By that time in the day it was around 3 or 4 pm, we’d been touring Jerusalem all day, and my brain lost its ability to take in new information. So the next post will mostly be pictures.

 

Did you miss the other Israel articles? You can catch up with these links:

Going to Israel

Jerusalem Part 1: Mount of Olives and the Upper Room

Jerusalem Part 2: Where Jesus was Crucified

Via Dolorosa

The Western Wall

 

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Why is the Western Wall so important?

Why is the Western Wall so important?

Tourists are not allowed to take pictures of the prayer sections of the Western Wall, once you are past security. See the gold dome? The wall that you can see here in front of the dome is where people pray.

Alan and I were so excited to pray at the famous “Wailing Wall.”

Truthfully, I wasn’t sure exactly about the history of this wall. I went into our Jerusalem tour thinking the wall was the only remaining wall from the ancient Jewish temple.

That’s almost true. That entire temple was completely destroyed.

The Western Wall is what’s left from the retaining wall that went around the temple.

The Western Wall is holy because it was the outer part of the temple, renovated by Herod around 19 B.C. It is the closest standing wall to where the Holy of Holies was located.

Why is the Western Wall so important?

Beside the Western Wall

“But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! 28Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.

29May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place.

30Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

~King Solomon, in 1 Kings 8:27-30

Why is the Western Wall so important?

Me, with the wall back behind me

 

Why is the Western Wall so important?

Immediately next to the Western Wall is this area.

Why is the Western Wall so important?

Here’s another distant picture of the Western Wall. The Wall is to the right, in front of the gold dome. In the front of the photo is the check-point gate. The guards look in your bag and make sure you are properly covered. Men wear hats, and everyone should have on modest clothing.

Did you know?

–The Temple Mount is also called Mount Moriah and Mount Zion.

–This is also the location where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac, and the Lord instead provided a ram for the sacrifice.

–They say it is here, on Mount Moriah, that Jacob saw a ladder ascending to Heaven in a dream.

–Jerusalem was destroyed and re-built 9 times, but the Western Wall has remained through it all.

–The Orthodox Jews do not like for us to call it the “wailing wall.” That’s offensive. Instead, it should be called the Western Wall.

–Men pray on the left side, and women pray on the right. There’s a partition to divide the 2 groups.

–The Jews refer to the wall as the Kotel.

–From 1948 to 1967, Jerusalem was under Jordanian rule, and Jews were prevented from visiting the wall in spite of the peace agreement.

–In the 6 Days War, the Jews re-took the Wall, in 1967, after 2,000 years.

 

Sources:

1. My tour guide

2. History & Overview of the Western Wall  on jewishvirtuallibrary.com

3. Six Reasons Why the Wall is Holy  on Aish.com

Why is the Western Wall so important?

The Dung Gate is very near to the Western Wall. That’s the Dung Gate behind us.

 

I felt privileged to have the opportunity to pray at the Western Wall. Placing my right hand upon it, I just sort of breathed in the atmosphere of worship. I didn’t even know what to pray, and I regretted not having been more careful to formulate an important plan for what to pray about at this holy place.

While I have no memory of what I prayed for, I do remember feeling thankful and in wonder of it all.

Why is the Western Wall so important?

This is part of the Western Wall, but not the part where people go to pray.

Thankfulness was the theme of this trip for me. I felt thankful and undeserving, but I took full advantage of it, and we enjoyed it ever so thoroughly.

It was Shabbat, the day that we were there. That’s what they call Saturday, the Sabbath day. The Israelis all greeted each other and us, their guests, with “Shabbat Shalom.”

Our tour guide said that at dusk on Shabbat, the ultra-orthodox Jewish men come out and dance at the Wall. I would have given all the shekels in my purse to watch that, but alas, we were with a group, and it was time for the group to move on.

Shalom, y’all!

 

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Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa in Pictures

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

After we left Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified, located now within the Church of Holy Sepulchre, we headed down the Via Dolorosa. All day I had the song in the video above in my head. Okay, sometimes I couldn’t help but sing a little of it out loud.

I’m one of those people. I usually have a song in my head that occasionally accidentally comes out for others to hear.

The Via Dolorosa means “the way of suffering.”

Jesus did not get to head down it as we did. He walked UP it, to Calvary, after being brutally beaten by Roman soldiers, and carrying a cross on his back.

So what is the Via Dolorosa?

It is simply the path Jesus took as he carried his cross up the hill to Golgotha, where he was crucified.

 

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”   (Matthew 27:22-23)

 

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

25All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

26Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.    (Matt. 27: 24-26)

 

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

Funny story: Alan met this German man on his flight from Sweden to Tel Aviv, and then we ran into him on the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem! You never know who you will see again.

 

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

It’s a beautiful city. I loved these trees, which were everywhere.

 

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

I don’t know what this pathway looked like back in the days of Jesus. Our tour guide said there were no buildings here then.

These days, in order to trace the Via Dolorosa, you actually have to walk through a Muslim market area.

 

The video above is our Israeli tour guide talking to us about it. She was outstanding. The video may be hard for you to hear, though, unless you have a device that’s capable of loud volumes.

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

Station 9 on the Via Dolorosa: I think she said this is one of the places where Jesus fell.

Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.   (Matt. 27: 27-31)

 

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

Station 7 is in an extremely busy area. Actually, pedestrian traffic was high the whole way.

 

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

Yes, they sell American sports team gear in Jerusalem too. LSU, anyone?

 

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

Where Simon took the cross.

As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.

33They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”).   (Matthew 27: 32-33)

 

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

The lights hung above us remind us that we are standing in a Muslim area, where they were celebrating Ramadan at the time that we were there.

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

crossing through the Muslim market

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

We couldn’t get close enough to get a picture of the giant gold-domed mosque. These guards only let Muslims past the stairs.

 

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

Alan, placing his hand where the legend was that Jesus had stopped and held on to the wall.

 

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

 

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

And this is us at the security checkpoint to the famous Western Wailing Wall. Yes, we went there too. We’ll talk about that next time!

Jerusalem Tour: Via Dolorosa

crowded street through the Muslim market, overlapping the Via Dolorosa

“From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.

46About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,c lemasabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).d   (Matthew 27:45-46)

 

Back in those days, the Bible wasn’t divided into chapters and verses the way we do today. They named a passage by the first words of that passage. “Eli, Eli, lemsabachtani” is Jesus not only crying out to God, but also referencing Psalm 22.

This part will give you chills, if you stop and realize what Psalm 22 is. It is a promise fulfilled by Jesus:

Psalm 22 is long, but it begins like this:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me,

so far from my cries of anguish?

and it ends like this:

All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;

all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—

those who cannot keep themselves alive.

30Posterity will serve him;

future generations will be told about the Lord.

31They will proclaim his righteousness,

declaring to a people yet unborn:

He has done it!

True. He has done it. Praise the Lord!

 

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Our Young Military Marriage: Training, Tutwiler, and Thievery

Our Young Military Marriage: Training, Tutwiler, and Thievery

Home Sweet Tutwiler. My freshman year I lived on the 13th floor, aka the 14th floor. My junior and senior years I lived on the 6th floor.

For previous posts on our young military marriage, click here. This is part of the series I’m writing called The Real Army Wives.

As I mentioned before, Alan was away at training the first 4 months of our marriage, while I finished up my degree at the University of Alabama.

I lived in Tutwiler Hall. The funny thing about Tutwiler Hall, which is the freshman girls’ dormitory, is that there were actually 2 different buildings in the state of Alabama named Tutwiler.  The other Tutwiler is the women’s prison.

As you can imagine, everyone had jokes about that, especially Alan. He prided himself, once we got married, on coming to town to stay with me for my “conjugal visit.” Ha!

Our Young Military Marriage: Training, Tutwiler, and Thievery

Tutwiler Hall still stands today, right across the street from the University of Alabama’s famous football stadium.

Even though we lived apart, we took turns visiting one another.

I loved it when Alan would visit and handle all of my Excel homework. 15 years later, I wish I had taken the time to learn how to use Excel. It’s probably the only computer system that is still mostly the same, and I’m still clueless as to how to use it.

When Alan came to town, we slept on an air bed in the floor of my living room at Tutwiler. As the 6th floor Resident Assistant, I had my own living room, bedroom, and bathroom.

It wasn’t much better when I’d go to visit Alan in Oklahoma. I only visited for one extended weekend. It was Thanksgiving. Alan was training to be a field artillery officer. In layman’s terms, that’s the Army’s big guns (cannons), which Alan insists I call “howitzers.”

We had Thanksgiving dinner at Golden Corral that year because Alan called every place in town to see where we could get the most affordable steak.

I will never forget that Thanksgiving because of the crazy person who stole from me. I was staying at the Batchelor Officers’ Quarters with Alan, sharing a bed that could only be described as a 3/4 bed. It wasn’t even quite as big as a full size bed.

Down the hall from our room was the community laundry room. No big deal. I was used to that. We had community laundry at Tutwiler. I wasn’t the kind to sit with my clothes either. I left my clothes in the dryer and returned to my room. On the way out of the laundry room, Alan introduced me to a guy who seemed a little strange in a creepy way, but whatever. I didn’t think too much of it.

You can imagine my dismay when I took my clothes out of the dryer and discovered that all 5 pairs of my panties were missing from the load!!! The rest of my clothes were all there.

Only my underwear was missing!

I’d been stolen from before, but this was weird weird weird. Icky.

I looked at every man in the building with a healthy dose of skepticism after that.

Our Young Military Marriage: Training, Tutwiler, and Thievery

Beautiful bluffs near where Alan lived in Lawton, Oklahoma. Geronimo is buried near there. We visited his grave once.

Strange incidents aside, it was a semester of sacrifices. So much separation is hard on a marriage.

We worked hard. Alan was steadily training to lead soldiers to war, and I was squeezing my senior year of college into one semester.

That’s why we decided to do something way exciting and outside the box for fun that October. Remember how we had that free plane ticket left over from the mishap where we missed the military ball? We decided to cash in that ticket and have a 2nd honeymoon in a place neither of us had ever been before but where we’d always wanted to go.

We are both frugal people, but when it comes to relationships, we always fork over the money.

That’s why we fly in to visit our families every summer and Christmas, no matter how many tickets that costs us.

And that’s why we spared no expense going to see each other when we were living separately for a while.

People regret many things, but people never regret spending time with loved ones. No one on their death-bed ever said, “Man, I wish I hadn’t spent so much time with my family.” Nope. Doesn’t happen.

Relationships are always worth the money.

We decided to meet somewhere new and exciting. Alan would fly out from Oklahoma, and I’d fly up from Alabama.

So do you want to know where we went? Come back next Monday! I’ll tell ya all about it.

 

 

 

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