Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Last week I headed to Orlando for our first Midmarket CIO Forum. Nothing really funny happened on the way there....well, nothing worthy of a full blogpost...but as always, a trip, whether for business or pleasure provides good fodder for reading.

1. Airports are interesting places. I love to travel but, not so much. What spurs more fear in my heart is having to actually walk out on the runway and see the metal tube I'm climbing into. I prefer walking down a nice hallway onto the plane as if I'm just walking into another room at the airport. Thankfully, I only had to de-plane on the runway, which is fine, because the flight is over. The first flight from Louisville to Cincinnati was oversold, and overweight. The last two folks who booked tickets were told long before boarding (at the early hour of 7:30am) that they would most likely get bumped. As I was boarding one of the two soon-to-be-bumped passengers was arguing with the check-in attendant. He explained to her that the plane was overweight, etc. To which she replied, "Well, I'm not overweight!" You gotta love people. The best highlight of the four airports I visited? Eating at a Qdoba in the Orlando airport. When we saw the Qdoba sign, I thought I had just glimpsed the Promised Land.

2. Shuttle services are hit and miss. As staff, we didn't get to enjoy the Towne Car and SUV transportation our attendees did, but had to take an airport shuttle. We walked out to the shuttle stand with our happy yellow vouchers when the Shuttle Nazi (see Seinfeld's Soup Nazi episode) said "You need to go inside and buy ticket!!" Off we went rolling our luggage back indoors. When we arrived at the shuttle stand, she took our tickets and gave us a pager ala your local eatery, that would go off in 30 minutes or less indicating our shuttle was ready to roll. Now never mind that there were two shuttles just sitting there not going anywhere, but we just sat and enjoyed the sunshine while we waited. One of my co-workers I was traveling with asked Shuttle Nazi if he had time to go in and buy some sunglasses. She replied "NO! The shuttle could come any minute." So he waited. For 20 minutes. The very friendly shuttle driver, Todd, appeared as our pager went off and we all cheered. As I hopped in the shotgun seat (being charming works wonders for me), I told the driver, "Todd, you have an opportunity to redeem your shuttle company. The poor lady at your shuttle stand was not having a good day and lacked in her customer service skills. You have 30 minutes to make us love your service." And he did. It was quite an entertaining ride to the hotel. Yes, I tipped him.

3. It pays to know people everywhere I go. When I first found out about my trip to Orlando, a dear friend of mine, Joyce, offered to meet up with me while I was in Florida. She lives about an hour away and is the mother of one of my friends here. Spending time with her comes far too rarely and being with her is like drinking from a fresh water fountain. My only true free time was Saturday afternoon and she was sweet enough to meet me at the hotel for a late lunch. It was glorious. Those are the kinds of memories I love to make.

4. Being charming and enchanting is fun and rewarding. Our goal at this event was to host the 100+ folks that attended, showing them first-class, white glove treatment along the way. I thrive on being charming as my Mom always taught me "you catch more bees with honey than vinegar", but even for the most bubbly of souls, it can be wearing. But, the rewards along the way are worth it. Joe was the Meeting Concierge at the hotel. He always stopped by the information desk - my main location for work during most of the event - and would make sure we were fine, had what we needed, etc. One morning he stopped by and asked me "Can I get you a drink?...a latte, a cappuccino, a mocha?" Music to my ears! I smiled charmingly and in my most southern belle voice said "Why, of course! I'll take a skinny mocha!" One of my co-workers thought he was hitting on me, but he did ask her what she'd like to drink as well. In response to her question, I said, "I don't know...I just work the charm and reap the benefits." He had me at "mocha" so it was a pretty easy close for him.

5. I missed meeting a president. During our stay, former President George H Bush and Barbara were also at our hotel. I was so excited that I was on a hunt to see them, get my picture with them, and be all charming. Well, I never got to see them. Although I saw many a secret service agent and co-workers caught glimpses of he and Babs, but never got a photo. Had it been Dubya I would have put much more effort into getting a photo opp with that handsome man. Joe, my mocha provider and inside scoopster, informed me one day the time of the Bushes arrival. He told me all the ins and outs of how they get them in the hotel and where the secret service stays. I won't go into that much detail here as it may cause a breach of national security and since I'm already an ancestor of a presidential assassin, I best keep my intel to myself. Maybe at the next conference I'll rub elbows with the rich and famous.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The World Around Us

I've been working on my session for our church's upcoming women's conference and dwelling on my topic A LOT these days....Loneliness. Specifically, my session is entitled "Where is God When You Are Lonely?" I find that I'm the perfect demographic for this topic...I'm an only child...still single at forty-(cough)-four years old...have a very, very small remaining biological family. But on most days, I don't feel lonely because I'm blessed in so many other ways. The creeping in of loneliness, though, occurs regularly. And, if you were honest with yourself, it does for you too, no matter your place or stage in life.

When I'm going to be speaking on a topic, I immerse myself in thinking about it so I glean anything along my path that God may want to show me. It also keeps my focus on the topic and task at hand. You may think, "Gosh, dwelling on loneliness has to be a real downer." And, I would respond that it can be, but what I've learned from Scripture and study during this preparation time helps thwart those frequent moments. I could go on in more detail, but then I wouldn't want to spill my outline before the conference.

A few weeks ago, I was buzzing around on a Saturday with 10,653 things to do. We had our office move, lunch with a friend, and other errands. The trip to the grocery store that day ended up happening around 7:30 that night. This single gal grocery shopping on a Saturday night should speak lonely I guess, but a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do. As I finished up my shopping, I stopped by the deli counter to pick up a few things and saw a smartly dressed elderly man. He had his cane in his shopping cart, along with a few essential items. He reminded me of my Dad, though he looked much older. His head was donned with a sporty newsboy cap, a light jacket and dress pants. He was quite the handsome man. He was having a conversation with the man behind the counter and I deduced that he was waiting for the next batch of chicken to finish frying. The attendant wrapped up the biggest chicken breast in the bunch, all hot out of the fryer for him to take home, with a warning that the chicken was pretty hot. The sweet man said, "Oh it'll cool down some by the time I get home and eat it."

I love to people watch. I observe them and imagine all sorts of stories about their life. This sweet man most likely lived alone. Probably a widower. And on a Saturday night he headed to the grocery to fill his small cupboards with what he needed for the week and pick up a treat for dinner...some freshly fried chicken. As I headed to the checkout, I couldn't stop thinking about this man. Week in and week out this could be his life. I wondered if he had family? Does he have friends to play cards with? talk with? My heart went out to him and it took all I had not to go up to him and talk to him. I realized amidst the busy life I may wear thin of at times, I am blessed to be surrounded by many who love me.

The next time I may not hold back when I see a sweet man like that and reach out and say hello. It could be the only interaction that person has that day. If you are lonely, there is probably someone just as lonely as you walking down your grocery aisle. Be aware of the world around you...someone's loneliness could bring you a blessing.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

From The Mixed Up Files of Rose E Frankweiler

Ok, I'm not the owner of a statue in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (only those literary geeks, or children's teachers will get that), but I feel like my life is a swirling bunch of excitement right now. And, when I think about it, this book title comes to mind. My friend, Amy, talks about how her hair feels on fire at times and I can identify. But, no matter the multiple "GAHS!" I might exclaim, I'm right where I want to be and where I hope God wants me to be.

I get harassed (see: Amy) about not blogging enough and given the past week and the upcoming two weeks, this may be the only chance to utter coherent words. Putting it all in perspective in words makes this planner feel a bit more in control of what is next on the list. Though God laughs as He knows so much of what is happening is merely His Sanctification in my life to see me let go of the control and let Him take the wheel. (With apologies to Carrie Underwood) For those endearing blog readers, here is a snippet of my, frazzled, and full of excitement.

Our office moved locations last weekend and I LOVE the new facility. From the 10 minute commute to the big screen TVs in the break room and conference rooms, I feel like I'm in a "real" office. The new office layout has made it easier to have a bit more seclusion and focus and boy, did I need it this week as every aspect of the jobs I do (which my boss told me yesterday were two day jobs) had their challenges. Realizing there are only so many hours in the day and I can't do it all was one of those "control" reminders this week. I do love my job because even in the midst of things, we have pranks going on ala The Office and the laughter amidst the work is a wonderful release.

I leave a week from today to head to Orlando for a business trip. We're launching an event and it's exciting and frightening all at the same time. We want this to be successful and we're hoping, even with all the hitches that will inevitably happen, we will leave there knowing we've begun a new line of business. I don't know all the ins and outs of what the event will look like, but again, see "control sanctification" above. The highlight of my trip - aside from staying at a swanky hotel - is a lunch date when I arrive with a sweet redhead who is the mother of one of my dear friends. We've never been able to connect for dinner when she visits and being an hour away provided the perfect opportunity. That time of refreshment will kick off a busy four days of work.

I land on Wednesday, two days before our church's women's conference. On that Friday night, I'll be speaking on "Where is God When You are Lonely?" The timing of all this is a bit daunting, but I remember daily that none of this took God by surprise. He knew I'd be in Orlando. He knew my flight schedule. And, thankfully, He knows what I'm going to say. Because right now, I'm still working on that part. My prayer is to complete the session by the end of day Monday and be able to pray over and prepare more in sunny Orlando.

Along with that I am blessed to have friends visiting - before and after Orlando - that I can't wait to see and spend time with that adds a nice benefit among the rest of my exciting life. There are still bills to pay, laundry to do, taxes to start, Wednesday night Bible studies to prepare for...and life to live. But unlike Claudia in the aforementioned book, I don't want to run away to teach a lesson in "Claudia appreciation." I lead an exciting live and remind myself when I try to take control of everything in my life that the One Who truly has control is so much better at orchestrating my days than I'll ever be. May I never want to run away from life, but long to run to Him.