Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Glimpses of Summer

As the sun poured in through our dining room window, I knew that I simply could not spend the day cooped up inside our apartment. Household chores were going to have to wait. The birds outside seemed to be singing a song to me, beckoning me to join them outside. How could I say no?

I looked over at my husband. Hunched over a thick book, he was diligently studying for his upcoming CFA exam. Without needing to ask, I knew that he would be at the table studying for at least seven or eight more hours, just as he had been doing every day for the last several weeks. There was no way he could join me, but I decided to head out for a bike ride and enjoy the weather anyway. So, I took off to one of my favorite places to spend a summer Saturday-the Olentangy bike trail.

For two hours, I relished the feeling of the sun's rays on my arms as my legs pedaled hard. I smiled, taking in all of my surroundings. All around me, were glimpses of summer:

Patches of purple flowers poking their heads through the lush green grass
and little "cotton ball" wisps floating in the summer breeze
Photo Creditt: Shandi-lee via photopin cc

Little girls with brightly-colored streamers blowing from their bicycle handle bars
and college friends relaxing together around a picnic blanket
Photo Credit: stevendepolo via photopin cc

Intimidating-looking geese protectively guarding their fuzzy goslings
and lively golden retrievers playfully splashing around in the lake.  
Photo Credit: JWagnonPhotography via photopin cc

Each of the 30 miles I rode held unexpected treasures. When I finally returned home after my people/nature-watching adventure, my heart was happy. It had been a splendid way to spend a Saturday afternoon...and the holiday weekend meant that I would get to do it all over again on Monday!

A picture from my own camera of my bike ride
along the Olentangy bike trail! 

Slice of Life is a weekly blogging challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
Check out their webpage and then join us each Tuesday to share a slice of your life!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Birthday Celebration

A gleeful shriek escaped from my mouth when I found out that I was the "lucky caller number 15" and that I had just won a fifty dollar gift card to a fancy restaurant in Dublin, Ohio. Immediately upon hanging up the phone, I pulled up the website for La Scala Italian Bistro to peruse their menu and long list of live entertainment. This restaurant was definitely out of our price range for a normal date, but with my prize the menu prices seemed more manageable. "When should we use it?" I wondered. This was not a "regular" date night restaurant. No, we needed to save this gift card for something extra special. I put the gift card in a safe place and waited for just the right occasion.

So, when my birthday rolled around last week, my husband and I decided that we had finally found the perfect time to use my radio prize winnings. I was giddy with excitement as I got ready. I spent extra time primping--dressing up far more than I would on the average Saturday night. I carefully tied the belt around my new dress and even lined both of my eyes!

My husband and I walked into the restaurant holding hands and when we were escorted to our table reserved for two, I knew that this was going to be a special birthday dinner.

The lights were dim and soft piano music played in the background. People all around us were celebrating--high schoolers in prom dresses and tuxedos, a table full of friends posing for a birthday photo, and a family with two "Happy Birthday" balloons floating above their table. My attention didn't linger around me for long, though. My husband and I were in our own little bubble. We had escaped from the "real world" for a short while and had entered our own magical little world of happiness and celebration.

We chatted happily while our waitress delivered our shrimp cocktail, carefully arranged in a martini glass. We spoke with anticipation about our upcoming trip to Greece as she refilled our drinks, delivered a fresh, soft loaf of bread, and later presented our main courses to us--dishes that both looked and tasted exquisite. I savored each bite, but what I truly savored most was the quality time and conversation with the man I love.

I realized that I didn't need a gift card to a fancy restaurant to make my birthday a special one. Sure, the ambiance and delicious meal certainly contributed to making my birthday more special, but what truly made the night perfect was the quality, uninterrupted time with the one seated across from me. And that's a gift I don't have to win a contest on the radio to enjoy!

Slice of Life is a weekly blogging challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
Check out their webpage and then join us each Tuesday to share a slice of your life!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Two Problems, Two "Victories," and Two Very Different Feelings

"The baggage charge should be credited to your card in a few business days. If there's a problem, you can call U.S. Airways and they will take care of it for you" the man at the U.S. Airways counter told me last time I was in the airport. Because they had switched my flight to United, I no longer had to pay the baggage fee due to my "preferred status" with Star Alliance. I thanked him and sincerely hoped that the charge would be dealt with so that I didn't have to call.

A couple of weeks later, upon seeing that the charge had not been taken off my card, I braved the customer service phone line. Already annoyed at the fact that I had to call in the first place, I could feel my patience wearing thinner and thinner with each additional minute that I was forced to endure the repetitive "hold music." I knew that I had been on hold for a long time when I heard my husband unconsciously whistling the same tune from another room.

By the time I was finally able to speak with a representative, I was ready to be finished with the whole process and was beginning to wonder if the reimbursement was worth it. So, when I explained my problem to the customer service agent and was told that I needed to jump through another series of hoops in order to get my money back, let's just say that I was not feeling like the best version of myself. My cheeks reddened and my heart beat a bit faster. I was downright frustrated.

And then, I am sorry to say, I lost my cool. My tone tensed, my volume level raised a bit, and I was not polite when I asked the customer service representative to ask her supervisor if he/she could solve the problem so that I didn't have to waste any more time. Within a few minutes, the problem was solved, and my credit card was reimbursed.

I guess one could say that I had been "victorious." Yet, when I hung up the phone, I felt like anything but a champion. I had my money back, but at what cost? I had let my emotions dictate my behavior and I was filled with regret. Given an opportunity to show love and patience to someone who probably doesn't receive much of that in her line of work, I had utterly failed. Sigh.

There was nothing I could do to fix the situation now, but I prayed, repented, and resolved in my heart to do better next time. As I did, I told God that I needed His strength to help me respond lovingly and to not let my attitude be dictated by circumstance.

Almost exactly 24 hours later, I stood in the dry cleaner's with another opportunity to practice responding in love. When I passed my receipt to the attendant, I was told that not only was my order not ready (one week after I had dropped it off) it had not even even been started. To top it off, my comforter had been laying on the ground. Ick! I was not happy, but just as I started to feel my cheeks redden, I heard a voice inside my head preaching back to me some of the verses I had just read that morning. I remembered the messages of Ephesians 6:10 & 19, Titus 2:6–9 and 2 Peter 1:3–7 and thought of my resolve to obey. 

This was a fork in the road. I could respond in emotion and go down the path of destruction, as I had the night before, or I could choose life and love. I took a breath and kindly asserted myself to the attendant. As I explained my concerns, I smiled, I was polite, and I remembered that the individual across from me was a real person in need of love. As I did, part of me wondered if I would get walked all over as a result. "It doesn't matter," I preached to myself. "The important thing is to do the right thing."

I left the dry cleaner's with no resolution other than two promises from the girl at the desk: A) that she would start dry cleaning my order right away and B) that she would tell the manager about my situation.

Two hours later, I got a call from the business. Their solution? Not only were they starting my dry cleaning right away, but they were doing it free of charge and were going to deliver it to my apartment the next day! I couldn't believe it. That's what I call a victory! I hung up the phone and smiled. In the past 24 hours, I had encountered two problems and saw two victories, but one felt so much sweeter than the other, providing not just a resolution to the problem at hand, but a triumph of progress in my own life.

Slice of Life is a weekly blogging challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
Check out their webpage and then join us each Tuesday to share a slice of your life!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Honor Cords

Waves of black polyester blew a midst the sea of 10,000 graduates. My eyes darted from one colored Master's hood to another, desperately trying to find the one graduate who held my heart. Finally, miraculously, I spotted him in the crowd.

"There he is!" I squealed, quickly zooming in my camera lens as far as it would go.

Snap! Snap! Snap! Snap! My camera joined the chorus of others around me, as a stadium full of spectators sought to somehow preserve this priceless moment in a tangible form.

I reviewed the pictures I had snapped to ensure that I had at least a handful that were worthy of including in the photo album I would later make. As I zoomed in on the small screen to examine my photography work, the black polyester and brightly-colored hoods faded into the background, and as they did, one object became the clear focus of my gaze.

It was a strand of four carefully woven cords that hung regally around my husband's neck and draped over his shoulders. Golden and royal blue, the cords stood out in stark contrast to their black background. The small number of graduates that were similarly ornamented proved that these cords were rare and valuable--costly in a way that money couldn't buy.

But as I looked upon these four cords, it was not their appearance that caught my attention. Instead, what gripped me was the sweet story they told. Theirs was a story so powerful that it drowned out the cheers and chatter coming from the 60,000 people around me, leaving me completely captivated. It was a story I knew well, but one I was happy to relive.

Blowing in the wind, the cords whispered the tale of an underdog. They told of a man trained extensively in music, not finance--one who had the courage to enter the unknown world of business equipped with only the knowledge he had gained from his personal reading of the works of Benjamin Graham and Warren Buffett.

Swish, Swish. The cords swayed, speaking now of that same man, lacking confidence and expecting to rank at the bottom of every MBA class. They told of his hard work, determination, and many sleepless nights.

And then, as the wind changed direction, the cords began a new chapter in their story. They championed the triumphant underdog, who, by God's grace, rose to the top 15% of his class, coming from far behind and excelling in every area of the new world he had entered.

On and on the cords went, telling their story and reminding me of the many sacrifices that had been made along the road to this graduation ceremony. As I listened to their tale, my heart overflowed with pride and love for the man who humbly donned the four honor cords.
Slice of Life is a weekly blogging challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
Check out their webpage and then join us each Tuesday to share a slice of your life!